The King's Cooking Corner! (Egotism sold separately.)

The suave, daring, unrivaled King of Video Games. He is on an EROTIC quest to see if lesbians indeed have the goods. BEWARE, the Moon.

Just when you thought I couldn't get anymore obscure, I manage to blindside you with a game about mayonnaise. I realize that's only more confusing, so allow me to explain. Long ago, Japan realized the untapped potential of the gaming market. "They'll buy anything", they said. "They'll buy fucking mayo if you slap a game cartridge on it!" That's not a joke. My best guess is that the game was supposed to inform players of the....musky?...yea, let's go with that; musky taste of Ajinomoto Mayonnaise, all while teaching them a slew of tasty, easy to prepare recipes. Now how could you possibly fuck that up? I have to imagine layering some nonsense contextualization would wang it up just fine. Or I don't, because that's exactly what happens with Wonder Kitchen.

Oh, sure, it starts off simple enough. A somewhat competently drawn woman asks you to gather her missing recipes or whatever, and it's your job to do just that. Then you find a penis-nosed witch sleeping beneath your sink, her broom ripe for the stealing. I know what you're thinking: a billion disparate questions, each one trying to make sense out of this scenario. Right now, I think it's best we ignore those questions, because the game gets crazier from there. Hot air balloons transform into apples, lions hide circuses in their mouths (or maybe their mouths are time travel machines to these circuses, somehow), eggs give way to miniature elephants that sing La Cucaracha before they disappear, and already I feel like words fail to describe just what the hell is going on. If any of this sounds charming and appealing in a childhood sort of way, rest assured that it isn't. If anything, it just gets in the way of what you're supposed to do. Remember: I'm supposed to be gathering ingredients for a fruit salad or whatever. Why do I have to jump through so many hoops to achieve what would otherwise be a very simple goal?

And here's what that same dish looks like after being covered in disgusting chunks of mayonnaise. Dig in, you fucking pig.

There's also the problem of the game not making any damn sense. I know that sounds repetitive, but go back to those examples and see if you can find any sort of consistent logic between them. There isn't any. You're not supposed to figure any of that out. Hell, because the game only advances once you've found everything on screen, there aren't any consequences for failing to figure things out. It's all just pandering busy work. It's a pop-up book where you simply click all about the screen until the game decides that it's had enough, gets bored, and then moves onto whatever other random nonsense it can make up as it goes. Doesn't that sound like fun? Hold up a second: why does a game like this even need to be fun? What would the point of it be? All this game had to do was give me some hands on instructions on how to make food or whatever, and it managed to screw that up. Wonderful.

And it's not even like the recipes are that good. Now to be fair, it's difficult to say that when I haven't even bothered preparing these meals, but in my defense, the game doesn't do a good job of telling me how to do that. Don't be fooled by the admittedly comprehensive and hands-on preparation sequences, because they leave out some very important and very basic information. Want to know how long it takes to cook the food or boil water? Well, I've only seen that happen once. The rest of the time, you're presumably supposed to guess based on....I don't know. Again, the game didn't give me any hints as to what I should be watching for when preparing food. Or hell, even amounts. That may not sound like a big problem when you're explicitly provided the number of vegetables you need, but what happens when you're asked to salt your meals while making them? You'd better be psychic or enjoy very salty tomato bowls, because those are your only two options in the Kitchen of Wonders.

Oh, and mayo. Tons of mayo. Have I mentioned that yet? Because no matter the recipe, the game will ask you to just glob mayonnaise on your carefully prepared dishes. Even if the recipe had already asked you to use mayonnaise, it will still ask you to dump buckets of mayonnaise on at the end. What kind of person would find an omelette (essentially eggs and liquid) drenched in mayonnaise (essentially more eggs and a different liquid)? And what kind of salad asks you to boil cabbage and then cover it with raw fish? After all this, I'm honestly surprised that the food looks as good as it does. If I prepared it according to what the game told me, there's a very good chance my food would end up looking like this. So we've firmly established that the game spends more time spouting off whatever pops into its mind than it does teaching you how to make food, and even manages to screw that up, too. So just what is this Wonder Kitchen even any good for?....Mayonnaise history, I guess?....Yea, fuck this game.

Review Synopsis

And then...mayonnaise.

Remember when I said that I'd play this last? (Back in my Pandora's Tower blog?) I told the truth. No, this isn't a semi-esoteric Commando reference, but Grill Off With Ultra Hand!, the latest in Nintendo's line of games you can only get through Club Nintendo. Seems a bit silly to review a game under those conditions, but, well, I've done stupider, haven't I? I mean, look at the last game I blogged about. But back to Grill Off With Ultra Hand!. It has some issues (mostly some really confusing ones with the motion controls), but overall, it's a fun little toy to mess around with for maybe a brief afternoon.

Well, at least if you ignore the existential nightmares surrounding it. The game's light on detail, but much like a fine Hemingway short story, the beauty's in what's not said. From what I can tell, you're some type of invisible ghost chef recruited into some sort of strange 70s era game show. Your goal is to pick meat off the grill when it's just right (the game's own words) and feed it to the infinite crowd of ravenous eaters lying just off the edge of the screen. This is your life; it is the only life you know. Also, these are apparently some very complacent eaters, since they all request that their food be prepared in the exact same fashion, without any spices or condiments or anything on top of it. Just prepared as is: dropped via helicopter onto a flimsy grill, cooked ten feet away from you, the cook, and brought to their face holes via a (most likely grease-drenched) children's toy. All in a back yard whose fences periodically explode for absolutely no reason.

"You've just eaten twelve steaks. How are you still this hungry?" "Tapeworm bulimia!"

Speaking of no reason, that's exactly the level of relevance that last paragraph has to actually playing the game. The only part that actually holds importance is the "picking up patties" part, since that's what you're going to do for the entire game. Sound simple? Well, that's because it is. There's nothing to Grill Off With Ultra Hand! beyond that basic premise. Still, it manages to achieve quite a bit with such limited tools. Slabs of meat drop down in almost pre-defined patterns, so it's really easy to fall into a fun rhythm as you jump from patty to patty in just the right manner. Think Bit.Trip Runner, and then stop thinking it, because these are the only similarities that the two games share. Then again, that perfect rhythm can also fuck you up big time if you pick up a patty at the wrong time, since you're now locked into the exact beat you don't need and it's really hard to get out of it.

And then on top of that, you have to deal with the motion controls. They...I'm not entirely sure what they do to the game. I mean, on the one hand, the motion controls are what enable so much of the game's fun in the first place. Without exaggerated motions on your part, the game might feel flat and repetitive. With them, though, you get this great adrenaline rush that firmly locks you into the action on screen AND a tangible sense of accomplishment from flipping patties. That's more than you could ask for in real life. Wow. Perhaps the only thing more depressing than that grim truth is how loose and flippant the motion controls are. (OK, it isn't, but leave me my transitions.) The game's alright about picking up when you're extended and when you're not, but the majority of the game's going to be spent in between those two positions, usually at rapid speeds. This is most assuredly a recipe for dirt meat, and nobody likes dirt meat. Except the game, of course, because it has one other trick for dirtying up your meat: calibration. If the game ever asks you to recalibrate your Wii-mote's position, YOU ARE GOING TO LOSE.

But the question remains: do these controls get in the way of enjoying the game? Not so much that it matters. Yes, wonky controls stealing a potential great game from you certainly hurts the game's quality, but it's still a good game, motion controls be damned. It gives you one minor idea, develops enough on it so you feel like you've actually gotten something out of the experience, and then just stops right there. I'd recommend that you go out and get Grill Off with Ultra Hand!, but, well, it's only available through Club Nintendo, so that's something of a moot point. You know, I should start reviewing more games nobody has any real chance of getting. Tune in next time when I blog about Polybius! Only on Renegade Ego.

Review Synopsis

  • What could be more fun than flipping patties?.....That was supposed to be a compliment.
  • Who knew that the Wii-mote wouldn't make a very good spatula?
  • And as long as I'm asking questions, why has my life been reduced to meticulously and exactly preparing food for a perpetually greedy crowd I do not know, never once allowing me to taste the fruit meat of my labors?
2 Comments

Renegade Fairy Tale.

The suave, daring, unrivaled King of Video Games. He is on an EROTIC quest to see if lesbians indeed have the goods. BEWARE, the Moon.

Wait, that's for another blog I'm writing.

That's better. Well, better in terms of what I want to discuss......Anyway, Napple Tale. Remember when Sega was a real creative powerhouse in the industry? Well, I do, and Napple Tale is a product of that era. No, wait, it was actually ahead of its time. Thirteen years before sexism debates embroiled the gaming landscape, Sega decided to publish a game made without the help of a single Y chromosome. And man, did it pay off. What we have here is one of the more polished and underappreciated platformers of the late Dreamcast era. Sure, the writers probably weren't aware of how scarily schizophrenic the mood is, but there are some sincerely sweet and sentimental moments, all wrapped up in a delightfully playful platforming adventure.

Before I actually talk about the game, though, I feel I should mention that since this game was never released or even really discussed that much outside Japan, I'm going to pull most of the names from either secondary sources or straight out of my ass.

But of course, you still have to get past the deeply unsettling aspects of the game. Like the basic premise! A young girl by the name of Poach attends a summer festival with very bad compression quality and ends up being led to her death. I'm not making that part up; the game begins with her dying because of mistaken identity and meeting an angel of death. But don't worry! She can come back to life if she collects her life petals and restores the seasons to the in-between world of Napple Town! Wait a minute: the seasons have been missing from this place? Does that mean that the citizens of Napple Town have been frozen in a nothingness-time, unable to conduct a large portion of the daily business they need to survive? (Don't tell me I'm grasping at straws; that damn milk bar runs on a seasonal basis.) Is this some Final Fantasy V shit where Napple Town will slowly rot into an arid ball of nothing? Aw, hell. Listen, Napple Tale: you know I love your fairy tale atmosphere, but the child deaths and philosophical fuckmares make it incredibly difficult for me to get in the mood you want me to be in. I'm gonna be on edge a lot of the time, knowing you've got some crazy shit up your sleeve.

This is what happens when you're not paying attention when you take funny screenshots for the game.

And I think the worst part is that the game itself doesn't know. OK, yes, I'm pretty sure somebody knew that this goddamn thing is the fevered nightmare of a madman, but it's the less obvious stuff that grabs my attention, paradoxically enough. For example, early in the story, Poach is tasked with getting a scared little girl to go to sleep. Now doesn't that seem all sweet and saccharine and what the fuck is that music playing over this scene? Has her mother been singing to her the lullaby of the damned? No wonder she can't go to bed; she probably feels like somebody's gonna slowly choke the breath out of her while she sleeps. I also have something in my notes about "blood red Oni dreams". That I can't remember what I was talking about should tell you just how malefic that must have been. If the developers were actually aware of how horrifying these moments were, then they might have been able to mitigate their terror or even work it into the story more efficiently. But alas, such does not transpire. No, you're simply expected to gaze in horror, only understanding that this is not to be understood.

