Explodemon looks great on the outside. They put out this trailer which makes the game look pretty damn fun. Do not be fooled. This game has several very questionable design decisions. The Controls
First of all, Explodemon is part an annoying trend in recent games of having non-configurable controls. This wouldn't be a problem if the control setup hadn't apparently been designed by someone who had never played a video game before. You jump with X, explode with circle, dash with triangle, and square is used to talk to people. I'm gonna say that again, for emphasis. Square is your 'talk' button. That's all it does. Why the hell would you use the second easiest to press button on the controller for such a non-essential function? It's mind boggling.
Explodemon has apparently been in development for five years. In five years, no one thought maybe they should put the thing you do all the fucking time on square and the thing you almost never do on triangle? Five years wasn't long enough to program customizable controls into the game? You can't even move with the D-Pad! What the fuck?
There are exactly three enemy types in Explodemon: Little guys that go from side to side, bigger guys that go from side to side and shoot at you, and flying things that hover annoyingly out of reach. Several times per level, you'll enter an area where the only way to progress is to kill all the enemies, which magically unlocks the door to continue. I guess this wouldn't be so bad if the combat weren't an absolute chore. Since your only method of attack is exploding, and you can only explode once every second or so, any given encounter winds up taking longer than it feels like it should. Most of the enemies are tiny and nondescript, and the bigger enemies are just scaled up versions of the small ones. The blandness of the enemies and the frequency with which you are required to destroy a bunch of them to progress makes it all very tedious.
Note the singular. I haven't beaten this game yet, (mostly because I don't really want to anymore) but I'm 2/3s of the way through and so far I have fought the boss four or five times now. Each fight has been exactly the same. He has two attacks and he teleports around the room randomly. When you get hit by him, he regenerates his health. So yeah, that's awesome. Everyone loves bosses that regenerate health, right?
Because every game needs to have you unlock stuff as you progress now, this game does too. But the order in which you unlock things is a little weird. The first thing you get is a double jump, which sounds great on paper but has a limitation that makes it worthless: You can only activate after exploding in midair, which probably got you enough height to get where you wanted to go already. It might actually be useful to kill the hovering enemies if it weren't for this odd decision. After that, you get an 'aim mode' which lets you see where objects you blow up will fly to. This gets used about twice right after you get it and is then completely forgotten. Much later, you unlock something that lets you combo explosions if you hit enemies with them, which you probably should start the game with because it almost makes combat bearable. After that you get a dash move which also would have been nice to start with.
Now my question here is, why the hell does it take so long to get this stuff? You don't get combo thing and the dash move until the end of the second world. Since there are three worlds, you go more than half the game missing stuff that really should be standard equipment. It's not like this is a Metroid-style game where you're going back and opening up new areas or anything, and it's not like the the mechanics are complex enough for it to be necessary to roll this stuff out slowly. It appears to have been done for no reason at all.
It's a real shame to see how poor this game turned out to be. It's just not fun. Wost ten bucks I've spent on PSN.
I've never really been an artistic guy, but sprite art has always seemed like the kind of thing I might actually be able to do. I had never really had an impetus to try though, until I started playing 3d Dot Game Heroes. I decided to see what I could do with the character creator, and I think the results are pretty good. As you can see, it's Locke Cole, from Final Fantasy 6. You know, the guy in my avatar?
So the other day I posted in a thread that I thought the Genesis version of Aladdin was not very good and that the SNES game fared better. A few people disagreed with me. Since I can't stand the thought of people being wrong, especially on the internet, I decided to make a couple gameplay videos and write a long winded blog proving my point. Hold on to your butts.
Let's start with the Genesis version.
The Genesis version was made by some of the guys who would go on to form Shiny and become famous for Earthworm Jim, and knowing that fact you can definitely see some similarities in style between the two. In fact, there's quite a few, because Earthworm Jim is also a game with a solid concept and questionable execution. But I'm getting off track...
I'll be blunt: I don't think that this is a very good game. First of all, what's up with that health... smoke? I think that's gotta be among the most inaccurate depictions of video game health, joining such infamous examples as the Resident Evil heart rate monitor thingy and the Trespasser boob tattoo. No, seriously, the health gauge in that game was a tattoo on your character's boob.
