Friday, July 30, 2010

Legend of Zelda - The Skyward Sword Official Trailer

While I am not always in favor of realism in games, I am looking forward to the fact that the new Legend of Zelda game uses the Wii Motion Plus to improve its swordplay (and a couple of other things).

The swordplay in The Legend of Zelda:Twilight Princess was fun, and that game did a good job of doing a lot of different sword and shield moves with the motion controls. The slingshot and bow and arrow seemed like much more useful weapons because you could point the Wiimote directly on the screen to aim them. So, it would seem that a natural extension of that would be to make the swordplay more direct.

From the official trailer, we see that some enemies are specifically tailored to be defeated by sword attacks at a specific angle. Also, we see the slingshot, bow and arrow, some awesome bomb bowling, a whip - new to the big versions but previously used in the DS game The Legend of Zelda:Spirit Tracks. Most crazy of all is the new remote control flying scarab beetle - check Link poised to fire it up at 1:06 in the video. My older son made some sort of squealy noise when he saw that for the first time.

The only things that I might not be looking forward to

  1. The boomerang, and
  2. playing lefty.
Depending on how they implement the boomerang, it may be fine or I may be throwing it backwards all the time, and I presume that partly because of being a lefty. Being a lefty will affect the swordplay as well. Even though Link has been a lefty for a long time, they changed it for Twilight Princess on Wii because they were worried about how it would feel to be swinging the Wiimote with your right hand and seeing the on-screen character swing the sword with his left hand. However, since the controls are indirect and not direct, I didn't find a problem the other way around. It remains to be seen whether it will screw me up on direct controls. I will definitely be looking to play this at a store kiosk before I buy it, as I doubt Nintendo will be giving people a choice between lefty and righty in the options menu. It's not like it's a bowling game, for crying out loud.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Spiderman hasn't shown up yet on the confirmed characters list for Marvel vs Capcom 3. I was only capable of expressing how I felt with action figures.

Friday, July 23, 2010

New Marvel vs Capcom 3 characters announced at ComicCon

So I wake up Thursay morning, blearily stare at my computer screen, and see that they have announced more characters for MvC3!

Chun-Li is no surprise, as I had surmised before that she had been in too many of the other crossover games to not be present in this one.

Doctor Doom, the main enemy of the Fantastic Four, wasn't much of a surprise either since he was a interesting character to use in MvC2.

Super Skrull was not that much of a surprise, but only because I had heard talk of his inclusion when the original silhouette was posted on the MvC3 official page. It makes it easy to include the Fantastic Four, which were previously difficult to use because of licensing deals, because Super Skrull has all the same powers as the members of the Fantastic Four.

Trish is a little bit of a surprise to me, but a welcome helping of fan service in a cute leather outfit indeed. It would be even more awesome to have a Dante/Trish/Lady team, but I'm guessing that's overkill.

Trish's outfit in MvC3 looks more like the Devil May Cry 1 and 2 model than the one she's wearing in DMC4. That's fine by me, as I really learned to appreciate Trish more when I unlocked her as a playable character in DMC2. For some reason, I expected Capcom to take the macho route and include Vergil or Nero instead of Trish.

Included in the first video above - the word "Viewtiful" (Look after Doctor Doom lands that 36-hit combo - around 0:26). Decide amongst yourselves what the implications are. Not included in the MvC3 video above but otherwise announced - Thor and Ameratsu. There are some screenshots out there. I'm excited for the new characters, although I'd really like to see some footage of one of the larger characters against Ameratsu, just because I suspect that a lot of their standing regular attacks will just whiff over her fluffy white head and Ameratsu will be well suited to giving the big guys the rushdown and biting their kneecaps off.

In anticipation of all of the fighting game goodness to come, and also because I don't have SFIV, I dug through my box of fighting games and threw Tekken Tag Tournament, Neo Geo Battle Coliseum, Tekken 5 and Arcana Heart in the PS2 for a few minutes each last night. Tekken Tag looked a little dated, as the character models look a bit better in Tekken 5. Tekken 5 annoyed me only because I never finished that stupid "Devil Within" mode - I liked Tekken Force Mode in Tekken 3 and 4 so much better because they were straight-up brawlers that left the moveset of the Tekken characters intact. "Devil Within" is a different control scheme, and full of jumping puzzles. Also, there is a limit to how many times I will re-fight True Ogre before it starts feeling pointless. Neo Geo Battle Coliseum felt floaty and "off" a little. I keep trying to play SNK fighters because there are legions of dedicated KOF fans that swear by those games, but something never feels right. I even picked up a couple of the 3D King of the Fighters games, which I liked a little bit more, but I never really connected to. It's sad that I would rather play a deeply broken Mortal Kombat game with good characters than something with more critical acclaim that I just can't connect with.

