MisterBananaFoam

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Does anyone else still do E3 Report Cards?

From what I've seen nowadays, E3 bingo seems to be the big fad, but for the past few years I have held a tradition where me and my brother usually get together and draw up a low-budget E3 report card that we add onto during each conference. I went from using online templates to just faffing about in MS Paint and PhotoShop and making my own. I haven't seen as many on the internet nowadays and I was curious if any of you guys do something like this.

I went a different route this year and gave each conference their own card, followed by a summary card at the end. If you made your own evaluations, I'd invite you to post them here. I always like to see different variations of these kinds of things.

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My Game Rankings for 2017

If 2016 was the year that eventually got its shit together in terms of vidya, then 2017 was the year that the industry blew its load and climaxed in 5 minutes. To say the summer of 2017 was a dry spell for gaming would be like claiming the Nazis were somewhat bad people – I mean, what did we really get anything out of this year during that time span? Yooka-Laylee? Please. Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition? Oh boy, can’t wait to play the Duke Nukem skin pack rerelease (because God knows they didn’t change anything else about it)! And lest we not forget Birthdays: the Beginning, which, I mean… what? What the fuck are we even doing anymore?

Okay, fighting game fans should at least be satisfied. Injustice 2 and Tekken 7 came out and, not content with being outdone by Smash Bros., have every fucking character in existing media as guest fighters. Capcom still has its foot planted square in its own ass with MvC:I petering out onto store shelves, adding a grand total of, what is it, 6 characters? At the expense of taking out around 12 more? Hoo boy, money well goddamn spent.

I have to make a list of this shit, too, that’s the worst part. I hardly even feel like there are ten games worthy of a ‘Best Of’ list, and the rest would just be on the ‘Worst’ list because they have loot boxes for no reason. I swear, the day they put loot boxes or microtransactions into Mario games is the day I quit gaming. But I mean, there were maybe 2 or 3 seriously amazing game releases this year, and the rest didn’t really even come close to matching them.

So this time I’m doing three lists. Yep, three. Five entries each, one list of games I’d give the gold, one filled with garbage that I’d give the finger, and the last, brand-spanking new and special category I’ve saved personally for games that absolutely no one wanted and no one cared about. The Top 5 Best, Worst, and Literally Why Games of 2017.

Let’s begin with the new category, because this one’s a doozy. I feel like half the games released this year qualify for this list, but I’ll throw in some honorable mentions. Ports don’t count for this list, but remasters do. It’s like when the movie industry rereleased Titanic last year because people are fucking stupid and will pay to see anything in theaters at full price instead of just watching it on YouTube – what’s the point? Oh, and items on this list are absolutely still eligible for one or more of the other lists. I won’t say which one they’ll be on, of course, because that would ruin the point.

Honorable ‘meh’-ntions:

  • LawBreakers. Poor, poor LawBreakers, suffered from a chronic case of Battleborn-itis right out of the starting gate. This game genuinely looked fun, too, but y’know, if people are gonna spend $40 on a modern class-based shooter with MOBA elements, they’re likely to stick with the fun, animated, and age-accessible Overwatch instead of the gritty, bloody and generic-looking arcade gameplay promised here. I hope Cliffy B’s next outing has a bit more zest to it.
  • Night Trap 25th Anniversary – isn’t this game remembered primarily for being stupid? Oh yeah, THAT’S the title I want for my PS4, the game that puts me on a sex offender list. Yee-haw.
  • Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, and not necessarily in a bad way. I actually was shocked to see Mario in a goddamn XCOM-like, and with such an odd premise, how could you not want to at least check it out a little bit? However, you have to admit, leading up to the reveal, people likely thought this game was gonna be some kind of gimmick-y minigame compilation, and even then the pairing of one of gaming’s most beloved icons with essentially the gaming equivalent of Minions is still an oddball choice.
  • Dishonored: Death of the Outsider was doomed from the start because we had no idea whether or not it was even a separate GAME from Dishonored 2. Was it like the Mario Galaxy 2 equivalent where they thought they could pull a mulligan on the sequel and do another sequel? Who knows, who cares.
  • Agents of Mayhem. I will give them credit, because by the time Saints Row finally ended, it absolutely was not Saints Row anymore. It was more like a poor man’s Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. However, this one just doesn’t add anything to the table. It’s generic, has stiff controls, repetitive mission design, flat characters, and is asking for $50 USD. No thanks.
  • Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. More scripted events and bombastic set-pieces... gee, just what I needed. Uncharted 4 was pretty, don’t get me wrong, and I actually liked the smooth gameplay, amazing visuals and intense multiplayer, but The Lost Legacy does next to nothing to give me reason to drop another $60. Going by the formulaic and routine plots of the base games, I'm going to wager this prequel doesn't exactly bring any revolutionary plot twists to the table, and as I mentioned before with Death of the Outsider, nobody even knew if this was supposed to be an entirely-new, fleshed-out box release or just an expansion on Uncharted 4. It’ll maintain a lost legacy, alright – that of being lost in the back of the used games store retailing for $4.00 in a year.
  • 1-2-Switch. Would’ve been okay if the game had been packaged with the system, like Wii Sports was. As it stands, you’re paying $60 to pretend to milk a cow’s teats with tiny remotes in your hands. And you’re not supposed to look at the game screen while doing it, effectively ruining the purpose of an entire medium. Hm.
  • The Elder Scrolls: Anything this year. Yes, even the Switch release that comes with three half-baked reskin mods. With all this and the paid mods fiasco still in full swing, I really do fear for the state of the sixth entry into the franchise.
  • Sonic Forces. Come on, we all knew what was going to happen when SEGA revealed the trailer with the dopey custom glasses character with the grappling hookshot. They knew who they were catering to. It wasn’t a complete train wreck (that’s not a compliment) but it added very little to tie together Sonic’s absurd story arcs, is almost entirely inferior to the retro-inspired Sonic Mania that came before it (and that was made by fans, no less), and was just another shallow attempt to saddle the Sonic series with some new dumbass gimmick to attempt to compete with the so-called triple-A games market. Next thing you’re gonna tell me is that we’re gonna get Sonic Universe next October, where Sonic can now craft gear from the rings he’s collected to survive the asteroid he was sent to by Coldsteel, his demon alter ego. That will all be absolutely true, mark my damn words.
  • Double Dragon IV. Just leave the poor franchise alone, already. Beat-em-ups are a deader-than-disco genre at this point.
  • Syberia 3. A poor man's Telltale ripoff using a cheap engine with ugly graphics and art direction along with wooden and stilted voice-acting. It also apparently took nearly a decade to make, and that's kind of sad, really.

The real potatoes, without the meat and slightly undercooked - The Five Most Literally, Why? Games of 2017:

5. Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back. Only fucking Bubsy Bobcat, of all characters, could somehow survive the almost-assured franchise destruction that is Bubsy-fucking-3D: Furrbitten Planet. I am still of the (correct) opinion that the only Bubsy game that matters is the 3D art project meme game some guy made in 24 hours on the internet that sends Bubsy straight into the eighth circle of Hell and rapes the mind of anyone that tries to play it. At least then we got a funny Vinesauce stream out of it. The Woolies Strike Back, on the other hand, is a poor man’s Giana Sisters knockoff - which in turn is already a poor man’s Super Meat Boy - that costs about 50 times as much, and has about an eightieth of the content, of either one of those titles. If you want to play a good meme game this year, just download Yo-Noid! 2 for free instead and save your money or the effort spent on finding a cracked copy of this kitty litter refuse.

4. Knack 2, and no, none of this is because of the irritating videogamedunkey memes. That’s not why this game happened. Sony already had this log in the pipeline long before it started linkin’. It really says something about the reckless, dithering decision-making in the video game industry that interesting, effective and unique properties such as Silent Hills and Mega Man Legends 3 are cancelled at the drop of a hat, yet games like Knack 2 somehow survive the chopping block. If Sony hadn’t bred this test tube baby of a franchise in its slimy underground laboratories until they figured out nobody was buying the first one, it would unquestionably have never seen the light of day. Man, though, would we have missed out on some quality memes! God fucking forbid.