So what does it say about the craft that went into this game that it actually does create a fantastic fairy tale ambiance in spite of those difficulties? Part of that's because of the occasional narration that makes you feel like you're playing through a story book with pimp dragon accountants, but a lot more of it is because of that second thing I listed: the characters. There are just so many colorful and vibrant characters you get to meet over the course of the game, and a lot of the best moments in the game come from simply getting involved with their daily lives. I could mention the clitoris-nosed Little Manet or the Cinderella-esque Cecil, but I think looking at the two main characters will serve us best. That's right, I'm talking about Poach and Strennup. One's a strong and assertive girl who takes no shit but makes questionable fashion choices; the other's a photobombing middle-aged fairy who can only speak in exposition, ellipses and です. Poach especially is fun to be around for the slight frustration she feels regarding the crap that gets thrown at her, but both characters play off each other's personalities well enough to make for some really enjoyable moments. But more importantly, they both grow to appreciate the time they spend together and Poach learns something valuable from the time she spends in Napple World. You know, like in any good fairy tale.

Do I really need to explain?

But the greatest thread tying this ethos together would have to be the music. I know that sounds like a strange thing to say after linking you to the eternal lullaby of the damned, but that was just an exception. Most of the music is actually really ornate and elegant and lilly-ish. It really does a lot to melt the cockles of your heart. Combine it with a vivid, intricate aesthetic, and you have the perfect recipe for a highly sincere and whimsical fairy tale.

I've just now remembered that this is a video game and not just a bullet point on Hans Christian Andersen's resume. So just what do you do in Arsia's daydream? A lot of jumping, usually on some sort of two-dimensional plane. Now to get there in the first place, you usually have to talk to various townspeople, figure out what their problems are, and what level is going to solve them. It's got this nice psychological puzzle quality to it, but the real fun lies (quite obviously) in the levels. This is partially because of how simple everything is. You can really only jump and attack, and none of the levels ever ask too much out of you. You don't have to invest too much of yourself into the game to get a rewarding experience out of it.

"Out-dated lexicons are all the rage these days, right?" - Whoever wrote this script.

A much larger reason, though, is that you're always doing something in these levels. There's never any dead air, but you don't feel like the game's needlessly rushing you, either. Spring time may have you jumping around windmills in search of the Moon Princess (or whatever the plot to Klonoa was), while winter may have you racing down a roller coaster track collecting coins. My favorite level would probably have to be the last one, because without spoiling anything, there's just something about the design that connote both urgency and permanence, both of which go very well with what's going on in the story. Even outside that, though, there's a lot of variety over the course of the game and always something to keep you going forward.

Curiously, that same sentence could apply to all the non-platforming elements the game has to offer...sort of. The first part is true, but sadly, I'm not sure the bells and whistles attached to this hold up all that well. What? You thought that this was just a platformer? Oh, how wrong you are. There's a whole dull, empty, lifeless, uninteresting Napple town to explore, man! You can also collect recipes and disassemble junk to get new items and other such things, but I found the whole ordeal just far too obtuse to be of any real value.

そう…とあるアルカナがこう示した…心の奥から響く声なき声…それに耳を傾ける意義を

The only reason you'd even do any of this is for the Paffets, these cute little creatures who help you out in your journeys and give me serious Flint the Time Detective vibes. Now there's nothing wrong with these guys on their own; they're cute as all hell and I imagine their abilities would be very useful. But that's the problem: I can only imagine the use of their abilities because I never found any situations that necessitated their use. The navigation focus of the game means you won't be using them for combat all that often, and aside from a few times when you need to summon a platform to jump higher or something, you can get around the levels just fine on your own. If the game was more difficult, I could see myself using them more often, but as it is, they're just an easily ignored luxury rather than an integral part of the game. You know, I could probably say that about half the non-platforming features, boss battles not included. There's just no way I can diss pimp dragon accountants.

But hey, why am I even focusing on this side crap in the first place? It's not like any of it's necessary toward the game's success, and those parts that are necessary already work well enough. The platforming parts of the game are simple but still demonstrate a fine understanding of how the hell you're supposed to design a level; there's a sweet and charming (if a bit terrifying in certain areas) fairy tale story framing it all; and that music.....oh, that music. Of all the games that I've played for my Japanese learning, this is perhaps the first one that I'd actively and heartily recommend. Then again, given what it's up against, that may not be saying a lot.

Review Synopsis

And what became of Sega, you ask?

.....It's best that you don't know.

Well, would you look at that? Turns out there's another game of pedigree in this blog. This isn't your ordinary case of me playing a Japan-only SNES game; this is a Japan-only SNES game that was almost released outside Japan. What happened? I think Sega bought out the developer or something and decided against releasing games for their competitor.

Notice how I didn't say anything about good games specifically. That's because in Psycho Dream's case, it's not a good game. But it's not a bad game, either. Hell, Psycho Dream doesn't care if it's good or bad. It's caught halfway between quality and mediocrity, and it simply doesn't give much of a fuck to decide on either one for a good period of time. What you get is a sort of recommendable platformer in the vein of Valis. Except, you know, without those eyes.

And then....subway fetus.

And one of the games clearly looks better. Which one? I'll give you a hint: it begins with a P and is this game. As you progress through the streets of.....I just realized that I don't know what the story is. Something about rescuing a schoolgirl from demons or her dreams or something? I don't remember, and frankly, I don't care. It's largely just an excuse for me to see an almost demonic, almost magical energy take over a modern city. I know that doesn't sound like the most glowing endorsement in the world, but these two art styles really mesh together really well. The city part's all dark and gritty and unpleasant, but not in an overbearing way that draws a lot of attention to itself. It feels like a place people could live in (albeit not as a first choice). So what happens when you layer atop it a slimy, gross and just barely fanciful fantasy atmosphere? You make all that magical invasion stuff that much more meaningful to the experience! Oh, and I guess there's music there, too, but really, it's all about that oddly thought out art style.

I mean, it certainly isn't about the gameplay. That part's odd, alright, but it isn't thought out. Allow me to explain: your quest to....something....will entail walking through a series of very straight lines. That's not the interesting part. The interesting part is that sometimes, the game will reward you for your line-walking abilities by letting you upgrade your weapons. You get two weapons (a whip and a gun), but can only use one at a time, and this is where things get interesting: the worse weapon is the more fun one to use. I'm aware of how strange that sounds, but the gun becomes overpowered pretty fast, and that's saying something when its starting version allows you kill enemies from all the way across the screen.

("That girl's outfit looks ridiculous. School uniform? The hell's she thinking?")

Compare this to your S&M whip, which can only be used when you're so close to the enemy that it legally counts as sex. But guess what? The game's better this way. There's actual challenge and skill involved in getting through the levels like this. No more can you coast by on spread guns! Now you can take pride in your ability to slash your way through the enemy-infested hallways of the city! Huzzahs are in order! And then you collect a power-up that transforms you into Strennup, fairy angel of death, and spam auto-lock-on bullets all about the screen that kill both enemies and engagement. What does this say about the game's quality that it considers the removal of fun to be rewarding?

And what else does the game have after that? Certainly not level design. Half the levels are alright, I suppose, in that they actually have you doing something. But then there's the other half of the levels. The half that are just straight hallways that spam enemies at you like crazy. No thought. No rhyme. No reason. Just a prolonged period of time where the game asks you to hold forward and sometimes press the attack button. It's like the game simply ran out of ideas at some point, which is rather worrying when you realize how early that point is. And speaking further of points, I feel it is as this point that I should remind you that none of these criticisms make the game outright bad. I mean, you still have that art style to look forward to, and the game's actually pretty good if you play it in a specific way. But ask yourself this: is it worth it to handicap yourself playing through a middling platformer just to get a taste of some accidentally good art? This would be the part where I'd say no, but I think my decision to play Toilet Kids just for some petty, misleading word play disqualifies me from making that judgment.

Review Synopsis

  • I must admit: this is a particularly psycho dream. (Does that even mean anything? Well, it does now.)
  • "The fairies are too powerful. They must be taken down a notch." - @video_game_king
  • Walking in a straight line can be fun, you know. It's just that Psycho Dream lacks the elements that make it fun.

8 Comments

The screenshot ballad of Heartbreakin' Hisao Nakai. Episode 2: Poor Parental Cabbage.

Part the 一番目
← To Episode 1: Sugar MilkTo Episode 3: The Unposted→

Right. You guys are probably wondering what the hell was up with the ending to the last Katawa Shoujo thread. You see, the G-Man's investors have encouraged him to diversify his investments, and he sees great potential in the Young Nakai. But things were not going so well with Lilly. It wasn't wise, in the long run. It wouldn't have worked out. So, in his generous mercy, he's going to send Hisao back in time, and give him another chance. He'll be there to steer Hisao in the right direction if things are getting too out of hand, but otherwise, he's gonna give Hisao a considerable degree of freedom.

"Do not disappoint me, Young Nakai."

Anyway, Shizune's route. I know it seems odd to be upfront this time when I held back in the last thread, but, well, it's going to become obvious fairly quickly, anyway, so why bother hiding it? Hell, she's got the only unique intro in the game (in that she doesn't share it with Emi or Hanako or whatever). And as long as I'm listing off Katrivwa.....Katravi....Katawa Shoujo Trivia, there are other two things unique about Shizune's route: first, this is the only route in the game where Miki doesn't show up. No Miki whatsoever. (Or the Nurse, come to think of it.) But more importantly, only one choice in Shizune's route, and it's a big one. Let's hope Babyface makes the right decision.

