Saturday, September 30, 2017

Fad Gimmick

Nintendo is no stranger when it comes to the business of selling gaming peripherals such as the Wii Motion Plus. The wii motion plus accessory was introduced late in the Wii system life cycle. It was designed to provide accuracy to motion controls and simply breathe life into motion gaming which was quickly becoming a fad gimmick. Nintendo released a Wii Sports Resort game to compliment and showcase the new Wii Motion Plus accessory while third party publishers Ubisoft also made Red Steel 2 to be exclusive to Wii Motion Plus control.

But the one game that would forever be remembered and associated with Motion Plus is the Legend of Zelda : Skyward Sword. Releasing a high-profile AAA-game supporting the new hardware is always a sound strategy to move more hardware and software. It certainly worked with me as I bought the new Wii Motion Plus controller way before the Zelda game was released. There were only a handful of games that supported the device at the time and I owned none of them. Maybe I expected more Wii games to eventually support the new controller and I certainly never thought I would put it to use for only one game. 

The Wii popularity was quickly fading at the time and even the new Zelda failed to extend the life cycle of the system. Nintendo quickly released their next console system the Wii U the following year and we all know how that story ends. Looking back at the history of Wii Motion Plus, the accessory was released for two full years before the Zelda game came out and yet only 6 Wii games absolutely required it.

This is a classic example of Nintendo coming up with a idea and never fully embracing it for whatever reasons. And they are still doing this in recent years, like the 3D screen of the 3DS system and I suspect the HD motion control of the Switch will be next. Playing Skyward Sword made me reflect back on the MotionPlus controller and the novelty of the concept. As I have yet to finish the game, I realised it would be difficult to talk about it without referring to the Motionplus because of its deep connections to it. 

Of course, the Wii system was eventually sold with the Motionplus bundled inside but early adopters like myself who bought the controller separately really felt the pinch because of how poorly it was supported by publishers.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Open World Generation

After two generations of open-world games, there is little left in the genre that hasn't been explored. That's why it's pretty remarkable that Nintendo is able to come into the open world genre with something as refreshing as Breath of the Wild. And to do that with an established IP like the Legend of Zelda is certainly no small feat here. There are conventions and standards to honor, and I can say that all expectations of the legendary series are met.

The magic of Nintendo games has always been the simplicity by design. The result of this simplistic design is a game that is easy to pick up and appeals to gamers and non-gamers alike. The less is more philosophy is not very popular in modern games but Nintendo is an expert at applying this to their games and the sheer elegance of its simplicity is really the envy of the game industry.

Much of the game world is populated only by wildlife and nature and while this may feel like barren, it actually creates a better sense of depth and exploration. Many other game will try and stuff as much events and things to do until the point where you need to stop and chat every 5 minutes. I can't tell you how many open world games I played where I'm not appreciating the details of the game world because my eyes are too focused on the mini-map to get to the next location. 

Breath of the Wild doesn't have a mini-map on-screen or even a map screen on the Wii U gamepad. While I initially loathe the idea of scrapping the Wii U Gamepad second screen for console parity with the switch version, I soon come to realise it made the game better and more immersive. In fact, I even made my Witcher 3 session more Zelda-like by removing the mini-map now and relying on my own sense of direction instead. It sounds like a crazy idea especially after relying on the mini-map for over 60 hours on The Witcher 3 but part of me realised I wasn't focusing on the game world as much as I should be even before playing Breath of the Wild. BOTW was just the final nudge that made me realised it and now this is how I would probably play all open-world game from here on. 

Another simplistic design element of this game is the musical score or lack of. There are no grand musical score except for the major cutscenes so for the most part, the game feels very lonely. I have seen divided opinions on the game musical score and so far, I don't really mind having less music in the game. It's certainly much better than hearing the battle score of Fallout 4 over and over again every time I play that game. I was a bit disappointed how little voice-overs are used in the game, there was simply too much text reading like the old Zelda games. 

The world of Breath of the Wild is pretty vast, I remember going from point A to point B without backtracking or fast-travel and it was days before I finally felt the need to go back to a village. If it's not about the destination it's the journey then that saying certainly rings true here. I always find that fast-travel detracts you from the open world immersion and would like to avoid using them as much as possible. What Rockstar did with GTA V when you switch characters is pretty cool where you don't see any loading screen, I only wished more open world games would do that. 

