Friday, November 30, 2012

The Final Night of Paragon City

Well, tonight is the final night that one can spend in Paragon City.  City of Heroes (don't forget the Villains) will close for good.  It's still sad, the more I think about it, that it will end.  I knew that going in to the game (as I do with any MMO), but it still sucks.  I'm grabbing my last screenshots and demorecordings, playing until the lights go off.  Actually, I'm staying up late just to see it through.  I'll be really tired at work tomorrow, but it will be worth it.  City is worth it.  Once the end has happened, I'll compose more of my thoughts into more posts, and I'm hoping to make a video of them.  It's the least I could do for a game with still the best character creator and level up customization that will cease to be.  As I've said before, it's terrible that this happens to any game.  How can it be classic if no one else can experience it?

All I can do is stand tall and face the coming storm...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Clan of Champions Review

Once again, thanks to NIS America, I can bring you another review, this time of the PSN game Clan of Champions.  In this game, players will take on the role of a mercenary for the king and root out the evil in an ancient ruin.

Graphically, the game is fairly standard.  There's some good detail on some of the equipment like rust, dirt and such.  There is also a good variety of armor and weapon designs, which is a plus.  However, there are not many different stage designs.  You will see similar courtyards and stone hallways several times while progressing through the game.  In a similar vein, there aren't many enemy types, just the three playable races and skeletons.  Though in a nice touch, enemies will have cuts on their bodies when you damage them.  There's also lots of blood, especially when you damage and enemy near a wall, and leave huge splotches of blood on them.  Thankfully, the skeleton enemies don't leave them, though.

There are no voices in the game.  Well, unless you count the assorted grunts and moans as voices.  All of the story is told through text on the quest descriptions.  While it's nice that it so optional to read the plot, I fear most players will miss it and think it's not there.  There's not much music, and some of the battle music reminds me of God of War.

The battle system takes a bit to get used to.  If you have played the PSP game "Gladiator Begins", then you'll know how this works.  You can attack high (triangle), middle (square) and low (X).  There are three different styles: sword & shield, dual wield and close combat (fist weapons).  Each has different strengths and weaknesses and can combo the attack heights a different number of times.  For example, the close combat style can chain attack high three times, mid two times, and low once.  Most times I wish that you could chain more attacks together.  There's also a roll/dodge move, but it provides no invincibility (as far as I can tell).  The enemy AI is expert at rolling and will frequently use it to escape constant attacking.  The few times I need it, it doesn't seem near as helpful as theirs.  I don't know if they actually have a different roll, or if their agility score is higher than it should be.

What really sets this game apart is how armor and damage are treated.  Armor on different body parts takes damage instead of the player's health bar.  After sustaining enough damage, the armor will be knocked off (shield or helmet) or outright broken (chest, arm and leg armor), which allows characters to take damage in the exposed region.  It's fun to start wailing on a poor sap and shatter his (or her) armor so you can do some actual damage to them.  Head attacks do the most damage, but helmets can be picked up again, so sometimes the best bet is to break the chest armor.  Personally, going for lots of head attacks works more often than not, so I stick with that.

The only thing more painful than the cuts is using bactine on them later.

However, the same thing can happen to you if you aren't careful.  Thankfully, equipment is not permanently gone, even if broken or pilfered by the enemies.  Yes, pilfered because equipment on the ground can be picked up by anybody.  This makes battles can be very fluid, but annoying when an enemy grabs your nice helmet or weapon.  The only time this was a huge problem to me was the second to last level.  While fighting the target, up to 4 skeletons at a time can  join in to fight you.  They also spawn in with no equipment, so they can steal anything you or your team drops.  At first I thought the game was nice for spawning naked skeletons so they wouldn't be too hard to kill, but soon realized that it was worse for them to have nothing.

I suspect there are nuances to the combat system that I just don't understand.  The in-game tutorial is fairly basic.  I couldn't find any info for mastering the combat.  Sometimes and enemy seems to counter attack (and are not using the skill that does this), as if there was a parry move of some sort.  They also seem very adept at rolling out of harm's way, but I can rarely pull that off.  Several times they get in a shot on me and I stagger back while being completely open to their teammate's barrages.  Whenever I am double or triple teaming an opponent, my hitbox seems to push me to the side while my AI just gets in my way.  Also, some of the "boss" characters have ridiculously high agility, strength and equipment durability.  Later in the game, they are capable of destroying your at-level armor with a few hits.  It's frustrating to get completely destroyed by the computer because they block, then counter, then unload on you while you stagger and you can't roll or block your way out.

