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.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Zombie On The Go

Mercenaries 3D gathered quite a bad rap upon release that people barely remember anything else about this game. Bad enough that Capcom decided to charge for what used to be a free mini-game but then they went ahead and locked the save file too. Preventing owners from re-selling the 3DS game which Capcom later acknowledged was a bad move and left Revelations alone.

I purchased the digital copy of this game when it was on sale during Halloween. I wasn't really planning on getting it so I never made any attempt to look for the retail copy. This Mercenaries is more of a greatest hits compilation of all the stages and characters from RE 4 and RE 5. There is barely any new content until very late into the game where you get some nice new stages. 

On the surface, the game looks better than Revelations because of all the re-used assets from old RE games. However play it long enough and you will realise this is certainly not the case. A lot of the character animations have been simplified which becomes apparent when you perform melee attacks. The reused stages are also cut down in size compared with the original. At least the game performance is pretty steady even with the 3D effects on, thanks to all these graphical shortcuts.

As much as I hated RE6, I still had a pretty good time with the game's Mercenaries Mode. Of course, Capcom decided to ruin a good thing by making most of those stages DLC. This prevents most gamers from enjoying the complete Mercenaries Mode on RE6 which is a shame. Looking at the current state, the Mercenaries 3D is still the only way to enjoy the mini-game on the go. Maybe it's not too absurd now to think why Capcom would charge money for this game after all. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Like A Boss

I love the video montage at the beginning of each Yakuza games. No matter how many times I have seen it, I rarely ever press to skip especially if I like the theme music too. It reminds of those Hong Kong TVB series where you also have a video montage before each episode.

When you first play the game, those video montage offers a glimpse of the story that lies ahead. As you progress through the game, the montage turns into a mixture of scenes you have seen and those you have not. These montages are carefully mixed so there are no big spoilers but just enough teasers to entice you to play on and on. I loved picking out the scenes to come and predicting how the story will unfold based on those scenes.

It really does feel like a TV serial and in a lot of ways, the Yakuza series is actually more like a TV serial than a summer blockbuster. The cutscenes are usually grounded on human drama with most of the action occurring during the game play. That's probably one of the reason why the series have difficulty breaking out of Japan in terms of mainstream success. For all its criminal undertones, it's more about the characters themselves rather than the shady stuff that yakuzas do.

Casual observers often compared the Yakuza games with Grand Theft Auto which is such a poor comparisons. You hardly ever do any criminal activity in the Yakuza games, just regular badass stuff that makes you feel like the boss.

Badass stuff like this following video montage

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Good Old Fashioned Fun

Satoru Iwata, the beloved CEO of Nintendo has sadly passed away last weekend. It's hard to understate the impact of his passing because he was such a public figure for Nintendo. Having possessed all the Nintendo systems released during Iwata's reign, I do feel the desire to talk about what makes them great, or even superior to their peers.

I loved how Nintendo games has no difficulty class. This may create a perception that the games are easy but personally, attaining 100% in any one of these games is probably harder than any platinum trophy I have earned. The lack of difficulty class puts everyone on the same page, how far you decide to take it is up to you. In some ways, Nintendo is teaching you to let go of your elitism and all just co-exist as one. There are no casual or hardcore gamers, just the love for the game. Playing games is not an entitlement, I can play anything I choose without someone making a funny comment.

I also loved how Nintendo games speaks to their audience in a way other games just don't. Most games treat you as a dumb ass who can't remember what you learn in the first 5 hours and are content to hold your hand all the way by spoon feeding you. Metroid and Zelda teaches you the basic tools and expect you to apply them throughout the game. When you get stuck in the game, there are no hints to help bail you out that will just magically appear. It can be frustrating at times but the feeling of finding your own way out is unlike anything. It also speaks of the level of confidence Nintendo have to deliver a game and expect gamers to "get it". Like a masterful filmmaker who doesn't do unnecessary frequent flashbacks because all the cues are there.

I didn't have many Nintendo systems when I was younger due to strict parenting. I did get a Gameboy but have always long for a Super NES during my childhood. While modern games strive to be cinematic and forget gameplay, Nintendo never loses sight of what's important. Some may find that old fashioned but sometimes we just need a little old fashion. Right, agent Coulson?