Fire Emblem's in the toilet, kids.

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

How long has it been since I've covered a Fire Emblem game in one of these things? Depending on who you ask, it could range from "nearly one and a half years" to "I don't think that counts". Anyway, looking at those two reviews, you'd probably guess that I find Fire Emblem: Awakening to be an awesome goddamn game. And you'd be right, if a little mundane in your guessing. For something a little more informative, I'd say this game hedges closer toward Tear Ring Saga than it does Path of Radiance.

Part of that is because the quality of the story (or at least the plot) leans more toward the former's "I can't remember the middle half of the story" than the latter's tightly crafted greatness. It all begins at the near end of the game, where one protagonist kills another. That massive amount of foreshadowing out of the way, we then cut to the usual Fire Emblem affair: slitting brigand throats for a little while before slowly moving onto a greater, world-threatening conspiracy. And in this case, I do mean "slowly"...sort of. Looking back on it, the time it took for the plot to develop wasn't terribly long (only eight chapters out of twelve billion), but it certainly feels like it takes a long time. Not a whole lot of major things happen in those early chapters, and those that do are either forgotten or constantly feel like they're building up to something.

Just an ordinary soldier with glowing red eyes.

And that building up aspect legitimately takes forever to change. There are a lot of cool moments in the narrative, but somehow, they don't feel connected very strongly. For example, after Chrom (he's the one who was getting killed earlier) topples one of the major villains early in the story, he waits around a year before deciding to go on another (oddly similar) adventure on a completely different continent. This leads to some cool places and events (like fighting a Spanish mustache), but it seems an abrupt transition that could've been worked in a bit better. Maybe make said continent a known entity from the beginning and allude to its political situation over the course of the main plot so that it doesn't come out of nowhere. But that's really just a band-aid wouldn't work for the much larger problem of events happening in isolation rather than as part of some cohesive whole. You gotta have something to tie everything together, Fire Emblem?

What's that? You do? Oh, right, the themes. How could I forget about them?....I'm coming across as a facetious asshole, aren't I? Rest assured that I actually really love what the game is doing thematically. I might as well start with the more traditional reason of "it really fucking thinks things through". The theme of this game is "you can fight fate (within limits)", and anybody with passing knowledge of this game can tell you just how pervasive that message is. A lot of the more significant moments in the plot make this point the focus and, more importantly, do so in a thought out, effective manner. This is most evident those few times when you're presented with a huge choice out of absolutely nowhere. All of them involve somebody dying; that should give you an idea as to how weighty and urgent these choices are. But, as far as I can remember, I don't think any of them affect the plot. Emmeryn's still gonna die, and your avatar buddy is still gonna survive to kill Chrom. Remember: there are limits as to how well you can fight your fate.

Naoto? What are you doing in the Fire Emblem universe? Does Charlie know about this?

But what about the less mundane reason I alluded to previously? For the curious among you, that would be the theme's ability to act as a makeshift adhesive for the plot to make sense. Remember that "jump across continents to fight bad guys" plot point from before, and how ill-suited it seemed for the rest of the story? Well, in lieu of these themes, it works a lot better: if the characters are reliving what are essentially the same events, then it stands to reason that they're better prepared to handle them and fight back against their "inevitable" fates. Hell, it even justifies some of the less plausible plot twists the game throws at you later in the game.

But Awakening's real strengths lie in its myriad of distinctive, fleshed out characters. How have I gone this long without mentioning the characters? There are just so many of the fuckers to mention. Just to name a few, we have Owain the walking Fire Emblem encyclopedia, Frederick, who would stab a beggar asking for change because said beggar was probably packing heat, maybe, and Panne, who, despite being the last of her race of magical bunny people, somehow doesn't go all Last of the Mohicans on us. (Although I think part of that is because a man in this universe would risk getting a Falchion through the gut if he dressed up as a bear.) I could go on, and the amazing thing is that I don't think I'd run into a character I'd find lacking in detail. Maybe hard to like, yes, but never under-developed or weak in character. Hell, even the character you create, the one who should have a generic identity so as to match any possible player, has a clearly defined character to him.The only exceptions I can remember were, sadly, the villains, whose motivations and characterizations can best be summed up like so.

He's gonna transform into a giant snake and stuff Lucina into a slowly filling hourglass by the end of this, isn't he?

This may be because the villains don't have a support conversation to their name? Oh, did I not tell you about support conversations? I probably should, since I've gone 1000 words without even vaguely referencing a gameplay concept. They're just conversations between two characters who have spent a lot of time standing next to each other. I've already addressed the character aspect (it's really, really good), but it also opens up a lot of gameplay avenues for the game. First up, it's the reason I reset the game whenever one of my characters died. I've gotten to know their personalities, watched them grow, even helped them find love! You're asking me to throw that all out? Bullshit! I'm making sure all my soldiers survive so they can tell their children of my greatness! Oh, that reminds me: you can make characters fuck in this game. It has some cool story benefits, but really, it only exists to let you create horrible super-powered monster children. I had a bunny person go into battle with an insta-kill death move, and he was supported by a vampire dragon girl. What more need I say?

Maybe something about the basic gameplay mechanics. Allow me to correct that: you have a map, populated with a bunch of guys you control in battle against another bunch of guys to kill. For most of the maps, your goal is simply to kill every last one of them, but there are enough of them with different goals to keep the game from being too repetitive. This is especially true of the puzzle-like Paralogues, little side chapters that require Chrom and his Shepherds (did I mention that they call themselves that for some of the plot?) ignore this whole rebellion thing so they can jump halfway across the world for some assorted pastries, I assume. Anyway, you take a turn fighting guys, they take a turn fighting guys, and this goes on until you've met the victory conditions or they kill your leader.

"So THAT'S where the title comes from!" "No, it isn't. Chrom, can we just murder this guy and get on with our lives?"

Now that's a lot of words for something that's actually very simple to pick up. Now there are some other mechanics and nuances that I haven't elaborated upon, like the various weapons or the cost/benefit analysis of letting characters fight together or all the branching class promotions, but the core gameplay that I have described is pretty damn easy to pick up. The game's not hiding anything from you; everything you need to know is laid out before you in the first hours of the game. Thus the game is made very approachable and easy to pick up, and the difficulty, well, less difficult to deal with.

Because have I mentioned how balls hard the game is, at least if you play it on Hard like I did? (Those empty maps at the beginning felt like taunts.) If you leave even one insignificant opening in your placements, the enemy will home in on it and mercilessly eviscerate you. And at least at first, you can't grind your way out of it; the only reliable way to get more enemies on the map is by using a Reeking Box, which initially eat up 90% of your war funds. And even later, when you can grind more reliably, strength can only get you so far. Ah, but therein lies the beauty of Awakening's difficulty: its legitimate nature. It's like the exact opposite of Tear Ring Saga: everybody has excellent growths, but you're still going to get your ass kicked more than an amateur foot fetishist. It's gonna take some actual thinking and adaptation to get through these chapters, and out-maneuvering and out-thinking the enemy feels like a real accomplishment because of it. It's not entirely perfect, as the random number generator can attest to on multiple occasions, but as these issues don't come up too often, they're minor problems within a very well crafted system.

Speaking of well crafted, the graphics......OK, I think you understand what my opinion of Fire Emblem: Awakening is by now. If you don't, let me re-iterate: it's a highly refined, well thought out game flexible enough to adapt to your play style while rewarding carefully, intelligent gameplay. Sure, the plot's lacking in cohesion, but the characters are more than willing to pick up the slack. And the graphics looks really, really good, if you're still curious about that.

Review Synopsis

  • On the one hand, the actual events in the game could be better connected.
  • On the other hand, the characters are strong enough that I shouldn't really give a shit.
  • Screw it; let's go with that timeless Fire Emblem gameplay taken from Thracia 776!
  • Let's just hope that I got to use this link at some point in the blog, somehow.

Dr. Robotnik simply does not give a fuck.

Yes, I played this game just for the inflammatory title it would grant me. I am just that petty, much like the game itself. Its only goal was to see how many crass toilet puns it could cram into a single Hu Card. The difference between this game and my blog, though, is that the latter has substance (no matter how much you will undoubtedly vehemently deny in the comments).

Whereas Toilet Kids is obsessed with one thing: cheap poo jokes. Hell, it doesn't even care about the premise to get there. Some kid gets launched up via a rush of toilet water, and now he's shooting people, for some reason. Also, underpants god. And it's not like the jokes are there to pick up the slack. Toilet Kids can only do so much with poo jokes before they stop making sense altogether. Why are those ancient Egyptians holding poo? And why does this whale have shit eyes? Am I missing some cultural in-jokes or language puns or something? Because it feels more like fecal matter was sprayed on everything in sight in the hopes that it would end up funny. That's not how jokes work, guys. Poop isn't intrinsically funny; you have to do something with it to make it funny. Preferably, something that makes sense. Hell, you even get urine-farting skunks (and urine-farting other things) and poo-flinging toilets. The only people who will find this funny are ten year old boys, and that's just because they don't know how penises work yet.

Why am I shooting at flying baby penises? Who the fucking hell can say?

But there's more to Toilet Kids than mere toilet humor. Not a lot more, and it still isn't very good, but definitely more. You shoot enemies, and....that's it, really. There are power-ups to fuck around with, but as far as I could tell, you only get them in the last level, which makes you question why you'd bother including them. But hey, you don't need power-ups for a good shooter as long as the level design's decent, right? If that excuse didn't work for the poo jokes, I don't see it working too well for the level design. Most of the enemies come in predictable waves of three or five or some different form of five, and even then, I'm making it sound more complicated than it actually is. You see those flying baby dicks, for instances? That's the only formation they appear in, as far as I can remember. While this doesn't make the enemies easy to deal with, it certainly nudges the game toward repetition and simplicity, which isn't doing this game any favors.

Granted, that's only four levels of simple repetition, but four levels of crap is still crap. Now normally, I'd consider ending the blog after the crap pun quota has been met, but I want to say at least one positive thing about the game: bombing things works well. The reticle will lock onto targets in the near vicinity of where you're aiming, so 100% precision isn't necessary. Makes managing two levels of shooting rather easy. That good enough? OK, now I'm ending the blog.

Review Synopsis

  • This game thinks girls pee out of their butts.
  • It also thinks it can get away with having no power-ups and the same enemy formations repeated too many times for comfort.
25 Comments

The Triforce of Wisdom promises an abundance of explosions.

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

I'm really torn on what to think about this game. I honestly don't think I could place it on a scale of good or bad because it waffles between the two so damn much. On the one hand, it's a dumb action movie that glorifies war; on the other hand, it's a dumb action movie that glorifies war. All we can know for certain is that it's an action movie, alright. Take that as you will, because I didn't know how.

I'd say it's best to start with the story, but given its fondness for jumping all over the timeline, this may not be such a good idea. This isn't confusing or hard to follow, mind you, but it does make the story difficult to explain at first. Eventually, though, a clear, summarizable story emerges: the US military has severely pissed off Raul Menendez, Jesus Christ of YouTube (as in "Jesus Christ, are they serious about this YouTube popularity plot point?"), and it is now up to them to put a stop to his terrorist plans. Say, what did they do to piss him off? Call his sister a whore and burn them both alive, among other things. Now this may sound somewhat petty, but that's only because I suck at explaining things. In reality, the game does an amazing job of making you empathize with what he's suffered, at least when it wants them to. Sure, he's been doing some shady shit for the entire story, but at least in the beginning, he's doing it for his sister. And then to see that completely wrenched away from him and go absolutely insane with rage.....and then see things get worse from there.....It may not be a lot in terms of focus, but in terms of raw execution, it's certainly more than enough to make him a good, fleshed out villain.

You thought I was being cute with that Saladin joke, didn't you?

