I am angry (AND SO CAN YOU!)

Original post...

Asura’s Wrath, Capcom’s latest bit of craziness, released a demo last week for PS3 and Xbox 360. An oddity in gameplay, presentation, and (presumably) story, I highly recommend that the curious go out and play it. It’s fun, if only for the short time the demo lasts, and one I’ll be keeping a lookout for when its February release date draws nearer.

BUT NEVER MIND THAT SHIT.

No, the real reason I bring up Asura’s Wrath is because they’ve got a bit of an interactive promotion going. In a move that can only be executed in this stupid stupid age of the internet, Capcom wants you to upload videos of you “Raging”.

The official Asura’s Wrath Youtube channel (HERE) seems to also have versions for all you European folks. How exactly they’ll be used is beyond me. The video doesn’t make it really clear, and the Tweet that alerted me to it simply stipulated that the videos need be around 10 seconds and contain “No words… just screaming!”

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

Stupid, yes. But I’ve never been one above stooging myself out for the sake of stupid video features.

And hell if you’re not either, live in US or Europe, and/or just don’t give an EFF, I’d highly encourage you too as well. It'd be neat to see the Whiskey Media duders and duderettes get involved in a stupid interweb competition.

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"Everything's Fine": El Shaddai Demo Impressions


For as little mainstream coverage as it's gotten, I'm surprised I both remembered and desired to play Ignition Entertainment's forthcoming hack and slash effort, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. Actually, scratch that. With just how amazingly distinctive the look of this game is, I couldn't help remember it from way back in E3 of 2010. Now, one year, one Giant Bomb quick look, and one XBLA download later, I got to play the game for myself (well a demo anyway).

An adaptation of "The Book of Enoch", an ancient Hebrew religious text, El Shaddai is as eclectic in subtext as it is in visual flair. Sadly, none of the story details really make it into the demo, and so if you're not well informed, you're probably going to be scratching your head at some of the stranger aspects included here. All you really need to know is you play as heaven's scribe, Enoch. He's been sent to Earth equipped with God's finest armor, weaponry, and blue jeans in a last ditch attempt to get a group or rogue angels to return to heaven. If Enoch fails, God floods Earth. Bummer.

But even if Earth teeters on the brink of oblivion, you'd never know it because of El Shaddai's amazingly abstract interpretation it puts on all its visuals. This is just a demo, but El Shaddai is undeniably a beautiful game. I really can't praise enough just how much the ethereal look of El Shaddai can sell you on its world and even on its gameplay. It's both primordial and post-modern, and it looks gorgeous.


But good looks does not a good game make. Luckily, on top of having extremely solid, fluid, and responsive hack and slash gameplay, El Shaddai's got a couple of tricks up its sleeve. Firstly, combat in El Shaddai is handled by one button. While that may seem odd for an action game, it actually works quite well with game's second mechanic, weapon trading. Enoch will wield a total of three separate weapons in El Shaddai (though only two are seen in the demo), but can only carry one at a time and switch strategically by disarming enemies or grabbing one from certain points in the level. These each have unique properties; the Arch is your standard sword, while the Gail is a long-range projectile type weapon; and when combined with varied button presses and contextual factors, the combat becomes fast and frenetic.

Shaddai's minimalist approach continues with a lack of HUD, instead opting for visual clues to tell you when Enoch needs some help. Take damage, and Enoch's armor will start to chip away. Attack to much with your holy weapon, and it'll need to be purified or exchanged for a new one. These kind of things help preserve El Shaddai's beautiful aesthetic while staying functional.

That isn't to say everything about my time with the El Shaddai demo was positive. While the one button combat functioned incredibly well, it can be a tad difficult to execute your intended actions whilst under the pressure of a tight battle situation. Also, the demo doesn't provide any kind of context or hint for a progression system. While that's not a game breaker in the least, hack and slashers certainly have a curse of falling into repetition. That could be exacerbated if Shaddai if you're not constantly moving towards new talents and abilities.


