By Video_Game_King 20 Comments
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow( Wow, that was one weird ending.) For anybody who doesn't know what I'm talking about and doesn't give a shit about this game, we share at least one thing in common. Also, this cutscene. Game endings are usually supposed to answer questions, but it seems like Lords of Shadow went out of its way to make some, instead. What happened to Gabriel? What year is it? Why does this Fung Thai dude appear twice in the credits? And more importantly, what the hell does any of this have to do with Castlevania?
Only now do I realize how stupid it is to begin with the ending. It would have been far more creative to end with the beginning. However, it would make more sense just to begin with the beginning. It's the Dark Ages in Scotland, and shit sucks. There's only one religion (only in this game, there isn't, but there is, somehow), your nineteen siblings serve as reminders of how early you'll die, and you're unwillingly employed in a pyramid scheme called serfdom. Oh, and demons and shit are flying about. Turns out there's only one man who can push back the demons: Gabriel Belmont, AKA the Bushwald Sexyface of the Dark Ages. I'd go to UGO and make just that, but do I have to? Look at this guy. Look past the graphics that make Donkey Kong Country look organic. (The levels themselves look decent, though.) Not even a Medusa breast fucking could make your penis as hard as it is right now. I know. We all know. You shouldn't be ashamed of it, because I am not. I'll openly admit that I learned to suppress my gag reflex so he could glue my stomach shut, preparing my anus for the best butt sex in the world (on his end, of course). Unfortunately, Gabriel is not interested in purchasing a Cock Cozy™, which is his way of telling me that he's taken. Odd, since his wife is dead. My mouth would make a better Cock Cozy™ than her vagina, but he's determined to prove me wrong by seeking down the three Lords of Shadow and beating the hell out of them until his wife comes back to life. Oh, and maybe he'll save Europe, if he has time for it.
That last sentence is actually much more important than it seems. One of the game's themes is whether or not Gabriel's really a hero if he's shoving his cross/whip/whatever the hell it is into monster's throats like I want him to shove his cock into mine, and it's a pretty good theme that gets developed pretty well. Just don't expect MacBeth from this, even though you totally should. Turns out that Gabriel's morality is only brought up when he meets other characters, which doesn't happen a lot. If you meet a character, chances are that they're gonna die in a level or two. See a pretty girl (with that stupid echoy variety of mind reading, because the human mind is so empty that any thought will echo like crazy)? Dead. What about Mad Madam Mim? Dead. For no reason. In fact, the only characters who don't die as soon as you meet them are Pan, the Water Buffalo God, and Zobek. Really? That's the name they gave him? Screw it, I'm calling him Bullock. So those are the two characters you'll see the most: Bullock and Pan. Oh, and the Lords of Shadow: a werewolf Lord, a vampire Lord, and Death, because nobody bothered to proofread the plot. Admit it: you're thinking that the vampire Lord is Dracula, right? Not even close. Instead, you get somebody called Camilla. She lives in a castle...a castle populated by electricity puzzles, Frankenstein's Monster (referred to only as Frankenstein), and a giant robot spider boss. How could they miss the point any more? It's as far from Castlevania as you can get, especially since the game originally didn't carry the Castlevania moniker.
It was just called Lords of Shadow, but I'd be completely unfazed if it was Golden Axe: Lords of Shadow. Think about it: fantasy setting, a giant spirit eagle that whisks you to your goal, mounts, the world map, those fucking annoying Chupacabras that add absolutely nothing to the game but pain and anguish, but most importantly, the combat. Instead of being a 3D platformer like the previous 3D Castlevanias failed at, Lords of Shadow instead focuses a lot on combat. (OK, there is platforming, but more on that later.) It gives you a ton of moves to dick around with, like Light/Shadow magic, cool uppercut/stomp/dodge things, a decent combo system, and many other things that I like about the system. If you're expecting complaints about it, look somewhere else, because I can't really think of any. Sure, it's ripped almost verbatim from God of War, but God of War rules. And yea, I got my ass kicked a few times, but I like to think that it was because I sucked, not because the combat sucked. Then again, the bosses kinda suck, and it's all due to one thing: quick time events. Fail these once, and you have to start over from the last check point. Not "oh, you go back to the battle with less health", but "you die." This may sound a bit like me being a hard-ass, but you forget two things. First, my ass is forever soft in the presence of Gabriel. Second, some of these checkpoints are immediately before the quick time events, making them feel like a complete waste of time. It doesn't help that there are only two varieties of the things, and they're both really damn easy to pull off.