This might even be a very poignant criticism of the ravages of war if Black Ops 2 had any interest in those words. Instead, war is portrayed as all kinds of badass and glorious and all around awesome. Our story begins with a Vietnam war vet reminiscing about his escapades at least somewhat casually, moves into you valiantly riding atop horseback into battle against Saladin's knights, and ends with....to be fair, it does tone it down a bit by the end, but the general message remains. It's just hard to take this message seriously when you get to personally see the most horrible parts of war. One of the first levels starts with you watching a man fucking burn to death before the general you're cooperating with drags you off to participate in all the glory that war brings. I'd say that about sums up the levels of self-awareness present if this wasn't a first person game. I know that sounds like a petty complaint to make, but it really did make the experience that much more harder to deal with emotionally. It's one thing to see somebody far off on the battlefield die because the character I was controlling shot them; it's another to see the life ebb out of their eyes because I personally blew their brains out. It's incredibly uncomfortable, and I don't think that's what the game was going for.

Then again, I probably shouldn't be thinking while playing Call of Duty. This game doesn't exactly mix well with heavy critical thinking, and I don't mean that in a condescending, dickish way. The game's all about the explosions and spectacle and generally just moving from set piece to set piece. In this regard, it sort of knows what it's doing. I mean, at least it gets the pacing right. No matter where you are in the story, there's going to be some tense action sequence there to grab your attention. Maybe it's running through a burning mansion or maybe it's dragging your buddy to safety as his head clips through the grass or maybe it's whatever the fuck this is.

Hold on a second: is that Baird in the back of this screenshot? Did he make a cameo in Black Ops 2 that I'm unaware of?

Wait, I think I spotted the main problem with the cinematics in that last sentence: they don't effectively prevent me from questioning what's going on. Granted, the example I used is nit-picky as hell, but there are more jarring incidents sprinkled throughout the adventure, like when the camera switches from your personal view to a zoom-in on the bad guy with no fade or transition of any kind. Or when the game doesn't let me play through some moments that would be cool to play through, but lets me play through mundane shit for no other reason than to acknowledge that I exist. Or when the subtitles call a guy "CIA nerd". Each example shakes me out of the moment, makes me aware that I'm playing a game, and ultimately prevents the game from working its magic. If its magic is to be worked, you're gonna have to put some effort into shutting off your brain and simply accepting the various cinematic set pieces the game throws at you.

The same goes for the interactive set pieces: great variety coupled with mediocre execution. Again, the amount of variety at play works in the game's favor, since it keeps things consistently exciting. However, consistency isn't a word I'd apply to the game mechanics on display. Shooting aside, you only play through a lot of cool moments for a couple minutes, tops, most likely in the hopes that you won't notice that each one has its own significant problem. The airplane sequence near the end, for instance, plays like a very strict rail shooter that only begrudgingly lets you steer. This is going to result in you drunkenly careening into the exact number of buildings needed to warrant a court martial. A similar problem occurs with the horse sequence I mentioned before, sans buildings and (sadly) flying.

"Are you going to move into position any time soon, Mason, or is that game of Frozen Synapse more important than our national security?"

But I felt this the hardest with the Strike Force feature, mainly because it's such a cool part of the game in theory. Imagine a first person shooter that lets you switch to a tactical view to command different squads and stuff in real time. Now go play Sanctum because that game probably delivers better on that concept than Strike Force does. I never did get the hang of controlling all those squads, and while I'm willing to take the blame for some of that (I didn't spend a ton of time with it), I can't imagine the inability to split up squads or command individual units would help its case. Or maybe it would've been better served as a short downloadable PC title instead of a diversion in a much larger game.

Speaking of much larger games, why haven't I mentioned the main gameplay systems in this blog? Because at some point in this discussion, the shooting simply becomes irrelevant. I'm not enjoying the game because the mechanics of shooting a person feel particularly compelling, but because of all the situations built around them. Though that's not to say the shooting is bad. Enemies die when shot, hiding for a bit allows your body to digest the bullets littering your unarmored arms (how else regenerative health is explained, I don't know), and the many guns you're provided each feel different enough to justify their existence. However, I think it says a lot about Black Ops 2 that even though each mission gave me the opportunity to choose my initial arsenal, I barely used said feature. I come to these games for a low-brow action movie that could potentially double as a US Army advertisement. The shooting elements are merely in service of that.

Review Synopsis

  • Does Black Ops realize that most people are uncomfortable killing other people?
  • Maybe that's the price to pay for all the explosions and chaos.
  • Oh, and shooting and stuff or whatever.

Yes, this is essentially the same as my last blog's video, but it's the intro song that really stands out.

Oh yes I fucking did. How could I pass up such an amazing opportunity for riffing material, especially when it gives me a rare opportunity only one person I know of has taken? I speak, of course, about being fair toward the game. You see, most of you would probably watch one of the millions of YouTube Poops of this game, write it off as trash, and call it a day. But I wanted to dig deeper, and dug deep I did, and lying in Wand of Gamelon is a genuinely good game. It's just buried under mountains of poor game design that are absolutely impossible to ignore.

And it's not like the story's there to hold the extra weight, either. (Why anybody even remotely thought that is beyond my understanding.) It all begins with King No I'm Not Typing That taking one of his country's most valued treasures into battle with him, only to get captured for such rampant idiocy. Link tries to save him, but somehow, gets trapped in a mirror doing so. Now it's up to Zelda to....help people with their menial problems. That's the weird thing about the story: there really isn't any. You tend to stumble into the more plot important moments, and they don't have any connection to what you're doing. The gameplay has you fetching eggs for some lonely girl to get a flute that I don't remember once using, while the cutscenes depict.....well, pretty much that, but sometimes, Impa decides to move the plot forward because I guess it has to. It's all really surreal and would make for some decent riffing material if not for the game surrounding it.

"You think it's a crime to speak in mad rhymes? Rap or die!" *double lightning*

Speaking of riffing material, I know what you really want to read about: that awful animation. What can I even say that you don't already know? Half the characters are utterly lacking in detail, while the other half are horribly grotesque monsters. They less resemble actual people and more resemble spider webs a witch has cursed to speak. And that's not even getting into the over-animation problems. Hell, Yumimi Mix has better animation than this dreck, and that was a game I glowingly recommended as being "like you're playing a manga while twelve year old girls yell shit in your ears." The actual game is better, though, with pumped up 90s music and some rather detailed level backgrounds.

Too detailed, perhaps. Or maybe not detailed enough. All I know is that detail plays some role in the navigation issues. A lot of the backgrounds can't settle between a super-imposed 2D world or a multi-layered 3D one, so they waffle between both. Needless to say, this is confusing as hell, especially when the game is so insistent on the one path it created that it will kill you for trying to take other paths that make just as much sense. Mapping jump to the up button doesn't help matters, nor does thinking the Xbox 360 has a good D-pad in the first place, like I did. But the worst part about this is that the ingredients for a cool Metroidvania-esque action adventure game are lost underneath all this shit. The beginning of the game kinda dumps you onto a directionless overworld and expects you to figure things out for yourself. Surprisingly, this works in the game's favor. You get some cool power-ups to mess around with, like an invincibility cloak and a glitchy lantern, and there's something to be said for adjusting to the flow of quests. There's a sense of accomplishment and progress as you watch all the pieces perfectly fall into place in your quest to rescue the King. Yes, it's a sense of accomplishment that's significantly marred by technical flaws, but it's a sense of accomplishment nonetheless.

What sweet hell have I stumbled upon here.

I mean, that's more than I can say about the combat. I don't have anything at all nice to say about it. There is absolutely no mercy invincibility in this game, so if you want even a hope of surviving, you're gonna need a decent ranged attack. Unfortunately, for a significant portion of the game, you're stuck with a dinky little butter knife of a sword and very expensive bombs. It takes even longer for ranged attacks to mean anything, and never for Zelda to learn how to handle enemies coming at her on a soft incline. Combine this all together, and you end up with a frustrating experience lacking in progress because you're fighting against the mechanics instead of what the game has laid out for you. Yet for whatever reason, the developers thought it a good idea to make this a grind-heavy game. Joy.

Speaking of joy, that word has no place in describing what I'd generously call the boss battles. Here's how each one goes down: they personally introduce themselves through some exceedingly stupid cinematic (like this one, for instance), you whack them once with the item du jour, and they collapse into a puddle of sadness and despair. Repeat until you get a completely mellow ending. Now what was that I said about potentially liking the game, again? Kinda hard to do that when you have unfair combat, unintuitive level graphics, and those cutscenes. The only thing more off-putting than this game is the knowledge that I'm gonna have to cover Faces of Evil, too.

Review Synopsis

  • You know how The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack has some scary artwork? Well, this game looks bad.
  • Conceptually, I'm all behind a Metroid-style game set in the Zelda universe.
  • In practice, I'm not up for shady level design and thoroughly unenjoyable combat.
35 Comments

Demons are out. Zombies are in.

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

Not again. It's way too early to be writing the same blog again. Hell, it was just last week; shouldn't there be more time between blogs so eerily similar?.....Allow me to explain. Remember how I criticized Gears 3 for having no sense of risk and a cast whose emotions range from "angry" to "ANGRY"? Replace the words "Gears 3" with "Dead Island: Riptide", and you have this review in a nutshell.

I'd say that the only difference is that Gears 3 integrates itself better into its own franchise better than this, but there are actually several differences between these games and that's a shitty difference. Anyway, it's been one second since the end of the first Dead Island game (which the game helpfully recaps as soon as you jump in) when all the characters are forced back onto the islands they spent 20-30 hours trying to escape. Now they have to do just that again, something I don't have too much of a problem with. Cheap narrative tools and potential pacing/focus issues aside, the plot goes in some mildly interesting directions regarding the protagonists' immunity to the virus and their constantly being fucking angry.

Did I mention that this is the boss battle where you can set zombies on fire with steam? Because once you model something like this, physics is more a suggestion than anything else.

Actually, scratch that. I'm not so much a fan of that last one. Everybody's a raging asshole, and not in the fun "burning rectums set a zombie island aflame" manner (missed the chance to work "Riptide" into the game, there, Techland Random Letters), but more in a "I wish they'd all die in a sea of flames" manner. This much is evident from the very beginning of the game, with the narrator being overly casual about the zombie apocalypse and overly aggressive about every other little thing. Sadly, it doesn't get any better as time goes on; the plot-important NPCs all come to the conclusion that those immune to the virus should be locked away in special camps, and the protagonists (who happen to be immune) counter that argument by being really pissed off at everything all the time. And as I mentioned before, rather than trying to make the characters more likable, the writers simply turn their anger into a plot point, which is a lot like fixing a broken rib cage with a dab of ointment. It does nothing to make the characters more endearing, which is something a game like this desperately needs. If I don't give two shits about the characters I'm controlling, what's supposed to keep me playing the game?

This probably explains why I simply blasted through the story, something I clearly shouldn't have done. The story quests are repetitive (either "venture out and grab this thing for us" or the occasional "defend this area from zombie hordes"), the default options literally tell you where to go to complete quests (as in "here's the line you need to follow"), and about halfway through, the game simply rushes you through the damn things, like it's as fed up with them as I am. Instead, the main focus of Riptide is in exploring the vast world that is Banoi Island, which is an odd choice when you realize how the game never makes a strong enough case for why I should be doing this. In theory, there are tons of sidequests that should get the ball rolling on that exploration aspect, but putting the vast majority of them in the hub du jour defeats the purpose, doesn't it? Why should I bother actually setting foot outside the camp if I never really need to do so to initiate anything? The only non-hub quests that I can remember stumbling into were rescuing some helpless fool from the zombie hordes and....no, that's pretty much it. Not much in the way of variety, and given the last paragraph about how abrasive the characters are, I don't think the idea held much water in the first place. What other reasons are there to explore this zombified hellhole?

