Monday, June 30, 2008

Better Late than Never

Holy crap, long time no post. When I began this venture I suppose I had no idea how much school, a job, and my own crippling laziness would affect my ability to write a 4-5 paragraph article each week. In the back burner of my brain I had planned to use this entry to talk about Persona 3, but with all the time and interesting news that has taken place, I suppose I'll hit on some of the latest and greatest in Video Game news.

First off, Soul Calibur IV. Wow. I can't honestly say where to begin with all of this, and there is so much, I think I'll just hit all the major points as quickly as possible. Darth Vader and Yoda are in (As exclusive characters for the PS3 and 360 respectively), along with a few new canon "Soul Calibur" characters and Bonus Characters from guest artists I could not be less enthused about (except for Hilde). I know that Soul Calibur has been pushing the S&M-esc, "Hell Bent for Leather" Outlet Store look since Voldo broke out of his dungeon of pleasure and pain, but Nipple Spikes and Goth Lolitas with wire mesh dresses are where I put my foot down (On some undeserving slave's face... wait, what what were we talking about again?). A new gameplay mechanic has come in the way of "Armor Breaks", which give your opponent decreased defense and a opening for a "Critical Finish." Imagine the "Fatal KO" system from Hokuto No Ken, and you've pretty much got it. For those of you who don't import games, imagine a thinking man's version of the "Destroy" moves in the Guilty Gear series. Recently, another new character has been announced for both versions in the form of Darth Vader's secret apprentice from Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Which I think marks the first cross promotion of a game before it's actually been released), and the hot little rumor making it's way through the internet is that Kratos from the God of War series will be playable for the PS3 (Which to me says that there will be another corresponding 360 exclusive, and with the randomness of characters so far it could be anyone from Master Chief to the Frank from Dead Rising). I can honestly no longer say how I think this game will be without contradicting myself a dozen times. All I can say with any level of certainty is that it is going to either be the best game of the series of a total flop, there really is no third direction here.

A more recent spring up of gaming information came this last weekend in the form of Diablo 3's revelation. So far all Blizzard has shown is the cinematic intro and some gameplay of the Barbarian and Witch Doctor ( or as I like to call him, Necromancer 2.0) classes. Also, apparently you can now choose either gender for any of the classes, so now alpha males and butch lesbians the world over can no longer live in fear of gender confusion on

Nintendo has announced that it will be releasing Mega Man 9, in 8-bit. Apparently the Blue Bomber is going old school for his latest en devour to save the world from his robot peers. The game is going to be released as a WiiWare game, but it has recently been rumored that MM9 will make it to XBLA and PSN. Capcom has been fairly mum on the subject, telling folks to wait until E3, but this triple treat to nostalgic gamers in their 20s and 30s is too good of an offer for Microsoft and Sony to pass on without a fight. Villains of this game include Cement Man, Jewel Man, Plug Man (Oh the sexual innuendo), and Splash Woman (For as long as Wily's been making these damn things, I'm shocked it's taken him this long to make a female. Remember kids, robots don't say no.)

I'll leave you this time with news on the latest Castlevania news: the newest console Castlevania title will be coming to the Wii, and it's a 3-D Fighter. I'll give you a minute to take that in. Go ahead, look back at the beginning of the paragraph, click the link. Ready yet? Good, because you can now join me in my next sentence. What. The. Fuck.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Take your MK vs DC and...

Shove it. Capcom has just announced it's newest entry in the "Capcom Vs" series, Capcom Vs Tatsunoko. For those of you scratching your heads, Tatsunoko is the animation studio/company responsible for some of the most popular anime since the 60's (Battle of the Planets/G-Force, Speed Racer, Evangelion) There hasn't been anything released other than the screens, so while this can't really merit a full article in the Year of the Fighter, I though it definitely warranted a mention. Because it's Street Fighter and Battle of the Planets, dammit. As for the fact that I haven't been writing for over two weeks, school is hard. However I thought I would take a little time to write down a few short thoughts to both get something down and not have to worry about spending too much time planning out a full article.

I may be a little late on this subject, but riddle me this: How many times have you been playing Guitar Hero/Rock Band or talking about Guitar Hero/Rock Band and had someone butt in and say how it would be much better/cooler/less of a waste of your time to play a real guitar? Now, how many times have you been playing and/or talking about Call of Duty/Halo and had someone butt in and tell you it would be better/cooler/less of a waste of your time to learn how to use a real gun and shoot real people? I assume it's a lot for the former and not at all for the later, which is very odd, because both ideas make the same amount of sense to me.

I've only seen my friends play maybe 2-3 hours worth of Persona 3 (Both FES ans non-FES in fact) and I'm already getting ready to call it the best RPG on the PS2. The social links look a bit taxing, but they help out your personas in battle, so at least they are useful.

