Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Content Within

Back in the day all video games come with manuals but these days with the emergence of digital distribution most retail copies don't carry manuals anymore. I remember during the PS2 generation, Nintendo's Gamecube had the best manuals - full color and printed on heavy paper stock, a really incentive to pick the Gamecube version over the others. Now Nintendo has gone cheap, the manuals are no longer printed and worse, the Club Nintendo codes are printed on the back of the cover art! I always thought the back of the cover art is meant for a nice alternate cover but I guess Nintendo had other ideas.

The Evil Within is certainly not as bad as most recent games, it comes with a nice double-sided cover and full color manual. Of course the most important content is the game itself and so far, the game is pretty amazing. The game performance came under fire upon release due to its technical issues but so far I haven't encounter anything I would consider a deal-breaker. In fact, I was so absorbed playing this game that it's hard for me to pay any attention to Revelations 2 which has turned out to be a bit lackluster in my opinion. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Forgotten Wolf

One of the first games I finished this year was The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess. I felt like playing and finishing this Zelda game was a grand adventure itself. First of all, I owned a Gamecube copy of the game and while my Wii is completely compatible with Gamecube, it's much more convenient playing the Wii version. That saves me the trouble of hooking up a Gamecube controller and memory card but more importantly, it tracks my playing time on the console.  So long story short, I was finally able to play the Wii version once I started running roms on the hard disk attached to my Wii console.
I loved my first Zelda console game The Wind Waker but there is no denying that The Twilight Princess is the better game. The Wii controls integrated into the game late in the development are a mixed bag for me while it's certainly useful when aiming in first person view, the use of Wii controls during combat feels tiring and cumbersome. What really separates this game from the the Wind Waker were the dungeons, the staple of all Zelda games. The dungeons in the Twilight Princess were simply epic and really make you use each and every tool that you acquired throughout the game. There were a lot of the dungeons featured in this game and each of the dungeon were designed differently so it never felt like more of the same thing. 

I always thought that each of the recent Zelda game has a very clear theme, the Wind Waker was an experience set in the sea while Skyward Sword was obviously an adventure set in the sky. So where does that leaves The Twilight Princess? Well, The Twillight Princess covers all ground, there was a dungeon buried deep beneath the sea and the last dungeon takes Link all the way up to the skies. Now I can't imagine playing the Skyward Sword and being confined to an adventure in the sky. 

Some fans complained that in between all of these impressive dungeons is a barren wasteland which offer little or not much to do. That's true but complaining about that is sort of missing the point, after all the dungeons are what most fans paid money to play and here they are scarily good. 


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Crossing That Line

Who can complain of more Valkyria Chronicles 3 on the 3DS?
Project X is one of those guilty pleasure games, it’s not an excellent game by any means but certainly very addictive and fun. The crossover theme seems to be a common fad in Japanese modern games and here it’s demonstrated to great effect as classic characters from mega franchises come together for one big team-up mash. The chemistry between all these different characters is the highlight of the game, never mind the fact the story makes no sense and it’s just an excuse to pile as many characters together as possible.  I was surprised by the level of detail as the amount of voiceover work is extensive and the characters are all voiced by the original voice actors (from what I can tell with the Valkyria Chronicles 3). Each fixed pair of characters can be assisted by a third party member and I often mixed up each pair with a new character just to see what silly banter they throw at each other.

The game is a strategy RPG but there are action elements thrown on that allows you to string together combo attacks. Basically it’s a bit like the first Devil May Cry game where you juggle the enemy in the air but here it’s all about the timing of the buttons to keep the combo going as long as possible. The animation and 3D effects when you unleash the special attack is simply awesome, no matter how many times you seen it. It’s high unlikely to know every character in the game but there is a useful crosspedia to help you catch up to speed with them and the universe. I started playing Sakura Wars on the PS2 after being introduced to the Gemini character and that’s the beauty of the game, you learn more of other game series.

The game has a repetitive and predictable structure but somehow I'm always drawn back by the familiar characters, theme music and before I know it, another hour has passed. I guess that’s what it means by having fun. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Talking about My Revelations

With Revelations 2 is almost upon us now, I thought it would be a good time to reflect back on the first Revelations game and what made it so great. I first played Revelations shortly after getting a Nintendo 3DS so the experience is a little less than a year ago and still pretty fresh in my mind. I find Revelations' acclaim a little unwarranted, I mean sure it was miles better than Resident Evil 6 but let's not make it sound like the second coming of Resident Evil 4. I do want to point out what made Revelations better than most recent RE entries

1. No More Umbrella
Let's face it, the original storyline that spans across the first 3 RE games is now a convoluted mess thanks to the many different writers who pitched in over the years. It's hard to make an sense of the Umbrella legacy anymore or tie up the loose ends which Capcom so clumsily attempted to in RE5. Thankfully, Revelations told a new story much like RE4 did without much ties to the original storyline aside from the iconic characters appearing. No silly homages to the series like what happened in RE5 Gold or RE6, it was a servicable story with nice twists and a brand new villain.