I should point out that I found this image in the Screenshots gallery on the page's wiki, because this is very clearly a real-time screenshot of actual gameplay.

Material rewards? Like better weapons and stuff? That's only relevant after the fact, isn't it? Combat? OK, yea, I can see an argument for that. There's a wide variety of weapons and approaches to combat to fuck around with, and they're all different enough that you have good motivation to try each one out. For the record, I chose the cutlery because that's what was on my original Dead Island save and I'm unbelievably lazy. But if given the choice fresh, I still would've gone with the slicing weapons, but not because of the actual slicing. You can only really slice off arms, thus significantly weakening the tactical element that acts as the appeal behind choosing what to slice off in the first place. Not to worry, though; the act of actually slicing through those arms is still redeemable. There's something very rhythmic and appealing about the act of bashing a zombie in the shoulder and then jumping back before they have the opportunity to bite your face off, like a delicate dance. Pump up the Tchaikovsky, and not just because of the shitty rap music. And that's just with a single theoretical zombie. So what happens when it's a billion actual zombies instead of just the one that's almost never real?

Absolutely goddamn nothing. And so we come to the main problem plaguing Dead Island: Riptide: absolutely no sense of risk or consequence. Oh, sure, there are always a billion zombies hiding in the shadows, just waiting to kill you, and yea, you're going to die a lot, but that death doesn't mean shit. Again, the beginning of the game is a very good example. You're on a boat where the captain's gone zombie Ahab on you and is at severe risk of crashing the ship into the white....actually, I'm not quite sure why I made the Moby Dick joke. Anyway, the ships about to crash and you have to stop it from crashing. Or at least that's what the various characters tell you. In terms of gameplay, you have all the time in the world to clumsily bash the captain's skull in, because there are no circumstances under which that vessel will sink. Should you die, you only get a few bucks taken away and have to sit things out for five seconds.

Looking around corners isn't a gameplay feature I remember from this game. Let's just pretend this is a happy coincidence.

And the entire game is like this, even though these punishments are completely meaningless in this game. Time-outs are obvious, since they don't impede your progress at all, but the money penalty is gonna need some more explanation. First off, the actual deductions are pitiful. At around $2000, I only got $19 of that taken away. I'd make a joke here if that wasn't so horribly depressing. But even if that number was higher, I still don't think it would mean anything. How is taking away money a punishment in a game where I don't need money for most of the experience. Most of my arsenal was made up of weapons I scavenged from the environment. While this is good for the atmosphere, notice how money never enters that equation. Sure, you can use that money to repair those weapons (not even with other people or supplies; just throw the money at a weapon until it remembers how to do damage), but again: the game's pretty much handing you most of your weapons, anyway. Being able to repair them is more a convenience than a necessity.

So with death meaning nothing, what value does the gameplay have? Without an option for failure, there's not much of a sense of accomplishment, either. And it's not like you can salvage much narrative value from this situation, either (although I'm not sure why anybody thought that would even be an option). You being an immortal super-god, the zombies cease being a threat and simply transform into six-foot tall houseflies you periodically swat. They're more an annoyance than something to be scared of. I have to imagine this is even worse when you have three other people helping you slash up zombies, as the game rather forcefully recommends. So with all this going against the games, on what grounds can I recommend it?......Aussie girls killing you with magical chainsaws?

Review Synopsis

  • I have to imagine that the characters in this game would be just as hard to root for if the title was "Perfectly Normal Island".
  • Wait, how do zombies in this universe exist when there's no possible way for anybody to die?
  • I will admit, though, that the combat systems are good. It's just that they're surrounded by so much that isn't.

Have you ever wanted to see Sonic the Hedgehog die a diabetes death? No? Well, somebody did, because this ROM hack exists.

Just when I thought I got the demons out of this blog. I'm not even going out of my way to play these demon-centric games. I decide to play a game and then later find out that there's a very large focus on unholy monsters. But unlike the other times this has happened, I'm willing to take full responsibility in this situation. After all, I should have known what I was getting with the word "Castlevania" slapped on the title: a Dracula that must be killed with some comprehensive castle coverage. Unsurprisingly, that's exactly what Aria of Sorrow is.

Only add a dollop of fucking insanity. The year is 203......5, and Japanese youth Soma Cruz is spending his day watching the solar eclipse. Then, he's in Dracula's castle. It makes absolutely no sense, and the explanation makes even less: Dracula's castle is inside the solar eclipse itself. Not the sun, mind you, but the solar eclipse somehow. Completely ignoring the fact that putting a vampire anywhere near the sun is a monumentally stupid idea on its own, why couldn't Soma just be visiting Europe and then stumble upon Castlevania? No idea. I'm aware that this is a minor thing to get worked up over, but it's not like the game offers me much else to comment on. Story development only happens sparingly, so most of the time that I'm exploring, my one thought on the story always returns to "Seriously? A solar eclipse castle?". And the story isn't good enough or bad enough to overpower this sentiment; just vampire pimps trying to revive Dracula and Soma following them out of the room after every cutscene for reasons I never quite grasped. It gets the job done of getting me through the castle, sure, but not the job of making me forget th-

"HOW CAN YOU BE TRANSGENDER!?" ".....You're kidding."

OK, I'm gonna stop it there. This is way too negative; it's time to move onto something I actually like about Aria of Sorrow. Like the soul gathering system, for instance. Killing a specific type of enemy enough times may prevent them from moving on to the afterlife simply because you want to throw katanas. Of course, the most obvious use is simply to provide variety to the combat that's at least somewhat in need of it. It's not bad, but it is limiting, like how Soma refuses to move while attacking and for a short second after, or how you can't aim your attacks up because up and attack activates your katana-throwing abilities. My point is that you're going to enjoy this more because you're fighting laser skeletons with your own Dr. Octopus laser beams than any of the mechanics that make this possible. I, however, am going to enjoy the soul gathering whatevers because of the sense of unity it brings to the package. As you'd expect from what I just said, I'd normally skip a lot of the combat. But not with souls on the line. These things directly impact my ability to navigate the castle, and killing everything's really the only way to get those cool souls. So to get to the better parts of the game, ruthlessly murder I must.

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that I replaced their eyes with eagles. Those who haven't incurred my strange wrath might have noticed me ranking the exploration as the best part of the game. If I want to waste an entire day just fucking about in the castle, going wherever I damn please, I can do that. If, however, I wish to make some progress toward killing Solar Eclipse Dracula or whatever, then it turns out I've already been doing that the entire time. Aria of Sorrow was guiding me to my objectives the entire time and I simply had no idea until I'd stumbled upon something important. The soul catching side of things only complements this sense of freedom the game gives me by adding a sense of motivation. I mean, what other reasons would there be other than the sheer fun of it? Upgrades? Other than the souls, the only things you'll find are occasional pieces of equipment and no, that's really it. Visual va-OK, that's something Aria of Sorrow has in droves. Spacious watery catacombs. Libraries with huge axes in the background for reasons unexplained. Those confusing floating gardens. What more could you want? Sure, you don't get a lot of time to experience all this cool shit, but it's still rather amazing how Konami packed so much into so small a space.

Review Synopsis

  • I still can't get over "Dracula lives in the solar eclipse" plot point. Ugh.
  • The soul catching system helps, though.
  • As does the huge castle I get to explore.
9 Comments

This blog is now 40% demon free.

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

I'd have made the title bullet-related in some way, but I feel like I've done that for many of my blogs already. What can I say? A lot of video games love bullets, and Gears of War 3 is one of them. But is it a video game I love? No, not really, but the strange thing is that it could have been. All the ingredients for a good third person shooter are there. It's just that Epic Games forgot to bake the damn thing.

Now what the fuck does that mean? I'll explain later, because right now, it's story time. The year is Future AD. Larry the Cable Guy has become head of both the military and fashion, and Germany (or at least what I'm guessing is Germany) really loves football, for some reason. Oh, and there's also this huge alien war that's been going on for quite some time. But that's not important. What is important is that THE ARMY IS FUCKING AWESOME. That seems to be the entire tone throughout the game: displaying how utterly powerful and cool the military is. I don't have too many problems with that premise, although one of the early lines about the common people not appreciating the military does rub me the wrong way. The world of This-Is-Clearly-Not-Earth-You-Guys has been at war for at least three to four games by now, and while there have clearly been some pretty major fuck-ups along the way, I have to imagine it would've been worse without these guys.

"Hey, if we're in the future, how come we're fighting a goddamn Kraken?" "Shut up, Baird. Do you really want to question something this badass?" "Good point."

Of course, a lot of the things I do have problems with seem to be related to this one aspect of the game, somehow. For instance, what do you think happens when you load up your characters with ludicrous amounts of muscle to show off that military power thing I was talking about before? Here, it results in everybody becoming a seething ball of barely contained rage for TEN HOURS. That's way too long to be angry at everything. It destroys any sympathy I have for the characters (and with the dynamic between Marcus and his dad, there's plenty of sympathy to be had) and leaves them a grating mess. Half the time, I can't even understand why they're as angry as they are. For example, early in the game, this government guy called Prescott walks onto the scene and Marcus is immediately angry at him. "How dare this man exist", Marcus is presumably thinking. Of course, at the time, I had no idea what he was thinking, so I didn't have much of a clue as to why he was so pissed. Yea, we eventually learn that the government is corrupt and Prescott had some role in this, but given the order of events, it feels less like a legitimate reason to be angry at these guys and more like the universe has twisted about to validate the main character's feelings.

But for as much as I criticize the story, it's hard to hold that against the game. After all, the story only exists to ferry me from shoot-out to shoot-out. If I'm going to criticize the game, I'm gonna have to do it based on its gameplay, which is why I'm going to do the exact opposite. What's there to criticize with Gears of War 3? For the most part, it's a very mechanically solid game. More specifically, it's a game about shooting, and it will never once let you forget that, because you're gonna be jumping from shoot-out to shoot-out with alarming rapidity. Any moments that lack shooting are filled with even more shooting. The way I describe it, it sounds like things could get repetitive very fast, but actually, it does a great job of keeping you engaged. You have to be paying attention at all times to get anything done, even when you're not mercilessly killing things. And then there are the weapons to consider. The.....OK, there aren't too many weapons here, and that selection is limited even more by the simple fact that you'll be pilfering most of your weapons from enemies whose brains you just mashed in with your boot, but in theory, at least, the weapons get the job done. You have the usual assault rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle, and all that mess, but you also get to chainsaw dudes in half and explode them with arrows and some other stuff in between. What's not to like about that? (Besides what I just said before this?)

Those radishes are fucked.

How about the lack of risk, IE the linchpin holding all these other elements together? Remember earlier, when I said that the developers forgot to bake their meat cake that is Gears 3? This is what I meant by it. I'd say that the cover system is partially responsible for this, but from what I remember, it was working as hard as it could against this. Bullets will rip through you like you're made of toilet paper (not surprising for people who only protect their torsos), so you're forced into cover to survive. Not just to recover, either; that damage can wrack up rather quickly, so there's definitely a tactical element to popping in and out of cover that elevates this game at least slightly past mindless shooting.

But what happens when you take too much damage? You crawl around on your stomach, waiting for one of your team-mates to run over and heal you. This may not sound like much, but keep in mind that you can bleed out for hours on end and come back to full health, removing any sense of danger or loss associated with coming close to death. I know it sounds like I'm harping on this way too much, but it really does bring the game toppling down. It removes any sense of accomplishment or skill I could reap from my actions. Why bother being smart ab-actually, I have a real example of something that happened. The first time I booted up the game, I gained a bunch of levels in....something. I'm still not sure what. But my system was making some funny noises, so I decided to remove the game and get that sorted out. Pop it back in, and I not only get booted up to level 11 (again, don't know what), but two achievements for making it this far. What did I achieve, Epic Games? I booted up the fucking game twice. I haven't even gotten through a menu, and already, you're saying that I've achieved something. How much better is the rest of the game supposed to fare after that?

