Assassin's Creed IV Impressions From a Newcomer

Here we are, on the verge of the new generation of consoles from Sony and Microsoft, and yet there are a lot of games of the current generation that I haven't even tried yet. And despite the fact that Ubisoft has continually thrown Assassin's Creed titles at us since 2007 (I mean, seriously, look at how many of these damn things they've made!), I never actually got around to playing any of them. I just sort of admired them from a distance while I was playing other games that interested me more at the time.

Isn't it kind of false advertising to call this the fourth one?

Well, I've finally decided to jump in with Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. And I have to say, it's pretty fun. I'm playing the Wii U version, and in the technical sense, the graphics are sharp and the framerate is smooth. Artistically, the game is quite beautiful, with plenty of environmental variety and detail to the characters. It also scratches that historical itch that gets scratched in a similar fashion while playing the Dynasty Warriors series and its ilk. So just based on that, it's off to a great start.

I'm still early on, having just arrived at Nassau and have yet to do any of the story missions at that location. However, this has still given me plenty of time to get used to the gameplay. And it did take me a bit to get used to it. The control scheme, which I imagine is standard for the series, was kind of foreign to me, and I'm still not great about switching between weapons and so on. But after a while, it's become mostly intuitive. Naval combat is a different beast and, while I've had less time to get used to it, it's also pretty fun. Though trying to steer the ship in the middle of combat while also aiming the cannons and firing on target while in rocky waters is pretty crazy.

Step 1: Aim. Step 2: Hurl from Seasickness. Step 3: Fire.

On the other hand, there are some things I'm not so hot about. Missions have been hit or miss for me; there's one mission in particular where I had to defend someone from a large-scale assassin ambush, and I kept failing because I would get wrapped up in fighting the assassins, lose track of my allies, and end up getting left behind because they moved on far faster than I was ready for. From my experience thus far, the mission have so far ranged between passable and a lot of fun, but that early defense mission kind of leaves me wary. Maybe it would have helped to use eagle vision? I'm not sure.

It also takes a bit more time than I'd like to get used to the flow of combat. I was aware going in that it was a counter-heavy combat system, but in situations where I'm outnumbered five to one, it can be difficult to really get out. I'll counter an enemy, only to be forced to counter someone else before I can go on the attack, and then suddenly a do a really flashy assassination move without really understanding what I did. Still, it has gotten easier for me, so while it has been rough learning, the frustration has gone down.

I'm really enjoying the story so far. Edward is a fun character, as are most of the secondary cast I've encountered, and it's an entertaining pirate yarn. As for the modern day, I really don't know what to say yet. I haven't exited the Animus since after reentry following my first "visit" to the real world, where I was shown around the offices of Abstergo Entertainment. I have no idea where this is supposed to lead or if the story will even force me out of the Animus again at any point. I also only have a vague idea of what happened in Desmond's story in the previous games and have no idea how that plays into any of this, aside from the fact that the memory I'm diving into is another one of Desmond's ancestors despite the lack of Desmond.

"Wait, wasn't I supposed to be the hero of this series? What the fuck, Ubisoft?"

As for Wii U-specific things, the touch screen on the Gamepad is mostly used as a mini-map. It's nice, in that the map doesn't clutter up screen space, though it doesn't really go into any innovative directions with the controller. Still, not a bad feature. I have yet to try multiplayer out, and since I lack a UPlay account, I have no idea what sort of benefits (if any) that grants me in the game, or if it's even worth signing up for one. I honestly don't buy Ubisoft games that often and so I've never really felt the need to create an account.

All in all, it's really fun. I definitely see why people enjoy the series (though apparently Assassin's Creed III is the worst thing ever? So I'm kind of glad I skipped out on it.), and there looks like there's plenty to see and explore, so it should definitely keep me busy. I'm probably forgetting to mention some things since this is all kind of a massive brain dump about my experience thus far, but there you have it.

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OUENDAAAAAAAAAAAN!: My Favorite Stages

It's kind of crazy to think about how old the Ouendan series is at this point. While the games aren't really that old, comparatively speaking (the original Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan was released in 2005), it's been a long while since the third and final game (Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2, and yes, I am including Elite Beat Agents in the series) first graced the Nintendo DS in 2007. These games have also, sadly, proven to be the apparent apex of iNiS as a developer, as since then, they've been toiling away on titles such as the ill-fated Lips franchise and The Black Eyed Peas Experience, which has to be the most depressing nadir of any company that's specialized in rhythm games.