Most level ups for the different styles will unlock an attack skill that you can map to the controller or a passive that you can equip.  There are lots of different attack skills, magic spells and passive skills that you can unlock in the game.  When you first make your character, you get bonus stat points to customize them, but these are unfortunately the only time you can upgrade your stats without passive skills.  Most attack skills are useful, but all are fairly mundane.  They are meant to be somewhat realistic, so you don't shoot giant beams from your sword or crack the earth at your feet to attack.  The magic spells are what will give the battles flair.  I especially like the ones that give your attacks elemental effects, so you can do damage through the enemies' armor.  There are lots of spells and skills to collect, and trophies accordingly.

He's not The Rock, but he sure is electrifying.

There are 24 stages in the game, and completing one will open the next.  Each stage can be done on 4 different difficulties.  It would be nice if beating a stage would open it on all difficulties, but they don't.  So, to get all the trophies, you have to do each stage 4 times, for a total of 96 stages.  There's also 3 different weapon styles to level up and lots of gear to collect.  This ensures that my completionsit nature kicks in and plays stages many times to stock the store with all the equipment.  There's a lot of stuff to do, but it is still grinding.  The stages are fairly short, though, which is nice for replaying them.

First off, I was surprised the game had a platinum.  Well, since my friend claims there was supposed to be a disc version for the Xbox 360, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised.  Most of the list is pretty standard, as you will have to beat all missions, on all difficulties, and get high ranks on them.  You'll need to max out your levels and sell lots of things to the shop.  Unfortunately, there's a few trophies for playing multiplayer (co-op and versus), but finding a game is near impossible.  After sitting in a lobby for awhile, I got one person, but it would boot one of us when trying to start the level.  I attempted it a few times to no avail.  Admittedly, I have little desire to play versus, but I would try it out if I found anyone in those lobbies.  It would be much more fun to play the game with actual players, since the teammate AI isn't too great.  They have their moments, though.

While the levels are short, you are meant to do them several times to get more money, experience and equipment.  So even though you grind a lot in the game, it doesn't feel very tedious to me, since the levels are short and you get stuff fairly quickly.  I don't know how fun it will be to do all levels on 4 different difficulties, but I would certainly try if I could find some co-op lobbies.  The game is very average on all counts, but I still had fun playing it.  If you want to spend the $30, Clan of Champions is a decent game to play in short bursts or when you have some extra time.  If I can ever get into a multiplayer co-op or versus game, I'll of course put an update here on my blog.

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's a Hard Lock Life

My friend recently picked up his WiiU preorder, and wanted to play Nintendo Land with him to try it out.  He at least updated the system so I didn't have to sit there for 5 hours while that happened.  On a side note, the "menu" screen looks like an absolute mess.  It's safe to say I'm not a fan of that.  Anyway, he popped in the disc and we...proceeded to sit there for another 20+ mins while that updated.

So we booted up the game and....sat there while the ever helpful "Monita" talked in small, slow sentences so we could understand her and told us all about Nintendo Land instead of letting us pick a game to play.  After that was done, my buddy wandered over to the Metroid mini-game so we could get started.  I figured he would start with the Legend of Zelda one, but I guess he wanted to be nice and try Metroid first.

We accidentally did the ship vs. people multiplayer, so after a round of that, we quit to do the co-op one.  After going through the controls again, we started it up.  While hard on my wrist (my friend puts his sensor bar in a terrible location), it was kinda fun.  After 3 rounds we decided to switch ship and ground so we could try the other.  Right as we went to start the round...the system hard locked on us.  Yeah, buzzing sound and all.  Ouch.  Since I'm sure something as basic as this was tested (despite only really promoting their friends there, yeah, still bitter), it must have been the system.

After unplugging the machine to get it to reboot, we again started Nintendo Land.  Again Monita came around to ensure we couldn't just play the game we wanted and explained about the train that would I guess take us around the 1 screen park.  I say "I guess" because I didn't really care and just wanted to skip her talking to me.  As I had the gamepad, I just started jumping while she was showing the train.

Can you guess what happened next?

Hard lock.  Again.  So...we assume the WiiU/ Monita doesn't want us to actually play the game and called it a night.  I think they obviously hired the wrong people.  My wife thinks they must have partnered with Bethesda.  Either way, not a good way to show off your new system, especially when it has barely been out a week.  Why did I want one of those again?

Oh, right.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I've Got Some Great Friends

While I was working the other day, one of my friends from one of my older jobs stopped by.  He's also friends with the store manager of my work.  He mentioned that he wanted to play Fear 3 with me, but of course I don't have the game.  It was on sale a few weeks ago on Gamefly, but I didn't know that my 3 buddies had it and would want to play it with me.  Instead of just letting me be poor, my buddy ran over to Gamestop and bought me a copy.  Damn, my friends are cool.  The horde mode called "Contractions" is really fun.  I've come to the conclusion from this, Gears 3 and Warhammer 40K that I really like the co-op horde modes against waves of enemies.  Thankfully the concept caught on, so it tends to be in several games.  It's a lot better than arena fights, even though they are painfully similar.

