Just been checking around for the people who were involved in creating the Scott Pilgrim game and I came across some interesting behind the scenes stuff from the guy who did the backgrounds and some other contributions. For example, at one point they were going to turn it into a side- scrolling shooter due to time and budgetary concerns. I really don't think it would have worked as well in that genre since the style of fighting in the comic doesn't really convert over into flying from left to right incredibly quickly and shooting out bullets.
He goes on to mention other interesting ideas that were scrapped for various reasons, such as Crash and the Boys being a boss in Level 1, a skateboard chase section in Level 2 and that each character was going to have a "Nega" version of themselves to fight. You can read the whole thing yourself right here, as well see loads of artwork that did and didn't make it into the game. Oh, including the stages for the upcoming Dodgeball and Battle Royal game modes. He also confirms that the 6th character (which will be Knives) will only be unlockable when the DVD comes out.
The music was done by Amanaguchi. They release a free single on their website each fortnight, so if you like the music in the game you should check it out.
Paul Roberston has uploaded some animated sprite rips onto his LiveJournal. I've rar'd them up and you can get the set here. Also, here's a sheet of the boss fight pictures, which were drawn by Mariel Cartwright aka Kinuko. It includes Knives' picture too.
So the Shadow Broker DLC is here at last. A lot of people have been placing a lot of expectations on it to go beyond the usual Mass Effect DLC which have contained plots that felt a little generic, didn't expand on any of the already established lore and were also over to soon. Well this plot is very specific, does expand on the lore and while it's not what I'd call lengthy, it does at least feel substantial, taking about an hour and a half to rush through on Normal and then there's some "post mission content" which I'm putting to one side for a moment to write this. There are several distinctly different stages to the story, with several new areas, new enemies, new bosses and the most cinematic and exciting cutscenes in all of the franchise.
"Remember the old days when you could just slap Omni gel on everything?"
The dialogue feels snappy and well-written, particularly between Shepard and Liara, but the lack of dialogue between the older party members and Liara seems strange. In fact, there's only one point I can remember that any party member other than you and Liara speak or are referred to. I actually brought Tali and Garrus along to meet Liara and not a word was said despite them supposedly being old friends. This is made up for by the dialogue between Liara and Shepard being so good. It's often funny but for those who "'ship" Liara and Shepard, there's a good amount of nice dialogue here as they discuss how they feel about each other. There are several "interrupt" moments in these more romantic scenes that will no doubt make you feel more involved.
Great locations make for great fights
The locations are varied and detailed. The titular "Lair of the Shadow Broker" is stunning to behold, though maybe structurally reminiscent of a couple of places elsewhere in the series. Graphically it actually seems to go beyond ME2, but surely that must be down to artistic direction than anything to do with the engine. Liara brings with her Singularity and Stasis, as well as two other skills already found in vanilla ME2 (well OK, so Singularity is in vanilla ME2 if your Shepard is an Adept...). So, albeit in a relatively small way, even the combat is upgraded (or altered, depending on how much you like those new skills) in the DLC.
Of course, new skills aside, the gameplay feels the same as regular ME2 - and that's really no bad thing considering how refined the core gameplay is - although there are new destructible elements in one area that'll give enemies a nasty shock. It makes a lot more sense than suspiciously placed explosive crates since it feels like a natural and inherent part of the environment. I feel I must add here that one of the boss fights here, the latter one, is probably the best one in the Mass Effect series.
The story doesn't disappoint
Really, though, the main pull of the DLC is the story and the advancement of Liara's subplot and character development. I can confirm in spoiler-free fashion that she does indeed develop as a character, her slightly awkward "badassery" displayed in vanilla ME2 continues but feels more natural, her subplot is advanced more than satisfactorily and a number of big truths are revealed about major elements of the ME universe. In fact, after completing the DLC mission, you can check up on the Shadow Broker's files, this is currently the stage of the DLC I'm at now so if something amazing happens after this I'll come back and update you. What I can tell you so far is that there are files on all of your party members, giving various notes on them as the Shadow Broker sees them, detailing things they've searched for on the extranet, chatlogs and other interesting titbits. Often they're trivial (yet interesting), like when you find out which of your crew has been using an online dating service, but sometimes they're also incredibly significant and add a lot to the characters.
