Let us once again celebrate my birth!.......That's really all there is to say, isn't there? You post congratulations for my emergence from a vagina, we all eat cake, and everyone shares a good laugh. EXCEPT NOT THIS TIME. I aim to interrupt these traditions with a gift of my own. To you. Specifically, the gift of my not-so-glorious voice in my first ever video review. It seems as good a time as any, and we probably need something to make this an actual milestone. Anyway, on with the show.
And so goes anoth-wait, is this from the Saira people? Well, it turns out it was a person, not people. Anyway, it's pretty striking how completely different these games are. You might even call them exact opposites. For instance, remember how Saira looked kinda crap but had decent gameplay to make up for it? (Of course you don't! I'm the only person who played it, and nobody read the damn blog.) Well, NightSky is exactly the same, except it isn't.
Right down to the graphics, which are as good as Saira's were bad.......NightSky looks good, is what I'm saying. I don't even really know how to praise it without turning you off. The game combines the color black with almost nothing else, but again, I should state that this is a good thing. There's something of a calming effect to it, as there's nothing but you and the game. I could carry on and tell you how crisp, minimalist, striking, and other nice words NightSky is, but I'll just leave it at "artistically, this is one of the best games I've played since BIT.TRIP Runner". (Let's just say that I've been playing quite a few good looking games this year.)
But here's the thing: it's very hard to carry a game on graphics alone, since gameplay problems are going to shine through anyway. (This includes graphics that are artistically good in addition to technically good.) Need an example? NightSky. It's a physics puzzler thing where you move right. That's pretty much it. You get two directions to move in, two buttons, three screens per level, and not a whole lot else. Think the level design itself is going to make up for that? Let me set the scene: I beat the first level without pressing a button or even paying attention. Now, not all the levels are like this. I'll get into it more later, but some of them require some actual thought, and predictably, these are usually the most fun. Unfortunately, there aren't enough of these. There are just too many levels where you really don't have to do a lot to get through them. Pardon the pun, but it's simply going through the motions.
Don't get me wrong; the game has plenty of ideas. It's just that it never really does anything with them. NightSky lives on novelty, and will abandon a concept as soon as it's discovered. For instance, VEHICLES! You're no longer playing as a ball; you're driving a-no, wait, you're a ball again. Forget the vehicles. Now remember them, because we're interested with them again. To be fair, though, the vehicles are fun to use in the brief time that you actually use them. Each one has its own strange logic, and a lot of the fun is simply in figuring out how you're supposed to make them move. The problem is that that's all there is to the levels. No puzzles or anything; just figuring out something over the span of a few seconds. And that's the most thought NightSky gives to...well, anything, really. Anything else, like the secrets (just a secret repeated a lot) or the rapid fire length of the levels, only demands about a second of attention. It's almost like ol' Nifflas couldn't figure out what he wanted to do with the new toys he discovered.
Or maybe he just didn't have a lot of control over these toys in the first place. That's not really a comment on the controls (they're iffy, but otherwise get the job done), but more a comment on the double-edged sword that is a physics puzzler like this. That's as close as the game comes not only to focusing on something for more than a second, but also the closest the game comes to drawing me in. No longer can I beat a couple of levels with the window minimized in the background. These new levels require me to study the level design in just the right way...and then completely destroy it all in the process. This is sort of where the game falls apart....yet again. Why bother going for the difficult solution that the level designer planned out when you can simply rely on cheap exploits like leaping over the entire level? Maybe that's where the appeal of the game lies, but for me, it felt too much like I was cheating the game. It's more or less the wrong way to work my brain, which makes it all the more depressing that this is the best aspect of the game. Well, aside from the graphics, but I have to imagine you could replicate that through YouTube. Hey, guess how I'm going to end this part of the blog?
Wow! What a great looking game!
Wow! What an absolutely nothing else!
This is it. This is the week where I show you guys the song that launched Nanako'Sho's career...behind a link. Because there are some people out there who somehow don't know what Nanako'Sho is.
Oh man, it's not often that you get to see Sonic bust out the starry eyes for a recommendation. Well, except for almost a month ago (I'm not linking that again), but that simply means I've been playing a few amazingly good games lately. Yes, I'm aware of the emphasis. It simply means that you're in for a game I'll pester you for not playing...and possibly a blog that's bad enough to compensate for the game's goodness, since I have a lot of trouble thinking up serious flaws and criticisms for the game.
I'd try challenging myself by listing off flaws right at the start, but since I'm almost certain you don't know how the game is played, these complaints would make no sense. No, this isn't a golf game....well, it sort of is, but the goal isn't to suck up Tiger Woods and gain his powers. Instead, you get a few enemies on the course, and a certain amount of shots with which to kill them all. This is where I'd sarcastically say something like, "Because that's exactly what golf needed: more violence", but it turns out that's exactly what it needs. It adds so much strategy to the game, lining up your shots to bounce off the walls perfectly and applying just the right spin to get around that dickhead tree or whatever. And that's just to finish the hole without dying (presumably from shame). Don't get me started on winning medals or a hole in one or any of the other extra stuff. You have to fucking earn that hole in one, which probably explains why the screenshot I used wasn't my own. And this stuff only gets more co-
Why are you cowering in the corner? I'm going to assume it's because I'm scaring you with all these gameplay mechanics to manage, and not because I can see you from across space and presumably time. Don't worry, though; the game's not that hard to pick up. Hell, if you want to relax a bit with Kirby, go right ahead. Each hole takes, what, a couple of minutes if you like to be really careful? And it's not like the concepts the game's dealing with are terribly overwhelming. You get two buttons to interact with the ball, and aiming amounts to holding left or right. That's really it. And if that's still not enough, you also get some cute little cinematics to help teach you the more advanced stuff. Granted, a lot of them come long after you've figured them out for yourself, but the important thing is that the game has them. That way, you can toss aside basic understanding and get to the meatier strategy stuff I was talking about before. It's probably the rare type of game that can balance the things that Kirby's Dream Course balances, and this game is exactly that type of game.
Wait, I think I forgot to mention the power-ups, because this game totally has them. I'd talk about them in more detail, but what more could I say that I haven't said before? Just take the "the tactics, man" tone from a couple of paragraphs ago, get it caught in some type of electrical fire, and you have a good understanding of how the power-ups work. The only exception is the UFO, whose only purpose is to make the level designers cry. That UFO turns any course into a two step process of aim at the UFO and then just steer toward your targets, because fuck strategy. Fortunately, the UFO only comes up very late in the game, so it doesn't hamper the experience too much. But man, what does it say about Kirby's Dream Course that this is the most significant fault I could find with it? (I'd say the only fault, but isometry and a final boss greet us both.) It says that I'm probably going to creep the shit out of you for not having played it, yet.
Apparently, combining golf, pinball, and murder results in something fantastic.
Mainly because it leads to a ton of strategy and accessibility.
Oh, it only seems like yesterday that I briefly talked about this game in haiku form. In reality it was....seriously? Three years ago? How have I kept this up for so long? Anyway, if you can get past the insulting tone, you'll notice that I played a lot of games for that haiku thing. The reality is that I only played them for as long as it took me to write a haiku. This time, though, I went all the way with Sonic Adventure 2, and I have to say that my opinion has only changed a little. You want a game filled with the stupidest goddamn things imaginable? Sonic Adventure 2 is for you. Do you want a game that plays well? Cover the #2 with your hand and pretend you're playing the first game.
But speaking of Sonic Adventure 1, remember the wackyfaces there? Well, Sonic Adventure 2 also has wacky faces, but in a different way. Rather than have mouths twist and contort into weird shapes, you're getting stuck with Cro-Magnon brows and these weird monkey slit mouths. It's really hard to describe through text. Like maybe everybody's permanently doing some kissy duck face? And don't get me started on the humans, because I don't have a lot to say about them. They just look weird. I'd say all of this is distracting and makes it hard to take the story seriously, but was there ever really a chance of that happening? Half the cutscenes are Betty Boop plotting with a clitoris-nosed man who can only speak in grumbling whispers, and the other half are Knuckles generally having a poor voice actor, too.
And that's not even getting into the content of the story. It all begins with Sonic being arrested and jumping out of a prison helicopter. The game assumes you're playing the dark scenario first, which has its own weird moments (like convincing me to find the words "Return of Jafar" on the box somewhere), but I started with the Hero path and found out the main problem with concurrent storylines: they have to bend and contort in the strangest ways to interact in any meaningful way, logic be damned. Perfect example: Sonic breaks out of confusing imprisonment, snowboards down a busy street, only to be chased by the world's least practical semi truck for reasons that are only explained after the fact. Surprisingly, the game gets dumber from here. Characters will just appear in random locations without motivation or reason (Sonic especially); the villains want to destroy the world until they suddenly don't; Star Trek is referenced in the stupidest way imaginable; and for whatever reason, Amy has a role in the story. Don't worry, though. For the most part, this is the good, "we don't take ourselves too seriously" kind of dumb, not the "we can't write a good story to save our lives" kind of dumb. Hell, that's partly why I was able to put up with the game's more melodramatic bullshit from time to time: I can just laugh it off instead of simply groaning in pain. To be fair, there are moments in the story where I do groan in pain, like when Shadow quite literally calls himself cool, but thankfully, such moments are few and far between.