So now Sony fans can stop pretending they don't care about Bioshock now that it has been confirmed to be ported for the PS3. It's cool that more people are going to be able to experience Bioshock, but at this point I don't think it earns fanboys any bragging rights about a port that was announced almost a year after it's initial release. This isn't exactly changing my mind about buying a 360 before a PS3, but it's good to see a game of Bioshock's caliber getting some multi-platform love.

Speaking of games that might or might not convince me to get a PS3 (This one falls in the might category), what the hell ever happened to White Knight Chronicles? At this point I believe that Level 5 can do no wrong in terms of making an RPG, and it was shown off like a year ago... what the hell?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Team Fortress 2

So last week, Valve has released it's long awaited batch of updates to Team Fortress 2, which includes a new map, updates to old maps, a plethora of new achievements, and 3 new weapons for the Medic. I've been playing that with most of my free time this week to get a good idea of these changes and my feelings are quite mixed about it. Unless you've actually talked with me before about TF2 or FPSs in general, you wouldn't know that I am absolutely bonkers for Team Fortress 2. To me it is the epitome of what a class based FPS should be (As well as one of the best FPSs in general that I've played), and is the most fun I've had with an online FPS since Starsiege Tribes. All that being said, let's look at these updates and see how they affect the game.

The first thing I want to point out is my joy in even knowing that new content is going to be continuously added to TF2 through Steam. I am of the firm belief that in a genre like FPS you need to be constantly evolving and changing your games with updates and new content. With a new FPS coming out practically every month now, to stay in the game you need to evolve or die (Or have a hugely disproportionate fanbase). At the very least you need to be coming out with new maps and/or new game types, which is one of the things Valve has done with the addition of "Payload" maps . In said maps, like the new addition "Gold Rush", the attacking team has to deliver a bomb into the opposing team's base. The bomb is on a railway and to move it, the attackers need to stand behind or beside the bomb, and the more people who are there, the faster the bomb moves (It should be noted that Ubercharged players will not move the cart at all, much like how they cannot take the "Flag" in CTF matches or capture points in CP matches). The red team's only objective is to stop them by killing anyone who is near the bomb. If the bomb is clear of any attacker, a 20 second timer will appear and once it goes to zero, the bomb will begin to slowly move backwards on the tracks towards the attacker's base. I've only played this map maybe five or six times (I'm more of a "2Fort" man myself) but from my experience the map is very well designed, giving both teams places to hide and set up blockades of a sort to stop one team from going too far into the other's territory without a fight. I am very enthusiastic about what Valve can do with this new game type in subsequent updates.

The new weapons I can't say I am as enthusiastic about. One of the reasons I love TF2 so much is how balanced it is. Every class has a purpose and the ability to switch on the fly (albeit killing yourself in the process under most circumstances) gives the player to better play the game in their own fashion (Anyone who gazes at my time spent will see a very large portion of my time devoted to the more defensive classes of Engineer and Demoman). The new weapon updates now stand to eliminate the very balance that I love so much about this game. It's not the balance from class to class that is in jeopardy, but the balance from player to player. To unlock these new weapons, you need to get a certain number of the new Medic achievements (12, 24, and 36 respectively). This is essentially shutting out people who are new to the game or who don't like playing as the Medic from fully achieving their in-game potential. Now one could argue that the weapons are there to reward those who excel at that specific class, and I guess I would agree with you in the confines of a casual game. The real issue in my view is how this affects people who are actively competing, whether it be two "Clans" fighting over bragging rights on a server, or the World's Best TF2 Team Competition. In those cases I believe that it should be within the server admin's abilities to decide whether everyone on the servers gets to use the unlockables, or no one does, and since this idea is in direct conflict of Valve's "earning" idea, I doubt it will ever happen.

My issues with the earning of the new items would be one thing if all the weapons were equal in their own rights, but in certain cases there is just no comparison. The weapons you unlock can take the place of your Syringe Gun, Medi-gun and Bone saw, in that order. The first two weapon switches are fairly balanced in my view, and the only problem I have is the one stated in the above paragraph, that only a select few get the option of being able to choose which they get. The Syringe Gun can be swapped for the Bluntsauger, which is essentially the same, but it cannot get critical hits on it's own and very needle that hits drains the enemies health and gives you some of it (3 health per needle IIRC). The Medi-Gun can be swapped with the Kritzcrieg, which functions like a Medi-Gun with the healing and bringing a player's health to 150%, but when Ubercharged, instead of getting invulnerability, the player gets a 100% Critical Hit rate. As I said before, these two weapons are pretty well balanced, with one you swap the ability to do big damage with the ability to stay alive longer, with the other you swap the ability to take a lot of damage with the ability to give a lot of damage. The deal breaker for me is the Ubersaw. It replaces your regular Bonesaw, and not only does it looks a LOT cooler, it works exactly the same, except that each successful hit gives your Ubercharge a 25% boost. There is no downside, no trade-off, it is just plain better than the Bonesaw, and if you don't see why I have an issue with that than you haven't even been reading this article and you need to go sit in the corner.

