Thursday, December 30, 2010

SC On Michael Jackson: The Experience (Wii)

I remember when I first saw that this game would in fact exist.  More importantly, I remember my exact reaction being 'Why God, why?'  And this is why:

My favorite part of the presentation was simply how rapid the crowd went from being absolutely ecstatic to dead 'what in the hell are we watching?' silent.  Pro tip, guys: when using dancers to promote a Michael Jackson game, don't waste time with dance moves Michael Jackson didn't use, or throw them at random into a song where he didn't perform them.  Of course, having no gameplay or footage of any kind beyond one shot for the show didn't help matters either.

I didn't care that it was announced a year after he died, nor did I care that Ubisoft had a decent track record in spite of its annual tidal wave of crappy cash-in and/or movie tie-in titles.  All I cared about was that it was a rhythm game with Michael Jackson in it and frankly, that wasn't enough for me, the guy who says 'Michael Jackson?  Yeah, he was alright' and goes about his business hunting monsters and beating up Ippatsuman and Ken the Eagle.


Anyway, time passed and gameplay started showing up, particularly for the Wii version since it was coming out far sooner there than on Kinect.  I will admit, I was intrigued, at least enough to ask for it for Christmas.  And sure enough...

It don't matter if you're BLACK OR WHITE!

Yes, the game comes with a cheaply-made sequined glove, complete with a massive warning not to wear it while playing the game.  Some might view this as a safety precaution against incredibly stupid people who would indeed wear a glove laced with slippery pseudo-rhinestones and hold a Wiimote with it in a game requiring several rapid arm movements, which would inevitably end with the Wiimote buried a couple inches into a wall or TV screen.

I take it as a challenge.

The third-lamest photo of me ever taken.

So, down to business.  Michael Jackson: The Experience is, for all intents and purposes, a Just Dance (Hey, UbiSoft made that too!) game --the visuals, the menus, and the gameplay all done in a similar style--with a song list entirely by one artist.  As such, there aren't as many tracks.  Just Dance 2 has 46 on-disc songs and 17 downloadable tracks.  Michael Jackson: The Experience has 27 (26 if you didn't get it at Wal-Mart) and no DLC.

When you shop for these games, however, you absolutely need to look at the track list and see how many songs in the game you would willingly play more than once.  When I did that for both games the final tally was Just Dance 2 (disc songs only) 14, Just Dance 2 with DLC 19, and Michael Jackson: The Experience 24.  I'm not much of an MJ fan and had to look up most of the songs, but when I did I kept going "Oh, THAT song!" instead of Just Dance 2 which made me repeatedly say "Oh goddamnit, it's that song."  I have since dubbed the MJ side of this Rock Band 3 Syndrome.  I was disappointed that some songs like Jam didn't make the cut, but oh well.  I'll blame the other MJ for that.

Still don't like you.

Another thing to check is where you're planning to play.  This game in particular has slides, spins, and moves that otherwise require a decent amount of space.  As such, you should not be like me and have a space just large enough for a chair and a couple people to stand shoulder-to-shoulder.

Actual shot of my floor.  Exciting, huh?

You might be wondering why I have this game if I'm not a big MJ fan.  Honestly, I just wanted to give one of these types of dance games a shot (outside of Helix) and never managed to find one with a song list I could tolerate until this one.  In fact, I'd say you're better off NOT being a huge Michael Jackson fan going into this game.  Why?  Because this is how I've seen most MJ fans react to the game:

QUIT-YOUR-BITCH-ING! *clap clap clapclapclap*

The amount of complaining about this game among Michael Jackson fans is mind-boggling, despite the on-screen representations and backgrounds staying fiercely loyal to the music videos.  For example, take a look at this clip of Billie Jean from the game:

Every possible nitpick you can imagine has been said about this one song alone: it doesn't match the music video's choreography, the moonwalk animation sucks, he does certain moves in the wrong direction, this isn't an accurate way to learn his routines, he doesn't do certain moves for one song that he did in the videos, etc. etc.

1. The moves are mirrored.  It's easier for the person playing to mirror the movements than follow them exactly.
2. If you REALLY want to nitpick, MJ doesn't start dancing in the Billie Jean music video until almost 2 minutes into the song.  WHERE'S MY REALISTIC BILLIE JEAN EXPERIENCE WHERE I DON'T DO ANYTHING FOR ONE-THIRD OF THE TIME?! WAAAAAAAAH!
3. It's unrealistic at best to expect people to do what MJ did.  Even with the more simplified dance moves in this game, it's still more difficult than just about anything the Just Dance games do, even if you're just doing the upper body movements.  If you want to learn the full routines as he did them on-stage and in music videos, watch those.  Or unlock the routines in the Dance School section.  Or both.

 And hey, what would a dance game be without decent controls?  Well, they suck.  Hard.

Kidding!  I just wanted to know what it felt like to lie like most of the reviewers of this game did.


Honestly, I wonder how many of the reviewers made any attempt to get the game working.  If the controls ARE that bad, then how in the hell are people like me with the dancing ability of a deflated basketball able to record 4 or 5-star scores?  Granted, it took practice to get that high (usually getting 2 or 2.5 stars on first and second attempts), but why shouldn't it when I haven't learned what moves are coming up or how to properly do them?

I did three separate tests on the same song (Smooth Criminal) to see how "bad" the controls are.  One time I was standing and performing the moves, another I was sitting down and mimicking the moves, and the other I was waving the Wiimote around randomly, but in time with the music.  For the first two tests I scored fairly high, around 4.5 stars.  The random waving test got a score just short of two stars.  Basically, if you put any effort into the moves and doing them correctly not only will they register, but they'll typically register as Good or Perfect.