Before Harmonix developers go to bed, they pray each night that this nightmarish hell-beast doesn't eat their souls as they sleep.

But at their height, iNiS was responsible for some of the most creative, craziest rhythm games that the genre has ever seen. The Ouendan series holds a special place in the hearts of rhythm game fans, but these games aren't simply a product of Japan being Japan, or whatever nonsense platitude people prefer. Mixed in with the manly shouts of male cheerleaders and the ludicrous scenarios they face is a well-designed game formula backed by legitimately entertaining characters and stories, bolstered at times by the very design of the stages themselves.

Here are five of my favorite stages and why I enjoy them so much.

5. Zenryoku Shounen (Ouendan 2)

Zenryoku Shounen is the first stage of Ouendan 2, and actually sees the Ouendan coming to the aid of the protagonist of the original game's initial stage. While in the first game, he was a high school student struggling to study for his college entrance exam, here, he's a college grad struggling to land a job. Personally, I was in a not entirely dissimilar position at the point in my life when this game first came out. I had been out of college for a few years and was struggling to get by on temp work that paid just enough that I could pay the meager rent on the studio condo shithole I lived in. Really, I could use all the encouragement I could get in keeping my chin up and just having the motivation to find better work. (Coincidentally, my luck finally started turning around that year.) So while the challenge level of the stage is low, I hold it in high regard as something I can really identify with (even if I didn't end up landing a high-paying job in New York City).

4. Over the Distance (Ouendan)

Included among the more insane, ridiculous scenarios that permeate the games, each entry is also home to one stage that takes the opposite route and is designed, from top to bottom, to be a more subdued tear-jerker. The Ouendan members don't shout, the typical beat sound effects are replaced with softer chimes and tones, and there's always a phrase marker (those path-style marks where the stylus needs to follow a ball on the track), drawn in a special shape just to drive it all home. And while EBA and Ouendan 2 have stages that are just as effective, the original game's stage, featuring the song Over the Distance, is my favorite. A tale of a young man that died in a motorcycle accident that gets one last chance to visit his girlfriend and tell her he loves her.

3. Anthem (Elite Beat Agents)

The stage that Anthem represents is quite possibly the most insane scenario in the entire game (and this is a game that ends with a musical dance off against an army of hostile space aliens). A washed-up pro baseball player is reduced to retirement and working as a janitor at an amusement park when his biggest fan comes under attack by a rampaging, fire-spewing golem. What else can he do but fight back using the powers of song, dance, and baseball? Victorious, he has the confidence to return to the big leagues. Because you bet, kid!

2. Samurai Blue (Ouendan 2)

Both Elite Beat Agents and Ouendan 2 feature songs that aren't unlocked as part of normal stage progression, but as bonus stages for reaching cumulative high score plateaus. Samurai Blue is the final stage to unlock in Ouendan 2, making it one of the most challenging in the entire game. And the scenario is suitably amazing. What transports our text messages across the airwaves? Why, tiny, determined samurai warriors, of course! And when one such samurai's message gets scrambled, he needs all the help he can get to fix it and get it to the sender's girlfriend before it's too late. But just in terms of gameplay, the rhythm, the way that the marks match the beat, the intensity challenge, make this one of the best stages in the entire franchise, bar none.

And here's what the stage looks like on every difficulty, for good measure:

Good gravy. But my all-time favorite stage is...

1. Ready Steady Go (Ouendan)

Just like how each game in the series has a stage that tugs at the heartstrings, each entry concludes with the Ouendan cheering on the world to stave off an apocalyptic threat. And in the original Ouendan, that apocalyptic event is a goddamn asteroid. Earth's defense? Cheering, and Ready Steady Go. Every character that the Ouendan has helped comes together for an asteroid-obliterating cheer of collective willpower. This stage is an intense, intense challenge far beyond all of the other stages in the game. It took me weeks of practice to finally beat it on Normal, and when I did I was elated in a way that besting few games has made me feel. Making that final spinner spin as fast I possibly could while on an adrenaline high and beating the stage for the first time will go down as one of my most cherished moments in playing any video game. And just in case you need to see someone actually playing this stage live on the hardest difficulty:

Oh my god, that is never not intense. Bow down to this perfect human being. And maybe hope that some day, iNiS will be able to make a comeback, whether it be with Ouendan 3 or something equally creative that can pull them out of Fergie Hell.

