Thursday, February 28, 2013

Some New News

Capcom has now said that about a month after Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate releases, they will patch in the ability for US players to play with EU players.  That's awesome, and frankly, should have been there in the first place.  Now I can walk both Marcus Shadow and Chriz the Mole through the game....oh, joy.  It's also funny that Japanese players can still only play with Japanese players.  Capcom Japan basically stated a year or so ago that they don't want Japanese players playing with other people.  I guess they just want to keep the illusion that Japanese players are a lot better than others.  It's not true, so you wouldn't want to shatter that bubble I suppose.  Oh well, at least it's a step in the right direction.

Also, Focus Interactive and Spiders are close to releasing their new action RPG Mars War Logs for XBLA, PSN and PC.  They also released a new trailer showing the combat, and it's surely I game I want to try.  I'm hoping to review that, so keep an eye out for that.  In addition, they announced a new, full release game called Bound by Flame.  Another action RPG, this time a more fantasy setting (Mars War Logs is futuristic, obviously).  Again, sounds pretty good to me, so I'm adding that to my radar.  I really like player action RPGs, so here's hoping they are both lots of fun!

I have a new review coming in a few days, but here is something to tide you over.  It's not game related, but my wife and I saw some more movies on Netflix recently.  Tales of an Ancient Empire with Kevin Sorbo and Against the Dark with Steven Seagal.  Don't see them, either of them.  They are bad.  Against the Dark is a little better, but seriously, avoid both of them.  Now, back to invading all those territories...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Prometheus Review

Another movie I recently saw with my wife was the "kind of prequel" to the Aliens movies- Prometheus.  Can it match the awesomeness of Aliens?  Of course not, but can it come close?  There will be spoilers, but I imagine most people that care about it have seen it.  If you haven't...well, read the review anyway.  You will learn why by the end.

So, where to start?  The movie seems like it is a large collection of independent scenes put together.  Or more accurately, like lots of linking scenes were cut out.  I think they had ideas of what they wanted to happen, but instead of working out which to use, they just shoved them all in there and hoped it would work.  It didn't.  A lot of the movie is just a jumbled mess of ideas that just don't fit together as well as they should.

This movie was made (beside to get large sums of money) to give backstory to the Aliens franchise and answer some questions that no one wanted answers to.  Where do the Aliens come from?  Did anyone really care?  They could have just been the natural inhabitant of some planet, but now they are some disease/biological weapon made by some people that also made humans.  Yeah, it's as dumb as it sounds.  There's tons of plot holes and it actually generates more questions than it attempted to answer.  They tried to answer just one measly question, but didn't even really do that.  They just made the backstory worse and more convoluted than not having one at all.

So an alien race made humans on Earth and visited 35,000 years ago and up to 2,000 years ago.  Both humans and the "engineers" have the exact same DNA, despite how much 2,000 years would change that.  They also left clues to where they wanted people to find them.  The clues lead them to a bioweapon facility however.  So...why lead them there, when the movie states they were going to take the stuff to Earth?  One "Engineer" as they are called, gets really made when humans show up.  No explanation for it, he just starts killing people so they can have one survivor, in true horror movie fashion.

And what about the Aliens that people wanted to see?  Well, there's this black goop, that can make...facehugger snakes.  It also makes people into zombie creatures, so...yeah.  I wish I were kidding, but I'm not.  The facehugger snake has the trademark acid blood, but doesn't actually make the aliens, so...where do they get it from?  As a bonus, here's the path that it took to get close to the xenomorphs that are commonly called "the Aliens".  The black good gets injested by one of the stupid scientists on the ship.  He then impregnates a barren woman before he starts mutating into a zombie.  She cuts the creature out of her body and tries to freeze it.  It then grows off screen into Shuma Gorath and ends up "facehugging" the engineer that inexplicably wanted to kill everybody.  Out of its (his?) chest, the xenomorph emerges.  Granted the actual Aliens life cycle is almost as complicated, but it's just silly.  It also probably started with the idiot engineer drinking the black stuff in the beginning of the movie, but they don't bother to connect that scene to the rest of them, so who knows?