Er, moving on, not many games had problems with the camera keeping track of the action on screen until the 3d era, but in this one instance, Aladdin on the Genesis is ahead of its time. Moving too fast for the camera is an extremely common occurrence and can lead to many cheap hits as enemies suddenly appear on the screen before you can react.
Speaking of cheap, how about the enemy placement? Someone had the bright idea to put all these foreground objects all over the place, but if that wasn't bad enough, they put enemies directly behind them. WTF? If you think the first level is bad, wait until you're in that dungeon level. There's pillars and chains and shit obscuring your vision approximately 100% of the time down there.
The music is pretty poor too. The SNES version gets some flack for not having as many songs from the movie in there, but at least they don't sound like garbage. They don't even loop! Let them go long enough and they fade out, then restart a second later. Pathetic. The title screen music is decent, but its is all downhill from there.
So yeah, it's pretty bad. I would have recorded more, but for some reason the combination of my Genesis emulator and my screen recording software was causing random system crashes, hence the abrupt end as I decided not to bite off my than my system could chew. But suffice to say that the entire game is riddled with problems. I mentioned the foreground crap all over the dungeon level, but there's also a shit ton of annoying sliding block sequences that will make you pull your hair out. The Cave of Wonders level has spikes that are almost completely indistinguishible from odinary ground all over the place, and the escape from it doesn't have a single checkpoint. Several later levels require you to ride on magic carpets that move super fast in erratic patterns, while enemies appear to take cheap shots at you (Your only defense? Mashing on the 'swing sword' button). The final boss is incredibly anticlimactic. Etcetera.
Okay, let's see the SNES game.
Whereas the Genesis version had some hack and slash going on, the SNES one is a straight up jump-on-their-heads-to-kill-them platformer. Aladdin has more moves, like handspringing off of stuff, swinging from poles and rings, climbing up ledges, and floating with a blanket. The controls feel tighter, especially the jumping and air control, as befits a game with a much greater focus on jumping on and from stuff. The bosses... Well they aren't that much better than the lame Genesis ones, but at least the final boss is suitably epic and requires a little bit of a strategy to kill.
But it's far from perfect. The music is aurally decent, but the tracks are super short and, damningly, every segment of each level has the same music. There's something that's just not right about completing an area, the music stopping, then the exact same track starting up again as you begin the next section. Especially when it happens two or three times in a row. It's got an automatically scrolling level, and games with those get instant demerits. There are two magic carpet sequences; one is frustrating in the same 'memorize or die' fashion as the Battletoads speeder level, and the other amounts to an overlong, incredibly boring bonus stage.
So in conclusion, we have two flawed games, but one of them is much more flawed than the other. Genesis version apologists, the ball's in your court.
Scott Pilgrim vs the World is proving to be a pretty divisive game. Obviously, a franchise with a strong base in video game and nerd culture is probably going to have fans who like to play video games, but there are plenty of people who dislike old school nostalgia in general or Scott Pilgrim in particular. Add in a media blitz for a movie starring a typecast actor and you've got a bubbling font of negative reactions.
But hey, there's a video game somewhere behind all that crap, and it's a pretty good one, too. Personally, I've been waiting for a game to be made with Paul Robertson's art style since I saw the Pirate Baby Cabana Battle and Kings of Power 1000% animations, along with his other work on Mechafetus and elsewhere. "Why isn't there a game with graphics like that?" was a thought that ran through my head for years. Now we've got one, and it's beautiful. It sounds great too, with music by chiptune virtuosos Anamanaguchi. Unfortunately, when you actually start playing the game is where things start to take a downturn.
The gameplay is generally solid, but there are a few things I have to bitch about here. This game can be fairly difficult, and lots of that difficulty comes from the fact that your recovery time after being hit is just crazy long, which leads to you getting comboed until you get knocked down. Now there's nothing wrong with that in a sense, but what would be great is if there were a way to break enemy combos. You have a counter move, performed when you block right when an opponent's attack is about to his you, but it doesn't work when you're in a hitstun. Enemies tend to hit fast, so that counter move and blocking in general is almost completely useless. Combine that with the fact that it takes a surprisingly long time to get up after being knocked down, and combat can quickly get frustrating when fighting tough enemies.