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Capcom's Troubles, and What Could Have Been Different

Capcom, despite what successes they've had in games like Street Fighter IV, has had a pretty rough go on the current generation of hardware. Poorly budgeted and organized games have drained their coffers to the point that they reportedly have less than $150 million in assets left in the bank. They're not dead yet, but they've certainly made a fair number of mistakes. This blog post over on Destructoid sums up the mess that has been the decision-making that led them to their current predicament. I don't entirely agree with all of his assessments, but on the whole, it's a pretty solid analysis.

Though I do agree that DmC was a bad idea.

What Capcom does in the first couple of years of the new hardware generation will hopefully paint a brighter picture for their prospects. That is, assuming that they learn the correct lessons and adapt accordingly. There's only so many times that they can return to the Street Fighter IV and Monster Hunter wells to stay afloat. But it didn't have to be this way. If they had made better, smarter decisions years ago, then they might not have been faced with the prospect of a dwindling bank account now. Of course, nothing is ever certain; sometimes even supposedly great decisions can lead to poor outcomes. After all, the PS3/360 Bionic Commando seemed like a great idea on paper and in demos. It just didn't work out.

Solid in theory, but a total misfire.

So what could they have done differently? Well, a lot of things, and some of them are pretty easy to spot by just reading the blog post linked above. I'm not a business expert, so I can't claim to suggest I know what would have been best for Capcom in the short or longterm outside of the obvious. Like budgeting Resident Evil 6 in such a way that wouldn't require seven million copies sold to turn a profit.

For the remainder of this, I'd like to focus on Resident Evil, because the sad twists that franchise has engaged in has left me disappointed. Just as I'm not a businessman, I'm not a game designer, but I can't help but feel that there were some serious missed opportunities on the creative end that could have left the series in a better place. Again, supposing that Capcom didn't let a post-cocaine binge Gordon Gekko run the accounting department.

I know that Resident Evil 5 has its fans, though it also has its disappointments. Disappointments like removing the horror element for a heavier reliance on action and a plot that turns Albert Wesker into a comic book supervillain, complete with a mind-controlled Jill Valentine in a catsuit. By the time a remarkably buff Chris Redfield is punching a boulder in a bid to stop Wesker, what about this game is still recognizably Resident Evil? A franchise that was built on B-movie zombie scares? Not much that I can see.

If I could turn back the hands of time and then somehow convince Capcom to listen to me (one step is impossible, the other involves time travel), I'd present them with this idea. Start with the initial marketing ploy that marked RE5's announcement; the supposed death of Jill. Now throw everything else about Resident Evil 5 as you know it out the window.

Sorry, Sheva. (WARNING: ARMCHAIR DESIGNER WANKERY APPROACHING.)

No, I'm not saying that Jill dies right off the bat. But rather, instead of Wesker making her a mind-controlled catsuit warrior, he actually do something more devious and in line with the established themes of the series. Imagine a scenario in which Jill, after the initial sequence that leads to her presumed death, awakens in a Wesker-Post-Umbrella facility and at his mercy. She has been infected with some variant of the numerous viruses that have come and gone over the course of the series and has to hunt Wesker down or search for a cure.

As far as the gameplay is concerned, it starts off in the same manner of Resident Evil 4. Jill can use guns, knives, grenades, eggs, and everything else. However, as the game progresses and the virus takes hold, make the weapons harder to control. Have this loss of control grow over time to the point that she no longer has the fine coordination required. As the virus mutations continue to take hold, leave her at first completely disarmed and then gradually more powerful. Crimson Head-style claws and the like.

Now couple this with an Eternal Darkness-style sanity mechanic. As the virus works on her brain, visual and auditory hallucinations affect her (and the player's) judgement. Maybe to the point that if she were to cross paths with Chris, she wouldn't know if he was real or not. Handle the mental deterioration in such a way that we get a sense of her encroaching and impending doom. If Jill is going to die, let her go out in full-blown Resident Evil style. Just not boulder-punching Resident Evil 5 action hero style. Maybe while using her last shreds of cognizance to tear Wesker a new one, and then, having lost all humanity, getting put down by Chris.