3. Nidhogg 2. This one was just unfortunate, and as an avid fan of the original Nidhogg and its deceptively-simple yet intricately-complex fencing gameplay, I was absolutely abhorrent to the art design of this game. It’s so disappointing, because everything else here is absolutely at least an 8 on a ten-point scale, but the character designs are a 2 at the very most. They’re horrendous! It’s like if someone made a really well-designed and unique 3D platformer that could rival the likes of A Hat in Time and even Super Mario Odyssey, but made it a licensed property using the Garbage Pail Kids as protagonists. They killed the hype for their potentially-eSports-worthy series in a matter of literal seconds, and that is a damn shame.

2. Hey! Pikmin. Remember when Chibi-Robo was molested beyond recognition into a generic sidescrolling platformer with literally no defining features to its name? Now Nintendo have decided to do that to an even more firmly-established IP, mucking its chances of receiving a proper installment for the Switch. I puked a little in my mouth when I saw the trailer for this game and witnessed how slow it seemed to progress. If I wanted to play a colorful handheld platformer with gimmick-y touch controls and puzzles, I would just throw on my DS or Wii U and play either of the Kirby Ball-Curse titles.

1. Drawn to Death is what happens when you get a ten-year-old to come up with every design aspect of a video game. It’s hard to believe this puerile, putrid pile of filth was the brainchild of one Mr. David Jaffe, famous for his work on the God of War and Twisted Metal series, because the jokes and art style the game suffers your witness with induce the very opposite of enjoyment. I’m not kidding when I say Drawn to Death literally sucks fun out of your emotional state – it has confusing and dreadfully-unbalanced gameplay (which, being a multiplayer-only game, is a death sentence right then and there), can only hold up to four players in online matches, tries to aim for the ‘lulz’ humor camp and misses by several thousand country miles, and the art style is literally just total artistic anarchy, with the overall theme being that there is no theme at all. I received this game for free via Playstation Plus membership (yeah, that really tells you Sony had a lot of faith in this one, didn’t they?), and I STILL feel ripped off. I could have spent the extra 3 hours of life this game took away from me donating to charity, exercising, doing my taxes, posting blogs on the internet that nobody will read… any of that would have been more productive than installing and playing Drawn to Death.

While we’re on the subject of mediocrity, we may as well take a dip into the piss pool as well. Let’s give a gander (at a safe distance, of course) at the Top 5 Worst Games of 2017. Now, ‘worst’ here is a very subjective use of the word – I don’t necessarily mean the game itself is bad (although that is certainly the case for some of them at the very least), but when you read my comments, you’ll understand why I chose them to be where they were. Oh, and ports and remasters aren’t eligible for either list, unless they’re very special cases. Neither are budget titles or asset flips – don’t give them the satisfaction of actually being called ‘game developers,’ and maybe they’ll, I dunno, stop ‘developing’ games? There’s a thought.

(Dis)honorable mentions:

  • Hey! Pikmin, because, honestly, what the fuck? Have I not made it expressly clear that the Pikmin series does not deserve a game like this?
  • Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, for somehow having less content than all of its predecessors, falling victim to pre-order DLC expansion dreck and presenting us with just awful character designs and voiceover work.
  • Mario Party: The Top 100, just for being a sheer disappointment, making moronic decisions in remastering some of the most infamously-stupid minigames in the series and having a terrible multiplayer component despite the foundations of the series being built upon the multiplayer.
  • Syberia 3. See above in the 'Honorable Meh-ntions' list. At the very least, it has no microtransactions, so, well, it has that going for it, although it still has DLC for some reason. Why you'd want to get more out of this game is beyond me...
  • Road Rage for the PlayStation 4. Are MotorStorm or Road Redemption just a bit too exciting for you? Do you wish your post-apocalyptic bike combat racer was watered down, looked like ass, controlled worse than ass, and blasted the same irritating butt-rock song in your ear over and over again? No, you don't. You're better than that, and yes, you deserve better than Road Rage.
  • Hello Neighbor, which is rather disappointing because the concept is very novel and interesting. If only the game worked properly on top of it - I've heard instances of the player character standing too close to a wall and getting caught by the neighbor because their faces were clipping through. Perhaps this one could've actually benefited more from staying in the Early Access incubation chamber a bit longer.

The Real Shit Stew - The Top 5 Worst Games of 2017

5. Mirage: Arcane Warfare. Chivalry was one of the sleeper hits of this generation, and despite its slower pace and odd choice of DLC, it is still played and beloved to this day. The almost-literally spiritual successor, Mirage, does nothing to improve upon the initial concept of Chivalry besides giving it an art style that clashes completely with the type of game it presents. Inevitably, adding magic and more advanced projectiles to a game primarily focused on realistic sword combat leads to a mishmash of gameplay that doesn’t feel nearly as fun as it should. Additionally, I’ve heard about various netcode problems, which, in a game such as Mirage where every swing counts, may as well be the death knell. I cannot believe I’m saying this, but you would likely be better off playing For Honor than this, because at least that game has unique melee mechanics and isn’t impossible to comprehend.

4. Mass Effect: Andromeda. EA games comprise of nearly half this list. If that doesn’t give you some kind of indication of how terribly managed this company is, then I don’t know what else to tell you. As for the game itself, it’s plagued by repetitive open-world design scheme, the same tepid and uninteresting combat mechanics from other titles abruptly being made worse in this one, tons and tons of bugs galore, an uninteresting plot, and the most hideous default protagonist created in an EA game yet. This one deserves to be shot out into space and consumed by a far off quasar at the vast reaches of the known universe.

3. NBA 2K18. Normally, I give absolutely zero shits about sports games, but this year, I’m giving 2K games all the shit. The entire contents of my toilet are being packaged securely and mailed to them as we speak. To my knowledge, this game functions and performs similarly to other NBA titles of recent memory, so what’s the big idea? Apparently, the big idea was to turn character stat progression for the main campaign mode into an enormous grind-fest that sees the player laboring hours upon days upon weeks grinding for the in-game currency they need to increase their stats or unlock other options. Or, of course, you could just buy packs of the stuff and have overpowered characters right from the get-go. Even as a sports-illiterate, and even if the rest of the game is semi-decent, this is just absolute scum. We are now smack dab in the middle of the era of paying $60 for the equivalent of mobile phone games, and until this ceases, 2K will never see another cent of my money.

2. Drawn to Death. All the evidence can be seen above, and I rest my goddamn case. The only, the ONLY reason this shit heap isn’t at the very bottom of the barrel is that it was a complementary game 'gifted' to me as a PlayStation Plus exclusive deal. The only thing I lost here was three hours of my life I will never get back, which is more than I can say for the poor bastards who bought into the next game.

1. When Alec Guinness warned us about a wretched hive of scum and villainy a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, we had no idea he was actually talking about the corporate offices of one Electronic Arts. What we got for our negligence was Star Wars: Battlefront II, which pains me to write, because there is a game with that exact title that deserves to be on the opposite list for its respective year. Man, oh man, did Electronic Arts take the fucking piss out of this one. Of course, my hype for this game was long dead by the time the E3 multiplayer showcase rolled around, featuring commentators that were obviously not given any sort of direction about what the fuck to even say about the game and battles that looked okay, but seemed to fall victim to many of the same shortcomings of the previously-released Battlefront outing.

Battlefront 2-thousand 17, however, managed to shake up the entire medium with its disgusting loot crate progression system and outright mucked up excuses to attempt to defend it. Imagine paying $60 for this game and realizing you had to get the absolute dogshit kicked out of you match after match after match because you didn’t have stat bonuses and other equipment that other players randomly obtained, which may take you literal weeks to obtain on your own without shelling out more cash on top of what you already paid! I don’t care how polished the game is, at that point, whoever developed that shit is an absolute pack of fiends. That’s not even the end of this game’s problems, of course – incredibly shoddy netcode (likely due to the developers having to scramble and throw together fake apologies and fluff to stifle the raging crowd instead of fixing the game’s servers) and a half-assed, repetitive campaign mode that doesn’t even come close to emulating the excitement of Galactic Conquest… Mechanically, Battlefront II isn’t necessarily the worst game of 2017, but from a consumer standpoint, and almost every other angle on top of that, it sure damn well is. I hope all the backlash is enough to even slightly convince Electronic Arts that their bullshit practices won't be tolerated anymore... but let's be honest, it likely won't be. Next year, they'll be apologetic, we'll lap it up like hounds, and then three years from now, it's back to the same scummy practices that they're well-known for. An endless cycle of pain and displeasure, for certain.