Aside from those minor concerns this extremely short, but undeniably enticing preview of a beautiful action game is one that anybody with some kind of online access needs to download. At only about 700 MB (on XBLA), it's a quick download that's well worth the time. I'm more intrigued than ever for El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, and am definitely looking to pick this up when it's released July 26th.
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HO KOGAN: WWE All-Stars Demo Impressions

  THIS WORDY PIECE OF TRASH WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON MY ORIGINAL BLOG!  READ THAT HERE AND DENY YOURSELF OF THE POWER!!! 
  
  
The wrestling game genre is a tough one to decide what direction should be taken. Years and years and game after game has produced excellent games and series that are still playable today, but also several iterations of unbearably stale drivel. With only one wrestling promotion consistently putting out games nowadays, the latter has definitely outnumbered the former.

But out of the nothingness springs WWE All-Stars, coming out just a few scant days from now. With it, my greatest hopes for the future of wrestling games lie. Indeed, I find it puzzling the way much of the Smackdown! vs. RAW series has attempted to make a wrestling game a "simulation", when making a wrestling game a simulation should deal with much more showmanship, taking of bumps, and possibly even long rants about being "the cream" and "Yavapi Indian straps".

No, give me the arcadey, semi-deep fighting mechanics that WWE All-Stars is using as its main selling points over another bland SVR any day. At least that's the theory that I put to the test as I fired up the demo of WWE All-Stars. How does it hold up after a few matches in the squared circle?

All-Stars is focused around competitive one on one contests between jacked up versions of WWE superstars both old and new. Each character falls into four basic classes with their own variations used to differentiate themselves from the rest of the roster. Two attack buttons and two grapple buttons are used to create some truly innovative combos akin to that of a fighting game like Tekken or Mortal Kombat. Dealing punishment and reversing attacks builds one of two meters that power your character's signature and finishing moves that, when set up properly, eventually lead you to a pinfall or KO (which seem the two ways to win a basic match).



The demo itself only has one of the modes and match types on display, and two characters to choose from. After picking 1 vs. 1, you're taken to a character select screen where you can choose between the powerful brawler, The Ultimate Warrior, or the agile high-flyer, Rey Mysterio.

While having these two be the match-up for the demo might seem random from a conventional standpoint, it makes perfect sense in context of the game. Rey Mysterio shows off the potential of the high flyer class in the game, with the ability to bounce all over the ring and launch grapple attacks from half a mile away. He plays fast, with weaker strikes being made up for with an unpredictability. On the other end is the Warrior, who plays much more deliberately. With a little experimentation, his basic punches can be chained into some pretty impressive juggles into grapples.



And its this kind of discussion that really drew me to All-Stars. It's a game that combines the wrestling experimentation of games like No Mercy with the competitive drive to WANT that experimentation. Want to pound your enemy into the mat, bounce him up into a powerbomb and juggle into a DDT? You sure as hell can do it if you set it up properly, but the fighting game competitor in you is going to want to look for situations where it's SMART to set that up. It's this stuff that makes me excited to see if All-Stars is actually balanced enough to catch on in the community. Although I question the seemingly randomness of things like the counter system, and think that signature moves and the like do just a BIT too much damage for being fairly difficult to avoid, it doesn't diminish the fun when you're rolling over your opponent using the game's unique systems.

And that's the fine line that All-Stars has a chance to walk. Fans who want that level of pick-up and play from the N64 days can dig this game, but there's an extra level of depth that the fighting crowd can get into as well. Whether it's fully embraced by either will be determined by the quality of the final game, but after experiencing the demo, my hopes are higher than ever.

And hell, even if it ends up sucking, at least I can beat the shit out of Jack Swagger with Randy Savage    
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You Damn Blight: Dragon Age II Demo Impressions

  This here long-winded bit of analysis was originally posted on my personal blog.  That's HERE if you care at all.
 