Weird idea? Sure. But one that had been bouncing around in my head ever since Resident Evil 5 turned out to be, well, not so Resident Evil-ish. It also fulfills the notion that Jill dies (without being an obvious fake out or a cheap kill) and the death of Wesker (which ties up a long-hanging loose thread). Would this necessarily be a good game? Hell if I know, like I said, I'm not a game designer. But on the basic premise alone, I feel it's a more experimental concept that still holds truer to the ideas of Resident Evil as a whole, rather than "Resident Evil 4, but with co-op and in Africa this time."

And hey, maybe it would leave a better jumping-off point for a more sane conceptualization of Resident Evil 6. I'm not saying that this idea would single-handedly prevent Capcom from being in the financial pickle they're currently mired in. But maybe it would have helped one of their more troubled franchises and tried something that stuck closer to what Resident Evil originated as; a horror game.

Or they could just release Resident Evil 4 with Hatsune Miku taking Leon's place.

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Photo Editing with Vocaloids!

So you might have seen that Project Diva F Quick Look. You know, the one where Jeff decided to basically fuck around as a creeper in the photo edit mode. Well, here's a batch of images I created as some early attempts at understanding how to actually use the tool. Each one uses a single character model, as well as loading screen artwork that can be used as a background. The copyright information in the lower-left of each one is added by the photo tool when the image is taken and saved to the PS3 hard drive.

This is, sadly, fairly in character for Haku. I got lucky with the backdrop choice here.
A little wallpaper style action for MEIKO.
This one was actually my first attempt with the simpler pose and facial expression choices. Also note that I forgot to turn off the control legend on the bottom of the screen.
Aaaaaand crazy Rin fangirl Miku being all happy at the bizarre scene of Rin on a cupcake. Oh dear.

So yeah, the photo edit tool is actually usable for more than just freaking out at not getting upskirt shots. It has its limitations (not allowing for multi-character posing is a big one), but it's a fun little diversion.

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More Vocaloid Madness! Project Mirai!

I've written a couple of blog posts in recent weeks about Project Diva F, the first and thus far only rhythm game featuring Vocaloid characters to make it to western shores in a localized manner. The series began on the PSP and eventually made its way arcades and the PS3, but Project Diva isn't Sega's only Vocaloid-infused rhythm franchise. Project Diva has a sister series on the 3DS called Project Mirai, and the second entry is due out in Japan this November.

The biggest difference between the two series, aside from their choice of platform, is the manner of their art direction. While Project Diva mostly sticks to the characters with their normal proportions, Mirai's Vocaloid characters are almost entirely depicted in chibi Nendoroid proportions. (Nendoroid, for those unfamiliar, is a line of figures that depict characters from a variety of franchises in a super-deformed chibi format.)

This is a Nendoroid. Also, Yukiko Amagi. She is not in the games I am talking about here.

That in mind, the choreography of the music videos takes these dimensions well into account with cute results. As in Project Diva, the choreography ranges from fairly standard singing on a stage settings to more elaborate stories. They manage to get a lot of expression out of the chibi characters.

Though I haven't had the opportunity to play the game myself, the gameplay in the first Project Mirai seems easier to follow than the patterns in Diva. Button prompts appear on circular tracks on the touch screen, so unlike Theatrhythm or Ouendan, there aren't any touch mechanics involved. Project Mirai 2, on the other hand, appears to be shaking things up, with note tracks that run in patterns around the screen.

The Project Mirai 2 trailer I intended to embed is behind a URL link because Giant Bomb's video embedding tool is a finicky beast and doesn't always behave itself:

CLICK ME.

The only bummer is the relative unlikelihood of either Mirai title to be released in North America. Because, well, who knows with Sega. But the DS and 3DS have been home to some pretty fantastic rhythm games, and it's always good to see more on the horizon.

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GTAV from the view of someone that hasn't played GTA since Vice City.

In lieu of a clever introduction, I'll just state here that before this past weekend, the last time I touched a Grand Theft Auto game was in 2004. Vice City was a game that I enjoyed, up to the point that I actually tried to advance through the story only to encounter the roadblock that was terrible mission design. I'll spare the details, as this is a story that I've related on Giant Bomb before, but the mission to save Lance from Diaz's goons and get him to the hospital broke me thoroughly to the point that I didn't want to even touch the game anymore. I never played San Andreas because that game seemed more concerned with stacking more mechanics into an already aging game engine than it was with fixing what was broken, and I was still too burned by Vice City to give it a chance. I also never touched GTAIV or any of the various spin-offs for similar reasons. Whatever improvements that GTAIV brought, by that point, I was done with the series and had no interest in playing it.