Then again, it's important to keep in mind that I was playing this squad-based shooter all alone. Maybe on a higher difficulty or with other people manning the Cogs, the tension increases to the point where all this becomes a non-issue. Or maybe I should have tried any other mode available. I mean, there's an Imperial buttload of modes to fuck about with, and since the basic mechanics provide a good base, I have to imagine there's something worthwhile in this thing. All I know for certain is that the campaign isn't.

Review Synopsis

  • I hope the sequel to this game is Fenix and Friends in Anger Management.
  • Wow, what a good cover-based shooter!
  • Except for that whole "lack of serious risk" thing.

This part of the blog brought to you by incredibly obscure memes.

And meeting the obscure game quota for this week is Burai Fighter. Of course, you probably already knew that when you saw the banner at the very top of....anyway, Burai Fighter fares much better than Gears of War 3 did. Yes, it definitely has some rough edges (in fact, I think the developers saw a smooth area in Burai Fighter and decided to glue sandpaper onto it), but it still manages to deliver some very solid action in an appropriately short amount of time.

Normally, I'd jump straight into the story, but Burai Fighter doesn't bother with that pussy shit. You want some story? There are Burai that you must fight. Or maybe you are a fighter from the proud nation of Burai. None of that matters, because there is only one thing in the world that matters: shooting everything everywhere at all times. And I mean it when I say "everywhere", I mean everywhere; Burai Fighter lets you shoot in any direction you want, and by "lets you", I mean "forces you". That multi-direction shooting feature's gonna be put to good use as enemies come from all these different directions and hide in nooks and crannies you generally can't reach just by shooting forward. It gets even better with the boss battles, as each one finds new and interesting ways of utilizing that one mechanic. You want a crab with spinning arms? It's in there. What about an angel thing that tries to kill you with a massive spiky cucumber? That's in there, too. How about shooting a tiny-ass hitbox while dodging sperm rocks?......OK, so it's only better with most of them.

I AM THE PASSWORD KING! BOW BEFORE MY KNOWLEDGE OF THE ARCANE @ SYMBOL!

Still, that's a better track record than the power-ups get. What? You thought that you were gonna play this game with only one weapon? In games about shooting, you get far more ways to shoot people; in Burai Fighter, you get four. The default weapon, a laser thing, missiles, and deadly, deadly rings. Each has their own totally unique identity that you will swiftly forget as you just use the default. Here's the thing about power-ups, Burai Fighter: they're supposed to make me more powerful. That's the biggest reason why anybody even bothers with them. But you've started me off with this incredibly functional weapon that lets me shoot wherever the hell I want. Why should I bother with this cool laser weapon if my regular pea-shooter can accomplish the same things? They feel more like conveniences than they do actual necessities to the gameplay.

Hopefully, the level design is better than the weapon design, by which I mean "the level design is better than the weapon design". I'd say something about how it paces the action, but I'm pretty sure I said that back in the paragraph about angel sperm or whatever. Instead, I'll hype up the variety in level design, because it's amazing how no two levels in this thing feel exactly the same. The first, level, for instance, sucks. The second level has you scrolling through Metroid caves. The third level is a top-down shooter for no real reason. I'd say this is where the variety works against the game, but it's less about the game simply trying out new ideas and more about these new ideas not being executed well. You want all those cool enemy formations and winding level directions and all the other things you liked about the rest of the game? Well, how about we throw enemies at you while you wander around a blank space of nothingness, looking for a boss to explode? It's as utilitarian and hard to enjoy as I make it out to be. Still, it's difficult to hold that against the entire game when there are only two levels like that. After all, that still leaves five mostly competent levels of side scrolling action to experience.

Review Synopsis

  • You're gonna be doing a lot of shooting in this game and have absolutely no problems with it.
  • You're just gonna be doing it with one weapon. Yea, you get the option for more, but why bother?
  • Oh, and something about top down levels, for whatever reason.
13 Comments

Demons have taken over the Internet. Shin Megami Tensei is not involved.

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

So goes another game in a Humble Indie Bundle. Given how many of the damn things are released, I'm starting to believe that intro is losing meaning. But it's best to focus on the present, which for this blog, translates into Darwinia. It's the first entry in the illustrious -winia franchise, known for Darwinia +, Multiwinia, Godwinia, and Activia. Are you looking for an incredibly relaxing game? Then Darwinia's for you. Want a game with some challenge or tension or a sense of accomplishment? Go somewhere else. The relaxing part tends to fuck that up.

However, you must understand that that's what makes the game work in the first place. I'll get into more detail about it later, but the basic premise is that you're tasked with removing a computer virus by shooting it to death. For the most part, you have an infinite supply of whatever you could need, time included; the only limit is on how much of it is out at any one time. Sound easy? Well, it is, and it only gets easier from there. For instance, enemies will only engage you if you run up to their face and shout "I INTEND TO KILL YOU", so any non-violent goals, like gathering digital souls or unlocking spawn points, tend to be very easy. In fact, I'd begin every map not by killing things, but by doing anything else, specifically because it's such a low-risk effort with high yields. Granted, all of this takes a long time to accomplish (each map takes maybe an hour to complete), but that's not because you have to restart a map again and again and again.

I don't have a clever caption for this image. I just want you to soak in how goddamn amazing this game looks.

This would be the part where I introduce some mitigating factor that makes the flaws easier to deal with, but the mitigating factor here is that very flaw itself. Sort of. All you really need to know is that this game is very leisurely and relaxing. A lot of that is in the minimalist tone the game projects. You'll be playing through origami levels and controlling vague representations of things to fight slightly less vague representations, all within relative silence, and somehow, all of it coalesces into a gorgeous product. Yet that's only a part of what makes Darwinia so soothing. There's just this beauty to seeing your goals executed with a ruthless efficiency that's incredibly hard to describe. There's no decent word to describe this in English (which I know you're reading it in), so allow me to use a Japanese word instead: 機能美. Darwinia is built entirely around 機能美, and it works really well. Sure, it falters a tad in the specifics. The early goings feel like you're wrestling against the mechanics to get anything done, and certain gameplay concepts are introduced long before they're ever made relevant. Give it a chance, though, because there's something to be said for conquering vast swathes of land with nothing more than the power of math. And that's Darwi-

Wait. I forgot the story. I mean, yea, it's not necessary to the enjoyment of Darwinia, but that's not much of an excuse to forget it. Anyway, remember earlier when I said that this game's all about destroying computer viruses? Well, there's more to it than that. So much more. Like a goal. Why are you going Norton on things that don't technically have an anus? It's for the Darwinians, these tiny green stick figures that get farted out onto the map every now and again. I realize that sounds demeaning, which probably isn't appropriate, given how everything you're doing in the game is going to be for their sake. Your first priority is always....OK, that's going to be to kill, but the second priority is raising and protecting these defenseless little fuckers at every turn. I'd say that this contributes to building a relationship with them, but a lot more of it is in how their world is built. It's almost completely alien, but there's still enough there to relate it to our own world, like buildings and geography and this weird Buddhist/Scientology religion aspect. Not sure what that's about. The important thing is that it's enough to form some type of bond with the lifeforms populating Darwinia. In case that's not enough for you, then how about a totally awesome what-should-have-been-the-final-level and an incredibly-easy-to-cheese-final-level? And that's Darwinia.

Review Synopsis

  • Failure is not an option, but that's only because the developers didn't really include it.
  • Because the developers knew you wouldn't be able to move your muscles, what with being relaxed to the point of paralysis.
  • Oh, and something about Scientology. That one confused me.

Here's a question I'm sure you've never asked: what if everybody in the Earthbound universe was an asshole? Oh, and if Sonic and DK were there for some reason? Well, this poorly drawn Flash video answers those questions nobody ever asked.

What connection does this have to Darwinia? Absolutely none! I just wanted to play this game. Not sure why, though; as we all know, I'm not a huge fan of survival horror games. But does the addition of RPG features sweeten the deal? Of course not! That only makes it harder for the horror parts of the game to work. So what we're left with is Resident Evil with random encounters. Sound like fun? If so, you must lead a horribly depressing life.

That said, Koudelka does have an OK story. It all begins with our protagonist (named Koudelka, just to make writing this really confusing) hearing voices in her head tell her to break into a church. Obeying that which must not be obeyed, she breaks in through sheer force of awesomeness. And then she meets Edward and James. I don't have any problems with facial stubble, but James is a completely separate entity. The bastard just doesn't know when to shut up about religion. I'd tell him to tone it down, but it's not like the guy's attitudes are without purpose. I mean, they play a huge role in the game's themes and whatnots. For you see, Koudelka is a game about religious hypocrisy, one that tries to tell us how religious fervor can be used to mask even the most horrible, selfish of deeds. Does it work? That's actually incredibly difficult for me to say. On the one hand, Christian ideology isn't actually explored in the context of the story, giving us no idea of how that faith should actually be used other than "don't do what these guys are doing". Then again, maybe that's not really necessary. After all, everybody's just using it to mask their own shitty deeds. If they don't care about it, why should I? Speaking of not caring, that's kind of what the game does with that theme. Oh, sure, it's definitely present, but not very strongly. Instead, the focus is on dumb moments and storytelling that's a little loose.

"Damn it, I simply MUST make room for this jewelry." (This isn't a joke. It's something that actually happened in the game.)

And being as much like Resident Evil as possible. Remember when the only non-Resident Evil survival horror games were Clock Tower and I don't think that counts? Koudelka was released during that period of time, and dear god, does it show. You wander around pre-rendered environments (complete with pre-rendered people), shooting up what I guess are zombies and solving what I guess are puzzles. As you can probably tell, the inspiration isn't a good thing. A lot of the puzzles make no sense and don't even make an attempt to fit in with the atmosphere. For example, there's this one room which contains a floor that best resembles a SATOR square written in Wingdings. You must step on certain squares in a certain order to progress. I think you can work out the numerous problems a puzzle like this would create. On the other end of the spectrum, we have our hero reaching into a dead woman's cleavage for an item. Still, this design philosophy does have its benefits. Not in terms of puzzles; that aspect is fucked. I'm talking more about the atmosphere. You have this absolutely huge church filled with you, a bunch of mystical, otherworldly creatures, and absolutely nothing else. Add all that together, and you have an oppressively lonely and desolate air that has the potential for some good scares, or at least a decent sense of eerieness.