You would be forgiven if by now you thought that gaming was on the verge of death from reading everything written above. That’s mostly true, but it doesn’t mean some companies aren’t putting in a genuine effort to rebuild and reclaim the old glories of past years. The proof is in the following games that comprise the Top 5 Best Games of 2017. Same rules apply from the Worst list, no remakes/ports with outstanding exceptions only, no games that haven’t officially released yet (early access, ‘foundation release,’ whatever the hell you want to call your bullshit unfinished product), no continually-updated games (i.e. Overwatch), etc. etc. Also, a few of these are games I’ve personally played, and plenty of them aren’t, so if I rank things differently, that’s just, like, my opinion, man.

Honorable mentions:

  • Crash Bandicoot: The N-Sane Trilogy is a special exception if I ever saw one. The updated Crash models and textures look fine as hell, the ability to play as Crash’s sister Coco is a nice touch, the original game is no longer batshit insane to get 100% on, alongside various other tweaks such as the addition of time trials, and the two sequels hold up just as well. Absolutely a bargain if you even think you’re interested in diving into a little bit of Sony’s history.
  • Night in the Woods, with a cute yet eerie art style and an emotional story. One of 2017’s most slept-on games, no doubt.
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn. It’s no Breath of the Wild if you ask me, but it still lived up quite well to its past E3 showings by offering you a variety of ways to play – stealthily, diplomatically, as a berserker-ranger, among other things. Looks great too, and feels unique among the Far Cry-inspired open-world adventure titles.
  • NieR: Automata, again mostly for its uniqueness in its setting, characters and plot, as well as having a fantastic ensemble of music and engaging combat.
  • Everybody’s Golf. This is another one I think many gamers slept on. Hell, I wasn’t even sure if it was actually coming out this year, but it’s been one of my most played all year, having a surprising amount of depth (as do all Hot Shots Golf games) with neat additions such as an expansive character creation system and open course activities. Speaking of golf...
  • A Golf Story on the Nintendo Switch deserves praise as well for its RPG-like progression, plethora of content and hitting most of the marks that Everybody's Golf did with a charming and humorous story to boot.
  • Persona 5 was apparently pretty good. I haven’t played it though, so I can’t really echo any of the sentiments. Good on you, though, Atlus. Keep doing your thing.
  • Nioh. Yeah, I know, I know, ‘it’s just like Dark Souls, it automatically deserves to be on the list’, I’ve heard that song and dance before… truth is, this one just didn’t click as well with me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely got a superb Western samurai theme going on, the stance system is unique, and there’s a shitload of content, but come on, you can only keep making Dark Souls so many times before I stop giving you the shill on these lists. Nice try, Team Ninja. Runs at a smooth 60 FPS though, so there’s that.
  • Hollow Knight was this close to being in the Top 5 for me. The gothic setting and characters are quite well designed, the Metroidvania upgrade trees and exploration bonuses give it plenty of replay value, the boss fights are fun as hell, it generally feels fun to play and has a 2D Dark Souls-y vibe to it without indulging in the genre’s heinous cheap difficulty too much so that it isn’t as engaging. Easily the best of the honorable mentions.

The Prime Rib with Extra Sauce - The Top 5 Best Games of 2017

5. Sonic Mania. All you nerds at Sonic Team better be taking notes, because this is how you make a good goddamn Sonic game – a pure adrenaline rush mixed with smooth controls, vibrant and gorgeous levels, a phenomenal soundtrack, replayability in the form of multiple characters and alternate endings, and secrets and alternate paths abound. The franchise certainly never was the same ever since SEGA tried to give Sonic a bit of an edge to him in his 3D outings, mostly through hammy 90’s mannerisms, disjointed and non-cohesive stories and artistic decisions, and fucking frog fishing. Mania perfectly encapsulates what made the old Genesis games magical, while coming up with a few tricks of its own, and at an absolute bargain price of only $20, it makes a convincing case that the blue blur still has a place in modern gaming.

4. Divinity: Original Sin II is a game I could honestly see many people playing multiple times through and still get a refreshing experience every time. The character creation and lore are incredibly expansive and immersive, and combat is a wise blend of XCOM-like turn-based strategy and traditional fantasy RPG elements, yet both are only a fraction of what Original Sin II truly has to offer. The campaign is extremely malleable – scenarios can play out in hundreds of different ways, and if you’re willing to experiment, entire swathes of the game can be either skipped over or thrown off the tracks into a completely new scenario. Wanna do it all with a friend? Why not four of you? If you’re looking for the quintessential Dungeons and Dragons experience in a video game, Divinity: Original Sin II makes an incredibly convincing case.

3. For the longest time, I remained undecided on whether or not video games can truly be considered an art form. One game, however, in 2017 single-handedly changed my opinion sharply and suddenly to the ‘pro-art’ movement, because let me make something expressly clear, if you don’t consider Cuphead to be a shining example of high art, then there is no pleasing you, you stubborn prick. I have never seen a 2D platformer look and sound this good – they absolutely nailed the Steamboat Willy/Popeye aesthetic they were gunning for, most prominently in the visual department but the sound design is nothing to gaff at, either – for Christ’s sake, the game opens and you’re immediately presented to a barbershop quartet piece about the main character and his buddy, in granulated old-school fashion. You can tell a lot of heart went into the presentation here, and the ‘game’ part isn’t too bad either, with tight controls and a multitude of special abilities to equip to fit your play style. Definitely the indie game of the year, just barely eking out Hollow Knight (referred to earlier in the Honorable Mentions).

2. It feels like mere months ago, I was mocking Nintendo for only having The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as their main showcase at E3. Don’t I look the fool – this is easily one of the most engaging open-world experiences of the modern era, and up there with my favorite Zelda titles, just shy of Majora's Mask. Just like Majora’s Mask, Breath of the Wild was able to take concepts mainly foreign to the Zelda series and integrate them so seamlessly into the formula that it almost never breaks your attention. The map is absolutely enormous, and not empty, either – it’s chock full of sidequests, monsters to battle, weapons and upgrades to acquire, and all sorts of secrets to unveil. While it lends a guiding hand, Breath of the Wild certainly does not railroad you into doing what it wants – if you so desire, you can scour the land for trials to increase your maximum health and stamina, cook various dishes, slay giant creatures, get slain by giant creatures, infiltrate strongholds, take pictures of the local wildlife, fling bombs at children, confront the final dungeon right after exiting the starting area if you're sadistic enough… what more could you want from a game in general, let alone a Zelda game? I’m giving it the runner-up spot solely because the objectives can get immensely repetitive after a while, but how you approach them is entirely driven by your will to try and to think, and that’s what makes this game brilliant.

1. Come on, don’t kid yourself, it’s Super Mario Odyssey, hands down. Maybe it is my nostalgia for the old 64 classic, who knows, but no other game this year even came close to the pure joy and elation I received from this instant classic. Odyssey was a game I paid $360 for – yes, I bought the system solely for this game – and I don’t regret a single goddamn penny to this day. It’s everything Nintendo promised it would be and more – gigantic, sprawling levels with an absolutely maddening amount of collectibles to hunt down (and not in the bad, DK64 way either – every single Power Moon collected feels rewarding), remarkable visuals with unlockable cosmetic outfits for Mario to try on which actually makes collecting coins feel meaningful this time, versatility in Mario’s movement and combat options in the form of his new companion Cappy, a stellar soundtrack with tons of variety from swing dancing to heavy orchestral pieces, actual fucking character development for Mario (to explain, this is easily the most expressive he’s ever been – he dances, has an expansive wardrobe, reacts to the environmental temperature, and in cutscenes, his fiery, hot-headed jump-first-ask-questions-later personality actually gives him flaws as a character – the deepest this has ever gone in any other Mario game was when Mario takes a nap if you stop playing in Mario 64. This is fucking insane, I can’t believe more people aren’t talking about this), throwback references to any and all of Mario’s lore in almost every level... this is the ultimate 3D platformer, the paradigm of Mario’s legacy. It’s a little on the short side, the levels are a bit generic, some of the Power Moons are a bit effortless to obtain, but none of this matters in the long run because for every grievance I had with this game, I had about ten more things to praise about it. I haven’t felt this awakened and amazed playing a video game since Portal 2 back in 2011. I have to give Miyamoto and the rest of those wizards at Nintendo a standing ovation and a tip of the hat for this one. Absolutely magnificent.