"Why I chose to come out here in the mi-oh, no. Oh, please tell me this isn't happening again."
"YOU SON OF A BITCH!"
Time fuckery will do that to a man.
"Guess I'm dating Shizune."
He's not making the same mistake twice.
"What's the worst that could happen?"
Or maybe he will make the same mistake twice. Stranger things have happened.
"Uh-huh, nice to meet you. Have fun with your shitty Scottish family." ".............I........uh......."
You know better than this. Don't you fucking do it.
Maybe he doesn't know better.
But she does. She knows all too well.
YA THINK!?
"It was prophecied unto me on a dark autumn night. They shall bring about a new world in a radiant glory."
"I'd better look at her some more. Just to be certain."
Like, literally quivering. Doesn't capture well in a screenshot, which is why I made this GIF just yesterday.
"I continue looking at her for any signs of discomfort."
Not yet. Hanako comes later.
Well, at least this time, it's not because he looked at her too much. That's a step. I guess.
Yea, that's it (even if the second set of quotes is fucked up).
In all timelines, Hanako is cute. DO NOT FIGHT FATE.
Oh, eat a dick.
"You hear that, Shizune? This man has no plans. You hold on to him f-" [I didn't hear that. You know I didn't.]
These things take time, Hisao. It takes a long while before a girl will stop opening fire on you.
Gun in hand.
I don't know. Watching Shizune and Misha communicate in tandem DOES remind me of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXrEropmsoI
I assume this is a step up from puppy.
Shizune's not a big fan of horrific scars, as she's made clear to poor Hanako.
"Wait, it's the Shanghai........Screw it. I've got nothing better to do."
Well, she aimed AWAY from the heart, if that counts for anything.
Then just be thankful you didn't date Hanako.
[You have conquered gravity. This deserves applause.]
He isn't. Don't you dare fuck with me, Babyface.
"Besides, randomly hopping to express emotions is Misha's thing."
Is this racist or just kind of stupid? Wait, it's a Chinese-themed restaurant; I'm going with racist.
"Amazing that she still works here in this alternate timeline."
The only route where this isn't applicable is pretty much Shizune's. How not-really-that-ironic.
[You will be the first to die.]
"Good thing Shizune didn't hear th-oh, right. Misha's going to sign it to her, anyway."
[On second thought, him. He's going to die first.]
What a complex narrative.

Oh, this isn't relevant to anything. I just wanted to post this for no particular reason.

56 Comments

All must follow the Code of Tomato.

The suave, daring, unrivaled King of Video Games. He is on an EROTIC quest to see if lesbians indeed have the goods. BEWARE, the Moon.

How crazy is it that somebody managed to finish that Princess Crown translation after all this time? Probably not as crazy as me beating the game in a coke-fueled frenzy lasting 36 hours. But still, i.....oh, wait, this is Code of Princess, a completely different game unrelated to Princess Crown. Too bad. I was hoping for some proto-Vanillaware action. Instead, we're gonna have to deal with a beat-em-up that's more concerned with being funny than it is with actually being fun.

And it's not even that good at the whole "funny" part, either. I mean, that isn't to say that the game can't be funny, because clearly, it can. On your quest to ignore the genocidal implications of your quest (and restore peace to the Kingdom, I guess), you'll come across a wide array of colorful characters, like the vastly incompetent princess Solange or the androgynous "I honestly had to look up her gender" Ali or the annoying "he's a rock star magician because why the fuck not" Allegro. My personal favorite has to be Juppongi, if only for the antisemitic levels of ham in his performance. None of the other cast can reach such ham levels, but the levels they do reach are quite good on their own. Everybody plays off each other very well and they each have good comedic chemistry, leading to some funny scenarios here and there. Well, at least I think they're funny. I imagine they'd have to be if they weren't in this game.

I believe this screenshot translates to "In the name of the Moon, we will tear the fourth wall asunder!"

No, I don't mean that in the BioShock Infinite sense, but more in the sense that Code of Princess sucks as a game, and the writing isn't funny enough to hide that fact. Sometimes, it feels like humor's used as a cheap excuse for bad writing. Why bother writing non-expository dialogue or giving your characters proper motivations to beat things up when you can simply ignore all that and say it's funny that you ignored all that? Worse yet, the humor can also bring those flaws to the surface for all to see. Perfect example: remember Allegro from before? There's this recurring joke of his about being a few experience points shy of becoming a sage. Now while Code of Princess does have an experience system, it doesn't have any type of class system (at least not any that I know of), so the joke only calls attention to the fact that it doesn't make any damn sense. And for that matter, if there are only two races in the world, then what the fuck are Allegro and Zozo? Do elves and the undead still count as human? And why does this guy only speak in grunts when he introduces himself with full sentences? And don't get me started on all the contrived end-game plot twists that create more questions than answers.

Mainly because I'm gonna talk about the gameplay now. Not the core beat-em-up gameplay, though, because that isn't very good. Instead, I'm gonna talk about the RPG frills that somehow manage to be much better than anything else. Not perfect, mind you, but certainly better than what the rest of the game's offering you. The multiple characters come to mind easily enough. I know I mentioned their distinct personalities before, but it goes so much deeper than that. From the ridiculously fast Ali to the magic-spamming Allegro, each character has their own unique play style to fuck about with. Rather appropriately, I stuck with the only two characters I mentioned specifically because the others were heavy and unwieldy messes. Granted, they could have become more than that had I bothered to use them more, but why I would continue using a character I didn't enjoy using is completely beyond me, especially when I had those two other characters I could always fall back on.

Approximately half the game, summarized in one screenshot.

Wait, what was that about them becoming more than that? Oh, right, I forgot to mention all the cool customization the game throws your way. The various weapons you get are neat to experiment around with, if only for the myriad strategies they open up, but I'm more interested in the leveling system. After every level, whatever character you happened to be playing as jumps up about twelve quadrillion levels. Hell, this even applies to the tutorial levels that aren't even a part of the main game. While this may seem to devalue the act of gaining a level, that's only because it does. But it's OK, because the real value comes from your new found ability to customize your character any way you damn well please. Do you want the princess' defense to shoot through the roof? You can do that. How about a rocking elf sage who can one-shot anything in his path? Because that's possible, too. Maybe you're in the mood for a character who can move faster than time itself (like I ended up making)? What the hell's stopping you? You You can make whatever the hell you want in Code of Princess. Within these RPG systems, the sky's the limit.

But at its core, Code of Princess isn't an RPG, but a beat-em-up. A really mediocre beat-em-up. There isn't a lot of variety, and the game doesn't do much to actively draw you in or engage you. The game just drops you into an arena with some baddies and then asks you to press A and B a bunch of times until you're the only one left standing. That's all there is to it; there are no other types of challenges to be found in the game. I know that sounds reductive, but there really isn't much else to get other than that. Oh, sure, there are some other mechanics to spice things up, but rarely did I find them necessary. Who needs to use magic or more than one plane when simply mashing buttons in a frenzied madness will get the job done 80% of the time? This isn't strong enough to carry an entire game. Maybe short bursts, but definitely not the few hours of your life the game asks you to invest.

That's not even my biggest problem with the combat, though. No, that honor has to go toward just how chaotic everything feels. Most of the time, I have absolutely no goddamn clue what's going on. The character I happen to have chosen will do some moves that I guess are tied to the buttons I pressed (it's never entirely clear that they are), and the screen will explode with action, along with explosions. Enemies fly all over the place, and my character has suddenly ended up somewhere completely against my knowledge. All the while, I'll just stare dumbfounded, wondering what I'm supposed to do with this. And so we come to the one issue at the very heart of Code of Princess: there's no real role for the player. The game doesn't really care about you. Not in a cruel sense, mind you, but in more of an apathetic sense. It can't be bothered to learn of or even acknowledge your existence, and the result is the repetitive, pell-mell mess I've just described for your. But at least it's funny. Sort of.

Review Synopsis

  • An at least somewhat humorous story...
  • ...and some decent RPG mechanics...
  • ...can't mask the flimsy gameplay lying beneath it all.

Guys, I have something to tell you: hedgehogs on motorcycles.

I really have to stop choosing games based on whatever stupid pun I can make with their titles. That's how I ended up with Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom. Some of you may be looking at this game right now, unable to comprehend why I'm getting so worked up over it. What's so bad about this game? It's just a cutesy little adventure game for the kid folk, right? Oh, how wrong you are. With no consistent logic and a story more concerned with mediocre humor than it is with actually making sense, Princess Tomato somehow manages to be one of those rare games that doesn't warrant the amount of attention it's garnered over the years. And with most of you not knowing just what the hell this game is, that's saying something.

Of course, not knowing anything about the game, you'd assume there was more to it than the title. There isn't. It's nothing more than a structureless mess that makes shit up as it goes along. Hell, look at the basic premise: You are in the Salad Kingdom, there's a Princess Tomato who has been captured by the evil Minister Pumpkin. You're supposed to rescue her. That's pretty much the whole story. Not much more development of the world or the political situation or why such a squishy game is dealing with the incredibly dark themes of political betrayal, terrorism, and glory holes. It's just a vague quest to rescue a princess and even vaguer, more spurious means of accomplishing that goal. It's all terribly confusing, and without any organization or even charm to make up for that, I feel like the game's simply wasting my time. What of value is this game supposed to impart unto me?

This is actually something you can do in the game. It doesn't advance the game in any way, so I can only assume that the developers hate women as much as they hate logic.

A billion vegetables references and puns? Joy. I guess it's supposed to be lighthearted and whimsical, but it honestly comes across as the very definition of gimmicky. I may be harping on this (if I'm not now, I will be soon), but there's no real logic or reason why the characters are named after vegetables. Few of the characters are definitively tied to their vegetables, since the game can't decide if the characters are actually vegetables or just humans that are vaguely vegetable themed (it doesn't help that there are actual humans in the game (and whatever the hell this is)); and there's no readily available logic for why a certain character is named after a certain vegetable, so it just looks like the game's pulling it all from the deepest corners of its monstrous rectum. For example, that Princess Tomato in the title? Her father is broccoli. Wrap your head around that one.

OK, so the story can't be bothered to try, and the vegetable motif makes no real sense. That can only mean the gameplay is strong enough to make you ignore all that, right? Precisely, and by "precisely", I mean "not in the slightest". Your quest to save the Princess involves choosing among five trillion useless options to solve puzzles that will advance the story. You're usually limited to a small handful of areas, each only having a few things to do in any of them. While that may sound limiting, you'll soon learn that you're going to need every advantage you can get, because these puzzles make absolutely no sense. Because isn't that what you want in a game that tests your reasoning abilities and problem solving skills? Puzzles where you're forced to brute force your way through the story until you "figure out" what the developers expected of you?

Did I mention that there's a rock/paper/scissors fighting mechanic you sometimes have to mess around with? And did I mention that it doesn't make a lot of sense, either?

The reasons for this failure are numerous. Many of the puzzles require you to act on knowledge that you possibly couldn't have known until after you solved the puzzle, like when you find out that you can trade an umbrella for water wings after you've already done so. Why would trading an umbrella get you water wings? Because how else are you supposed to catch the sewer fish most of the puzzles establish absolutely no link between action and consequence. Perfect example: you're tasked with escaping a police station, and you need a lamp to disguise yourself. (It gets stupider.) Search as you might, there isn't a lamp to be found anywhere in the station. Until you enter a room with an on-duty cop who had just moments before trapped you in a torture room. Somehow, this magically spawns a lamp in a storage room that was utterly bereft of lamps just before. How were you supposed to know the game stocked that room with lamps? You weren't, especially since the game had explicitly warned you against doing the very thing you need to do to advance the game.

