I Play Porn Games For The Story // 15.01.2012

Hey howdy and oh god this edition is a little bit late! Sorry about that, but I guess that’s what happens when I sleep in until 8pm. Anyway, regardless, welcome to my weekly blog about videogames, visual novels, and some other stuff! This week I admit was pretty weak on the actual... fun, I had, I guess, as this week was submission week at my university. And as any good university student does, I decided to leave everything last minute! So within a week I had to make two videogames and write four reports, leaving not that much time for playing videogames. But whatever, let’s see what I managed to sneak into this week anyway!

Mighty Switch Force

In my constant desire for actually owning games for my Nintendo 3DS, my focus went towards the eShop. While I’m still annoyed that VVVVVV doesn’t have a European release, I decided to get Mighty Switch Force. The game revolves around a rather simple switching mechanic there are yellow blocks in the world, some are transparent and some are not. You can press R to switch between the two, turning the transparent ones whole and vice versa, allowing you to jump on top of the whole platforms. It’s a really simple mechanic that gets surprisingly complicated as the game goes along.

Eventually three other kinds of platforms are introduced; purple blocks that can fire characters and enemies around like the blast barrels from Donkey Kong Country, and then red and blue platforms, that only flip when the main character is not standing on top of them. When all four types of platforms are in play the game gets really challenging, having to find blue platforms to stand on just to not flip them, or make them in time with yellow platforms so you can use a purple to blast through them... I think that makes sense.

Anyway, the actual objective of the game is to collect runaway prison inmates, who all happen to be girls because, well, why not, I guess. Once all five have been collected in one level, a robot appears (again, why not) which signifies the end of the level. Each level also has a ‘par’ time, and saves your best time, allowing for a good amount of replay ability to try and beat the par time, which on some levels seem just impossible. If you don’t care for time trail stuff, however, there aren’t that many levels, and if you’re good at the game all the levels can be done in an hour at most.

I should also point out the art is amazing, but that probably goes without saying considering the team behind this game is Wayforward, I haven’t actually played any of their games before this, usually just admiring them from afar, and to be honest this game makes it clear that that was a mistake. I might just end up getting some of their DSi releases as well. After all, having games to play on this game console is a good idea.

Q.U.B.E.

I have a weakness for indie games, I think anyone who reads this blog should know that by now, so when I saw Q.U.B.E. I bought it without even knowing what it even was. Luckily, my instincts worked perfectly again, and this turned out to be a really cool puzzle game.

The game has that serene white wall look that the first Portal had, and combines that with block pulling and pushing. Blocks take can be pulled and pushed have different colours. So the whole thing is white, but red blocks in the wall can be pulled and pushed up to three times out of the wall or floor. Blue blocks can be pushed in to the wall, and act as bounce pads. Yellow blocks come in groups of three and work in sync with each other, by pulling one of the sides that one will be pulled out to three blocks out the wall, the one next to it two blocks, and the furthest away one.

Some puzzles make you feel smart for working them out, which is always a sign of a good puzzle game.

The further and further into the game you get the more kinds of blocks appear, and the game doesn’t really stop to explain any of it. I think I really like that about the game, there aren’t any real tutorials, instead opting for the play to figure out the rules of the new kinds of blocks as they appear. It’s a technique that could have backfired tremendously but it works really well with the aesthetic of the game. Without spoiling anything about where the game goes in a ‘post Portal world’, there’s a part in chapter 3 in which there’s a straight corridor to the next puzzle room, and suddenly the corridor moves and forces you into a different puzzle room... so make with that what you will!

LEAVEs

In the interest of time I decided to play a short visual novel this week. While short visual novels have their place, as a more condensed well told story is usually preferred over a paper thin story spread out over tens of hours, this was just because it was a busy week. With that in mind, here’s a freeware visual novel called LEAVEs, to which I’m linking to the concept page for Leaf, a visual novel company, because fuck the police.

It’s a pretty short story so I may as well go over the majority of it. The game involves two main characters, Tomohiro and Touka, childhood friends who have grown up together and are now living together. The story doesn’t really have much more than that for a premise, there are no user decisions or anything like that, instead the visual novel is adamant about telling a story based around how these characters are trying to survive adulthood. The no choices aspect of it makes the story a little bit interesting, because it also makes the user a bit powerless to stop whatever is going on at any point. Anyway, the story involves them and their friend Matsuri as they struggle with the idea of surviving as adults. Touka gets lead astray and ends up getting hooked on drugs and that’s your story.

And that’s literally all I can say about this visual novel! If you’re interested you can get it here. The only really critiques I can lobby against it is that there are some incredibly unnecessary sex scenes, like betraying the character kind of sex scenes, at part of the story, which is never a good thing. I’d also advise to stop reading before the epilogue, because while the concept of the story can be incredibly powerful to some people, the entire thing is completely betrayed by the epilogue. Like seriously, the epilogue might as well have said ‘well that was all a dream!’ and just ran an unskippable video of the trollolol song.

But who knows, maybe you’re like it!

As always I decided to make some mashups. There are two again this week, also there are technically six as the first one is a compilation of five different mashups.

So you guys remember Katawa Shoujo right? Well I decided to make a mini album called ‘Katawa Mashup’, out of sheer love for the visual novel. Well, when I say sheer love, I mean sheer inappropriateness. Where else will you see the main theme of Hanako, the burn victim, being mixed with Lil’ Wayne’s “Fireman”, or how about the blind girl Lily’s theme with Busta Rhymes “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See”? Yeah, exactly.

The other one is another mashup featuring those stupid ponies that I can apparently never shut up about and because I have an interest in the show that interest completely defines my entire character and no matter what I do I have to be doing it while thinking about ponies right? I mean, obviously there is literally nothing I do in my entire life that isn’t dictated by my enjoyment of this own TV show.

Anyway it’s ponies and Deadmau5.

Well this was a short one! And it was also a late one! Hopefully both of these facts will be fixed by next week. So if you’ll excuse me I’ve only watched the new My Little Pony episode 5 times, that’s clearly not acceptable.

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I Play Porn Games For The Story // 08.01.2012

Hello everyone and welcome to this here another addition of my weekly blog! This is the place where I take time out from doing all the university coursework I left until the last possible second to tell you about what I’ve been doing instead of doing my university coursework. It usually involves videogames and visual novels, but I’ve been known to do a lot of other stupid stuff too. So let’s get to shufflin’ as much as we can!

Mario Kart 7

So in a desperate attempt to actually own games on my 3DS, I went out and bought Mario Kart 7. Luckily I’m friends with two other weirdos who also own 3DSs and copies of Mario Kart 7. Slightly unrelated but in that same trip I bought Super Street Fighter IV for the 3DS, which makes technically the 8th copy of that game I’ve bought, and the Ultra edition of Super Meat Boy. A pretty good haul in my opinion.

Anyway, the videogame, this is a pretty great Mario Kart game. Rather predictably the basics are still the same, kart racing, items, blue shells, they’re all here. So really the only real differing factors here from the other games are the levels. The new levels for the most part are really good, there’s still a super easy Luigi’s Circuit equivalent and all the stuff you’d expect, but there’s a lot going on in the levels without them being distracting from the actual racing. And of course the 3D adds a lot to them. There are a few, specifically Rainbow Road and the two Wuhu Island tracks that are one lap. This is really cool, as it means the track itself is three times as long. These levels can get a bit annoying, like for instance if you mess up on the first lap in a normal race, you have two laps to get it right, but here the track is new all the way through.

Also what has been standard for the last few entries are levels from previous Mario Kart games. There are a lot of good levels from old ones too, but it’s not like they could have messed that up that much. They did have that stupid prehistoric track from the Gamecube game which is terrible, hell at least it’s not Daisy Cruiser! ...Which is also in the game. Man. At least they had the sense to include the original Rainbow Road as the final track this time. I was hoping that when they first had old tracks, they’d just be a ‘Rainbow Cup’, going through all the old Rainbow Roads.

They also introduce paragliding and underwater sections in this game. The paragliding is a great addition, adding a nice element of strategy to the races. These sections activate when jumping off blue jumps, of which there are a few in every level. They’ve even reworked some of the old levels to include them, usually for the better. The underwater sections, however, are pretty bland. Unlike the paragliding, underwater your kart is still on the ground, the only real difference is that the handling is worse. It’s good for a little variety but most of the time I could have done without them. I knew the game wasn’t going to turn into Diddy Kong Racing, but still.

Also this game is pretty Mario Kart you guys. I was in first on the new Bowser’s Castle, final lap. Blue shell comes from behind me and hits me just before I go off a jump. ‘No problem’, I think to myself, ‘Im right next to a boost anyway.’ Then before I could move, a red shell hit me. Then, the person in 3rd knocked me off the ramp, into the lava. By the time Lakitu brought me back, I was in 5th. Before I could move again, a Bullet Bill hit me back into the lava. I ended up in last place, and a single tear fell from my eye.

Katawa Shoujo

AWW YEAH KATAWA SHOUJO LETS DO THIS WOO!

Now I’ll try to be as objective as possible, but I feel I have to say something first. Katawa Shoujo is the single reason that I read visual novels. I was following the development for a little while before the initial release of the Act 1 demo, and been anticipating it ever since. After about a month, I decided I’d pass my time reading other visual novels. 3 years later here we are, and I can’t tell if I should be thankful I read VNs as often as I do. On top of this, I’ve become massive fans of various artists on this project due to me following it. The reason I say all of this is so, even though I went into the game with reasonable expectations, there’s a lot of reasons why my opinion would be skewed. Having said that, this is an amazing visual novel, and screw you all.

The main character is Hisao Nakai, a seemingly regular high school student. That is, until, record scratch, and he has a heart attack during a love confession. He’s hospitalised for several months, before winding up at Yamaku high. Here he meets a colour cast of characters, like the deafmute Shizune and her “what’s her disability” signer Misha, the blind foreigner Lily and the burn victim Hanako, and finally the no legs runner Emi and the no arms painter Rin.

All I want to know is why does she need glasses if she's deaf?

Now I was trying to figure out how to do that last section for a long time. As even though I just reduced all the main characters to their disabilities, the game and its story does everything but. There were multiple times over the course of playing the different routes that I completely forgot that the girls were disabled in some way. This is because the stories do a fantastic job at creating characters that just happen to be different in some way, as opposed to making it the crux of their life. So much so, in fact, one route hit so close to home that Hisao and one of the girls had almost word for word a conversation I’ve had in the past with a significant other. So that was incredibly weird. There are also a fair number of faux pas jokes that work really well, Hisao making the majority of them as he’s trying to adjust to this new life. Relaying a few of these to one of my friends he told me a story where he did something similar, where he saw a one armed man struggling with something, and without thinking asked if he needed a hand.

The different stories are well told. The game is split into four acts per character, with the first act serving as the common route and the point in which you choose what girl to get with. The common route is fine for what it is, but even having played it before, it can be a bit ambiguous what options lead to what girl, and I can see most people either getting stuck with Emi first time through or partying with Kenji. The character routes are roughly 3 to 4 hours each, and within the routes there aren’t a lot of selections to make, instead opting for a more focused story. Each character has two endings, with the good ending usually leaving on a ‘and they lived happily ever after’ note. It’s kind of standard, but what is also kind of standard is a tacked on epilogue of the characters being all “oh remember Yakamu high all those years ago that was something right”, this doesn’t have that and honestly I think it loses something because of it. Sometimes having the last line in a story being “So what do you want to do today?” doesn’t have enough closure. What is a really amazing addition is the short animated sections when you go from act 1 to act 2. Each girl has their own short but sweet animation, before going back to the story. It’s a small thing but it verges on being something really special.

There are some neat tricks with the character sprites thrown around here and there.