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Musing About Video Game Allies and Capitalism

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At this point, I am kind of getting a bit sick of talking about Donkey Kong 64, what with the long-winded retrospective I did and all that, but replaying the game to get some footage made me notice a peculiar issue that is shared between DK64 AND its Country predecessors. It doesn't have much to do with the general gameplay or anything, it's more like a conceptual fault, one that lacks a bit of common sense in the grand scheme of things, and sure, Donkey Kong isn't exactly a series known to adhere to common sense or anything, but I have seen this trope prop up in many games that I've played throughout my lifetime.

One of the myriad of collectable types you encounter in Donkey Kong 64 are coins, colored specific to each playable Kong. These coins are used to purchase upgrades in the form of physical abilities, weaponry, and instruments that allow you to progress through the game. Sounds simple enough, something a lot of kids don't necessarily mind, but when you think about it, who exactly is selling you all of these upgrades?

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Donkey Kong's relatives. The characters that are probably just as affected by K. Rool's constant raiding of Donkey Kong's banana hoards and, well, I dunno, the gigantic frickin' laser he has pointed at the island they all live on. Sure, it might be justified in Cranky's case because he's crotchety and rude, but neither Candy nor Funky are on particularly bad terms with any of the Kongs, yet all three unapologetically demand tribute for their services despite being related to the main characters. It was even worse in the Country games with Cranky because he charged you for hints, and the sweet old Wrinkly Kong would make you cough up some coin to access the save feature if you did it enough times. As a gameplay mechanic, these all make sense for balance purposes, but in a logical sense, not so much.

I get it, it's a goofy platformer made by Rare. Gameplay and motive segregation, I understand that. But when I think about it, this is more common of a logical fallacy in gaming than at first glance. Banjo-Kazooie did something similar with Mumbo Jumbo, and while he technically wasn't related to the titular duo, he still cares enough to aid them only if he gets enough tokens out of the deal. Non-platformer examples, look at Paper Mario and some of the Mario and Luigi games. Who's running the shops that sell you items and power-ups and badges? More often than not, it's your allies, like Toads and friendly Koopas and stuff like that. Apparently the threat of time-space anomalies and imminent destruction/domination of the world isn't enough to keep the inhabitants of the Mushroom Kingdom from nickel and diming you, the hero of the kingdom.

Less cartoon-y RPGs like Skyrim and Xenoblade also have this problem. "You're the only one who can defeat the dragons running rampant across the kingdom and burning down entire settlements? You can wield the ancient, powerful, centuries-old sword that gives you foresight into future events and is your race's - and several other races' - last hope for survival against a ruthless robotic armada? Yeah, yeah, sure, whatever, I could care less, I got a business to run. A business that might not exist if it weren't for your actions, sure, but c'mon, money talks, friend."

It's a minor thing to get up-in-arms about, I guess, but it kind of takes the immersion away sometimes. I don't expect to be handed the best gear at the very start or anything like that just for being the protagonist, but I think this is probably why I appreciate games with a crafting-based or loot-based progression system as opposed to games where you have to go on a shopping spree to save the world.

Can anyone else think of any examples of this that stand out besides the ones I mentioned?

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A New Web Series I Made

So hey again! It's your pal MBF, also known as Crystal Mech on other ends of the webiverse. If you're wondering why I have been barely doing anything on my personal page here at GB, it's because I was working on this:

I spent the last few days putting the finishing touches on a new web series called Faultline! It was inspired by my old Good Games with One (Or More) Mechanic(s) That Drive Me Insane list that you can view to the side on my profile page. It's a thinkpiece series where I discuss the three biggest issues of games I personally enjoy. My debut episode, as you can see above, is on Yooka-Laylee. It, uh, took quite a while to see the light of day, so if you have about half and hour or so to kill, I'd appreciate it if you could give it a look-see!

I'm eager to do more, but only if enough people are interested. When you're done watching, if you have any tips, pointers, corrections, or constructive criticism, I would appreciate it! Thanks guys!

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Things that should not still be an issue in Pokemon, but are

The last game I purchased for full price was Pokemon Moon for the Nintendo 3DS, and like most of the monster-battling installments before it, I've been thoroughly enjoying my time spent with it. The new mechanics and species designs are some of my favorites yet, and the story is surprisingly captivating despite falling to most of the same tropes that are rife within its predecessors. Admittedly, as well, there were some longstanding aggravations, such as having to rely on HM slaves to get around the world, that were rectified with the two recent titles. With a series that has spanned the course of seven generations of new Pokemon, however, each being updated more and more with visual and interface overhauls, not to mention the recent switch to entirely 3D graphics... it really boggles the mind how some of the core problems the series has had since the very start are still pertinent.

So what are they, exactly? From what I've experienced so far, here's a few:

Lack of Multiple Save Files

No Caption Provided

Since the very beginning, or at least as long as I can tell, Pokemon has only allowed users to create one save file per game cart. Back then, I could easily understand why. While the entire first game may technically take up only 11 MB of space in total, the Game Boy was old-school software, one of the first handheld systems on the market, and it didn't have internal memory like most systems do today, so the data actually had to be stored on the cart it came in. In fact, internalized memory didn't end up seeing the light of day until the Nintendo DS hit store shelves.

Interestingly enough, though... this is still happening. The save data is still stored on the game itself. I picked up a copy of Pokemon X used about a year back and the old owner's save file was still on it, despite being read on my system. Hell, even Pokemon Moon's save data is stored directly on the cart, and this is a large-ass 3D title. This is cool technology, granted, but it has little utility nowadays. The only event I could even see this being helpful in is if you needed to replace systems altogether, and with today's prices, it's not as ergonomic as it would be back then. You don't have to trash cart-based save games altogether, but giving us the option to save our data onto a microSD cart could be a useful approach, making room for data on the cart and allowing households with multiple players to share the same system.

Lack of a Toggle-able Auto-save Feature

Yeah, this entire blog post isn't going to be me just complaining about how saving in the Pokemon franchise is terrible, don't worry. This, however, needs to be made clear.

No Caption Provided

Pokemon takes a long-ass time to get through for someone who isn't a super genius. It isn't as particularly grind-heavy as it was back when it originated on the Game Boy, but building up your team and advancing through the story is most certainly not a cakewalk that can be done in a few hours. Most RPGs are naturally like this, but Pokemon can drag out even further, especially with the additions of several new mechanics over the course of the series. Abilities that are hidden from battle until they suddenly arise, more status and environmental changes, flashier battle animations (that can admittedly be turned off, but still), the introductions of Mega Evolutions and Z-Moves that also have their own incredibly drawn-out animations... Even if you were to play this game without battle animations, you would still spend a lot of time grinding up your team's levels and, with the introduction of more complex cutscenes, witnessing the unnecessarily biblical amount of storytelling.

So when the game randomly crashes or your system runs out of battery before you can properly save all your progress, it really fucking hurts. That's hours down the toilet as opposed to most other games and even RPGs, many of which automatically save after fights or are programmed to have predetermined encounters in the case of games like Fire Emblem. Games nowadays are not as simple as they were back then; evidently, there is so much crap crammed into a lot of them that developers are opening the floodgates to a cascade of glitches and technical issues that can often result in the program terminating on itself. This can and very well has happened to many players of the most recent iterations, including myself, who just lost about two hours of grinding and quest advancement because the game broke when I attempted to pick up a small fucking item lying on the ground.

At the very least, I'd like the option to toggle it on and off after a few Pokemon battles every now and then, or after major ones such as Totem/Kahuna/Gym Leader battles.

The Railroading is the Worst It's Ever Been

Image credit: TyranitarTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNFlYJjiDA0
Image credit: TyranitarTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNFlYJjiDA0

How the 3D iterations of the franchise are some of the most egregious offenders of this trope in the series, I will never know, but Pokemon Moon is incredibly stuffy when it comes to doing things in its predetermined order. Even after you get your starter Pokemon, it feels like a lot of the Routes and Trials are blatantly blocked off until you complete certain plot flags. I get why they did this - Pokemon Moon is a large enough game on its own without having to account for total player agency - but the game does this even when you have to trigger menial cutscenes where almost nothing happens.