And you know what? Amazingly, it gets worse from there. Some of the puzzles don't even make any damn sense from....well, any perspective, really. For instance, early in the game, you encounter this book shop guy. It is your job to beat the shit out of him, steal his property (in this case, a key), and then get thrown in jail for it all. Why did you grab the key? Because it opens the door to the torture room that your jailers eventually throw you into, duh! Why did the book store owner have this key? And why did the police let you keep this key (and your aspirin and trash donut)? Nobody knows. Apparently, the fine people at Hudson were too busy listing off vegetables to be bothered to think any of this through. Still, it could always be worse. You could always hold onto grape juice for three chapters just to give it to a person whom you never knew and who never serves any purpose in the narrative after you give him the juice. You know, like what happens almost immediately after the key incident.

Oh, but the suck gets worse from there. It gets far, far worse. Do you like having to select the same option over and over again to get anything done in the game, the game not even bothering to meaningfully engage your time or mental faculties? Because that's a heavily recurring element in the epic that is Princess Tomato and the Salad Kingdom. Or what about when your useless sidekick dumps items out of your inventory arbitrarily (only so the game can make you collect them all over again)? Those of you thinking to utter the phrase "narrative value" to defend such horrible crimes must remember that this is a story where our hero tries to evade enemy attention by focusing it on himself. If pressed to find something positive about the game, I'd probably fail miserably. That's because the only thing I could think of was the instrumentation. Not the music, mind you; I can only call that "peppy", which isn't saying much. Instead, I can really only very vaguely compliment the instrumentation. Man, you know your game sucks when that's the best it has to offer. You also know it sucks when it has a simplistic art style that would make MS Paint proud, absolutely no consistent logic in either its story or its progression, and half the mechanics rely on sheer dumb luck. Sometimes, I have to stop and ask myself why I feel obligated to restore these games from the obscurity they'd previously enjoyed.

I'd have ended this with a picture from the game, but instead decided to go with something that's actually worth your time.

Review Synopsis

  • Hark, brave hero! The princess calls for your aid! But first, here are a bunch of vegetable references.
  • Also, can you find a connection between a scorpion and a broom? Fuck it; we'll make it work.
  • Oh, and something about rock/paper/scissors. Guess what? It sucks, too.
3 Comments

The blog that's in your face and full of attitude. And spaghetti.

The suave, daring, unrivaled King of Video Games. He is on an EROTIC quest to see if lesbians indeed have the goods. BEWARE, the Moon.

At last, I can be done with the CD-i. Yes, I'm aware of Zelda's Adventure, but as the game hangs when I try to move to another screen (perhaps warning me of my horrible decision), it's safe to say we can end things on Hotel Mario. And what a game to leave the system on. Oh, I don't mean that in a "this game's horrific" sense, but more in a "I genuinely enjoyed the time I spent with this game" sense. DID I JUST TURN YOUR WORLD UPSIDE DOWN?

I know what you're thinking, somehow: how can a game about opening and closing doors possibly be any fun? Fortunately, Hotel Mario isn't actually about opening and closing doors. Your world just keeps spinning, doesn't it? Yes, you're opening and closing doors, but it's more complicated than that. Jumping into enemy taint will kill Mario on the spot, but getting a face full of monetary genitalia is just fine; elevators defy spacetime itself at the sound of the bell; power-ups are hidden behind certain doors and thin-air. There's a lot of shit going on at one time, and you have to be one step ahead of it all if you want to come out victorious.

They say I'm really sexy, the boys they wanna sex me, hoping I got the spaghetti. (Is anybody even gonna understand this increasingly strange reference?)

And therein lies the charm behind Hotel Mario. There's a very loose, puzzle-like quality behind each stage as you try to manage these various elements, and it's really fun to outsmart the designers and finally finish one of their levels. This only becomes more apparent when considering each hotel's unique quirks, like ice floors or ludicrously huge ghosts. None of that may sound fun, but trust me: it is. Granted, I used the term "loose" because half the time, the puzzle-like quality feels like an accidental result of exploding enemies out of every orifice the game could find, but whatever, results are results. Especially so when most of the levels are short enough that you don't have to invest much into them to get said results. Besides, for those of you utterly beholden to Mario canon (did I seriously just type those last two words?), this game still has those classic Mario mainstays we've all come to know and love. I saw a Starman once, and if you play your cards right, you can get your hands upon the utterly game-breaking fire flower. What more could you want out of a game?

How about ball-busting difficulty? Oh, did I not mention that? Come Hotel 6, prepare to die a lot. Enemies leave their rooms more often and open doors at the least convenient time; loose hit detection allows enemies to kill you by being hit; coins, rather than giving life, now cruelly take it away at the laugh of a cruel trickster god; that same trickster god now switches the elevators around at his arbitrary behest; and, perhaps worst of all, all the levels are now twice as long. Why? Who thought this was a good idea? This adds nothing to the game but time, not just in the sense that the levels are twice as long, but also in the sense that I'm more likely to die and have to replay the now-needlessly-elongated level. And unlike the previous paragraph, this doesn't feel legitimate or enjoyable. It's lacking the sense of control and planning that all those previous levels managed to fake. The game just throws a billion enemies at you at the worst possible times and thinks that's a smart challenge. It isn't. It's crowded and annoying. Infinite continues help, but not by much, especially when you have to reject them in order to save your game. Also, you can't pause. What the fuck?

Speaking of what the fuck: the story. What the fuck? Before Princess Peach was inviting plumbers over to her house for cake, she was inviting them over for spaghetti (presumably). Unfortunately, Bowser captures her ass so he can replace the Mushroom Kingdom with a corporate empire of his own. Only an obsessive-compulsive maniac and his psychotic racist brother can save the Princess now. Thoroughly confused? Well, that's because the story isn't the main appeal of the....story. Look, I'm trying to say that the game looks good, OK? Sure, the technical limitations shine through (especially on poor Peach), but the art style still accomplishes a lot within those limitations. It's vibrant, colorful, festive, upbeat, and a bunch of other words that you'd normally associate with a good cartoon. Overall, a very good reason to check this game out if all that gameplay stuff before wasn't. It's not a bad game, you guys. What else has the gaming community been hiding from me for all these years? Maybe I should check out another "traditionally" bad game to see if the trend holds.

Review Synopsis

  • Hooray for quick puzzle-y action!
  • Boo for stupidly difficult final levels!
  • I am still undecided on the spaghetti (or lack thereof).
  • I'm only just now discovering that there were hidden cutscenes (probably depending on what doors you entered or something like that)?

Written by Richard Wagner, after an extensive two minutes experience with the game:

Spoiler alert: it fucking didn't. Who knew that the general opinion of a game nobody's played could be right for once? Usually, these "bad" games either turn out to be alright (as was the case with Hotel Mario) or at least have something vaguely worthwhile teeming amid the mediocrity (the Zelda CD-i stuff, Sonic Shuffle, etc.). This game, however, is unrepentant crap. Bubsy II has absolutely no aspirations for being a good game. It's more interested in doing everything in its power to grab my attention than it is in actually providing reasons why I should pay attention in the first place.

For instance: the story. I have absolutely no clue what it is. Our titular bobcat's just wandering around levels doing things, he fights a robot pig, and then the game ends. The only thing I know for certain is that it takes place in a museum, and I had to look that part up after the fact. You guys don't have to be the next Sophocles, but you still have to give me some context so I know just what the hell is going on. But instead, the developers chose to focus on puns and attitude (which, coincidentally, is the name of my upcoming autobiography). The attitude explains itself: it's whacky and trying far too hard to grab your attention. What's more interesting are the puns, if only for how far they miss the mark. They're not funny and they’re very rarely relevant to the situation. For example, one of the plane levels in the game is titled "The Great Goatsby". This is despite the fact that there isn't a single plane anywhere in The Great Gatsby, and the level doesn't feature goats at a greater rate than other levels. The only reason somebody wrote this was because they thought the letter O was hilarious. And that's all with a pun I could understand. Happen upon a reference to something you haven't experienced? Tough shit, because there's more where that came from.

For some reason, the medieval levels usually end in 20 seconds as you accidentally stumble across the exit. Also, European tree kangaroos.

Now for some good news: the worst the game has to offer is behind us. The bad news? What it's offering still isn't good, even if the premise itself isn't offensive. It's just a regular platformer where you stomp enemy brains in until you happen upon the exit. Hell, you even get some non-linear level design, which is exactly the game's problem. Half the time, I have no idea where I'm going. Most of the levels look exactly the same, and the game doesn't point m-OK, to be fair, it does give you an idea of where to go from time to time, but given how often the visual cues lie to you (I once saw two nearby arrow signs pointing me in opposite directions), this still hasn't solved our problem. I still don't have any clear sense of direction within a level. I still end up wandering for far too long in a level, traveling in circles in search of progress. It's like I have no control over the situation and it's entirely dependent on luck whether or not I find the exit. It's clumsy, at best, and many mean words at worst.

Speaking of mean words, the controls! I have a lot of mean words for them. Loose would be one of them. Others would include slow, sluggish, unresponsive, imprecise, slippery, unenjoyable, unfair, hindrance, dense, slutty, moronic, I think you get the point. Now as it is, these various elements are simply bad. What makes them truly awful are the game's focus on speed. Speed without precision is a recipe for repeatedly crashing into enemies and walls. Take note of how both those elements abruptly interrupt the flow and thus completely prevent the speed from actually working. The occasionally wonky collision detection doesn't help, either. But does this game focus on fixing those problems, or even acknowledging them? Not at all. Its time is (apparently) better spent making every little thing in the level animate and make a noise and hold your attention at all costs. Under better conditions, it might sound charming, but after spastically jumping about a level in search of purpose, it quickly becomes grating. Doesn't mean the game's gonna stop, though.

And so we come to the issue central to all the game's problems: it doesn't care about you. Bubsy couldn't give less of a shit about your own existence. It's only interested in forcing its clearly brilliant jokes and scenarios upon you, thinking they're gonna be strong enough to carry the rest of the game. Obviously, they aren't. They aren't enough to make me forget about my complete lack of goals, context, or control throughout the game. If anything, they only amplify whatever animosity I'd already held for them. The only genuinely kind things I can say are that the mini-games are a marginally fun distraction and that the whimsical circus music is alright. Those aren't exactly compelling reasons to play a game, now, are they?

Review Synopsis

  • I have no idea what's going on.
  • No, seriously, I have no idea what's going on.
  • There's also this feature where you essentially play the game twice over for no evident reason.
7 Comments

Dynamite Ducks......Wait a minute, that's an actual game!

The suave, daring, unrivaled King of Video Games. He is on an EROTIC quest to see if lesbians indeed have the goods. BEWARE, the Moon.