The following spoiler section contains information that may be the sort of things you're wondering about but may be considered spoilerish, though it's nothing like "The Shadow Broker is actually Jacob" or anything like that.
You meet and defeat the Shadow Broker, so it's not like the game bullshits you out of that - just in case you suspected it might. It's also probably the coolest boss fight in the series.
You are introduced to a new race
You get to nose around in Liara's apartment
You can equip and customise Liara (uh, that makes her sound like an item - you know what I mean).
You meet another Spectre.
One of the achievements requires you to "Reminisce with Liara on the Normandy". I've yet to do this but I'll update with details of what this actually entails.
There's a sequence in which you get to drive one of those flying taxi things. What could be a frustrating experience of being dropped in the deep end, not sure what you're meant to be doing, is remedied by generous checkpoints.
Liara does not join you after the completion of the mission, though it isn't totally ruled out for ME3.
It's required viewing for fans of Liara, it does actually answer some of the mysteries of the ME universe and it doesn't feel tacked on like some of the other DLC. Compared to how Dead Rising 2: Case Zero takes at least a few hours, is very replayable and is only 400 MSP, this isn't perhaps the best value for money as far as DLC goes in general. It is, however, the best value for money for any DLC in the ME franchise. It actually feels like a main story mission from the main game rather than some side-quest afterthought, and that's all we could really ask for.
There are some incredibly obvious ones that don't really have to be pointed out, but for the sake of completion I will anyway. Please say any more you noticed and I'll add them to the list. Will add more as well. The spoiler tags are just to hide large images.
In the final Subspace area, there are floating "Medusa heads" at the end. They are a notoriously annoying enemy from the Castlevania series.
You can buy an Energy Tank, which are the items in Metroid that raise Samus Aran's maximum HP. The same item appears in Mega Man, which the game parodies more often. However Metroid came out a year before Mega Man so it did technically "invent" the item.
The move that Scott (haven't levelled up other characters yet) has with which he spins through the air, damaging enemies, is a likely reference to Sonic.
Sonic is also referenced with one of the items - a game called Speedy the Porcupine.
In stage 4 you can pluck turnips from the ground, carry them around and throw them at enemies, like in Super Mario Bros 2.
The ending is a rip of Mega Man 2's ending, where it's discovered the final boss is actually just a projection by Dr. Wily (or in this case, Gideon) after defeating it and results in the bad guy prostrating himself before the hero (see 00.46 second mark)
His "evil hipster chicks" launch air hadouken that are remarkably similar to Akuma's air Gouhadouken.
Scott's special move is a "Vacuum hurricane kick" (Shinkuu Tatsumaki Senpukyaku) from Street Fighter. He also seems to perform a sort of dragon punch in certain combos. Another possible Street Fighter move that Scott has is Chun-Li's headstomp attack. It can even be strung together in the same way.
Scott's tech 1 attack (the up, triangle area attack) is reminiscent of Makoto's Fukiage special move.
Ramona's tech attack is similar to Chun Li's Hazan Shuu move (overhead flip kick, see 1:10)
General gaming references
A little more specific than "you can get 1UPs" or "you earn XP" but not going as far to be from a few nameable games...
The whole roast chickens found in stage 4 are the sorts of things you generally get in beat 'em ups that fully heal your health.
Both the train stage (part of stage 4) and the escalator stage (part of stage 7) are tropes of the beat 'em up genre. Similarly, the first level's night-time streets with breakable phone booths and parking metres is an almost ubiquitous setting in the genre.
Survival Horror, the game's survival mode, is of course a reference to the (usually) zombie-infested genre of the same name.
The giant robot boss of stage 6 is designed in a way that a lot of giant bosses in the 8- and 16-bit era were; body in the background, two giant hands as separate sprites moving around all over the place.
The large robot boss is revealed in the end credits to be called "Kazinger K", an obvious play on " Mazinger Z", a famous anime mech.
Of course, the same can be said for FFXIII and that was meant to be a good game (well, depends who you ask). The thing is, SO4 started out kind of interesting in the sense that there's a lot of promise in the idea of trekking around and visiting all these new and wonderful planets. The story doesn't have to be that good, it just has to carry along the exploration, develop the characters and make you feel like you're progressing rather than just mindlessly wandering around. Unfortunately, the SO4 plot is failing on all three counts.