Hint: If the game is only registering your moves as Ok or as an X, DON'T KEEP DOING IT THE SAME WAY!

The SUBTLE! Strikes Back

This disparity in results is in part because of the nature of the game's scoring system.  Each individual move is given a score of Perfect, Good, Ok or X.  The exception are brightly-indicated gold moves, which give 500 points for being done correctly. (Do not miss these.  500 points is a lot in this game.)

One thing I do have to mention is that it's not always apparent how to do certain moves.  This is largely due to the glove Michael's on-screen representation wears, which is so damn shiny you sometimes can't tell what way his hand is facing or what it's doing besides reflecting a shitload of light.  Since the Wiimote is held in the same hand, this forces the player to guess at times what exactly to do until they get it right.  It's a legitimate issue that even the pictograms illustrating which moves are coming up doesn't help.  Fortunately, it's not possible to fail out of a song no matter how bad you're doing.

Something truly unique about the game, though, is its multiplayer.  The game supports up to four players at once, and every player can select either to do the moves for Michael, or one of his back-up dancers, or whoever he's dancing with.  It varies by song, with some songs like Remember the Time being "duets" which involve Michael and the other dancer performing moves together.  I just wish they would have made it so this type of multiplayer was optional and people could play back-up for these particular songs.  Sure, you can let everyone be Michael in a song, so long as you're careful and are willing to risk taking a Wiimote the face.

And yes, this is one of those games that you'll probably feel like a tool if you play it alone.

And yes, you'll probably be exhausted after playing this game for about fifteen minutes.

I'd take these over the Jackson glove.

Now the question remains: is it worth getting?  Well, that depends.  If you like the music in it, if you don't mind being challenged a bit and being forced to move around (and not blame the controls if you fail miserably), and if you're not uptight about doing the exact same routines as in MJ's videos...

I'd still wait for a price drop, or try to get it with a discount or gift card.  There's simply not much to this game in terms of content that warrants paying full price for it, glove or not.  If you're not interested in the training videos and dance guides in the Dance School, that's all the unlockable content that you won't give a shit about.

But hey, as far as dance games are concerned, you can easily do much, much worse.

God help us all.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

It Beckons...

Ohhhhhh ffffffuuuuuuuu-

This is going to be... weird.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Minor Announcement 12/22/10

Here's what's going to happen as far as videos.

While the response from the first part of the Bloody Roar Retrospective has been fairly positive and I am continuing with it (just recorded footage of BR2 earlier) I'm going to do a couple videos in between which I agreed to do for collaborations. That's why I will have another Five Dollar Gaming episode up next, THEN the next part of the BR Retrospective, then another video on a different game, and then the next BRR part.

Of course I'll also have random bullshit in between. Just thought I'd say something so people don't raise the WTF Army when things go down.

And this new computer is absolutely amazing. I can run games on it made beyond 2006. 2006!


Friday, December 3, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Most Selfish Thing I've Ever Written

Call this an emo moment if you want, but I had to post it.  Blame it on my birthday coming up and forcing me to think over things.  Yeah, that'll work.

One thing I consistently try to do is never lose perspective on who or what I am.  To me, at least in terms of what I do video-wise, I'm some guy who posts videos about games and random other crap.  Not only that, nothing I make will ever be good enough to satisfy me.

This is not pessimism.  Rather, it is a double-edged sword with that being one side of the blade.  It can be seen as a deterrent, but it is also a form of motivation.  It drives me to never become complacent with what I do, never slack off or expect anything less from myself but the absolute best I can do.

So, when I looked at the front of my channel page and saw how many people were subscribed to me, I was a bit stunned.  I know that 1,300, much less 1,000 subscribers is considered a drop in the bucket to most video producers on YouTube, but to me that is still a massive number, and it makes me wonder if I would have ever met and/or befriended some of the people I know now--Unreal, Blondy, Wiz, Paige, Angel, Shadowsnake, Zeromaster, just to name some--or where I would be just in general; whether I'd still be in a miserable file room job, or if I'd even have a roof over my head (for which I owe my older brother eternal gratitude).

I'm reminded of something I saw from Youmacon 2010.  I wasn't at the event, but thanks to the miracle of fandom several people caught it.  It was a panel for Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series and Little Kuriboh was wrapping things up when this happened:

I'm not one to state the obvious, Martin, but that goes for more than just abridgers.  If just one person out there watches one of my videos and finds out about a game they come to like, or just gets a chuckle from me making an ass of myself, then all the work that goes into them becomes worth it.  I don't promote myself much, I don't demand people watch my crap, and I've turned down revenue sharing on multiple videos.  I honestly don't know where in the hell most of my subscriber base came from, but it doesn't really matter.

All that does matter is you're here, and so long as you are here I'm going to keep doing what I do and do the best job I can.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Five Dollar Gaming: War Gods (N64)

SPOILER ALERT: There aren't any Gods or wars in the game War Gods.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Five Dollar Gaming: Musashi: Samurai Legend (PS2)

Can Musashi manage to not suck the way most of Square-Enix's games have since 2002? Pop a Viagra and find out!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

SC on Calling (Wii)

(If you're somehow reading this and don't know about it, I did a blind run of this game on my YouTube channel.  Link is relevant.)

Why?  Why why why why WHYYYY?!

Yes.  It's come to this.  I need catharsis goddamnit and you will witness it!

