By Video_Game_King 13 Comments
The Guardian Legend
( Oh, how the cruel fates toy with my very existence! ) Before me, they have presented a most unique game. Half of it has been made from my most beloved of genres: role playing games. Yet the other half of this "legend" is made from a most nefarious genre, one that has caused me much ill in past encounters: the shmup. Oh, what should I rule upon this bastardization of nature?! Do I declare it a work of providence, as it was cut from the same mold of the role playing games? Or do I brand it a criminal for being the seed of a genre most foul? What would be the just thing fo....oh, fuck it. It's too hard to speak like this for an entire five paragraphs.
To everybody's surprise, the game turned out to be both a piece of crap and a steaming pile of fecal matter. I'd say it's due to the shooter part being dominant, but that's obviously very biased; the real problem is that Irem/Broderbund/Compile/whoever didn't spend enough time fleshing out either aspect. Let's start with the one the game starts with: the shmup aspect. Standard affair, wherein you shoot a lot of things on screen in an attempt to not die. Good luck with that, though, because when I said "a lot," I meant A LOT. At any given time, about 70% of the screen is a death zone. A moving death zone.
If you will, allow me to go off on a tangent. One of the things I dislike about shmups is their hellish difficulty. In fact, I've even invented a name for shooters that take this too far: turbo-pause shooters, because you'll need a turbo-pause button to weave through the bullets. Yes, I know of the existence of bullet hell , but consider this one step below them. I would have classified The Guardian Legend as a turbo-pause shooter, but the screen can be so full of projectiles at any given time, that the sprites flicker between dimensions. So if you do try that turbo-pause stratagem, you'll soon realize that there may be a sinister bullet hiding from you, ready to kill you and all that you love.
"So I got hit once," you say to yourself in an arrogant tone. "So what? It's just one hit, and I have enough HP to withstand it." While you were telling me this, all that extra health joined the enemies in that alternate dimension. See, the enemies (especially bosses) do far more damage than they should be able to do, and you have absolutely no invincibility time. Now your massive bar of health is but a pixel wide, and it's at this point that you notice how much HP the bosses in the game have. On that subject, not all of the bosses are hard (anti-turbo-pause cheapness aside), but the central theme in all these encounters is their length. No matter what weapon you use, these fights are going to take longer to beat than Okami has for me.
Wait, I forgot: you have weapons other than the standard shmup peashooter. About half of them are useless, but the others are well implemented. Each one has their own purpose and requires strategy to use. You use the side lasers to eliminate things on the side, the giant death ball to destroy the first few bosses, and the Enemy Eraser to even the odds. Wait, why am I commenting on the weapons when I should be commenting on the exploration aspect? Oh, right, because it's such an insubstantial portion of the game. Your goal is to blow up the planet, and that requires activating some corridors scattered across said planet. In theory, you have a large world to explore with many secrets to discover and various enemies to kill. However, the reality is that the world is very linear and repetitive. You'll spend your time on NAJU going to whatever area you can access at the time, fighting a boss, exploring, fighting the same boss again, and repeating until you see the ending screen. Speaking of that, given what you have to endure to see it, this is the best ending in all of video games. However, it's still not enough to redeem the crap before it. I'd like to get one last word in by insulting the password system, but this review's running a bit long, so I'll just end it with the Scheherezade Award for a Quality-Destroying Identity Crisis.
- The shooting aspect is too hard.
- The role playing aspect is too easy. And underdeveloped.
- Don't expect this to end with a Goldilocks pun, since those are the only two things this game does different from others.
What has happened to you, Cartoon Network? Why are the shows that aren't cartoons advertised as your big shows? Remember the good old days? Remember delightfully screwed up cartoons like this one?:
Left 4 Dead
( This isn't going to end well, I know it.) There's just something about reviewing a popular shooter that screams "disaster." And no, it has nothing to do with the fact that the game in question is about a disaster; my guess is that it's because it's multiplayer focused, and I beat it without once playing any of the multiplayer modes. Some of you have already decided this to be a reason why all my opinions are forever invalid; I see it as a testament to how awesome I am. To those of you in the former category, keep in mind that nobody forced you to read this blog and that there are plenty of echo chambers for you, like Yahtzee :P.
