Friday, November 6, 2015

Zero Expectations

We are who we are because of the events and people that come across in our lives. It's never one singular event or person that shapes someone, more like the snowball effect.

That's why it's hard to make a good prequel story. We all want to know how our favourite character came to be so prequel stories are always popular. The problem is prequel stories only have a window of a small time frame so everything gets distilled into one dramatic event. Often time, it's disappointing to fans as it cannot live up to their expectations.

Snake eater was a great prequel but did Snake truly learnt everything from one lady called the Boss? Let's not even begin with the Darth Vader origins.

Yakuza 0 is a great prequel because it isn't hamstring by the burden of telling how Kiryu and Majima became who they are. Kiryu isn't the dragon of Dojima yet and Majima isn't the mad dog we come to love. No one died in dramatic fashion that caused Majima to go bananas (which frankly would be pretty bad taste). It's just a story set in a time where Kiryu and Majima were young and totally unlike their current self.

The modern day Kiryu simply won't bust out moves at the dance floor or get date raped in old fashion telephone hook-ups. He also didn't have a pal like Nishiki at his side anymore, someone he considers his brother and equal.

The ending where they revert to their trademark outfit was the only bad point of the story. It felt forced and out of the blue. It didn't skipped ahead in time and I was just getting used to how charming Majima looks in a suit and ponytail. Prequel story like this are rare where the creators simply ignore the obvious route and focus on creating a good compelling a story.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Live Die Repeat

There are a few modern movies which I regret never having seen on the big screen when they were released in the cinema. 

Like The Rock and the first Infernal Affairs. 

These remained some of my favorite films but I have only watched them on home video release. Sadly the window of catching movies in the cinema is pretty small even with the emergence of multi screen cinemas.

Nowadays video games followed a similar path, the absolute classics that first appear on home consoles re-emerges years later on handheld systems and smartphones.

While I appreciated the notion of having these games on portable devices, I still think that big 3D epics are meant to be enjoyed on the big screen TV. 

Especially if it's going to be your first experience. 

My first experience of Mario 64 was totally ruined on the DS system because the controls were extremely clunky  without an analog stick. It's still a great game but nothing like Mario Galaxy in my eyes. So I'm pretty apprehensive about these handheld ports of classic games.

Games like Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask and Xenoblade Chronicles on the 3DS.

I have never played any of these games on their original home consoles. Thankfully the option to play them on a big screen TV is still viable, so long as you keep your old consoles around and have an internet connection.

While on the topic, I do not think everything looks better on a big screen. Certainly not most games originally made for portable systems. But it happens and some of these games leap onto the home console because publishers aren't contend with the sales of the original port. Thankfully I played most of these said games on the handheld and never had to experience what the HD remaster are like. Being a purist, the original format is always the best way to experience it especially if it's going to be your first time.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Be The Maker

Before Mario Maker

It seems like Mario Maker was what the Wii U system needed after all.  A game that puts the power of creation in the players hand and thrive on community participation. In today's society where everyone has a voice that wants to be heard, Nintendo has created the perfect modern nostalgic game.

Creating a good level is not easy, there is no substitute for creativity so spending hours making a level doesn't necessarily result in a good one. I learnt that the hard way slaving over the level design without much inspiration. Sometimes a good idea pops up by accident when working on the level but one idea alone is never enough to sustain a whole level. So I rather just keep the level on save and continue to work on it instead of uploading on impulse when it really isn't good enough.

Still this game will keep me busy for a long time so Fatal Frame V might just have to wait a little longer. Games aren't cheap these days and getting more than one in a month is not a good habit I want to fall back into. Plus I'm not lucky enough to have a generous wife to spoil me when I control my spending habits.

After Mario Maker

Friday, October 2, 2015

Camera Obscurity

When Nintendo got the rights to Fatal Frame series, some would say they doomed the horror series to obscurity. I think the series is always going to be a niche series compared with the mainstream success of Resident Evil or Silent Hill. Sure Nintendo didn't help the cause by refusing to localized some of the newer games on their system. But under the big N care, the series innovated in ways that simply wasn't possible if it remained on Sony consoles. It's kind of a two steps forward two steps back kind of evolution.

The two games on the Wii system used motion controls  to allow your Wiimote to mimic the flashlight. It didn't place the flashlight in your hands quite like Shattered Memories but that was never the key component of the game anyway. The camera obscura will always be the main feature of the game and the motion controls made it easier to capture the perfect shot.

Tecmo took it up a notch on the Nintendo 3DS by transforming the handheld into the camera obscura, thanks to the gyro sensor function. As funny as it was to wave the 3DS around like a camera, it wasn't very practical to alternate between the light and the dark as you needed to use the AR function to scan pages from the booklet.