I said at the beginning of the game that I was keeping tabs on Hudson's game quality (or lack thereof).  I was only half-kidding.  With the scars of Bloody Roar 4 that may never heal, I visited Hudson's web site to read yet another "Make Bloody Roar 5" topic and saw them pimping the hell out of this game from last March with ad after ad after ad.  I went into this game with that blind hope I sometimes have that Hudson had learned from their mistakes and that a game will simply be misunderstood or have flown under the radar of critics who were simply meeting a deadline or not paid enough to give the game a positive review.  In related news, I'm an idiot.

Let's play a game: name the last survival horror game Hudson made before Calling.  Answer: <none>.  Strike one!  Now look at the basis for the game: cell phones and ghosts.  Sounds a lot like "One Missed Call" huh?  Only problem is that movie was from 2004, 2008 if you're thinking of the American remake.  Considering as how Hudson is stationed in Japan though, that means they're 6 years behind when this game could have been relevant.  Strike two!  And lastly, let's make sure this game is REALLY scary to American audiences by not translating any of the Japanese that shows up outside of the dialogue so that finding scribbled phrases in lockers or on walls has absolutely no effect on the player.  Strike three!

The Pittsburgh-fucking-Pirates are better than Calling.

Here's the lowdown on Calling's plot.  People have been disappearing after going to this website called The Black Page and talking in the chat room.  How do people find out about this page you might ask?  Simple, it's advertised in an occult magazine.

Two sentences into the story and it's already complete bullshit.  Why is no one investigating the magazine?  Why didn't someone step in the first time people disappeared after going to this site and make the connection?  Who's hosting the web site?  Ghosts?  Do they have ISPs and high-speed servers in whatever void they're in?  Keep in mind there's a counter on the page supposedly showing how many people have died visiting it and after the game's opening cutscene it's at 961 people!  This is stupid beyond stupid.

Actually, let me say all the positive things I can about the game first, just to establish that I'm not entirely against the game.  It controls well.  It takes some getting used to since aiming the Wiimote to the sides of the screen turns, but it works and it works way better than Ju-On the Grudge: Haunted House Simulator ever did.  Running, quick turns, circle-strafing, ducking, looking around rooms, everything controls just great.

There.  Positivity complete.

Where's the sign with an arrow saying "Fuck Off" under it?

It's hard to properly encapsulate just how bad this game really gets, but I'll try.  Remember how, in the great survival horror debate between Silent Hill and Resident Evil, people would talk about how Silent Hill was more about atmosphere and Resident Evil relied too much on jump scares?  Calling is jump scares.  99% jump scares.  You wouldn't necessarily think that about a game where you spend all of your time wandering around dark buildings with and without a flashlight, but that's the case. Jump scares opening doors, jump scares picking up items, even jump scares just from hitting the quick turn button.  Not only that, most of them are painfully predictable.  The ones that's aren't are typically effects that appear at random either while walking around or while quick-turning--small faces appearing for a millisecond, what looks to be some girls hair-covered face falling down one side of the screen--and trust me, this sounds way scarier than it actually is.  Internet screamers, Chris-chan, suicide mouse, and Goosebumps books are all scarier than this.

To "amplify" the effect of these jump scares, most of Calling is played in absolute dead silence.  The only thing you hear for the fair share of the game is your own character's footsteps and a phone ringing now and then.  Now and then there's a clicking sound which I think is the game trying to say "ghosts are doing shit!  Be scared!  WooOOooOOOoOOOOoooo!" but outside of that the only thing close to music is the panic score that plays either when you're caught by a ghost or when a sequence triggers where the character needs to run away for whatever reason.

This picture?  Yeah, it's scarier than Calling.

I keep saying "your character" because it switches over the course of the game.  Four different people are played as: a stupid teenage guy, a stupid girl, an old lady, and Luis Sera... I mean some guy from a newspaper whose friend was stupid, making him stupid by association.  As a result there are four different people and three different stories going on in addition to the overlying idea of The Black Page, meaning plot points get introduced, dropped, picked back up, conflict with other plot points, and get dropped again.  Can you think of anything that would make this design choice worse?

If you said 'Make it so the old lady can't duck, run, or quick turn because we want to be realistic in our game about ghosts in an alternate dimension with teleporting cellphones which is accessed from a chatroom,' you're absolutely right!

I'll be right back.  I need to look up more synonyms for "stupid."

This shirt?  Yeah, it's smarter than anything in Calling.

While typing that last paragraph I accidentally used the word 'innovative' instead of realistic and quickly deleted it.  This was entirely necessary because what was "original" was a cliche mess of a story with mind-numbingly boring gameplay, and what wasn't was borrowed from every Japanese horror movie with a little dead girl in it.  Hair comes out of the wall and holds doors shut on several occasions, and this game is actually reminding me that the Ju-On Wii game also sucked, but I would have finished it much faster which makes it far superior in my book.

Then I get to a house where the game rips off the Ju-On movie.  A long-haired dead pseudo-ghost girl crawls down a staircase while spazzing like Kayako in The Grudge.  This is never explained or mentioned again after it happens.  Suddenly there are not enough expletives in the world to encapsulate how much I hate this game.

Oh, but I've just been dodging the REAL issue so far.  Gameplay!  Or what little there is!  TALLY HO!

Cool Cat getting hammered?  WAY more entertaining than Calling.

 Try this: think of something that you may or may not actually own.  Now get up and look around the house for it.  While doing this, open the same closets and desk drawers several times hoping it magically appears there.  This is the bulk of Calling's gameplay.  The game has random notes, files, and puzzle items scattered around its different locations, several of which are found by looking through drawers and cabinets or exploring dead ends.  For completionists or anyone trying to make sense of the plot, that means going through every drawer, cabinet, locker, and closet to get a slight clue of what's going on or a little backstory about certain people.  Shenmue did the very same thing, and it didn't work well then either.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, however, the drawer/locker/cabinet/closet will have the exact same contents as the last twenty drawers/lockers/cabinets/closets.  I lost track of how many brooms there were in the school after finding them in every single goddamn locker I could open.  I still don't know if this is as lazy a design choice as finding absolutely nothing in most of the desk drawers and cabinets.