My interest in the genre was largely rekindled by Saints Row 2 and especially The Third, and I also enjoyed Sleeping Dogs. I'm still only part way through Saints Row IV, but that's also a game that I've liked, even if I don't find it as riveting as The Third. I honestly had no intent on playing GTAV. But when I decided to buy a superslim PS3 this past weekend to replace my original, I found that my only options were bundles containing either that, or Uncharted 3. And my interest in Uncharted requires neative numbers in order to measure.

So here I am, with a copy of GTAV.

As of this writing, I've played far enough that I've completed a couple of missions as Trevor and have unlocked the ability to purchase real estate. And I have to say that, in some ways, I'm really impressed. Obviously, not having played GTA since Vice City, the jump in terms of gameplay is huge (to say nothing of the graphics, which goes without saying), but while some elements like shootouts (thank you, auto-aim), heists and so on have been fun, the game seems to miss just as often as it hits. Driving isn't as fun as it is in other games in the genre, for example. I know that the physics are in general trying to be more realistic than a game like Sleeping Dogs, but trying to win a street race when the car I'm in controls like a boat is just painful. And having just finished flying a plane for the first time...maybe they should have just left planes out of the game.

The same hit or miss elements are affecting my enjoyment of the story, as well. I like the three protagonists in their own ways. Michael's dealing with his family is amusing, Franklin is about as sympathetic a GTA character as I've ever seen, and Trevor is a convincing lunatic. But the world they inhabit is a lazily constructed ball of satire that feels like someone threw a bunch of South Park episodes in a blender. The game is better when it's humorous without trying for satire. Michael completely at a loss with his idiot son and bratty daughter? That's amusing. But the signage, radio bits, TV programs and so on that define the world? It feels like someone trying way too hard to be funny with all the subtlety of a bulldozer in my bathroom. Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row IV are funny because the chaos is actually well thought out; it's dumb, but it's a smart dumb. In Grand Theft Auto V, the dumb just feels out of place. Like everything about the game has grown up except its sense of humor.

So at this point, I'm just really not sure what to think of it. Is it a good game? Yeah, it is. But I wouldn't call it a big "event game." There was a time when Grand Theft Auto was what defined the open world crime genre and every other game that came along was considered a clone. But the better "clones" are now more consistently fun to play and offer more interesting and diverse experiences than yet another warped take on the pursuit of the American dream.

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A Quick Examination of Select Project Diva F Tracks

I've already written about the game at length once, but given the variety and strength of its soundtrack, I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of the specific tracks in Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F and their videos. While they are in Japanese for the most part, the lyrics and their accompanying videos are actually quite fitting matches; so much so that in most cases, an English translation isn't required to get at least a basic understanding of the song's subject or intent. On the other hand, it's not too difficult to find translations of songs in the game online. So why don't we take a few minutes to take a closer look at a selection of tracks?

God-Tier Tune

By: Onyuu-P

Vocaloid: Hatsune Miku

This is one of my favorite stages in the game. An upbeat tune, the Japanese lyrics play around a bit with the fact that the word "kami" can mean vastly different things depending on the kanji; god, hair, or even paper. The video takes the song and casts Nendoroid-sized versions of Miku and other Vocaloids as little helpers trying to restore green plant life to a desolate world, but as the plants start to wither and Miku starts crying, Miku the goddess awakens and basically says, "Don't worry. I got this." In a way, it fits with the lyrics' notion of wanting to save and wanting to be saved, as the mini-Vocaloids put everything they have into their work, but need the goddess to come in and save the day. On the other hand, the goddess wouldn't awaken if it wasn't for their hard work and devotion.

World's End Umbrella

By: Hachi

Vocaloid: Hatsune Miku

Before we even discuss the song, you might notice that a majority of the video for World's End Umbrella is actually a short story told using 2D animation; Miku's presence is merely as an observer. This is because the song was originally released with a video of its own that told the same tale:

The song, and the video, tell a story about a boy and a girl that live under the shadow of a massive umbrella-like tower that blocks out the sky, and ironically leaks water in a constant rain. The two choose to brave the tower and escape to the other side to see what the outside world is like. What they see is a beautiful blue sky, but it's perhaps something that they were never meant to see, as it's hinted that the two pass away from exposure to the sun shortly thereafter.

Rin-chan Now!