As you progress through the game, you unlock new moves and abilities. This isn't a bad thing, but I think it's been poorly implemented. Some of the things you unlock should be standard issue, especially the air recovery, which speeds up the game by mitigating those long knockdown times I mentioned. The fact that said air recovery is the second to the last upgrade you get (meaning you'll play almost the entire game without it unless you grind) makes this even worse. There is also only one move that can break an opponent's block, and the only way to get it is to buy it from a secret shop halfway through the game. Considering that enemies block a lot, and sometimes just stand there blocking for inordinate amounts of time, I think this was a bad decision.
Moving on, there are four characters to choose from, but they are disappointingly similar. Ramona moving slightly faster and Stephen Stills having slightly more HP are the only differences I could find. Kim probably hits harder or something. They all have the same moves (unlocked in the same order and using the same controls), the same number of hits in a standard string to knockdown an opponent, same jump heights, the works. The only real differences are the attack animations and their (largely useless) strikers. I was looking forward to the replay value four characters would provide, but it seems to be pretty nonexistent since they all play exactly the same.
Finally, and probably my biggest complaint, is the bugginess of the game. Four times now I've gotten stuck in a level and had to restart because the game simply refused to scroll to the next area. Certain parts of levels will sometimes cause the game to stutter noticeably, especially when the buses and cars appear in the first level. A few times during a co-op game today I ran into a bug where it was as if my character was sliding on ice while moving up and down. I would tap a direction and stop, and she would continue sliding in a stand animation until reaching the edge of the screen. This continued until I entered a new area and happened twice during about an hour of gameplay. Once I saw a boss get stuck on the side of the screen and glitch out, luckily I was still able to attack and kill him. Once the music cut out on me and wouldn't return until I reset the system. When accessing the menus from the map screen, it takes about three seconds from the time I press the button for the menu to actually appear (this might be related to the model of PS3, I've read accounts of people with and without this problem but it happens 100% of the time on my system).
I think the clear culprit here is time constraints caused by the game needing to come out to coincide with the movie. No doubt that's also why there's no online co-op mode. Releasing a game this buggy just to be out the same week as the movie is inexcusable, and hurts the game in the long run (Unless they patch it. Which they probabaly won't do.).
Despite all this, I really enjoyed the game and still think it's worth the ten bucks if you like Scott Pilgrim and/or old school video games. If for no other reason, buy it for Paul Robertson.
I've been playing a lot of Dragon Quest IX lately. Tons. It's practically consumed all my free time since I got it on Monday. So how, you may ask, does it hold up to Dragon Quest VIII, which is frequently cited as the best in the series?
Not favorably. Let me tell you all about it.
First of all, due the inclusion multiplayer in the game, it went whole hog on the 'create your own character' thing. This is actually pretty cool, as I like being able to set up what the members of my party will specialize in. On the other hand, it means that they can't use the crutch from past games where party members would kind of guide you in the right direction and advance the story, not to mention having, you know, personalities. Again, this is something I can live with as long as the game handles it gracefully. Unfortunately, DQIX's answer to this problem is Stella.
Stella is an annoying fairy who lives (presumably) in your pocket or something, and pops out frequently to say some stupid shit or bang you over the head with what you should probably do next. She has a proclivity to say 'flapping' as a replacement for 'fucking' (because she's a fairy! With wings! Get it?!) and is a general nuisance. She would have worked great of she was 90% optional; only popping out for the occasional important scene with a menu option to have her provide her commentary/guidance on the situation the rest of the time, like the way party chat worked in previous games.
As far as truly annoying characters go, she's about it (that I've run into so far anyway). What is annoying is the way some characters have been localized. At some point between Dragon Quest VIII and the Dragon Quest IV remake on the DS, the localization team decided that what Dragon Quest needs to sell as big in English speaking countries as it does in Japan is puns. Lots of puns. Everywhere. Character names, location names, item descriptions, skill names, fucking everywhere. I can deal with a few puns, and the game does have a light hearted feel so they aren't necessarily out of place, but they went too far. Again.