In the story. In the actual game, though.....well, that is the game: groaning in pain. Why is that? Well, Sonic Adventure 2 combines speed with an utter lack of control. I mean, if you ignore the controls (why you'd do that, I don't know), the game knows its shit. The levels are complex enough to demand your attention from time to time, but for the most part, simple enough that you don't need to do much in them. I know that doesn't sound like the most enthusiastic of recommendations, but that's really the best way to approach a speed-based game like this. It certainly isn't about the gameplay. It's about going really fast and seeing things blast by you. As long as the game can deliver on that, that's all that matters, and all the loops and chase sequences and different loops in this game certainly deliver.
Wait a minute, that's not all that matters. I mean, you still need to be able to play the damn game, and this is where Sonic Adventure 2 crashes face-first into the wall, resulting in a bloody mess. Don't get me wrong; as long as you hold forward, for the most part, you'll be fine. But then there are those times you have to turn. Sadly, both Sonic and Shadow make wider turns than the 914 wheeler you have to avoid early in the game, resulting in a litany of pointless deaths. This makes it impossible to have fun with the speed. You can't get lost in the moment when there's a very good chance the game's going to kill you. You're just going to be too careful and fidgety around any sort of challenge to get any enjoyment out of the game. Hell, I broke down into a sobbing mess whenever I was forced to use the light speed dash because of how many times it broke on me and resulted in a dead hedgehog. The only way I could be coaxed out of this hysteria would be if the game got rid of the controls (like in the last paragraph) or the speed (like in the next). Just anything to make me forget about all the dead hedgehogs.
This probably explains why the best parts of the game have almost nothing to do with speed. That doesn't explain why these portions aren't particularly good, either. The worst offender of the two (there are only three modes of gameplay, and I've just finished explaining one of them) are the stages where you have to find the pieces of the Master Emerald. On paper, they sound perfectly fine: here's an environment to explore and some sort of radar system for finding your whatevers. Find those whatevers. But for whatever reason, it just doesn't work. Maybe it's because the environments are fucking huge and lacking in direction. Maybe it's the fact the radar only applies to one Emerald piece at a time, and only within five feet of the damn things......No, it's more the lack of direction. Not even a hint system could save these confusing levels, although that may be because the hint system isn't particularly good in the first place.
But you make it through these confusing levels, and maybe even some Sonic ones, and eventually come upon the mech portions. Don't get your hopes up. You just walk forward and blast any robot that's in your way. Repeat until the level just ends. Nothing particularly awesome about it, but nothing offensive, either. Sure, the aiming's a tad iffy, but coming off Knuckles, these portions seem focused and penetrable. At their worst, they're a mindless distraction from the game proper. There's also some Chao stuff, if you're into animal abuse (I am), but who the shit comes to Sonic Adventure 2 for the Chao? You come here for the hedgehogs on the cover and an adventure delivered at sonic speeds. Too bad the loose controls completely prevent that from ever being fun or enjoyable. I imagine the other features could make up for this if they were genuinely good instead of laughably dumb.
But you know what? I'm willing to forgive this game of all its flaws for one very simple reason. No, it's not the music (which is good) or the graphics (which aren't), but for the simple fact that Big the Cat was brought to justice. When I first saw him in Prison Island, I simply thought he was imprisoned for his crimes against existence, but the reality is far more beautiful than that could ever be. He'll reappear in other levels, which may sound worse, but understand that he is always suffering. His existence is one where he is endlessly reincarnated into the living world, only to suffer eternally, whether by drowning, asphyxiation, or simply gazing upon the sweet release of death he shall never enjoy. Do you really need anything else, knowing you'll get everything you could ever want in this simple feature?
This is about the quality we're dealing with with these cutscenes.
The Sonic and Shadow portions control exactly how you'd expect a super fast hedgehog to control: unrealistic and probably not ending well.
Oh, and there are other modes that exist and stuff.
This was supposed to be it. This was supposed to be the week that I revealed the origins of Nanako'Sho. But then I found this mildly amusing video. So next week, then.
I just now got the joke. Acrobat. Until now, I simply thought he was an athletic rodent and the game was kind enough to point that out......You do realize that I have absolutely nothing to say about this game, right? At least not anything you didn't already know. Well, except for one minor detail: this isn't a bad game. A poster-boy for what's wrong with mascot games, maybe, but not a bad game. More just incredibly average and hard to write about.
Part of that is because there's no story, or at least none that I can parse out. I don't even have a basic idea of what I'm doing. Am I trying to stop somebody? Save somebody? Escape somebody? No clue. The closest I can remember is saving Aero's girlfriend at the end of the second level, and then continuing the game for reasons that aren't clear. I'd say it's to escape the terror of the game, but that's a lie. You can never escape the terror that is Aero the Acro-bat. You think that things stop being scary once you leave the circus? Hell no! You're still gonna run into fire-breathing clowns and hellishly twisted levels. And not in a good way, either. More in a "WHEN WILL IT END!?" type of way that I'm certain the developers were never going for. Oh, and the music kinda sucks. So far, so bad. I actually have some reasons not to want to play the game. Hopefully, the actual game mechanics make up for that.
Eh, kinda. I'd tell you what your goal is, but I think we've established what a problem that is, so let's leave it at "get to the end of the level". That doesn't sound awesome, and indeed, it isn't. I'm guessing that's why the levels are made non-linear: so you actually have something to do. Surprisingly, it works. Spreading the goals all about a level makes you focus more and pay attention, almost like you're being pulled in to the experience. So hooray for that. My only real complaint is that some of the secrets are telegraphed WAY too easily (maybe don't mark off which walls you can walk through Aero), but again, most of it works out. The non-exploratory stuff, on the other hand, not so much. That's generally more hit and miss. Anything conforming to that earlier exploration stuff is automatically fun, but roller coasters and conveyor belts? I guess there's a twitch value to these, but that's not really enough to carry the segments. They just feel too simple and lazy, especially compared to what I'm doing in all the other levels. You don't follow up "pay careful attention to how the level branches out" with "press a button now".
Especially when pressing that button doesn't always work. Oh, I didn't mention? I probably should: the controls are kind of iffy. You've got a lot of functions to manage, but for whatever reason, only a two of them are really useful: drilling up and drilling down. Coincidentally, neither of those functions work too well, because Aero's a rebel who doesn't listen to your rules. YOUTH CULTURE FOREVER! Which probably explains all those early deaths as a result of missing the one jump you needed. Granted, you're back in the game less than a second later, but it's still kinda annoying to replay that one section partially because Aero is such an indecisive bastard. And why would I ever need to hover for a brief second? It can't really act as much of a buffer for hitting the ground, since any other button on the controller can do that just fine. Other than that, though, Aero's a satisfactory game which defies descriptions that aren't completely dry and devoid of emotion.
The story ends after two levels, but for whatever reason, just keeps going long after that point.
Gotta love that level design (except when you don't).
And I'm back with the obscure stuff! To make up for last week featuring games people have actually heard of, I'm bringing out the big guns with Sorcerer's Kingdom! What's the history behind this? I have no goddamn clue. I have no clue as to how people came together to make a stealth strategy JRPG for the Genesis with half mad, half poorly translated dialogue abounding. I guess that's just part of the game's beauty.
Beauty I will tarnish by describing the story, or what amounts to one. No, you don't get any explanations on why a sorcerer has a kingdom. Hell, the titular Kingdom isn't even ruled by a sorcerer. It's ruled by some fuck, sending you out to find daddy, gather some spirits, and cause some monster genocide on the way. (More on that last part later.) That's all the story you get. Not much in the way of characterization or even a narrative structure, really. Want to know why the King's so keen on sending you out to adventure, or what the hell happened to your dad? Like, any clue at all? Too bad. Go fight some monsters for a bit while we organize something resembling a story. In the meantime, here's some crazy dialogue. That's really what makes the story work so damn well: oddly sexist magic spirits. Or random declarations of love. I'd call it accidental, mayhap even poorly translated, but some of it just seems too perfect. Like I can imagine the developers not being aware of how funny it is to rescue a wizard from crushing desolation, but at the same time, I can easily imagine them being perfectly aware. But given the time, I'd have to err more toward it being an accident.
Hell, every aspect about this game is an accident. None of the game's best qualities seem to be the result of purpose and actual thought, but more because somebody fucked up along the way. In fact, those last six words perfectly describe how the battle system plays out. Not the battle system, mind you; it's like somebody adapted Shining Force to a top-down action RPG thing and made it super-fast paced. Good thing, too, given how many fights you'll be fighting. The game's so full of grind that it's legally recognized as a windmill. First, you only start with one party member, named.....however the hell you pronounce what I named him. Don't let that utterly swag walk cycle fool you. He lives with his mom, so he's not going to get any friends for a while and he's the weakest thing in the world. True, by the end of the game, he's gonna be the front line guy with all the best armor, but at the beginning, he's gonna get his ass kicked just by sitting down. Better buy some armor, then, right? Well, two problems: armor is expensive and no monster carries more than two dollars in change at a time. And don't think of eschewing armor in favor of simply leveling up, because Sorcerer's Kingdom follows the Romancing Saga school of stat progression where getting stabbed in the chest a bunch improves your defense against chest-stabs. (And then better armor can bring this stat down, for some reason. I don't know how anything in this game is supposed to function.) Stats upgrade regularly, if in small intervals, but what does that matter? All this simply means you'll be fighting one enemy at a time before insta-teleporting back to mommy, hoping that someday, this all pays off with that pair of Air Jordans that somehow protects you from goblin attacks.