By: Owata-P

Vocaloids: Hatsune Miku & Megurine Luka

We now journey from the sublime to the ridiculous. Rin-chan Now! is a song that could alternatively be titled The Ballad of the Crazy Fangirls. As one of the game's duets, Miku and Luka sing their obsession with fellow Vocaloid Kagamine Rin, taken to ludicrous, near stalker-like extremes. They sing (at a very rapid clip) about such desires as putting Rin in situations meant to fluster or annoy her just to see the cute looks on her face. Yet, peace is restored when they're launched into the statosphere atop the head of a giant Rocket Rin because why the hell not.

'Tis a very silly song.

Black Rock Shooter

By: Ryo

Vocaloid: Hatsune Miku

Now here's a song with an unusual history. Black Rock Shooter didn't begin as a song, but as a drawing of an original character by an artist named Ryuhei Fuke. He posted the image to a couple of places online, and Ryo, a musician in the band Supercell, used the image as inspiration for a song that he made using Vocaloid. The two made a music video together, and the popularity of Black Rock Shooter the character eventually rolled out into anime, manga, and a video game starring the character. The song also served as the opening theme to the anime TV series.

The lyrics are written as though the song itself is actually being sung to Black Rock Shooter herself, and is about both her and the singer. Though Black Rock Shooter is noticeably absent from the music video.

Stay With Me

By: shu-t

Vocaloid: MEIKO

MEIKO (yes, all-caps) is one of the older Vocaloids, and as a result she's not quite as advanced as Miku and the others, which leaves the high notes in particular sounding a little odd. But what we have here is a song with a very Christmas-y video accompaniment. Though, as MEIKO sings about a love, in the video, she waits (and waits, and waits) for her Christmas date to arrive, only to be stood up. Or, with the way that the box glows near the end, is she? And yes, in case you didn't know, Christmas is celebrated in Japan. Just not in the way that westerners or really Christians in general recognize it.

Well, that's five songs. Should we go for one more? Let's go for one more.

Acute

By: Kurousa

Vocaloids: KAITO, Hatsune Miku, Megurine Luka

Two words: Love triangle. KAITO, one of the two male Vocaloids in the game, takes the lead in this one as the song tells of the awkward relationship between himself and the others, which the video represents in a quite literal triangle in its staging and choreography. The song is actually quite dark, with Miku learning that KAITO has betrayed her for Luka, and then the knife comes out. Oh dear. That's kind of a depressing one to end on.

As you can see, it's quite a mix of songs, and it's not all complete nonsense. (Although the game does feature the Nyan Cat song, so there is at least some legitimate nonsense. No, I'm not kidding.) A lot of creativity has gone into projects using the Vocaloid software, and while some are content to just throw up a Miku-version of Still Alive and call it a day, others have put a lot more effort into creating original works with the tool. The end result has been some pretty cool music.

(Thanks to Youtube users TensaiRyuu, fine07f, and vgperson.)

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Fighting game fans! The wiki needs you!

Over the past couple of days, I've gotten into the flow of doing some edits on wiki pages for fighting game characters, as I noticed a lot of them were springing back up on the Recent Edits character listing. Unfortunately, I've noticed a few things. Outside of the heavy hitters like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, the majority of the character pages are either:

  • Blank or nearly blank, with little to no information.
  • Poorly written, with Engrish all over the place.
  • Plagiarism City.

(On the note regarding plagiarism, I've been reminded by the moderators that any plagiarism found should be reported to the mods to be dealt with as needed and not actively edited to remove it yourself. The more you know!)

So this is where you guys and gals come in. The wiki task system may no longer exist, but that doesn't mean that some manner of effort can't be organized to put more of these character pages for the lesser known/less popular fighting games in shape. Let us work together and get this shit done!

Do it for the Ninja Maid Cranes! Uh...Maid Ninja Cranes? Crane Maid Ninjas?

You know what I mean. (Or maybe you don't.) The point is, the wiki could always use more help to get things in shape, organized, up-to-date, informative and readable. A community effort to get the suck out of the character pages in the fighting genre seems like a good a place as any to start. And even if you don't know much about some of these characters, that can't stop you from at least cleaning up the horrendous grammar that's crept their way in to some of the pages.

SO WHO'S WITH ME?