Until the RPG system comes in, that is. But before we get to why I don't like such a major feature, let me say that it's a mechanically solid system. Imagine a turn-based game of football where everybody's trying to murder each other. You can move your guys about the field, but not past your nearest opponent. Same goes for the other side, making it a pain in the ass to revive anybody who had the audacity to die behind an enemy. That's not me complaining about the system; that's me qualifying what makes it so good. It's really simple, but yields a surprising amount of depth, especially when combined with the character diversity and weapon degradation and ammo concerns and all these other factors. Oh, and there's also a magic system that levels according to usage. That's cool, I guess. But really, the appeal the battles have lie in their tactical nature. As I've said, it's filled with some really good gameplay mechanics

Nicholas Cage, this is you in right now.

that would be better in just about any other game. What? Did you forget that this is a horror-themed game? Well, the developers did, because role-playing mechanics and survival horror aren't a particularly good mix. More specifically, the RPG elements make it impossible for this game to be scary or terrifying or even vaguely related to horror. For instance, remember that sense of loneliness I was talking about before? How do you think that fares when you introduce random battles? And how am I supposed to feel vulnerable in a turn-based system, again? I know that the movement thing I mentioned could play into this, but that would need an especially high difficulty to be true, and Koudelka isn't about high difficulty. I mean, it's not an easy game, but it's not that hard, either. It strikes a middle balance that doesn't work too well in its favor. And I haven't even mentioned all the pointless boss battles the game just throws at you out of what I'm guessing is a feeling of obligation. You don't need all th-

Best I nip this negativity in the bud before it gets out of hand. How about some positive talk for a change? Like the graphics. I realize how confusing that sounds when I haven't posted anything good looking of it so far, but understand that I'm not talking about the CG scenes. Their coloring is too off to make them any good, as are their faces and animations. (The mediocre voice work doesn't help.) Fortunately, the stuff that's rendered in real time doesn't have those problems, and not just because the PlayStation wasn't powerful enough to render faces. The animation is incredibly fluid, and everything, from the environments to the character models, is rendered with a high amount of detail. Combine that with some decent music, and you have a game worth checking out. Combine that with dumb "puzzles" and a combat system that has no business anywhere near this type of game, and you no longer have that game I mentioned last sentence. Instead, you have Koudelka.

Review Synopsis

  • Why talk about using Jesus as a mask for your shitty deeds when we can focus on planet spider women tattooing the Sephirot onto their bodies?
  • A more serious question: who thought it was a good idea to combine a role-playing game with fear? (Square doesn't count, since they made it work.)
  • Well, at least it looks good.
18 Comments

This blog has been taken over by demons.

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

Behold! The first blog of the new year! How do I start things off? By blogging about a game I played in July, that was released in 1994. Because none of my dictionaries contain the word "timely". Normally, this would be the place where I give you a brief glimpse of my opinion on my game, but what do I say about this game? It perfectly straddles the line between good and bad, never deciding on one. It's not even average, but a little bit of everything. Which, in light of the game's themes, is oddly appropriate.

What would those themes be, per se? It's hard for me to put into words, so I'll just boil it down to navigating a world of moral complexity. The world's gone to shit (mainly because you nuked it into oblivion, and then nuked oblivion just to cover all your bases) and there are a couple of factions fighting for control over this irradiated hellhole. It's up to you to explore around for a bit before deciding which path suits you best. I chose to the path of neutrality, which in this case, amounted to stabbing anything that so much as existed in my near vicinity. Why is it that in any video game with a rich moral choice system, my first instinct always turns to abject violence? And when I say that this game has a rich moral choice system, I mean it. While you don't get a lot of opportunities to affect your alignment, and those opportunities are obvious, the choices you make have real impact on what happens. Sure, there's the obvious story stuff to consider, but you also have to worry about sidequests closing themselves off and certain demons simply refusing to hang out with you. Throw all that atop a system wherein there's no obviously right answer and

Hisao Nakai: pretty fly for an arrhythmic guy.

you don't have the reason why I like this game. Not the main reason, at least. That belongs to the world itself. Atlus put a lot of effort into building a world, and dear god, does it pay off. For instance, most post-apocalyptic games would start you on the post side of that equation simply because it makes sense. Not Shin Megami Tensei, though. The game starts off with a perfectly intact Tokyo, only to blow it all up later in the game. I know this sounds like a minor thing, but it does a lot to contribute to the feeling that the world has been obliterated almost past the point of redemption. I say "almost" because people are clearly subsisting in this demonic version of Tokyo. Oh, and I might as well throw demons into the pile of reasons I like the world of SMT. They bring so much to the game, whether it's this modern fantasy mythos feeling or a political dimension that resonates well with that moral nonsense from before or a demon-infested Disney Land. And even ignoring that, there's still a lot of cool shit to be found in this blown-up Tokyo Land.

The only problem is in actually finding any of it. Not in terms of the first person dungeons, though. I'll admit to relying on the auto-map way too much, but at least the environments are distinctive enough that you can sort of get an idea where things are. Plus there are some enjoyable and memorable dungeons you get to explore, like a person's brain and I don't need any other examples after that. I wish I could say any of that for the overworld, though. It's a nightmare finding your way around. The overworld looks like a subway map with a lot of dirt over it, so nothing looks particularly distinctive, meaning it takes about twelve hours just to find a new location. Or an old one. The point is that you'll never have a clue where you're going. The SNES version is better, but I can't imagine by much, since I gave it up after losing track of where the hell I was relatively quickly. But speaking of better, the overworld does get better as the game goes on, largely because flooding the shit out of Tokyo limits the scope quite a bit. Unfortunately, the dungeons compensate. Remember Tokyo Destiny Land from a paragraph ago? It's a teleporting hell. And don't get me started on the Great Cathedral.

She ain't kidding. Your party gets shuffled about so many times over the course of the game, creating this really cool feeling of flux and uncertainty.

Mainly because I'm talking about the combat now. I'd ask why Atlus decided to make such a boring feature pop up so frequently, but its frequency is a large factor in why it's boring in the first place. In battle, you only really have three options: whack something with your sword, shoot it with your gun, or give it a taste of whatever the hell Zanma is. There are a few other options, but given how rarely I used them (if at all), you're pretty much left with the three I've listed. Now combine this with a game that has more demons per second than frames. That's putting a lot of stress on a structure that wasn't built to handle it in the first place, and adding several layers of grind only makes the problem worse. The only mitigating factor may be enemy weaknesses, which require you to pay attention for a change. Yet given how few enemies there are that can't be beaten with a simple combination of auto-battle and nothing else, the battle system remains largely crap.

At first, I thought the combat was a punishment, of sorts, for screwing up the much better demon negotiations. Sure, it's finicky and every demon is a psychological mess who will respond to the same statement differently depending on where the moon is, but that just adds to the charm of the system. Each demon has their own unique personality, and it's fun to figure out how they're going to respond to what prompts and the best rewards they're gonna give you (or it would be fun if not for the whole Japanese thing). Booting out to the combat seems like a fair-ish punishment for fucking things up. But that's not what's going on. That interpretation fails to hold water when you consider just how necessary combat is toward doing well in the game and how ancillary the negotiations are. You can get through a lot of the game without talking to anybody, but you're gonna need to fight eventually.

I am, of course, referring to the poorly designed bosses. Normally, I'd simply list off reasons why I don't like them, but why bother when it's all captured on video?

And every boss is like this. Well, almost. The bosses at the beginning of the game tend to be harder simply because you don't always have access to Mahazio spells or whatever, and a lot of the end-game bosses are simply immune to magic. BUUUUUT since they're only going to be doing single-digit damage, and you'll have maxed out at least some of your stats quite a while ago, it's hard to say that they put up any kind of challenge. They're just really repetitive and boring, which makes the decision to saturate the end hours of the game with them so very confusing. This would normally be followed up with something along the lines of "just like my opinion on this game", but I think I have it worked out by now: I don't like Shin Megami Tensei. Yes, the demon negotiations keep you mentally stimulated, and true, you get to explore a well constructed world held together with a thought out moral system. But most of the game is trying to figure out just where the hell you are while dealing with random encounters so frequent that they cease being random. By weight alone, mediocrity wins. As always.

Review Synopsis

  • Shin Megami Tensei can rest well at night, knowing that its ideological bent is well justified.
  • And then it's woken up by the button mashing battles.
  • I'd work the navigation into that metaphor, but really, it's just too easy.

You WISH this was the final boss to Shin Megami Tensei. Instead, it's two relatively easy guys you just whack to death a bunch.

How have I not gotten to this game already? This is the most well known obscure game out there (in that most everybody's heard of it, but it's always pushed off top 10 lists for Mario and Contra), but it's taken me until now to get to it. But even ignoring that, I'm surprised I didn't get to this game sooner. This is a Metroidvaniesh game that's just oozing in enthusiastic crazy. What's not to like about that?

Of course, things don't necessarily start crazy. Instead, they begin with our poorly drawn hero taking in some rays. Then we find out his name is Bang. Things go downhill from here, folks. And uphill. And in many other directions, because this game is all over the place. Maybe a list of examples would help here: Bang gets psychic headaches. A little person in a mustache tells Bang to jump in some lava to retrieve a magic stone. Two creatures combine into a panda monster that launches its own heads at you. (It starts off with the one, but then grows five more.) If you think I'm taking this out of context, let it be known that there wasn't a context in the first place. Sure, you get some dialogue that pieces this all together, but it's dense with information and none of it's relevant. It's like Hideo Kojima's six year old kid developed this game. And that's precisely why I love Clash at Demonhead: it feels absolutely genuine. Never did I feel like the game was pandering to me or that the dangerous levels of energy were forced in any way. It's more like the developers just threw in whatever the hell they wanted because it sounded like a cool idea, and man, did it pay off.

"I've finally become RoboCop!" "Well done, boy!"

But that can only carry you so far. I mean, what are you going to be doing in these weird scenarios? Playing through an average Metroidvania action-adventure experience, although I'm reluctant to use that term here. In most Metroidvania games, the focus is on collecting power-ups in the right order to open up more of the world, and that wouldn't apply here. Sure, there's quite a bit of backtracking and finding your way, but items are rarely involved in this process. The focus here is more on figuring out how the levels and events flow into each other, which is entertaining in its own right. Demonhead will only very barely provide you a sense of direction, and it's easy to forget that direction after walking through a level, so there's achievement to be had in actually progressing through the game. That may sound like a cheap tactic (even cheaper when you realize how many of the levels are just duplicates) and while that may be true, I found the exploration to be rewarding nonetheless.

Can't say that about the combat, though. If I had to pick one flaw from the game, I'd probably ask if I could list more flaws. But if this flaw-miser insisted on the one, I'd go broad and say the combat, just to shove it in his face. Anyway, the combat. OK, to be fair, the mechanics aren't the problem, here. Sure, you get a limited number of shots on screen at any given time and not a lot of weapons, anyway, but there's a bigger threat to this game's enjoyment: the enemies. Every one of these is a pain in the ass to hit, jumping every which way but where you'd prefer them to be. You can't even make the argument that the enemies should have been designed this way; their AI is lazy and, in a sense, predictable. Move over here and then sweep the leg, for instance, or "jump around in half circles like an asshole". With such behavior, I feel less like I'm fighting a worthy opponent and more like I'm swatting mosquitoes. The bosses are just much larger mosquitoes who happen to be Rob Zombie-esque dinosaur motorcycles. Wait, what don't I like about this game, again?

Review Synopsis

  • This game is so weird that it doesn't know how weird it is.
  • But if you're not into that, there's still some solid(-ish) level design to be had.
  • You're gonna have to put up with some bleh combat, though.
5 Comments

My descent into amorous madness. With accompanying screenshots.

Part the 一番目

It wasn't supposed to happen like this. My plans for Tokimeki Memorial were very different back then. Oh, how I wish I could relive those naive days. "Dating sim? That would be the perfect venue for my snarky pictorial prose." But then....something happened, and....I think it's best if I just show you. Join me as we map my spiraling insanity.