Surprisingly, this isn't a direct-to-video Jean-Claude Van Damme action movie. Instead, it's an early Dreamcast-era beat-em-up....which might as well be a direct-to-video Jean-Claude Van Damme action movie. I'm not saying that simply because both genres involve a thousand punches to the face. Like any given action movie, Dynamite Cop explodes substance out the window so it can focus all its attention on the spectacle. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Yes, the "flash over substance" approach applies to the gameplay, as well. While I think there are multiple gameplay modes (what I've read hasn't been entirely clear about that), there's really only one that matters: the main story, which is all about punching. Just punch the shit and various other excrements out of everybody in the room, and move on to other rooms and repeat the process. Sometimes, you'll kick, and there may even be a grab you can only semi-reliably execute, but....well, they call it fisticuffs for a reason. Just from a purely mechanical standpoint, things don't get more complex than this. Other than weapons (IE just about every object in a level) and maybe one power-up, you're gonna be pressing the same button a whole lot in the hour it takes to complete this game. Sounds like the recipe for a shallow and repetitive game, right?

Guy must be one hell of a psychic, since his body's like this for the entire game.

If it is, I sure as hell didn't notice, because all the absurd tasks the game throws your way do a good job masking that fact. On your journey to rescue the president's daughter from a briefcase (no, seriously; a briefcase) held by a hideous mutant thing, you'll beat up a chef for no real reason, fight a giant octopus for no real reason, and fuck up some shamans while searching for reasons to do so. As amazing as all that is, though, that's not even the best part of Dynamite Cop. No, that honor belongs to the nonchalant presentation of all this. It's hard to explain. It's almost like the game knows how ridiculous everything is, but goes out of its way not to draw attention to anything. Like it's perfectly normal to treat the president's daughter like Princess Peach, and I'm the weird one for pointing this out. Somehow, that just makes everything so much funnier than it ever would be otherwise. I believe the only exception was this one Quick Time Event that demanded me to press to the punch button and rewarded that with a kick. Then again, who said exceptions had to be a bad thing?

The animations also do a lot for the game's fun factor. It's hard to describe them as anything but wacky. There's just something very humorous and entertaining about Nicolas Cage slapping a dude in the face far more times than is ever necessary, which, now that I think about it, is a perfect way to summarize this game. Just imagine Nicolas Cage slapping the piss out of some mook for an hour, and you have the Dynamite Cop experience. Sure, it's incredibly shallow and easy to beat (I think I might have accidentally played on easy mode, because my credits only started running out near the end of the game), but do you honestly believe that thought would ever cross your mind during a shirtless fist fight with a wolf-skin wearing man?.........Exactly.

Review Synopsis

  • The game's completely and utterly detached from its own ludicrous stupidity. In fact, I feel like I have to come up with a new word to describe this game: stupicrous.

As of writing this blog, I have not watched this video. But tell me: how can you see the premise of this video and NOT develop an urge to share it with others?

This was supposed to be an entirely different video game. That game? Hotel Mario. Unfortunately, severe late game difficulty issues have delayed affairs so much that I've been forced to put it off to the side for now in favor of a game that doesn't expect the impossible out of me. That game? Hotel Mario Donald Duck: Goin' Quackers. Out of left field, huh? Yes, but that's the entire spirit of this blog: find games nobody has ever heard of and highlight the cool stuff everybody has missed. And that's exactly what Goin' Quackers is: a fun little platformer whose levels strike a good balance between involvement and rhythm.

Normally, this would be where I talk about the story, but since I have absolutely nothing to say about the story (Daisy gets captured, Donald has to rescue her; woo), I think we can move onto more important matters, like how great this game looks. It's hard to explain, but there's this palpable cartoony atmosphere to the levels that just brings the game to life. Everything's vibrant and well-defined, and there's a lot of visual action goin' on at any one time. Not so much that you're overwhelmed with sensory overload, mind you; just enough to harbor a playful sense of urgency. The only real complaint I have is that 3D might not have been the best choice here. It really hinders what the visuals are capable of, and not just in the "did somebody shove Wallace and Gromit in the microwave" CGI. As vivid as everything looks, you still have to deal with sharp character models and their stilted animations. Things are just awkward, and for as good as the aesthetic can be, I feel like it could've been notably stronger from a 2D perspective.

Have I mentioned that Donald Duck can defy gravity with sheer anger? That's kind of important.

Of course, I still haven't figured out how that would work when half the levels have you running away from the screen, but just trust me on th-Hold on, I think I forgot to explain that part. Goin' Quackers is sort of two games in one: you get some side-scrolling platformy action and some Crash Bandicoot-esque platforming action. Each one only really gives you a jump and an attack button, and fortunately, that's all you really need. Who needs complexity or "parts where you aren't just holding up on the D-pad" when you have a strong sense of rhythm and flow? I don't even really know how to put it. There's just something enjoyable about jumping from event to event in this perfect chain without losing your sense of momentum. Why did you think the cartoony style works so well with this game? All that visual variety's a really good motivator for blasting through a level as quickly as possible. It's especially strong in the Crash Bandicoot stuff, although that's not to say the side-scrolling levels don't get their share of the action. Just compare a Goin' Quackers level to its Bit.Trip Runner counterpart, and this becomes clear oh so quickly. Granted, you only see it in bits and pieces in that video, so all of this may depend on just how you approach the game.

Or maybe different levels simply dictate different approaches. For every one level that has you angrily barreling through the streets of Duckburg, there's another that asks you to slow down and take your time. (These are usually the side scrolling levels, since Donald Duck turns corners with all the grace and precision of a Hennessy kegger.) This ends up working in the game's favor, oddly enough. Rather than stepping on the faster parts' feet or simply not being good, they engage your mind and reward careful gameplay, and the game's more well-balanced as a result. And then you're collecting teddy-bears and roller-skates for some reason. Have no idea what the hell that's about. There's also......no, wait, that's really it for Goin' Quackers, but do you really need much else? The different platforming flavors on display are already good enough, and at only about 20 levels long, it's no more complex than it needs to be. What more could you want out of this? Other than Donald Duck sprouting four more wings and battling Mickey on the Moon?

Review Synopsis

  • Part of me says this game looks good. Part of me says it doesn't. I'm gonna leave a knife between them and see which one comes out the victor.
  • Remember the ABCs of gaming: Asura's Wrath, Bit.Trip Runner, Crash Bandicoot. And Donald Duck.
  • And teddy-bears. Still don't know what they're doing here.

8 Comments

Killer is Penguin.

The suave, daring, unrivaled King of Video Games. He is on an EROTIC quest to see if lesbians indeed have the goods. BEWARE, the Moon.

Now that's more like it. For those of you confused as to just what the hell I'm talking about, refer to last week's blog wherein I lamented all the crap I seem to have been stumbling into recently. Well, this week seems to break that trend with a game I unabashedly like. (I would have preferred a game I unabashedly love, but I'll take what I can get.) What did it take to break me out of my rut? A pure button-mashy combat system combined with off the walls insanity. As expected.

It also helps that the game looks amazing. I know that's a strange thing to start with, considering how I usually start with the story, but given how crazy that aspect of the game is, I think I should start with something I can actually understand. Now if there are two things that Killer is Dead loves, they'd be unicorns and mescaline; moving down the list, we eventually come to cel-shading and lighting, both of which you're going to be seeing a lot of. Half the time, you feel like Suda 51's pen exploded on all the cutscenes and he had to tell everybody that he meant to do that. (Not that I'd put it past the guy.) Surprisingly, this works in the game's favor. It all creates this very sleazy, slimy atmosphere that meshes really well with the suave, sophisticated ambiance you see in so many other areas. I don't know how these two polar opposites mesh, but rest assured, they mesh. Not vague enough for you? Well what if I told you that this art style is also very striking and simply will not let go of your attention? It's almost like you're playing a comic book. An incredibly scummy comic book.

So I guess this means Killer is Dead is actually an alternate Teen Titans timeline where Starfire cuts Robin's arm off and Slade is always letting his junk hang out.

That just so happens to make no goddamn sense whatsoever. Have I mentioned that already? I can't even divulge too many concrete details regarding the plot, not for fear of spoiling it, but because I don't have a good idea of what was going on. All I know is that there's this suave, robot-armed assassin for hire named Mondo, and he's usually tasked with killing the most insane shit possible, like a baby MODOK thing or samurai tiger Ansem. He also has a super genki schoolgirl sidekick who only seems to exist to be as annoying as hell, but I think it best we completely ignore her.

I mean, everything else in the game seems to have some kind of purpose. It may not like it at first, though, what with.....I'm not sure I can pick out an example that does this game any real justice. Anyway, as crazy as the game looks, there's still a perceptible logic underneath all the symbolism, so the game's not just being random for the sake of being random. It manages to strike a really nice balance (well, at least when it isn't taking itself too seriously for what it is), giving you one of two options: either you sit back and just soak in whatever happens to be assaulting your eyes at this very moment, or you try to figure it all out (and most likely fail).

This isn't BioShock, Mondo. That drill's completely useless.

This is very similar to what the combat's like, except for the part where they're complete opposites. In fact, allow me to describe pretty much every combat scenario in the game: bash the shit out of the enemy with the X button, throw a couple of dodges in there from time to time, and, if you're feeling particularly randy, press the Y button to make stuff happen. Not terribly complex, but then again, it doesn't have to be. It's fun as it is. The fighting is fast paced, but somehow, it's very easy to feel the weight of each behind each swing of the sword, so you end up feeling stylish and powerful at the same time. Most of the time, at least. It could just be me, but there were times where I felt like Mondo lingered around too much after a certain move and got an unfair smack to the face because of it. Now normally, this would be the part where I try to mitigate that flaw by saying it doesn't show up terribly often, but in this case, it does. Not enough to completely sour me on the combat, but definitely enough to make me at least a little more wary of it.

Same goes for all the other stuff that the developers layered on top of the combat, for some reason. Like the shooting! Not the Devil May Cry "just press a button to maintain your combo" style, but the Resident Evil 4 "manually aim and dick around" style. You know, the kind that's hard to implement without noticeably breaking the flow of combat? Especially when the aiming controls are kind of sluggish? There's also a minor experience point system that upgrades your health and blood levels periodically, but given how small these upgrades tend to be, it's hard to say just what impact any of it has on the game. Though strangely enough, that's the exact reason why all these extra bits aren't that big a problem for the game. So what if, say, the shooting isn't good? It's not like it's integral to the combat or anything. While there are times when I have to use it, they aren't exactly frequent, so it's easy to focus more on the stuff the game gets right.

Like anything not listed in this paragraph. For instance, there's a series of quickly repetitive side missions where you stare at a woman's tits when she isn't looking. The only reason I ever really bothered with them was for the side weapons which I never used, so I'm ultimately confused as to how this feature made it in here. My best guess is that the developers saw that this game was only seven hours long and decided that they were gonna need a lot more padding if they were going to justify a retail release, like they weren't that confident in what was already on display. Given what I've spent far too long saying, I can see where they're coming from. The combat could be a little bit more refined and the game is batshit fucking crazy, but neither of those things completely overshadow what the game gets right. After all, you're still playing an oddly stylish and fast-paced action game, and things are still completely batshit crazy. What's not to like about that? Especially given how many times I've seen it before.