*Prepares the tumbleweed machine, just in case.*

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Adventures in Figure Collecting with Meryl Silverburgh

In my short series of blog posts on PAX Prime 2013, I mentioned that I had bought, among other things, a Play Arts Meryl Silverburgh figure. There was some interest in pictures of seeing it get set up, so here we go!

I've been into figure collecting for a while now. It started off slow, with a couple of figures I bought back in college, but lately, with more space and disposable income, I've been more and more tempted by the siren call of resin and plastic. Here is a picture of my collection as it currently stood before my latest acquisition:

Hello, ladies. And Tepig. And Samurai dudes in the corner there. And Christmas-themed Beanie Baby. And little wind-up knight guy.

And here's Meryl, still in her box:

Voila.

I'll spare you guys the weird, fetishistic unboxing video and just jump to another picture.

A minimalist set. Three extra hands, two weapons, and no stand.

Not having a stand can sometimes present a problem. Particularly if the figure just isn't balanced to stand on its own. You might notice that Serah in the first photo up there is on her knees. That's because she came standless and couldn't sand on her own two feet without some sort of super adhesive.

Meryl doesn't have this problem.

OK. Now it's time to decide what hands and weapon to use. We have her defaults, as seen above, and...

Rock, Knife...Pistol? I'm guessing selecting Scissors would be useless here.

I decided to go with the pistol in the right hand and default left. But before that can happen...

Oh, god.

There was a little bit of difficulty in getting the hand on there, but after snapping everything in place and a little posing...

Meryl Silverburgh is armed and dangerous in...THE LAND OF GIANTS.

And with everything set up, now it just comes down to finding a place for her.

"I'm watching you, Vocaloid."

Hey, it was open space. Though I really should try to rearrange the display at some point.

And so ends this photographic journey of one of my non-gaming hobbies and demonstration of my inept photography skills. Meryl was relatively painless to set up. Any of you out there into figure collecting?

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First Impressions of The Wonderful 101

Nintendo offered a limited number of copies of The Wonderful 101 up for sale at PAX Prime this past weekend (101 copies per day, to be precise), and I got in early enough to snag a copy for myself on the first day. With all of the madness surrounding the show, I didn't have time to properly try the game out until this evening. And all I can say right now is that from what I've played, it's pretty damn good. You might say...wonderful. (Obvious compliment, I know.)

It also has a learning curve to get over to really get the feel of the game. As someone that didn't bother with the downloadable demo, I'm getting there. Still need to iron out a few things, but I'm getting there. A lot of that has to do with learning to properly use the unite morphs and the flow of combat. I've missed more blocks than I could count by just misjudging timing, which is entirely my fault. That being said, the game does offer some decent warm up in the prologue chapter prior to the first proper mission. And even as I've gotten the hang of things, the game can be fairly challenging. I'm playing on Normal (the game also offers Easy and Very Easy at the outset), and the enemies that they throw at you ramp up pretty fast. I'm not sure how the game handles continues on the higher difficulties, but whenever I died, I would be dropped right back where I was at with full health to continue then and there. Though it certainly didn't do any wonders for my end-of-mission rank. "Consolation Prize." Not even a bronze. Ouch.

That being said, the game is really structured around striving for the best mission scores you can get. Each mission is divided into a series of sub-missions you come across during the stage, and each one is individually graded, from Consolation to Platinum. You can go back and play previously cleared missions, earn currency for the shop to buy items and upgrades, or continue on to the next mission in the story. There are also special challenges that offer rewards for clearing, though I'm still not good enough to clear the first one found in Mission 001. (As a side-note, there's a directly link to Miiverse on the touch screen for easy uploading of results screens, but this isn't operating yet as the W101 Miiverse community won't be open until the game is officially released in a couple of weeks.

As for the story, it is really entertaining, with these ridiculous moments like the way characters or even objects will start to wobble with fatigue when they're supposed to stand still while the narrator drones on and on. Still too early to see where it's going, aside from having to deal with the evil guys, but there's some definite tension between Wonder-Red (the rookie) and Wonder-Blue (jackass Californian show-off). The voice acting is fantastic and fits the characters, too.

I also like the way that the Wii U GamePad works with the game. Not just in tracing shapes for unite morphs and so on, but the way it throws puzzles at you like an oversized combination lock where you have to look both at the touch screen and the TV to see what's going on both inside and outside the building.

So in short, I'm having a blast with it so far. Definitely worth a purchase. But the question remains, can I unlock Wonder-Bayonetta?

So awesome!

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