    
Being EXCLUSIVELY a console and handheld gamer since I was but a wee lad, I'm just a novice when it comes to the idea of a strategic, real-time RPG. If you were to mention Baldur's Gate to me, I'd automatically assume you were talking about Dark Alliance, the top down hack and slasher (if that gives you any sort of perspective). As such, when Bioware brought the much lauded Dragon Age to consoles and I actually played, I experienced conflicting emotions as I trudged through a playthrough. Although I really loved the world Bioware had created, loved the character depth and interaction, and the myriad options for building a Darkspawn slaying crew, I continually got the sneaking suspicion that this game was not made for me.
But not only did I feel it was not made for me, but I felt as if it was not made for console gamers as a whole.

So when I heard Dragon Age II was going to take a more action-oriented, more console friendly approach, I was one of the few who was way more excited for the game because of it. If Bioware wanted to make the game more like Mass Effect, more power to them. Luckily, Bioware ALSO had the good sense to release a demo to show just how all that actionin' up and refinin' was supposed to work. And ya know what? It's good.



From a combat standpoint, the game just feels a lot crisper. Instead of pointing in the direction of a baddie, and hitting A to engage in a disconnected battle of attrition, now every push of the A button executes an attack. This works in the console's favor in two ways; by making combat much more engaging, and avoiding the "trapped" feeling one would almost always feel like whilst in combat. With this combat system, you can freely flank, retreat, and crowd control because you can easily engage multiple targets.

I played as a mage during the demo, and after taking control of my front line fighters and directing them to intercept and stop the approaching hordes, I easily stood back and blasted away at them from a safe distance. Never did I feel like I couldn't get away, or that I was locked into combat with a specific target whilst my help was needed elsewhere. This may mean that the game is a tad more forgiving, but I certainly felt that strategy was needed in many of the tougher battles. It's just now much more accessible to a console gamer like me.



The other major improvement is the game's graphical style. Notice I didn't say graphics as a whole, because this honestly doesn't look much better than Origins. Now, however, conversations and cutscenes have a much less stiff take to them, and are far more interesting to watch unfold. It also doesn't hurt that faces look much better and animate in a more realistic fashion. Still, textures don't look all that great, and in my opinion, the redesigns for the Darkspawn character models actually look WORSE, but as a whole, this new art style is definitely working in the game's favor (at least on consoles).

My final thoughts from this demo is simply this; Dragon Age II has improved that which I disliked about the first one, and seemingly maintained that which worked. Only the final product will truly tell, but I'm in full support of the changes going on here. Some may scoff that the game is being "dumbed down", or that they're trying to draw in a larger audience by emulating Bioware's other major franchise. I can't attest to that one way or another. What I CAN say is that the game still fundamentally feels like Dragon Age... just funner. At the end of the day, that's really all I ever asked for.

I'm Champion Hawke, and this is my favorite shoppe in Lothering...    
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YOU wa SHOCK: Thoughts on the Fist of the North Star Demo.

 


The demo for the new Tecmo/Koei game "Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage" is out right now (for XBLA anyway), and I assume if you're a fan of the manga and/or anime series at all you've probably already DL'd the demo yourself.  I did so last night and actually played through each stage a couple of times and have come to a relatively brief conclusion.  I like this.  Yeah, it's Dynasty Warriors, a game series that I've flayed a few times in the past.  However, I don't dislike Dynasty Warriors because I don't think it's fun to play.  Dynasty Warriors has some great and well executed concepts that, when played with in moderation, are fun as all heck.  The problem is that these base ideas haven't been fleshed out or improved upon despite a new version of the game coming out every year.  So to be clear, I'll play and enjoy Dynasty Warriors, but I won't support the series year after year if they don't significantly improve on anything. 
 You won't see this in the demo...