Part of the reason the puns bug me so much is that they changed skill names to include puns and obscure references. Combined with the fact that the game doesn't tell you what skills do until you unlock them, this can be really confusing. Based on the name alone, what do you suppose Blockensphiel does? How about Half Inch? Party Pooper? Trip of a Deathtime (ugh)? How about if they were named Shield Bash, Steal, Mow Down, and Sweep, their previous game equivalents? I guess Mow Down isn't the most descriptive, but at least it gave you a general idea of what the fucking skill did. 'Party Pooper' as the name of a rod skill that strikes an enemy group doesn't make a goddamn lick of sense. Using 'Half Inch' as the name of the steal skill confused the hell out of me as I looked through the skill lists trying to find the one that let me steal. I had to go online and look up what the skills did. Nice work getting that cockney slang in there, localization team.
I could go on with the terrible puns all day. They renamed the Darma Temple (which has been in several DQ games, by the way) to the Alltrades Abby, presumably for the sole purpose of naming its priest to (wait for it) Jack of Alltrades. When Jack gets turned into a monster and you have to fight him, he's called Master of Nu'un. Yeah. Another boss is called the Ragin' Contagion, and he speaks with a southern fried hillbilly dialect that completely ruins his creepy appearance. I walked into a new town once and was startled that the characters didn't seem to have punny names. I was supposed to help a girl named Jonah. "Odd name for a girl," I thought, "but at least it wasn't a pun." Then she got swallowed by a whale-like creature. Bravo, localization team. Giving a girl a boy's name for the purpose of a single reference. Truly, you are kings among men.
"But didn't Dragon Quest VIII have puns?" you may ask. Yes, it did. It had puns and humorous parts, but it knew when they were fucking appropriate and didn't overdo it. They didn't shoehorn dumbass joke personalities on every boss and major character in the game. They didn't fill the skill list with oblique cockney slang references.
Moving on, Dragon Quest IX has done away with random battles (for the most part, they still happen when you're sailing). This is great news, but occasionally something worse happens because of the way they've implemented the system. Basically, the monsters don't stop when you go into the menus, and they will 'appear' even if you don't move. So what would happen to me is I would get in a fight, win, and immediately open my menu to heal my characters afterwards. While healing, another monster would show up nearby, and I'd wind up having to fight him when he aggroed on me the instant I closed the menu. This doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen and it sucks.
The way monsters aggro on you is kind of annoying sometimes. Many will charge straight for where you were when they 'noticed' you, and are easy to avoid, but some will chase you relentlessly until you are forced into a battle. What makes this annoying is that their range for aggro is huge. I've been aggroed by enemies that were off screen before. If your party is high enough level, enemies will run away from you, but this seems to be based on the main character's level. Since I switched classes recently, he's a few levels behind, so I'm frequently chased by weakling enemies my party can mop up in a single round.
What else? Well, the music is kind of disappointing. Mostly the main overworld theme. I don't like it, you hear it a lot, and usually the overworld music is one of the best tracks in a DQ games, so it's doubly disappointing. The town music is okay, but there appears to be only one in the whole game so far, with a variation that plays at night. I could be crazy, but I seem to remember previous games having multiple town themes. Luckily, the battle music is good, because you hear that a lot.
I guess that's enough bitching. I really like this game and recommend it if you like JRPGs, despite that wall of text up there. It's just frustrating that my biggest problem with Dragon Quest V has come back in full force, the encounters thing seems kind of broken, and... Stella.
Mario Galaxy 2 has received almost universal praise from reviewers. Look at its freakin Metacritic page, for crying out loud. There is no doubt that it's a fantastic game. But is it the best game ever? The best Mario game ever? Is it even a five star game?
I don't think so. But what problems could I possibly have with this game? Well...
All the best material is at the beginning of the game.
When I sat down to play Galaxy 2 for the first time, I was blown away. The game gets you right into the action, eschewing the slightly long intro the original had. And then, one level later, you're riding Yoshi and flying from a Launch Star while a volcano explodes in the background spraying dozens of Star Bits everywhere. I had a nerdgasm.
The first three worlds in the game are densely packed with moments like that; perhaps a little too densely. Creative new bosses and level designs abound. Every star introduces some kind of new gameplay mechanic. And then, suddenly, the creativity just stops and the game moves into filler territory. By the time I reached World Six, I was expecting things to pick up again for the end of the game, but the downward slide continued all the way into the disappointing final boss battle. But the worst was yet to come.