In any other RPG, if you wandered too far off into dangerous lands, you'd know it pretty quick, because you'd get your shit kicked in. That's not a good way to rectify this cliche, but the way Xenoblade did things, by limiting your access to certain areas by placing impossibly-strong monsters in the distance that you could easily distinguish as an impassable threat, was an effective solution. You don't have to go that far with Pokemon, I guess, but, honestly, did we really need to make the Trainer's School mandatory this time?

The Side Games and Activities are either Slightly Broken, Awkward, or Both

I started off playing Pokemon in the fourth generation, which contained what I still believe to be the best side activity in any Pokemon game: exploring the Sinnoh Underground. Man, it was such a blast! You could mine for rare stones and minerals that you could use to upgrade your Pokemon, sell them for money and even add new special Pokemon to your party. You could chase your friends around via local wireless and decorate your bases with various knick-knacks and play Capture the Flag for bonuses... It was very simple in concept, yet so much fun in execution. I think I spent as much time playing that side activity as I did playing through the main game.

Image credit: AbdallahSmash026 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLl2yCZ1SQ0
Image credit: AbdallahSmash026 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLl2yCZ1SQ0

Where's the modern version of that? It may just be my nostalgia kicking in here, but none of the newer minigames have done anything to impress me. Hyper Training from Pokemon X and Y was incredibly monotonous after a while, and while the Pokemon-Amie and Pokemon Refresh features are cute to mess around with, they are also very dull after a bit and actively give you passive bonuses during battle that allow you to survive one-hit-KO moves and land more critical hits, which makes them super cheap and feels like pandering towards the younger audience. Festival Plaza, introduced in this generation, is kind of lame and the mechanics are not entirely straightforward as to how it works, and Poke Pelago is literally just a modern iPhone Pokemon game, complete with obtuse wait times and the ability to lure in Wild Pokemon without even having to catch them, filling in your PokeDex. So much for catching them all, we can't even be arsed to go to the damn Pokemon anymore, we have to get them to come to us. Lordy lord...

I'm gonna end it on that note for now. Like I said, I enjoy the game as a whole, but those are just some examples of gripes I have with it. I could probably drum up a couple more ongoing complaints I have about the series in general, but I'll open that up to some discussion. What else do you guys think still needs some attention in the series?

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MBF's Retraux-Spective: Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (Part 4)

For those of you who don't know, or need to be reminded, since it's been so long, the reason I'm doing this retrospective in the first place is because I managed to find a used copy of the Jak and Daxter HD Collection for the PS3 at my local GameStop for pretty cheap during a B2G1 Free sale. It's been a while since I even touched the first game considering I had already completed it 100 percent in about the time-span of a week or so a while back, and since then I've been working on beating Jak II. Which leads me to a slightly off-topic point that I'll elaborate on later, but for now, I'll just get this out of my system.

Jak II: Renegade is surprisingly bad. I'm not even talking 'so bad it's good,' it's more in the camp of 'less entertaining than a stool sample.'

It feels nothing like the game I had previously remembered from my childhood rentals. It is just about one of the most tedious, degrading excuses for a sandbox game that I can think of. I can't play the game for more than a half hour at the time because of the ridiculous amount of questionable design decisions I manage to run into every time I boot it up. Believe me, I have a whole laundry list of complaints about it, and I'll be sure to elaborate more when its time on the chopping block comes.

That's another time, however. For now, we reminisce about the first game some more, and what better a level to reminisce than the Lost Precursor City?

And yet, alas, I have to question something first before we begin. Let's take a look at the level entrance real quick.

Okay, that's great and all, (pay no attention to Jak's contorted right leg please) but...
Okay, that's great and all, (pay no attention to Jak's contorted right leg please) but...

This giant, ancient bathysphere has been sitting in front of Rock Village for who knows how long, in plain view of all of Rock Village's (admittedly very few and not very motivated) inhabitants, and they even have floating rafts leading up to it... and this is the Lost Precursor City? Has anyone checked the definition of the word 'lost' lately? I'm pretty sure it doesn't say 'floating in the ocean right goddamn in front of you.'

But I digress. What's inside this place anywa-

WOAH ok game slow down this is too much to take in
WOAH ok game slow down this is too much to take in

Anyone who has their cap on straight can tell you that underwater levels in platformers are a gamer's worst nightmare. Shoddy maneuverability, dense control over your character as if he or she has just jumped into a large vat of syrup... they're generally no fun with a few exceptions. So what does Naughty Dog do?

Well, for one, they don't give us the ability to dive underwater for more than ten seconds, eliminating that possibility right then and there - because shit, even Jak's gotta be able to breathe, right? - but for two, they create a level that looks like goddamn Atlantis and Rapture combined. Mind you, this was way before Bioshock came out. That's right: Jak and Daxter TPE revolutionized ancient underwater cities filled with death traps before it was cool. Suck it, Ken Levine.

It's no wonder the Precursors died off. They probably couldn't even use their own machines properly without plummeting to their deaths.
It's no wonder the Precursors died off. They probably couldn't even use their own machines properly without plummeting to their deaths.

The Lost Precursor City is up there on my list of favorite levels in platforming games. The technological atmosphere, the puzzles, the crazy Eco-powered contraptions and traps... This level is like Waterworld if it wasn't a boring mess. The pits of water that litter the vast halls of the city light on and off, and you can only safely wade through them when the water isn't glowing green. which does well for some neat puzzle-platforming alongside the hot yellow ring bars seen above. In fact, a good chunk of the level is hot-footing it across several suspended platforms that take advantage of the obstacles present. For example, that platform next to the glowing yellow bar in that picture above slides under the bar from left to right, requiring you to time your jumps so you don't get hit. It seems like I'm making it sound better than it actually is, and maybe I am, who knows, but the level's chock full of neat platforming sections that you don't see in much of the other areas of the game.

The circle discs in the pic above are also a cool mechanic. When you step on one, the other rotates around the one you're standing on. You have to kinda use that to bridge your way to the other paths across the pit. It takes some time, but it's a nice touch and helps you get across some of the larger gaps in the level.

I guess the Precursors built this tube system just to fuck with people years into the future. Take that, all you pointy-eared future freaks.
I guess the Precursors built this tube system just to fuck with people years into the future. Take that, all you pointy-eared future freaks.

The Lost Precursor City is segmented between rooms and hallways. Yes, I know what you're thinking, "but didn't you hate Donkey Kong 64 for doing the exact same thing in all of its levels?" That is true. However, it makes more sense here. I'd expect an underwater facility to not be quite as open-ended as, say, a forest or a desert, of all things. Plus, the hallways between the rooms aren't nearly as featureless. There's some challenging puzzle-platforming elements to each of them, and I'm not talking about the stupid bullshit that DK64 tried to pull where they just put a few enemies in the room and called it at that, I'm talking honest-to-Godzilla ingenuity here. There's even slides between certain rooms to break up the monotony. What more do you want?

The first room you'll likely come across is the room with the three colored containers that have collectibles in them. There's 3 buttons in front of each container, and pressing one drops the collectible off at its corresponding colored endpoint. You have to race over to the endpoint quickly and retrieve the collectible before it gets sucked back into the container. Some can find it annoying, and I've been beaten by it my fair share of times, but at least it does require you to think and plan ahead.

Instant-death Dark Eco pits: Because a platforming game with two orange otters just wouldn't work out.
Instant-death Dark Eco pits: Because a platforming game with two orange otters just wouldn't work out.

This level also introduces us to a new hazard: Dark Eco. Contrary to what the opening might have you believe, Dark Eco pits don't turn Jak into a silly-looking walrus or anything like that. Oh no, you so much as brush that pit and it's instant disintegration for you, buck-o. Later on in the series, this becomes almost nonsensical since Jak literally gets gallons of Dark Eco pumped directly into his bloodstream at the start of Jak II and yet the only thing that sets him back is that he can turn into a dark elf that can rip through tanks whenever he collects enough of it. But again, we're getting ahead of ourselves.

I've been talking all about the levels and the story so far, but there's also some other tidbits in the game that I missed that kinda set this game's attitude apart from the rest. They're very minor parts of the game, but they're still kind of iconic to it. Whenever you collect a Power Cell, Jak and Daxter go through one of several victory animations. Jak's is almost always the same fist-pumping success pose, but Daxter always does some kind of different dance. Sometimes he shakes his butt, does the robot, moonwalks, breakdances, and sometimes he even dunks the Power Cell into Jak's shoulder. Daxter also looms over Jak's corpse whenever you die to an enemy or a normal hazard, and usually makes sarcastic comments about your death Sierra-death-screen style. They featured one of these in the advertising of the game, and some of them are pretty damn funny, to boot. Takes the sting out of losing progress a little.