The art is unfortunately hit and miss. The art at some points look wildly different from one scene to another, which makes sense with multiple artists working on the same project. The biggest offender of this in the character sprites is Emi. Emi’s character sprites, since the very first demo release, have had a complete overhaul. While her sprites on their own look really good, they look out of place whenever she’s standing with other people, especially next to Rin, Emi’s best friend, as her sprites in comparison lack a lot of detail. All of the backgrounds are also still pictures, which is fine but in some situations the visual effects that have been done to them make them just look bad in some scenes. The good parts, however, do outweigh the bad. A lot of detail has gone into some animations of the sprites and cut-in graphics showing objects that are talked about in the game. The CGs for the most part are also amazing and really bring the characters to life, but they also suffer from having different styles from one scene to the next. No matter how good some of them are, the lack of consistency can be jarring.

Sure all the art can't be this amazing, but I can dream dammit.

Not only is it amazing that this game ever got released, it’s amazing just how well done it is. It’s unfortunate that the coverage this game got kept going back to the same things that more often than not weren’t actually true. While the first drive to start this project was on 4chan’s Anime board, and the fact that the group’s name “Four Leaf Studios” pays homage to that, this isn’t a game made by people from 4chan, and it’s crazy people still think that. Every time I think why would anyone get mad over video game journalism I have to remind myself of Giant Bomb’s favourite female reporter Leigh Alexander’s “article” on this game, which could pretty much be summed up as “4chan videogame where you take advantage of cripples who would want to fuck disabled girls right guys VIDEOGAMES!” almost had me punching my monitor. Again, that’s probably an aspect of following the development like I have been but, man. My hat goes off to the people behind this project, for not only having to deal with that kind of bullshit, but also coming out the other side with a legitimately great project.

So in lieu of any real resolutions, I decided this year is the year I start diving more heavily into music production. Music production has been my hobby ever since programming changed from being my hobby to the thing I’m studying. I’ve been having fun with it and I think I could get a lot better at it if dedicated some time to it.

But disregard all of that, because I made some mashups. Both of them are also My Little Pony related so that’s still a thing I guess. The first of these is called Discord Days. Now, I got the idea of this one when I stumbled across fanart of the Gorillaz’ “Demon Days” album art, ponified. As soon as I saw that I got a flash of inspiration and ended up mashing the entire album to pony songs. There are a few that don’t work because I’m still terrible at determining keys by ear, but it’s been my most popular one to date by a significant margin.

The second out is Party Rock Anthem with a fanmade song called Party With Pinkie, because PARTY ROCK.

I also decided to start a Tumblr page where I’ll be putting all of my mashups, which includes mashups I would have never uploaded to YouTube or anywhere. I used to just make stuff, post a link on Twitter and by like “well that was a thing.” By having this page I have some place to at least catalogue all the stupid stuff I make. So if what I make is interesting then, I dunno, something. It’ll probably be where I put all my programming stuff to so who knows?!

I guess that about covers it. At some point this week I have to learn 6 months worth of Direct X and also create a game with that knowledge, and then write a report of said game and submit it all by Friday. You’d think as soon as this is posted I’d go straight into doing just that, but I’ll probably be playing Street Fighter knowing me. Oh well, if I get kicked out of university it means more time for visual novels!

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I Play Porn Games For The Story // 01.01.2012

Hello everyone and happy New Year! Some of you may be wondering why I’m still here writing this weekly blog and not out with my friends drinking copious amounts of whisky and generally getting crunk, but maybe I just love writing about videogames and visual novels that much! Not because I didn’t get invited to any parties, of course not! Why would you say that? WHY WOULD YOU REMIND ME?

Anyway.

Pushmo

So I was lucky enough to get a Nintendo 3DS for Christmas, and the first thing I did with it is go on the eShop and download myself a copy of Pushmo. I do love me a puzzle game every so often and this one looked like one of the better ones, so obviously I practically ignored all the actual cartridge games I got to play this.

Just as it has been stated at different parts of this site, it’s rather difficult to explain Pushmo. You pull blocks out to three different layers and just around them to pull more and... something? I don’t know, best to just watch the quick look. The most important thing is that the game is a lot of fun, and very challenging.

I’m currently at the last set of puzzles and there’s a reason I haven’t completed it yet. I love a good puzzle but some of the later ones are just frying my brain. That’s a good thing though, there’s nothing worse than breezing through all the ‘hard’ challenges in a game with relative ease, at least for me, because an actual challenge is always more than welcome.

I also tried my hand at the level editor, but I haven’t made any levels that can be considered good. I’ve mostly just made pixel art stuff, which is also the only kind of levels I’ve downloaded via the QR codes. While making pixel art is fun and all, it’s really hard to actually make them fun levels. About half way through the built in game, there is a section of Nintendo murals, which is just pixel art. The images are pixel perfect to the original pictures, such as Lakitus and Bullet Bills, but to make them interesting levels they rely on tunnels and other ‘advance’ techniques. It’s really cool, but because they lock out you downloading any levels with more advance stuff than you’ve seen in the main game, it means if I make levels with those, not as much people could play them. Still, it’s a cool game and all the crazy pixel art levels found in various threads on the internet sure give the game a lot of life.

Super Mario 3D Land

The actual game I got with the 3DS was Super Mario 3D Land, now leading up to the release of this game I wasn’t too interested in it. The movement looked way too slow for my liking and the camera work just looked odd. Obviously, I wasn’t thinking third dimensionally.

Unsurprisingly, you guys, this Mario platformer is pretty swell. The whole conceit of the game is based on the Tanooki leaves. You know they’re not joking around since you get one within the first 10 seconds of the first level. As far as the game goes it starts out pretty slow, but picks up around world 5 or so. By the time you reach the Bowser battle at the end of the game and rescue Peach, however.

That’s when the game starts.

The credits roll, and you see another letter, showing that Luigi has been captured! Going back into the game then unlocks 8 more worlds, with Luigi being locked away in the castle in the first world. Beating this castle unlocks Luigi as a playable character, and then you have seven new worlds of levels to play just for fun! The 8 extra worlds are ‘special’ worlds, as the levels are harder variations of the main 8 worlds. Not to say that’s a bad thing, however, as the variations get super difficult. Replacing all enemies with Hammer Bros, Bowser is how Skeleton Bowser, only giving you 30 seconds on your timer, and having Shadow Mario chase you for the entire level meaning you can’t stop for a second. The special worlds are where this game really shines.

Then when you complete these 8 worlds, you get yet another letter, showing while you were goofing around in these special worlds, Bowser just straight up kidnapped Peach again, causing you to beat the last level again to save her.

God damn that’s great.

There’s also one more secret, if you beat every single level with both Mario and Luigi, you unlock one last level, a level that puts the Super Mario World Star World to shame with its difficulty. Seriously I spent a good hour or so trying to beat it, and the level ends with a big ‘THANK YOU!!’ written in platforms. Sure, you’re welcome, but I’d prefer to be a ‘super player’ thank you very much.

Skyward Sword

It’s been a hard couple of weeks. I’ve been surrounded by people who have played and completed Skyward Sword. I’m a big fan of Zelda and because of that I’ve tried my damndest to not spoil anything about the story, just because I really wanted to play the game myself. Now that I have it, I’ve been playing it here and there, and I just have one problem.

It’s not fun.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to play it, and complete it, because that’s what I do. But unfortunately as of right now it still hasn’t clicked with me yet. I’ve completed the second dungeon and yeah that was cool and all, it is the point all of my friends say they fell in love with it, but I still don’t know.

I think that’s mostly to do with the controls, I just can’t get the Wiimotion Plus thing to work for me. I discovered very early on that the motions I was making were way to subtle for the game, I was really just flicking my wrist to swing the sword, so I’ve been using my whole arm for motions now, which has made things better but not perfect. The basic red enemies are what I’ve been having the most problem with. I get that they block in whatever direction you’re holding your sword, so I’ve been trying to move my sword in one direction, and then swing in another. However, two problems arise when I do this. Firstly, moving to the new position will sometimes register as a swing, and secondly sometimes I do it too slowly and the enemy has already changed where their blocking. Again it’s something I’ll eventually get used to but it’s really dragging down the experience.

ALSO FUCK FI, FUCKING GOD DAMN PIECE OF AUTOTUNED MIDNA CRAP.

Little Busters!

When it comes to visual novel companies, you don’t get much bigger than Key, which more people would probably know of the visual novel turned anime they made called Clannad. Well just in time for the holiday season, a translation of one of their more recent games, Little Busters!, was released. To be honest I can’t think of anything that says ‘festive cheer’ than visual novels, so of course I played through it as soon as I could.

The story involves Naoe Riki, a rather atypical high schooler, and a member of a group known as the Little Busters, a group of friends consisting of Riki, Masato, Kengo, Kyousuke and Rin. Kyousuke, the leader, decides rather randomly that the Litter Busters should become a baseball team... so they become a baseball team! Riki manages to recruit other people to the Little Busters to fill out their team as they practise for their first match.

A pretty interesting aspect of the visual novel is that it features minigames. The other aspect of the Little Busters is that they have a battle ranking system. At any time the members of Little Busters can throw down against each other with random items to see who is stronger. Also it’s not like it’s just a few lines of text, the entire game changes its HUD to a rather crazy fighting game inspired HUD. There’s no real interaction in how the battle goes... at least I don’t think there is. It’s mostly just there for show.

The other minigame is the baseball practise. Every day the Little Busters gather for baseball practise. The main character Riki is at bat, meaning the user actually plays this one. It’s a very simple game, click to swing and using arrow keys to move around, and there’s no real benefit within the game to actually do it, apart from raising stat for the fighting game that also has no real weight on the story. Both of these in fact have prompts when they first appear asking if the user wasn’t to actually have these turned on, stating that it’s ok to turn them off as they have no bearing on the story. So while it’s cool they’re there, I would have preferred both of them a lot more if they actually did have some bearing.

The baseball story is pretty great, as it gives a really good reason for Riki to meet all of these girls. It’s also a really cool that four of the starting five Little Busters are male. It’s a small thing but they manage to pull off the ragtag group of bros pretty well in the opening stages of the story, and it makes it believable that these five have been friends for a long time. Once the whole baseball storyline comes and goes, the game splits into the character routes. A few of them do a good job treading that line between reality and supernatural stuff before going ‘hey guess what’ and flipping the entire story on its head. The only problem here is that in some routes, certain characters are just never mentioned ever again. It’s a weird thing when you think that they all became friends through the baseball practise, and then just disappear during some routes. At the same time I get it because visual novels, they can’t really account for every single small detail, but it’s still weird.

2011

2011 has been a really good year, but I think I say that at the end of every year. This year, however, I’ve changed a hell of a lot, almost all for the better. I’m just going to quickly highlight why I’ve loved this year so much.

Videogames

Yeah this one is pretty obvious! I’ve compiled my top ten games of the year and you can read it by heading over to said list here. You may notice a lot of indie games on that list, and that’s a factor of indie games being really great and, well, it’s really all I play. So deal with it.

Bullet Bill 3

I released my game this year! It’s kind of crazy how long the entire thing took, there was a point in January where I felt ready to announce it for a February release, but then I added the phantos, the hidden characters and contacted my friend Wolfgun to make the absolutely fantastic soundtrack. If anything that’s a case in which being patient with a game makes it so much better.

I could go on for quite some time talking about how much this game was my year, since making it took the majority of the year. There were days in which I’d wake up, start coding, and not do anything else until I went back to sleep. Finally the game got released in November, to a great reception of people loving it and people complaining it’s way too hard. Which is good, because that was my intention.

The game has gone to be pretty popular, because according to the Newgrounds API it’s been played over one million times, a fifth of that being on Newgrounds alone, which is crazy, and also the reason why part of me doesn’t trust that API number. It was also voted the 2nd best game of November on Newgrounds, which is also really great!

Only now I have to make something better.

My Little Pony

I was debating whether or not to even mention this but then I realised I’m listening to My Little Pony music right now writing this blog. It’s a very polarizing subject, which is why I only bring it up here through jokes or when I feel it’s essential, and quite frankly, it’s pretty big.

Before actually watching the show, I absolutely hated My Little Pony. For a while I was surrounded by two groups of friends that loved it, and don’t not care who knew. It took quite a bit of convincing to make me actually watch the show, but eventually I caved.