So what's so damn fun about this, again? Oddly enough, all those flaws I mentioned, along with a few things I forgot to mention: first, you only fight the enemies that are on screen. Second, you can initiate battle at any time. Now we have a strategic stealth element at play. Just wait for one enemy to wander away from the group, hit that battle button, and then rush a sword up their ass before they can do any significant damage. Suddenly, all those flaws become assets to be coveted. The slow pace now becomes patience, and your weakness becomes godly strength as you strike from the shadows. (Well, plain day. There aren't really any shadows in Sorcerer's Kingdom.) And then the bosses laugh at your fun and force you back to a grinding hell. Remember that whole "accidental" thing before? This is my proof. No stealth, and not as much in the way of strategy. Hell, later boss battles devolve into ol' Elrad spa-
You know, something has struck me as odd: poor little....let's go with Gaia...didn't get any friends yet. Let's give him some friends so I can discuss how the systems change when you actually get party members. Oddly, there aren't as many changes as you'd expect. Sure, more party members allows you to tackle more enemies than before, which, in turn, means you get to explore areas past the first three feet you could before. But you have to keep in mind that the game responds to this by giving you more of everything. More enemies, more dungeon to explore, more checkpoints (in that you now get checkpoints), more menus, more strategy, a bit more stealth, more everything. The only real difference is that Elrad makes bosses slightly easier. I can't tell you how many boss battles devolved to that mage just spamming his most powerful spell while everybody else just cherry tapped the boss until death realized how useless they were to the battle. It was fun, but probably not for the right reasons, which is probably the best way to summarize Sorcerer's Kingdom. The only part of the game I enjoyed unironically was the energetic, in-your-face presentation. Anything else about the game, though? Exploding bitchiness.
Once upon a time, absolutely nothing of interest happened. The end.
It's Metal Gear Shining Force!
With a strong hint of The 7th Saga.
Who will win in the battle for best Persona protagonist? Also, what are Aigis and Naoto doing here?
The only accurate part of this title is the word "girls". That Miracle right there? It has nothing do with the game. I'm aware that the game is based on a manga called Miracle Girls (because I can read wikis, too), but I consider that a coincidence, because there isn't a lot here to consider a miracle. If anything, the game's every argument against girl games, making the title "Every Argument Against Girl Games Girls".
At first, things don't seem so bad. I mean, it's a basic platformer; what's so offensive about that? Hell, you even have this cool candy mechanic that lets you freeze enemies and use them as platforms. Granted, this comes at the cost of being able to kill enemies (but they can certainly kill you!), but you know what? Trade well worth it. After all, enemy platforms probably means you have to think your way through levels and have an eye for how paths diverge and such, which would suggest that.....Takara? Oh hell. OK, that aside, the platform enemies would suggest an eye for level design, something also reflected in the Oz-esque hint system. Not interested in levels, though? Strange that you're playing a platformer, but you're in luck, mysterious mystery person, because this game has boss "battles". Well, less "battles" and more "simplistic distractions that often control like crap", but whatever. The point is that you get something to maintain variety, and something that promises promise.
Unfortunately, the game never delivers on that promise of promise, so we're left with....jack shit. Literally nothing else. Every level (all five of them) is the exact same thing. First, you walk forward. This is the entirety of the level design, because I guess branching paths or expecting things of the player are too hard to program in. Next comes a pointless roulette that I've never lost, for some reason. Next up is the Oz stuff I mentioned before. Hope you can tell the difference between 赤 and 白, because that's all there is here, too. Repeat that a bit and then end the level. Now does that sound fun? Of course not! It's needlessly pandering, repetitive, and completely lacking in engagement. Otherwise known as Miracle Girls.
And I haven't even mentioned how sickeningly cute this game is. But why do I need to? The evidence is in that picture, from the candy levels and saccharine colors to the larger-than-their-heads eyes and the end-goal of the narrative (friendship, presumably through magical means). Who would want this? I don't know for certain, but I have to imagine Takrara thought the answer was "girls", which certainly explains the main problem with this game: Takara doesn't know what girls want. Again, I only know as much about girls as Swordboothelmetguantletaxeamuletshield9, but when I hear "bright colors, story lacking conflict, ludicrously easy", I don't think about women. I think about little kids, and even then, I don't think they deserve this. Give little Billy a better name and then give him some Aladdin. (Genesis version, unless you're a horrible parent.) But what about the girls? What do they want? Well, I don't know (I can't make that clear enough), but I can't imagine it's Miracle Girls.
Wait, if the girls have the power to teleport, why do they have such a problem rescuing their friends from....uh....
And so goes another game in the Humble Indie Bundle. Wait....is it....yea, it's in the Bundle. So goes another game in the Humble Indie Bundle, and man, this is going to be weird to write about. Not because I don't know what to think about it; I'm pretty confident that I'm going to pester you guys endlessly if you haven't played this. But then the strangeness comes in when I tell you that it's not going to be because of anything relating to the actual game.
Hell, what is there to the game that I even could recommend? The game asks you to press buttons, and you press buttons. Well, except for the times when the game doesn't ask you to press buttons, but every other time, you're pressing buttons. I know that sounds reductionist as hell, but that's literally all there is to the gameplay: pressing buttons when told. The game may introduce different buttons to press, but it's never going to introduce anything beyond simply pressing buttons. Hell, it's not even going to try to justify itself with any kind of story or context or anything like that. You want some explanation? Here's a button; here's when you press it. That's your explanation. Story? There's a guy named Simon, and he says that buttons must be pressed. And then you press buttons. Now do that and we'll attach some numbers to it. Not that it really means anything. I'd go into more detail on that, but I think it'd just boil down to me not seeing the point of scores in a lot of games. Suffice it to say, though, that this isn't the type of game I'd recommend to play because it's fun to play in and of itself.
Instead, I'd recommend it because it's fun to play. It's not flu season. The reason you're sneezing so much is because I blew your mind so hard that your face is now violently cumming onto your keyboard. Surprisingly, BIT.TRIP Runner is better than that. Why, you ask betwixt nose ejaculates? It's all about being staying in the moment and making a ton of cool stuff happen on screen at once. I'm aware of how confusing that sounds, but remember Rez? Remember how every action there caused a sound in the environment? Well, the same principle applies here, and holy hell, does it work. Suddenly, concepts that didn't seem so fun before are the best thing in the world. Why collect gold for points, for example? Points suck. True, but in BIT.TRIP, they make sound, so now it's totally fun. And those health packs might seem totally useless in lieu of one hit kills (more on that later, though), but in lieu of the aesthetic, they're the best thing in the world. They allow you to transcend sound itself. But don't feel too bad if you miss one of them, because the game's still fun when it's musical. It's like you're playing a song, except the other kind of play and not the one that's usually used in this context.
Oh, and it's not just because you're making music happen before you. (Remember me mentioning songs? I AM THE MASTER OF TRANSITIONS!) It's because of how deliberate the level design is. Trust me: every detail in any level has been needlessly thought out. For example, people who have played this game and therefore have nothing to gain from this blog: ever notice how repetitive the levels can be? If you didn't, I've finally caught you, Helen Keller! Communist bitch. But to everybody else: ever wonder why that was included in the game? No, it isn't because the game sucks. I'm quite sure I'm making that clear. Instead, it's there as a warm up. You know, to ease you into the more difficult stuff to come. You can't just start with the more exciting parts, and I can't imagine the game having tutorials outside the actual game parts, so you end up with the repetition. Then you get to the cool moments where the game places gold in such a way as to create a melody and plays with your expectations and timings and all that. What other possible reason for this could there be?
Perhaps the balls hard difficulty. That's another possibility. Did I mention how absolutely difficult BIT.TRIP is? "How much of that is fair", you ask?...........Some? It's here that I have to admit that the game can be mean-spirited a lot of the time. If ever you make one mistake, just one tiny mistake, you're getting booted back to the beginning of the level. Miss a jump by a fraction of a frame or bleed out your eyes because the game looks too good for your eyes to handle (or maybe you miss a detail because of strange camera angles), and it's back to the beginning of the level. This is especially ridiculous for boss battles, where you're essentially sent back in time because you thought you were supposed to jump when the game didn't want you jumping. But you know what? Even knowing all that, I'd still gladly go through this gauntlet of a game. A lot of the levels are short enough that checkpoints aren't entirely necessary, so I don't really miss them. But then there are those parts that just go on forever, otherwise known as "the end of the game". This is when you buckle the eff down and power through it. It may take more time than you have, and may even require you to shut down your brain so you stop trying to reason with the game. So be it. At the end, when you've completed it all, you're left with the realization that there's nothing beats beating BIT.TRIP at its own game. Not even violent face cumming.
The game has all the complexity of Atari.
Only it adds music on top, which is somehow enough to make things fucking awesome.
But no less difficult.
How many enemies are there? I MUST KNOW, DAMN IT! CHIE'S BUTT IS IN THE UTMOST DANGER, AND I MUST PREPARE ACCORDINGLY!
