Sunday, November 16, 2008

Style over Substance -OR- N Sixty-What?

While the first part of my title seems out of place for most of things we deal with on an everyday level, it's not out of line looking at old games. Old games in a 3D graphic style seem to look more dated more quickly. It probably doesn't help if you're seeing ports of other systems' games either.

I fired up my old N64 over the weekend because my older son wanted to see The Ocarina of Time. He saw the preview of the Wii Virtual Console version on Super Smash Brothers, and he seemed interested since it was another Zelda game. I was excited that I didn't have to rip the cartridge apart and figure out if I could replace the battery that held the game saves. At first it looked a little odd, especially at the very beginning. The texture filtering during cutscenes and the fog in the distance just scream 1997. After we played it for a few hours, we stopped looking at the graphics, and it was more about the game. We took a break from that and I popped in a few other carts to see what I could get to work. Mario Kart 64 and Quake 2 didn't run. (Perhaps numerophobia?) BioFreaks and Mortal Kombat 4 did. (Well, there goes that theory.) BioFreaks didn't look too bad except for one character's lack of collision detecion on his own parts. We also picked the less human-looking characters. When we put MK4 in, I was pleased with the tight controls and the sound design that I remembered. However, the human characters looked wrong. Liu Kang's neck was a little underdesigned. His head was like a octahedron instead of, well, a head. Of course, it's possible that the arcade version of MK4 doesn't look as bad as that. I sincerely hope so.

When I get old Street Figher games out and play them, they don't feel so dated as these games do. Even the Zelda on GBA (which itself is a port of the Super Nintendo version) seems more crisp and fresh than the N64 one. I think a lot of this has to do with the art style. If you try to use an overly realistic art style, you set yourself up for looking dated down the road. I'm sure Pit Fighter was perceived as cutting edge at the time but looks laughable now. On the other hand , if the art is done with the hardware in mind, then the game looks nice even a generation later. Zelda certainly looked better than MK4, and I'm guessing that Zelda's character models actuallly have less geometric detail but have an easier time holding up in Zelda's slightly cartoony art style. I'm not really looking forward to seeing the N64 version of Quake 2 again, since I played Quake 2 on a fairly decent (at the time) PC and that's how I remember the game.

So, will Metal Gear Solid 4 and Resident Evil 5 still look good 10 years from now, or are we going to complain about the texture quality and antialiasing then? Also, will some companies keep making 2D games so they can keep recylcling the sprites over and over?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Games and Self-Selection

Last weekend I played a couple of PS2 games that I borrowed from a friend. Actually, my older son played most of one of them. The two games were Teen Titans and Metal Gear Solid 3. If you look on Metacritic for their respective scores, Teen Titans got a 56 and Metal Gear Solid 3 (Snake Eater, to be specific) got a 91 out of 100. Oddly enough, both of the user ratings for this game were around 9 out of 10. So, is Teen Titans a bad game or not?

Teen Titans was finished in a day. We started Saturday night and finished by Sunday afternoon. It used the five main characters from the cartoon, and all of the same voice actors as the show. Mostly it's a 3D brawler - it felt like Gauntlet Dark Legacy to me a little. SPOILERS! The game's plot was a touch on the contrived side, but the fact that they had actually been crammed into a video game on the show once before kept it from being too lame. Right before the last boss battle, they manage to re-engineer the game to play pong and Space Invaders. (Heh. It's a two year old game. I should have seen it before now.)

It was a bit repetitive, and I did most of the boss battles since my son didn't quite get the 'move every character to their designated spot to do a team attack' part. Once we had finished the game, we looked at the 4-player battle mode and noticed that there were a lot of characters and stages from the cartoon show that weren't even in the game very long or at all and didn't have to be there, but they were. That was a nice touch, and would add to the replay value if we didn't have a game like Super Smash Brothers in the house.

We had a lot of fun playing it, even if it was short - and this is where the self-selection comes in. We talk about self-selelection in statistics to refer to a group within a sample that selects itself instead of being randomly selected. Usually the data only tells you something about the self-selection process and not the whole group. Since no one would doubt a bad review of a TV show licensed game, people that bought it, played it, and liked it would be more likely to submit a good review if for no other reason to justify their purchase to themselves and refute the low review score in some way. Real fans of the show probably like all of the fan service touches and might give it a good rating, too.

On the other hand, MGS3 is a little daunting. Clearly it's a game for people who played the other MGS games. People that play other action games like God of War, Ninja Gaiden, or even Zelda aren't really the target audience for this game. MGS is won by being sneaky and doing little. It's not even like Tenchu since in Tenchu if you successfully sneak up on someone you can eliminate them and don't have to worry about hiding from them any more. In MGS the best you can do is knock someone out for a little while and hope you're out of there before they get up.

Since I flunked out of MGS1 after a couple of Boss battles, I figured that I might make it to the first one. Of course it's hard to say how you're going to do, since there's a good half-hour between selecting 'NEW GAME' and actually playing. Since this game is primarily an outside game as opposed to MGS1 and 2 that take place in more urban settings, it's harder to gague how to play since you don't have reliable methods like building corners or storage rooms to hide in. I thought about using the in-game radar more - to make it a little more like MGS1 which has a radar system by default - but since it uses virtual battery power and I haven't figured out how I get that back, I haven't tried that yet.

The nice thing about MGS3 for me so far is the Snake vs. Monkey minigame since it's not quite as demanding as the regular game and it uses the cute mokeys from Ape Escape. Capture monkeys quickly is all you have to do.

So, for me, other than the monkey thing, it's not so fun. Would I post a bad user review on Metacritic? Probably not. With all of the critical acclaim the MGS series has gotten, I assume that the fault lies with me. After all, I'm not that hardcore a gamer( or at least that's what the 20-year-olds at Gamestop tell me).

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I voted!

Amazingly enough, for once the constituents seemed to be excited about the outcome.

This is preferable to the constituents being lukewarm and the candidate gleefully wringing his hands, trying out his best mad scientist laugh and yelling "I'll show them all!" as lightning strikes in the background.

Since I voted later in the evening, there were only a few people there and I had time to do an impromptu one-minute cube demo as I was leaving. I took a good-looking but slightly loose cube, which caused me to flounder uncontrollably into 45-second territory. The poll workers were somewhat appreciative of the stupid human trick as they were isolated from any sort of television or radio.

I also commented on how the black magic markers in at least one of the voting booths should be a little more accommodating to leftys. They were affixed to the right side of the booth where I was. The poll worker that I talked to about that thought that maybe she would put them in the center next time - I just worry that then they won't work for anybody. I can handle separate but equal in this particular case.