"Well, guess all there is left to do is open up that last will and testament, huh? Hope he left me the Zoomer..."
"Would it have killed them to put an elevator down here?"

Getting back on track, I will say this: if there's anything truly wrong with this level, it's the rising Dark Eco section at the bottom of the level. The camera is just slightly off kilter enough that you have little time to react to the platforms and the enemies rushing at you from ahead. That, and the fact that the Dark Eco likes to cheat and speed up when you're significantly far ahead of it, and at one point it speeds up and doesn't slow down, basically requiring you to book it on the last half of the climb.

That just about covers the whole of Rock Village's level set. Next up is the game's first mandatory boss fight against General Klaww, and right afterwards is another Zoomer section that is much more frustrating than Fire Canyon. But first, here's a glimpse of Klaww.

Ladies.
Ladies.

The fight against Klaww is about as tough as any of the boss fights ever really get in this game, and that's pretty sad considering he's really only moderately difficult to kill. He spends his first phase throwing boulders at you while you jump between platforms on top of a lava lake. The last boulder he throws contains Blue Eco, which forms a pathway to a couple clusters of Yellow Eco in front of him. At this point, he starts to summon a big boulder to crush the platform, but if you shoot him enough times with the Yellow Eco while he's charging up, he drops the boulder on his head and falls into the magma. The boulder also fragments the bridge, making you retreat to the lava platforms again. Rinse, lather, repeat, dead boss that is never spoken or heard from again. My advice is to wait for nighttime before fighting him - it looks a lot cooler.

COMINNN' DOWN THE MOUNTAAAAAAAIN
COMINNN' DOWN THE MOUNTAAAAAAAIN

Mountain Pass is up next, and if you thought racing against an overheating engine was fun, then get out of here and never play another video game in your life.

For the rest of you, there's no bed of hot coals to worry about this time, so your engine's not at risk. What IS at risk, however, is the entire mountain being nuked with explosives set up by the Lurkers. Yes, you heard right, the Lurkers, the big freakazoid lycanthrope/demon people you've been beating up that look like they don't have the mental capacity to operate a stick... somehow rigged the entire canyon with dynamite.

Fortunately, they're not entirely bright - they left the detonator switch at the bottom of the mountain and forgot to push the plunger. You have to beat them to the bottom to ensure that they don't. The level really isn't as difficult as people make it out to be, but it does require a lot of trial and error to succeed. There's several trees in your way during the first half, as well as some precarious ramps and barrels adorned with TNT. Those barrels are the worst part of this Zoomer section; colliding with them means instant death and having to restart the race from the very beginning. Thankfully, the race at most is about 3 minutes long, so faulty runs don't take too much time away from your progress.

After passing the pass with a passing grade, Jak and Daxter wander into the molten confines of the Red Sage's laboratory. Luckily, Gol and Maia have also stopped by to have a quick chat with our heroes. They're such a nice couple, really. They already took the liberty of inviting the other three Sages of the land to their Citadel to work on their 'project' which couldn't possibly be some kind of insane ploy to corrupt the land using Dark Eco. I'm sure it's just an art project or something.

Okay, but really, I guess we're just gonna ignore the three brass balls hanging from Gol's undercarriage there. Nope, nothing wrong with that at all.
Okay, but really, I guess we're just gonna ignore the three brass balls hanging from Gol's undercarriage there. Nope, nothing wrong with that at all.

That concludes another segment of a long-overdue and long-delayed retrospective of Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. Next time, we'll spelunk into the Spider Caves and surmount the summit of the Snowy Mountain, and maybe cover the last Zoomer stage, too.

MBF out.

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Conferring over the Conferences at E3

The conferences are about done with for this year, and if you ask me, good flipping riddance. Such a complacent, unexciting showcase this year. Admittedly, there were things I did and did not like about the shows, and E3 still isn't over, but I would be lying if I said that they didn't leave me in a sour mood overall. Let's examine the lot then, I guess.

Microsoft

While this showcase had a lot of dull points in it, I was actually decently surprised at how quickly Microsoft changed their tune this year. Gone were the mentions of FartGlass and that dreaded Kinect thing and in were announcements and trailers for actual bloody games. By no means was their show the best of the lot, or even great, for that matter, but there's some slight fascination stemming from the company skewing their points of interest towards our direction, like a six-year old learning how to properly ride a bicycle without training wheels, except this is a company with hundreds of grown men who should fucking know better.

There was the traditional cliche Call of Duty: Something Warfare title and the obligatory Halo pandering, but there were a couple unique gems such as Sunset Overdrive and the announcement of Crackdown 3 that piqued my interest. Still, most of the conference was games we had already knew about beforehand and the new titles that got showcased looked undeniably bare-bones.

As an extra kick in the teeth, Conker was shown off... and then immediately downgraded to fucking DLC for their next creator game. A proper Conker game would have potentially won E3 for them in my book, but nope, Microshaft decided to balls that up and go "Here, go make your own bloody Conker game," Those twats.

Overall Grade: C-

EA

I honestly skipped over this one. Good thing, too; apart from a new Battlefront, it was billed with sports junk. Possibly the only other thing worth mentioning was the announcement of Mass Effect 4, which God knows I could give less of a piss about. I hope it was as allegedly crappy as the ending to Mass Effect 3.

Overall Grade: N/A (you got lucky this time, you freaks)

Ubisoft

Holy Hitler, this conference was insufferable. The whole seminar was more of an agonizing lecture on the joys of committing self-immolation rather than enjoying virtual media.

Aisha Tyler was the returning guest host, much to my dismay. It's not at all that I don't think she's a good fit for a gaming conference, it's just I don't find her comedic delivery or mannerisms enjoyable in the slightest. There are probably people who do, but her jokes didn't really click for me at all.

Ubisoft also made the crushing mistake of showcasing motion-control shovelware garbage. Just Dunce 2015 made its scathing debut and they still have it on their minds that gamers need fitness with the announcement of Shape Up, a game that tries to make push-ups seem exciting by putting fake heavy objects on your virtual avatar while you are distracted from looking at the screen because you're doing fucking push-ups in real life. If people wanted to get in shape, they'd go to the local YMCA, you shits. You're wasting your ill-fated time.

Not like anything else about the conference was enough to salvage it from damnation. Valiant Hearts, however, was the crown jewel of the conference; the trailer made me tear up, and I rarely ever get teary-eyed. Other than that, same crap we saw at Microsoft's conference and a trailer for a multiplayer Rainbow Six game that was absolutely stuffed with bullshot after bullshot. Oh, and more cars, for the speedophiles out there, I guess. Makes me wish I could have parked my foot up their asses, that's for sure.

Overall Grade: F, and that's being generous

Sony

After witnessing the above-mentioned atrocity to mankind, I was silently hoping Sony would come in and absolve us of all of this E3's sins. It appeared to be the case at first, with new trailers for Destiny and The Order 1886 and the exciting reveal of LittleBigPlanet 3 and Bloodborne, not to mention Dead Island 2 and Suda 51's Let It Die. After the first look of gameplay of No Man's Sky, however, things took a turn for the worse.

The CEO of the company decided it was a good idea to pad out 30 minutes of the presentation by walking onstage and blabbering about statistics and television, which was Microsoft's downfall last year. Then we were given a glimpse at a doohickey called PS TV, which I still don't know what it bloody does. I guess it lets you play handheld games and PS One games on your TV without the console...? I have no fucking clue, but it's only a hundred bucks, so I guess that's not bad. Then someone came up and talked about a television show that would be exclusive to their TV show streaming service. Honestly, who fucking cares? If you wanna talk about superhero TV shows, go to Comic-Con or something. Don't interrupt my game announcements for this crap.

As the event came to a close, Sony announced re-releases of The Last of Us and GTA V for PS4, both of which I could give a tossed salad about at this point, although GTA V did look pretty good in the trailer (though I think they're still bullshitting us when they say the PS4 version will look that good). Then it picked up again with gameplay trailers for Arkham Knight and Mortal Kombat X, both of which look fantastic. MKX even had 3 new characters! Then the show ended with a glimpse of Unsharted 4: Drake's Throbbing Cock. Big whoop.