While working on Thanksgiving day, one game at our store had a game I wanted on sale for $5 (Shadows of the Damned).  Great price, so I was going to get it.  My other friend set it aside for me, but surprised me by buying it with his other stuff and gave it to me.  Again, I have some great friends.

I've got another game to review, called Sine Mora.  I'll get that review up soon after my Clan of Champions one.  Just another busy week around my house!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Coming Soon- Review of Clan of Champions

I'll be working in the morning tomorrow, which is strangely ok with me.  Thanksgiving is all about eating, which I do in the afternoon anyway.  I'm not interested in the sports or parades, so I just play games, which is just like every other day.  I don't get any bonus for working holidays yet, which kinda sucks, but I can deal.  I'm also working for a few hours in the morning of Black Friday.  I've done it before at other stores, so I reasonably know what to expect, but who knows what kind of craziness will happen?  Although I will have to find a bit of time to buy Borderlands 2 while it's on sale for Black Friday so the missus and I can have a good Christmas gift this year.

Another bit of good news is that I have a review copy of Clan of Champions, so I'll have a review of that in a few days!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Retro City Rampage Update?

I just got an email that there is an update to Retro City Rampage.  I'm sure to check that out soon and see what it improved (or un-improved ).  Also the upcoming 360 and WiiWare versions are going to have that update day 1, but still no release date for those.

Other than that, I tried out the Epic Mickey 2 demo.  It was kind of fun.  However, my son really took an interest in it and kept hassling me to play the demo.  I let him play it yesterday, and he absolutely loves it.  I'm not even sure he got anywhere, but he played it for over an hour and a half.  I'm going to try and get a review copy so I can try it out with him (there is 2 player), as long as he does his homework.  Don't look at me like that, I'm have some responsibility.

It's also kind of cool that I have some fans of my Monster Hunter videos, and got a lot of hits (to me) for my post about MHU3.  I must redouble my efforts to get  a WiiU and a copy of the game so I can continue my videos of playing it online.  Oh, I'll also want a better capture unit, the old Gamebridge doesn't do HD, but it does get the job done.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

We're still a few months out, but I am really hoping I can play some Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate when it comes out in March.  I hope I can get a review copy, because it's going to be hard enough saving my pennies to get a Wii U.  I'm not sold on the system, but my Monster Hunter buddies are apparently getting one (mostly for MH3U), so....I guess I'm getting one too.  I don't know where I'm going to get the money for one, let alone both.  I did plan on eventually getting the 3DS version, since I have one of those.  I'm also still sore about the 3DS' price drop, hence my trepidation about buying the Wii U near launch.

It does look really nice though.  While Tri looked ok, it was definitely a little muddy-looking, so I'm really digging the HD graphics.  I'll deal with Jinouga being Zinogre, although I'm not fully sold on that, either.  "The replacement for Gobul" and "Hammer Tail" are two names that I really want to see the official English names for.  Regardless, I am very much looking forward to the game when it releases.  Even though it will have Deviljho and "dat tail".

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 Review

Hyperdimension Neptunia, the game about the gaming industry.  The first had a great concept, but had a fundamental flaw in the battle system (healing was terrible).  Will the sequel improve the game, elevating it to the highest of RPGs?  Thanks to NIS, we will now find out.

The characters and locations are done in the anime style, so if you like that (as I do), you will like the graphics.  Most cut-scenes use the 3D model of the characters instead of the HD sprite version.  I'd prefer the sprite version, but the 3D models look good enough that it's not really a problem.  Many times during cut-scenes characters that are talking don't always appear as one of the two characters that are animated on-screen.  It's a strange choice more than an annoyance, but I did notice it.  One thing that surprised me: most enemies I haven't seen in another game except the returning ones from the first.  There was a period where most Compile Heart (if you didn't know who Compa was representing, now you know) games all had similar enemies, and I'm glad they included lots of new ones here.

The dungeons can be a little sparse, though.  Especially the plains and the abandoned factory just have areas to run around in, but not much detail or atmosphere to them.  Some others are full of color and character.  I personally like the Tetris-inspired one.  A few of them remind me of Phantasy Star Online, and given the main character, I wonder if it's intentional.  Also, occasionally when running around the dungeon, the frame rate seems low.  It's not as though it drops or is choppy, it just doesn't look smooth.  That's admittedly a minor complaint.  Since I am reviewing the download version, it may not be an issue on the retail release.