Review Synopsis

  • Somebody forgot to tell Suda 51 that symbolism is supposed to work within a story that makes sense. We all thank you, Mysterious Forgetful Person.
  • The fighting mechanics aren't perfect, but it's hard to complain when it still allows you to slash things up like crazy. (Killer is Dead crazy.)
  • Oh, and something about sneaking a peak at some tits.

You know, I'm pretty sure you could replace Maria with Shrek and change absolutely nothing about Sonic the Hedgehog canon.

Wait a minute, this isn't that Hideo Kojima penguin game! (That's not something I made up for the sake of an introduction; Kojima's first game was actually about penguins.) Now this blog isn't gonna make any sense. Actually.....yea, this could still work. After all, you guys probably know Killer is Dead exclusively as a batshit crazy game, and if anybody knew batshit crazy, it was 90s Konami. This game is no exception, although it is considerably more terrifying than anything I've linked so far.

And that's largely because of the romance angle that dominates the game. Our story deals with three penguins in particular: a girl penguin I think is named Penta, a pimp penguin who I refuse to identify by anything other than Pimp Penguin, and the main character, who might as well be called Gunther. Pimp Penguin's an asshole and decides to date Penta behind Gunther's back, by which I mean his front. Clearly angry, our chubby little hero decides he's gonna win Penta's love and....never does, honestly. That's pretty much the entire story: Gunther tries to win Penta's love (usually by complying with unreasonable demands she makes (like flying)), only to find out she's still dating that Pimp Asshole Penguin. Depressing, isn't it?

Somewhere, somebody is fapping to this image.

Maybe all that horrific relationship nonsense simply disappears once you jump into the actual gameplay. Oh, if only video games were that idyllic. Sadly, it only gets worse, and from the most unexpected of sources: fat. For whatever reason, Konami decided to make fat a gameplay mechanic by making your penguin gain and lose weight over the course of the level, and strangely enough, that's not the depressing part. At least not yet, it isn't. Each weight rank changes how Gunther controls and what he can do, ranging from plodding belly fat Gunther to Parodius-esque ポイ-firing (at least I think it was ポイ) slim Gunther. It's pretty fun to switch between each one over the course of a level.

You know what's not fun? Imposed body dysmoprhia. See, before each level, Penta rings up Gunther and tells him specifically how much weight he needs to lose before she'll even consider getting near him. This could be a friendly reminder to eat healthy and get plenty of exercise, but then she just asks that he lose more and more weight with each level. That may sound like an extremely dangerous thing to ask of your potential lover (and, in fact, it is), but I think the bigger problem is that Gunther just keeps putting the weight back on time and time again. Presumably, Penta knows this (since she keeps asking him to lose the weight he just put on), so wouldn't it make more sense for her to convince Gunther to seek medical treatment for his problems?

You know, that'd be about my reaction to this, too.

And then, when you see healthy foods like apples causing weight gain that can only be mitigated with mystery bottles...only then do you discover what's truly going on. Those bottles? Pure ipecac. Don't you see what's going on? She doesn't care about him. She's only doing this because she gets some sort of sick thrill out of watching him puke his guts out for her affection. To her, it's just another source of entertainment in her dull life, especially since she can start the cycle anew simply by rejecting him entirely and then waiting for him to shovel enough Häagen-Dazs into his face until his obesity is morbid enough to lose even more weight than before. And she can't even hold herself to these same impossibly high standards. Fucking bitch.

Oh, right. The actual game. Fatty fat fatness aside, two things come to mind when I think about Akumu Penguin Monogatari: jumping and shooting. Those aren't so much gameplay mechanics as they are the two types of levels you'll encounter. They're two polar opposites, but amazingly, there's a very consistent level of quality between the two. The platforming is delightful and fun, the shooting is relaxed and leisurely, and neither one definitively wins over the other. I think part of that is because of the length of the game. You only get six levels of gameplay, meaning any inconsistency in the game's quality is gonna stick out like a sore thumb. This also means that the mechanics will tend to be simple, forcing the developers to focus on making the very few elements present in the game work. And guess what? They did. Except for the bulimic story, of course. I'd say that I'm surprised somebody would think that bulimia would be a strong foundation for an enjoyable game, but, well, I've definitely seen weirder.

Review Synopsis

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The screenshot ballad of Heartbreakin' Hisao Nakai. Episode 1: Sugar Milk.

Part the 一番目
←To Episode 0: The Tokimeki thread, I guess?To Episode 2: Poor Parental Cabbage→

So it's finally come to this. From that fateful day I posted my first Persona 3 FES screenshot to the site, we all knew it would eventually end with me revisiting Katawa Shoujo. Well, except for those of who have no idea what a Katawa Shoujo is. Allow me to bring you up to speed:

Katawa Shoujo? What are these words and why do they scare me at night?

I cannot understand your night terrors. However, Katawa Shoujo is a 2012 visual novel whose title loosely translates to "Disability Girls". Said title refers to the girls that our protagonist, Hisao Nakai, comes to know. Each one has their own physical disability, but there's far more to each girl than the mere fact that one of them doesn't have any arms. So very much more.

So there are multipe cha-

Yes, there's nudity, but we won't be seeing any of it. Ne'er a nipple nor 'nad will make its way into this thread. If one of the little bastards tries to sneak its way in, I'll slap a Misha head on it. (We'll learn what a Misha is soon enough.) For example:

Oh, gross! I am seriously offended by this!

But, with a little Photoshop magic...

Safe for family consumption!

Hmmmmmmm.............

I HAD TO.

Of course, if that proves insufficient, I have other strategies on the ready.

Actually, I was asking about the characters.

Oh.....Of course you were......How 'bout I just introduce you to some of them? (This isn't all of them, but since this game has more characters than Romance of the Three Fucking Kingdoms, I'm gonna keep it limited to the most important characters.)

Hisao "Babyface" Nikai

The protagonist of our story, he has been cursed with arrythmia, a painful affliction that completely destroys your rhymes and flow. Despite this, he can still be described as fly, so I see no problem in letting ShadyVox do his voice. He would've been voiced by whoever did the Katawa Seiyuu voice for Hisao if that didn't completely fucking suck.

Emi "Deckard" Ibarazaki

Oldest of the shoujos, but also the youngest looking of them all. Don't say that to her face, though. She's the type of girl who'd beat the shit out of you for saying that. Or anything, really. Doesn't take a lot to set Emi off. Voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson. Actually, you know what? Since she's a pig-tailed teenager with a friend named Rin and her legs are artificial, Emi's gonna be voiced by Hatsune Miku. SO I DECREE.

Hanako "Harlem" Ikezawa

Lost her parents to firebenders at a young age, permanently scarring her face and convincing her that we must rid the world of benders. Or maybe she just developed social anxeity. Can't quite remember the right story. At first, I thought Katey Segal should voice her, but since I can't find any decent Turanga Leela clips on YouTube, I decided on Karen Strassman, instead.

Rin "Happy Ending" Tezuka

The more artsy girl among the potential Shoujos. What she lacks in arms she makes up for in her lack of arms. Voiced by Tara Strong.

Lilly "Sugartits" Satou

Yearly winner of "Yamaku's Thickest Goddamn Eyebrows Competition". I'd say she's the team mom, given how prim and proper and above everything she is, but most people don't want to fuck their moms. Following that awkward note, she's voiced by Hynden Welch.

Shizune "My Parents are Assholes" Hakamichi

I have no idea why her left arm is fading into the darkness.

Anyway, My Parents are Assholes. The head of the student council, she rules with an iron fist. None will stand in the way of her ruthless conquest. NONE! I'd find it fitting to have Tara Platt voice her, but Shizune's deaf/mute, so that's not happening. Instead, she'll be voiced by Ellen McLain.

(Actually, there's something I have to tell you about Shizune. She speaks entirely in brackets, because that's how sign language works. This isn't a joke on my part; it's actually something in the game. Yea, premature spoilers, but it's just easier to get this out of the way. Anyway, brackets in the thread, too.)

Shiina "Misha" Mikado

..........Shit. Shizune's interpreter, she compensates for Shizune's silence by being as loud as humanly possible. (Also, her genitals smell of cabbage. Probably.) Therefore, I find it appropriate that she will be voiced by Amber Nash.

Miki "Shalashaska" Miura

I only know two things about this girl: she's on the running team, and she's missing a hand. (Presumably, the two events are related.) Unfortunately, she doesn't get her own route. Hell, as of writing this, she doesn't even have her own page on the site. What the fuck!? All she really gets is a speaking role in Hanako's route. Yes, Hanako's. I have absolutely no clue why. Voiced by Patric Zimmerman.

Debora "Sir Not Appearing in this Thread" Ludman
Too bad, too. I'm sure you guys would've loved her.
Kenji "I Am The Tropes" Setou

Imagine if Dale Gribble traveled to Japan and decided to fuck a Doctor Who cardboard cutout, and you have a pretty good idea of what Kenji is like. (What's Doctor Who doing in Japan? FEMINIST CONSPIRACY!) Voiced by Billy West. Obviously.

The Nurse

OK, honestly. What could I tell you about this guy that you can't glean from his name? He's really only relevant in Emi's route, making the scant cameo in every other route. (Except Shizune's, for some reason.) Voiced by Eric Stuart.

Professor Mutou

One of two teachers in the entire game, he teaches Hisao the arts of sci-wait, I think I had this guy as my college professor. Let's just give him Justin Roiland's voice and move right along.

Yuuko

The extremely nervous librarian and restaurant hostess. Given my trend of referencing previous blogs, she's probably going to date a ghastly beast of a man very soon. Or maybe she's dating a demon. Or maybe she works for demons. Or maybe she is a demon. Who can say? Voiced by Steve Little.

Akira Satou

Lilly's older sibling. Works as a lawyer. Sort of like Phoenix Wright if he had a great set of tits. That's right: this lawyer's all woman. As such, she will be voiced by whoever the hell voiced Naoto Shirogane. Oh, fuck it. Laura Bailey.

I've heard that this game features multiple routes and endings, too. Will you introduce some unnecessarily strange time travel element to tie them all together into one cohesive narrative thread?

You bet your ass I will!

One cohesive forum thread, too?

Oddly enough, no. This thing is going to be massive, and collecting it all in one thread would destroy browsers the world over. Instead, I'm going to split things up based on route. New route, new thread.

I should also mention that I'm going to be going double speed. That might negate the browser thing from before, but it's for the best. I don't want to spend twelve updates doting on Rin peeling an orange.

Oh. Well, do we at least get to choose what order you go through the game?

Sadly, no. This mess of a feature is only going to make sense if I go through it a certain way, and that way I shall go. (It's not the order I put in the banner or the character table, by the way. I'm not that obvious.) Besides, since when did Kings support democracy? Come on, you guys.