OK, enough preemptive defense, now is the time for reviewing. Left 4 Dead is a horror FPS, named either by somebody thinking this was the third sequel to something, or (much more logically) to indicate that this must be played with three other people. As I indicated earlier, Left 4 Dead is a multiplayer shooter wherein you and your friends must escape the zombie apocalypse. You choose from a range of characters varying from old Nam vet to "Average Looking Female Valve Character" and fight your way through an entire of zombies. Eventually, you survive long enough to make it to rescue, and this is where things got a bit weird for me. Every time your characters radio nearby help, they inadvertently summon an entire militia of zombies that you must eliminate. No matter what you do, you have to fight every last one until help arrives. Usually, it takes them ten minutes to arrive, most likely so you can ponder whether it would have been safer to have never called for help at all.
I assume this zombie army is meant to make you feel scared, but I found it hard to feel terrified when I could control exactly when the undead would show up. As I said in the F.E.A.R. 2 blog that nobody read, two major parts of fear are spontaneity and vulnerability, and Left 4 Dead....OK, Left 4 Dead nails them both. Sure, you can take down a zombie with a few bullets, but keep in mind that the previous example used the singular, something this game just doesn't care for. Far more often than not, you'll face off against entire hordes of the undead, and rushing into these groups is a very easy way to join their ranks. Getting through them requires a bit of strategy and teamwork, both things that lead me to believe that the multiplayer mode is fairly decent.
Another thing that led me to this conclusion was the array of tools at your disposal to customize the experience. You can do things like skip cutscenes, change the difficulty, and oust crap players...as long as enough of the other players agree. Not that you'd need to give the boot to crap players, anyway; judging solely by my experiences with Team Fortress 2, Valve shooter communities tend to be populated by level-headed players who understand that the mic can have tactical capabilities outside of shouting phrases like "I fucking pwnd you" and "That was expletive gay." There's also something called an AI director (you kids, and your new-fangled directors. Back in my day, we called them "random number generators" because movies hadn't been invented yet) which is supposed to make sure each experience is unique and different from the last. While I did notice some items or enemies placed differently in separate plays, the general rule of the AI director seems to be "limit ammo and health to safe houses, place enemies every 20 feet."
I also suspect the AI director was added because of the lack of content. This was also a big weakness in Team Fortress 2: you only have four scenarios and a few gameplay modes. That would have been my transition into a criticism of the limited weapon inventory, but here, it 100% works. Valve was obviously going for a tense feeling, and finding out that a lack of shotgun ammo forces you to use your Super Soakers is a reasonable way of establishing that mood. In fact, the only problem I have with it is, wait for it: lack of content! Not counting the dual-wieldable pistols, there are only three other guns, and the one of them (the hunting rifle) is absolutely useless. I like sniping as much as the next guy, but you spend all of your time up close and personal, never in a position to use the damn thing. I tried using it once as a means to get the advantage on a nearby Witch, but even touching a Witch from the next town over is enough to summon her rage upon your idiot face.
Speaking of which (pun not intended, I swear), the one thing that does come in variety is the enemies. Aside from the regular zombies and the "I sound like a fat girl crying" Witches, you have fatties whose guts are filled with zombie love chemicals (why they don't eat these guys is beyond me), normal looking zombies who will pounce on you from a mile away, and Tanks, whose only purpose seems to be to eat up everybody's bullets. OK, so the Tank isn't as good as the others, so what? The enemy variety, when combined with the high enemy count, oddly keeps things fresh and exciting over multiple games. Add in the player-friendly nature of the game and the overall quality, and you will be playing this game multiple times. Yes, I'm aware that this ending is crap, but I couldn't think of any other way besides "give it an award." Oh, wait, I forgot: E. Honda Award for Excellence in Making Obesity Deadlier. Good day.
- Once again, Valve has given players the tools to create an enjoyable multiplayer experience.
- Also once again, they didn't include enough maps, weapons, modes, blah-de-blah-de-blah.
- This game has taught me one thing: radios summon legions of the undead.