It's honestly just not a good movie, from either the standpoint of it being a movie or being a movie in the Aliens universe.  It doesn't flow right, it doesn't make sense but somehow has lots of predictable events.  There's a lot more I could make fun of, but it's just faster to watch the Honest Trailer for it.  It's funny and way better than the actual movie.  Prometheus is just a boring two hours that I can't get back.  I have to make fun of it with my wife to make that time worth it, and that's a really sad thing to say about a movie.
Brothers from a different mother?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PS3) Review

Wow does this game look good.  The models just look fantastic with the amount of detail in them.  The scenery is good too, and I didn't see any graphical issues.  No pop-in, no muddy textures and no frame rate issues.  There are nice explosion effects, and the electricity on Raiden's sword looks cool.  The cinematics look even better.  They are a step up from the game graphics, but it's not a very big step.  I'm actually really impressed with the look of this game.  The only odd thing is when viewing the codec screens.  Yes, they are supposed to harken back to the ones in Metal Gear Solid, but it's kind of funny that this society can build super powered cyborgs and transforming tanks, but have codec video that looks like it was from the 90s.

The voices sound good.  To me, the accents sound convincing and all voice actors involved did a good job.  All of the lines are spoken, which is to be expected from the very cinematic direction the Metal Gear games have taken.  The music is pretty good too, albeit a little strange when in the middle of combat it starts playing some "angry alternative" music or something (I probably sound old now).  Not too jarring, and it did fit the game, but you knew you were in for a fight when it came on.

If you played the demo or saw any of the various gameplay videos, you know that it's primarily an action game.  Kind of strange that it isn't a "tactical espionage action" game, but I was surprised that there is stealth in the game.  There are times when you can sneak by enemies and avoid confrontation, Solid Snake style.  I enjoy sneaking around, but I was always sure to get a stealth kill on the enemies, since it's so fun.  You don't get many hiding options if caught, so you either fight or hope you can run.  Since the game's focus is on blazing ninja action, fighting is usually the better option in those cases.

They have tutorials in the beginning, and they help.  They tell you the basics of attacking and how to parry, which is pretty much mandatory to kill the stronger enemies.  That's on normal difficulty, too.  You'll want to master it as soon as you can, since it makes the fights a lot easier...and look a whole lot cooler.  One thing that will help a lot is knowing when to parry.  Most games, you guard right before the attack hits you.  In Metal Gear Rising, you have to actually attack to parry, so you have to start it earlier than you might be used to.  Once I realized this, it became easier.  Not as easy as it is in other action games, but it works fairly well.  However, it's annoying that parrying some attacks does not actually stop the attack or give you a counter, meaning you have to somehow dodge it.  I really wish there was a proper dodge move, as it would make the combat much easier.

See?  Very pretty.
You can use the points acquired to buy new combo moves and various upgrades.  They are pretty self-explanatory, so no confusion with what I was buying.  I want the moves to tell you how to perform them when you purchase them, or at least on the description of the attack.  As it is, you have to pause the game (outside of the upgrade screen) and check the help option to see your moves.  It's pretty cumbersome and I didn't figure that out for a bit.  The moves you buy are pretty cool, but didn't feel as important to me as buying more attack power, energy and health.  My favorite thing to buy has to be the mariachi costume from one of the funny scenes in the game.  Yes, there was actually some humor in the game, which I liked and did not expect.

The best part of the combat system is blade mode.  If you have enough energy, you can enter blade mode, which slows down time and allows you to precisely aim your slashes.  If you played Afro Samurai, this may sound familiar.  It's ridiculously awesome to start slashing and see all the tiny pieces fall apart in slow-mo.  It's fun and practical.  I say practical because if you slice enemies in certain places after they are weakened, you can grab their power core and it restores your health.  It also looks cool, since he shatters it in his hand.  There is some in-game justification for it, but who cares when it looks cool?  When enemies take enough damage, their limbs or parts of their body will glow blue, and can be easily removed in blade mode.  This really helps on the tougher guys, as it can cripple their offense.  Other times there will be a button prompt on screen that can lead you into a great blade mode opportunity to finish the enemy off.  Once you get used to it all, you feel like a true badass destroying enemies of all sizes.