Fuck you, man! I'm gonna make my own screenshot thread! With blackjack, and hookers!

Go ahead. The game's a free download. Or you can stay here and watch an expert do it.

Also, I think I've hit my quota for Futurama references today. Let's get this party started.

"Why I chose to come out here in the middle of winter is beyond me."
"Really beginning to question why I'm out here."
With a U...even if that doesn't make a lot of sense.
That's what we in the biz call "foreshadowing".
You've GOT to work on your pick-up lines, man.
That's going to explain a lot.
Then why is this introduction so loquacious?
Iwanako gets a lightning bolt in the chest in 3, 2...
"......I knew I should've chosen another vessel for Grima."
"And I'm still face down in the snow."
Good to know.
You know, I probably should've mentioned his serious heart condition at some point. I guess I forgot when I saw that heavy reading tires him out.
You get it?
*breaks out in horribly cruel laughter* The best part? The game freezes on this exact shot, so you can appreciate it in all its glory.
Pissier than a diuretic? You better believe it!
I give him three updates, tops.
He spends about four lines on this gate. That's too long for gates.
That smug fucking gate. Why can't you leave Babyface alone?
First update in, and the characters already know they're in a screenshot thread. This is going swimmingly.
"I collapsed in tears when confronted with that painting. Again."
I'm highly skeptical of any situation where Haru-he Suzumiya is considered "normal".
Gang signs.
Tell them about the gate. They'll fucking eat it up.
Hisao flashed actual gang signs at her. Awkwardness ensued.
"Vegan food? WHAT THE HELL'S THIS BULLSHIT!?" (Also, Super Mario All Stars voices echo throughout the cafeteria, for some reason.)
You know, the normal questions to ask when you go to a new school.
It's 1 in the afternoon. That's FAR too early to be hitting the bottle.
Natural reaction.
I'm imagining something like Dead or Alive Xtreme if over half the characters were extremely uncomfortable being there.
That includes Shizune.
And have I mentioned how uncomfortable I am in this guy's introduction? See if you can spot why.
I'm already starting to miss Tokimeki High.
Maybe not. You'd better not be related to demons, Bespectacled Boy.
But I can't see him, and he still looks stupid.
Only one of those is in this screenshot.
Hicchan? Isn't that Misha's nickname for Hisao?.....I don't want to think about it.
"Where did I put that porn? I know I packed i....Oh no. Mom and Dad found it while they were unpacking, didn't they? I suddenly realize what a long semester I'm in for."
Hisao Nakai: put him in your mouth.
And then he died. The end.

101 Comments

A Mario Party where nobody gets laid.

The suave, daring, unrivaled King of Video Games. He is on an EROTIC quest to see if lesbians indeed have the goods. BEWARE, the Moon.

Oh god. This is the third straight week of crap. For three straight weeks, it's been nothing but mediocrity and averageness. When shall I be freed of this crap? WHEN!? But at least this time, I get some potentially redeemable crap. Now don't get me wrong; this game still has a lot of issues it needs to deal with. Yet underlying all those issues are some genuinely good ideas that I could see working in another game. Of course, on top of all those good ideas are some baffling design decisions that knowingly transform the overall product into an unenjoyable mess. This is almost like the Zelda CD-i games, except....no, that's pretty much it.

Right down to my ability to count this game's budget on a single finger. This one, to be specific. Every single element in this game's design feels completely cheap and heartless and just unappealing. For instance, listen to the music. Can you feel the lack of effort put into that song? Assuming this song makes you feel anything, that is? I have to imagine the composer spent more time listening to that song than he did actually writing it. And this is a track I can remember, which should tell you just what impressions the other tracks left on me. But at least the music left an impression on me, which is more than I can (or will) say for the mediocre voice work.

"Her righteous fury will cleanse this land of all the filthy sinners. BATHE US IN YOUR GLORIOUS FLAME!"

Fortunately, there's always the option to mute the TV and avoid that altogether, an option that you won't have with the graphics. If you thought the music sounded cheap, just look at the game. No, seriously, look at it. I've seen origami with more organic design than that. It doesn't look much better in motion, either. If you're not seeing a canned animation with little relevance to the situation, you're seeing a character flap their mouth open and shut while their puppet-master talks about dreams or whatever. Put it all together, and you get an inexpressive, completely dead looking game that doesn't mesh well with the fun board game vibes you see in other parts of the game. The occasional CG cutscenes are better, even if it isn't by much. They never find a perfect balance between 2D and 3D imagery, so they just end up looking awkward.

But perhaps it's the story that suffers the most from such a lack of investment. Yes, this game has a story, because somehow, you need to explain why Sonic and his friends are running around an exploding airplane. Surprisingly, the story fails so horribly on that account that it actually makes this situation less clear than it would have been otherwise. We start off with Sonic and friends being abducted into another dimension by FOX Kids cartoon reject Lumina Flowlight. She must save her world and reunite the Precioustones, and I guess she needs help from the Sonic Universe. I said "I guess" because they have to introduce themselves to her, implying that she just captured four people at random to help fight her war. And nobody's even remotely angry or bothered by this.

There's also the Sonic Room to mess around with, in case you thought this franchise wasn't enough Hitchcock for your tastes.

And this is all before the game actually begins. Once story meets game, it all falls violently apart. Perfect example: the entire goddamn premise. Each map has our four intrepid heroes competing against each other to....I'm not sure why. They're just dropped into the world and told to have at it, really. Then again, Lumina clearly knows where the Precioustones are (she points you right to them) and there's not much stopping her from grabbing them herself, so she could simply be an asshole. And speaking of assholes, Dr. Robotnik's here. Did he get pulled in to this alternate dimension, too? Is he gonna harvest the power of the Precioustones for his own nefarious purposes? Who gives a shit about pressing questions like that? We've got some boring, shallow, and ultimately meaningless platitudes about dreams or whatever to launch at you. Man, did the developers even bother with this game?

Yes, they did. The strange twist, though, is that the game's best ideas are what cause so many of its problems. Of course, by ideas, I pretty much only mean one: card-based movement. Each player chooses a card to determine just how far they move, and while everybody's drawing from a common pool, you can only see your personal collection of cards at any one time. For now, at least, this works in the game's favor. It brings a sense of competition and strategy, both of which allow for some fun moments. I mean, it's not much, but it's still enough to make the game entertaining. And it only gets better when you're using those same cards to battle for the Precioustones. Something about a competitive community feeling; I don't know. On the other hand, a lot of this only applies to multiplayer. In single player, your cards are always on display for everybody to see. Combine this with AI that doesn't bother hiding what a cheating bastard it is, and the feature feels designed specifically to screw you over.

Oh, trust me: it doesn't make any more sense as time goes on.

However, there are much larger problems that the cards bring to this game, such as a really goddamn boring sense of order. A good board game often has a sense of unpredictability to keep the game exciting and ensure that no two sessions are completely alike; Sonic Shuffle fails on both accounts. Remember that card movement from before? Turns out it loses some appeal when you start every player on the exact same space. What's to prevent everybody from just making a beeline straight for the Precioustone? What's to stop the game from becoming completely flat and one-dimensional? Map design? At one point, that might have been a legitimizing factor if the maps didn't feel so....similar, and the unique elements on each map aren't important enough to change this. Honestly, time seems like the best thing that can happen for the game. Over the course of a single game, the sense of order slowly dissolves and chaos has its day, but the key word in that last clause is "slowly". I doubt a lot of players are going to have the patience to slog through a boring first half for the promise of a more exciting second half.

There are also mini-games to consider, but they jump too far toward the other extreme. The overwhelming majority of them feel like they boil down to luck, yet very rarely because of some design flaw. Sure, control and perspective and explanation issues certainly make the mini-games harder to enjoy, but.......what was my point, again? All I know is that most of the mini-games are luck-based by design. Perfect example: a mini-game where Eggman shakes up a can of soda (did I mention he's a petty asshole?) and places it alongside non-shaken cans everybody has to pick from (did I mention that the characters are fucking idiots?). That's all there is to it: pick a can and let the game declare a winner. Joy.

But there's more to the mini-games than this. To be fair, there are some that let you control your fate and require an actual degree of skill. Then again, a lot more are just fucking tag. You know what, though? You don't see these mini-games as often as you'd think, so it's not like they completely diminish this game's value. It's perfectly easy to ignore them while you're watching chunky Sonic characters dash straight toward the exact same spot on the board, all set against a story that makes things more confusing than they ever needed to be.....This game has a lot more to fix than I'd previously imagined.

Review Synopsis

  • This game's aesthetic is so cheap..........Oh, I don't have a joke to close that off. I just want you to know that it's really cheap.
  • "Quick! We must save Maginaryworld from the evil forces of Void. But first, could you tell me your names? Hopefully while you're all fighting each other?"
  • But at least there's the game to look forward to.....sort of......not really......

Well, we have the indiscriminate mouth flapping and the mediocre story part down. All that's separating this video and Sonic Shuffle is a scene where Sonic is hanging out with his own super-self, somehow.

It's not gonna be this week. Maybe next week, but not this one. Now before I actually explain what makes the game bad, I should point out that, being the lonely bastard I am, I didn't even bother with the multiplayer, so this game might actually be worth playing if you're around other people. On your own, though? This game could hardly give a shit about your pathetic existence. It won't even make the slightest effort to engage you or make sure you're having a good time.

Although to be fair, I can't imagine the characters in the game are having much fun, either. Those of you familiar with the game are probably confused and wasting your time reading about games you've already played. After all, the game's just about collecting random bric-a-brac that fell from the sky. What's so bad about that? So very much. So very goddamn much. For instance, half the characters are very obviously gambling addicts. You don't even know them in any other context than that. So as the hero, your job is to help them overcome this addiction, right? Nope. It's actually to exploit it for your own personal gain and leave them in shambles. What do you care that they're now forced to live in a refrigerator box? It's not like you have to pay for your crimes or anything. The police require your help to solve every case that comes their way; they're completely powerless to arrest you for your horrible crimes.

And that's not even getting into Peach's absolutely disturbing bloodlust.

That includes sending other to die in your place. Did I fail to mention that? You'll encounter many a character willing to duel you, but none of them ever fight you personally. Instead, they get somebody else to fight in their place. These are often the most violent mini-games in the bunch, so I can only assume this is a Roman gladiator-esque scenario, where the rich enslave the poor (usually Luigi) so they can die for their own amusement. Bowser has this particular atrocity down to an art, as some mini-games require you to murder a set number of his children. A number he himself set. How did Mario get to be such a thoroughly depressing experience? Hell, even the game's tagline is depressing. "Party on the Go"? What kind of hectic, coked out life are you leading that you can't even settle down for a few minutes and party in one place? Would a person who "parties on the go" even have a home in which they could safely party?