Oh, and sometimes there will be some untranslated Japanese scribbled neatly inside the drawer/locker/cabinet/closet which means absolutely nothing to anyone who can't read it since none of the characters can examine it to tell us what it means.

OH MY GOD HE THINKS CALLING IS SCARY- oh wait no he's just yawning.

The phone itself, aside from dialing and receiving calls, can record EVPs (ghosts talking) in specific places, take pictures, and receive (but not send) messages.  In the beginning there are a couple different phones that the characters find, but after a few levels everyone seems to find the same bland, off-white cell phone in every location they visit.  I'm chalking this up to laziness because the game clearly states that when a person calls a number to teleport the phone gets left behind and a person can't call their own number.

Wait a minute.  There are a few times when a character gets called by either a ghost or another character.  How come the ghost/character doesn't teleport to them?  And why don't they just call the phone numbers of their friends outside of the abyss they're in?  Whose cell phones are these?  And how come they were brought into the abyss but not the cell phones of the people we saw in the chat r-STUPID!  STUPID!  STUPID!

... Somehow not as stupid as Calling.

 When a ghost DOES show up and grabs whoever the player is, this triggers a "fright event," which is possibly the lamest name they could have given it.  The idea is to shake the Wiimote and enter a button queue to fend off the ghost before it depletes the "horror meter," otherwise known as "Resident Evil health indicator with more wavy lines."  In true Hudson fashion, this doesn't work for a few reasons:

1. It looks like the ghost is groping you to death.
2. The horror meter regenerates.
3. You need to let the ghost attack for a long time for the horror meter to actually go... down? ... up? ... uh... be more wavy and turn red.
4. The ghosts can attack multiple times within a short time span and do absolutely nothing to the horror meter.  They're literally nothing more than a waste of time, and
5. The button queue.  Is always.  The same.  Fucking.  Button.

Ladies and gentlemen, behold your new god!

And just when I think this game can't possibly screw up any more than it already has, I beat the game the first time and find that the game doesn't stop.  It keeps going, but this time it goes back through all the events of the story in order.

I'm going to repeat that.

The first playthrough of the game has the events of the story intentionally out of order.  Playing through it a second time shows everything in order.

Fuck you, Hudson.

No caption necessary.  Oh wait...

What's the logic behind this?  If we confuse the hell out of the player they'll have to play it again to figure out what's happening?  No!  Get it right the first time you morons!  Your extras should not be shit that belongs in the core of the game!  I don't care that some chapters are new.  I don't care that the repeated chapters are skippable.  I don't give two shits about the lady in red or how some jump scares are in slightly different places.  Don't tell me I'm done, then show me the other half of the game like I was just beta-testing your game for the first few hours.

Even then the final revelation STILL doesn't make sense.  You're telling me the little girl is the cause of the void these people are getting trapped in?  How?  How long has this been going on to the point where she's claimed over 900 people?!  Were people disappearing before then and if so why wasn't this explained?  Why does the little girl have cat eyes?  Why is she always carrying around the cat doll?  Why does the ending have to not only make Rin look fucking stupid but the little girl look like a stupid, conniving bitch for continuing to be a stupid, conniving bitch after getting catharsis, making her peace and not doing jack shit about it?

I don't drink... but sometimes I wish I did.

Do I even need to spell out a final verdict on this game?  It's awful.  It's an insult to horror movie and game fans, Wii owners, cell phones, fat people, and Japanese cinema.  Any given episode of Jackass has more thought put into it than this game.  My Wii hates me for having played it at all.  I can tell by the way the wired connection has been acting up and the sudden appearance of a Mii named YDIDUDOIT with long black hair and soulless eyes.

It's official.  My Wii is scarier than Calling now.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

SC on Deadly Premonition (360)

I can't properly put into words my exact motivations for buying this game, but I'll give it a shot.  Deadly Premonition is one of those games that I've heard about since it came out, and when I say I've heard about it I mean I've heard every kind of reaction to the game possible, including some I'd never heard before.  It's the best!  It's the worst!  It's mediocre!  It's a plague upon your houses!  It's Godzilla!  It's a brickhouse, just letting it all hang out!  It's a spicy meatball!  It's the economy, stupid!  It's eating her!  And then it's going to eat me!


I'm one of those people who doesn't trust a word any reviewer says, no matter how credible the person may (not) be.  So when I saw people bashing, standing up for, burning crosses on the front lawn of, and making sandwiches for this game I said "Screw you all, I'm playing this."  It was a budget release too, so in the end it cost me 20 dollars to put everyone else's bullshit aside and see the game for myself.

... Perhaps not "see" so much as "experience."

Deadly Premonition revolves around FBI Agent Francis York Morgan, who has been called in to help solve a case involving the murder of a teenage girl found nearly naked and hanging from a tree by her arms.  Oh, and she's split open from stem to sternum.  And the first people to find the body were two six-year old boys.  Enter our hero!

My scarred face sense is tingling...

Francis is, in all seriousness, one of my favorite video game characters of all time.  I can't begin to count the ways he is awesome, but I'll name a couple while trying to avoid spoilers.