World S is an awful rehash of Mario Galaxy 1.
After beating Bowser you unlock the seventh world, World S. Let me be clear: World S is a travesty. It has exactly two galaxies that aren't ripped verbatim from the original Mario Galaxy, one of which is a ball rolling level (ugh). There is also a galaxy which is simply a collection of the bosses from the original Galaxy, fought one after another, Mega Man style. After coming off the excellent bonus world from New Super Mario Bros Wii, I was left with a very sour taste in my mouth.
Ideas are introduced and never expanded upon.
Some of those cool gameplay mechanics I mentioned, mostly involving Yoshi, appear exactly once in the entire game. Using Yoshi's tongue to pull platforms? Happens once in the entire game. Giant fruit? Once. The Spring Mario powerup (which is much improved over the original Mario Galaxy version, and is actually fun to use now instead of frustrating)? Appears once in the entire game. Usually in a Mario game, when something new is introduced you can expect it to reappear in some more complex fashion later, or just to reappear later, period. Not so much here.
Wrapping this up, I guess two of those points are really the same basic complaint: The game starts strong and gets progressively worse the farther you get into it, kind of like a bizarro version of Final Fantasy XIII. Mario Galaxy 2 is by all accounts a great game, and if you own a Wii you are doing yourself a serious disservice if you don't play it. But you might not want to put in the effort to get all 120 stars in this one. Shiggy, see me after class.
So I've been playing Mega Man 1, having hardly any memory of the game. I've been working on trying to record it and put it on Youtube with annotated commentary like Frank Cifaldi did so awesomely with obscure NES game Mr. Gimmick. I had a bunch of issues with the sound so most of the game got wasted with crummy videos that have unsynced sound. But I've just gotten a level recorded and annotated to a level I'd call decent, so here goes.
Keep in mind that I have by no means memorized this game, so you are seeing me learn to deal with this stuff in real time with nothing but way too many hours of Mega Man play to guide me. And some save states, because this game is way hard, as you will see.
Playing the first Mega Man game is really weird, because it brings the tiny evolutions each game has had into a lot sharper focus. There is all kinds of weird stuff about Mega Man 1. There's a score, for one thing, and enemies are constantly dropping worthless bonus point items a la Castlevania or Ninja Gaiden. All the powerups you do want have not reached their iconic Mega Man 2 versions that are still used in a game that come out last month. It's weird. And I'm not sure if it happens in this video, but Mega Man falls like a rock if you walk directly off the side of a platform. And then there's the little sliding stop Mega Man makes in the first two games, but since Mega Man 3 he has stopped on a dime.
Oh and turns out that the audio is synced but way way quiet. I take no responsibility for woken up roomates when you forget you had it turned all the way up.
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Update: I've been having some issues with my recording software, I'm currently trying to find something that won't get out of sync more and more as I play, I've tried about three programs already. I've got videos of me beating 4 of the remaining 5 boss levels, but the audio is either nonexistent or crappily synced. I'm workin' on it.
So I decided to play Mega Man 1 a bit tonight. I've been playing a lot of ten, and I haven't played the first one in such a long time that I can hardly remember anything about the game. Which weapon beats which boss, level layouts, boss strategies, nothing. So In my infinite wisdom I decided to record it and upload it to youtube. So if anyone wants to see what the original Mega Man for what might as well be the first time is like, I have answered you prayers. I died a few times before working out a strategy, and then started recording.
Notice how my very fist attempt results in me dying while the boss has one bar of health. Also of note, if you skip to 1:57 you can see me kill the boss, but get hit by a shot which was still on the screen and die anyway. Harsh.
The original Mega Man is very prototypical. Similar to Mega Man 2, Mega Man does not stop on a dime in this game. He will slide a bit when you stop running, just the tiniest bit but enough to kill you for sure. It also has slowdown issues. Things like water and having too much on the screen slow it down pretty bad. Lots of NES games have some slowdown, but it's bad enough to mention here.