Maybe I'm just reading that line wrong. Maybe it means the party itself is on the go, as in "it is no longer present in this game." At least that's the impression I got from the single player mode. Mario Party Advance has could not care less whether or not you were enjoying the game. Its idea of engagement is sending you from location to location with only the occasional mini-game. I know that sounds offensively reductive, but that's really all there is to the quest structure. I'd say that it wastes time, but that implies that somebody could tease a purpose out of this. It's nothing but meaningless, menial busy work. The actual quests in particular really illustrate this point. I know I mentioned half of them simply ferrying you around the map while the game tries to think of something enjoyable, but that's only half the story. The other half is the game testing your basic math and reasoning skills, and I do mean basic. Most of the questions might as well be "What's 1+1" or "What color is red". You know, the insultingly simple kind of crap that doesn't even remotely bother to challenge or entertain you. And this goes on for 50 goddamn quests. How? Why?

Well, at least the mini-games are decent enough. Yes, they're usually very simple, but unlike before, this is a good thing. It means that I can jump straight into a mini-game relatively quickly and effortlessly. Yet more importantly, that simplicity doesn't prevent the mini-games from actually grabbing my attention. They still require some level of skill on my part, and there's enough meaningful variety throughout to make me actually want to play these mini-games rather than simply put up with them. I guess the vibrant, whimsical charm throughout is a cherry on top of the sundae. Of course, said sundae is itself a cherry atop a grilled cheese sandwich that hasn't even been grilled. So if you're thinking of playing this game, maybe you should ask yourself this question: "Would I eat a cheese sandwich after somebody poured some ice cream on it?" If your answer was "Yes", then you're probably five years old and shouldn't be reading this blog.

Review Synopsis

  • "Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle! Caving a man's skull in with a baseball bat while Chain Chomp watches in approval........."
  • "But before you go, could you remind me what comes after the letter A?"
  • And then this is the part where I play a mini-game instead.
16 Comments

Japanese, but in essentially the same way.

The suave, daring, unrivaled King of Video Games. He is on an EROTIC quest to see if lesbians indeed have the goods. BEWARE, the Moon.

I haven't even begun writing this blog, and already, I'm getting severe nostalgia pangs. Not for my last blog; that would be premature. Instead, my nostalgia is taking me back to my Koudelka blog from a couple of months ago. Remember how that game proved that Resident Evil-style gameplay doesn't mesh well with RPG mechanics?

Well, Onimusha proves that it doesn't mesh well with action game mechanics, either. Unless you happen to be Devil May Cry.....or Resident Evil 4. But those games worked because of how heavy they were on the action mechanics. If you're Onimusha, you hedge a lot closer to the Resident Evil formula than those other games ever did, introducing concepts that have no Earthly/Moonly business being anywhere close to a combat-heavy action game.

She's reading this review and realizing she's a part of it.

And B movie corniness. Have I mentioned that? Our story begins with a pervasive bug fetish that's never quite explained. Moving right along, we find out that a princess has been captured by demons. Or Nobunaga. Or maybe both. Who's to say? Now it's up to you, bland samurai Samanosuke, to rescue her from evil. Oh, and some fire demons give you a magic gauntlet early on for barely explored reasons, and all the demons have European names despite being in a Japanese setting. Are you getting a sense for what the story's like? If not, let me spell it out clearly: it's ridiculous, over the top, and probably not doing any of that on purpose. Every time I was confronted with a dumb flaw in this game, it felt less like Capcom capitalizing on Onimusha's potential campiness and more like the result of incompetent design. For instance, Samanosuke reading somebody else's lines.

Also, the horrible lip syncing. I'm not even convinced the animators were even trying to match the voice work. From what I remember, characters would flap their mouths open when words were being spoken, but would make no attempt to match those flaps to their vocalizations. (I'm aware that my emulating this might have something to do with it, but it perform much better on an actual console, for what it's worth.) Now this could possibly be redeemed if placed in a comedic context, maybe by noticeably drawing attention to itself or by dragging out the flaps long past the characters speaking (or long before, too). You know, just one little thing that would let me know the developers meant to include this in the game. If it's in there, I didn't see it. I only saw characters performing mouth exercises while telepathically communicating their poorly translated messages.

It's hard to tell if this is racist or just mediocre visual design, so why not split the difference?

Oh, did I mention the translation? Turns out it isn't good. Half the time, the script reads like the translators went out of their way to screw things up. Take this line very early in the game. She's not asking that somebody try to understand something; she's acknowledging that she understands something. From what little I understand of English, the proper term would be "understood". The same as it would be in Japanese. This isn't the type of thing that gets lost in translation; it's the type of thing that's left alone in the unfamiliar woods during translation. Of course, this is only the bottom of the barrel. The rest of the time, the incompetence is the result of unintended mistakes. Other people may find some value in said mistakes, but I sure as hell certainly didn't.

Normally, this would be the part where I transition into something positive about the game. But first, I need to get the puzzles out of the way, for two reasons. First, they're absolutely everywhere. While there were parts of the game where I wasn't fighting demons, there was nary a time when I wasn't solving a puzzle. They're (presumably) Onimusha's pride and joy, something that is much harder to understand when you consider reason the second: they have no good reason for existing. Half of them amount to "go grab this item from somewhere" (one of them being a load of misleading tripe), and the other half are insanely cryptic nonsense that make no effort to integrate themselves into the world. Not the most engaging material, is it? How did these puzzles even come to be? Demons clearly can't be responsible, as I doubt demons would refurbish an entire building with arcane locks and number puzzles. I'd doubt the Japanese people living there, too, but, well, they did design the puzzles in this game.

"When a man and a woman both get each other VERY drunk..."

Although to be fair, that may be the result of this game very clearly aping Resident Evil than the result of its own design. It's just a thoroughly awkward fit that even drags down systems that otherwise might have been satisfactory. Like the combat. The first thing I noticed about it was perhaps its most important aspect. No analog controls. OK, there are analog controls when aiming the bow you get later in the game, but if you want to move, it's just the tank controls of the D-pad. How clumsy and ill fit for combat. But don't worry! The game will sort of automatically lock on to enemies for you, making precise movement less necessary than it would have been otherwise. Granted, this makes it a little difficult to interact with enemies you're not locked onto, but....wait, what's the redeeming factor, again? This auto lock-on only flattens the combat and robs it of depth it might otherwise have. Why bother with combos or involved enemy patterns when most of them fall to a sluggish "bash, bash, bash"? Why even have those features in the first place? Now they may not have worked in lieu of Onimusha's other design choices, but that should probably tell you when something isn't a good idea.

But that's not to say that the game has no good ideas. You get a few weapons to switch out during combat, all of them playing very similarly........Bad example. A much better example would be the magic tied to those weapons. These actually are noticeably different, with their own individual quirks, so there's at least some strategy in using them. The story also has brief periods where you switch from Samanosuke to his poorly translated partner Kaede, so at least there's that to keep things from becoming too repetitive. Yet is any of this enough to alleviate any of the game's much larger problems? Of course it isn't! This is still an action game jammed into a format that won't ever allow action games. Who even thought this was a good idea in the first place?

You've gotta be shitting me.

Review Synopsis

  • Thank you Samanosuke! But our princess is in...the exact same castle, really.
  • She's just hidden behind a ton of bullshit puzzles.
  • And combat that could be much better than it ends up being.
  • Fun fact: Onimusha loosely translates to something like "Demon Warrior". Man, how I wish the title was Insect Warrior, instead.

Note to self: play Space Channel 5 one of these days. And remember to make a Pingas joke during it.

Maybe I should've been nostalgic for seven days ago after all. This is essentially my last blog in reverse and also upside down. I begin with a bad samurai game and wrap things up with a fairly good ninja game...sort of. If we're looking at Ninja Spirit in terms of gameplay, then it would only fare somewhat better than Onimusha up there. But this isn't "Compelling Gameplay Spirit", is it? This is "Ninja Spirit", and damn you if you don't feel the spirit of a ninja flowing through your very being as you play this game.

But it won't be because you're playing the game, if that makes any sense. At its best, the game is competent; at its worst, it's wonky and lacking depth. I think this is best explained with your ninja jump. You know how a lot of fiction depicts the deadly ninja leaping through the air with the utmost grace and control? Throw that shit out the window right now, because the particular ninja you're controlling is a finicky little bastard who stubbornly resists your every attempt to control his jumps. Oh, he'll move in another direction mid-jump, but only very little and after thinking about it over a cup of tea. It can be annoying in the game's tenser situations, like the boss battles, but not by enough to hold it against the game too much. Besides, how can you hold the jumping against Ninja Spirit when you can leap twelve times your own height? Who wouldn't love something that ludicrous? There's also combat, but what do I even say about it? You can slash with reasonable accuracy, and there a few decent power-ups to mess around with. Basic stuff, really, like an extra hit or a more powerful attack or ninja clo-wait, those are amazing. But ninja clones and their madness aside, the combat's simply OK. Not bad, but not outstanding, either.

I'm pretty sure this is all the story the game gives you, and you really only see it for about all of half a second. Let that tell you just where this game's priorities lie.

This is most unlike the game's application of its own mechanics, which hedge more toward the "not outstanding" clause. The vast majority of the game's seven-ish levels amount to moving forward and slashing enemies. Sometimes, you get an enemy that can withstand multiple hits and must be avoided, but for the most part, you'll plow through both enemies and levels relatively quickly. That's probably why I feel so disconnected from the levels: there's not much to them other than running to the finish line. This isn't enough material for an entire game, so it's no surprise that it eventually becomes repetitive. (Not as fast as you'd imagine, mind you, but still, it gets there.) If this is sounding overly reductive, blame the game's utterly random layouts. They just make it so hard to be anything but reductive. Discounting a few areas near the end, the levels simply drop enemies around you on a whim. No rhyme or reason to any of it; just baddies to kill for their own sake. Of course, "for their own sake" becomes a weak explanation when emerging the victor amounts to pressing button 2, so I feel less like I'm accomplishing something and more like I'm simply occupying time.

Until we throw ninja elements into the mix, that is. Turns out a game's a lot more fun when you buy into the whole "ninja" thing. The graphics are partly responsible for this. The way they announce their presence and draw attention to themselves makes it easy to get in the mood. However, I'd say a lot more of it's simply down to the scenarios you're flying through. Remember what I said about the levels just being flat expanses of nothing that throw enemies at you for no reason? Set that in a forest you can jump around, and suddenly, it all makes sense. Ninjas besetting you upon all sides, jumping from tree to tree and slashing just as often, it's all just very easy to enjoy. And that's just one level. Imagine what kind of ninja trickery the others throw you into. Hell, it even gets some stuff right that I never knew I wanted. I don't think anybody can say that they ever anticipated Werewolf Ninja, but that's the game's whole premise. A ninja dies and then presumably becomes a werewolf. Could you ever ask for anything more?

Review Synopsis

  • Mother
  • fucking
  • ninja. That is all.
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