Shadows of the Damned: First Impressions

Shadows of the Damned is absolutely bananas! While it's a fairly linear shooter, the game uses light and darkness effectively for some very unique puzzles and boss battles. The meat of the action involves traversing from Point A to Point B, running towards Fleming's castle in order to rescue your loved one.

That underlying story and the atmosphere around it is the secret sauce that makes Shadows of the Damned so unique. Goichi Suda (who goes by Suda51) brings his unique blend of insanity and love of punk to the table. Your character, Garcia Hotspur, is a foul-mouthed demon hunter who carries around a skull named Johnson. Johnson is your partner/melee/weapon. He can actually turn into all of your different guns; the Teether (your machine gun), the Boner (your pistol, and there's a lot of jokes like that), and the Monocussioner (your shotgun). The guns run through typical upgrade paths, with red gems going towards improving your weapons.

I'll write more when I finish the game, which might be soon. It seems like the game runs at around 8 hours, with the rate that I'm passing through the game (though to be fair, I'm playing on the easiest difficulty, so playing on a harder setting may lengthen your experience with the game).

(originally published on gildedgamepad.wordpress.com)

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Is Ninja Gaiden 3 Alienating Fans?

Based on the reports from one Patrick Klepek (http://www.giantbomb.com/news/the-confusing-quick-timey-world-of-ninja-gaiden-3/3362/), it appears that they're drastically changing the way the combat works. I haven't had any hands-on time with the title, but based on his impressions, they've kept the same fast-paced nature of the first two titles while throwing Quick Time Events into the mix. Sure enough, the word "automated" sticks out like a sore thumb when examining the change of pace this brings to the combat.

Now, I've only played the first few levels of the first game, and got through the demo for the second, so I may not be the most qualified to make remarks about these decisions. All I can say with some level of certainty is that the game Klepek describes sounds wildly different from what little Ninja Gaiden I've played. I didn't give up on Ninja Gaiden because it was a bad game; I gave up because my skills were no match for the challenge the game provided. But I recognized the qualities that made it a good game, and I had a great time getting my ass handed to me on a silver platter.

The Ninja Gaiden III described in the aforementioned preview sounds closer to another game I played up to the first few levels. However, unlike Ninja Gaiden, I stopped playing because it was a bad game. I'm talking about Ninja Blade.

While Ninja Blade had some classic, poorly-executed slashing action that did its best to replicate Ninja Gaiden's breakneck pace and absurd fights, it also forced you into Quick Time Events every chance it had. Now, Quick Time Events, done properly, can be wonderful tools to add player interaction into a scene where they'd typically set the controller on the coffee table and watch a lengthy scene play out. If you want to see QTE's done right, look for Capcom titles like Resident Evil 4 or Dead Rising. But when you shovel in QTE after QTE, they quickly lose their charm and frustrate the player. I hadn't even finished the first level of Ninja Blade before I was absolutely sick of the game's Quick Time Events.

If Ninja Gaiden 3 heads into QTE territory, they should tread lightly. A healthy balance of traditional action, with QTE's sparingly used, could easily give the classic fans what they know and love while possibly making things easier for those of us who could never muster the strength required to finish Ninja Gaiden. However, if it turns into another Ninja Blade, it will be hard to satisfy anyone. Nobody likes a Ninja Blade.

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About E3 2011: Handhelds!

With the relatively slow opening sales of the 3DS, it felt like both Nintendo and Sony were pushing their handheld devices like never before. While most of Nintendo’s 3DS titles were more or less known quantities (you don’t have to be a genius to expect Mario Kart and your traditional Mario platform games would be present), they had one particularly potent ace up their sleeve in the form of Luigi’s Mansion 2. Meanwhile, Sony took the time to show off portable versions of popular console titles; the touchscreen commands in Uncharted looked like they worked well, and rubbing the back touchscreen to raise the landscape in ModNation Racers was an easy concept to grasp.

Of course, the biggest news that came out of the handheld sector was the $249-$299 pricing model for the PlayStation Vita. It’s obvious that Sony will be taking an initial monetary loss, but just might be what they need to finally compete head-to-head with Nintendo’s position as the dominant gaming handheld. But in reality, both Nintendo and Sony are fighting against a new foe. The smartphone has taken off around the world, and even though the games can’t quite match a similar fidelity found in a proper handheld device like the 3DS or Vita, they’re outselling these traditional devices by a wide margin. People are more willing to play a simpler, arcade-style game on their phones if it means they don’t have to carry an extra device around.

On one hand, it looks like Sony is fighting back on the traditional handheld front with a powerhouse device that matches the home console experience. On the other hand, you have PlayStation Suite, Sony’s new initiative to get their titles onto Android smartphones. With Nintendo struggling in the market they once dominated with an iron grip, the Suite seems like a smart direction to take; it wouldn’t be too surprising if this is the last generation of handheld devices that are primarily made for playing games.

Doom and gloom aside, Uncharted on the Vita practically blew my mind. I’ve never seen something like it on such a small device! I’m not sure if I would want to purchase one, but maybe that will change once I actually get my mitts on a Vita at some GameStop kiosk. After all, nothing beats a proper hands-on experience.

(Reposted from my personal blog at gildedgamepad.wordpress.com)

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