In the end, I suppose I don't mind taking the good with the bad with this update, but in my view there shouldn't be anything bad to deal with in this game. Now as of right now the issues I'm whining about aren't breaking the game or anything, but imagine changes like this for the other eight classes, who unlike the Medic, are meant to do damage with their Melee weapons (Specifically the Scout). Would such imbalanced make me stop playing the game? To be honest, no. There are other aspects of the game which make me prefer it over other Online FPSs, but I do hope that the guys at Valve think long and hard before coming out with their next set of updates.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My Issues with GTA

I came to the decision of writing this article with a great amount of trepidation. I wasn't sure if I was ready to write about my feelings on GTA because in doing so I seem to be giving everyone with contrary opinions an easy defense that I dislike games because they are popular (Especially on the heels of a less than glowing retrospective on Final Fantasy VII), but that's just not true. What is true is that when people start talking about how amazing a game is, I am more apt to pull out my magnifying glass, pipe, and Sherlock Holmes hat and begin investigating with a fervor to see if the game is worthy of it's level of hype. More times than not it isn't, but sometimes I find myself in agreement with public opinion (Notable examples include Chrono Trigger, Portal, Diablo 2, etc.). I think it is only natural for people to meet fantastic claims with doubt and suspicion. Imagine a friend of yours introduced you to someone and said, "He is a really nice guy." You'd be inclined to believe him and after a few moments of conversation you would probably agree. Now imagine your friend introduced you and said "This man is the second coming of Christ and you should get on your knees and worship him!" I doubt you'd be quite as inclined to believe your friend and you would require some proof to back this claim up. Right? Good, now get off my back and let's get this article going (And ask your new buddy over there if he can top off my glass with a little Merlot from the faucet, would you?).

"Why can't you let this go?" some may ask me. "Why can't you just call it a good game series and be done with it?" Well one, that wouldn't be very interesting and two, a Grand Theft Auto it isn't just a game. From GTA 3 on (Please note now that any specific information on GTA 4 is speculative and will be amended if necessary), the GTA series is not just one "good" game after another. They are an assembly of multiple "mediocre" games mashed together in one disc, a group of Frankensteinian beings running rampant throughout the land, in clear defiance of the will of the Gaming Gods. Think about it for a second, if you took the driving elements, the combat (both armed and unarmed), or the missions out of context, each of them can be described as "average" at best when compared to other games of a more singular focus. Now some may argue that a game is meant to be better than the sum of it's parts, but I'd only agree when these are parts as a whole like graphics, sound, gameplay, or story, elements of a game which are usually designed by seperate teams and brought together later. When your entire gameplay department is just mixing together of whatever works decently in it's specific genre with no personalization or augmentation, that's just lazy The shooting is what has drawn the most ire from me, since armed combat in the GTAs is a horrendous repetition of "Hold R1 and press/hold fire button until dead." Supposedly GTA4 has remedied this with a new system which better rewards accuracy and responsiveness, and if so good for them, it only took them 3 fucking games to figure it out.

Another issue I have is why everyone is so entrenched in the "greatness" of GTA's open world. I've already talked somewhat about this in my last article, in the context of what happens when developers give the player a vast amount of freedom in order to free themselves from liability when people don't like the game. Don't like the combat? Then just try to sneak around Liberty City/San Andreas/Vice City while attracting as little attention as possible. Don't like the driving? No one is stopping you from walking or taking a bike, go on ahead! Don't like the missions? Then just walk around and mow down civilians for a while. People just eat this stuff up. Now, I will admit to taking a guilty pleasure in becoming a homicidal maniac and using a sniper rifle in game to kill anyone who happened to be wearing a green shirt on a given street, then having a climactic rooftop battle with Police helicopters, but I don't know if I would call this the Renaissance of gaming like some people have. Let me see if I get this straight, if I randomly kill minor enemies for hours on end in an RPG or an MMORPG it is "grinding", and therefor bad. But if I walk around and randomly kill people for hours on end in GTA it is "innovative", and therefor awesome. Makes perfect sense to me.