Now the latest Fatal Frame on the Wii U is finally getting localised and I'm eager to play it. Eager enough that I simply don't care if there isn't a retail release. I love the Gamepad concept and frankly there isn't enough games on the system that properly utilized the Pad. Fatal Frame took the obvious concept of using the Gamepad as the camera but without the AR function of the 3DS game. Plus it has HD graphics and officially undub for the very first time.

It's going to be a great Halloween this year.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Cing Out

Game types come and go, last year the survival horror genre experienced a bit of renaissance since their high during the 32-bit era. I wonder when will adventure games get their turn?

Adventure games are about as niche as they come these days. Every major studios that specialized in adventure games are now either dead and buried or making other type of games. Nintendo's second party studio CING had a memorable run of games on the DS and Wii (Trace Memory and Hotel Dusk) but they too went bust before the start of this generation. 

As I struggle to solve the mystery of Hotel Dusk, it occurs to me that adventure games will have a hard time making a comeback without undergoing some major overhaul. The chief problem with adventure games are the puzzle or the structure of the storytelling. You missed a vital clue or failed to solve a riddle and the whole structure breaks down and comes to a halt. It's really easy to get stuck in an adventure game and no one likes referring to guides when playing a game.

I started to wonder why can't adventure games be more open-world? You get stuck in one part then maybe you can go and do other stuff while the story branches off to a different outcome. Sadly I have never really seen that in any modern adventure game. The storytelling are usually far too rigid and focused to allow such radical changes. 

I love adventure games and playing Hotel Dusk reminds of those old Lucasarts and Sierra heydays. But I remember I tend to use guides even back in those days to finish those games.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Going through the Motions (and Minions)

I have been playing PxZ for almost 80 hours now and have yet to finish the game. Now I'm beginning to understand why the Xenosaga games during the ps2 era always shipped on two discs. And to think, I originally intended to go back and play these Xeno games (lol).

As honest paying gamers, we naturally prefer our games to be as long as possible. After all we are paying our hard earned money and games aren't cheap so the longer it is the more value we see in the product. I'm not sure if I agree with that sentiment anymore, the value simply cannot be judged by the length. Vanquish is just a 5-hour game and anyone who played through it are likely be satisfied with the game.

PxZ is just a tediously long game, each chapter lasts close to 2 hours of gameplay with no shortcuts allowed. You fight minions after minions and the same bosses over and over again. Each boss usually have about 10 minions with them and there are more than one boss in each level. The fan service starts to wear thin after a while. I started to skipped the silly banter at the start of the fight because I just want to get the level over with.

The grinding is compulsory as the objective is always destroy every enemy so you can't take a shortcut by just finishing off the boss. Grinding is one of the things I hate most about RPG and here it's forced upon the gamer. The biggest problem with the combat sytem is the enemies display no AI whatsoever. The minions are there to just get beaten up by the super-team. Even the bosses feel the same way albeit with a lot more HP and cool finishing move. It's like a strategy RPG where the gamer has to strategize against a mindless opponent.

I was surprised that a sequel to PxZ was announced as fans weren't exactly demanding one. In fact most have yet to finish the game like myself partly because of how tedious it is. The sequel will feature Kiryu and Majima from the RGG series and that is probably one of the few reasons why I would even bother with the next game. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Last Hurrah for Chivalry

Yakuza Zero is really impressive, I can't remember any recent prequel game that is this good. I think Studio RGG is simply incapable of making a bad Yakuza game.

Each time a major female character is introduced in these games, something magical happens for the series.
These stories usually revolves around honour and loyalty but having a female character brings some good old chivalry and romance plot into the mixture. It's no coincidence that Yakuza 2 and 4 are the best games in the series.

I was very happy that Kiryu is back as the main lead character when studio RGG decided to cut back on the number of playable characters.I was a little skeptic about having Majima drive the story of the game because his character is used quite sparingly in the older games. Overexposing him in this game could potentially diminishes the greatness of the Majima character. Thankfully I was wrong and I could definitely see Majima heading future Yakuza games all by himself.

There is a real sense of threat and urgency in this game, the story is a lot darker than the recent games. Studio RGG has a habit of saving lame characters from dying so they could use them again in future games. Maybe because of the prequel nature, a lot of characters die in this game and these are very good characters.

Finally we get to switch the fighting styles of the characters which I have been longing for since the PSP spin-off games. Changing the fighting styles on the fly makes the whole gameplay feels fresh again. Some say the series is suffering from fatigue but I feel it's been re-invigorated by this game.

Thanks to Salty Yen for his video translations. It's nice to play the games alongside with him and I don't think I could enjoy the game this much without him.