The difficulty can be pretty uneven at times.  The normal troops can get in a few hits, but provide little challenge.  Most larger enemies have a lot more health and seem to shrug off most things you can throw at it. They can be stunned by amassing several hits, but it can be really hard to hit it enough before it starts laying into you.  Parrying them is near mandatory, but it can be really tricky to do it on multi-hit attacks or projectiles, often resulting in a loss of health for me.  Sometimes it was me missing the timing, and sometimes it was the game giving me a horrible camera angle so I couldn't see the attack to attempt to parry it.  Also, if you get swarmed, it can be very hard to fight your way out.  Thankfully, if you can cut the critical point on an enemy, you can grab its nano paste and restore your health, which helps a lot more than you might think.

I could muddle through most fights without suffering critical damage, but some of the mini-bosses would punish the snot out of me.  The robot dog (that you fight at the end of the demo) destroyed me several times before I got the hang of fighting it and figured out what to do.  A few of the other mini-bosses were fairly tough and did chunks of damage.  However, one of the main bosses was dispatched in my first fight with it (I won't say what so I don't accidentally spoil anything).  It struck me as odd that the any of the mini-bosses would take more time to beat than one of the main bosses, so I felt there was some unevenness to the difficulty.  Of course, fighting the camera also made some fights much harder than they had to be.  Locking on helped when it was a mini-boss or solo enemy, but that doesn't help when fighting multiple guys.  People could sneak up on you while you were trying to rotate the camera, and if you were near a wall, your best option was to take the damage and run away from it.  I still feel that a dodge roll would have helped a lot.

You can stealth kill even the Gekkos.  Awesome.

There's a fair amount of collectibles, and it's interesting that not all of them are "go find a box".  Yes, there are many that are just hidden around the environment and need to be located, but some are retrieved from the left hand of certain enemies.  I was really bad at getting these, often resulting in restarting checkpoints or replaying levels specifically to hunt them down.  The ones in boxes (sometimes cardboard boxes, hahaha) were fairly easy to locate, but I know I missed some of them.  Also, some are special metal boxes that I couldn't cut open and left them.  On the third one of them I encountered, I tried blade mode and it cut it open.  I was pretty annoyed, since I had already passed two and couldn't get them to open.  Good thing I was going to go through the level again to get other things, I guess.  Looking around in the game's AR mode makes it easier to see the various boxes and who's ID you can acquire from their hand.  A handy tool indeed.

If you like to get trophies or achievements, take a look at the list before you start a stage.  There is the standard "beat x stage" ones, but also each stage contains at least one extra one for doing something unique in it.  I missed the first one by a few minutes because I didn't check first.  No big deal, but something to watch out for.  Getting the best rank on the hardest difficulty and the best times in all the VR missions (yes, they make a return, so don't tell my wife) will be true tests of skill.  I know I'm not going to get them, but it is something to shoot for.  One last note I want to make on Metal Gear Rising-- the loading.  There isn't very much, which mystifies me.  The game looks gorgeous, but only has loading when switching menus or reloading a checkpoint.  The game transitions right into cut scenes from gameplay with a quick fade out.