This game is balls hard. Way harder than any other game in the series. It's on the Ninja Gaiden and Castlevania 3 level of hard. I'm not going to play it without a fairly liberal use of savestates, because frankly it's just too hard for it's own good sometimes. Bosses typically kill you in 4 hits or less. Disappearing blocks are a Mega Man staple, but they are just dicks about it in this game. It took me way too long to figure out a workable method of which block to jump on when, and pulling it off is still hard once you've got your strategy down. There are floating platforms that have insane, erratic patterns that take ages to make heads or tails of.
Play too many Mega Man games, too often and too close to each other, and you start to notice weird stuff. Like that when running one direction, it takes one frame to change directions, and that can be cancelled out by shooting in MM2, but not 3. I thought I was experiencing controller lag when playing MM3 because I got so used to turning and shooting in one smooth motion. You actually have to delay the shot by a frame or he will shoot while facing the wrong direction during that one frame.
I'll probably be putting some more videos up in this post later. Stay tuned...
So I've put about twenty five hours into Bayonetta now, so it's safe to say I like this game. I loved the DMC games and this plays pretty similar. However, during my first playthrough of the game I was pretty close to writing the game off as "Ok, but not even close to as good as Devil May Cry 3," because of a few things.
First of all, this game cheap shots you. Frequently, cutscenes will end with enemies shooting or lunging at you, and when you take control, you have to dodge that attack. This wouldn't be so bad, except when you skip the cutscene and forget to mash Dodge. Sorry Platinum Games, but that's just cheap. There are also QTEs that will kill you when you fail them, which you almost certainly will the first time when you don't see them coming. All it does is add frustration to the game.
The next subject of my wrath is Luka. I have no idea why this Kato Kalin looking motherfucker is even in the game. His connection to the story is tenuous at best; he thinks Bayonetta killed his father, then of course it turns out she didn't. That's it. Of course, on the way to that incredibly predictable revelation, he gets used for (rarely successful) comic relief and babysitting Cereza.
Not to mention the fake out at the end of the game. I cheered when they appeared to kill him off, then groaned when he got Deus Ex Machinaed back into existence. Just why?
I'd advise anyone playing the game for the first time to just hit 'Skip Cutscene' whenever Luka appears. Don't worry, you won't miss anything cool or important.
Finally, this game has a sequence where you ride a motorcycle and a rail shooter section (think Starfox). These parts aren't badly done, but they are most certainly way too damn long. About twice as long as they should be. Seriously, I looked at my times for the revelant Verses in the score screen after beating the game, and the motorcycle section clocks in at about eight minutes. The shooter section was almost twelve. Note that this is without dying either. I probably could have done the motorcycle section a little faster but the speed on the shooter level is locked, so beating the bosses fast is the only way to hurry that one. Again, these sections aren't bad, but they are not nearly interesting enough to last as long as they do.
Oh, and there's a challenge mode like the Bloody Palace in DMC4, but the only way to unlock it is to beat all the Alfheims (secret missions), some of which are kind of a bitch to do. Lame.
What? You've never heard of them? Maybe that's because they haven't actually released anything since the 1980s. Just look at this list of their published games on their official site, where every game is listed at least five times to inflate their count to '756'. So why am I writing a blog about some defunct ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 developer/publisher? Well, if you read the Destructoid story, you'll see that CEO Tim Langdell claims a bit of a monopoly on the word 'Edge.' Apparently, any game with that word in the title is infringing on his copyright and deserves to be sued. Mirror's Edge? Sued. Mobi game's iPhone app 'Edge'? Sued and pulled off the app store. Edge of Twilight? Threatened. They've also taken stabs at Edge Magazine and Edge comics.
So I did a little detective work and went to their site. Hey, they've got a new game coming out for 360, PS3, Wii and PC called Racers(TM)! That's a creative title... Apparently it's going to be released in September 2009 and it's got an ESRB rating of RP... Wait a second... (Looks at the calendar)... Hang on... Something's coming to me...
But hey, these guys are definitely active. Look, they're re-releasing their classic Commodore 64 games for the Wii Virtual Console! Classics like Wizardry. You've heard of Wizardry, right? Wait, no, not that Wizardry, this knock off one.
Scroll down some more and you'll see how happy they will be to sell you a fifteen dollar 2 GB SD card, a Datel Wii Nunchuck, or a custom built PC.