And I ended up loving it.

I will admit I think I’m into the show a little too much. It’s not that I’m embarrassed by it or that I hate it, but there hasn’t been one day of the last few months in which there was something My Little Pony related going on. Whether it’s just listening to the absurdly amazing remixes based on the show, making mashups with the songs, or just browsing pony based image boards, I’ve just embraced this crazy fandom as much as I can without it being weird.

Sparklykiss

Man this section is going to get me in trouble.

Now I could call this section ‘Giant Bomb’ but I feel that doesn’t really work. Sparklykiss a bigger influence to me this year than even I’d care to admit. I met her in the place all the cool cats meet, the Anime Vice chat. Since then we’ve been friends, talking about a lot of stupid stuff and generically gossiping. She is one of the reasons this blog even exists, as the idea for this came about reading one of her never updating blogs. She also is the reason I made that Assassin’s Creed Power trailer mashup, you know, the thing that caused, or at least had some part in starting, that entire Power meme. I make fun of her a lot and generally piss her off but hey that’s what I do! This year and where I’m at right now would be a lot different if it wasn’t for her.

...For better or worse.

This year is hopefully going to be great. As well as this blog I’m hoping to make another game and release it within the same year! A lofty goal I know. As well as my random spontaneous projects like mashups and stuff like that, I’m hoping this year will be even better than the last. Well I better get going; this entire bottle of scotch isn’t going to drink itself... it’s off to a good start.

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The Bullet Bill 3 Soundtrack: "Number Three With a Bullet"

Guys remember my flash game Bullet Bill 3? If not you should go play it, it's pretty swell.

A lot of people have been asking about the music, so hey guess what the soundtrack has been released. Go get it here!

The album contains the 15 tracks written specifically for the game, plus a bonus remix of 'Forest Maze' from Super Mario RPG! So what're you waiting for? Go get some awesome Mario remixes, because you quite clearly don't have enough of those already!

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I Play Porn Games For The Story // 25.12.2011

Hello, welcome and merry Christmas! This is my rather un-restive weekly blog in which I talk about video games and visual novels. Sure, sometimes I’ll talk about other things, but who cares about them really. I hope everyone out there is having a proper crimbo and gets a bunch of awesome last minute presents for their friends, because nothing says merry Christmas than the cheapest game available on Steam.

Dungeon Defenders

One game that my friends have been trying to convince me to buy for a while is Dungeon Defenders. Literally every time I’d meet up with my university friends they’d ask if I have it yet, and then going online a completely different group of friends would also enquire about the game. I eventually gave in to the peer pressure and got it. Much to my surprise, it’s pretty fun.

The game is one of those tower defence games that seem to be so popular lately. Albeit with the completely original twist of you also being able to control a character during the wave based attacks, which no other game has done ever. The gameplay is divided into two parts, the building phase and the defend phase, the building phase is not timed in anyway allowing you to plan for as long as you need. For a while I was just relying on my character’s own attacks to kill the enemies, a strategy that got me to the third or fourth level before the game smacked me across the head and said “the hell you doing?”

One thing worth noting is this is not a game to play single player. I played an hour or so single player to start with, just to get used to how the game worked before I delved into the levels with my much higher levelled friends, and damn. There are a lot of things going on at once, and in single player it’s really hard to actually handle all of it, or at least it was for me. With multiple spawn points for the enemies, I had to rely completely on towers for some of the spawns and use the melee attacks for another. However, unless you know exactly what to do it seems that the enemies can fairly easily destroy them, and then have no hazards between them and the crystal you’re trying to defend. In multiplayer, however, this was not a problem, as the game doesn’t seem to scale for multiple players. With 3 players, each of us focused on one spawn point, and save from one point in which my friend was being bad at videogames, everything went over a lot smoothly. It also made it a lot more fun having people to talk to while planning stuff. I’m usually a single player kind of guy, and I usually hate relying on other people in co-op type games, but this certainly isn’t the game to play alone.

The game seems like it could be a lot of fun with the right group of people, but right now all my friends are a lot higher levelled than I am, so it’ll be a while before I catch up and be able to tackle the harder levels with them. Who knows, maybe this is the game that will make me actually care about tower defence.

Steam

Yup, that’s right; I’ve been playing the Steam game. It’s kind of depressing that you can be working from 9am onwards with a fierce amount of dedication, but when 6pm rolls around everyone stops what they’re doing and checks what new games are on sale. To be fair it is an entire room full of gamers who love games coding games, but still.

Steam is doing that thing it does, namely having sales. But it’s also doing that other thing it does, a giant library wide scavenger hunt. It’s an amazingly simple way to get people to buy games they might not even want, and to install games that they haven’t touched in ages. I’m firmly in the second camp here, because despite the fact that I love seeing my totally game count increasing (360 and counting) I’ve only been buying games that I’m interested in... unless they’re like 2 bucks or something I mean come on I’m practically losing money not buying it at that point.

Sequence

With all the indie I buy on a regular basis, it’s rather surprising that there was an indie bundle on Steam in which I only owned one game in the package. I rectified this by buying the rest of the pack, of course, which is how I obtained Sequence, a game admittedly I’ve been meaning to buy for a while now.

Sequence is like a mashup of Dance Dance Revolution, Puzzle Quest and Amplitude, which on paper sounds like the best game ever made in my opinion. There are three different DDR panels that you flip between; they are defence, mana and spells. If you miss any of the arrows in the defence panel your character loses hit points, the number of hit points your character loses being based on the colour of the missed arrow. Every arrow you hit in the mana panel gives you one mana. This is the panel that has the most arrows in it, and there is no repercussion to missing the arrows on this panel. The final panel, the spell panel, works a little bit differently. Your character can cast spells, if he has enough mana and the spell is available. When the spell is cast, a bunch of arrows will appear on the spell panel, hitting them all will cast the spell, and missing any of them will cancel the spell. It’s a little bit much to juggle when you first start playing the game, but working out priorities between the different panels becomes pretty easy. You just have to be ready to take damage whenever you want to cast a long spell.

I don’t know man, the concept for this game is really cool, but there’s just a little too much with the game that makes me not want to play it. I’m not too sure if it was the terrible tutorial at the beginning trying to be funny and quirky, or the art style that I’m not too fond of, or even the gameplay not being that responsive sometimes. I think the gameplay is the biggest thing, and sure it might just be a personal gripe, but whenever I missed an arrow, not only did it not look like I missed it to me, but there was no real indication as how close I was, a thing that DDR does so perfectly. In a rhythm game, even if the timing feels off by a little bit everything is terrible, and even though there is a delay variable you can set, there was never a point in which it felt perfect., which is really unfortunate.

PAYDAY: The Heist

Another entry in the list of games I’ve been persuaded to buy because my friends play it so often, I took the plunge and bought myself a copy of Left 4 Banks. While I’m not a huge fan of first person shooters, I seem to be drawn to them a lot more recently. I can’t really explain it to be honest, as more often than not I regret even trying to get into this genre more.

PAYDAY seems rather similar to Left 4 Dead, though you can probably say that about most 4 player co-op first person shooters. I didn’t think much of the connection until I got shot up so bad I fell to the ground, and was only able to shoot a pistol from where the character was lying. So yeah, the connection is pretty apt. However, as with quite a lot of people recently I’ve not been big on this whole zombie thing, so making it about a bank heist is really cool in concept.

The problem with the game is the gameplay. The shooting just doesn’t seem responsive enough for this kind of game. The actual objective based levels are really cool, but having to actually play the game is the biggest drawback. Again this is coming from someone who doesn’t really like first person shooters so whatever. It also suffers from the ‘why would you play this single player’ ordeal, and sure while my friends are awesome to game with, it means having to wait for my friends to want to play the game as well.

Being cornered by the police with the rest of the team only to go “FUCK THIS SHIT” and run out, gunning everyone and almost making it to the end, only to be tasered to the ground was really cool though.

The Binding of Isaac

Man, this game. When The Binding of Isaac first came out, I absolutely loved it. I played it for hours on end, trying to get all of the endings. I ended up getting it, too, and then still kept playing it anyway. The Halloween update came out, around Halloween funnily enough, and I was pumped to play more, but then ended up not even touching it. I can’t really figure out why, but I just couldn’t be bothered to play it anymore. I threw it on again and remembered why.

It’s not that the game isn’t fun, because it is, immensely so. But there’s just something about it that I hate. The game is perfect for short bursts of gameplay, with an average run taking 10 minutes, but playing for any extended length of time just makes the game feel worse and worse. Unfortunately, when you’re trying to do a specific thing, you often end up having to take multiple attempts at it. This isn’t a game like Super Meat Boy or Nimbus where if you fail over and over it’s still fun trying again. This game, and I guess the same can be said of most Rougelikes, has a very slow intro. This wouldn’t be that if the difference between the end of one run and the beginning of another was so severe. I know there has to be a great powering up mechanic to have it work, but when Isaac can fly around, cry homing bombs and teleport around the floor, it’s pretty dire to go back to the start of the game again.

After playing the game for 3 hours straight trying to trigger the devil miniboss, the game just wasn’t fun to play anymore. It’s really depressing to admit that but after a certain amount of time this fact just completely sucks all enjoyment out of the game. Sure now I can go back and attempt it, and the game is pretty addicting so no doubt I will, but I don’t think I’m going to enjoy this game as much as I used to anymore.

Others

I’m not going to go through every game that I just simply opened, played for 5 minutes to get an easy achievement, and then close again. But if you must know, those games included but are not limited to BIT.TRIP Beat and Runner, Beat Hazard, Bastion, SpaceChem, Universe Sandbox, Magicka, Super Meat Boy, Poker Night, Rock of Ages, Toki Tori, RUSH, EDGE and Jamestown.

Again, this whole scavenger hunt thing is a really great thing, as it reminds me how much I loved some of the games that I have in my library. Though it does bring out a weird art of me where I have to get every achievement I can get. It’s gotten so bad that some of the games in this list haven’t even been officially added to the scavenger hunt, they’ve just have holiday-esque achievements added recently, so I went ahead and got them just in case they turn out to be a part of the hunt.

Sharin no Kuni, Yuukyuu no Shounenshoujo

So last week I talked about the visual novel Sharin no Kuni, Himawari no Shoujo, it’s a great example of how great a visual novel story can be. The characters are well realised, the drama is insane and the plot twists will make you think about the entire story is a completely different light. Someone somewhere thought it would be a good idea to create a fandisc for the game, and here we have Sharin no Kuni, Yuukyuu no Shounenshoujo. I’m not saying it’s a bad product, it’s just almost entirely unnecessary.

The visual novel features six different stories. The first, and the real reason this deserves to exist, is the back story of the previous game’s main antagonist, Masaomi Houzuki. Four of the remaining five stories expand upon the different heroine’s epilogues. The last story is a bonus story, available once the Masaomi story has been read, and it features the girl he shot at the beginning of the previous game, cool?

Firstly, the Masaomi story, this pretty much details why he’s so much of a dick in the previous game. Admittedly before reading it I didn’t really feel the need to know the reason, even without a reason he is probably one of the better VN villains. In fact, there’s a certain bad end you can get in the original game that concludes with Ken being just as cold and bitter as Masaomi, which after reading that I just liked to think that’s exactly what happened. Houzuki was a lot like Ken, but when Houzuki went one route, Ken went the other. As it turns out, the writers thought of that as well.

The game opens up in the same sunflower field as before, starring Masaomi Akustu as a Special High Class Individual cadet on the last leg of his training. With him is Higuchi Saburou, another cadet. They meet the person in charge of their final test, a foreign woman called Ari Ruruliant Houzuki. She puts them in charge of a girl called Saika Miina, a girl with the obligation of not being able to spend time the way she wants, but she’s pretty used to it and doesn’t mind the obligation at all. What follows is a pretty parallel story to the original, albeit without the whole Masaomi secretly being a childhood friend hook. The parallels are completely fine, but there’s just a little too much for my liking. The entire route takes place in a flashback as Houzuki is being driven home. The very end of the route takes place after the events of the first game, after Houzoki has reminisced about his past. The ending in question, while really cool and leaves on a great cliffhanger, does sort of betray the original character, despite how badass it may actually be.