The main selling point on Francis is this: he is clearly either schizophrenic or just plain insane. (You find out why he acts the way he does later.  Like I said, no spoilers.) He constantly has conversations with an unknown and unseen person he calls Zach. (No, it's not who you think it is) These talks range from details of past and present cases to movies like "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" to the Tom and Jerry cartoons.  Not only that, he will sometimes slip up and chat with Zach in front of other people as though only he and Zach were there.  He will even act on clues or "hunches" that he gets from Zach in the middle of a case.
His craziness goes beyond Zach, though.  He has lots of strange habits such as tapping a finger on his tie when he thinks or introducing himself to people with the exact same three-sentence introduction, word-for-word, every time.  He smokes, but he tends to puff on a cigarette a few times, put it out, and stuff it back in the carton.  Perhaps one of his strangest routines is his morning coffee, which to him acts like a fortune teller.

No really, he says "F.K. in the coffee."  I couldn't make that up.

Francis (I'll call him York from now on.  Everyone calls him York, or so he says.) is far from the only person in the game who has odd little quirks.  The old lady running the inn he stays in (where he is the only guest) sets him at the end of a massive table and herself opposite him because she wants to use the whole space of the dining room.  One of the officers at the police station, in addition to being a bit of a neat freak, has a vast amount of knowledge on squirrels and similar rodents and makes biscuits that even York approves highly of, which is no small feat considering how particular he is about biscuits... and coffee.  Everyone in the town of Greenvale has something that makes them truly unique to everyone else (aside from the five or six generic character models that fill the background in various spots), which is something I don't really see a lot of, or at least not done well, in games.

Don't fuck this batch up or so help me God...

And I'll end the character rant on this.  Whoever voiced York deserves an award.  Make one up if you have to because this guy took the role and played it as well as or better than any A-list voice actor could have.  The acting for the rest of the characters runs the gamut from kind of bad to pretty good, but York was amazing to listen to.

Ah, now for the gameplay.  This is where things get a bit muddled for most people.  The gameplay of Deadly Premonition contains a lot of little things that can continually add up and piss off the player.  Here's a list of these little things that can be seen in the game's first cutscene and over-the-shoulder sequence:

-Most of the background graphics are horribly outdated.  The first thing I noticed when the cutscenes started in a forest was that the trees all had flat branches, like something from an N64 game.  Unsurprisingly, when I caved in and looked at the negative reviews this was what reviewers penalized the game for more than anything.  Remember, kids.  It doesn't matter if your game plays well or tells a good story, it just has to look pretty.

Oh, how did this get here?

-Handgun ammo is unlimited and most enemies can be killed in four or five shots to the head.  While the enemies are creepy, they tend to be slow and the left trigger's lock-on makes them easy to hit.
-The enemies can become a bit repetitive, though I'm not expecting El Gigante or the executioner to jump into the story for some bullshit reason
-York will only keep his weapon drawn for about six or seven seconds.  If he doesn't use it or at least aim with it in that time, he puts it away automatically.  This can lead to tapping the aim trigger every five steps just to make sure he doesn't put it away as an enemy spots him.
-There is strafing, but there is no circle-strafing.
-York can only back up in a straight line.  Trying to turn while backing up does nothing.
-The framerate on the enemies, just the enemies, drops when they're at a certain distance.  Actually, just saying it drops is an understatement.
-Aiming is a bit stiff.  It's as though York's arms build momentum as the control stick is moved in one direction and when released they suddenly stop.
-Sometimes the music seems out of place, particularly the more jazzy tracks going on in the middle of a murder investigation.
-York has a ridiculously goofy running animation.  This becomes way more apparent later on when going up and down stairwells.
-Most enemies look a lot like the Joker from "The Dark Knight."

Still, there are little things about the gameplay to like.  York can sidestep while aiming his weapon (take THAT, Resident Evil 5!).  Switching weapons in real time is easy to do by tapping up and down on the D-pad, with the guns and melee weapons each grouped together to avoid one getting mixed with the other.  There's a toolbox extra items and weapons can go to, and both can be sent there the moment they're found.  Enemies not only need headshots to efficiently kill quickly, but move in to attack York in different ways.  Some walk forward with their arms blocking their face, some walk backwards, some turn around, bend back until they're a foot-and-a-half from the ground, and "limbo" their way forward, and some prefer not to move as much because they have guns.  Lock-on only targets the head when enemies do the "limbo" style attack, so the player can't just abuse the lock-on all the time.  By the way, you will want to get headshots because both killing enemies and scoring headshots earns an extra money bonus at the end of each chapter, on top of York's unpaid wages for doing his job.  This money can go to buying guns, food, medicine, coffee and what have you.  Said money can also be lost for doing such unprofessional things as wrecking cars and vandalizing the town.  Money bonuses are everywhere, so don't get too down about getting penalized once or twice.

That and you'll get jumped later on by two or three enemies at a time and need to be efficient about killing or avoiding them.  There's more to this game than a lot of people (and reviewers) are willing to give it credit for.

Speaking of which, here are some things you may not know about Deadly Premonition if you've only heard passing opinions on it.

1. There are driving parts.

 "That launch ramp is enticing.  Don't you agree, Zach?"

I know.  I was shocked, too.

Make no mistake.  Grand Theft Auto this is not.  York mostly drives a cop car from the sheriff and, unless he goes downhill, typically doesn't go faster than 60 miles-per-hour.  In other words, he drives like a sane human being (ironic, huh?), except for where the police siren is on which acts like a turbo boost... to 65 miles-per-hour.  It's more of a way to boost acceleration than speed.  Each car also has indicators for how much gas it has and how much damage it can take.  I didn't understand the latter until I realized there was a statistic in this game for number of cars wrecked.  That on top of stats for cigarettes smoked, number of times York shaved, and time spent peeping make this game... special.  In more ways than one.