Now, I'm not honestly trying to convert people to actively hate on the Grand Theft Auto games when I talk like this, I'm just trying to get people to think about what they are playing and to use caution when throwing around terms like "best game ever." If you love you some GTA and wish to contest my viewpoint by using specific examples and well thought out arguments, then I will gladly participate in some discourse because it means you've already gotten your own gaming-magnifying glass of sorts out and taken my advice to heart. Now as far as GTA 4 is concerned, I have not played it yet, and for all I know it could well have re-invented the series and provided us with the golden standard for all of Video Gaming. However, you can be damn sure I will be playing and scrutinizing before I expect it to ride down on a white horse in fine linen and lead us to the promise land.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

RPG Nostalgia: Final Fantasy VII

I guess it's time to come clean folks. Let it be known to all with whom I've had conversations with concerning RPGs online or in person, I have what some consider a dark and terrible secret to reveal: Until about a week ago I have never really played Final Fantasy VII. I say "not really" because while I technically fought a few random battles on my cousin's copy, I never really did anything of merit in the game, except maybe cast his hard earned "Knights of the Round" over and over again because of how cool it looked. Now some people may think that fact may invalidate my previous statements about how it is the most overrated game of all time, but after playing it I still have come to the same conclusion. I guess now though I can use logic and reasoning to connect the dots and if not make people understand my sentiment, then make them understand why I have this sentiment.

It all started a few weeks ago when I got a hankering for some RPG action. I really can't explain it, and apparently this phenomenon isn't unheard of. I had an unblemished, unplayed Rogue Galaxy sitting around, but after a few hours I decided the combat was too New-Age/Western/Action RPG for my taste at the time, and decided I needed something a bit more old school. After much deliberation I decided to see what all the fuss was about and borrowed a friend's copy of VII. I don't feel as if I need to explain the premise/story/battle system to anyone, the basics are well known to anyone who has played any Final Fantasy game (Well maybe not if you've solely played XII, so get on it all 3 of you). You save the world, and a lot of times it involves crystals, but not always. You struggle against a main antagonist, and sometimes he's a complete bastard, and sometimes he's not so much of a bastard when push comes to shove. All of the games employ the basic functions for RPGs, with each adding it's own little flair in the form of a gameplay change. Sometimes these are awesome, but nobody's perfect. But why is it that VII generates such a rabid following? Why am I not one of those rabid followers?

Don't misunderstand me, I like Final Fantasy VII. It's a real good game. It just happens to be overblown by it's abnormally vocal fans. To prove that I do like the game, I'll tell you what I really like about the game as well as what it's shortcomings are, instead of just railing on it for a few paragraphs. First off, the Materia system is great. It's intuitive, and while it has endless possibilities, you can put any amount of time and effort into it and still be effective in battle. In fact, it's almost too good. A small chink in the armor of this system is, in fact, it's infinite amount of combinations. I am of the opinion that when developers place a vast amount of gameplay augmenting abilities in the game, be it in a battle system or the entire game itself, in a way it sort of passes the buck onto the player if they don't like the game. In a way the can just dismiss any issues a person has with the game by saying, "Well if you had done x, y and z instead of that, you wouldn't have had a problem," rather than just making "x, y and z" part of the gameplay off the bat. However, to this concept's merit, it means in the case of Final Fantasy VII that the player can choose his or her party based more on the characters themselves than their abilities (with the exception of their bare bones stats and Limit Breaks), and any game which willingly gives me the ability to throw the more annoying characters under a bus has got my seal of approval. I can only imagine a world where I don't have to deal with Gau's abortion of the English language, or Palom and Porom's constant bitching at one another.

The story is an interesting aspect of the game to me. I like the back stories of the characters and their character progression for the most part. There are some stereotypical elements in there, but with a decent amount of twists (Highlights for me include Aeris's parentage, Barret and Marlene's story, and pretty everything about Vincent). However, the overarching, big part of the plot concerning Sephiroth is a bit hamhanded. I mean, the entire game could have come to a screeching halt if someone had simply lied to Sephiroth and told him his mother's name was Susan. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to tell him his mother is named Jenova, and then send him to a reactor with her name plastered in big letters on the front of it, or make detailed reports called "Jenova Project." His intentions aren't too clear and his reason for this whole mess of death and destruction is really only understandable from a 15 year-old's perspective. He's not really nihilistic or insane, he's not bent on global domination, he's not hatred incarnate, he's just pissed because Shinra messed with his momma. Now I might have tainted my appreciation for the story because of my prior knowledge of many of the big plot twists (Who dies, who is a dirty rotten snitch, etc.) because of talking with people who had finished, but then again, if you read the last page of a novel, it really shouldn't interfere with your enjoyment of the rest of the story anyways.