The rest of the fandisc isn’t really worth reading. While the stories are pretty well thought out, and for some of the heroines the expansion on the epilogue is much appreciated, nothing really happens in them. For instance, one of the heroines Sachi is a painter. In her epilogue it shows she became a successful painter. That’s great and all, but here, her entire route is her finding a place to paint and painting. I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised as at a point that was all her route was in the previous game was as well, but there just seems to be large portions of these stories that don’t have to exist.

It’s a fandisc at the end of the day, an expansion on the original game. Meaning the only people who should read this are people who really enjoyed the first story. The back story is great and well worth reading after the first game, but in my opinion the rest of the content can be skipped over without any real loss.

And that’s it for the final blog of 2011! Now if you’ll excuse me I should probably get some sleep. No doubt my sister will try and wake me up around 8am or so so we can go open our presents. My parents I’m sure have concocted some kind of joke. One year there was only one present under the tree for me, and it turned out to be exam past papers. Oh how they love to troll.

Merry Christmas duders!

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I Play Porn Games For The Story // 18.12.2011

Why hello there! Welcome to my little weekly blog. Here is where I take time out of my incredibly busy schedule of not doing university coursework to write about what I’ve been doing instead of university coursework! This list usually includes videogames, visual novels, and from time to time includes anime, mashups, and an undeniable love of Space Jam.

Four Swords Adventures

“Hey Psy!” My friend said in a much more eager tone than he is prone to greet me. “Joe said to bring a few GBA’s through so we can play Four Swords Adventures!” You could tell he was pretty excited. Our weekly ‘videogame night in which we sometimes will play videogames’ started to become the highlight of the week. We all knew, maybe some of us more than others, that the prospect of the four player GBA Gamecube games would boil to the surface of our collective surface, but maybe some of us were a bit wearier than others.

~

“Shit.” Joe exclaimed when the subject of conversation naturally tuned to videogames while we were ordering our weekly pizzas at a local kebab take away. “I knew I forgot something.”

“What man?” Ross said, but we all felt he already knew the answer.

“I left my GBA at my parent’s place.”

“No worries.” Ross said, desperately trying to save the evening. “We’ll head back to my flat on the way down, I’ll ask Zac for his GBA.”

“What about everything else?” Lewis chimed in after ordering his, at this point traditional, 12 inch donor pizza.

“Oh I’ve got 3 GBA’s and 4 link cables with me already.”

“Wait.” I was silently monitoring the conversation, but this seemed a detail too important to point out. “You brought 3 GBA’s and 4 link cables, why didn’t you just grab 4 GBA’s on the off chance?”

“I didn’t think Joe would be that stupid.”

We all laughed, it was true, Joe was the one that decided to suggest this activity, it is kind of weird that he would be the one who was the worst prepared. The conversation turned to many other things over the course of us waiting for our takeaways. We rolled into Ross’ flat rather nonchalantly and claimed our fourth GBA. The evening was saved, or at least, so we thought. Maybe not having a fourth GBA was the real savoir in disguise.

~

Now we’re in the common room, we gather here first and eat our takeaways. For many of us, now coming up to half 9 at night, this is the first meal of the day. We savoir our takeaways and look forward to the night, and more often than not the morning, ahead. A TV in the corner is playing episodes of Cubix: Robots for Everyone because terrible 3D animation is the only way to enjoy a meal.

“And how about there’s just a picture of a fireplace taped on the radiator.” Lewis exclaimed after a fit of laughter, it wasn’t long before his laughter was joined by the rest of the room. No-one remembers how the conversation turned to ideas for a Christmas comedy sketch, but no-one complained. After a while our meals were finished, and we proceeded to one of the bedrooms to start our videogame adventure. We loaded up Four Swords Adventures and connected the four GBA’s. There was a small scare of one of said GBA’s not having any battery, but maybe that might have been our only escape. It passed by rather quickly, and we were finally able to start playing the game.

“FUCK.”

“HOLY SHIT WHY DID YOU TAKE THE BOOMERANG YOU CAN’T VIDEOGAME FOR SHIT.”

“JESUS CHRIST JOE STOP TAKING ALL THE BIG FORCE GEMS.”

“WE JUST NEED TO PUSH THIS ONE FUCKING BLOCK GET THE FUCK OVER HERE.”

“WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU HERE GO TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CASTLE FUCK.”

“PSY FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST PUSH THE BLOCK.”

“STOP THROWING ME DOWN BOTTOMLESS PITS GOD DAMN IT.”

“I FUCKING HATE ALL OF YOU JUST PLAY THE FUCKING GAME.”

“WHY DID YOU VOTE ME DOWN HE WAS THE ONE FUCKING EVERYTHING UP.”

“I SWEAR TO GOD PSY STOP DESTROYING THE BRIDGE.”

“FUCK IT’S TINGLE.”

It’s a wonder that we’re still friends.

Mario Party 8

“Hey guys.” I said, as I tilted my body a good 10 degrees, raising my hands to a parallel position with my face. “Let’s play some Mario Party 8.”

None of us really know why we started playing Mario Party 8; it was pretty unanimously met with immediate disapproval. However, in amongst this disapproval, the game was already starting up. If you remember, while a while ago I had played Mario Party 1, 4 and 8 with friends before. Only Ross is part of this weekly videogame night was a part of those original Mario Party sessions. Only he knew true fear.

We played 20 rounds on Koopa’s Tycoon Town; the map I feel is the best in Mario Party 8. It throws a lot of the basic rules of Mario Party out of the window, and has a more Monopoly style to it. To gain stars in this map, each character has to invest in hotels. If that character has invested the most amount of money in that hotel, they get stars. If the hotel has less than 20 coins invested in it in total, it’s worth one star. 20 coins up is worth two stars and 50 coins up is worth three. Apart from that, however, this is some Mario Party yo. Rolling dice, landing on red spaces, hating your friends, all your favourite things are back here.

Five rounds in and we already realised the mistake we made. Luckily, my idea of playing for 50 rounds was shot down incredibly fast. I was in dead last with no coins and no stars, several others had two to six stars already. I, however, was winning my fair share of mini-games, and seemingly only Ross knew what was going on. Suddenly, a battle mini-game started, one in which each player had to contribute 20 coins. I, of course, had no coins, investing in a hotel I couldn’t even own just so I could get rid of them. I won the battle mini-game, and suddenly I had the most coins.

What followed this, in amongst the chorus of "Waluigi number one!" as I shook the wiimote every chance I got, might have been the biggest ass kicking in the history of videogames. The game ended with me on top, scoring a grand total of fourteen stars. Twelve of these stars were from hotels, the last remaining two being the mini-game and most coins bonus stars. The runner-up, Joe, had managed to score himself seven stars, again one of these was indeed a bonus star, and quite frankly the less said about the remaining two the better.

“That was fun guys.” I proclaimed, breaking the silence. “We should play this more often.”

They didn’t agree.

Paper Mario : Thousand Year Door

While I didn’t actually play Thousand Year Door myself, I did sit in a room and watch my friend play it for a good six hours, so that counts right? It damn better, because it might have been the most fun I’ve had with the game ever.

First of all I love the Paper Mario series; I think that Thousand Year Door is an absolutely amazing game that I’ve completed several times over. I’m even a fan of Super Paper Mario for as polarizing as that entry seems to be, and my hype for the 3DS version could not be higher. My friend Joe was at the controller, on his first playthrough. Also present was me, rather obviously, and Lewis. We started talking about things that happened later in the game, much to Joe’s chagrin, though we did throw in a lot of fake spoilers in there for good measure. I’m sure Joe’s really looking forward to his Monty Mole companion.

What made this playthrough so magical was the entire Glitz Pit chapter. Again, I can’t even remember how it started, but we started to dub all of the voices in the game. I had accidentally ended up with most of the main characters of the chapter; Rawk Hawk, who had an incredibly deep nonchalant voice, Grubba, who sounded like the announcer from Crazy Taxi with a little bit of the Engineer in there for good measure, and finally the newly hatched Yoshi, whom Joe called ‘Mario’, who had an incredibly high pitched gangster slang filled voice. Let’s just say the points in the story in which ‘Mario’ was talking to Rawk Hawk were incredibly strenuous, though still incredibly funny.

Other characters range from the absurd to the flat out racist. I also ended up voicing Bowser, who has a blocked nose and sounds like the bird announcer from Animal Soccer World, Kammy Koopa, who sounds like Francis from Left 4 Dead, Vivian, a generic Japanese schoolgirl voice (where every sentence ends in ‘uguu~’), Ms. Mowz, who sounds like Bangs. My friends also had their fair share of amazing voices. Princess Peach is somehow Chinese, which works rather well with TEC who seemingly has tourettes. Each challenger in the Glitz Pit has their own amazing voices, some of which actually made perfect sense with the things they were saying.

Oh and since I’m talking about Thousand Year Door, yo you guys know Vivian was a guy in the Japanese version of the game? I find that absolutely fascinating, and in fact, makes perfect sense when you think about chapter 4. Her character does have that incredibly specific anime embarrassed/scared shota archetype to it. The whole falling for Mario but still unsure to even help him in battle is really well done, especially since it impacts gameplay in a really cool way. Vivian was always my favourite companion when I first played it and thinking about it more recently with this relatively new information, and considering what I’m like nowadays, that favouritism makes a lot more sense.

Sharin no Kuni, Himawari no Shoujo

When it comes to what I love about visual novels I always return to the same thing, amazing story, but most importantly amazing story twists. There are a lot of incredibly straight forward visual novels in which the main character somehow has a bunch of female friends in which he has the incredibly difficult decision of which one to bang, and sure they have their place. But I’ll always love visual novels that, while still having certain elements of that, attempt to go a lot further with their story. Sharin no Kuni, is indeed, one of these visual novels.

The story stars Kenichi Morita, in a world in which the law is very different. Instead of locking people up for a certain number of years, each punishment is tailor made for the crime. For instance, if a person kills another, they are forbidden from ever having children. These range from the small punishments to the ultimate punishment, of no-one allowed to even acknowledge you exist. Kenichi is a Special High Class Individual cadet, and the last leg of his training is to enforce these tailor made punishments in his original home town. Kenichi is a weird person, often breaking the forth wall, making bad jokes and relying on drugs to get him through the day, an act that he suspects no-one knows about. Once he makes it to the meeting point, he meets up with his supervisor, Masaomi Houzuki. Who enrols him in a high school where the girls he has to supervise are. During the meeting, a second SHCI cadet makes it to the meeting place, and is set up as a rival to Kenichi. However, Masaomi pulls out a gun and shoots her in the head for being late. In case you haven’t figured it out, you shouldn’t mess with Masaomi.

Before meeting Masaomi, Kenichi finds himself talking to Hinata Natsumi, who’s obligation is “Prohibited from Falling in Love”, which admittedly doesn’t come up that often since she’s incredibly shy. He also meets Sachi Mitsuhiro, who holds the obligation of a “12 Hour Day”, meaning she has to take medicine to knock her out for 12 hours each day, and Touka Oone, who is “Prohibited from Becoming an Adult”, meaning she has to obey all orders given by her mother Kyouko, who just so happens to be a teacher at the high school. Kenichi also has a non-blood related sister called Ririko who has the “Maximum Penalty” as stated before, everyone around her has to pretend she doesn’t even exist. She is the reason Kenichi wishes to become a Special High Class Individual and become her supervisor, as the only person that is allowed to acknowledge her is her own supervisor.