I could go on and on about the Breath of the Wild, I find the game so addictive without able to pinpoint what exactly it is that keeps me coming back. The intangible element that makes a game great, not the story or the characters, I guess you can say it's the heart. While I still don't believe any one game alone can justify the purchase of a system, Breath of the Wild make a pretty darn good case for that. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Never On Time

A new Zelda game don't come around very often, that's why it's a pretty big event for the game industry and more specifically zelda fans.

I remembered the last few Zelda games launch very vividly, I remember the hype just as much as the games themselves.

I remember A Link Between Worlds getting released with a highly-sought after gold-plated 3DS. The timing of the release around Black Friday made it impossible to get one of those of gold 3DS locally without paying an arm and leg. I wanted both the system and the game as I have yet to own a Nintendo 3DS that time. I didn't managed to get the gold 3DS after all but I did managed to win a copy of the game, A Link Between Worlds shortly after buying a 3DS system. I finally played the game late last year and it was very bit as good as you would expect.

I remember the last Zelda console game the Skyward Sword was such a long wait coming that I actually bought a Wiimote Motionplus in advance. I didn't expect Nintendo to put out a rather affordable bundle of the game and gold-plated wii-mote that would quickly sold out. Once again, I missed out on another fan coveted Zelda piece.

Since the Wii was my first Nintendo home console, I had the grand ambitions of finishing both Wind Waker and Twilight Princess before the Skyward Sword came out. Somehow I could never decide when and which version of Twilight Princess to play and I felt no sense in playing Skyward Sword before TP. So eventually I ended up missing Skyward Sword at launch but the hype was very real and still vivid to this day.

I finally got around to playing Twilight Princess Wii version a few years ago when I already have Wii U system. I think I was also re-playing the HD version of the Wind Waker. Though long overdue, Twilight Princess didn't feel aged to me as the scope and scale of the game was far more than I was expecting. 

This year the hype is back as the new Zelda game is coming out in less than a months' time. I finally have a copy of Skyward Sword now and I'm just starting the adventure despite knowing I wouldn't finish it in time for Breath of the Wild. I have already pre-ordered the regular (and only) version of the game for the Wii U system. No more fancy bundle or special editions, not that there are any available for me to buy on the Wii U system. I just want to play the game and have a copy on my shelf as part of my Zelda game collection. 

This time, I will be on time for the hero of time.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Prep Me Up For More

I was expecting ZombiU to be mediocre and at best, a generic zombie game . The one thing I didn't expect was how addictive the game is.

ZombiU creates tension by obscuring your view in first person mode and giving you a third person view of your character and surrounding in key moments. This creates a sense of dread as you are unable to pause the action whenever you are stationary.

It's as close as you will get to feeling like you are in a zombie movie. It's never an easy choice between running away or staying to fight. Using a melee weapon or using a firearm. You are constantly making split second decision and living or dying by your choice.

When you finally fall victim to a fatal zombie attack, you will think about what went wrong and can't wait to get back to where you died (in normal mode). You see you will get one try with your survivor, die and you either re-spawn in your safe house as the next survivor or worse, come to a complete end if you are playing the merciless Survival mode. That's the world of  Zombi U where no one is truly safe except the guy speaking to you over the radio.

It's a testament to the developer's craft that the game is able to sustain its level of tension throughout the duration. You never get the feeling of being too powerful even when you get better firearms. This game is truly underrated because it was released exclusively on an under-performing platform.

Often times in this generation, exclusive games tend to feel short and unfulfilling because of how expensive it is to make games solely for one system. Zombi U doesn't give the impression of any cut corners and remarkably looks really good for a launch game. It's a shame that even when released on other systems, it continues to fly under the radar as opposed to more recognizable zombie games like (yep you guessed it) Resident Evil 7.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Running Out of Time

Having waited 6 years to finally play Alan Wake, I knew I didn't want to repeat the same with Quantum Break. After all, life is just too short to wait around. 

I didn't think Quantum Break would get a wider release on Steam let alone a fancy retail edition. When the timeless edition was announced, I knew I just had to get it despite costing more than double the Steam price. After all, the previous Remedy games distributed by Nordic were all stellar and well worth the money. I even pre-ordered it on Amazon when I couldn't get a confirmation from any local dealers whether they would stock this. Luckily for me, the amazon order got delayed in time for me to cancel it when I found a copy at the local store during the first week of release.

Somehow the events leading to getting the game is more interesting than the game itself. The game is still good but it isn't a timeless classic like the original Max Payne. I have loved Remedy games since the first Max Payne as we shared the same love for Hong Kong cinema. Selling off the Max Payne IP wasn't a total disaster when the property is in capable hands like Rockstar studio. It could have easily ended up like the Fallout series in Bethesda studios hands.