Arcana Heart perked me right up after all of that, though. While it's slow compared to a lot of the other games and the arenas are large, the graphics are excellent for a PS2 game, and the fighting mechanics feel more solid than the SNK fighters. The idea of having separate sets of super moves and normal moves is interesting, it gives people a chance to build a character to their play style a little more. It only has three normal attack buttons and one special attack button - maybe it's the perfect game to get me warmed up for Marvel vs Capcom 3.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

So what does "Mature" mean again?

This weekend is a buy 2 get one on used games at Gamestop. Saturday's purchases were:

MadWorld for Wii
Wall-E for Wii
Scooby Doo: Night of 100 Frights for Gamecube (I always tell #1 son that if we can get a game for PS2 or Gamecube to get the Gamecube version.)

Two for the kids, one for me. At first, we were going to get No More Heroes 2 instead of Wall-E, but I felt like that No More Heroes 2 would be around for a while. My reasoning for getting MadWorld was that if I really want to experience what the Wii has to offer hardcore gamers, I should pick it up before it disappeared. Since No More Heroes 2 is a more recent release I wasn't worried about it going away any time soon. Also, I thought it was somewhat unfair to double up on UltraVoilence, since I'm not the only one that plays Wii in our house by a long shot. I had played the demo of the Wall-E game for PC, and it wasn't horrible, so I figured it was worth a try. It took us a while to decide what to get, and it took a little longer because #2 son kept bringing me cases for PSP games. "Bub, we don't have PSP. Leave 'em on the shelf". I would also like to thank Chrisitan at our local Gamestop for being a good sport while I did Rubik's cube demos in line at the store.

Eventually, we got home to play stuff. While it doesn't look as good as the PC version, the Wii version of Wall-E seems to play OK but we didn't delve very far into it. The controls showed a surprising amount of depth, even going so far as using the Wiimote to look around. As soon as we got home, #1 son fired up my Gamecube and got right to work on the Scooby-Doo game, and noticed that it was full of jumping and part-collecting. It also has a lot of well-arranged incidental music from the cartoons in it, so it definitely gave off the Scooby vibe. #2 son sensed the Scooby vibe and went in to watch him play, so I switched out discs and got started with MadWorld.

I have always been a big fan of brawlers, I think my favorite one in the arcades was The Combatribes, although I did play both Streets of Rage and several of the Final Fight games on the 16-bit consoles. I also played Double Dragon on a green screened Compaq portable at some point in the 80's, and I also remember getting my butt kicked by some stupid game on NES or SNES called "BattleToads". Stupid jetbike levels killed me every time. But, I digress.

The conceit of MadWorld is that you're an entrant in a city-wide televised combat spree called "DeathWatch". They play it up like it's a highly rated TV show and a terrorist plot all at the same time, especially since the island that the game takes place on had all of its bridges demolished all at the same time, right before the show starts. It implies that some big players are involved behind the scenes - it also implies that our protagonist might just be more than he appears.

Just because a game is rated for mature audiences is no guarantee that what you are experiencing is mature subject matter, or intellectually mature, or has mature gameplay. This is the most profanity laden and unapologetically violent game that I have played, but I hear that House of the Dead:Overkill (another game I haven't gotten to yet) actually has more profanity. Even Resident Evil 4 hides some of the decapitations with blurry cameras and slight cutaways, but Madworld includes a couple kinds of impalements, bisections, fire, getting run down by trains, getting thrown into saw blades, and being crushed with a two-ton metal ball - and that's just in the first level. Now while this sounds a bit gruesome, bear in mind that the entire world is rendered in a graphic novel styled black and white, full of deep shadows and punctuated with the occasional red and yellow. It is reminiscent of Frank Miller - perhaps the target audience for the game is people who enjoyed Sin City? Level two has a game called Man-Darts partway through, and while I can only explain it by saying that it involves a big baseball bat and a thirty foot high dartboard that you whack enemies into headfirst, it's a lot more fun than it might sound even though I had to fight the camera more than my opponents.