I'm a man who loves his puns.
And then I get to decide somebody else's birthday, because...I have no goddamn clue.
(I didn't think I could get into a top school, but luckily, I made it in.) And it was here that I realized that this is essentially a very talkative Persona alternative.
That smile....that dumb, "I'm in on it, aren't I?" smile....it's gonna get to me.
"So, you.....".....I just can't look at that face without cracking up each time. DAMN YOU, KONAMI! DAMN YOU AND YOUR MIND GAMES!
(Uh-huh. Let's both do our very best.) "Shiori, did you put a box of tacks on my seat? Like, the actual box of tacks? And without any tacks in it?" "I don't know. *giggle*"
(Oh, the ceremonies are just starting. I'll meet you later. My mom's coming.) There are only two options for what this girl's mom is like: a hyper-positive genki girl who farts rainbows out of every orifice, or a beaten down, utterly depressed woman who long ago lost the ability to put up with this upbeat daughter of hers.
For whatever reason, the most sinister "Konami action game" music plays as soon as this guy appears.
(Uh...well....(Man, not this guy, again...)) Aw hell. He's "that guy". That asshole who never quite gets that you want nothing to do with him. This oughta be fun.
(Well, is that right....Could you tell me what she's like?) "Well, she has this absolutely adorable smile. Cutest thing you'll ever see. It's like she took the most amazing shit of her life, but she doesn't know what poop is."
Or maybe he's gonna be my romantic rival, given how the translation's something like, "Sounds like a strange idea, but I'll go with it." Who the hell knows?
"....I just wanted to know what her personality's like, man. How did you even find out her blood type?"
(Mmhm, and her measurements?) OK, that settles it. He's the asshole friend from before, but with a hint of sleazy pervert who won't know what to do when he's fired from his job pumping gas in ten years.
And this guy....I don't know what's up with him. He reverse blinks (I had to slow the game way the hell down to get an open eye) and he constantly has a headache. Then again, given the characters we've encountered so far, I can't really blame him.
(But there are a lot of cute girls at this school. Let's do our best.) "At what? Getting good grades or getting with the ladies?" "................................................"
AH! WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED HERE!? NEXT SCREENSHOT. NEXT SCREENSHOT.
(Sorry. Did I keep you waiting?) "How could you keep me waiting? Schools stick to predictable schedules. In fact, aren't we in the same class or something?"
(N, no. It's not like that. What are you doing here?) "It isn't safe here, Shiori. This really suspicious looking orange-haired kid tried talking to me earlier, and he wanted to know your measurements and your blood type and all of these other things. Then he was possessed by a demon and.....Listen: we need to get out of here FAST." "..........What?"
She's explaining a rumor she heard. That rumor? That there's a giant fucking tree in front of the school. All while effing Ahriman is hot on her tail.
"I had not yet noticed this large tree on the campus. You were wise to alert me to it, Shiori."

59 Comments

The royal goat-like celebrations: Part the next part.

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

Second verse, same as the first.

Best Game

This one's definitely going to be a hard category. I played so many good games in July that you'd think the month was trying to tell the first half of the year to go fuck itself. I mean, we have Metal Gear Solid 2 and its naked cartwheels, Fallout 3 and its rich landscape full of things to kill, Pandora's Tower and that skeleton jar guy thing (the hell was he supposed to be, again), and some other things. However, I'm giving the Best Game of July Award to Terranigma. Great music, vivid graphics, solid action RPG gameplay, and a well told story, it's overall a fitting way to close out the storied history of the SNES. Wait, how could almost all of this apply to Pandora's Tower, too? I need to be more distinctive with these features.

Worst Game

Given the previous section, this looks doomed on arrival. But rest assured, dear reader: I apparently thought ahead. Near the end of the month, a couple of bad games managed to sneak in alongside the higher quality stuff I was just writing about. For instance, the original Shin Megami Tensei, what with its confusing navigation and piss easy boss fights around every corner. But at least that has a redeemable aspect in the form of the world it creates for itself. Harder to find such a redeeming side to Dynamite Dux. That aloof "gun things down" face can't mask the absolute nothingness that is Dynamite Dux. Then again, can anything, really? Besides substantial gameplay mechanics, of course.

Averagest Game

So with mostly very good games and a couple of medicore games near the end of the month, what does that mean for the average game? Absolutely goddamn nothing. Remember: this category is math-powered, because that's good for the environment. (Ever see a math spill or calculus fracking? Exactly.) That only means that the average game is going to be pretty good instead of merely average, since the average for this month is 7.3. What game matches that? Dragon Quest V at 7.3. With gangster eight year olds and the Space Pope giving out BJs left and right, this game was bound to win some type of award.

Best Game

Oh, August. What the hell happened? July was so awesome, with Metal Gear Solid 2 and Pandora's Tower and all that other cool stuff. So how do you follow that up? Games like Black Ops 2 and Koudelka and ugh. Not the best follow-up in the world. But that's not to say everything in August was bad. For example, Fire Emblem: Awakening. I think that's enough to qualify it for the Best Game award this month. Little Samson probably would have been considered for this award if I'd actually gone through with my ideas to video review this fucker. But as that never happened, neither shall this game receiving an award of any kind. Hey, speaking of video reviews...

Worst Game

Now with only a small handful of great games for that last section, there should be an over-abundance of bad games to talk about, right? Well, not really. Looking over my notes, I can only find a few truly bad games worthy of the Worst Game moniker. Two of them are the Zelda CD-i games. You know, the ones that failed to incur my unholy wrath? On video? That should be a sign that neither one's being deemed the Worst Game of August. No, that honor falls upon Toilet Kids. Congratulations, Bits Laboratory: you made a game worse than the Zelda CD-i games. I'd ask you if you were proud of yourselves if I wasn't so sure that you're no longer in business.

Averagest Game

So with not a lot of bad games and not a lot of good games, what does that leave us with? That's right: January! This is what we call progress. One caveat, though: January, as I recall, was clear-cut. Not so with August. The average is 6.7, but two games remain equidistant from this score: Gears of War 3 and Darwinia. It was an easy decision, as I'm giving the award to Darwinia. When caught between two mildly challenging choices, always choose the one you actually like, especially when that option gave you the chance to use a random Japanese word for no reason. (You're gonna....be fairly damn confused when that comes around, now that I think about it.)

Best Game

This is gonna be a weird category to consider. Rampant alcoholism (you'll understand why in the next section) has wiped out both my memory of this year and my ability to read, but I'd like to think that even at my lowest (not counting this), I had at least a few good games for this category. September, on the other hand, only has two games really worth considering: Killer is Dead and Yume Penguin Monogatari. As good as the last one is (it has the higher score of the two), there's no way I'm giving the award to a game that reifies both bulimia and vore. Instead, I’m giving it to the game that just throws whatever at you and hopes that it all works out. Somehow, it does. Rock on, you magnificent bitch. (For some reason, I’ve always wanted to write that sentence as of five seconds ago.)

Worst Game

What the hell happened, September? We both know that August was having some trouble finding some good games, but at least it was trying. You, however, saw fit to stuff mediocre game after mediocre game down my gullet. Tenchu, Sonic Shuffle, Mario Party Advance....You certainly made it easy for me to choose a bad game. Strangely enough, though, none of those games are quite bad enough to take home Worst Game of September of 2013. That particular honor befalls Onimusha: Warlords. Samurai action game? Great idea! Basing that action game on early, fixed camera Resident Evil games? Not a very good idea. Instead of the grace and precision we come to expect of the honored samurai, we get the plodding inprecision we come to expect of the Star Wars Kid (if the Star Wars Kid was being emulated at half the FPS). Wonderful.

Averagest Game

Now this is, by far, the most interesting category of September, and possibly the entire year. (Well, at least the entire year so far.) Why is that? The average score of the month was 6.1, and equidistant from that are three games. That's right: three games are competing for the glory of the least notable game of a particularly unnoteworthy month: Sakura Samurai, Ninja Spirit, and Mario Party Advance. Mario Party's automatically out because it has the lowest score of the three and it's a proud supporter of sick sexual crimes. That just leaves Japan games. I distinctly remember liking Sakura Samurai when I played it, so it's safe to say that it isn't winning this award. That honor goes to Ninja Spirit and its admirable averageness.

Best Game

Some of you may be confused as to what the hell's up with the banner for this month. What is this game, and why is it so ostentatiously represented? The game in question is Napple Tale, and because it's a game that concerns itself with the seasons themselves, I thought it best to give it all the banner space. And it is for that reason I give it the Game of the Month of October award. Sure, I could have focused on more relevant qualities, like the gameplay (solid), the story (sort of solid?), or the music (so densely packed a solid that it may very well be a black hole), but the mere fact that it managed to overpower the horrid Plant Laika is more than enough to earn an award of some type.

Worst Game

Which is more than I can say for the following game. Something as bad as Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom deserves no accolades of any kind, but for whatever reason, I feel compelled to point it out to you. Maybe it's to keep you from making the same horrible mistakes I did. I'm not entirely sure. Now I could ramble on about how it's a logic-based game with absolutely no logic, how it removes items from your inventory just to make you get the exact same ones, or how it looks like MS Paint spewed biohazardous fluids from both ends. However, I believe my most cogent argument came to me while compiling scores for the next category: I looked at Princess Tomato's score, and realized it's the same as Planet Laika's. I'm fairly certain that's a war crime in certain countries. Like mine, for instance.

Averagest Game

I feel like I've said this a lot so far, but what a month for average games! In fact, only about two games this month broke the trend of mathematical averageness: the previously covered Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom, and Code of Princess. Strangely enough, the second game, despite being distinctive, grabs the average. I know, I know: it's strange how a game I don't remember liking that much is being honored with easily the least memorable reward on here, but there's one thing you have to keep in mind: the average for this month was 5.7. (Blame fucking Princess Tomato for bringing it down.) Code of Princess got as close as possible with a 5.3, so I am bound by math to give it this award. DO NOT QUESTION THE ALL KNOWING MATH.

Best Game

.........*frothy bubbly noises*......That's my way of indicating how absolutely defeated I feel. (I have to remind myself that this isn't a video feature and that audio/visual gags don't work.) It's like the year just gets continually worse as I go on. I can't even think of a game that's notably good enough to be the Best Game of November. The closest I have is Maui Mallard, but come on. Maui Mallard? Yea, that was an OK game (partially because of how completely strange every last aspect of its existence was), but Game of the November? Is that really all the month has to offer?

Worst Game

Oh, that's right: bad games. Fortunately, this part of the blog is gonna be stupidly easy to write, since I have so very much to work with. No matter where I look, I'm bound to find a terrible game well deserving of this award. Half Life 2: Episode Two. (Be prepared for some controversial blogs, is what I'm saying.) Akazukin Chacha. The Phantom Menace The Phantom Menace. If ever there was a warning sign that I was going to make a horrible mistake, that should have been it. But surprisingly, I found something far worse in this particular month. At the beginning, even. That's right, I'm talking Motoko-Chan no Wonder Kitchen, a game I know for a fact that you've never heard of. It's pretty much Cooking Mama if the titular Mama's kitchen was a meth lab where half the ingredients were disgusting mayonnaise. This being an adventure game, it's a lot worse than you're probably imagining.

Averagest Game

And so we come to the ultimate proof that 2013 has just been one downhill slog since about July. No month has managed to surpass the July average of 7.3; if anything, it's been a steady decline from there. November hit a new low at 5.5. Remember, remember, the fifth point fifth of November. Also remember remember how many ties I've had to deal with, because that certainly ain't going away. This time, it's between Daibakushou Jinsei Gekijo and Wonder Momo. I'm digging the bottom of the barrel, aren't I? This might look like a particularly difficult decision to make....

...but I don't think that's gonna be an issue.

Wonder Momo. Duh.

Best Game

What a way to end the year. For those too lazy to click a musical link every minute, that's not sarcastic. December honestly ended up a great way to end the year. After so many months of crap and mediocrity, I get to wrap up 2013 with some decent games, for a change. The Averagest section will make that especially clear, but I think my choice of Best will illustrate this point just as well: Little Inferno. I didn't have to settle for anything, like I did last month. This game I genuinely enjoyed. How do you get two hours worth of content out of burning things? If I made this game, the answer would be "set a building on fire". Fortunately, the fine people at Tomorrow Corporation instead decided on "intelligent narrative context" and "scathing anti-capitalist themes". This is why I don't make video games.