Remember the feeling when you first got the Colt Python?
2. Simple Guns
The RE games has always placed a strong emphasis on the guns used but in the early games, you are able to figure out which weapon works best against which enemies because the weapons were slowly introduced into the game as you play. That way you formed a strong bond with the weapons because you become very familiar with the ones you are using before you get a new toy. In RE6, I actually lost track of which ammunition goes to which weapon when I was clearing the character inventory. Too much awesome weaponry was clearly not a good thing and Revelations wisely scaled back on the number of weapons deployed. It doesn't introduced the weapons into the game as masterfully as the old games but at least, it was manageable and fun.

Aside from this, there are some aspects which makes RE Revelations not so great like the annoying new side characters and episodic chapters. In the end given the dire strait predicament of the series right now, the first Revelations certainly did more right than wrong but it still pales in comparisons to the early RE games under Mikami's supervision.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

So Much To Play So Little Time in 2014

The year is almost finished and I thought I would reflect back on the games I have played and completed over the last twelve months. So going through my trophy log and saved games, I have compiled a list of the following games that I started and finished within the last year.

1. Valkyria Chronicles 3 (PSP)
2. Max Payne 3 (PS3)
3. Deadly Premonition (PS3)
4. Resident Evil Revelations (3DS)
5. The Spirit Camera (3DS)

None of these games were particularly new or expensive but rest assured, I have not gone cheap on games as I finally got new Nintendo hardware earlier this year. Cross generation games are still prevalent for now so it remains to be seen when the PS4 will happen, probably not next year unless a nice Yakuza Zero PS4 custom edition emerges.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Digitally Yours

I would like to talk about a gaming trend that has became more and more prevalent over the years, digital distribution of games. Some say it will spell the end for brick and mortar game shops eventually though maybe not in Japan where they still love their game box arts and so fore.

The reason I'm bringing this up is because it's starting to affect me, several of my favorite series have recently announced digital-only distribution of their new releases. Unlike some other fanboys, I don't feel less ownership of the game if it's digital, it's just I would like to have some tangible to add in my proud collection. I do enjoy the convenience of not having to get up and swap discs when it's digital but to me, it's just a minor annoyance I would gladly put up with to own the physical copy.

Now developing games are becoming more costly and putting out a physical copy isn't as cheap as one may think, there are logistics involved and not just the mere cost of writing the actual disc. I get all that but I really wonder for the case of Yakuza 5, is Sega allowing the fate of the series to continue down this road? It's really a chicken and egg dilemma, are you going to able to foster new fanbase if you don't spend the money to put physical copies in stores and promote the game? Rebirth HD and Revelations 2 will sell on their own even if it's digital only as the Resident Evil franchise is huge so in Capcom's case, it's just a matter of Capcom trying to save some bucks by going this route (to be fair, Capcom did distribute Rebirth on disc in Asia region and also give a significant discount for the digital version of Revelations 2).

Yakuza is a series on its last legs in the West, each sequel has seen diminishing sales so it's almost like Sega is doing this just for the fans and not hoping to reach out to new fans. While I applaud Sega (and Sony) for doing this, I'm also sad that Sega is no longer interested in investing in this franchise overseas though it's probably been that way for some time now. Well I guess I will always have my Asian copies and now not have to worry about ugly box art on the western version anymore.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Days of Feeling Dumb

As a gamer these days I tend to be more nostalgic about old games than excited about forthcoming new games. Sure there are occasional upcoming games that get me interested but more often than not, those happens to be sequel to a favorite game series I can care about like Resident Evil or Yakuza. Perhaps it's a sign that I'm slowing down or maybe just a lack of fresh games in the current market I can't really say because I'm still clocking about the same amount of gaming time every month.

While reminiscing about past games with an old friend, it occurs to me that sometimes our strongest memory about a game isn't how good or bad the game was but where in the game we got stuck in. Bear in the mind, I don't mean being stuck at a difficult puzzle or a tough boss, I'm talking about the silly things like missing an important route because the background happens to be pre-rendered or over-thinking a puzzle when the solution was much more obvious and simple. I have had my fair share of those and I suspect I will have much more of them to come. 

I'm actually experiencing quite a number of them while playing The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the very first time. I got stuck in early dungeon and I got lost a few times because everything is so dark and dreary compared with the bright skies of Wind Waker. While it's undoubtedly a great game (some say one of the best), I reckon when I finally finish it, I will remember it more for the parts I got stuck in than how great the game actually is.