I admit that I was a little worried about this game.  I'm not a huge fan of the Metal Gear Solid series (I do love the first one, though), and wasn't sure how this would fit with it into the whole Metal Gear continuity.  I thought it might end up as an action game that just had the Metal Gear name slapped onto it to increase sales, but I don't think that after playing it.  It's a really fun game (even if I hate the camera at times) and I think the backdrop of the Metal Gear world ties in pretty well, so it feels like an extension of that world, not just a name on the box.  If you like over the top action games, or slicing robots into tons of tiny pieces, give Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance a chance.  It's an action game made by Platinum Games, and it shows in every flashy kill.  It's gorgeous and fun, even with the frustration some fights would bring.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Snow White and the Huntsman Review

One of the movies I recently watched with the missus was Snow White and the Huntsman.  I remember some of the previews for the movie, which probably wasn't for the best.  I remember lots of scenes of fighting the soldiers that shattered into tiny splinters when struck.  The film doesn't have as many action scenes as I thought it would.  There are a few sprinkled throughout, but only two against the shard soldiers, at the beginning and end.  So, in that respect it was disappointing.

To be fair, it was disappointing in other areas, too.  I had a bad feeling when I realized the girl playing Snow White was the girl from Twilight.  It's funny that I only know that because of the Honest Trailers for the Twilight movies, since I have no interest in seeing them, and neither does my wife (she has taste, you see).  "Twilight girl" isn't very pretty, or a good actress, so she wasn't a good choice for Snow White.  She was probably cast to try and capitalize on the popularity of those movies.  Even having Chris Helmsworth (the dude who played Thor) couldn't save it.

The story was fairly easy to follow, so no complaints there.  Not particularly great, but it wasn't too jumbled.  According to my wife, it's closer to original fable than what I remember (the Disney version), even if everything looks so dirty.  I mean everything.  Except maybe Twilight girl's face, so you can tell who it is.  Even the wicked queen, who values her beauty so much, was frequently grimy when using various magics, which seemed contradictory to my wife.  It might be setting up some pretty on the outside/ugly on the inside dichotomy, but it did seem odd when my wife pointed it out.  The enchanted forest does look really nice, though.  The computer effects were nice and fairly seamless, so I guess most of the budget went there.

All in all, it wasn't a good movie.  Not even in the "so bad it's good" category.  The dwarves were pretty cool, though.  If you really want to see a modern Snow White movie, just watch Mirror Mirror.  It's better in every way.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 (PS3) Review

I enjoyed the first Fist of the North Star game, but found it to be slow.  I got the platinum trophy for it, but I didn't think it was as fun as many of the other Koei games I had played.  When the demo for the sequel came to the Japanese PSN, I gave it a whirl and was pretty impressed.  Thanks to Tecmo Koei America, I get to review their latest game, Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2.

My favorite part of FotNS: Ken's Rage 2 was the cutscenes before and after each stage.  They are made to look like pages of a manga.  Yeah, they are mostly still images, but I love that it harkens back to its manga roots.  At first I was finding myself wanting the mid-stage cutscenes to do this as well, but the more I played, the more I liked it just the way it was.  The characters also look nice and detailed, and it's cool that their models show damage to their bodies and clothing.  Sometimes there are some weird shadows or lines on the models, but it's few and far between.  The only disappointing part of the visual experience is the pop-in of some of the enemies.  When you are being timed killing x amount of dudes and you just have to sit around waiting for the last few to actually appear, it's kind of annoying.  It's not a deal breaker by any means, but worth mentioning.

The voices in the game are Japanese only, which oddly doesn't bother me.  In the more recent Dynasty and Samurai Warriors games, having no spoken English during battles was a hindrance.  I had to read what was being said while I was fighting.  It made battles more annoying, since I couldn't just process the changing battlefield audibly while I was watching my character to make sure I wasn't dying.  In Ken's Rage 2, the stages are pretty linear and most of the story is told through cut-scenes, so there wasn't much reading I had to do during battle.  Hence, no problem with it.  As much as I like dubbed anime, being subbed made the story mode feel more like the original show.  Most of the music sounds like what was in the first game.  If you liked that, you should still like it.  The music isn't bad, but it isn't great either.