So that’s technically the set-up, but a lot of crazy things happen that I literally threw my arms up in the air on several occasions due to how amazing the plot twists are. I’m not going to delve into the later stuff because this is a story that if that set up intrigues you then you should definitely check it out. I will say this though, this is made by the same team that made Devil on G-String, and in fact this visual novel came out first, and is what convinced me to check out Devil on G-String. Both stories feature some amazing plot twists after plot twists and just when you thought everything was fine hey guess what plot twist. Both of these games beginning plot twist. In Devil on G-String, the main character reveals himself to the ‘Maou’ that is terrorizing himself and his friends. In this game, Kenichi reveals himself to be Ken Higuchi, a childhood friend of the main heroines and Hinata’s childhood crush, though somehow none of them remember him. It’s a rather great little detail that, when playing Devil on G-string, made me go “oh you guys” and pose in a very ‘shucks’ like manner.

Again, I don’t want to talk too much about what happens, but I really recommend this story a lot. The whole concept of the tailor made punishments make each route incredibly unique when compared to other visual novels, and the ending beats take almost everything you assumed of the main characters and throws them out the window with such ferocity that you’ll never know what hit you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to my friend’s flat for more Thousand Year Door. We’re on Chapter 4 now, Vivian’s chapter, so I can see that being really fun. Before I go, however, I feel that I must inform you that Katawa Shoujo is being released on January 4th. Katawa Shoujo is, in fact, the reason I started reading visual novels, so it’s great to see it getting a release date. And you can certainly expect an extensive blog about it in three weeks time!

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I Play Porn Games For The Story // 11.12.2011

Hey you guys, thanks for stopping by! This is my rather weirdly named weekly blog all about video games and visual novels, with maybe programming, anime and stuff like that sprinkled here and there every so often. I’m still recovering from an incredibly bad case of the flu (3 weeks and counting) but it’s pretty much been reduced to a terrible cough that only pops up when I go things like, say, walk. This means I’ve just sat at my computer for an entire week! It’s pretty much living the dream!

Sonic Adventure DX

This one has been a long time coming. A few months ago I replayed Sonic Adventure 2 much to my delight. For all the small problems that game has, I still had a lot of fun with it. Then, in amongst my friends and I quoting cutscenes from the game line for line with far too much accuracy, I realised once again I had never played Sonic Adventure DX. Thankfully, or maybe unfortunately, I didn’t have an excuse this time, as I had bought it on Steam when it was on sale. Since I had some free time ignoring the university work that’s due incredibly soon, I decided to play, and complete, Sonic Adventure DX.

Ugh.

I’d start this off by talking about the good things about the game but I can’t think of any.

I started by playing the Sonic storyline, because you know, it’s a Sonic game. Also it’s the only one unlocked from the start so there’s also that. Anyway, the Sonic missions are the best of the lot, but that’s not saying much. The worst part of the game is the parts in between the levels, where you have to go around talking to people trying to figure out just what the hell you have to do. I decided to skip as many cutscenes as I could because I couldn’t stand the voices, which just made these sections even worse since I was just running around hoping another cutscene would take place, so that I could skip that one and be even more confused.

The different character stories are really weird. Sonic’s story makes sense for what that’s worth, but then every other character doesn’t necessarily happen in conjunction, in fact, most of them overlap in a weird way. For instance, the Tails levels are just the Sonic levels, except the way to win those you have to beat Sonic to the goal. In terms of the gameplay sure I can see that being a good decision but in terms of the story why the hell is Tails beating Sonic here but not in Sonic’s missions? Another thing I hated is that almost every character has to place the stupid crystal keys to unlock Angel Island and a few levels. Surely When Sonic placed them, they should have been in place for everyone else afterwards? Admittedly I know this is just a nitpick, but man it really annoyed me for some reason. Maybe because it meant I had to play more Sonic Adventure DX.

While it’s great that each character plays differently, it doesn’t necessarily make them fun. Amy plays pretty similar to Sonic, except for the fact that she’s absolutely terrible and her missions are terrible and I hate everything. E-102 plays like Eggman and Tails do in Sonic Adventure 2, which in all honestly is my least favourite part of that game, so I didn’t enjoy those missions either! Knuckles is trying to find shards of the master emerald in this game as well, which makes it weird that he has the same personal storyline two games in a row, but since these levels were sorta fun to play I’m not going to complain. Oh and fuck Big the Cat.

It may just be me and my permanently equipped rose tinted glasses but Sonic Adventure 2 is just a much better game. The chao garden is expanded greatly (which is obviously the best part of both games), the different characters actually have different stories that intersect without overlapping, and, in my opinion, the levels are a lot better thought out. You can clearly see what Sonic Adventure 2 took from Sonic Adventure, and what it improved on. I’m glad I finally got around playing it, just so I know that I don’t like the game.

Rayman: Origins

A few weeks ago I mentioned that some friends and I have a weekly game night every Tuesday, where we do things like eat pizza, form a Sonic the Hedgehog cover barber shop quartet called ‘Graveyard Theory’ and watch Animal Soccer World. Well, this week, we actually played a videogame! The videogame is question being Rayman: Origins.

We played through the last few worlds four player, and I have to say, this game is incredible. Everything from the way the characters control, to the art style, to the level design, is incredibly top-notch. It’s also really great that the game doesn’t punish you for playing four players, like for instance New Super Mario Bros. Wii. While you can punch each other to mess them up (which we did do quite a lot), there isn’t much else in the way of griefing other players, which considering my friends are assholes, I appreciated. It’s a game I’d really recommend playing with people in the room, which is weird coming from me, who almost always prefers a single player experience.

As I said, we played through the last few worlds, so I didn’t play a lot of the easier stuff. We ended up completing the game and unlocking the final hidden level, and man, this game is no joke. The final chest race took us 45 minutes to complete, with high fives around the room when one of us finally managed to survive it. The final world and the hidden level were filled with moments just like that. In the hidden level there is a part where a giant tentacle is chasing the characters. After roughly 25 minutes trying to get past one part, I finally managed to get it, and everyone else was dead. There was no point in me trying to revive them, as it’d endanger both of us. Besides, the platform we always kept falling short off looked like the end of that section, and we’d obviously come across a door right after it.

We didn’t.

No, instead, another hole appeared in the floor, everyone flipped; we only got half way into the chase. I made the first jump, and the next, suddenly my friends were on the edge of their seat, shouting encouragements and just general “OH GOD”s after I’d make every jump and hit each enemy without knowing what was coming up. Eventually I made it to the door, and everyone in the room rejoiced. Everyone had their moments like that in the final level, no matter how hard a segment was eventually one of us would manage to scrape past it. It was quite possibly the most fun I’ve had playing a videogame in quite some time. There were some levels in which every one of us were in complete sync, running and jumping at the exact same time. Again, I’m pretty down on multiplayer most of the time, but with the right group of friends, this game is absolutely incredible.

Chrono Trigger

So the endurance run finally got to me, I had to play some Chrono Trigger. This actually marks my first playthrough of Chrono Trigger; the fact that I hadn’t actually played it up until now had really bugged me for a long time. I had emulated the SNES game quite a while ago, but only played through the first hour or so, thinking that if I was ever going to play it, this wasn’t the way I should go about it. But then I realised, the game never even came out in Europe, so getting a SNES copy was out of the question. My desire to play it died down a bit, and was rekindled with the release of the DS port. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it anywhere. Every week for a good 6 months, I’d check game stores in my area if they had it, to no avail. Even online retailers didn’t have it whenever I checked. Again, my desire to play died down again. Finally, here comes the endurance run, and again I’m looking around to find a copy of the DS version. Now, I’m finally playing through the game!

On my phone.

Yes the iOS port of Chrono Trigger was released this week, and considering it was about 3 times cheaper than the only DS cartridge I found, I bought it the second it was available. Then, only when it was installing, did I realise what a terrible mistake I had made. I have a few of Square Enix’s other iOS ports, namely the Final Fantasy stuff, and they’ve been less than stellar. The reworked graphics in Final Fantasy 1 and 2 look absolutely terrible, along with terrible UI, it makes those games incredibly hard to play, and all it’d take is an option to use the original sprites and I’d probably love it. The port of Final Fantasy 3 is based on the DS version, much like this Chrono Trigger port as it includes the new DS dungeon stuff, I already owned before checking out the iOS version because I’m an idiot. Because the graphics aren’t remade specifically for the iOS version, I feel this is the better port of the three; however, the simple fact that it uses a virtual joystick makes it rather annoying to control. The port of Chrono Trigger seems to be based on the Final Fantasy 3 port, for better or worse.

The good part, is that the graphics are the SNES graphics. Thankfully, Square Enix saw no need to remake them for the iOS version. The downside of this is, however, the UI has been updated. This makes sense, as the old interface wouldn’t work on the phones, but in places it just looks jarring. The text is high quality and so are the menu boxes, which makes them look out of place when overlaid onto the SNES sprites. The controls are also the same from the Final Fantasy 3 port. When you’re moving around, wherever you press on the screen, a virtual joystick is put on that position, and then you drag in a direction to move. Admittedly, this is one of the better solutions for the joystick problem, but it’s obviously still not ideal. Just tapping the screen makes you talk to anyone in front of you, so that works just fine.

While the UI edits make sense for the platform, they just don't mesh well with the original look of the game.

Some of the puzzles have been redone due to the fact that there are no buttons. In the future setting, in the SNES version there’s a door you have to access by ‘holding L and R, then hitting A’. Now, on the iOS, there is no L, R, or A, so that stuff has changed. In its place there are colour based puzzles. To access the door in this version, you hit the control panel, and hen different coloured buttons appear at the bottom of the screen, which you have to tap in the correct order. Again, it makes sense they had to change it, but at least they could have made the buttons fit in with the SNES art style a bit better.

Having said all this isn’t Chrono Trigger yo, so it’s pretty swell. It’s obviously not the ideal way to play it, but I can take my phone out of my pocket and play Chrono Trigger. I’m glad that I’ve finally been able to play it, and I can’t wait to play more of it. I’m currently just past where the endurance run is right now, having just met up with Frog for a second time. I’ll probably sink more time into it over the next few weeks. Since it’s on my phone it’s pretty well suited for short gameplay bursts, even if not exiting the app completely makes it count all my idle hours in my playthrough, so after the first day I had already amassed 24 hours of play. Oh iPhone games!

Let’s Meow Meow

This is one of those ‘well I guess I was going to have to play it eventually’ types of moments. I’ve never been one to enjoy the whole cat eared girls thing, even removed from the fact that it’s the first notch of the becoming-furry-o-meter, it’s never been something I’ve liked it terms of visual novels. I’m perfectly fine with it in anime and that side of things, however, so it’s not like I try my hardest to avoid it. This visual novel, however, looked like the fact that ‘yo those girls got animal ears’ was its only selling point. Let’s just say I started playing Let’s Meow Meow with rather low expectations, and it failed even to meet those.

The story is rather paper thin, if that. The main character Ibuki Takao is a big fan of cats, and as a result feeds the stray cats in town. Because of this, the cat god appears before him and offers him a wish, to which he requests a cat girl of his own. His wish is granted and he finds a cat girl on the streets the next day, who then becomes his maid, much to the chagrin of his childhood friend who just happens to be the daughter of his landlord because visual novels. Over the next few days it turns out that more humanoid animals were transported to this world, including a rabbit girl treasure hunter, a dog girl cop, and a robot designed to look like a cat girl because visual novels. They all have to life with the realisation that there is no way back to their own world. That is, until another miko cat girl shows up and is all “yo dawgs we can go back to our own world.” Several sex scenes later and then they all C-walk back to their own world, unless of course one of them falls in love with the main character, in which case they’d probably stay I dunno.

As far as visual novels go the only reason to go into different routes is to see the different sex scenes. The first half of the story has all of the real character development and introductions, which sometimes could amount to something slightly interesting. Then you get a screen saying “hey which one of these girls you wanna fuck?” and that’s the way you access different routes, despite the amounts of choices you have to make in the first half, they hardly amount to anything. At this point you select two girls for the main character to get with, the main character gets with them, and you choose which one of the two you prefer, and the story continues. The second half of the story doesn’t even revolve around the character you chose, instead it revolves around the miko cat girl that shows up and is all about the entire cast going back home.