Yes, it's fucking fun! What's not to like about running? OK, there's vomiting and bleeding nipples, but keep in mind that this is a video game. That means all the fun parts of running without the blood-vomiting nipples. Speed! Presumably other things! OK, I don't run, but that was just my way of saying that the game's fast and fun for it. The game's at its best when you're weaving through enemies and pillars right as they're about to hit you. Fortunately, that's most of what the game is. The rest is the boss battle. There'd be an S on the end of that, but there's really only one battle in the game: you jump up in the air and shoot a snake a billion times. It feels less like a fun part of the game and more like a distraction. An odd design choice for Square, but whatever. The bosses don't take up that much time (except in the final two worlds, where you just end up fighting the same guy a billion times), and the core concept is solid eno-
EXCEPT FOR THE PRESENTATION. What? I'd addressed the Runner, so now it's time to move onto the 3-D, arguably the worst part of the game. Look at that screenshot up there. Notice how 3D it is? No? That's because it's 2D, killing any chance of depth perception. Things just pop in at you, and you have no real way of gauging how to react. This isn't exactly the best thing to have in a game that relies on fast, precise actions. Prepare to die a lot because the game expected you to sink like a rock onto a thin strip of land, and all you could manage was to float down to your death like a pretty princess. Of death, presumably. Or maybe you got close to an enemy, and the game decides that this counts as a hit. Yea, a lot of the levels are just flat expanses of nothingness where this isn't too much of an issue, but just as many expect you to jump through the void, so it's not exactly easy to ignore issues as large as these. Hell, they're a lot of the reason why I didn't like the boss in 3D WorldRunner. You can't tell where you're aiming, so a lot of the time, you run down the clock and have to start over. I'd say a simple reticle would help immensely, but I don't know how that would tell me when to jump.
Although now that I reflect on it, it is a bit strange that I'm insulting the graphics as much as I am, since I really love how the game looks. How can you not? Everything's just so cute and delightful and whimsical. If that's not enough for you, let's throw some music on top of it. Is there any other music? Not really. Does it matter? Hell no! If you're not giddy at the sound of that music, then you're probably living a fairly depressing life without emotion. It would presumably be depressing if you could feel emotion in the first place. Look, emotionless monster: the point I'm trying to make is that the music is awesome enough to make you want to play the game. Then the speed is enough to keep you playing the game. Then the whole "trying to be 3D in a 2D world, even though that's a very bad idea" problem fucks everything up and makes you feel conflicted about continuing this insanity. Or at least it would if you could feel emotion.
Take all the fun of BIT.TRIP Runner...
...and then fuck up the perspective.
How did I end up in a conversation with a hypothetical emotionless person, again?
No, this game has absolutely nothing to do with Holocaust denial. Instead, it's a classic prisoner's dilemma situation given human wrappings...and then wrapped around that is talk about Kurt Vonnegut. And digital roots! And prosopagnosia! And morphic psycho-resonance field sciences! Now do you see what happened as I went on with that? Things just got crazier and crazier, loopier and loopier, for no goddamn reason. Well, in the end, that's exactly what 999 is: a very good idea surrounded by utterly stupid bullshit.
The game begins with a narrative describing the various details of a warmly lit room, awkwardly juxtaposed alongside a college aged student swearing and screaming at the top of his lungs. Eventually, though, he moves past this and into a group of escaped mental patients. After all, their first priority is to look down at the numbered bracelets on their wrists, and their second priority is to spend 90 minutes using them as the basis for dumb code names like Pineapple and O. Henry and Quelitofaximon Supreme. Yes, none of these strange events make a lot of sense, but right now, that's kind of the point. They're under serious pressure and clearly aren't thinking straight, so of course they're going to come up with stupid names. Hell, one of them even uses their actual name as a codename (and I'm not talking about Junpei). But even ignoring these circumstances I most likely made up, I'm still not giving up the overall strangeness these characters have. Their quirky nature makes them more memorable, relateable, likable, and maybe some other positive words that don't end in "-able". Developed and fleshed-out will suffice. Oh, and I might as well add that this even carries over to how the characters are presented. No, I'm not talking about their portraits (although those are good, too), but more the fact that the developers used the text advancing sound to give each character unique voices. How much more identity can they have?
Good thing, too, because otherwise, I doubt the philosophical aspects behind the game could have succeeded to the extent that they do. I mean, can you ima.....I haven't even explained where the philosophical implications are coming from, have I? It's the prisoner's dilemma thing from before: everybody's playing a math game where cheating results in explosions. Now if we were given nothing more than a collection of generic bumblefucks to play the game, then the dilemma wouldn't hold much weight. After all, I could just write them off as being mentally ill-prepared weaklings, and I don't want to make that mistake again. Fortunately, that never happens. The characters have some level of depth, so it's a lot easier to understand how fucked they can be at any given time, thus lending the whole thought experiment some depth and credibility. I'd follow that up with some other examples of how thought out this one aspect of the story is, but I feel like I'd be rambling on and driving the point way too deep.
Like, you know, the game does with everything I haven't mentioned so far. What? You thought 999 was just the ethical thought experiments? There's so much more to this game. Ice-9! Drowning rats! Bloody Santa (IE plagiarism)! Inaccurate trailers! It's like somebody dropped out of college after their freshman year and decided to mash all their textbooks together into something resembling a plot. And it's here where the game starts to break the eff down. You simply can't have that many ideas on display at once, because none of them are going to receive any focus or purpose. Your best case scenario is that your characters come off as needlessly strange, bringing up Titanic mummies for seemingly no goddamn reason, and then dropping said story as soon as they mentioned it. The middle case scenario is that you leave your audience wanting more. For instance, how does that Titanic stuff tie into the overall story? Never mind that; there's lube behind the cheese. Also, Kurt Vonnegut. To be fair, it may tie into a larger picture later on, but damn if it doesn't come off as scatter-brained and unable to focus.
Which reminds me: what's the worst case scenario I haven't mentioned yet? The story gets so utterly bloated with gimmicky ideas that you simply can't manage them all at once, and things start breaking down in front of you. I could explore how this plays out, but I believe an example will serve us better. Sort of spoilers follow, for those looking for a warning. Two of our characters (let's say Flapplejack and Nazi Olympics) discover a dead body, and one of them proposes this theory as to how the person died: long ago, an Egyptian priestess was frozen with future technology. I know, but it gets stupider. Somehow, the ice inside her turns into ice-9 (despite the fact that by the story's own logic, this would leave the world so deeply and thoroughly fucked that we should all be coughing up head), allowing her to survive death....somehow. Fast forward several centuries, and archaeologists discover her frozen corpse and decide to carry it across the desert. She doesn't melt (even though Egypt could very easilymelt her necrotic ass), and eventually ends up on a Titanic replica where she does melt. Why? No idea. So what does she do when she comes back to life? Crawl through the ship's secret passageways (because, you know, all ships have secret passageways) and randomly murder somebody she's never met for absolutely no reason. How many paint chips do you have to eat to come up with such a dumb idea? And how many more do you have to quaff down to make this seem credible? Granted, this scenario (just barely) turns out to be incorrect, but never once does the narrator or any single character speak up and say, "There are more reasons why that's utterly stupid than there are words to express them."
And don't think that I'm simply picking on this one glaringly stupid plot hole; there are a billion more I could choose from. How did Zero make sure that the contestants in the Nonary Game wouldn't simply shit out their bombs? How does Snake's bracelet detect his heartbeat when the arm he's wearing it on is a fake? How do the endings even function? The most random details in the story seem to change to bend to the will of the ending, even if this opens up a plot hole the size of the Grand Canyon. Let's take a look at bracelet number 9: in one ending, it's super-ultra-vital to have it for the end of the game, yet in another, you can ignore the hell out of it, and in another, it wasn't even a 9 in the first place, but an upside-down six! Yea, that sounds perfectly reconcilable. The True ending (which, I have to admit, has its moments) tries to justify this by tying the bad endings into this, but how do bad endings change things that were very clearly established at the beginning of the game? Do you intend to resolve those major plot holes, 999? Do you intend to resolve anything? Because from what I've seen, the true ending only makes things more confusing, opening so many questions while answering so little. No amount of player agency and interactivity can salvage a mess like this!
Fortunately, the gameplay is strong en-*snrk* Sorry, but there's just no way I can finish that sentence with a straight face. Though that's not to say that the game parts are bad. It's all simple escape the room mechanics, which I know sounds bad, but it works in the game's favor. All the puzzles are small, contained and usually don't take long, which helps to balance out some of the more esoteric bullshit. Yep, it's even seeping into the gameplay, too. Do you know Morse code and chemical equations? What's that? You don't? Well, too bad. We're not telling you. Instead, we're gonna wait here while you inevitably look this shit up online. I realize that it's supposed to contribute to the feeling that somebody's fucking with me, and I guess it gets its job done, but try telling that to me when I'm solving puzzles that involve base-16 Roman numerals. No, having played it previously (because while you can skip the eff out of text on subsequent playthroughs, you still have to solve all those puzzles all over again) isn't gonna help. But to be fair, a lot of this only comes up near the end of the game, which appropriately lines up with the plot's stupidest moments, too. For the most part, though, the size helps balance out those whacko logic, leaving us with some mildly enjoyable puzzles.