Several of the characters behave like fighters from Dynasty Warriors.  You have a normal attack that can be chained together and a strong attack that changes depending on what point in the combo you use it.  Thankfully, it seems like all of the characters from the first game received an overhaul to their combos.  They are faster and more fluid than they were previously.  This greatly benefited Kenshiro, Jagi and Mamiya, who were slow and awkward most times.  Kenshiro finally feels as powerful as he is meant to be.  In the last game, he was good at attacking single targets, but horrible at hitting groups.  I am very happy to tell you he is now awesome at destroying groups of thugs as well!

The Nanto characters play a little different from the rest.  They still have a normal attack chain, but their strong attack doesn't really change.  They do less damage than the rest, but when attacked, hitting the strong attack button can result in a counter that powers them up for a bit.  When powered up, their strong attacks have a much greater range and attack power, often changing completely.  Getting in that mode makes it easy to lay waste to big groups, and is fun, too.  Both Hokuto and Nanto (martial arts styles used in the Fist of the North Star universe) characters tend to leave enemies exploding or slicing apart into bloody messes, so you might to shy away from playing this in front of younger kids (or really old people).  I didn't, so I'm likely a bad parent.  My son does love "all the punching moves", though.  I recall an option in the first game to disable the more graphic parts, but I sadly don't see that in this game.

The special button allows some characters to use their projectile weapon (much better than last game!) or other things, like Shin's finger snap that damages enemies in a state of Aura Shock.  Characters can also throw, but it took too much time so I didn't use it much.  The throws don't take a long time to do, but it is much slower than just hitting them, which can impact your grade at the end of the stage.  Jumping is no longer a button, but done as a context-sensitive action.  Instead, you get a very useful dodge move to evade enemy attacks.  You can easily avoid powerful musou attacks by spamming the button, but you will lose aura (musou meter), so use it sparingly.  Finally, they threw in a few QTEs for good measure.  Most aren't actually timed, so they are not difficult.  They usually make sense in context, and can be fun.  You only need to hit one at the end of a stage, so no more long strings to finish the boss like the first game.  They don't really need to be in the game, but they're not bad, either.

Leveling up is done a lot different than the first game.  Now the karma you get from killing enemies is determined by certain conditions.  If you have lots of life when you kill enemies, you get defense xp.  Killing them with a normal attack is health xp and a strong attack nets you attack xp.  It's a pretty new concept, and it isn't as confusing as I thought it might be, so I actually kind of like it.  I do miss spending points on the level up chart from last time, but this is still good.  You can also equip scrolls to increase the levels of your stats and unlock different skills.  The only real problem I have with this system is you really need to create a multi scroll nexus to get much effect after the first few levels.  It's not that big a deal, but without chaining them together to get a much better effect, adding 1 to your level doesn't add much.  Scrolls from chests and finishing a stage are random, which can make it hard to get a good set for each character.  It really just led to me keeping way to many scrolls, since you don't know if you will need it to make a nexus down the line.

Story mode follows the main storyline of the anime/manga and is much more thorough than the first game.  It's fairly long and has numerous cutscenes during the stages.  It can be a bit much when there are scenes in the middle of boss fights, but it's a minor complaint from me.  The stages themselves can be fairly long, but some are little more than boss fights, which evens it out.  At some points in the story, you control another character.  It's a nice change of pace and gives you a little taste of them before you can play as them in Dream Mode.  I have yet to finish watching the original anime (shame on me, I know), so I like that it goes more in detail than the first game.  You also unlock the scenes you view, so you can watch your favorites whenever you want.  More games should do that.

Just like the first Ken's Rage, there is a Dream Mode here too.  It plays much more like Dynasty Warriors than the Story Mode.  You choose a character and follow a new story where most stages have you capturing bases.  In the first game, each character had their own Dream Mode that followed a new story centered around that person.  This time it seems to fill in a lot of the backstory of the whole series and give more depth to the various characters.  The whole story intersects and has different paths depending on the character you are playing as.  You will likely spend a lot of time in this mode, since you can play as all the unlockable characters, and I think it's fun.