But now this is becoming about Dynasty Warriors, and I wanna talk about the demo.  In it is included two levels of gameplay from the game's story-mode (called Legend Mode here) with two characters to try out.  Naturally there's Kenshiro, who you'd assume would be the guy they want you to try out first, right?  I mean he's even first on the select screen, but selecting him will drop you straight into a boss fight against Kenshiro's bastard brother Jagi with no explanation of the controls.  Granted, the game's control scheme isn't too tough to figure out, but I would have appreciated not having to get my ass handed to me to finally figure out all the ins and outs.  If you're smart, you'll instead choose Rei (the angst-y mullet-ed one) and you'll get a tutorial alongside a level where you'll actually fight off waves of enemies and fight a boss as well.  It's actually an overall funner level than Ken's, but one the demo doesn't make obvious should be played first. 

Speaking of playing, the game plays pretty much how you might expect.  You can string together light and strong attacks to build up your spirit meter which can then be used to unleash a special move (which will come complete with awesome freeze framed titles much like in the anime).  You can also enter a trance state which doubles your attack power and modifies your special moves at the cost of draining your entire spirit meter.  There are other intricacies like defending and other small little gameplay caveats, but the main idea is you punch guys in the face and they fall down, occasionally blocking and occasionally pulling out a special move to lay some smack down. 
 Both these dudes are playable.

This game, as stated above however, is still Dynasty Warriors.  Although some things like making moves feel impactful, varied special maneuvers, and general feel of ebb and flow are greatly improved in this game.  However, a lot of times you'll still feel like you're just button-mashing or flailing at falling enemies or crippled by an unresponsive camera.  They're things that are easier to forgive given the game's reverence for the source material, but they don't make them any less inconvenient in this game as they were in Dynasty Warriors. 

To wrap this thing up in a big paper bag, the demo is fun.  Will the game be earth-shattering or change your feelings on Koei's never-ending "hit thousands of dudes" formula?  Probably not.  Still, if you're a fan of Hokuto no Ken or Dynasty Warriors (or both) it's sure to be a good time.  For everyone else, the mechanics in here are different enough you may find yourself really liking the game.  The only other thing for certain I can say is if you have any doubt about anything GO GET THE DEMO RIGHT NOW!
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Mortal Konfusion

  This is a blog originally posted on my personal Blogger account.  If you like what I have to say (or not) you should CHECK IT OUT!!   
OR NOT!!
 
Despite the well-received Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe of 2009, I have to say my interest in a new Mortal Kombat... ANYTHING was pretty low. The series may have, gameplay-wise, supposedly gotten back on track (I personally enjoyed the feel of Deadly Alliance and Deception a lot better), the series' characters and mechanics just seemed extremely stale at this point. After Midway Games died, I figured the next time I saw Mortal Kombat, it'd be an extremely different looking game than its predecessors. If I was being really honest with myself, though, I really didn't care.
That is until earlier this week when I saw this crazy... trailer? Fan film? Thing? Well, whatever it was, it was live-action and Mortal Kombat related. AND IT DIDN'T SUCK! In fact, it was pretty awesome. The short version is that, essentially, Mortal Kombat's shit just got real. The story involved was in a gritty approximation of a real-world city, one where psychopaths, underground assassins, and just overall nasty people were running amok. Luckily, it seems like a familiar face (among many others) was holding a blood-sport tournament for all these crazies, so the police of the city decide to send their own plant in the form of a highly trained assassin (wink wink) to kill all the trouble-makers in one fell swoop. If none of that makes sense, just know that it was an exciting new direction for the series and, for all intents and purposes, looked like it was something almost the entire community of fans agreed looked "bad ass"?

Since you likely still have no idea what I'm talking about... just take a look yourself! 
   

  
I KNOW, RIGHT?!?!

So, after everybody got excited about this... thing, it was revealed that HEY this thing is really... nothing. Nope. All this little bit of awesome was was a pitch for a potential Mortal Kombat and nothing more. An effing PITCH. More like an effing tease.