The English voices sound fine to me in this game.  Compa, IF and the other returning characters have the same voice actors (even if some change pitch/tone), which is really nice when coming off a previous game.  While many purists will change it to Japanese, the English VAs do a good job.  The music is also decent, if forgettable.  Unfortunately, I haven't run across my favorite track from the first game, which was used in the tutorial dungeon.


It will be hard for me to talk about how this game plays without comparing it to the first one, so bear with me.  Last time, it was old school party vs. monsters, turn based combat.  This time there is movement in combat, allowing good placement and strategy to help kill multiple monsters or beat a strong foe.  If you've played Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits, it's kinda like that.  A thing that bothered me was enemy attack ranges.  They seemed to have much bigger attack range and area (these aren't displayed for enemies) than anyone in my party.  They also had lots of turns in a row, making them pretty fast.  While they usually couldn't get in as many attacks as my characters could, it rarely felt like I had an advantage.

How about actually attacking?  Each attack takes a certain amount of AP, and the attack chains are chosen by the player and can be customized slightly in the menu.  You also build up SP which, allows special attacks, healing, and transforming into the CPU form.  This is gained from actually attacking, while AP is given each turn.  It's a lot of numbers to keep track of, but as I say, the more numbers you give an RPG player, the happier they'll be (probably).  Combat is fun and I like making my own combos even though I usually stick to the special "EX" ones for the extra damage.

If my explanation wasn't good enough, here's some pictures to help out.

Now for the real test...can you heal outside of battle, or even control it in battle?  YES!  Thankfully, you can use items to heal in and out of battle.  While it takes certain amounts of AP to use an item, it's miles beyond the system from the previous game, which is why my wife and I didn't finish it.  Compa (and others in a limited capacity) can heal people, making battles less tense.  Honestly, the change to healing alone is enough for me to recommend this game to anyone disappointed in the first.

The main game can run about 35+ hours for a first run.  Dungeons aren't very big and can be run through rather quickly.  This is good for playing quickly, but not as engrossing as lots of other RPGs.  There are multiple endings, but thankfully "New Game +" saves the day here.  Keeping all your stats allows you to run through the game multiple times fairly quickly if you want to get all the endings.  So even if you consider the first run a little short, there's replay value with the multiple endings.  Admittedly, I don't always have time to play through an RPG multiple times, but New Game + makes that less of an issue when I'm ready to jump back in.

The plot of this game, while not serious, is very funny to me.  Last time, it was a parody of the console wars and their fight against piracy (the enemies are called Arfoire).  This time, it's up to the handhelds to band together and again combat piracy.  One thing I love doing in each new dungeon is see what new enemies there are and what they were "inspired" by.  For example, there's a suspicious green pipe, a doctor's polygon head, and groups of four blocks whose names are all anagrams of "Tetris".  I really like parodies, and the ones in this game make me smile.

What about DLC?  There is a bunch on the Playstation Store, and some of it is free.  Obviously, grab the free ones, since they tend to be new dungeons and battles and such.  Most of the paid ones are costumes for the characters, which you can grab if you want to, but are ultimately skippable.  Before you buy, I'd check for pictures of them so you know what it is you are buying, since there is no picture, just a description.  The last two pieces of DLC (and maybe the best) are the added characters.  I'm hoping to get them soon, since they aren't too expensive ($3 each) and you get new characters to use in battle.  Personally I want Cave since I really like their side-scrolling shooters.  I'd also want to add on her death smile costume, because I like that game.

You thought I was kidding.

The Trophies this time aren't that bad.  The most tedious would be getting all the different CG Images (most are automatic) and all the endings.  There's not really any that you would have to plan out your entire playthrough, and New Game + makes getting all the endings and any missables relatively painless.

One last, and (to me) massively cool thing.  You can download a template to make your own skin for Nepgear in her CPU form!  Way better than making your own summon from the first game, this is a great addition that I wish more games could use.  If you don't want to take the time to make your own, there are many to download that others have made.  Be warned that some are NSFW (or NSF children, either).  Thankfully, the really good ones are also tasteful.

Even though I was doing a bit of grinding after each plot point before the next, I was having fun doing it.  The battle system is more fun than the first, and that really improves the experience.  One warning though: they don't really cover what happened in the first game, so you will have to research it or piece it together if you haven't played the first Hyperdimension Neptunia.  Nonetheless, I like this one over the first by a good margin.  If you like JRPGs, check it out to (re)live the imaginary wars the handheld consoles went through to battle piracy.  If you can't track down a disk copy, you can now buy it from PSN directly.  If you plan to take your time and get a few endings, it's worth the asking price.  After playing this, I'm looking forward to Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory even more.