But you know what does help? If these bosses happen to be Titans. OK, so there are only three or four in the course of the entire game, but holy shit are they awesome. You scale each one to find its weakness rune and mercilessly stab it until said rune is broken. Repeat until awesome, and then repeat some more. Do I need to explain the satisfaction you get from destroying a behemoth? It goes without saying, like the rugged sexyllence of Gabriel Belmont. Everything about them rules, from their designs to the fact that they're essentially platforming levels with a health bar. In fact, they're the best part about the platforming in this game. I probably should have mentioned that this game's also part platformer, à la Prince of Persia. (I'd also mention how you can go back to previous levels and pick up power ups, à la Metroidvania, but it's such a small part of the game that I shouldn't even bother.) Only while Prince of Persia was awesome because of its free-flowing and natural level design, that of Lords of Shadow is very stiff and inorganic, much like...well, the character models, really. It's one thing to see perfect ledges and grapple rings in the Gothic architecture, but in random cliffsides that have never been touched by man? This makes no sense, Konami. Shit like this makes it very easy for me to focus on all the minor flaws surrounding the way too fluid animation, or how the camera and the controls can tag team you into death.
Or I can reminisce on other aspects of the game and remember how lame the puzzles are. They range from "so easy that I don't see why these hint scrolls are even needed" to "OK, off to GameFAQs, because I want that EXP." Sometimes it's due to unexplained control issues, but most of the time it's just because they're hard to figure out. That is not my complaint about them. Instead, I'll complain about they never make any sense. Why am I shaking crows to make them gather near a scarecrow? Why am I playing a poor man's Archon? Why am I...wait, the Mad Madam Mim's music box level was actually pretty cool. But that doesn't make up for all the other weird puzzles in the game. What are you doing, Castlevania? This isn't you. You're about platforming and exploring huge castles; this game is about OK combat and a story only very tangentially related to the series. Look at what this game has become. Lords of Shadow is just like The Simpsons: it chases fads like crazy, but it never really works out and will never be as awesome as any of its predecessors. That's why I give it the Goddamn Hoarding Episode Award for Are You Serious? A Hoarding Episode? Get the Hell out of My Sight. Get Out of My Sight Before I Decide to Stab You Until You're an Amidakuji. That's how much I hate hoarding episodes.
- The only thing I like about the plot is how much I to ride Gabriel's penis like this.
- The cool parts of this game were ripped from much better games, and they were better there.
- What does this have to do with Castlevania, again?
I think this is just the thing I need to prove to Sexyface that Final Fantasy XIII is indeed sexy.
Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation ( Hold on a second, something's not right.) I'm not meeting my quota for this blog. My contract specifically states that at least one obscure game must be present in all my blogs, but neither of these meet that requirement. *sigh* Buck Bumble, Trip World, Hagane, Fire 'n Ice, Master of Darkness. OK, I think I'm good. * changes music* Anyway, I've been waiting a long time to see this game get released in America, despite the fact that I played it long ago via a (mostly) complete fan translation many years ago. I had some good memories with that, and I have the other two parts of the Zenithia trilogy, so it was an easy choice, right? Not a good one, though, since I started noticing all the ways it hasn't entirely held up over the years.
Like how the DS version of that last song gets rid of the humming. What the fuck, game? That's what makes the song so awesome. It would be like removing all the mature humor from Conker's Bad Fur Day. That's right: the casino theme in this game is Conker's Pocket Tales. But it's not all bad, though. Some of the music actually got better with the DS upgrade, like the ship theme and the oddly high quality ending music. I'd post some of it, but I can't find the ending music, which I really wanted to post. Same goes for the Terry/Lizzie fight scene, which really would have helped me transition into the graphics. Simply put, they're awesome. I know that this sounds confusing, given that it looks exactly like the previous games, but as soon as you start a new game, it becomes oddly clear how much better it is. The animations for your characters can be really detailed when they want to be, sometimes pulling off totally awesome stuff like this oddly unimportant dragon. (Hey, turns out that awesome ending music appears at the beginning, too. Sweet.) Then again, even when it isn't trying to make other DS games cry, it makes them bawl tears from their...speakers? Microphones? Anyway, walk into any battle (it's just as easy as it sounds) and look at how detailed the enemy animations are. I realize that the other two games have said animations, but not even they can compare to Dragon Quest VI. Given that the original SNES version not only adopted an FF6 art style ( like every game after FF6), but was also the first Dragon Quest game to feature a shitload of animated enemies (and one of the few games of the time, too), this is one of the aspects of the game that has aged well.