Oh well, I personally decided to just move on and go about my normal non-MK life when today I see yet ANOTHER video. Another Mortal Kombat video in two days! Don't adjust your calendar, we are indeed in the year 2010. Well, this one was actually about something that exists; a new Mortal Kombat game! Does this game have the same oomph and impact that the fantastically produced movie trailer we just saw had?! TO THE VIDEO SCOPE!! 
    
  
 
NOPE!

I mean... don't get me wrong, this seems like a decent enough throwback. It seems like a decent-looking and decent-playing addition to the Mortal Kombat pantheon of decent-looking/decent-playing games.

But that's the problem. This series isn't dying off because people are wanting the "good old days" of the classic MK's. There are plenty of new-er iterations of those games that, if we wanted, we could GO BACK TO those good old days in a second. This series is dying off because there is just nothing exciting about it anymore. The series is not evolving or refining, it is simply existing.

Play a 1990s Mortal Kombat game. Now play a 2000s Mortal Kombat game. Now tell me what the problem is. Is it that the later iterations changed the franchise too much? That there isn't enough old MK flavor in the newer installments? The answer to both questions is no. So then why is the series dying off? It's because all the installments are TOO similar. It's because the series hasn't changed in any meaningful ways for all the years. There is a reason why games like Mega Man 10 and Super Street Fighter II HD Remix are less expensive niche titles on XBLA.

I don't want it to sound like I am judging this Mortal Kombat on a minute-long trailer (although I totally am). I really want this game to succeed, and I plan on playing it. I just think gamers should be honest with themselves.

And honestly, Mortal Kombat 9, if that IS your real name. You have a lot to live up to coming in the wake of Black Dynamite playing Jax...    
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Oiling Up...

Hitting the long road towards becoming a decent Hakan player, and I have taken my share of lumps.  Only winning about 1/3 of the matches I play as him (as opposed to about 3/4 with Vega), I am never the less having very much FUN playing as my new oily chum.  I've discovered that Hakan... is kinda shit when not oiled up.  When he IS, he's a LOT better.  The trick seems to be to learn the dance of finding opportune moments to stay oiled, and then going on a quick offensive tear.  Learning the range on his Oil Rocket is definitely becoming a chore, and his Flying Oil grab is one that I've yet to find a decent use for, but I digress. 

Nothing beats virgin olive oil!

The one thing that seems to be getting me the wins, however, is his Oil Combination Hold.  That move can be thrown out so fast, and people still haven't figured out not to jump in on me when I have my Ultra.  Hell, one time I threw it out in desperation against a Cammy, and when she tried to punish my desperation with a Cannon Spike, she ate the Ultra.  I'm sure this really pisses people off, but whatevs.  It's my biggest trump card, dammit! 
 
Anyway, to wrap this up and make it something that people can actually respond to... anybody else in the GB community trying to learn the ways of Turkish Oil Wrestling?  If so, how goes your struggle?  As for the rest of you, what are your thoughts on Hakan (especially if you've eaten his Oil Combination Hold), and are there any of the other new fighters you're making a great effort to learn?  Discuss.

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Pokemon HeartGold: an ode to my sanity...

I purchased, with great enthusiasm, Pokemon HeartGold the very day it was released.  I opened with delight the unusually large box and liberated the game and Pokewalker accessory inside.  I've loved Pokemon ever since it was huge "back in the day".  I was just an elementary school kid back then, but even as the years have passed, I've loved the series with all my heart.  It can do no wrong in my eyes.  

OR CAN IT?!?!?  

Now more than thirty hours into the game, I find myself at a crossroads, or perhaps more accurately a brick wall.  I scaled the ranks with great effort to reach Indigo Plateau and the Elite Four.  I've compiled a crack team of Pokemon, trained to be specialists in what they do, and supplemented with all the Carbos, Iron, Calcium, etc. that I could find (or purchase).  They were slightly underlevelled (all being in their late level 30s or early 40s), but certainly my training prowess would see me through this greatest of challenges, right?  Right??  RIGHT???  

WRONG.  