Not much else to say about this one to be honest, all in all it’s a pretty forgettable title. Nothing rather happens in the story that’s worth anything. The characters don’t have any real personality behind them, the art is dated but that’s probably the product of the game being 8 years old at this point. And rather predictably the character I liked the most was the cat boy butler that worked for the bunny girl, deal with it.

Infinite Stratos

“Gee” I said to myself, “I sure do love anime. But I just wish it could be more generic.” Thankfully, my prayers were answered when I watched Infinite Stratos.

The setup is pretty cool admittedly. In this universe there are the Infinite Stratos, mechs that can only be piloted by woman for some reason. The main character, Ichika Orimura, is the first guy who is able to pilot one, and as a result goes to study at IS Academy, an in theory girls only high school, as it’s designed to teach girls how to pilot the Infinite Stratos. Being the only guy there, it isn’t long until he gets a bunch of girls pining over him, but of course in classic harem comedy trope land, he’s completely oblivious to everything related to that. Also in classic harem comedy trope land, he reunites with not one but two childhood friends, a girl who is initially incredibly cold to him also falls for him, and a second guy who transfers to the school turns out to also be a girl. The anime gradually introduces characters throughout the first 9 or so episodes, and then has some kind of big fight conclusion in the last 3 episodes. However, after said fight, the anime actually ends with harem comedy based misunderstandings so that’s cool I guess.

Or as much as this anime is just all the harem comedy tropes rolled into one thing with ‘also mechs’ hastily written on it, I sort of enjoyed it. The ‘also mechs’ part of it does make for some pretty cool fight sequences, and for as generic the mechs look, the way the anime blends 3D elements for the mechs movement with the 2D drawings is incredibly well done. It’s not so that you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart, but they work well together.

I can’t tell if I’m getting tired of harem anime to be honest. Every time the opportunity arises to watch one, I begrudgingly watch it, only to find some things about it I like. Maybe the bubble will burst eventually, but like I said, I ended up liking Infinite Stratos despite how generic it turned out to be. I’m not even a big fan of mech anime so the fact that that was something I enjoyed about the anime was rather surprising. The only real problem with it is that it’s another pretty forgettable experience; nothing really happens in the story apart from harem antics and mech battles. And unless I completely missed it they never really talked about why only women can pilot the Infinite Stratos, or better yet why Ichika can pilot one. I might just be looking too much into what is just an excuse to have the main character surrounded by girls, but still.

This time I’ve got two mashups! Unfortunately, they’re both My Little Pony based. Maybe one day I’ll go back to mashing together actual songs together, but until then, the first mashup is a Black Eyed Peas joint, and the second is a Fatman Scoop joint! You guys remember Fatman Scoop? I used to love Be Faithful way too much when it came out for no good reason. For that mashup, since an instrumental of that song doesn’t actually exist, I had to recreate it using the three or four songs that it sampled from. It doesn’t sound perfect but I think it works. Then of course I put a bunch of ponies over it, you’re welcome.

And that brings a close to another week of whatever the hell I’ve been up to! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to completely re-learn Java and make a terrible phone game. You know when I signed up for this course I really should have read what it was about, because I hated Java. In fact I remember the last time I had to use it and thought to myself “well I’ll never have to use that language ever again!” Oh if only I knew, if only I knew.

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I Play Porn Games For The Story // 04.12.2011

Oh man, it’s another one of these! Hello and welcome to my weekly blog all about videogames and visual novels! I sometimes also delve into other fine works such as anime, programming and stuff along those lines. Now, I didn’t write an entry last week, for which I apologize, but I had good reason. For the last, almost coming up on two weeks now, I’ve been mad ill. Like, for the first 4 days I couldn’t even move. I’m on the mend now, or at the very least, I’m well enough to type incoherent thoughts in a blog format, so here I am! Another thing that happened recently was my birthday, December the 1st to be exact, so that was interesting. I got myself an iPhone 4S, and one of my friends literally threatened to buy me Brink for my birthday. I outsmarted him by buying it myself; I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction!

...I think I just got tricked into buying Brink.

Cave Story+

So a really interesting addition to Steam recently is Cave Story in the form of Cave Story+, which I believe is a PC port of the Wiiware remake that came out a while back, as it features all the remade graphics and music. It’s a pretty great package, though the biggest improvement to this version from the original PC release in 2004 is that you get to pay for this one! How great! Oh and there are like 75 Steam achievements, so obviously I picked it up.

For those who haven’t played Cave Story, first what the hell bro, and second, the game is sort of a Metroidvania-esque side scrolling platformer game. You go around a rather linear story, but able to find different health and missile upgrades hidden around the levels, as well as new weapons and the like. The weapons also have a basic levelling system to them, as you kill enemies you collect yellow triangles that fill the equipped weapon’s level meter. Each weapon get level up to level 3, and levelling a weapon can usually be done incredibly fast, and in most cases makes the weapon a lot more powerful than their level 1 counterpart. The other side of this system is, if you take damage, your equipped weapon also loses some of its power, meaning if you get hit too many times, your weapon will drop in level. It’s a system that I feel works really well, and rewards more careful play by letting you keep sometimes downright breaking weapons just as long as you don’t get hit.

So I decided in my infinite wisdom to try my first run in this game on hard mode. Now, I have completed the game ages before on the original version on the game, but it really didn’t prepare me to the hard mode here. The hard mode in question, gets rid of all health upgrades in the game, and doesn’t give you the missile launcher at all. This means I didn’t have one of the better weapons in the game, making the enemies harder to kill, but it also meant that I had to play through the entire game with 3 health. This means that, almost every single thing was a one hit kill, and that makes this had rather difficult! There are a lot of points in the game that are really messed up with this difficulty, including bosses that show up after an already long enemy filled platforming section, and, well, just all those spikes. As of me writing this, I’m currently at the end of the game with this difficulty, and I’ll say it right now I doubt I’ll ever complete it. The end of the game, excluding the best ending, is three bosses in a row. After tackling it for around 3 hours before, I can beat the first boss around 90% of the time fairly easily, and then the first half of the second boss every so often. I’ve so far made it to the third boss 4 times, every time I’ve spent approximately 30 seconds running away to a safe point to try and figure out a good strategy, and then get hit and have to go the entire thing all over again. I’ll obviously keep at it, because as Misery keeps telling me.

But apart from my amazingly stupid life decisions, this is still a great game, and this is a great version of it. There are four different endings to the game, along with one of the most annoying boss fights I’ve had in recently memory in the true ending, and a whole bunch of challenge modes. Considering I end up playing a lot more indie games than ‘big’ titles it’s probably no surprised that I really like this game, but I’m still going to tell you yo you should get it.

Fractal

After the quick look for the game, I figured I’d give a Fractal a shot, ad well also because I absolutely adore Auditorium. The object of Fractal is to make big hexagon clusters by pushing and making smaller hexagons appear. Pretty hard to describe when I actually try to, but that’s the best I can do. You can click next to hexagons on the board, which will cause all the hexagons in that line to move one position in that direction, and then a new hexagon appears next to the position the mouse was clicked. When hexagon clusters are formed, any small hexagons next to it are pushed off away from the big hexagon cluster as it explodes into points, giving an opportunity for crazy combos.

There are a few different ways to play the game; the main way is the campaign mode which has 30 different levels. In that mode, you have to collect a certain amount of hexagons using a limited amount of pushes. This mode gets rather difficult rather fast, at east for me, with the introduction of multiple colours. With multiple colours, you have to be extremely careful about where you push and what colour you’re pushing at what time. I ended up filling the entire board with hexagons and having none of them set off big hexagon explosions, just because, well, one I’m terrible at videogames, but because I would keep forgetting what colour was being created at what time. The second colour is introduced in level five, and with a grand total of 30 levels I’m pretty sure, and scared, that there will be even more colours to juggle later on.

GUYS I GOT THIS

While that mode is meant to be played incredibly careful, there is also an arcade mode, designed to be a lot more hectic. In this mode you get an infinite number of pushes, but there is a time limit. Every hexagon cluster you make you gain some time to your limit, so the object of the game is just make as many clusters as you can and fast. This mode feels like the black sheep of the three, as it’s the only mode that doesn’t encourage you to look at the board carefully and be conservative with your pushes. Having said that, it’s a lot of fun to just make as many hexagon clusters as you can.

The third and my favourite by far, is the puzzle mode. The puzzle mode is really a well disguised tutorial area for the campaign, as most of the situations involve you trying to create combos or clear the board under certain conditions. While some of the situations you’d probably never find yourself in in the campaign mode, some of them are really useful to remember for the other modes. That isn’t to say that this mode is only for teaching you to play the other modes, as the puzzles themselves might be the best part of the game.

While it's pretty hard to notice these specific situations in the other modes, it's still fun trying to figure out how they'd work regardless.

Despite the game having almost nothing in common, I get a Devil Dice vibe from this game. This might just be from the puzzle mode and its seeming purpose of teaching you to be better at the main mode. In the same regard, the puzzle mode of Devil Dice is my favourite part of that game, too. Literally I can’t think of any other reason why I get a Devil Dice vibe from Fractal, but it did mean after playing Fractal for a bit I went straight to playing a bunch of Devil Dice.

Devil Dice

Guys Devil Dice is awesome, do yourself a favour and play it, that’s all.

Just because I was bedridden didn’t mean I didn’t play visual novels. These things get ported to iOS devices dawg! I mean that’s probably really cool right, the format works well for the touch screen controls, and as long as the text is readable it should be a great experience. Though obviously there be no boning on the iOS versions, luckily I’m only interested in the story.

KiraKira

This week I checked out KiraKira, which before I actually played any attention to it I figured it was just a visual novel version of K-On... then again that would require K-On to have some kind of plot. Anyway, K-On is pretty hot in my life so it fired me up to play it all that more, let’s just hope this excitement isn’t just all smoke and mirrors.

The story stars Shikanosuke Maejima, you’re typical high school student who doesn’t really care all that much about high school, is part of a club but never attends, and only really pays attention to his part time job. Suddenly! He meets up with a girl called Kirari Shiino who, along with his childhood friend Chie Isurugi and typical rich girl at a generic high school Sarina Kashiwara, convinces him to form a punk band.

Yup!

They decide to present the band as an all girl band, and therefore force Shika to crossdress during their performance. Then, after a great performance at the high school’s culture festival, they decide to take the show on the road, cause fuck it! And thus begins an incredibly ambitious and spontaneous tour of Japan as a fake all girls punk band.

It’s a pretty silly concept for a story, but I feel it works. The characters, after learning about the punk way of life, just jump from the frying pan into the fire, so to speak, and practically run away from their homes to do this. The character’s do a lot of heat of the moment decisions, and it’s what makes the journey all that more believable and exciting. The game also handles the different character splits rather well. The game continues a common route until they all get burned out, and feel that they have one more performance in them. At that point, Shika will make the decision on where they should go, which will be different based on who he’s warming up to the most, and then the rest of that character’s route will happen when they get back to school. This is where I feel the story sort of goes up in flames. The common story I feel is really good and really shows off the main characters well, but when the story splits, they don’t really spark up that much more than the rather generic stereotype based plots, albeit with some punk band influenced infused in them, but it’s definitely the most charring part of the whole experience.

Once you complete the three different routes, you unlock a fourth ‘true’ route, that’s based on Kirari’s route, with one rather significant change. This is probably the weirdest part of the whole visual novel to me. Kirari’s route, in my opinion the best out of the three routes, was incredibly well done. The straight up fiery passion of the main character and what he goes through might have been one of the best stories and conclusions I’ve ever read in a visual novel. Not to spoil what happens, obviously, but the story does something rather drastic, and instead of just ending the story on that explosion, it lingers on what happens for a few good hours. It’s a great effect that, with the inclusion of the true route, really just makes all that effort burn to ashes. I understand why they probably thought that had to include the alternate ending and call it the ‘true’ ending to the story, I just think the other way around would have made the entire thing a lot better.