The voice actors that play the two play-by-play announcers in MadWorld are John Dimaggio, voice of my second favorite American English speaking robot, and Greg Proops, voice of my favorite non-alien speaking Podrace announcer.* In the first few minutes of the game alone, the two announcers drop F-bombs like it was February 1945 over Dresden. They start repeating jokes pretty early on, so you may just turn them down as soon as you're tired of them. I was very pleased to see that the announcers had their own volume slider. The enemies swear at you all the time too, so don't think turning down the announcers will help. After you turn down the announcers and the enemies, you will notice that the game's music is a flavor of hip-hop that includes at least a third as much swearing as the announcers. At this point, I was hoping for a button in the options that said "Instrumental & SFX Only". The violence I am used to but it probably doesn't annoy me because it's ridiculously over-the-top. The constant barrage of profanity annoys me, though. I'd like to be able to play the game without getting everyone within earshot annoyed. The music part of the music is well done, and the sound effects are meaty and solid.

It was also nice to hear that the voice of our protagonist Jack is played by the same actor that played protagonist Brad Hawk in Namco's Urban Reign, Steven Blum. The opening narration for Urban Reign was a standout piece of the game, and he gave you the inspiration to kick butt just from his voice alone. He serves a similar purpose here, to let you know that Jack is not a dude to be messed with.

My biggest issue with the game is that while it has many similarities to No More Heroes with even more swearing and the swordplay and the beatings and the ranking system and the on-screen controller motions for finishing moves, it misses the mark on the controls a little. It's difficult to stay locked on to the bosses and mini-bosses, and when you're not using the lock-on feature, the game often whiffs a punch into the empty space right next to an enemy if it thinks you're actually trying to get some other farther away enemy that's at a different angle to you. If your character is such a bad motor scooter, how could he mess that up? After having played games like Rygar and Devil May Cry and God of War that get that right a lot more of the time, it's sad to see a good developer miss the mark on that.

I hope all you people out there playing Heavy Rain appreciate what you got - that may actually be a "Mature" game. For that matter, Shadow of the Colossus and Sly 3 show more emotional maturity than MadWorld does. Heavy Rain may have a more choose-your-own-adventure game interface, and isn't as much of an action game. From a gameplay standpoint, MadWorld has a lot of things that I like in it, but a lot of the game's overall tone looks like it was just there for shock value and not because it fit with the game's story.

Maybe what I really want is a cartoony Devil May Cry game on Wii, rendered like Under The Skin or Viewtiful Joe. Enemies explode into red orbs (Devil May Cry's currency) upon defeat. Nero, Lady, Vergil, Trish, Leon Kennedy, and a few others show up as drop-in-drop-out team mates. Lots of action, some difficult puzzles that don't require jumping, minimal swearing, music that you need a subwoofer for, and some extra multiplayer modes. Dante runs an "agency", so why not let him do some detective work? Of course, if Capcom made anything like that they would be berated for making "LEGO Batman meets Carmen Sandiego".

* John Dimaggio's Bender is my second favorite American English speaking robot because he loses out to Robby the Robot from "Forbidden Planet" - nothing against John DiMaggio, Robby has a cooler hardware configuration. Also I had to specify American English because Anthony Daniels just slays both of those guys, and R2-D2 doesn't even speak English. As far as Greg Proops (the English speaking half of the podrace announcer) goes, it's just sad that he's at the top of such a very short list.

Monday, July 5, 2010

An overview of Sly Cooper...

...from someone who just got around to playing it.

Despite numerous attempts to stop me, I played through all of Sony developer Sucker Punch's three Sly Cooper games from Memorial Day to the 4th of July. I only played through the main game, I didn't complete any of the Master Thief challenges. I'm sure I could have completed them sooner, but I played some Street Fighter 3:Third Strike and a few other Capcom fighting games inbetween sessions, just to break it up a little.

I have played all of the PS2 Ratchet and Clank games (that's not true - I didn't play any of the PSP ones that got ported to PS2), and had played the first Jak & Daxter, so I felt like I had missed out by not having played the Sly Cooper games at all. Given the opportunity to pick them up cheap, I got all three of them - although in retrospect I should have picked up new copies of all three. Sly 3 I picked up from Gamestop as a used copy, and since the only thing I got was the disk for $10, I missed out a little. ( More on that later.)