Quantum Break was the first time I felt Remedy games was trying to capture the old Max Payne magic again. Alan Wake was a great bold departure for the studio and although it wasn't as innovative as Max Payne, it was still one of the better horror games I have seen. The only problem I had with Alan Wake was I felt that the story was getting in the way of the game at times. Quantum Break has similar issues, in fact far worse considering this is science fiction and not a horror/supernatural story. The logic of time traveling is simply not explained or logical enough to lend the story credibility. 

I remember reading in the Max Payne manual that Max has the ability to slow down time in bullet time but don't ask how, just go along with it. Sure it's the easy way out but it works and in the end, nobody was really asking why bullet time exists. It felt like Remedy was trying to come up with a logic for how bullet time exists with Quantum Break. The game is fun when you get to play it in between the horrible TV show that was made in conjunction with the time. But I didn't fully understand the story because Remedy never took the time to lay down the rules of time-traveling in this story. It has choices that greatly affect how the story unravels so I'm definitely going to play it again soon. 

But finishing QB for the first time left me a little disappointed. It felt like it spent too long in development hell and ideas were never fully realised, the game is surprisingly short when you discount the TV show running time. I certainly won't mind having more levels of gun fights in this game but it's pretty clear than Remedy ran out of time and money making this game.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Let's Be Frank Here

One sure way to know if I played a great game is that I can't stopped thinking about it even after I finished. The game lingers on and I feel satisfied enough not to play another game yet.That happened with Alan Wake, I proceeded to watch the bonus material and subsequently finished the DLC episodes.

Unfortunately the same didn't happened with Dead Rising 3. Something was missing, that intangible factor that makes a game great.The game felt long and repetitive. Of course the same was said of Alan Wake but I certainly didn't felt that way. 

This new Dead Rising game removed the loading time in the previous games, providing a truly new experience for the series. Unfortunately, the city Los Perdidos that you are trapped in feels lacking in character. For sandbox games, the real star is always the city. If the city isn't interesting then your game isn't going to be very memorable.

The formula of finding other survivors and psychos is beginning to feel very routine now.  Each survivor will always have a quirky request before joining your crew but it always boils down to a lame fetch quest. The psychos are just as predictable as well. This series is in dire need of a new creative change of direction.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Times change, people change

Since playing on the PC, I have been experimenting with different genres that I simply couldn't on consoles as the games were too expensive. Even during PS2 heydays of piracy, I rarely explore outside my favorite genre and publishers because there were more than enough for me to play. Well, times changed and people changed - so true, these words uttered to me not too long ago.

That's why it was so refreshing to play the Tomb Raider reboot after all these different genres. The cinematic action adventure games are always fun to play because it doesn't have the grand scale of the RPG genre. You play one action set-piece then watch a cool cutscene before proceeding to the next. No boring conversation with NPC that last up to 40 minutes of just two people talking. Or spending 30 minutes looting every inch of each item in the room.
A lot of time is spent squeezing Lara through tight gaps. This gives you a nice view of her, well you know.

This Tomb Raider reboot borrows elements from other games in the genre but still manages to stand as something different. I love how the platforming is not so straightforward anymore as each area is big enough that the path forward isn't obvious. The gun fights feels borrowed from the Uncharted games but without the bad melee sequences included.

There are new ideas that are never fully developed as the game progresses. Early on you are taught how to hunt wild animals to feed Lara but once the fire fight started, there is no more emphasis on this part anymore. Suddenly Lara doesn't need to feed anymore in order to heal, she just needs to stay out of the bullets way.
Other times are spent rappelling Lara around like Spider-Man on impossible lengths that should have broke her arms off

Another thing is each area introduces a different relic to hunt. First you could be sniping old charms hanging from the tree then in another area, you are burning scrolls off the wall. How is one supposed to keep track especially it never made clear when you reached a new area.

These nitpicks aside, this is still one of the best games I played this year. I finished Dead Rising 3 before this and I have yet to blog about that one. It's hard to write about a game that didn't leave a lasting impression on me. It's certainly not outside the genre that I'm accustomed to so it was a surprise that I didn't like it. Perhaps my expectations and standards are higher after experimenting with new genres.

The Tomb Raider reboot reminded me that there are no substitute for my favorite genres after all. I guess you could say, the more things changed the more they remained the same. This is what I believed, maybe more so than how people changed over time.