Now, like the checks I use to buy visual novels, I better bounce. Before I do, however, I did make a few stupid lists last week. Now, it should be rather obvious that I’m a fan of the movie Space Jam, mostly because it’s an amazing movie and EVERYONE should be a fan of the movie Space Jam. Well I compiled a list of the top ten greatest video game based ‘Space Jam’ mashups and the top ten greatest anime based ‘Space Jam’ mashups. You’re welcome.

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I Play Porn Games For The Story // 20.11.2011

Why hello there, and welcome to yet another edition of my weekly blog. This is the place where I begrudgingly take an hour or so out of my day to write about videogames, visual novels, programming, anime, ponies, and sometimes whatever I need to to make the length of the blog round about 2500 words. So if anyone missed it I finally released my flash game, Bullet Bill 3, last Monday! You can read all about that and the series itself over on this blog post here. Since that’s been released, I’ve almost literally done nothing at all, because that’s how you celebrate releasing a game. So, let’s get on with the blog!

Sideway: New York

I think everyone knows my weakness when it comes to being recent games. The new blockbuster triple A games, I can do without, but you tell me there’s a new game that just came out on Steam with the tag ‘indie’ on it, I’m already half way through the purchasing process. Sure this has landed me with game I didn’t much care for, like for instance inMomentum, but it’s also given me pleasant surprises, like this game, Sideway: New York.

The game takes place in, funnily enough, New York. The story is something like ‘oh hey the bad guy kidnapped a girl you should probably do something about that’. The story isn’t really that important because it’s a platformer game, with a twist! The entire game takes place on walls, as graffiti. The main character gets turned into graffiti, and you fight graffiti monsters, jumping on graffiti platforms and jumping between different walls. It’s a really cool look for the game and it’s definitely its strongest feature.

The gameplay feels pretty good too. The game starts off rather basic; you can jump and run, like any traditional platformer. Throughout the game you find unlockables, some mandatory and some hidden, that increase your abilities. By the end of the game the main character can double jump and glide (leaving a spray can trail behind him which I think is a great touch), slide, throw paint balls, and a bunch of other stuff. There are also 5 hidden tags in each level, which require deviating from the beaten path, and in some cases replaying levels with more abilities.

Every three levels there is a boss battle which, are pretty good. The game does a great job of telegraphing how to beat the boss by teaching you their weakness in the level prior, and they never get too difficult that it feels absolutely impossible. The last boss, however, I did have a gripe with. The boss has a health bar of three parts. Once you take away all his health, he waits a bit, regains one more block and proceeds to do a completely new attack that will kill you in one hit. It’s kind of a dick move, and didn’t really add a lot of challenge to the boss, as after that attack he just goes back to his original pattern, but instead added unneeded frustration. But then again it’s a fine line between challenging and frustration so yeah whatever.

J-just because you add a homage to B-Brambles from Donkey Kong Country 2 doesn't m-make me like the game more... b-baka!

With a name like Sideway: New York, it sorta telegraphs that if or when they make more of this game, it’ll take place in a different city. And in fact, when you beat the game, it strongly hints at the possibility of there being another game in this series that takes place in a different city. By ‘strongly hints at’, I mean the game switches to a shot of a Japanese city and says ‘to be continued’. So yeah, looks like they at least plan to make more of this game, which I’m all for! I had a fun time playing the game, and any minor gripes I have are easily outshined by the amazing presentation. My only worry is that they really nailed the New York motif with the graffiti tags and the hip hop soundtrack. By moving to Japan I wonder if they’ll adapt to that culture at all. I guess only time will tell.

Bullet Bill 3

So I decided to check out a game called Bullet Bill 3 by the incredibly handsome Psycosis. It’s a free flash game, which admittedly isn’t what I usually cover, but I figured what the hay; why not switch it up a bit. Unfortunately, the game itself is a pretty terrible mishmash of bad gameplay and horrible execution.

The game doesn’t have much in the way of story. You play as a Bullet Bill from the Mario games, on a quest to go from left to right. For some reason the Bullet Bill is attacking other Mario enemies, along with the Koopa Kids and Bowser, but for seemingly no reason! You also, at least theoretically, can unlock characters by freeing them from cages, but it’s never explained why they are in the cages in the first place! I guess the story really doesn’t matter here, but still, a little text would have gone a long way.

Gameplay itself is rather simple, almost to a fault. You control the Bullet Bill, or whatever character you end up using, with the mouse. It’s alright, but most characters seem super unresponsive, and in a game where it’s all about dem reflexes, it’s super annoying to have a character that’s SOOOOO unresponsive. Also there were a bunch of times that it felt like I was dying from hitting NOTHING, so that’s super annoying too. I can’t code or anything but seriously there seems to be something wrong with that, and that can get really annoying, especially when the levels themselves can get super duper hard too.

On that very note, the biggest downside of this game is the incredibly broken difficulty. Like to start off I couldn’t get past the first few levels and sure, maybe that’s just me not doing well at the game, I can accept that much. But once I’ve gotten past the first three levels you get to the castle, and then the boss is JUST IMPOSSIBLE. I mean, seriously, I seriously doubt ANY play testing was done at this point. You get to the boss, pick up the key and then you may as well just move away from the mouse because no matter WHAT, literally NO MATTER WHAT, the phanto mask will hit you and you have to start again. It’s just impossible! I did eventually beat the boss without the key but WHY WOULD THE KEY EVEN BE THERE IT’S JUST TOO HARD. HNNNGH. This happens at EVERY boss battle, and it’s the worst thing ever, I can’t believe the game was released in this obviously untested unbalanced state. >: (

You see this? This is bullshit right here.

Do d- do d- doo.

Oh, there is also some kind of level editor which you can access from the main menu. Here you can try to make levels for the game, but the entire thing is incredibly confusing and not explained at all... Apparently all of the levels in the game were made using these tools, and it shows, because all the level design looks like a stupid collection of dumb stupid Psy just placed random pieces down wherever for a while and called it a level. :C But yeah whatevs, that’s also there, and doesn’t have any real purpose. Seriously, you can save levels, but you can’t upload them anywhere, so what’ the point? It’s 2011 y’all, how can you have a level creator and not have any easy way to share your levels? :L You can export the level into text but come on! Why can’t I just upload them somewhere?! It’d be so much easier for EVERYONE involved. I ended up just drawing a bunch of cutie marks using the bricks so THAT’S COOL I GUESS, but still. Pfft, I’d rather be making dolls anyway. :D

So yep, it’s pretty fair to say you should probably AVOID THIS GAME if you can. The one thing I’d hate for this to do is peak any morbid curiosity about the game. D: Just do yourself a favour and forget this game even exists. CASE CLOSED.

Guest section written by Sparklykiss. I haven’t read it myself but I bet it’s great! Cheers babe! ~Psycosis (You're the worst. ~Sparkly (<3 ~Psycosis))

Da Capo 2: Electric Sakuraloo

Sequels to visual novels can be incredibly weird. They can’t really feature the same girls as the one before it, because the very nature of visual novels means any of those girls could have been with the main character in the first game. They could release ‘side stories’, expanding on the endings to the original game, by saying this game features this specific heroine from the original game, a technique Shuffle and even Da Capo did. They could set the game in the same universe, but without similar themes there’s really no need to make them related to each other. This visual novel, Da Capo 2, is set 50 years after the events of Da Capo, on the same island. And much like how Final Fantasy 7 is just Final Fantasy 6 with some words changed via a find and replace, it’s pretty much the same thing.

So as I said the game takes place 50 years after the events of Da Capo, with a main character called Yoshiyuki. He is, as you have probably guessed, a rather typical high school student with a lot for female friends than male friends. He lives with Yume and Oto-nee, the two sister characters of the game, who are the granddaughters of Juinchi, the main character from the first Da Capo. At school he also talks to Anzu, Koko and Nanaka, three more random archetype girls. Yoshiyuki, along with his male friend Suginami, find a mysterious cave and go investigating, where they find the robot Minatsu, who then gets enrolled into their high school as well. On top of all of this, the principle of the high school, and Yoshiyuki’s guardian, is called Sakura, who is the same Sakura from the first game.

So this bit might need a little more explanation. See, in the last game, there was that magical sakura tree that could grant wishes. Sakura was its protector, so to speak, and used it to get rid of people who talked bad about her or Juinchi. In this quest for power she also wished to never age, and to become a teacher. At the end of that game, Sakura burns the tree, getting rid of all the wishes and goes to America to study the magical tree. At some point she returned and planted a new magical sakura tree and here we are she’s now the principle.

So the actual story takes place in three distinct parts, the first part deals with Yoshiyuki’s class coming up with a theme for the Christmas festival, and wouldn’t you know it, Yoshiyuki gets the deciding vote. Choosing between a haunted house or a puppet show splits the story into two different routes, and within each of these, there are three heroines each. By the end of the school year, the game switches to the second part, where Yoshiyuki will either go on a skiing holiday with his friends, or stay at home with his sisters for New Years which ends up turning into a weird ‘haunted’ trek through the school at night; depending on what heroine Yoshiyuki is seeing the most of in the first part. The third part is the heroine specific stories, of which there are six in total, (with a bonus seventh route unlocked upon completion of all six routes). This does mean there’s quite a bit to see, but if you want to see everything, you’ll be repeating a lot of story with rather minimal changes to get to the third section where the real different routes are at.

So since this is the second Da Capo game, the choices follow a very similar structure. Every morning (for the first section at least) Yoshiyuki can wake up at three different times, either sleeping in, getting up early or waking up at a normal time, which dictates who Yoshiyuki will so on the walk to high school. At high school Yoshiyuki can hang out at different places at lunch and after school is finished. The difference here is that there are now pictures of each heroine next to the places they will be. This gets rid of any guess work if you’re gunning for a specific girl, but it also means there’s no real reason to choose an area where there are no icons next to it.

As I said in the opening Da Capo 2 takes a lot of elements from the original game. The magical sakura tree is back as I explained above, and just like in Da Capo, it gets destroyed again for pretty much the same reason near the end of the third act. Yoshiyuki also just happens to have the exact same powers that Juinchi had, being able to see other people’s dreams, and the ability to make sweets out of thin air. Having said all this, the game adds its own little twist on that original story, and it’s surprisingly effective for what it’s worth. The only problem is this twist is explained in the two sister routes, which can only be accessed after playing through the first four routes. Because of this, this added twist doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense when it’s applied to the four other routes. In almost every route, parts of that twist are hinted at, and shocker, the sakura tree dies again. Now, the twist happens because the sakura tree dies, but that twist doesn’t happen, or isn’t apparent, in the first four routes even though the tree also dies. It’s kind of weird that they go to the trouble of hinting at the big twist, but not fully applying it. Having said that, if the twist was applied it would probably break all of the other endings so whatever.

Gee when did this game just turn into my everyday life?

One thing that is expanded on really well is the robot route. In the first game, there was an unlockable route in which one of the students falls into a coma and is replaced with a robot. In this game, you find a robot hibernating and she ends up enrolling into the high school. What eventually unfolds is a rather great if a bit predictable racism parable, but it does the best job of making the two games seem connected and evolving in a way that makes sense.

But having said all that this is another Da Capo game, designed for people who really liked Da Capo, because it’s more of that. Not saying that’s a bad thing by any stretch of imagination, but there are no real big surprises to be found here.

Ending! Thanks for reading my blog and I hope you look forward to another next week! So if you’ll excuse me I’ll go back to doing absolutely nothing. It’s something I’m pretty good at if I do say so myself.

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I just released a new flash game! Bullet Bill 3!

So yeah! I’ve just released my brand new game, Bullet Bill 3! Feel free to immediately quit this page and go play it by following this link!

For those of you still reading, I’m going to talk a little bit about the series, the game, why it took so long to finish and just general points of info only vaguely related to the game.

