Backlog Log Log Log's Log: I think I'm going to settle on a Monday & Thursday schedule. Sorry for the late entry, stuff for Thursday has been written for the most part. I'm working on a backlog scorecard as well.
BACKLOG BLOG LOG THE THIRD: REMADE ROBOTS FROM THE 2.5 DIMENSION!
AKA: I review a revisit of a remake of a re-imagining.
Mega Man Maverick Hunters X
Maverick Hunter is interesting, because it is an example of the sort of dream gamers have of their favorite oldschool games being remade into modern looking titles. It also shows why it doesn't usually work. There are several issues with the idea of HD Remasters of old 2D games. In theory, it would be great. We like our favorite old games because they were the best games ever! Right? There are a lot of people that think that video games reached their peak in the 16-bit era, and that if we were to bring these games back with modern graphics they would be just as good as we remembered: still the best games ever!
Except that 1.) Studios will never assign the same caliber of talent to remaster it as they did making it in the first place. They treat these 2D remasters as $15 propositions and budget them as such. We get graphics that look closer to Street Fighter Turbohgodwhy HD than Rayman Origins. We experience a "Uncanny Valley" effect. And while it's tolerable, deep down inside you would rather play the same game on the original console (on a old ass TV.)
And B.) A lot of old games aren't as good as you think they are. I'm not going to say "As you remember them." Because if there's one thing that's certain, it's that nostalgia will always cloud our judgements of games that we liked. Even if you do not have a specific memory of a certain game, playing games from an older era will still trigger than feeling. Listen to band from the era you grew up in, that you didn't listen to while growing up. Or do the same with a movie. Or observe how you are able to enjoy old games you've never played before and someone younger than you can't. Hell, I suspect this is partly why I think Super Metroid is the greatest game ever, even though I played it in 2007. But nostalgia is not a bad feeling to have. In fact, it's good for you, acting as a natural anti-depressant for your brain. But the point is, what happens when you remove the classic graphics and music? Suddenly it's less nostalgic, it looses those triggers. And it has to rely on it's gameplay, and it turns out the game itself feels rather outdated! Some designers realize this, and try to bolt on modern game mechanics, except that problem #1 comes into play and it's for the worse (Twin Snakes.) There are a few games that stand up to the test of time, but there ain't a whole lot, and they're all from studios that know better than to remaster them.
It's not impossible to do a HD Remake of a game that ascends any of these criticisms. It's just not that feasible. Half-assing it ruins the game, and if you are not half-assing it, you're better off working on something new.
So anyways. Maverick Hunter X. It's a PSP port of Megaman X that, in a time where people were use to really awful ports, so it seemed really good. But does it validate my criticisms?
Well, let's talk about the new graphics. The game was rebuilt from the ground up, instead of the old SNES graphics, it's designed to be what was coined at the time a "2.5D" title. Okay, but we were to compare the new graphics to other graphics of that platform, they're merely passable. The environments feel empty and dead. Animations are very stiff for 3D models. The original animations for Mega Man X felt extremely punchy, when you hit Armadillo with electric spark, he felt it, you could see his skeleton! In Maverick Hunter, he slowly lifts up his fist at you. Kinda weak. Again, they're not bad, but they don't do the game justice either.
There is also voice acting. The kind that use to plague the Mario Advance titles. I was able to know right off the top of my head what weapon you used against Armadillo, because X shouts the name of his power ups whenever you use them. “Firewave!” Firewave!” “Storm Tornado!” They didn't even bother with multiple takes, it's just the same voice clip over, and over. God, if there was any incentive to go through the whole game with just the Buster, it is to never here him talk again. Along with X shouting everything he does like a crazy person, you also get to discover what the Mavericks sounded like. That's right, before each battle, X gets to have a one and one with the boss before they engage. All of it is extremely terrible, and can be summed up with X asking “Why” and the Maverick in question saying “Fuck you!” with maybe some terrible pun or joke thrown in there, punctuated with laughing. The music, well, I find it to actually be an improvement in some areas. It's all remixes of the original OST that, while sometimes suffering from VG Remix syndrome (“Yeah, this is a tune you can dance to!”), it stays faithful enough to the original material. It improves some bad tunes, hurts the good ones. So basically, play with the sound effects off, for the love of everything play with the sound turned off.
The game itself? It's still, even with a few things lost in translation, the same game. If you're not familiar with the Megaman format, then it's a 2D scoller with a fairly simple tool set. But since it's simple, it feels pure. You're never burdened with too many things at your command, you just hop, shoot, and slide along the well designed levels. And it's still cool to see how beating one stage has an effect on another stage. It blew my mind when I was young to see Storm Eagle's airship inside of Spark Mandrill's stage, and it still somewhat translates in this game as well. It does feel a little bit off from time to time while fighting, since it's game that tries to look modern yet play faithfully a game that's ten years older than it. Also it's worth mention that playing through the game unlocks thirty minutes worth of Anime! Joy. And also the ability to play as Vile. I was wanting to play through as the guy, but Christ is it hard, and he's even chattier than X.
So there you have it. A port of a game that, while having a list of features that seem appealing: New graphics, remixed music, and a new storyline. They all end up betraying the original game. It's not a terrible version, but I'd rather still play my SNES copy. And the SNES version was already available on a PSP complication, so what was the point?
Score/Fruit: 2,600,005/5,000,000. And a Custard-apple.
Bonus Game: A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda
A game that got the attention of the XNA community. A.R.E.S. was a promising XBLIG game that the devs decided to bring over to the PC. Smart move.
And uh, yup. It's something alright. The enemies and your avatar look good, the environments are pretty serviceable. The music is sort of generic techno flair that I'm only mentioning because they're trying to sell it as an album for $5. The level design is bland for half of the game, and various core mechanics seem to come from ideas that seemed cool at the time but in execution betrays itself. You see, instead of enemies occasionally dropping ammo for one of your abilities or health. They drop three different types of currency (and since every item requires all three, it seems kinda redundant to have three different types of currency.) And with the currency, you press your shop button and use it on grenade ammo, health kits, or you save enough to upgrade your weapons. And because upgrading your weapon seems like the top priority thing to do, you try to spend as little as you can on your grenades or health kits. So far, this all still works alright. What fucks it up is that you use grenades on special blocks to open up pathways or you use them as a "boost to get to platforms that require it. So you end up constantly going back and forth between menus to get the grenades you need to get through a platforming area. And it gets tedious, fast. Also, because you can buy health kits (and they're dirt cheap.) You can pretty much brute force your way through bosses or any other hard part of the game. The whole system makes the game a little too easy, even on the "hard" difficulty. And with only five levels, adding up to a meager 106 minutes, it's a short affair as well.
But I may be trashing on it too much. Even though the first half of the game feels bland, it picks up afterwards and shows what potential it could've had. And if everything was as good as the final level of the game, I would be praising this game. But it isn't.
Score/Fruit: 1,715,986/5,000,000. And a Mango.
Whew, just about missed Monday! I'll try not to be late again. Anyways, tune in Thursday as I say goodbye to the Wii with Mario Galaxy 2. And rant more about Modern Shooters with Homefront!
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