One thing I know puts me in contention with a majority of people who played VII, nay, a majority of "gamers" in general is my disapproval of all the mini-games. I guess I don't have a real problem with the games themselves so much as I do the impact they have on the game and every developer & fan since then because of VII's iconic status. Nowadays if your game doesn't have another game inside of it, that seems like a blemish to some people. I'm sorry, if I want to play cards, I'll play cards. I won't boot up a game so I can play a completely different game that has no connection to an RPG. Besides, it's not like people wouldn't buy real Triple Triad or Tetra Master cards if you put them out, you'd make a killing (Well you would have when those games came out more so than right now, but you get the idea). Now, not all mini-games in RPGs are terrible, a notable exception is the Monster Arena in Dragon Quest VIII. Not only can you get money from hunting monsters, they actually help you in battle, which ties it into the game itself. Also, the Monster Arena doesn't hold endgame items hostage and force you to play if you want them (However the fact that the last whip in DQVIII is from the casino and bought with a retarded amount of "points" makes me want to punch a baby, but you don't have to use whips so that makes it slightly less frustrating). If you want Cloud's final Limit Break, you absolutely have to do the Battle Arena, and since fighting in the Battle Arena costs you Gold Saucer Points instead of Gil, have fun playing useless carnival games for a few hours. Just put it at the end of a long dungeon, dammit. That way I don't have to pray to God I don't get a certain handicap and start screaming at a virtual roulette wheel when I do.

A big reason for VII's fandom in my opinion and popularity is because it was the first big RPG on the Playstation. Up until the Playstation, gaming wasn't really that mainstream. For instance, I was one of of two kids on my block with an NES and a SNES, and nowadays you can't walk into the typical American home without tripping over a PS2 and 3 DS's. Once the Playstation became popular, the entity known as Joe Gamer came about, a demographic who liked playing games, but didn't understand that games existed before he came on the scene, so he doesn't understand that many of the things he liked about VII had already been done. Including killing off your love interest. Just remember next time you hear a grown man talk about how he cried as Aeris layed dieing on the ground, Nei was getting killed before it was cool.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Year of the Fighter: Part One (Continued)

So, like I said last time, I will be using this post to talk about the characters of Capcom's upcoming Street Fighter 4. However, before we get to that I would just like to go on record with a recent fighting game newsflash: What the fuck? I mean, I will admit that X-Men vs Street Fighter must have sounded weird at first, but this just sounds bad. And not like bad as in "bad ass" or "bad to the bone"... just plain bad. Horrible, if you will. I suppose if Green Lantern is playable then I'll give it a shot though. Anyway, back to SF4.

As stated in my previous post, Street Fighter 4 has been confirmed to have all the original SF2 characters (Dee Jay, T.Hawk, Fei Long and Cammy are still sitting on the bench with their fingers crossed), as well as 4 new characters. Rather than go in depth into each of the tried and true SF2 alums, I will just post this link to the Japanese website (Don't worry, all the important links like "Characters" and "Gallery" are in English) which has a plethora of screens and artwork for all the characters. There isn't much to report of the returning guys other than the transfer from 2-D to 3-D, and with Capcom tweaking and revising their faces and bodies to better reflect... well... themselves, talking about their visuals now won't so us much good.

Crimson Viper
was the first new character to be shown by Capcom, and I can't say in good faith that it was an encouraging start to me. From a design standpoint, it looks to me like someone took Iori and Vanessa from KoF, mixed them together, gave the result Travis Touchdown's sunglasses, and called it a day. Visual issues aside, she looks like she plays fairly well and her "style" is kind of interesting. She is an American spy who uses a slew of gadgets to enhance her fighting skills to World Warrior Tournament levels. She has gloves which emit electrical charges as well as high-heels with flamethrowers and boosters which allow her to double jump. I think it would be cool to really push the fact that she needs these gadgets to fight with the likes of Ryu and company by maybe having a losing pose (like maybe for a "Time Over" result where she loses) where her gadgets short circuit and she retreats or gives a very disheveled look, but that's just me.

Next to be shown off was Abel, a French amnesiac who fights using a Sambo/Mixed Martial Arts style. Abel was what really got me to believe in Capcom's character design again because he looks good from both a visual and gameplay viewpoint. His design is very basic and is kind of a throwback to old school Street Fighter. When it comes down to it, almost all the Street Fighters wear costumes which reflect their fighting style or country of origin. Zangief dresses like a Pro Wrestler, Ryu and Ken both dress in traditional Japanese Karate uniforms (Albeit with the sleeves removed), Sagat is in Muy Thai shorts, and even an off the wall character like Vega (pun TOTALLY intended) has a costume based in such a way, since his pants and shoes are based off the uniform of a Matador. When Abel was first shown off, some people were put off by his attire, but if you've ever seen Russian Sambo, you wouldn't give it a second thought (Which is why at first I was convinced that Abel was Russian). His style of play is exactly what you would expect from a Mixed Martial Artist, he is basically a hybrid throw character (Meaning like Zangief he has command throws, but his game is not entirely based on them, similar to Alex from Street Fighter 3). The only bad thing about Abel is that in my view his existence almost definitely precludes Alex from being in this game, something that saddens me greatly.