The first Sly Cooper game comes off like Nintendo's early Mario games. Levels have a beginning and an end, and you're supposed to 1) go quick, 2) don't get hurt at all, and 3) get all the stuff. Similar to Mario, some boards allow you to go at your own pace, and some boards put time pressure on you. There's at least one board in every group of levels that has non-platformer gameplay, like one where you pilot an undersea sub and shoot crabs trying to take treasure chests. The controls for that are identical to the old school Robotron 2084 but these days that's referred to as a "twin stick shooter" since it seems like most of the people that Microsoft and Sony market to these days weren't alive in 1982 when that game came out. Some of the other non-platforming boards include racing levels and turret gun levels. Unlike the Ratchet and Clank's turret levels, where the object is to shoot down a lot of enemies, the Sly Cooper turret levels involve providing cover fire for a teammate so that they can proceed through a level. The only thing that I found odd about the game was that there was one powerup that was inaccesible until you had completed the main game, and it made the powerup completely pointless because it can't effectively be used in completing the Master Theif missions.

The second Sly Cooper game, Band of Theives, takes place in a series of cities around the world. While many of the missions take you into building interiors that are otherwise inaccessible, a fair portion of each city's missions are in the city itself. I liked that the cities had some purpose instead of being a glorified level select screen. The game added a currency system, stealing treasures and returning them to the safe house in a limited amount of time, added pickpocketing as both a side way to make money and a feature of getting through some of the levels, and purchaseable powerups. Sly's teammates Bentley and Murray get more of their own missions now, where you're controlling them directly. The conceit of the driving missions in Sly 1 was that Murray was driving - when Murray actually gets out of the car, it's already a cutscene by then. Now you get to use the might of "The Murray" directly to pound foes too tough for Sly, and Bentley goes through small spaces that Sly can't get into so we can hack the enemies' computers. Bentley also has very effective sleep darts and bombs. The game is a lot more fun than the first one for me because the locations seem a little more "real" - I enjoy a game that has a sense of place. It's nice to get to know where you're going after a while. In the name of variety, this game also has some turret missions but they're more like the Ratchet and Clank ones this time, and Bentley's hacking games play a little like old-school Omega Race. Other non-traditional levels include attacking foes using an RC chopper or an RC car. The best thing was having a regular health bar instead of the 'one hit and you're out' system from the first game.

By the time the third game (Honor Among Theives) rolls around, Sucker Punch has figured a few things out. None of the loot that you find has any impact on the game other than how much money you have, so making you go through the extra step of cashing it in was unneccesary. Now, loot instantly adds to your currency total. All of the powerups become purchaseable. The missions are a little more streamlined, but not as much as Sly 1. The endless looking around for clue bottles has gone, though. (I kinda missed them.) On the other hand, some new things got thrown in for reasons I can't fathom. Four more playable characters, inclusion of 3D in some levels, and a rather involved pirate boat combat simulator. I did like the storyline of 3, but I didn't like switching to characters with rather different control schemes. At the risk of it being a little spoilerish, Carmelita's controls were the ones that really bugged me. The plane levels were fun - the demo disk for Sly 3 included a version of one of the aerial battles - although I had to pass on the 3D version of the last dogfight since it's harder to tell a red plane from a black plane with anaglyph glasses on. In general, I used the 3D glasses that I had laying around the house for the platforming levels, and passed on it for the boss battles. Had I purchased a new copy of Sly 3, perhaps I would have the exact 3D glasses that I needed, but the ones I had were close enough. I would have liked some sort of calibration screen for the 3D, or a displayable test pattern so I could check that the 3D was set up correctly without having to do it in the middle of a level while perched on a spire someplace. One new thing that they added that was somewhat fun was some cutscenes had a dialogue tree to do - I wouldn't want them to make a whole game of it, it was just fun when they threw it in a few times.

Those of you that have still missed out on these games and have a PS3 can take advantage of the The Sly Collection coming out. I'm sure that it will be easy to render at higher resolution, but I wonder if they're going to keep the 3D the same.

And, for the record, I liked the voice actress for Carmelita Fox in the second game (Alesia Glidewell) the best. And that was without realizing that she plays the protagonist Chell in Valve's Portal!