But those are ultimately a minor aspect of the game, so they can do nothing to make up for the poorly written story. How did they mess up such a solid concept? While writing this blog, I categorized several of my observations into a plot hole category, something I remember doing for that abominable piece of ass known as Alone in the Dark. (Don't worry, you guys. This game isn't nearly as bad as Alone in the Dark.) Curious, I decided to compare my two plot hole categories. 999 won, hands down. It wasn't even close. And the worst part about is that I've already thought of several more plot holes popping up in this story. How do you test for something like morphic resonance? How do you know that the receivers aren't just solving these puzzles with their own intelligence? Why was Clover in the Nevada group when her brother was clearly so much smarter that he wouldn't need her psychic message bullshit? Why did the participants have to be in physical danger when the belief that they were in danger probably would have sufficed? Why was nobody arrested at any point in the story? Perhaps most importantly: why, Aksys Games, did you feel the need to complicate the hell out of 999? The premise sounded good enough: adding human elements to an otherwise sterile thought experiment. But then you just had to throw in everything else, and you bit off more than you could chew. Ugh.
You know, for all the bad things I've said about this game, I have to admit the charac-WAIT A MINUTE! Egyptian priestesses involved in time-travel, wristy math games? This is that Yu-Gi-Oh crossover movie all over again. Seriously, listen to this and see if anything sounds vaguely familiar. I don't even need the other bullets. This will do just fine.
You know what? Enough negativity. It's time to dance. Dance! DANCE LIKE AN APPARENTLY OLD PROGRAMMER WOMAN WHO'S DRESSED LIKE A DANCER FOR NO GOOD REASON!
And here's Cadash! This was supposed to be Galaxy Express 999, but then I realized that it's a Japanese adventure game, and my Japanese is only good enough for pointing out the dumb plot points in 999 (Q? Seriously?). So instead, we get this obscure action game not even I have heard of. That's one part of the job down. The next part is to offer a blanket statement of "it's good" and call it a day.
And first up in making a generic blog for a generic game is starting with the story, even when there's not much to say. A demon captures a princess, and for some reason, people go to war over this. Now some heroes have to save her and....no, that's about it. Not much of a story, but whatever. This small amount of story works well as motivation to get you playing, unless you have something against princesses. And then the game decides to throw in more story for reasons I can't understand. Not in the 999 way from before, mind you, where everything just comes tumbling down, but more in a way that makes you question why it was included in the first place. Why, for instance, are you having me pull some Biblical grave-robbing? To talk to animals? Why? Isn't "wander through the land of the dead" enough for the game? Your scenarios are cool without the story, so all this extra stuff isn't really needed, Cadash. Sometimes, it can result in some really strange and really funny moments, like that Carl Sagan shit above, but for the most part, there's only one real reason any of these short story whatevers made it into the game:
Cadash thinks it's an RPG. As I've already told you, this doesn't work out well for the story, but for everything else, it works well. For instance, multiple characters! True, the game edges you toward the knight by making sure all the equipment in the game is meant for him, but from what I've read, it sounds like each of the other characters plays radically differently. Hell, a couple of them even get to use the MP bar! The mage has thunder, the priest is a defense guy, and I only played as the ninja because he's a fucking ninja. What more do you need? A lot more? Wow. Uh, how about NPCs and towns and stuff? Sure, it doesn't contribute to the story in any meaningful way, but it does offer some direction and rest from the winding level design, along with some means of healing, something you're not going to get in the game proper. It may sound like I'm insulting the level design like I am the story, but I'm fine with it. So what if the levels are more linear than they'd like you to believe? The "multiple" paths simply add more complexity to a game that's so in need of it.
Remember before, where I said Cadash only thinks it's an RPG? In reality, it's....I don't know. What do you call a game where you walk forward and bash dudes over the head? Not a beat-em-up or a character action game or a platformer, but something in between all that. After all, the focus does seem to be on the combat....sort of. OK, so you're not going to get complex combo systems or even multiple attacks (at least from what I can tell), but you do get a ton of enemies to whack about, and that's where the game is at its strongest. The game's always finding new enemies to shove in your face, each one equally fantasy to the last. How do you top a dumb cockatrice? With weird chimera things and that Cthulhu monster in the above screenshot. Plus the bosses are pretty awesome. Ignoring the fact that you're fighting bugs and jelly (it's a bit better than it sounds, you guys), they're usually fast enough to keep you on your toes and give you a good challenge. I say usually because of how disappointing the final boss is. If you have enough herbs, you can just sit in the back and literally wail on his ass.....Look, I know that none of this sounds particularly exciting, but Cadash isn't exactly the most ambitious game in the world. You get some characters, some levels, some fighting, several hours worth of gameplay, maybe even a story, and that's about it. It all works out well in the end, though, so it's pretty hard to complain about what's there.
Carl Sagan, you disco devil, you.
Yea, I only played as the ninja, but the point is that Cadash gives you good reason not to.
Oh, and I think something about how the enemies are pretty cool.
Is that new South Park game out? I can't tell, so let's pretend that it is. Hey, everybody! Enjoying that new South Park game? How would I know? If it came out after Y2K and it's in English, I'm not interested. But I do know that you're probably bummed about THQ collapsing before the game could be released. This sin't the first time South Park was associated with publisher collapse, though. In enters the oddly pedophilically titled "Chef's Luv Shack", developed by "we make bad business decisions" Acclaim. After playing this game, I'm not entirely surprised that Acclaim is no longer around.
Problem number one: the presentation is incredibly cheap. Now I know what you're thinking: that I'm being unfair. After all, isn't a lot of the South Park appeal in how shitty it looks? Well, yea, I acknowledge this viewpoint, oh crazy person, but there's still such a thing as too cheap, and Chef's Luv Shack almost reaches that point. Sometimes, the animation looks like some effort was put into it, like when you get an answer right and see Cartman wave about or whatever. Other times, though, it's just awful. Some of the mini-games not only look like they were animated with five minutes of Flash animation, but that they're proud of this fact. This is on top of all five colors the game has on display. And ignoring all the graphical mess, the audio quality still isn't that good, either. Who was the sound engineer on this thing? Thomas Edison?....Because he invented...the....
Anyway, the actual game! Turns out it's a trivia game, because that's what I think when I hear "Chef's Luv Shack", just like "Renegade Ego" perfectly communicates the idea of talking about older Japanese video games. Speaking of self deprecation, I played this strictly multiplayer game all by myself, which I'm almost certain is the most intellectual form of masturbation. But that's not the dumbest decision regarding this game: that would more be the category choices. Like everything else in this game, they make absolutely no sense. What's the theme connecting DNA and famous lesbians? No, genetical relations don't count, silly, which leaves us with nothing. What am I supposed to expect from this game? How am I going to prepare my knowledge in advance or whatever? It just reeks of unfair difficulty.
Which makes it that much stranger that everything else about the trivia reeks of fair difficulty. Strange, right? I mean, some of the questions are esoteric as shit and I got half of them wrong, but isn't that sort of the point of a trivia game? Shouldn't the questions be arcane? If they were anything else, they'd just ask you "what is blue" and half the answers would be blue. (The other half would also be blue.) So disregarding the absolutely arbitrary category choice, Chef's Luv Shack is OK for what it is: a dumb trivia game you blast through with friends for maybe thirty minutes. Yea, you're not guaranteed to get the right answer (by which I mean "I never received a right answer for questions I got wrong"), but compared to everything else I've said about this game, it's hard to take that complaint seriously.
And th....what's this extra paragraph doing here? What more do I have to say? This is just a trivia game, right? I covered that already! Well, turns out that there's more to this than trivia. You also get Mario Party style mini-games! And I do mean Mario Party style; they copy the randomselection and everything. Of course, there's a major difference between the two: Mario Party puts some actual effort into the mini-games, while Chef's Luv Shack can't be bothered to. The graphical complaints from before shine through fully here, but it goes further than that: there's no depth to these games. The kart racing is a perfect example: it's a perfectly round track where nothing changes for five laps. Why even bother playing past the first? Throw in at least two different versions of the shell game and embarrassingly pitiful AI, and you can understand why I'd be so ambivalent about recommending this. I guess it's like the first few seasons of South Park. Want some dumb, shallow fun? Yea, go with this game. Want something more engaging? Maybe the next game will fill that hole.
Wow, this game looks like shit.
And it plays like shit, too!
And yet somehow, it's a barely decent trivia game.
For a lot of games, I have a specific rule: the more I love the game, the more I'll hate its fans. Don't believe me? Well, I have tried to find Fragile Dreams videos for this blog, and one of the results, sadly, was this dickhead ogling a 15 year old girl so he could cut her age in half. (There was also this comic that looked like Chickenhead became the villain from Taken, but I declined it because I couldn't tell if it was weird on any level.) For a wider reaching example, go to Google, do an image search for Gardevoir, and turn safe search off. You'll be cursing my name for months. Anyway, this rule holds especially true for Katawa Shoujo (maybe): I really love the game, but for very obvious reasons, haven't even bothered searching out worthwhile fan content regarding it. And then @andrewb showed me this. I can't embed it because it's not a video (care to guess why?), so instead, enjoy what has become a long and storied tradition of the Renegade Ego experience:
Yes, this link leads to the Tiny Toon theme song. I imagine approximately half my audience is experiencing dangerously high levels of 90s nostalgia, and I also imagine that this game will elevate those levels into Annoyingly Cynical territory. Why? Well, first, I'm going to assume that not a lot of you have played this. Maybe you were playing Aladdin on the SNES or Aladdin on the Genesis or, if you're extremely unlucky, Aladdin on the Master System. Well, you should have been playing this game instead, since vaguely tossing Tiny Toons and the first Sonic the Hedgehog into a single package would result in a 1990s implosion.