The one bit of character development it's tried to do so far is Edge getting depressed because something he did had a major negative effect on one of the planets they visit. Not only is his emotional reaction incredibly juvenile and annoyingly mopey, the story fails to take into account that all the other characters are equally responsible. They all carry on normally while Edge acts like he's just split up with his girlfriend. What really screws it up is that this bit of "causality", as the game tries to pass it off as - like the Star Trek idea of not messing with less developed planets - is incredibly clunky and hard to sympathise with, or even take seriously. It's the equivalent of you visiting a less developed planet, being asked by someone if they can just borrow your machine gun for a second, happily saying "Why yes!" and then getting all sad when they massacre everyone else in the street. From that moment on Edge basically turns into Squall Leonheart and is terrified that anything he does on any other planet will screw everything up, as if what he did wrong before was something subtle and complex, like a kind of "butterfly effect".
It's a shame, because as I said, it doesn't need a good plot, it just needs to not have an incredibly forced, illogical and shitty plot that actually pushes you away from the characters. Also, some new characters with ear-meltingly bad voice acting have turned up, but that's a different story altogether.
I've just started playing Star Ocean 4 and, holy shit, it's not actually bad. Or rather, it is bad in all the ways I read but it doesn't seem to make it unenjoyable. The dialogue is truly horrendous and I'd be embarrassed to have certain people around during the cutscenes. The graphical style makes everything look like it's made of shiny plastic, even the people. The voice acting is disgustingly bad in places but, to be honest, is par for the course overall. I've heard much worse voice acting in games like Dragon Age: Origins, and some people think that game has good voice acting.
It's just that the gameplay is so good. The battle system is fantastic and addictive. Unlike the Tales games, where many of characters aside from the hero are fiddly and unrewarding to use, everyone in SO4 is a pleasure to use and still feel varied. The 3D movement in the Tales series feels tacked on and awkwardly implemented but in SO4 (like its predecessor) it feels natural and fluid. It's a really odd game in that certain elements of the game belong in a 1 or 2/10 game but then other elements belong in something that would get at least 8 or 9/10. After playing Mass Effect with its slowish, realistic character movement it feels almost impossible to move the hero of SO4 around indoors without crashing into walls and jamming the camera up into the corner. Whereas Shepard moves with a realistic gait, Edge spazzes and flails all over the place, like Bambi learning to walk. Also, the interior of the spaceship, the Calnus, looks like it's made out brightly coloured Lego blocks compared to the totally believable interior of the Normandy in Mass Effect.
I'd actually recommend it for it's battle system, character customisation and collector's paradise of endless things to do and unlock, but it's all down to if you can just get over the poorly written dialogue, often shitty voice acting (the truly shitty stuff seems to be at the very start), odd looking characters and kind of plasticy graphics. To be fair, the characters look less like mannequins than they did in SO3 (just look at Sophia's head in the opening cinematics - FUCK!) and the generally adored Lost Odyssey also has environments that seem to be entirely constructed from either plastic or coloured glass.
So yeah, hugely flawed but still very good and enjoyable if you can get over the flaws or at least kind of ironically enjoy them.
Thought I'd sign up here after watching the SSFIV preview stream a while ago. Right now my gaming life is based around practising SSFIV, mainly with Sakura and Makoto but I'm going to also learn some other character - the type I'd never normally play as, like Zangief. I don't have the internet right now since I'm in a new apartment (well sort of - I'm using the wireless connection of the helpful guy downstairs, but I can't very well plug my Xbox into his router) so I'm going to have to wait a few weeks before going on Live. Hopefully I'll see some of you guys online when I eventually get it sorted out.
I'm also picking up Soul Calibur IV and Virtua Fighter 5, though I don't expect I'll play them anywhere near as much as I will SSFIV. The only other gaming thing is how I have to decide whether to upgrade my WoW trial account pretty soon. I'm just not feeling the addictiveness its pasty-faced legion of fans attribute to it, to be honest. Only playing it 'cause some slut I know is obsessed with it (just putting that in in case I'm being Google-stalked); I was hoping I'd start to like it beyond that but... not so far I feel like I'm being asked to clean a bathroom floor with a toothbrush; if I do it 50 times, they'll give me a slightly bigger brush. If I do that 100 times, they'll give me a yet bigger brush. After doing it 10,000 times I'll have a paintbrush and presumably a glowing sense of accomplishment, right?