The most major things you can unlock in Ken's Rage 2 are the other characters.  You can also unlock a few pictures and some music, most of which come from normal gameplay.  One of my favorite things is the Encyclopedia, which gives you background on characters, techniques and story.  It's a good way to remind yourself or fill in the gaps so you can understand the whole story.  The trophies/achievements you get are fairly standard, most of which come from completion of the various modes with the various characters.  There are a few that will take a good chunk of time, namely acquiring the scrolls to make an ultimate nexus, completing all Dream Mode challenges in Free Mode (so you will be doing the stages twice) and killing 100,000 enemies.  Not the most inventive list by a long shot, but very achievable.  There's also some multiplayer that sounds similar to what was found in Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3.  I wasn't able to find any matches, so getting those 2 achievements/trophies might be troublesome.

Ultimately, though, it comes down to how fun a game is.  As a fan of Dynasty and Samurai Warriors games, I was looking forward to playing Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2.  It is better than the first game, so I can easily recommend it to you.  The biggest complaint would be the loading.  It didn't seem to take that long (I have the PSN downloaded version), but it seemed to load a lot, especially in Story Mode.  If you don't like the Warriors style of hack and slash gameplay, this isn't likely to change your mind.  If you do enjoy them or are a fan of Fist of the North Star or were disappointed in the first game or just like running around and beating up tons of guys, give this game a shot.  It's fun and can give you great insight into the story of one of the best anime/manga series' to date!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

What Makes A Game System Worth It?

When talking to my friend recently, I said I was tempted to get a Wii U since it is only $300 at Costco.  He replied with "I would, it's totally worth it".  My first thought was, "of course you would, you don't have near the amount of expenditures that I do", since he isn't sliding into poverty 11 months out of the year like my family.  What I did say was (my second thought) was "but there's nothing to play on it".  I know that's not technically correct, there are games for it, but it's still new and I don't actually want any of the ones out for it.  I'm willing to try Zombie U, but really, I'll get that cheap later or just borrow it from my friend.

No, the first game I want to play for it is, of course, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate.  It comes in March, so I would like to get a Wii U soon, but I don't know how it's going to happen.  Between her job cutting her hours and things not magically getting cheaper, it's going to be hard to squeeze that in.

But I digress (and use "but" at the beginning of a sentence).  To me, what makes a system worth it is the games on said system.  Otherwise, what do you do with it?  Sure you can do some other stuff, but primarily it is to play games.  Having DVD playback was great when the first system did it, now I don't care since I have 6 or so things that can play them.  I play games on them, and that's what I judge its "worth" by.

I'm not sure my friend does.  There was one time when I did buy a system, at launch, because of what I thought it could do.  What kind of experience I thought I would have.  That system was a Nintendo Wii.  I still regret getting it when I did.  There's a few good games on it, sure, but it's just like the Gamecube and N64.  I didn't buy either of those at launch, but when they had good games on them.  I saved some money and was happy with the purchases.

Not so much with the Wii.  It's collected lots of dust, save for the Monster Hunter Tri binges I so enjoy.  I didn't need to buy it at launch, since most of the games for it are just terrible.  I should play it more to actually enjoy the ones I have, but it's still not a great system.  The motion controls are just terrible and sadly the best games (to me) don't even use them.  Also, my launch system died on me and I lost over 120 hours in MH Tri because of Nintendo's terrible ideas and fear of online.  Reading things about the Wii U shows me they haven't fully learned their lesson.

So that's why I'm not really eager to buy the Wii U.  Well, also the 3DS price drop.  That still bothers me, but that's a different story.  I honestly would be content waiting to get one, but I want to play MH3U with my buddies Mark and Jyrokk, since playing with them is really fun.  It's also worth it, but will the network even let us play?  We've had some trouble connecting on MH Tri, and there's nothing we can do about it but hope the next is better.  So, that would be worth it, but how to afford it?  It's crazy to think that the game is coming too soon, which isn't how most gamers think about games they are looking forward to.  I'll just have to see what happens.