This is partly because the game feels a helluva lot like the bouncy cartoon it's trying to be. Konami didn't just slap Tiny Toons onto a random game they already had in development; they went all the fucking way with this. Take, for example, the music. In a mid-life Genesis game. I know you'd never expect it, but the electronic fart noise machine that was the Sega Genesis is an oddly perfect fit for music like this. Just listen to that bouncy, bubbly shit. It's just like a cartoon...is exactly what I'm going to say about the graphics. Everything from the well defined characters and vibrant colors to the backgrounds being noticeably more detailed than any of the characters. OK, that last one is jarring as all hell. Maybe it's trying to go for the cartoon feeling entirely by making the backgrounds the digital equivalent of a matte painting, but it just looks out of place. You know, like it would in a lot of cartoons in the first place.
Hey, you know what else looks out of place? This transition I'm gonna use for the gameplay. How is that shit? OK, I guess? As that question mark tells you, I'm not terribly excited about the actual game, strangely enough. Let me start with the petty complaints: the controls are a bit iffy. Nothing deal-breaking, but the jumping does feel more sensitive than it should. Merely looking in its direction will cause Buster to jump a couple of inches off the ground, even though I'd much prefer him just to jump. A minor thing, I know, which is why I prefaced it with the phrase "petty complaint". And it's really the only major complaint I have, because there's nothing else worth criticizing or even praising, really. There's nothing wrong with the levels; they're designed competently enough, with enough platforms and enemies and doo-dads to hold your attention. Hell, some of them are even outright enjoyable. The keep-away boss battles can certainly attest to that. But most of the levels feel like they're missing something; that je ne sais quoi that elevates it past simply keeping you from flipping over to the show it's based on. BUT WHAT COULD THAT BE!?
Oh, speed? Yea, let's go with that. What? You thought that I was comparing this game to Sonic because of the platforming? Hell no I wasn't. It's because ot the speed. Running through levels really fast and sometimes pressing the jump button. I'm well aware of how simplistic this is, so you should be aware of how little fucks I give. After all, sometimes I want pure visceral action, and I gave my Genesis and copy of Sonic 3 to my older brother, so this will have to do. But maybe I shouldn't just compare it to Sonic, as there's a bit more to it with this game. This may be too much outside context seeping into the blog, but what made the old Looney Tunes work so well was partly the fast pace. Just smart-alecky joke after smart-alecky joke. (Coincidentally, the lack of this is precisely why that new Looney Tunes isn't that good. Well, that and the sandwich fucking.) What's that have to do with this game? Everything: what better way to communicate that cartoony ethos than by making your game as fast-paced as the humor? It's a brilliant strategy
that I'm not sure the developers entirely realized. The only evidence I can see of it in the game is the occasional stuck-up can or rake just sitting there, ready for you to trip over it in a momentum killing second. Other than that, most of the levels aren't designed to let you speed your way through them. It's like Konami couldn't decide on whether this should be a platformer with a measured pace or if they wanted to save money on level designers, so they simply never decided. The game's still good, though, but not nearly as good as it could be. Just like the original Sonic the Hedgehog. Wait, has this blog finally come full circle, or do I need to mention lesbian trivia a few more times?
You could mistake this for an episode of the show if somebody sold Tiny Toon Adventures episodes on cartridge, for whatever crazy reason.
You sure do jump on stuff in this game.
I think the hidden treasure in the title is referring to the massive amounts of speed Buster stumbles upon.
Well, first, they completely and utterly ignored Of Myths and Monsters' existence. You'll find tons of references to even the most obscure of enemies from the original Kid Icarus, but Orcos doesn't get so much as a passing glance. (Orcos is the villain of Of Myths and Monsters. Yes, I had to tell you.) And this is in the Family Guy of Nintendo games, which means two things here. First: a shitload of references. Remember how we were all yucking it up about how the first game had Metroid-y enemies? Uprising was listening, and it isn't pleased, taking time out of its busy schedule to tell Metroid to go fuck itself. Same goes for Super Smash Bros, only to a lesser extent. I'd say that the game's sense of humor is overall negative, but as I'll elaborate upon very soon, that's almost certainly not the case. If anything, it's just too referential. One of the early jokes talks about a "machine gun robot girlfriend", and I have no fucking idea what that means. Yes, you should worry.
But if you're not a devoted fan of Nintendo games and thus wouldn't get these references, you can always fall back on Family Guy analogy number two: really, really dumb humor. Not so much dick jokes or anything low brow; I think the worst it gets is when the villain kills a little girl's parents for the sake of a joke. (Spoilers behind most of these links, by the way.) The rest is more really corny scenarios of Pit being a moron. Not terribly funny, but not so offensively bad that I have to get worked up about it. At its best, the jokes merely exist, meaning you have to look elsewhere for something appealing in the story....Is there anything appealing in the story? What's that? Light chemistry between Palutena and Pit? An awesome new villain each chapter? A plot that goes in a billion directions at once? Confusingly Christian imagery in a Greek game? OK, screw everything I said before about the story: it's now worth it.
And the best part of it all? How it blends so well with the gameplay that you never once have to stop the a...did I even mention the gameplay yet? No? Well, I have my reasons: how do you even begin to adapt an NES game for a modern audience? If you're Nintendo, you throw out all the previous gameplay concepts, like screen-wrapping platforming and annoyingly complex dungeons, and instead turn it into a rail-shooting action game. In other words: sounds about right. Speaking of right, Uprising knows what makes a rail shooter great: first, jam enemies in the player's face at a rate of twenty per second. Make sure you can maintain this pace; otherwise, you just look dumb. Next, make the game stunningly beautiful. Remember Panzer Dragoon, Star Fox 64, Omega Boost, Rez, etc.? They all look like a vomit slurry compared to the vast, vibrant environments and towering gods of Uprising. (Ignore the fact that the videos I've been linking all look like they've been bathing in Vaseline.) Third, complement these vast environments with a camera constantly moving all over the place.
Finally, cut it all off after five minutes so you can fight on land. What? You don't remember that part about Panzer Dragoon? I'd say that's what separates the two games, but I've the odd feeling that I'm going to say the same things I've said before. The levels look cool, you get a steady flow of enemies and story, blah blah blah. The only significant differences I can think of are in the levels and weapon choice, but only barely. Sure, Uprising allows you to explore around the levels a bit and gives you enough reason to do so (Zodiac chambers and all), and yet I'm not sure the game's entirely proud of it. I'm not saying that I have a problem with the levels being so linear that they give Euclid a double-necro-erection (necrection?); I'm saying that I have a problem with the arrows plastered on the walls and floors, telling me where to go. It's pandering that distracts you from the better parts of the Icarus experience.
Like the weapons! Wait, that doesn't make any sense. Eh, whatever, you get the point: the weapons are really awesome and encourage a ton of experimentation. Do you know, for example, the difference between a sword and a claw? I don't, but the point is that there is one, and it works this way for every single weapon in the game, especially when you're throwing modifiers into the mix. Modifiers that you yourself added to said weapons through weapon fusion. I know it sounds like a minor feature, but oddly enough, the entire game revolves around fusion. Why are you playing levels? Get more weapons for fusion. Why did you get so many hearts? Buy weapons for fusion. (It's not like you'll ever use the weapons you buy, given how rescuing the world pays jack shit.) Why did you rank up the difficulty? To get more hearts for more fusion. Why does this game remind me of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4? AR CARDS! ALSO, FUSION!
Actually, to back up for a minute, a note on the difficulty: given the way it's crafted, it's damn near impossible to complain about the difficulty in Uprising. Want to complain about how easy this baby game for babies is? Ain't gonna happen, what with the constantly adjustable difficulty. Now you can adjust it to whatever the hell you want. (I settled into a 4-6 area, in case you're wondering, people who have already played this game.) And then the game can throw up doors that only open at certain difficulties and generally lower heart counts, mocking you for being too much of a pussy for not daring to try a higher difficulty. See what I meant about "hard to complain about"?
This is the part where I complain about the difficulty system. Nothing major (outside boss battles consistently lasting four seconds); just nitpicking the logic underlying the game's systems. For instance, actually increasing the difficulty is tied to the game's currency system. This may not sound like much, but let's pretend that you, like me, blow all your money on weapons for fusion. Not only are you essentially locked into a particular difficulty, but actually escaping this trap requires a TON of time, since you won't be able to collect hearts as quickly as you'd like to. Why do you need to discourage me from buying weapons, game? That system sucks enough as it is, so I'm already very discouraged from buying weapons. This is just the cherry on top of the wounds. Or something like that.
It was then that I decided to jump back into the first chapter at the highest difficulty to see how I'd do, hoping to get enough hearts to play the rest of the game right. I got destroyed, but it did leave me a bit more enlightened on how the systems in this game work. Specifically, the game's idea of making things harder is turning this lighthearted totally-not-Disney game into a recreation of 300: you're hideously outnumbered and even the feathers of an arrow so much as brushing your eyelash will result in a fatal cut. That may seem cheap, but what other recourse does the game have? It's a combat-oriented game, so pumping up the enemy power just makes sense. What doesn't make sense is throwing instant death into the mix. Those are cheap, especially since the game isn't exactly forthcoming with lessons. If learning your lessons requires that I kill enough young boys to make John Wayne Gacy blush, you may want to rethink how you're teaching said lessons. Oh, and something about the controls and how they exist, but does that really matter? I've already given you about twenty-nine reasons to get this game, so consider a free stand that kills any chance of playing this game on the go a bonus.