Compared to the previous shows, Sony did rather well. I was genuinely excited for a few of the games they showcased and LittleBigPlanet 3 warmed my heart when Ubisoft froze it over. Whether they were the Best of Show or not is still up to judgment, but at least they survived with minimal casualties.

Overall Grade: B-

Konami

We already had the amazing trailer for The Phantom Pain at Sony's showing. I'm not a huge MGS fan, so I skipped this one too, since I assumed that was all they did.

Overall Grade: SNAAAAAAAAAAAKE

Nintendo

Probably the other contender for Best of E3, although rather begrudgingly, to be truthful. The Robot Chicken animations were unique and cool, though.

Nintendo did the same thing they do every year at E3: announce a new Zelda game or two, announce a Kirby game, show off the newest Pokemon game, announce two new Mario games, and barely anything else. The Smash Bros announcements kept the stream interesting with the announcements of Palutena and Miis as playable characters, and the reveal of a game centered on Toad from Super Mario Galaxy certainly came out of left field, although it didn't look terribly enthralling to me. There were also Amiibo, a dumb Skylanders-esque gimmick line of mini-DLC statues that serve barely any purpose. Potential Smash Bros DLC characters, I hope, but probably not.

Yoshi's Sewn Escapades, or Woolly World or whatever the bug it's called, was given quite a lot of screen time for a game we not only already saw, but a game that doesn't even look that new. The visual style is cool, but it could have honestly been an artsy, cross-stitched remake of the original, for all I know, since there wasn't really much that was new about the gameplay mechanics at all. Also, there's no Baby Mario, which is a blessing, but this could also mean that it's a game where it's impossible for you to lose like Kirby's Epic Yarn, which is a curse. Either way, this game hasn't really given me a good reason to care for it yet.

Cue the inevitable announcement of a new Zelda for Wii U, and cue the massive fangasm from every orifice of the internet soon after. I will admit that the game's art style and graphics look incredible, and the concept of leaving the player to explore the world instead of railroading him or her excites me a tad bit, but I'll hold my breath until we get some early gameplay footage. Speaking of Zelda, Hyrule Warriors is looking fantastic, and with the addition of more playable characters such as Midna and Impa, I can't wait to see where it heads next. I've never been a particularly huge fan of the Dynasty Warriors games, but I think the Zelda series can make for a pretty amazing crossover.

Then there was Splatoon. What to say about Splatoon... I will definitely go out on a limb and say that the concept looks rather interesting. When the trailer hit, I was hoping for a Mario Sunshine-esque sequel, but instead I got a multiplayer third-person shooter version of the Graffiti game mode from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. With all that said, Splatoon looks like it could be quite a lot of fun. The maps look great to play on and the maneuverability mechanics are something to behold, but I fear it won't have a huge grasp on the multiplayer shooter market and will quickly die off when the next Call of Duty game hits store shelves.

Nintendo actually did quite well in retrospect, although they were definitely predictable as hell again. Still, I was excited on and off throughout the Nintendo Direct, and I'm still swooning over the post-E3 announcement of Pac-Man being in the next Smash Bros. Oh, and Xenoblade Chronicles X and Bayonetta 2 were decent as well.

Overall Grade: B-

Best of E3 2014 - Sony and Nintendo

I couldn't really decide between them. I was excited for titles on both fronts. Microsoft certainly tried a little harder, but they didn't really have the gameplay trailers to back it up, and the other conferences were just abysmal or not worthy of my attention. Despite the lackluster amount of announcements compared to previous E3s, I'm hoping there will be more surprises heading out of June and into the Fall.

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MBF'S Retraux-Spective: Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (Part 3)

So far, our quest to save the land from the evil sages Gol and Maia has been slightly irritating at best difficulty-wise. I think the developers took the hint and decided to bog out the last two-thirds of the game with levels that infallibly contort any sense of coherent navigation. To be fair, those levels started to rear their ugly heads as early as the first hub world with the befuddling Forbidden Jungle and the abstract Misty Isle, but if you thought those levels were prime offenders, you have yet to experience some of the levels in the late game.

Case in point, welcome to Boggy Swamp, or as I like to call it, 'The Mudhole Maze.'

Yes, because in the chromatic universe of Jak and Daxter, we definitely needed a level with a single puke-green color palette and shoddy draw distance.
Yes, because in the chromatic universe of Jak and Daxter, we definitely needed a level with a single puke-green color palette and shoddy draw distance.

If you like swamp levels, you don't exist. The only positive marsh scenario I've ever witnessed in a game was in Banjo-Kazooie with Bubblegloop Swamp, and even then it had its share of painful memories, but the Mudhole Maze is like the tough parts of Bubblegloop Swamp on speed. You can't set foot in the ankle-deep creek water without getting damaged, the place is swarming with rat hives and there's at least one ambush sequence crammed into a miniature area that would have otherwise served no purpose at all. As you can see in the picture above, there are yellow Eco clusters scattered throughout the level - in fact, this dump is actually the first area that they're introduced - but it only helps to mitigate the issue of the respawning rats just a little bit. And for added fun, let's just throw in several hundred explosive Dark Eco crates in the cramped tunnels for no other reason than to slow you down even more. It's truly the perfect recipe for disaster.

There is one, count it, ONE saving grace to this level: You finally get to ride in a vehicle that doesn't suck dongs for a change. Which one is it?

IT'S THE GODDAMN BIRD THING WE SAVED EARLIER.
IT'S THE GODDAMN BIRD THING WE SAVED EARLIER.

Fun fact, this avian fellow's actual scientific name is 'flut flut.' Hilarious. I'm guessing one flut wasn't enough?

It's like if Eddie from SSX was on Moonshiners.
It's like if Eddie from SSX was on Moonshiners.

While the flut flut does not make you immune to player damage, it grants you enhanced agility and a higher jump length so you can get up to ledges you previously couldn't. He has a barge attack on the ground, and if you jump in the air and press square, you'll do a powerful diving headbutt. This bird is so awesome that it pains me when I'm reminded that I can only control him in this small area of the swamp and not ride on it throughout the whole level like Yoshi in Super Mario World. Everything seems all fine and dandy...

...well, until you run into Billy Bob Cletus sittin' outside his shack. Then you'll start to hate everything all over again.

He's in a sore spot because his pet hiphog named Farley was chased away by some Lurker rats. He's been trying to set up some of his favorite snacks to lure him back, but the rats keep getting to them first. This is where you come in, and what better way to do so than participate in a rat shooting gallery? Ladies and gentlemen, once again, it's...

And it's not called
And it's not called "Artistic Effort Time" for a reason.
No Caption Provided

I bet you went throughout the entire level so far without realizing that you could aim your shots in first person mode with the scope, am I right? Well, that's exactly what this minigame has you do. You're given an infinite supply of yellow Eco to shoot, but the rats keep coming in large numbers and the snacks are spaced out just far enough that they escape the peripheral view of your scope, which means a rat could swoop down and eat one of the snacks and you wouldn't even know it unless you're paranoid and constantly check back and forth. To make matters worse, the yellow Eco projectiles are incredibly slow moving, which means you'll have to lead most of your targets since they weave left and right. Jak and Daxter is on an ugly streak so far with minigames; it remains to be seen if there are any more that will make up for it.

Aside from the fact that four of this level's power cells rest on the same damn objective, there isn't much else to discuss about Boggy Swamp. It's a rather tepid and somewhat bothersome romp at most, but hey, look at the bright side, it could have been the Precursor Basin.

How does the stupid thing even work anyway? The propeller's on the front, if anything it should be going in reverse constantly.
How does the stupid thing even work anyway? The propeller's on the front, if anything it should be going in reverse constantly.

Uuuugh, the Precursor Basin. It's bad enough that we have the transition Zoomer levels going from hub to hub, why on earth did we need a level dedicated to the goddamn thing?

To torture me is the answer, and boy oh boy, does the Precursor Basin deliver. Driving a land speeder with the handling of a hydroplaning Ferrari around an sacred, obstacle-laden field dotted with explosives while attempting to complete irritating chase objectives? Sounds like my kind of party! Oh, and no vehicle level is complete without a section where you go through rings, so let's put two of them in there just for good measure! Fortunately, this Zoomer level is unique in that it serves as an open-ended level instead of a timed trench run like the Fire Canyon, so you can at least attempt to salvage whatever you can from the Basin at your own pace and don't have to worry about slipping up and leaving a Precursor Orb behind anywhere.