Back to the driving, the car's handling tends to be very stiff. Most turning needs to be done either at very low speeds or with the handbrake to avoid crashing into everything, and the handbrake tends to make the car do a 180 regardless of speed or steering.  The handbrake takes a LOT of practice to be able to use properly, but after a few racing sections (yes, they exist too) it becomes easier, if not a little picky about how long to hold the button at certain speeds.

And I might as well mention it now.  The map system sucks.  There's an overworld map in the menu which, instead of always facing one direction, constantly switches direction so that York is facing north.  This caused me to get very lost early on, and I would have noticed it sooner except that the map can't zoom out very far at all.  It also doesn't mark key places like the police station, diners, bars, or the gun shop, but on the in-game "radar" these places show up as marked when York is near them.  At times I found simply trying to find and drive to someone's house in the woods or remembering where the inn or the hospital were to be some of the most frustrating parts of the game.

2. There are chase scenes.

What happens here is the screen splits between one large shot of York and a smaller shot of whoever or whatever is chasing him while button cues appear to run, evade, open doors, or push objects.  There are also times when York needs to hide and hold his breath (that's how some enemies see people).  Running happens the most, and since running tends to be shaking the control stick left and right these can become exhausting.

But that's the idea.  You're being chased by a serial killer!

 I'll never look at Jawas the same again.

These chases tend to last at least a few minutes and, if you do get caught, there's still a chance to escape and keep running.  It's far from unforgivable and adds a level of dread to confronting the killer, even if he does have a fetish for chokeslamming York on sight every single time and there's a small voice in the back of my head saying 'Why doesn't York just shoot the guy?'

The one real issue with these scenes is that the framerate tends to drop.  Noticeably.  Very noticeably.  It doesn't hinder the gameplay, but it doesn't do it any favors either, as I've noticed in the reviews.

3. There are quizzes.

Here is where I argue that this game is a survivor-horror title with the elements of a murder mystery adventure game, like In the 1st Degree and other similar games from that era.  Naming that game just made me realize how old I am.  Goddamn.

Okay, maybe not THAT old.

At a few points in the game York has to type up a report on a Typewriter-brand typewriter (no joke).  As this goes on he recounts all the details and events of the investigation to that point.  This typically happens at the end of an "Episode" which is divided into anywhere from one to seven chapters.  The last couple episodes are the shortest while the first few are the longest, and there are seven episodes in all.

Anyway, while he goes over these events he will randomly ask Zach about certain details, to which the player must select the right answer from three different choices.  I would say what happens when a question is answered wrong, except I've never had that problem.  Even though the first episode took me a little more than a week and a half to finish, I still got all the questions right.  Basically if you pay even a shred of attention to what's going on, you'll ace the quizzes.

By the way, it took me about eight hours of play to finish the first episode.  I've played this game more on the first playthrough than I did going through the Resident Evil remake four times, and I've rarely felt like the game was dragging on.

4. There are side quests.

At several points in Deadly Premonition York needs to go somewhere or meet someone at a certain time of day.  This leaves sizable gaps of time, amplified by the fact that one minute in-game is somewhere between twenty and thirty seconds real-time.  Sure, you COULD just have York go to sleep until it's time to go wherever he needs to-

Oh, right.  There's a rest bar and a hunger bar that indicate how tired or hungry York is, and letting York get too tired reduces his ability to run or hide as long as he could.  Keeping these up isn't particularly difficult as there are plenty of beds, plenty of places selling food, plenty of places to find food (though I'm suspicious of the turkey sandwich and smoked salmon I found in the abandoned lumber mill), and certain foods and drinks that raise the rest bar, hunger bar, or both.

Fully rested!  YATTA!

Side quests.  That's what I was talking about right? Well, throughout the game there are places to go and people to talk to.  Doing so sometimes triggers a side quest which involves finding something, moving objects, playing darts, fishing, or even clearing another "other world" level.  These actually can be fairly important as some not only reveal details about the people in town and their potential involvement with the murder, but at times also yield some important items.  One in particular is the Radio, which allows Yorks to warp to certain places.  Most quests give trading cards of people and things in Greenvale, which isn't so bad considering that each card collected gives a $200 bonus.

My radio > your radio.

Holy shit this is a long entry.  I guess I'll wrap it up by saying this:

Deadly Premonition is a flawed game.  It's far from perfect.  Just looking at it, it's clear to see that it's a budget title.

Possibly the best budget title ever made.

I have not been able to turn away from this game since I started playing it.  The characters, the story, and the variety o gameplay, despite its errors, make it an engaging experience.  This is one of those games that proves that an engaging story can not only save, but make worth while what would otherwise be an average or even crappy game.


I've bought games for $50 or $60 that didn't entertain me nearly as much as Deadly Premonition has, but I finished them out of feeling like, for that price, I had to.  I'm finishing Deadly Premonition because I want to, and to me that says a lot.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

SC Says Things to Intentionally Piss Off Gamers

This is the closest thing you'll see to me raging about games.  That or this could just be trolling.  Whatever.  Without further adoo...

1. Regenerating health in a first-person shooter is fucking stupid.

That's not to say regenerating health can't work in a game.  I hate Halo, but its regenerating health makes sense because it's a regenerating SHIELD, not health.  Games where you're playing someone not human, superhuman, or even a regular human wearing some sort of gear or a suit that protects and heals the body all make sense to have regenerating health.  Even then, some games have regenerating health, but it regenerates slowly so the player still has to think out their next move or (I've seen people do this) wait up to five minutes for their health to completely regenerate.

Games like Modern Warfare 2?  No.

Games like the first Red Steel?  No.