The third character shown off was El Fuerte, a Mexican luchador. At first, all we got of El was his character artwork picture (Look at his picture in the "Character" section of the Japanese SF4 site I linked earlier and that's it) and much like the other characters the embellished, calligraphy style of art was really misleading for him. He looked incredibly bulky and made some people question his role in the game because one giant wrestler seemed to be a enough (Not to mention a Mixed Martial Artist who has throws as well). However, in game shots revealed El to be a more lithe, acrobatic, combatant very much akin to (duh) famous Mexican luchadors. One thing that has been noted by players from the location tests in Japan is that he seems to have a jovial and over-the-top attitude, kind of like the class clown of the roster. A video of some of hies moves, along with his Ultra Combo (Which I think looks AWESOME) can be seen here.

Finally, the latest fighter that we have been given the... pleasure... of meeting is Rufus. Now, I suppose officially Rufus isn't a character yet because Capcom has yet to release his info to the public, but he is playable in the location tests in Japan. I honestly don't know what to say about Rufus. I was so pumped about the new characters of this game. C Viper looked odd but seems to play alright. Abel looked great, and El Fuerte looked pretty cool as well, then came this guy. To get the basic idea of Rufus, imagine you have an Orange Easter Egg. Paint the top 1/5 of it pink. give it a yellow ponytail. Now where a human would normally have arms and legs, put orange peanut M&Ms. And there you have a scale representation of Rufus. I wish I was joking. The worst part is he doesn't even look like he plays interesting. I have nothing against fat guys in fighting games (Chang, Mr. Heart, and Earthquake are all cool with me), but first off they need to look human, and then they need to play in a style that fits them, and Rufus does neither of these things. I can't help but think Rufus is Capcom's idea of a burn towards Tekken 6's Bob like how Dan was created to poke fun at Ryo from Art of Fighting, but there is no reason for it. The reason Dan was created was because Capcom thought SNK ripped them off by combing Ken and Ryu to make Ryo who also threw fireballs, but one-handed (Because of this, Dan throws his one-handed as well, and they only go a few inches from his hand). So in the end, from my point of view, Capcom is 2-2 design-wise, and 3-4 playstyle-wise.

As far as any more new or returning characters are concerned, all we can do now is speculate. As Ono stated in the interview I linked in my first Year of the Fighter post, the character select screen needs to be symmetrical, and if the layout is eight on top, eight on bottom, we can look forward to either two more or four more fighters (I'm thinking four because ten and ten looks better from a "design sense" than nine and nine). Since previous interviews have had to do with the unequal number of female fighters (so far it is 2 females to 14 males) I think most, if not all of any new additions will be ladies, and if I were a betting man I would put my money on seeing Cammy returning to action. I personally would love to see some characters, male or female, from Street Fighter 3. It makes sense storywise (If that matters to anyone) since SF4 takes place between SF2 and 3. Ono himself said that Ibuki could see her way into a console port (I don't know why not in the arcade, possibly due to the time it would take to create and test her with an expected arcade release of July). I happen to think Elena and Makoto would be awesome to see as well. A promising poll of Capcom's blog asked which character people wanted to see return in 4, and one of my favorites, Dudley, was the the number one pick, so here's hoping that Capcom can trim the fat (wink wink, nudge nudge, say-no-more say-no-more) and give us something to talk about, in a good way, for the next few months.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Year of the Fighter: Part One

So it looks like Tuesday is going to be my set day to post things. I'd say it's because I play a lot of games on the weekend and use Monday to collect my thoughts in order to post a more well written article, but in all honesty I'm making this stuff up as I go. I'd like to get 2 post in a week, probably having the other on Friday (Notice I used like and probably), but we'll see how that works out with both my school and work.

This week I'd like to begin an ongoing series entitled "Year of the Fighter", which will chronicle both news and my thoughts on said news concerning the plethora of fighting games (one of my favorite genres) either in development or set to release in 2008. This post will be about what is probably the most anticipated new fighter of 2008:

So after years of waiting and speculation, the fourth part of the Street Fighter series (Although by no means the fourth Street Fighter game if that makes any sense at all) has been announced, shown off, and is currently being tested. Chronologically (For those people concerned with the "story" of their fighting games) the game is set between Street Fighter 2 and 3, which explains the influx of characters from Street Fighter 2. At this point, all the characters from the original SF2, including bosses, have been confirmed. From an interview he game at GDC, producer Yoshinori Ono talked about the roster and it can be inferred through his comments (they were concerning the need for the character select screen to be "balanced" and symmetrical with 8 fighters on top of the timer and 2 below it at the show) that there will be at least 16 characters, and at the current count we have exactly 16 confirmed characters.

Anyone who has seen the trailer or any videos of play will notice a dramatic change in style, with the game foregoing the traditional 2-D look for what people have dubbed "2.5-D", with 3-D character models fighting on a 2-D plane. I'm not exactly sure how I feel about the shift. From a purely aesthetics viewpoint, I didn't like it at first, but recent tweaking with character designs in-game and the use of a calligraphy-like in both the design and in the game (Shown during certain attacks like the "Saving Move" or Super/Ultra Arts) have gotten me to warm up to it quite a bit (Examples can be seen here and here. From a game mechanic viewpoint I am somewhat weary about the use of polygonal models in a 2D game in terms of hit detection, but so far the tests in Japan have gone without incident. I'll get into my thoughts on specific character design and style next time I post.