To give you some insight as to how finicky it is to complete objectives in this level, I'll throw up some examples. Outside the level, an environmental researcher is worried about the safety of a group of Lightning Moles that have somehow ended up on the surface when the Lurkers moved in. Since they're blind, they can't see where the hole back underground is, and since this objective is scripted in a certain way, they can't just dig another fuckin' hole, so your job is to herd them back in by driving behind them and guiding them to the hole. It's way easier said than done, since they have a nasty habit of wandering off to the right of the Zoomer when you approach them, and as I said before, the turning isn't very tight.

Oh good, that's an image I needed in my head, a pointy-eared elf with a huge jawline and no trousers. Thanks Naughty Dog.
Oh good, that's an image I needed in my head, a pointy-eared elf with a huge jawline and no trousers. Thanks Naughty Dog.

Sadly, just because this level isn't a straight line doesn't mean that Naughty Dog didn't somehow find a way to shoe in another racing segment. One of the residents of Rock Village, pictured on the right, apparently bet his pants that the resident guardian of the village could defeat General Klaww in a one-on-one duel, and he lost (go figure, Klaww is like 2 fuckin' stories tall and the guard didn't have any weapons, what a retarded bet), so now he's wearing a goddamn barrel over his nether region. Apart from simply giving him Precursor Orbs in exchange for another power cell, he also apparently placed another bet (jeez this guy has issues, you'd think he would've learned by now) that someone can beat the record time at the course in the Precursor Basin, and slashing the record earns you another power cell. The course itself isn't too difficult, but you can't afford to run into anything or stall for too long. If your momentum dissipates for even half a second, you'll fluke the attempt and have to start all over.

Farming Simulator 2013, eat your heart out.
Farming Simulator 2013, eat your heart out.

If chasing flying lurkers around and herding small animals doesn't sound like your cup of tea, then at least you can always try the weed killer challenge. Yep, saving the world. By killing weeds. Ooh boy, doesn't get any more exciting than that. The funny thing is this challenge isn't easy either because the weeds keep respawning and the only way to get rid of them is to drive over them when your vehicle is charged with green Eco, which means you have to go back and forth for about six or seven minutes, refueling and driving over the same areas over and over again. I can't believe this game somehow managed to take a monotonous chore like weed killing and make it look so hard compared to real life.

There's nothing really else to say about the Precursor Basin, honestly. There's Lurkers you have to chase around and bump into, there's a power cell floating in midair in front of a cliff with no other catch to it than jumping to get it, and there are the ring challenges, which definitely overstay their welcome as they each last longer than 3-4 minutes. It may just be my bias towards not being a fan of vehicle levels, but I wasn't particularly enthralled by this stage as a kid and it still doesn't please me to have to replay it in the modern day.

I think I've had enough writing for one session. I know I promised I'd cover the rest of the second hub world, and I'll alter that promise right now so that we can get to the Lost Precursor City and the boss fight against General Klaww in the next edition. Thankfully, the Lost Precursor City is one of my favorite levels not just in this game, but of all time, so if the doom and gloom of this post brought you down I promise that the next one will be much more positive.

I'm MisterBananaFoam as always, and you guys have a great 2014. See you soon!

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MBF'S Retraux-Spective: Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (Part 2)

Welcome back! Before I begin anew, I must warn you that this retrospective is going to take a bit more finesse and recollection out of me from here on out, since I already managed to complete the game with 100% completion and I'm moving on to Jak 2. I'll do my best to pump out the rest of The Precursor Legacy's Retraux-Spective before I rush too far ahead, but I have never played all the way through Jak 2 and am eager to see how it measures up compared to my limited experience with it as a kid, so I want to get it done rather soon. Now then...

When we last left off on our rambunctious questings, Jak and Daxter apparently tried to kill me twice, first by attempting to drive me to suicide with a raucous fishing side game and then by flashing strobe lights in my face in a vain attempt to trigger an epileptic reaction. Thankfully, I survived, but now we have to brave the dark, mystical realm of Misty Isle.

Spoilers: We never actually see creatures with spines as large as that in this game.
Spoilers: We never actually see creatures with spines as large as that in this game.

Anyone with half their brain still intact would be able to tell you that this is indeed the area that the protagonists explored in the prologue of the game, and now you get to run around in it at your own pace. Is it really all Samos was cracking it up to be?

...Well, no, not really. In fact, Misty Isle isn't much harder than the Forbidden Jungle in itself. There are some particularly annoying parts, though, like the aggravating frog enemies lurking beneath the mud or the armored Lurkers that take two hits to kill, but it's all rather manageable if you've been used to the controls by now. You're also introduced to the Red Eco clusters on this island, which are personally my least favorite type of Eco since all they do is give you a power boost, but it can be helpful when taking out the armored guards.

Most full levels in Jak and Daxter have about eight power cells in them and 200 Precursor Orbs. Some of them only have 2 or 4 power cells and 50 Precursor Orbs at minimum, and those levels are usually the transition levels between the hub worlds where you ride around on a Zoomer to get to the end of the course. Speaking of the Zoomer, guess what we get to ride around part of Misty Isle?

No Caption Provided

You know how I was rambling on in my bad game mechanics list about how fidgety and clunky the vehicle missions were in Jak 3? I forgot to mention that they were even worse earlier on in the series. The Zoomer wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't immensely top-heavy and turned like it actually had a steering wheel, but it's the handling that really kills the vehicle sections. One of your mission objectives involves ramming into a bunch of Lurkers piloting Dark Eco blimps, and this one's a real bitch since each blimp has two giant mines swinging in the front and the back which explode on contact. Coupled with the bad traction, this segment does not make for a pretty good time, and it only gets worse from here, as there are several levels dedicated to this junker.

Aside from the Zoomer section and the Donkey Kong-esque barrel dodging sequence, there's also an ambush you have to fend off in an enclosed precursor arena near where Daxter got transmogrified. If you think of other game's with ambushes in them, they're nothing compared to Jak and Daxter; upwards of up to 10 Lurkers can be found all running at you at once, and since they do damage on contact, you have to space them all out and strategize to figure out which one gets the next thrashing without putting yourself in danger. Oh, and there are dudes shooting explosive bags of gunpowder at you from the top of the level, at least if you didn't get the barrel-dodging sequence over with already.

By this point in time, if you've adamantly been collecting every single Power Cell you come across, you should be at an upwards of 30 or 32 or something. Crossing over the Fire Canyon requires somewhere around 20, if I recall correctly. I can't blame Jak and Daxter for having low progression goals, since several games have done it prior, but most Power Cells aren't that hard to come across and the most difficult ones will take you five minutes worth of your trouble at the most, so it's not uncommon to be quite a ways above the mark.

Fire Canyon's up next, and it's a Zoomer race. Oh goody.

No Caption Provided

The heat shield that Keira constructed is enough to withstand the boiling temperatures for a few seconds on its own, but prolonged exposure to the molten climate will overload the shield and disintegrate the Zoomer in an instant, and the pathway stretches on for a few minutes, so it's completely impossible to traverse beyond this point. I hope you enjoyed this retrospective, everyone, and I'm looking forward to the next one!

...Okay, yeah, that is a load of bologna. What REALLY happens is that you're supposed to keep the engine cooled off by busting through a series of balloon coolants scattered throughout the course by Keira. How she managed to get all these balloons suspended over a winding road of burning hot lava is beyond me, but I digress. Can't have a game without a challenge.

Fire Canyon's not so hard if you can adjust to the wonky steering. What IS aggravating about all of the racing segments is the fact that there are still Scout Flies and Precursor Orbs littered around the track, and if you miss one, you have to fly all the way back through the course again to grab it. Like I said, the vehicle sections aren't so hot - no pun intended - and we still have three more levels dedicated to them, so buckle your pants, hombres.

After that brief folly, you're introduced to the next hub world, Rock Village. Unfortunately, the town is being stalked by General Klaww, who uses his sheer size and might to hurl massive flaming boulders into the village. Whacking him is our next goal, but I'm gonna have to save that for another date. Next time on this thrilling Retraux-Spective saga, we'll discuss the three levels connected to Rock Village as well as the fight with Klaww himself. Stay frosty, folks!

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