Yes, I did just compare Modern Warfare 2 to Red Steel.  Deal with it.

The worst part of this is that I know people who can't play an FPS that DOESN'T have regenerating health.  These are the same people who bitch and moan about finding and/or using health packs.  Newsflash: if you can wait behind a wall for ten seconds to get health back, you can take ten seconds to walk back or open a menu and grab/use a health pack.  If you were getting shot so much that you used all of them, that's not the game's problem.  When did gamers become such giant, idiotic pussies?

Can Duke Nukem just cock punch these morons already?

It's bad enough that the FPS genre is watered down as hell; the game industry has released on average more than one new FPS game per month for the past six years.  Having to deal with these people is just the icing on the painfully-annoying cake.

 2. Xenosaga is a sleeping pill shaped like a game.

I actually like a fair amount of RPGs, but this has to be said.  RPGs are boring.  If you're not the one playing the RPG, it becomes ten times as boring.  Every time I go on YouTube and see "Let's Play Final Fantasy <insert number here> Part <insert number above 200 here>" listed I bookmark it in my Having Trouble Sleeping folder.  This tends to backfire as most of the people doing these videos are mind-numbingly annoying jackholes doing the LP for their own satisfaction while raping their mics with their pseudo-human voices.

Xenosaga takes that self-masturbatory attitude and converts it into ass-backwards objectives that serve no real purpose and cutscenes that manage to both suck in quality and make every character look and sound like mindless, soulless, emotionless husks saying words simply for the sake of saying words.  I've had many a sleepless night since first playing the game, but never to the point where I would play it again or look up footage of it.  After all, when I go to sleep I want to wake up less than 24 hours later.

KOS-MOS, the half-naked robot girl, is what most people remember from Xenosaga.  
Gee, I wonder why?

 3. Gamers hate originality.

I think my thoughts on this can be summed up by Tommy Lee Jones in this scene from Men In Black.  See if you can figure out which part I'm talking about:

For those playing the home game, the quote is "A person is smart.  People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it."  By the same token, a gamer likes creative new titles.  Gamers, however, are weak-willed sheep afraid to operate outside their comfort zone and dismiss anything new a game does because it isn't like what they've already seen.  For example, think of how many of the biggest and most popular releases in the past year have been for games that are sequels or spin-offs to an already-popularized series.

It's not to say original titles DON'T get recognized or promoted, but they certainly tend to fall by the wayside for a more noticed "brand" of game.  It's partially because gamers don't take the initiative and partially because of the companies making the games.  A sequel is, for the most part, a safe title to produce.  The question then becomes, who is more to blame: the companies for not promoting or making original material, or the gaming masses for consuming the same old shit?

Think about it, because the companies sure as hell don't want you to.

See what I did there?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

SC on Monster Hunter Tri (Wii)

I will make this perfectly clear right now.  Before this game, I had never played any of the Monster Hunter games.  I didn't even know the series existed until I saw this:

A game with some armored guy wielding a giant sword taking down huge monsters left and right? How could I NOT like a game like this? (Don't get ahead of me)

Since I don't own a PSP, or any handhelds beyond the GameBoy Advance, and the PS2 games are simply impossible to find around here, I took a huge chance and got Monster Hunter Tri shortly after it came out.  No, the pseudo-Scottish guy from the commercials didn't tell me to do it.


Let's get one thing clear about Tri (I'm too lazy to type the whole title) right now.  If you don't like to be challenged by a game or otherwise forced to pick apart your enemies with your mind just as much as your weapon, Tri is not for you.  In fact, Monster Hunter in general is not for you.  I cannot stress enough how difficult this game can get.

However, the learning curve for the game isn't too bad.  In single player the game takes you through how to make weapons and armor, fight, combine items, get and handle quests, fight monsters, gather and farm items, etc. before facing any of the "boss" monsters.  In multiplayer... well, play single player first.  No, really.  Do it.  Besides, single player's armor and weapon progression (not to mention the upgrades to the farm and fishing fleet) pretty much supports and leads into the multiplayer, where the monsters are stronger.

"I have to CARVE the monster?!"

 The plot of Tri isn't really important, especially in multiplayer, but there is one in single player so I might as well mention it.  You play an upstart hunter who's been called to a small village off the coast of an otherwise deserted island.  A series of recent earthquakes has the villagers frightened and their homes falling apart.  They blame the earthquakes on a large sea monster called the Lagiacrus, and you've been brought in to (eventually) take it down, as well as other monsters in about six different areas.  It gets more complex than that once you face the Lagiacrus, but I'd rather not spoil anything.

Needless to say, the object of the game is to get the best weapons and armor possible to hunt increasingly more difficult monsters.  The former is particularly important because there isn't any sort of leveling system in Tri.  All your stats come from the armor you wear and the weapon you carry.  As such, level grinding doesn't exist... but has been replaced with armor grinding.

You're doing it wrong.

Armor grinding only gets particularly bad later on in the game's multiplayer when the second tier of armors become available.  These tend to require at least one very rare (as in 5% chance of getting them or less) item to drop from the monster either by being carved from it or received in the rewards after completing a quest, and can only be found against the advanced forms of the monster.  Considering as how some of these quests can end up cutting it close to the 50-minute limit, this can take awhile.

Essentially, a little under half of multiplayer's quests are fighting the same monsters as before, but stronger and able to take more hits.  It comes off as a bit of a cop out, but at the same time there are two monsters in these later quests not seen anywhere else.  Said monsters will be referred to as Nightmare A and Nightmare B from now on.