The gameplay was said by Ono to be a "throwback" to SF2, which had me a little skeptical at first (To me it seemed to imply that no fighter since then, including the SF3 incarnations, brought anything mechanics-wise worth using) and while it is somewhat nostalgic, is looks to take what made SF2 good and actually expand upon it rather than just bank on solely emulating it. Like in SF2, successfully landing hits raises your Super Meter which when filled up enables you to perform a Super Arts, however there is much more to the game than that. A totally new addition is the "Revenge System." Fighter fans may liken it to "K Groove" from Capcom Vs SNK 2, or the system from the Saumrai Showdown series, but it has its differences. Basically when you take hits, your "Revenge Meter" increases. With this Revenge Meter you can do a number of things. You can use it to initiate a "Saving Attack" which is initiated by pressing both medium buttons (punch and kick). Depending on how long you hold it, it charges the move longer and the attack increases in power as well as the amount it drains from the Revenge Meter. If it is held long enough the attack can even become unblockable. Another use for the Revenge Meter is in the Ultra Arts, which are completly different and more powerful than the Super Arts. In a nice nod to Street Fighter 3, EX moves have made a comeback to the series. For those not in the know, EX moves are performed when a character has input a special move (Like a Hadouken or Shoryuken) and has pressed 2 buttons instead of one (Like Light Punch and Medium Punch together, or Medium Punch and Fierce Punch). The end result is a golden flash and a special move which is more powerful than (and sometimes has properties that differ from) it's non-EX counterpart, at the cost of some of your Super Meter. A very good example of using both EX Moves and Ultra Combos can be seen in the following video (Please note this is from a test build and certain aspects are subject to change, even since the release of this video, the amount of damage that Ultra Combos do has been toned down, since certain ones took as much as 3/4 of a life bar). That will close it out for this article, next time I will continue my "Year of the Fighter"entry on SF4 by talking about the characters.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Ugh, two weeks and no updates. I suppose I could blame it one a lack of actual gaming on my part, but it's not as if I don't have other topics to talk about besides what I am playing this moment, so I'll just chalk it up to me being a lazy bastard.

What little time I have spent on gaming recently has been spent playing PuzzleQuest for the DS. This game is quite the paradox. On the one hand there have been multiple occasions on which I wish to spike my DS out of frustration for the game, but on the other hand, I can't put it down. It's not that spectacular, it's a Reese's-esc mish-mash of "You got your Puzzle Game in my RPG/You got your RPG in my Puzzle Game" which in reality placates one genre (The puzzles you use to do all of your "fighting") more so than the other (The RPG elements of doing quests, buying equipment to aid you in battle, gaining levels, etc.). The aforementioned DS spiking is a result of the the combat. In a Bejeweled-esc manner you line up gems to collect mana, or line up skulls to do direct damage. With enough mana you can do different spells (Depending on your class and level), and if you get four or more of a kind lined up you get another turn and perhaps a bonus. Like in any puzzle game the gems drop "randomly" (I quote that because some battles in the game seem to have decidedly more "random" drops than others), which is where the RPG fan in me wants to strangle the Puzzle Game fan in me. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that when I am playing RPG I am a control freak. When I get into a battle I want to have complete control over it. Hell, in most old school RPGs that's really the only control you had. You controlled how the battles went, who did what, and you felt like motherfucking Hannibal when your plan "came together." Certain battles in PuzzleQuest I only lost because my opponent got three or four free turns because of randomly dropped gems that happened to be four-in-a-rows which gave him enough mana to do a ridiculous amount of damage, or, drain of a ridiculous amount of my mana which might as well have killed me at that time. I'd like to say that this sort of thing happened just as many times in my favor, but that would be a lie. There is, however, something to be said about the addictiveness of it. It is just as pick up and play as any other Puzzle Game out there, and in my mind it is the epitome of a "time-killer" (Each time I've turned it on I've played for at least an hour) to be used during travel, class, or boring conversations. As far as a Puzzle Game goes, PuzzleQuest gets the job done, and it does it well, just don't go trying to convert any of your RPG fanatic friends with it because of it's "hybrid" nature. I suppose the target audience would be people who love Bejeweled enough to imagine themselves using it as a medium to inflict pain, so if you ever meet such a person, make sure to point them in the direction of this game. Well, make sure to alert the proper authorities, then point them in the direction of the game.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Up, Up, and Away!