The plot goes in a billion goddamn directions, and some of them are funny. (Many aren't, though.)
Imagine if somebody boiled down Panzer Dragoon and El Shaddai into an olive oil solution. It doesn't make sense, but it doesn't have to.
Then throw some weapon fusion and awesome difficulties on top.
So airbending has become a reality. How long until we get flying bison?
Well, my mind is thoroughly blown. I'm now gonna be cleaning nasal ejaculate off the walls for a good three hours, and I don't know if that's my usual sexual self or if it's a result of the mind blowing. I don't know if my depth perception will ever be the same again. Hell, I'm not even sure if it was all that good in the first place. This should give you an idea of the impact this game will have on your psyche. In a good way? I don't know. Maybe?
You may have installed this game already (since it's free and all) and are wondering what I'm getting at. Just give it a minute....THERE. Your mind was blown. As long as you can form a line blue enough, you can walk on it, physics be damned. Chuck Jones, eat your goddamn heart out. It may sound like I like the game purely out of novelty value, but that's not it at all. Play the rest of the game, and you'll see just how far it takes this one idea of shifting perspective around. There's always some clever way of fucking about the perspective to get things exactly how you want. Sometimes it feels cheap, like getting up real close to an object so it's bigger, but most of the time, it's just clever, especially when moving objects enter into play later on. It's pretty amazing how well the game's able to manage all this weird viewpoint fuckery when even I can't manage.
Which is probably why the game can't manage too well, either. You want to play this game? Then be prepared for a few technical issues. It has trouble adjusting resolutions, and sometimes, it'll just crash apropos of nothing, sometimes taking a few victims (like my browser) along with it. Given how short the game is, though (maybe an hour or two), it isn't too much of a concern. Wait, why am I ending on such a downer note for such an awesome game? Shouldn't I be talking more about the great ideas and execution, or the angular art style sharp enough to kill with, or even the glassy synth music? Why the criticism? I don't want you guys going into this game with the wrong....perspective......I'll show myself out.
HOW DID YOU WALK TO THAT WALL!? YOU SHOULDN'T BE ABLE TO WALK TO THAT WALL!
I had a good introduction for this blog, but I forgot what it was. Instead, we'll just have to meand-OH, right! That thing about how I don't like survival horror games. Yea, about how only about twelve of them actually know how to craft a scary, well conceived atmosphere, and usually the remainder is just a mediocre action/adventure game that uses "it's supposed to be scary" as an excuse? Well, Amnesia isn't that. Like, at all. It's not even close. The developers of this game decided that they'd put some effort into making a scary yet believable world, and damn, did they succeed.(Now why did they have so much trouble with that when they were making Penumbra?)
Step one in crafting a believable world: making sure it looks pretty....sort of. Allow me to explain: from a technical side, it looks fantastic, the lighting being the strongest part. There's not a lot of it in the first place, so you bet they're going to make the little that's there look great. I don't even know how to describe it. Dank? Depressing? All around musty? That's the problem I encounter when describing this game: the world looks like shit. I want to compliment the game, but in doing so, I'd have to say how everything looks messy and generally unpopulated for some time. I'm quite aware that this is the point behind Amnesia, and that things are supposed to be gritty and all-around terrible, but it sure does make it hard to recommend the game without sounding like you're being an asshole about it. Rest assured, though, that I actually liked all the bad things I said about the game.
So can you imagine how I'll feel about the good things I say about the game? The obvious answer is "good"; the less obvious answer is "sponge-worthy". Bonus points for the path less taken, because this is where I turn Amnesia into an episode of Seinfeld. Nothing really happens in Amnesia, and that's the strength behind the game: nothing. It may sound like a mind-screw, but just follow me on this one. You wander through the halls of Castle Brennenburg, just waiting for something, anything to happen, but the only thing that comes is nothing. With all this nothing bandying about, you're gonna pay really good attention to the somethings that happen...assuming something actually does happen. See, that's another good thing the game does: make you question the reality it presents. There's even a sanity meter dedicated to it, making things more and more surreal the longer you stay in the darkness. (More on the darkness later, though.) What does that mean, though? Well, if you don't want the entire fucking premise of the game ruined for you, busy yourself with a rapping Nanako while I say that the sanity feature just makes the walls squishy and sometimes hurts you for no real reason. That's it.
Wait, that's not it. I forgot to tell you about the Shadow following you throughout the game. Or maybe it's a Brute? I'm not sure, as the game isn't terribly clear on what the hell's tormenting you. I'd say that's a strength, and while it certainly is, there are better reasons why this guy is so damn scary. Simply looking at the monster, for instance, will summon its wrath, probably because he's completely butt-ass naked. The best part about the monsters in Amnesia: you can't fight back against him. If he sees you, you only have two options: die or pump up the Convoy for the enormous amounts of ass you're gonna have to haul. That's what makes him so scary. If you could defend yourself against him, then you'd defend yourself against him, reducing him to a regular annoyance rather than something to be feared.
Unfortunately, this brings us to a part of the game that feels an odd fit here: the actual game parts. I call it an odd fit for two reasons: the developers tell you upfront that this game isn't supposed to be fun, and there's not a lot to this outside the narrative in the first place. In fact, I can really only name three gameplay features: adventuring, lighting, and sanity...ing. I've already mentioned the sanity, so let's move on to the lighting, because I'm certain that requires some explaining. Remember that sanity feature? Well, light makes you more sane. Of course, solving puzzles also makes you more sane, so really, there's no reason to use your lantern and tinderboxes throughout the game. You can just bump your way through the dark with a decent amount of success. This isn't even a case of me bumping up the brightness to spite the game design; I put it at the recommended level, and I still cloaked myself in darkness with ease, amassing a stockpile of matches that would put an amateur pyromaniac to shame. I'd say that a lot of the game's tension disappears when darkness ceases to be terrifying, but given everything else I've said about the fear, it really is a testament to the game's quality that it can be scary without being dark.
Although that's not to say the game isn't dark.The st-wait, I forgot about the adventure game mechanics. You know, all that business about mashing a fish into a piece of wood until that solves a puzzle. That sentence right there is why I'm not an Amnesia designer: the puzzles there actually make some sense. Granted, they're less compelling and more an occupation of time, but everything's structurally sound. You won't pick up items until you've encountered a problem they can solve, and all the puzzles have an understandable logic to them. Also, ham. On the other hand, though, a lot of the game's challenge comes from poorly designed environments where I have no idea where I'm going. No, this has nothing to do with lighting, and more to do with how everything looks incredibly similar. I get it, Amnesia people: you want to make things feel desperate and scary, but this isn't the way to go about it. Having me wander around, wondering how to progress the story is ju-
RIGHT! The story! How could I forget about this? I mean, there are even a couple of PDF short stories included with the damn game. How much more focused on story could you be? And how much more repetitive can I sound, because I feel that whatever good things I say about the story are things I've said everywhere else. For instance, it's psychotic. You're just walking along your merry path, when suddenly, you get assaulted with the terrified screams of a lone mother or something like that, slowly being tortured by your past self. It only gets worse and worse over time, the terror growing greater, as does your hope that somehow, at some time, the protagonist redeems himself somehow. That's what he's doing, right? He's trying to take down some dude named Alexander because the main character's an incredibly naive prick, right? Well, anyway, you keep wandering through, hoping that the protagonist gets what he wants in the end, but he doesn't. It never happens. You're still an asshole (especially when you consider that the flashback storytelling means you're pretty much repeating all the assholeish things you've done before), and the world still sucks because of it. I guess my only complaint is....nah. Let's end on a positive note this time. The game certainly doesn't.
A game so dark that I can't even joke about it...anymore.
Hooray for a game that understands how fear works!
I'm willing to overlook the impressionless gameplay because of it.
I can't tell if this is scarier than the source material or if it's more delightful.
Why am I thinking of You're the Best (Around)? (No, that's not a link to the song.) I have at least some idea why: the "history repeats itself" line. Remember my Penumbra blog? Remember the second game there? Well, it's the same here (right down to this fucking "Remember X" bit on a patriotic American holiday), except for one key detail: I don't like Splatterhouse 2. It's not the best around and I'm gonna keep it down.
Well, except when it comes to the story, because that's harder to keep down. I mean, there's not a lot to keep down in the first place. Rick (I had to look up his name because it's never used once in the game) has to rescue his squeaky, tinny-voiced girlfriend from hell demons. Not the most compelling narrative in the world, and not the tightest, either (why are the demons capturing Jennifer in the first place?), but whatever. It works for the purposes of the game, those purposes being "combine brutal horror with some awesome moments". OK, you're not going to be scared, but you have to appreciate how far the developers go toward making things look like shit. I don't know how to explain it properly, so let's just leave it at "I really liked the icky horror movie portions". Yet even if that's not enough for you, there are always the brief cinematic portions throughout the game to keep you entertained.