Now going on about three days, I've been trying in vain to defeat these foes.  I cannot.  I've even ground out a few levels in an attempt to get my team any and all advantage (something that, with the level and selection of Pokemon on Victory Road, takes hours and hours at a time to level a 6 man team) I fail.  It's my fault, I know.  It's my fault for training such a shitty team of miscreants.  It's my fault for not knowing before hand the foes I would face, and it's my fault for not wanting to put the work in. 
 
It is simply infuriating that, at about 10 attempts, I can only reach the 4th of the Elite Four.  Great, right!?  I can push through one more member and get to Kanto!  NOPE.  As any Pokemaster worth their salt knows, you will have to fight a Champion following the four members of the Elite Four.  THEN WHY CALL IT THE ELITE FOUR, POKEMON?!  Call it the Elite Five!  Or don't even put a number!  Better to not be prepared than to be outright decieved!  

I know this is very whiny.  I know I'm ranting, but the point is that I am at my wits end with this game.  I even resolved to start the game over, a fact that I knew would at least give me joy.  If nothing else, the joy of finally making PROGRESS, a joy that I haven't felt in a great long while.  In fact, I actually DID restart the game this very morning.  I played four about half an hour, and despite realizing the daunting task I had of making it back to the Elite Four, I was at the very least looking forward to assembling a brand new team and making a brand new name for myself.  I had a new lease on life.  That is, until I went to save the game.  

I could not.  

Apparently, the game makes you physically delete your old file before adding a new one.  PHYSICALLY DELETE IT!  And you might think that, "Alright, fine.  So if I start a new game, I can just overwrite the old save, right?"  WRONG, sir, WRONG!  You must actually delete your old file from the main menu, and you are actually able to start a new game which you can than NOT SAVE.  You can start a new game... and then not be able to save it... at all... ANY OF IT!  

So, you win Pokemon.  I'll keep playing your sadistic game.  I'll keep grinding out levels for hours and then spend more hours failing to beat your Elite Four.  I cannot deny your awesome power.  

The worst part of all this is, is with this horrible failure and the on-going ups and downs of my Street Fighter IV career, I'm having a very bad gaming bender.  The only solace I can take is that I recently got a surprise Easter care-package in the mail that gives me the power to change this.  I'll likely pick up Wario Ware DIY tomorrow, or just stash the money for Super Street Fighter IV.  Who knows.  

That's it, folks.  If you read all that... God bless you. 
I know I didn't. 
-Rix

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Giant Bomb DA:O Hoodie GET!!!!

For those that might recall, around the time of release of Dragon Age: Origins, Giant Bomb placed an incentive on their Question of the Week for... that week.  Anyway, the prize was a Giant Bomb hoodie with Luchadeer dressed in armor, displaying Ryan's severed head, on the back of said hoodie.  

I myself, in want of a sweatshirt, let alone one with Giant Bomb insignia on it, hastily put together a (very bad) video of myself fighting plush animals with a Nerf sword.  For whatever reason, this made it on the Question of the Week, and a few days later, I was being informed that I was being sent a GB hoodie for my efforts.  I was delighted to say the least, and eagerly awaited the arrival.  Little did I know, I would be eagerly awaiting in vain, as months passed with no sign of the hoodie.  The only other word about GB merchandise I heard was, recently, when the GB crew recanted their being scammed by that dude who was to make the Oscar Mike t-shirts.  I attributed the absense of my hoodie to this tragedy, and thought no more of it. 
  
However, today I arrived home from school and spied a strange shape on my doorstep.  I assumed it was a package that I or one of my kin had ordered off the inter-webs, but as I picked it up, I spied the Sausalito return address, and immediately my thoughts flew to Giant Bomb. 
What happened next was recorded on video for all to see.  Please watch this four minutes of excited rambling and extremely poor camera work for further insight.  

The only thing left to say is.... thanks Giant Bomb. 
Sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, I will cherish this gift as long as it doesn't get any big holes in it. 
Devoted user, 
Imperious Rix
 

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