Monday, January 25, 2010

I Am So Busy, Here Are More Pokemon!

My Gengar is named The Onions! He was a major part of my game-winning team.

My Tentacool is named Overfiend.

My Seedot is named Baby Juice.

My Snorlax is named JAPAN. I got him in an online trade. His original master was a Japanese kid who is obviously quite patriotic.

My Wooper is named Quad City.

My Psyduck is named Mom.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I Say He Made the Right Choice

It's taken me a year but I finally did it! I ripped the ending to Metal Saga and uploaded it to Youtube! This is the first of the game's multiple endings. Since you can earn it within seconds of starting the game I would say it's the best ending. I haven't seen the others, but even if they're equally amusing they are worse because you have to actually play the game to see them, and the game ain't all that great. I think you can speed up the battles, which is wonderful, but the game still felt pretty slow and barren. Not Japan's finest hour when it comes to open-ended RPGs.

Metal Max Returns, on the other hand, seemed pretty neat from the brief time I spent with it. If you dig the idea of an open-ended, goofball, post-apocalyptic RPG you should give this fine translation a shot! Or you could play Fallout, I guess. But Fallout doesn't have tanks.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Avoid the Void Before Christ

Jet packs aren't as good as grappling hooks. I'm pretty sure every game I've played with a grappling hook was at least decent, and I think once you make the grappling hook your main mechanic there's a good chance your game will be great. Jet pack games should be just as good, but I'm starting to think the ability to easily float is an unsatisfying mechanic and encourages sloppy design. I think it may be why Dark Void Zero is such a disappointment. Or maybe it's because it's made by white people.

Oh, but I kid! White people can make awesome 2D games -- VVVVVV came out a week ago and it's already GOTY! But Backbone and all their offshoots (one of which developed Dark Void Zero) don't make awesome 2D games. They make disappointments. Which is a shame, because big publishers keep giving them jobs, and because I keep accidentally buying their games because I can't keep track of all their studios, and because I can't trust other people's impressions when it comes to modern 2D games. A lot of fans are just sprite art fetishists, y'know? They'll praise anything as long as it controls halfway decent and the developers make it obvious enough that hey, they really love Nintendo too. This is why I've heard more about Dark Void Zero's intro, where you blow into the DSi's mic to "clean" an NES cartridge's contacts, than I have about the actual game. Easier to judge whether the game hits all the right nostalgia notes than whether it's actually good.

And Dark Void Zero does get most of the surface bits right. It looks and sounds close enough to an NES game -- though the music is mixed far too low, which is a shame because it seems pretty good -- and handles like one, too. But it's a frustrating game. Not due to its challenge -- I beat it in under an hour on one credit on the default difficulty -- but cuz it's pretty inconsistent. The feel is off. It's pretty "30+ year old white folks trying to make an old fashioned Japanese action game". It's a jet pack game where you spend a good chunk of your time traversing tight horizontal corridors on foot. It's a jet pack game that frequently strips you of your jet pack and forces weaker weapons upon you, employing the ever popular and modern "strip the hero of all the powers he's earned" multiple times per stage. Your first glance at the game map may lead to expectations of an open ended, exploration heavy affair, like Metroid, but in reality it's a linear keyhunt that relies on lots of backtracking to create the illusion of an open ended, exploration heavy game, like all those modern games that claim to be inspired by Metroid. It's got an odd pace, feeling simultaneously rushed and padded. It does a poor job of giving audio and visual feedback -- there's very slight flickering when you get hit, making it hard to tell when you're taking damage. And the sound of shots that damage an enemy and shots that don't are identical, which sure made the boss fights tiring until I realized it was actually the worst style of boss fight: the kind where you have to sit around and wait for him to expose his weak point before you can do any damage! And there are collision detection issues, as I'd often be shooting a dude and it sure did look like he should have been hit but he totally wasn't. And the game crashed on me when I tried to read the manual, so I didn't know you could save until after I beat it and saw CONTINUE on the title screen. And the Jimmy Fallon cameos totally blow the "long lost NES game" vibe they were going for.

And everybody hates a critic. Even me! I am being too mean. It is playable. It is close to being worth buying. But there are an awful lotta great NES games for the same price on Virtual Console. Why buy a sham when you can get the real deal? And if you only have a DSi buy Boxlife. Or Trajectile. Or any of those Art Style games. They're pretty neat.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Here are the names of some of my Pokemon!

I spent a lot of time playing Pokemon Pearl. Here are the names of some of my lovelies!

My Chansey is named Baby Hips.

My Hippowdon is named Down Low.

My Gyardos is named BruceLeRoy.

In Pokemon Blue I had a Magikarp named Chinatown. That was a long time ago. He was my favorite.

My Raticate is named Chewpendus.

I have five Charmanders in my bank. Their names are Hobofoil, 2 Hottie, FlamingDud, Groper and Nostrils. I am not fond of Charmander, really. They were just trading fodder. Bulbasaur is the best starter of all.

My Geodude is named Siffredi.

Friday, January 15, 2010

GOD HAND is the Best Action Game of All Times.

You have to capitalize it. GOD HAND. It deserves respect. It deserves caps.

I've been thinking about GOD HAND a lot, because I've been playing Bayonetta. I'm going big on it. Going for all those achievements. Getting all those stupid unlockables. Wringing every last bit out of it that I can. It's been very enjoyable and rewarding, and the more I play it the more I appreciate it. Though without all that meta-gaming bullshit I doubt I would have returned to the game after my first playthrough. If this was, say, a PS2 game my final verdict would have been that it was a nearly great game bogged down by overlong cutscenes, overlong boss fights, overlong rail shooting levels, too many quick-time-events, too many non-combat "puzzle" bits -- there are multiple escort sequences! -- and poorly telegraphed fail states.

But it's not PS2! It's HD Era. It's on a console that's jacked into the net, spying on me, and I kinda like it. I like seeing the achievement counter inch closer to 1000/1000. I like clawing my way past all my friends on the scoreboards. And most of all I like how open the game is post-completion, which I don't think was a common thing until the advent of achievements. I can play any stage on any difficulty at any time, all on the same save file, and this is wonderful because it means I can put off playing through those disappointing Yu Suzuki tribute stages in favor of all the good action bits. And on repeat playthroughs it's almost all good action bits, as the sections that irritated me previously aren't such a big deal now that I know how to pass them quickly. And because I skip all the cutscenes now. God, there are a lot of cutscenes, and not enough of them focus on Bayonetta's butt.

So yeah, Bayonetta's pretty excellent once you get over that hump. But it's not GOD HAND. GOD HAND don't have no hump. Why would I want to play one level of GOD HAND over another? Every single stage in it is awesome, because every single stage is essentially the same. It is almost always about punching dudes in the head, kicking them in the nuts, and suplexing them into the ground. And when it isn't about violence against humans, or demons, or gorillas, you are still punching something -- there are no real key hunts or puzzles in GOD HAND, just inanimate objects that need to be punched so you can move on to the next group of thugs, who you will also punch. This is good, because the punching is more entertaining than anything else they could have included in the game. This lack of fat is what really puts Mikami's recent titles -- and man, has anyone released two unrelated games as good as GOD HAND and Resident Evil 4 back to back since Super Mario Bros. and Zelda 20 years earlier? -- far ahead of Kamiya's. Hell, it's what puts him far ahead of most every other developer out there, I say. If only more guys had his focus and confidence.

I'll take those kind words back if his next game doesn't feature tank controls, though.