Worst Game

But alas, there is a downside to a month filled with good games: a veritable lack of bad games. Wait, how's that a downside? A situation like this not only gives me a ton of good games to play, but it also makes choosing a bad one that much easier: Tokimeki Memorial! You know, that famous(-ish) dating sim that wasn't released outside Japan?..........OK, so Tokimeki Memorial isn't necessarily a bad game; it's just an incompetent one. A game centered around romance sounds like a good idea, but math and objectifying dating strategies both damn Tokimeki as a game of poor quality. Especially math. When's the last time you saw math with a fine lady?

Averagest Game

We're dealing with sub-Laika averages this month, aren't we? Surprisingly, no. 6.8 is the number to match this month; a marked improvement over the steady decline from July......and the exact same average from January. Spooky. How about we ignore the possibility that I'm living in some sort of Groundhog Day Time Prison and instead focus on the task at hand? What earns the coveted title of Averagest Game of December? Doraemon 3: Nobita to Toki no Hougyoku. It's a game as average as it is obscure, and that's exactly why I gave it a score of 6.8. That way, it's a shoe-in f.......What's that? Penny Arcade got the exact same score? And it didn't even have to try? FUCK IT! Doraemon's the most average game of December. But what about the entire year? Hopefully, we find out in...

Otherwise known as the finale. But before we start handing out awards, a graph!

I have no idea what the fuck that means. And with that out of the way, the actual awards! A little disclaimer before I begin things proper: this particular part of the blog is gonna be in reverse order from everything else, because I like building suspense. That out of the way? Good. Let's wrap up this monstrosity.

Averagest Game

In retrospect, this may not be the best place to wrap things up. Have you seen the averages for the previous months? They're all over the place! What does that mean for the year as a whole? 6.6. It means 6.6. That's three points off the usual average of 6.9. Most disappointing and most unsexy. That probably explains how a game like Steel Storm ended up winning this award. In a way, this feels absolutely appropriate. All I remember about the game is that there's shooting and nothing else. That's all an average game has to be, really: shooting and nothing else. And it is for that reason that Steel Storm wins the Most Average Game of the Year Award. Or maybe it's because that's the only game to get a 6.6 score this year. Yea, that's probably why.

Worst Game

Oh, like there's even a fucking choice. Planet Laika.

Best Game

And so we finally come to the end of this feature. Despite all the shit I've had to push through (especially toward the end), there are a lot of great games to choose from. Persona 3 FES, Terranigma, Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance...Hell, I could even choose a game that actually came out this year, like Fire Emblem: Awakening or Pandora's Tower or Project......I can't finish that sentence with a straight face. But in the end, only one game can win the coveted GOTY title: Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon. I know this seems completely out of ana field, but rest assured that I replayed the game back in January and simply never told anybody. Honest. Now get out there and play Fragile Dreams, already. Your King commands it.

4 Comments

The royal goat-like celebrations: Part the first.

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

Once again, GOTY season has hit the forums. Everybody's out celebrating the festivities by putting together lists that all look almost exactly the same. Yet each year, I still feel there's something missing from them all. Originality? Oh, hell no. (OK, hell yes, but I'm going somewhere else with this.) I'm talking about a full perspective. Most of the big hitters are released near the end of the year, leaving the rest of the year utterly depressed.

I am here to fix that with my own wacky brand of GOTY celebrations. Last year, I honored the very users of this site; this year, I will honor THE YEAR ITSELF! Rather than go crazy with the categories, I'll go on a month to month basis, picking out the best, worst, and most mathematically average game there. Then, at the end, I'll select the most representative of those and tie things up. Before I get into it, though, let me say that I'll be choosing games based on when I uploaded the banner for a blog, so as to get a more complete (if infinitely more confusing) image of my own gaming year. Oh, and speaking of banners, I'll include a picture from Planet Laika in each one. I find it appropriate, since that's a game where you can collect the fucking months themselves. Besides, I still have all these images eating a hole in my computer, and I have to kill them somehow. That settled? Let's dive right in.

Best Game

Well, this has already blown up in my face. The first month of the year, and there's not a lot that could fit the best category. Oh, sure, I played quite a few notable games here, but each one had their own fatal flaw that prevents it from claiming this very minor title. Snake Eater has this high school douche nozzle. Typing of the Dead has ironically ironic idiocy. Pokemon Conquest....OK, I don't have many issues with Pokemon Conquest, as far as I can remember, but I do know of one game that deserves this title more than that. Namely, Harmful Park. You know, that super obscure shooter with really cool set pieces and awesome weapons? Did any other game even stand a chance here?

Worst Game

What the fuck? Somehow, I have even less bad games to deal with here. What's going on? Why am I only dealing with an educational Popeye game and a dull beat em up from the early Genesis era? Don't I have anything else? (Yea, I potentially have Golden Sun, but I wouldn't call it outright bad. Meandering and unfocused, but not bad.) Well, hard to complain now. Just gotta deal with what I've got, which is surprisingly easy. Last Battle, definitely. At least Popeye serves some sort of purpose, and I can imagine somebody getting some kind of brief ironic enjoyment out of it. I can't say any of that for Last Battle, a game that I'd say had a bad translation if it made any sense in the original Japanese. So congratulations, Last Battle, for your accomplishment in ass.

Averagest Game

So if there weren't a lot of good games this month and not a lot of bad games, what does that equal? That's right: tons and tons of simply average games. I feel like a kid in a store! Or at least I would if I wasn't bound by that fickle bitch known as mathematics. She set the average at 6.8, and the closest game to hit that mark was Snake's Revenge, at....6.8. Setting the mark high, aren't we? Well, at least I can remember this average game, as a Metal Gear Solid game for the type of person who doesn't have the patience to play through a Metal Gear Solid game. Ideally, this would be reserved for a game I don't remember, but who am I to disagree with math?

Best Game

Alright, now we're getting somewhere. Finally, some meatier games to deal with. Specifically, I get Amnesia, one of two games to convince me that survival horror might be worth it. How, exactly? By focusing on world building instead of gameplay mechanics that have no business being here. But Amnesia, being a survival horror game, never had any chance of winning the GOTM. So instead, I shall bequeath it unto Kid Icarus. What happens when Seth MacFarlane's hired to write a Disney movie? Mildly funny pop culture references. But I'd keep it in Uprising for two reasons: first, it adds some type of charm to the game. Not sure what charm, but there's definitely a charm. Not enough for you? How about some kickass on rail segments and cool combat segments? That should be enough.

Worst Game

This one's gonna be the hard category for February. I mean, I played so many good games in February that it's difficult to choose one for such a nasty category as worst GOTM. But I’m not completely without choices. Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors seems the exceedingly obvious candidate. It’s the Menger sponge of of video game writing in that it has more plot holes than it does plot points. Combine that with leaps in logic that I'm sure set some type of Olympic record somewhere and other such mechanical weaknesses, this has gotta be the worst February game, right? Surprisingly, no. From out of left field comes a pointless South Park trivia game to steal the....what's the opposite of gold? Lead? To steal the lead from 999! I'd say the joke's on South Park, but I don't think it would've earned this spot if it had something approximating humor.

Averagest Game

Now this shouldn't be too hard. I'm never at a shortage for average games, and the average for this month is 7.0. I give fucking everything a seven! This should be easy. Too easy, in fact. At first, I was going to give it to Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster's Hidden Treasure, standing pretty at 7.4, but then I remembered Cadash, with a much closer 6.8. That's the mark of a truly average game: it took me some actual effort to remember that it even existed. You're doing God's work, Cadash.

Best Game

This was a no-brainer. Part of that's because March turned out to be an average to mediocre month for games, but a much larger part is that even if there were better games that month, I doubt they'd be able to complete with BIT.TRIP RUNNER. Now this is a weird game to explain. I mean, describing the gameplay doesn't do it justice (hit buttons when the game tells you? *yawn*), and telling you it looks fantastic makes me come across as horribly shallow. But BIT.TRIP Runner....I don't even know how to put it. It just traps you in the moment and you just never want it to end? It's like rhythm games and platformers had a beautiful orgy, and then the people at Gaijin Games put down the heroin needle long enough to turn that into a game.

Worst Game

As always, I have to go with my heart and pick the most obscure game possible for this category. Sorry, Metro 2033; your poor use of cinematics and overly punishing stealth sections didn't cut it as the worst of March. And I can't remember anything about Zombie Nation and people remember that it exists. So what gets the coveted award? Miracle Girls. You know, that vapid, bare bones platformer where you play as two girls rescuing their friends (presumably)? Well, actually, you don't know, given how stupidly obscure it is. Tis but a sample of the beauty that is Renegade Ego. Anyway, not a big fan of Miracles Girl. Next up:

Averagest Game

So if the Best and Worst sections were easy, what does that mean about the Averagest? That's right: I get to sift through a lot of average stuff! Nightsky, Sorcerer's Kingdom, Uniracers, oh the ehness! Where will it end? With math. Remember: this is a math-based category, and this month, we've got an average of 6.6. Aero the Acrobat flies in to snatch the award with its 6.7 score. In a way, it feels appropriate. When you think of the average mascot platformer (emphasis on average), chances are that platformer is Aero the Acrobat. That shall be Aero's legacy: complete averageness.

Best Game

Well, this is certainly going to be an awkward entry. My laptop was out of commission for a good portion of the month (remember that blog where I posted Norse runes alongside shitty stick figures?), limiting my selection of games for this feature. Want to know what makes this even weirder? I didn't even blog about the game I'm choosing as the best of April. That's right, I'm talking about Path of Radiance. What did you expect? It's a Fire Emblem game, and just whispering the word "fire" gives me a raging erection in anticipation of the emblem. (I should probably have a doctor examine that.) But ignoring that, you still get...well, I just linked the review. Why bother repeating myself?

Worst Game

Remember when I said that this was going to be an awkward entry? I wasn't kidding. Apparently, the worst game of April is Dungeon Explorer. Now what the hell's that doing here? I remember it actually being OK. Not great, but OK. If anything, it should be the in the Average category. Hey, speaking of that...

Averagest Game

OK, this seems a tad unfair. Remember what I said about my laptop fan crapping out on me limiting my selection of games for this part of the year? That becomes even more of a problem when one of the categories is based on mathematical averages. Case in point: Ghost Sweeper Mikami gets the award for averagest game at 7.4, just one point off from the average of 7.5. Of course, looking back on it, I wouldn't describe this game as average. I think the level where you're riding atop rooftops by catback elevate this game well past simply average. But math gets what math wants, because math is an incredibly stubborn dick.

Best Game

Well, this is an obvious choice. It may not appear so to you, since I've got BioShock Infinite and Halo 4 and some other games going up against each other, but you have to keep in mind that I didn't really like BioShock Infinite. However, I did like Halo 4, which is why I have no choice but to give this award to The Walking Dead. Wait, what? Did you forget that I played that game some while ago, too? Sure, it may not have a roster of alien weapons that each serve very similar purposes, or a magic blue lady dividing herself into six other magical blue ladies to take down the bad guy, but it does have a good story. A really, really good story. Sure, half the cast is completely unlikeable (BEN), but despite that, The Walking Dead still does a fantastic job of getting its point across and making sure the game parts contribute to that point, too. Much unlike....

Worst Game

Presumably. I'm not even sure if the worst game here even really has a point, or even a reason to exist. Can anybody tell me why Beauty and the Beast was turned into a video game in the first place? I don't remember the movie lending itself well to any type of game outside maybe a visual novel (less Katawa Shoujo and more Let's Meow Meow), and the fact that this isn't a visual novel should tell you all you need to know about its quality. Which is exactly why I'm moving onto the next section before anybody chimes in with a smartass comment about visual novels.