First off, Bullet Bill. Bullet Bill started off from a friend of mine who went by the username Placky, who I don’t have any contact with anymore for one reason or another. He was fooling around in Game Maker back in early 2006 and made a game simply called ‘Bullet Bill’. The object of the game was to avoid obstacles and hit Mario at the end of each level. It was incredibly crude and handled really poorly, but I at least loved it. I asked if it was alright to take the idea and run with it, so to speak, by making it in flash, and he said that was fine, and that it wasn’t like he was going to do anything with it.

Bullet Bill had 8 levels, bad controls and a pretty terrible production all around.

This ended up being my very first flash game; I had worked with flash before with the first flash movie I made dating back to 2004. I had always wanted to make games so I knew I’d make the jump to coding at some point, but I digress. The first Bullet Bill game was released, on April 13th 2006. It was incredibly crude and handled really poorly, so I really nailed the feel of the original Game Maker game! I wouldn’t recommend playing it, but I did link to it after all, so it’s not like I can stop you.

Later on in the same year, I revisited the Bullet Bill concept, and on November 14th 2006, 5 years ago to the day, I released Bullet Bill 2. The second game traded the 8-bit graphics of the NES Mario games for the 16-bit All Stars versions. The controls were also changed, throwing out the awful keyboard controls in favour of mouse controls, allowing for more twitch style gameplay. While the original game had only 8 levels, spanning two worlds, the sequel expanded this to 32 levels, spanning eight worlds. The sequel also added boss battles. These boss battles would appear at the end of each world, just like in the Mario games, and involved dodging obstacles and hitting the boss three times. Most of them were pretty poorly done, but then again so was most of that game. I rushed a sequel out for a few reasons. One, Bullet Bill is a rather simple thing to code, all things considered, so it wasn’t like I had to do anything super complicated. Second, the original game got pretty popular, or at least was the most popular thing I had made at the time. I was unhappy with a few elements of the original game, so I rushed out a sequel that I’d be happier with, in hopes that that would be even more popular.

And oh god was it popular.

Bullet Bill 2 added improved SNES graphics, different backgrounds and a lot more levels.

Maybe it’s a lot easier to understand when you consider that I was 14 at the time, but that game got voted as one of the best games of the month and was featured on the front page of Newgrounds, tons of sites stole the file and hosted it themselves without giving me credit (Thanks internet!), and, well, searching Bullet Bill in Google gives you a bunch of different sites hosting the game. On Newgrounds alone there are over 800,000 hits on the game.

So naturally I wanted to make a third.

However, I didn’t really know what to add to the game, or what it even needed. At the time I thought Bullet Bill 2 was pretty much perfect. Now, obviously, I can look back on that game and see it for what it really is, a giant piece of shit, but again I digress.

The first idea I had was around the time Super Paper Mario was coming out, I thought the switching to 3D mechanic was incredibly interesting, and thought to myself I can probably do that! What I was making turned into a weird cross between Bullet Bill and Sewer Shark, and it was scrapped after a few weeks.

I then forgot about making a 3rd game, figuring that the 2nd game is so popular, there’s no real reason so just make the same game again unless I could come up with a really cool change to the gameplay.

A year later LittleBigPlanet came out, and naturally I was hooked. The idea of making a giant level editor for a game seemed incredibly daunting but intriguing. “There’s no way I could do that though”, I probably thought to myself, “That’d be impossible.” Besides, by then, I had already moved on from making that game, and even by then I could look back on Bullet Bill 2 and see how bad it really was.

Fast forward to June 2010, I was talking with internet sensation Eddsworld about another game idea. At that time we had made three games together, with a fourth game cancelled the year before for some reason or another; I blame my entry into university but again, digressing. We were thinking about making a Zombies Ate My Neighbours game, and I set out to work. The first thing I thought of was to add functionality for levels to be edited via a string of letters, as opposed to manually moving things around. And thus I came up with a basic level decoder function, taking a large string of letters and making a level out of it. The project died shortly after (as most of our ideas do OH DID I SAY THAT OUT LO-) but the code was already written.

“Fuck it.” I exclaimed “Let’s make Bullet Bill 3.”

Bullet Bill 3! Same graphics, but the brick parts break apart better, so that's something right?

Work started on August 13th 2010, and the first thing I did was develop a system for the level decoder. I figured it’d have to be grid based, try to take up as little space as possible, but still be simple enough so that I could potentially make levels just by typing a bunch of characters in a row. After about a day of this, I had figured the entire thing out, and re-created the first level of Bullet Bill 2 by just typing out characters. I threw that into the game and it worked perfectly. Awesome, now for the hard bit, making a level editor.

Mario 3's map interface.

The level editor takes inspiration from a few different sources. First off, the graphics are based on the Super Mario Bros. 3 map screens, because I felt that would look the best. Also, when playing the game, the graphics are scaled up 300%, in the editor the graphics are scaled 200%, leaving just enough room for the interface. It’s almost as if I planned it. Another inspiration is from Mario Paint, another rather obvious one, for general interface ideas. The last inspiration is from another flash game called Punk-o-Matic, where the whole idea of condensing a level into a string of characters came from in the first place. The rest just sort of fell into place after that. The user can select objects they want to place into the level, place them as a faint grid shows up showing where they can place them, and red rectangles show where they cannot be placed, as they will overlap with other objects. After all the objects are placed and the user plays or saves the level, the program does a quick scan and determines where every object is and what they are.

Level creator interface, hopefully it's straight forward enough!

Without going too much into it, every object has 3 different properties, a character, a row and column values. Since the game works in a grid system, I set the total number of rows to 10, so that the code can simply use 0-9 to determine what height the object is placed at. Then each character has a character, for instance, Koopas are recognized as ‘k’, Thwomps are ‘t’, coins are ‘$’, and so on, so the code ‘4t’ would place a Thwomp on the 5th row, pretty straight forward stuff. Lastly, the columns are a bit more confusing. There are 2 different ways the code determines the column, first off, whenever there is a / in a level, the code shifts the placement 4 columns. So, for example, the code ‘3p/3p’ would place a Paratroopa in row 4 column 0, and then another Paratroopa in row 4 column 4. On top of this, the character ‘a’ is used for any in-between columns, so to get to column 6, for instance, the code would be ‘/a2’, or ‘4 plus 2’, which is what I used to convinced myself is was a good idea. Anyway, enough about this, it’s confusing me the more I talk about it and I had to work with it for 15 months.

Another addition to the game was the abilities. I never wanted the series to evolve into the normal side scrolling shooter, preferring the idea of an obstacle course, but I also felt it was necessary for the game to evolve in some way. The abilities were added to make the game slightly easier, but not by too much. The very first ability is the one I’d imagine most people would want, to slow down time. A lot of the complaints from the other two games where that they were unfair with their speed and reflex based levels, so adding this means they’ll have to find something else to complain about. Most abilities originate from the Mario Kart series in some way. There are the triple bombs, which mimic the triple shells that rotate around your character, exploding on impact with whatever it hits. My favourite, however, is the time rewinding potion. No real Mario justification for this one, using the potion graphic from Super Mario Bros. 2, if you die with this at full, your death is reversed and you get another chance. I love using this one because, well, it’s like an extra life in a way, I don’t have to reset back to the last checkpoint when hit, hooray!

I worked on the level creator rather rigorously for the majority of the year, when it got to a point I was happy with it, it was already 10 months after I started. Obviously this was due to my own laziness sure, but also due to university projects and the like. But whatever, I was happy with it, and I had asked a good friend of mine Wolfgun to make remixes for the game, which were admittedly fantastic. I debated whether or not to go ahead and announce the game at that point with a small website update or something like that, but I figured I could wait a bit longer. I ended up making a trailer for the game, which I released on August 13th 2011, one year since the project started. The trailer went over well, and it seems that there were quite a few people excited for the game, and thanks to Edd from Eddsworld promoting it very slightly, it got a decent amount of attention.

Then I didn’t do anything for a few months.

About a month ago today, actually, was when I started working on it again, and ended up adding quite a bit to the game. Which is to say, I made the levels for the game. Up until last month, the game only had two levels, both of which were just tests to make sure the code worked. Making levels seemed like hard and tedious work, so I put it off a lot. I even had an idea that I could trick other people into making the levels for me. I later scrapped that idea, figuring I may as well get it over with, and over the course of a few weeks, I made all 56 levels in the game. I also ended up adding one new item to the level creator, the mega mushroom from New Super Mario Bros. Looking into Bullet Bill 2 a lot more, a lot of people loved the final hidden character, Banzai Bill. This character was the size of the entire screen, and just blasted through everything with relative ease. I was originally against adding this character back in, but felt having the mega mushroom would be a good excuse to have him in. This also meant every character needed a ‘banzai’ form, which forced me to do a lot more sprite work, but hopefully it’s worth it.

And that bring me to today, the release of the game! By the time you’re reading this I’ll probably be drunk, since it’s the only way I can stop myself from idly sitting by and hoping people love the game. But seriously I really hope you love the game! I put a lot of work into it, so please give it a shot. Any opinions feel free to share them in this thread! And now for some more little anecdotes during development.

There was originally only going to be 9 characters, just like the abilities. This updated to 15 when Batmanthorp suggested Nyan Cat should be added as a bonus character. I agreed, and added him in. I then figured there should be more non-Mario characters in the game and added 4 other bonus characters. Guile was in the game from near the beginning, and was subsequently moved to be a bonus character when this idea came about; he was replaced by a Subcon.

Nyan Cat's rainbow trail might have been the hardest thing to get right.

I had already added all the characters into the game before my bronyism happened; I tried to justify adding Rainbow Dash to the game, but ultimately decided against it.

When coming up with ideas for the game, I’d talk to my friend Callum Howarth, here are a few things that were mentioned.

Psy: "phoenix wright jumps up"

Psy: "shout OBJECTION"

Psy: "the speech bubble is the bullet bill"

Psy: "this is not happening"

Cal: "oh come on D:"

Cal: "damn it psy You should make a Buzz Bomber game, which is just bullet bill but sonic"

Psy: "you hit the gate from SMW you have to punch to go on the other side"

Psy: "and it spins super fast"

Psy: "and the level rotates 90 degrees"

Psy: "and flings you upward"

Cal: "That'd be awesome."

Psy: "this will never happen"

Cal: "Damn it Psy! D:"

I never actually completed Bullet Bill 2. The game just gets stupid at a point. I realised when looking back at that game that there’s no real difficulty curve, instead platforms are just placed almost randomly throughout the level, I tried to make this one a bit fairer.

The World 3-1 level in Bullet Bill 3 is the World 1-1 level from Bullet Bill 2, with a few slight alterations. In fact, the first half of World 1-1 from Bullet Bill 2 is World 1-1 from Bullet Bill, so that’s cool I guess.

I decided to keep a project journal on Bullet Bill 3 so I could see how little work I was doing, according to that on August 25th 2010 I played Ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two. I wrote a little bit about it, then I trailed of and said, and I quote, “I don’t know why I end up writing so much about these visual novels and never post them anywhere, I’ll just end up stumbling on this file in a few years and realise just how pathetic I am writing about porn games.”

Some of the characters you unlock are based on flash movies I’ve made; the first unlockable character is a thwomp from my thwomp movie series, the second is a character dubbed ‘Awesome Guy’, who originated in Bullet Bill 2 and subsequently got his own movie too.

If you unlock a character AND hit the level goal at the end of the level, an Easter egg will trigger. Wait at the ‘click anywhere to continue’ screen for about three minutes, the music will die out and Totaka’s Song will start playing.

The medals have way too many references in them, a lot of rap songs, game references, anime references, even a visual novel reference. As far as Giant Bomb references go, there’s the locked message for the bombs “Like a Giant Bomb ready to blow”, the locked message for the Super Koopa “A Sad false shell-less man!” the unlocked message for ‘hit 53597 blocks’ “That’s million bricks.”, and finally, the requirement for the coin collecting medal, collect 7750 coins.

And that’s all I can think of to say! If you actually read all this then thanks! If not... well... wait, whatever, yeah, hope you enjoy the game!

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