Now I just wish the actual game could keep me entertained like the squid boat fights and hanging demon fetuses. Actually, now that I think about it, I'm probably being dishonest by calling this a game. What game is there here? You walk forward, punch things, sometimes press a jump button, and then continue for too long. Yea, there's something fun about brutally smacking fuckers about with your raw power, but you can only carry that so far, game. Normally, eight levels would be a healthy length for a game, but for something this shallow, it's just grotesquely obese......You know what I meant, damn it. What else do you have? Level variety? Given your "walking straight right" philosophy, this doesn't amount to much; merely changing up when you jump. What else? Weapons? That might actually work, at least on a superficial level. Sure, it changes nothing about the actual gameplay, but for whatever reason, it's more fun clubbing a guy to death than it is to punch them. The problem, though, is that the weapons that are in the game don't have much of a presence. The final boss notwithstanding, weapons in general seem to disappear after the first couple of levels, making you wonder why they were included in the first pla-
BOSSES! That's Splatterhouse's saving grace: the bosses. They're where the game shines. You get the cinematic beauty and disgusting visual design I described earlier, but not the brutish gameplay I described earlierer. Here, you actually have to pay attention to enemy patterns and devise a plan of attack, almost like you were playing a game of some type. The only problem I can think of is that you're a lumbering mess of a character who takes up half the screen, thus giving the enemy an unfair advantage in hitting you, but given how the bosses are the best thing going for the game, I'm willing to overlook such a blemish. What I'm not willing to overlook is everything else wrong with the game. Splatterhouse, why did you decide to focus so damn much on your story? Yes, it's enjoyable, but not enjoyable enough to mask everything else that's wrong with you, like the lack of variety and overly simplistic gameplay.....no pun intended.
I now find myself in a very strange position. This is, like, the fourth game of its kind that I've played. Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Sailor Moon; I should be an anime expert by now. So why the crap do I know nothing about these shows? Well, because they're never really relevant to the game, oddly enough. Cowboy Bebop was in Japanese, so it gets a pass, and same for Evangelion (although in its case, I doubt language was entirely an issue). Sailor Moon's explained away by the fact that it didn't even bother having a story in the first place. Also, the game meandered about a lot. So what about Ghost in the Shell? Well, in its case, it's hard to give two shits about the story when you're crawling the walls as a dumb-looking spider-tank.
Then again, it may just be hard to give two shits about the story at all. It's the future and people are doing future things, like future terrorism. As an amateur sentient tank (I think; it's never clearly explained), you must fire your guns until all the problems go away. Does this sound interesting? Not really. Unfortunately, from what I could gleam, that's all you get: a simple plot with tons of noise around it, making me question why all this effort was put into telling it. For a chance to see beloved anime characters like Purple Hair Girl and Chief Funny Hair? Unfortunately, you get to know them mostly through voice alone, meaning you don't get to know them at all. So why all the effort into telling such a forgettable story?
Well, from what I can tell, it's to sell you on the anime. (A strange goal, given how much knowledge about said universe it assumes you have, but let's just roll with it.) In that case....I guess it works? I know it sounds strange when I just insulted the story, but that's the point: everything else about the anime seems kinda cool. The voice acting's OK, but the real strength lies in the animation. Yes, like any other anime adaptation of the time, Ghost in the Shell is pretty much the anime/movie/anime-movie/whatever-the-helling-crap it is with a game wrapped around it. Unlike, say, Evangelion, that isn't a bad thing in this case. Here, it means you get a crisp art style and a smooth blend of 2D and 3D animation. Or maybe it's just animated that well. Who can say? The only real flaw I can point out is that the video compression is crap, but watch as I punt that excuse out the window because of how good the rest of the game looks. Yes, it looks so good that I completely forget that it doesn't look good. It's paradoxically good looking. Combine a consistently smooth frame rate with high detail environments and you get....
A shooter that takes a while to find its footing. Joy. Wait, I shouldn't say that as an insult. Just take it as a primer like last time. You shoot in this game. Normally, I'd try to dress that description up or elaborate upon it, but I want my description to match the early outings: boring and utilitarian. It's hard to point out anything wrong with Ghost in the Shell at this point, but it's also hard to point out anything right with it. Everything controls well, it's appropriately challenging, the weapons do what they're supposed to do, and that's about it, really. It's only giving you barely enough to keep you going and nothing else. And it's not like the game has much else going for it, at least right now. There's no aiming reticle for this shooting game in which you must aim at things and shoot them, and crawling on walls and ceilings, while fun, is massively disorienting. Gravity is meaningless in a world where you can climb on walls.
Man, that was weird. Maybe I should just tell you what makes this game good. Specifically, it learns from its mistakes. (Except for the last two I mentioned. Those are permanent.) Is the "go here and do something" mentality off-putting? Well, let's throw in a strict time limit to add some tension and meaning. But what about the levels without a time limit? These get fixed too, but this time with a steady flow of enemies to shoot up. Oh, and spinning. Tons and tons of spinning. In fact, I think half the boss battles in the game devolve into this. Not that I'm complaining; what complements shooting action better than spinning? What's that? On rails boat sections? No! Those are terrible and I have no idea how you'd know about those! If anything, the car part's cooler. Wait, what was I talking about? How this game takes a while to remember that it's more than just a vehicle for the anime, and it doesn't do a good job of being that first thing? That certainly sounds familiar, but I want to end on a more positive note. How about I just say "get it for the spinning"? Yea...That feels....right. Get it for the spinning.
Why do tanks have mouths? The story couldn't be bothered to say.
Mostly because it's too busy looking as good as the anime (or as good as you can get on PS1 hardware without becoming anime Dragon's Lair).
There's only one way to shoot things, but a billion ways to move around while you're doing so.
I'm pretty sure this is how Hank Hill was actually born.
Still not sure what this has to do with the rest of the blog, though.
Well would you look at that? I got me some contrast going between these two games. For instance, do you see how Ghost in the Shell is blatantly obvious about its anime roots? Well, the box art for Last Battle (a Fisting the North Star game, if you're curious) isn't even close to the concept of anime, instead choosing to depict an angry, thigh-pocketed grimace breaking a man's neck by kicking slightly above his head. Oh, and do you recall how Ghost in the Shell eventually settled into an enjoyable stream of action? Last Battle opts instead to make punching dudes as completely and utterly boring as humanly possible.
In retrospect, that's an odd choice of words to describe Last Battle, since no human could have written the "story" for this game. In fact, I'm confused as to why I'm using the word "story", even in quotes. " " is a far more fitting moniker. Why so glum about the ? Well, because if you're going to go so far as to put something resembling a in your game, you might as well make sure it makes sense. That's the problem (or, as we'll soon learn, a problem) with Last Battle: I have no idea what's going on. I can't even tell you what the events of the are. All I know is that it begins with a word salad text crawl and continues from there with a series of two-line conversations. Actually, I probably shouldn't be calling them conversations, since I haven't seen one that looks like two people talking. Just look at the disconnect between these two! I'd call it a case of lost in translation, but I'm not even sure how you'd lose so much in a translation. Nothing ever comes together in a cohesive manner to make any damn sense. The chapter intros are cool, though; I have to give the game credit for that. It's the most fun I had with punching in the entire game.
Would you like to know why that is? Because punching is all this game has. You walk forward, punch enemies, and continue walking forward. You can kick if you're feeling particularly saucy, but that's pretty much the entire game: punching dudes who have been palette swapped with other dudes you've seen before. Absolutely no variation or strategy, and only the slightest hint of challenge (in that enemies will constantly chip away at your health and you only have one life for the whole thing). Do I need to tell you how utterly boring this gets? Last Battle tries to survive a couple of hours on an idea that can only last it a single fucking minute.
I suspect that the developers realized this, though, because they do try to introduce a few new ideas over the course of the game. The problem is that they genuinely don't know what to do in the absence of punching. There are some levels, for instance, without any punching whatsoever. They last only a second. So you go back to punching and eventually discover that this game has a leveling system. Oh boy! What does that do? Imagine Altered Beast, only with less efficient attacks instead of bestiality. Joy. What's left now? Bosses? OK, the idea of fighting somebody until they bubble to death sounds cool, but half the time, the bosses can be cheesed so easily that I wouldn't be surprised if this was the boss theme instead of....I can't even remember. Would you expect me to?
Hold on, I forgot that the game has one more idea up the sleeve it tore off a few seconds ago. Don't worry, it's sort of worth it: maze levels! Let's assume I know what you're thinking, mainly because I doubt you'd be having thoughts about a game you've never played. Anywho: "What's compelling about a goddamn maze level?" (I'm pretending that you like to swear a lot.) "It just sounds like some meandering bullshit that will waste my fucking time." Well, you're completely right about that, you pottymouth, you. But the fun comes in the level design, in that there's actually some level design this time. You can't just walk forward until the level ends. You have to pay attention to your surroundings to make sure you don't walk into fire, and react in time to dodge the boomerang axes being thrown at you. You know, like this was actually a video game or something. Plus these levels give you a physics-defying jump that allow you to get more distance without a running start, so let's consider it a mixed bag, which isn't a good thing for Last Battle. When your best feature is merely average, what the hell does that say about the rest of the game? My guess is "they called it Last Battle because they knew you'd never play this twice".
Glossolalia: The Game.
Last Battle has achieved the impossible: it has made a staple of gaming (IE punching) not fun.