The Internet... the final frontier. These are the voyages of The Tempest Project. It's continuing mission: To explore strange new games, to seek out readers who tire of the mediocre and the mundane, to boldly go where thousands of blogs have gone before (But hopefully in a way which gets its author paid to talk about his favorite "hobby"). Christ, five minutes into this thing and I have already showcased my Star Trek nerdiness and I've come off as a pompous ass. And all these years people have been calling me an underachiever. Anywho...

Welcome intrepid blog readers (Who at this point most likely consist solely of friends, family, and acquaintances through the internet looking for more fodder to flame me about)! This is The Tempest Project and I am its author, Kevin. I hope through this blog I will be able to enlighten people on all things "video game" by posting reviews, impressions, and inane rantings on the subject of video games and the video game industry. Without further a due, let us get to the blogging. For such a momentous and highly anticipated occasion, I have chosen an equally momentous and highly anticipated game:

Unless you've been hiding in a cave the last few months, you've heard of the release of Super Smash Brothers Brawl, the 3rd installment in Nintendo's cross-franchise "brawler" (Pun possibly intended) series. Nintendo has been lurking every message board and forum and has finally given gamers the world over the ability to finally have some of their favorite Nintendo (And this time around non-Nintendo) video game characters face off in every NES/SNES owner's wet dream.

The gameplay has remained almost exactly the same as Brawl's predecessors (Super Smash Brothers on the Nintendo64 and Super Smash Brothers Melee on the GameCube) and while Joe Gamer (A horrible bastard who you will come to know as one of the key figures I believe is responsible for the decline of modern gaming) may think that this fact makes it little more than "Melee+New Guys", fighting game fans know this is pretty much par for the course. You take what works, you balance things, you add new guys, and we all eat it up. The game plays great, and that's all there is to it.

The "newness" in Brawl comes partly in the form of the new characters, including Pit from Kid Icarus, Ike from the new Fire Emblem and Olimar from Pikmin. Also stepping in the ring are the first non-Nintendo fighters in Smash Brothers history: Sonic the Headgehog and Solid Snake (Whose crowd cheer, by the way, is brilliant). But be not depressed "Hardcore" gamers, for many of the older and/or more obscure characters you love to tout over your "Casual" counterparts have come in the form of Assist Trophies, which temporarily aid you in battle. Some of the highlights include Little Mac from Punch-Out!!, Saki from Sin and Punishment, and what I was sure was the titular star (Literally) of Twinkle Star Sprites, but it turned out to be someone else.

Trophies have returned from Melee, and they come back with a force. I think there is something like 500 trophies (Which I might add you can do nothing with and show to no one save those you show on your own Wii), which I'm sure were added simply to give people the inability to bitch about "completing" the game until another Smash Brothers is made. The characters immortalized in these trophies are all of course Nintendo classics like Mario, Link, Star Fox (Twice in my trophy gallery) and Bannana Peel. Yeah, you read that right. You get a trophy of a bannana peel. You get a trophy of refuse. From what I have read the only thing you get for obtaining all these trophies is...wait for it... another trophy. Que Sera Sera, I guess. It's not as though you need to get all these things, but I do feel bad for the group of cubicle monkeys at Nintendo who were forced to work long hard hours searching and documenting through everything from every Nintendo game ever just to whet the appetite of perfectionists.

A feature new to Brawl is The Subspace Emissary, a platformer which has you playing as a number of characters in Brawl, who battle and eventually team up to face some kind of evil power threatening the world. This part of the game is truly the only sour note, but it is in my view, the sourest of notes. A "brown note", if you will. Consider the following: What is the driving characteristic of a 2D platformer? Moving across the screen in a vertical or horizontal fashion. What is the main way you get killed in a Smash Brothers game? Moving too far past the screen in a vertical or horizonal fashion. The missions become a guessing game of if and how the camera will follow you, if it will continue with you as your savior, or stop short on the map and hand you your doom. Another aspect of the game that draws my ire is the "Great Maze", which is the final level of the game, or should I say, every level in the game all over again. I can only imagine the development meeting for this thing.

"So, what should we do for the last level of this thing?"
"How about just repeating all the levels, AND, regardless of whether or not you reach the center of the maze expediently , you still have to fight every character and every boss all over again to open the door to the final boss?"
"Reusing level designs AND needless frustration? BRILLIANT!"

If it takes me the rest of my days I will find the individual responsible for this level and punish them. Severely. Couple that with the fact that this game is the "easiest" way to unlock all the characters in the game, and you can see why I am still waiting on my shipment of 6 wasted hours from Nintendo due to this... thing.

My qualms about the SSE aside, the Brawl itself is meant to be played with friends, and when it is, it is great. Whether your friends play video games a lot or hardly at all, there is a cast of characters, a learning curve, and level of enjoyment that encompasses all levels of play (Except of course the tournament level play: That shit be work.) which makes this a must own for the Wii.