Fighting monsters handles pretty smoothly regardless of controller choice.  While my friends tend to use classic controllers for Tri, I've always used the Wii Remote and had few issues with it.  The only problem with the remote is whether or not you're disciplined enough to know how you're holding it as certain attacks are triggered by tilting it up or twisting it in either direction and pressing the attack button.  It sounds awkward, but by the time the bigger monsters come around it's practically second nature.  Or at least it should be, if you don't want to get your ass chewed off.

Fun fact: Your hunter is almost as tall as Nightmare A's ankle.

Still, some aspects of the game can be difficult to grasp even with experience, such as fighting monsters underwater.  Dodging in particular can be difficult to do properly (as in not directly into the monster) and the ability for swimming monsters to be in front of, behind, above, AND below you means moving the camera constantly to keep track of what's going on.  Speaking of which, never back yourself into a corner or against the wall.  The camera tends to spaz out and either tilt down over the hunter's head or clip through the scenery, essentially blinding the player.  Then again, if you've backed yourself into a corner you're playing this game entirely wrong.

And now I present to you a brief list of things I didn't know about Tri until a Monster Hunter veteran told me so:

-Tri has fewer weapons than other Monster Hunters.  Weapons like the dual swords, gunlance, and bow aren't present, but it hardly seems to matter.  What weapons are in Tri (sword & shield, great sword, long sword, hammer, lance, switch axe, and bowgun) provide a solid variety of attack styles based on what they can or can't do.  For example, Great Swords do more damage than Long Swords, but Long Swords can perform faster attacks and are more combo-centric.  The trade-off (well, one of them) is that Long Sword users can't block while Great Sword users can.
-While several of the monsters are original like Uragaan and Nightmare A, Rathalos and Rathian have been in the series for awhile and some monsters are based on others in the series, like Gigginox and Barioth.  Some have similar attacks while others are just similar in appearance.
- Past Monster Hunters had the ability to farm minerals and ore in addition to plants, seeds, and bugs.  Tri doesn't have mineral/ore farming.
-Tri is the first Monster Hunter with underwater combat.  The next Monster Hunter, Portable 3rd, won't have it, possibly the result of endless bitching from a bunch of wussies who flip the fuck out when they can't figure out how a goddamn D-pad/control stick works.
This isn't rocket science.

 Single player, while not necessary to play, does offer a few weapons, one big-ass elder dragon, and an armor class that can't be found in multiplayer.  It has two different types of gameplay: quests and free hunt.  Free hunt is simply walking out of the village and hunting whatever monsters show up.  One of the villagers offers both a forecast of what smaller and bigger monsters will show up at what time in addition to taking reports of what you've hunted and converting the kills into resource points, which allow use of the farm and fishing fleet, and various commodities used for trading, selling,and combining with other items to make more rare (and useful) items.  The farm in particular becomes very useful as, when its upgraded fully, it can pump out ingredients for Mega Potions (read: your new God) faster than even the dumbest hunter can use them.

No, I'm not bitter about encountering random idiots online.  What makes you think that?

The thing about Tri is this: what sets apart good hunters from bad hunters isn't how strong their weapons and armor are (though that certainly helps), but how well they can read what a monster will do.  Multiplayer makes it easy to see which hunters have been held by the hand by other hunters so they could get better armor, since items of a certain rarity (particular in armor and weaponcraft) can't be traded.

Monsters in Tri move in a very specific way that tips off what attack they'll perform, and the pattern tends to go like this: the less time a hunter has to react to the attack, the less damage it does overall.  Things like tail sweeps and standard charges don't do nearly as much damage as, say, getting dive-bombed by a flying snow tiger, caught in a massive electrical surge, rolled over by a monster made of stone and exploding ore, or taking a fireball to the face.  Reading these moves is arguably more important than having good armor.  I only mention this because in a video I posted a while ago I fought the first three large monsters of the game using a strong sword, but wearing leather armor, which is weak even by beginner's standards.  Getting hit twice by the latter two monsters would have killed me or come close to it, but because I could read their attacks and didn't pin myself against the wall I successfully took down all three of them.

Better the helpless herbivore than me!

If the single player and multiplayer get tiring there's also an offline Arena, which also shows up in multiplayer.  Two hunters (or one, if you're the daring type) pick a monster in a closed-off area, either in a land arena or a water arena.  Each hunter picks from one of a few presets of weapons and armor and has 50 minutes to kill whatever's waiting for them.  Personally, I find this to be much more difficult than the other modes of play for one particular reason.  In single and multiplayer you can pick and choose armors and weapons that work specifically against whatever monster you're facing.  In Arena mode the hunter's armor and weapon tends to be on equal ground with the monster.  And considering as how the monster is almost always much bigger, stronger, and faster than the hunter, this can very easily turn ugly.

I did an image search for "ugly" and this guy showed up.

I believe that Tri is one of those games that, even if you think you'll hate it, everyone should at least give a shot.  Rent it.  Play it at a friend's house.  Just give it a chance.  I know people who have ranted and cursed and screamed bloody murder about how the game cheats to kill them (it doesn't) and yet two months later not only are they still playing it, but they've almost completed the entire game. 

In summation, Tri is the badass equivalent of Mario Golf; tends to be frustrating, but is utterly satisfying when you succeed.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I don't know.

All I know is that I've wanted to do some form of reviewing beyond what I do on YouTube and Blip.  Writing was what got me into that in the first place, so I set up this blog as a sort of general update place because:

1. I do want to do some written reviews to compliment what I already do, as they're easier to produce and can help out for time gaps between videos, and
2. It's way more simple than doing update videos all the time.

So there you go.  I'm actually working on a written review now, so it shouldn't be too long before that or my next video shows up here.