I wish I could say the same for the story. Don't worry, I'm not gonna do what I did in the last section and argue that it's not Dragon Quest. It's very Dragon Quest. For example, if you're a Dragon Quest protagonist, you can be sure that you will only know pain and misery. The only reason Elie Wiesel hasn't been in a Dragon Quest game is because the Holocaust isn't very medieval. That said, the protagonist of Dragon Quest VI gets off rather lucky, if you consider having your body and soul ripped asunder lucky. Unfortunately, it seems like his brain got ripped out, too, because much of the game focuses on him stumbling about into the plot. Never does the protagonist really do anything of his own volition; more often than not, he stumbles into some minor plot point, accomplishes it, and then never really mentions it again. It gets really bad after you beat Murdaw, the first major villain; the story loses all direction, and several major plot points go several minor plot points without being explained in depth. Predictably, much of this time is spent jumping around the world map in search of the plot, sometimes tackling dungeons before you even know why you're tackling them in the first place. That's the only thing separating this game from being Dragon Quest IX. Think about it: both games have very interesting concepts (reality/dreams and identity in VI, fallen angel in IX) that they barely utilize, and small moments that would pack more of an emotional wallop if you got to see more of them (for example, a completely frozen town later in the game has a house you can raid for a FUR HOOD).
Hell, they even share job systems...kinda. OK, so Dragon Quest IX's take on the system was closer to III than VI, but you get the point: they both have job systems. Here's how it works: you go to the Abbey, ask the Pope to let you man the register at the nearest McDonald's, and then go fight to learn some new abilities. In theory, it's actually a really cool system that allows you to make your characters whatever the hell you want. Want a thief who breakdances in battle, for no reason? Go ahead and do it. Maybe he'll be able to help your priestly merchant guy. Oh, and that brings up another point: not only will all your characters end up unique from each other, but it adds a lot of strategy and depth to battles that other games don't have. What could anybody possibly hate about this game? *remembers the words "in theory"* Fuck. Turns out there's one thing that absolutely destroys the game: the pacing. Holy hell, this game is slow to take off. I know that I (mostly) overlooked this when I spoke of Final Fantasy XIII, but at least that game had some type of story justification. Here, a third of the game goes by before you get to the job system, and it takes about another third to explain why you couldn't get those jobs right off the bat. Hell, I even have hard numbers in my notes: at the 6 hour mark, I finally beat Mudo; at the 17 hour mark, I finally reunited with my bitch of another self; at 23 hours, the game logically could have been over, but apparently, I spent another seven grinding my ass off to beat the final boss.
Hey, look at that: grinding. That's how the game manages to fix the fact that you probably won't even see (let alone master) the elusive Hero class by the end of the game: grinding. That's about as ideal a solution as lighting your car on fire to get rid of the new car smell. Why couldn't they just introduce the job system much earlier, like at Somnia castle near the beginning of the game? That way, I'd get the most out of my jobs without having to start a New Game + just to do it. Hell, the high random encounter rates alone would probably let some other characters take a shot at being heroes. But no, that doesn't happen. Instead, you spend the first parts of the game with a vague approximation of the job system: a protagonist, a bruiser, a healer, a mage with shit stats, and a fifth character. It's OK, but I'd have loved it a bit more if the pacing was fixed. Why not a lot? Because pacing can't fix everything, exploration being the biggest factor. I'm not going to complain about how the game is linear (it is), but how every form of transportation becomes obsolete immediately after you get it. As soon as you get the boat, you get the flying bed, which gets outclassed by the flying carpet, which gets trumped by Pegasus, which immediately lands you in the Dread Realm, where its flying powers are completely useless. OK, that's kind of a bad example, but what about how schizophrenic camera rotation can be? Or that beauty contest that never gets mentioned again? This game needs a shitload of polish if it wants to dethrone Dragon Quest IV as the best Dragon Quest out there. Instead, it seems that Enix just kept fucking up the job system each time they used it in subsequent games. That's why I give it the Bring it On, Enix Fanboys Award. I'm talking about you, KaosAngel. Maybe.
- The story can best be described as, "bounce around the world and hope that some plot happens."
- This has to be the best job system in any game ever.
- Too bad the pacing fucks it up royally.