Averagest Game

What a perfect month for average game of the.....month. What I probably should have said is that this month saw an odd abundance of middling to mediocre games. If you wanted a game that technically existed, this was the month to go to. From Magicka to Madoola, Ghoul Patrol to fourth option, this game served all my average needs. But in the end, only one game can hit the average mark of 6.2. Sadly, none of them did, so how about I choose the nearest one: Tomb Raider II at 6.3. What does it say about this franchise that "sort of OK" is considered an improvement?

Best Game

And so we reach the halfway point of the year. So many memorable experiences these past six month. The great, the terrible, the average....oh, especially the average. Of course, considering that there's still half a year to look forward to, this probably isn't the best place for reminiscence. (Then again, I might as well, since just about everything after this month will be posted next year.) Instead, we must settle the here and now: what was the best game of June? All things considered, I have to give it to Liberation Maiden. It might have only been an hour long, but man, it managed to pack so much action in such a short amount of time that I'm honestly surprised that Persona 3 is gonna win this category, instead. How could I ignore all that time I spent with illustrious characters such as Mass Murderin' Mamoru, Apparently Transexual Akinari, and, of course, Brooklyn Rage? How can anybody?

Worst Game

Oh, like there's even a fucking choice. Planet Laika.

Averagest Game

This one....isn't so obvious. Initially, it looks like Yumimi Mix is a shoe-in for this award. Nobody's ever heard of it, and while I can't name any significant faults with it, I can't sell anything about it enthusiastically, either. Perfect fit until we discuss score. 6.0. That's quite a ways away from the 7.1 average for the month. But you know what's much closer? Assassin's Creed III at 7.3. An odd fit, considering that it contains a story so bad that the title has the word "ass" in it twice, as if warning you of what's to come. But then there's the typical Assassin's Creed gameplay that I actually like quite a bit. Maybe the two balance out into a perfectly average experience? That's certainly something to put on the back of the box.

And that's it for now. Tune in on the 31st to see the rest of this madness.

5 Comments

Pandora's Ducks.

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

There's a good chance that this is going to be the last game I beat for the Wii. What else is even left? Dokapon Kingdom? Gri-wait, I still have Grill-Off. OK, let's pretend that game doesn't exist so that Pandora's Tower is the last Wii game I beat. Man, what a fitting send-off. If the Wii is this generation's Sega Saturn (and with all the Wii U/Dreamcast comparisons, it might as well be), Pandora's Tower is the Panzer Dragoon Saga it deserves. Which I guess makes Grill-Off the Magic Knight Rayearth, and anything af...

ANYWHO, the story. There's this white haired girl named Elena who's slowly transforming into a monster, and Aeron, her blonde-haired love interest, is determined to save her from this wretched curse. According to Mavda, a character whose hair color confounds me, the only way of accomplishing this is by eating bloody flesh ripped straight from living beings. And....that's really all there is to the story, but you know what? It doesn't need anything other than that. Yea, the plot's direction is a tad obvious, but it certainly has good reason for going such an obvious route. The game's about Elena, and damn it, they're going to let you know it. You're going to see every last detail of her life and every little quirk to her upbeat personality until you begin to recognize her as an actual person rather than a collection of polygons and pathos. Given these circumstances, it's understandable to feel bad about her slowly turning into something inhuman, especially given how inhuman it ends up looking. "Where's Aeron in all this", you ask? Shit. Hadn't considered that. Well, he doesn't get a lot of characterization, but again, we only get what's necessary. He's got a deep relationship going on with her, and there are ample amounts of backstory and now-story to support that claim. In the end, though, it's all about her.

That create/repair option? Don't get me started on how fucked that is. Apparently, water can break (and be repaired, somehow) and you can make mercury and bones.

But what I really like about this relationship is how well it's integrated into the gameplay. No matter where you are, everything you're doing is going to be for her sake alone. I'm lazy, so I'll start with the times that you're actually with Elena. This is when you're going to be chatting her up and giving her gifts and stuff that you just so happened to buy. And these are some expensive-ass gifts (or at least the ones that actually matter are; you don't want to be the buttwipe who gives her a bottle of monster pus, do you?). If you buy her that dress she flings off whenever she starts transforming, you're not gonna have enough money to upgrade that fancy weapon you've been swinging about. I'd say hooray for selflessness, but what affect does this have on your actual gameplay? Well....jack shit, honestly, unless you want to count alternate endings, all of which are incredibly sad.

But speaking of alternatives, what's the alternative approach to this situation? You don't spend time with her and acknowledge her existence? You asshole. All the poor girl has to while the days away is a tiny house in the middle of buttfuck nowhere (the worst part of nowhere) that slowly turns into an oppressive cage when you remember that whole "transforming into a monster" thing she has to deal with. The least you could do is give her some berries you found growing in the middle of a long-abandoned tower. Say, what's going on when you're in that tower, anyway? Well, aside from the occasional cutscene showing you what Elena's doing back at base, there's a clock ticking down, showing you just how long you have until she transforms. YOU CANNOT ESCAPE HER.....WHATEVER EMOTION WOULD BE APPROPRIATE TO THIS SITUATION.

"I'm super strong because video games." (OK, who wrote the captions to these screenshots?)

Oh, and remember that meat thing I mentioned a while back? Turns out it's part of a very strong and thorough anti-violence polemic Pandora's Tower works up throughout its story. There's a good reason why all those endings are so sad: you have to do some awful things to save Elena, and believe me, the game's not giving you any choice in the moral status of your actions. Why do you think that the game even uses motion controls in the first place? There's no escaping your fate; in order to save Elena, you're gonna have to rip out a beast's heart in the most gruesome manner possible.

You don't even have the benefit of a defensive argument, at least in most of the weakly explained boss battles. These guys won't attack until you stab them in the eye with your chain, so you're always the asshole who wants them dead for their precious meat. The only exceptions tend to be the mechanically designed bosses, who will have no qualms giving you impromptu gender reconstruction surgery. And when you actually give her the meat she needs to be cured of her curse? Imagine this in motion. It's grotesque, and I love that the game thought it out. But that's not all there is to this story. There are also some political aspects there to round out the world, but that's all they do: round out the world. And turn the people of the land into cowardous assholes, but really, it's only there as window dressing to the main story of young girls and untold violence.

Have I mentioned that Elena uses her transformation as an excuse to whip out her left boob? No, this is never really explained or even noticed. No, you don't actually see said left boob.

Huh? What's that? You want to talk gameplay? Well, it is a game, I suppose. Sure, why the fuck not? Since I've been talking about chains and using said chains to rip things up, I might as well start with the combat. An odd choice, given how much of it isn't dedicated to the chain. Sure, you use it to get meat and other goodies off the baddies, but a lot of the combat is just whacking dudes with your weapon of choice. There's not a lot to say outside this other than that it's mechanically solid. Pressing the "slice this fool up" button will indeed slice up whichever fool most deserves slicing up, and you're provided enough moves with which to perform this task, so there's not a lot to complain about. Granted, the combat's sticky, firmly locking you in one place after just about anything happens, but that's just part of the charm. It's not hidden from you in any way, so it becomes easy to account for and a legitimate part of the challenge. The only real flaw comes in the form of the motion controls. I realize I praised it earlier, but think about it: this is a 20 hour game built around flicking your wrist. I swear, Pandora's Tower has done worse things to my wrist than masturbation could ever hope to accomplish. It's also made me sweatier, but that's a discussion for another day.

The real charm, though, is in the game's story levels. To a point. Do you recall how I said that the chain isn't the sole focus of the combat? That's because it makes up for it in the exploration. It's put to some pretty cool use as you solve basic environmental puzzles or just swing about the towers like you're in a platformer. Does it make a lot of sense? Not particularly, but that's hardly a concern when you're exploring levels as good as these. Grass tower! Fire tower! Mechanical tower! Fire tower! Mechanical t-I think you can see why I said "to a point". Quality was considered, but variety sure as hell wasn't. After a while, the game just runs out of ideas for tower themes and simply repeats earlier ones. They didn't even get an ice one in! The last two decades would be sorely disappointed in you, Pandora's Tower. Well, whatever. You can always shut them up with your huge environments. OK, not so much in terms of exploration, but in terms of scale, simply dwarfing puny little Aeron. Not only is this generally all kinds of cool, but it lends a lot of weight to your actions that wouldn't be there otherwise, like a David vs. Goliath thing if David proceeded to rip out Goliath's stomach.

I'd continue with some discussion of the game's graphics (they're good), but I think you can understand my message by now (the game's really fucking good). What needs elucidation is context; with all the Operation Rainfall games under my belt, how exactly would I rank them? Well, that's actually a very difficult question to answer, since the two best games in the "franchise" are going for completely different things. Xenoblade's trying on this world-hopping epic adventure with enough gameplay mechanics to fill its utterly vast universe. Pandora's Tower, on the other hand, scales the focus down considerably, working to death on a few story concepts and just as many gameplay mechanics. Both clearly know what the hell they're doing, but for me, the more personal focus of Pandora's Tower means it comes out on top. So in the end, Pandora's Tower barely edges out Xenoblade Chronicles for the first place spot while Xenoblade claps slowly, acknowledging the victory of a worthy opponent. Meanwhile, The Last Story is drinking by a sewer drain while screaming "THIS SADDENS ME" betwixt swigs, not really understanding how this type of thing is supposed to work.

Review Synopsis

  • Wow, this game really knows how to craft a relationship. This is a dating sim, right?
  • A dating sim that would have all kinds of gratuitous violence. It's not unheard of.
  • And level design ripped straight from 2003.

For those too lazy to play through this awesome game for yourself, here's the ending to Pandora's Tower:

This was supposed to be Clock Tower 2, but how can you resist a title like Dynamite Dux? It's like somebody distilled the purest essence of Canada and the 1980s into whatever the hell this is. And then I saw the title screen and realized that I had no choice. And then I started playing the game and found out that no, I honestly can't stop making horrible decisions.

This gets a lot better once he's lost some health. You ever see a jaded duck open fire on a crowd of dog heads? It's sort of like that.

Perhaps it's best to start with a simple description of the premise. We begin with a couple in a field of flowers, when suddenly, the main character's girlfriend is captured by a bubble. I know what you're thinking, but save all questions for the end, because said main character also becomes a cartoon duck. He's then transported across the land to brutally murder whatever fever induced nightmares he happens upon. Somehow, this fixes all the problems I described earlier. Do you see the problem? Nothing makes any damn sense. Sometimes, this results in some fun madness, but for the most part, it's just really, really confusing. Why did putting out this fire summon a magical door? Where did King Penguin come from? Why is Colonel Sanders? I think they were trying to go for an old rubber-hose cartoon atmosphere, but without even remotely establishing any kind of logic, Sega missed the target by a nautical mile.

The strangest part of it all, though? That's the best thing this game has going for it. What else is there? The actual game? Well, there isn't really a lot to describe there. Gameplay consists of steering a cartoon duck through crowds of somethings and killing every last one of them. Or just jumping over them. You don't really stand to gain anything from killing these guys, and there usually aren't enough of them to constitute an engaging challenge, so what's the point of doing them harm? Fun? Ignoring how psychopathic that is, what fun is there to be had in murder? Yes, there are multiple weapons to fuck about with, but I can't imagine that amounting to much, given how similar they all feel. Speaking of similar, all the levels tend to be straight lines, severely crippling any longevity Dynamite Dux is aiming for. Reskinned bosses don't alleviate this situation. Wow, this part of the blog has been negative. Maybe I should list off some things that the game has going for it. Well, it looks good, for one, and....no, that's it, really. I think the verdict on Dynamite Dux just makes itself.

Review Synopsis

  • I can't tell if this game takes inspiration from Max Fleischer or mescaline.
  • Maybe that's all used to mask the gameplay that's lacking in gameplay.
  • Looks good, though.
18 Comments