Friday, April 30, 2010

Maybe LucasArts was involved.

First, a confession.

I was one of those people who actually forked over the money for a Panasonic 3DO Interactive Multi player. Aside from re-releases of old laser disc games it did have a few gems, namely arcade perfect ports of Super Street Fighter II and Samurai Showdown. When I found an adapter that let me use Super Nintendo controllers instead of daisy chaining the lumps of unusable plastic it came with, I was set. Since then I have at least messed around with all of the Samurai Shodowns, with three being the best. I was never any good at the series, but it had recognizable cast the same way Street Fighter did. Haomaru was my main, and he is who I started out with when I booted up Samurai Shodown Sen.

The translation from 2D to 3D has, to be kind, not gone well. But since I am not kind I will say that it is an abomination, a blight on the name of what had been a pretty good alternative to Capcom offerings, and if this is the kind of junk that SNK Playmore is going to let out of it doors then they should have stayed closed. It doesn't look like Samurai Showdown, it doesn't play like it, and it really shouldn't even share the same name. Take Soul Edge, remove most of the moves, make it more difficult to dodge to to side, and you have this game. Haomaru even looks like Mitsurugi after a bender (which, I suppose, he always did, so shame on you Namco). Other iconic characters are either missing (Earthquake and Gen An) or have been remodeled into unrecognizabilty. Even the blood that was a staple of the early games has been toned down. I will admit that ending a fight with a solid blow, severing an arm, head, or torso, is a fine addition, but that it about the only nice thing I have to say.

They even messed up the time period: the entire world seems to have jumped from the middle ages to the old west, with an infuriating final boss that wields a shotgun. I will say it again: in a game full of sword wielding characters the last fight in story mode is with a Young Guns refugee who can juggle you from across the screen with up to eight successive shotgun blasts. I wasted almost thirty minutes trying to beat him before giving up and trying to find a match online before mailing it away. I didn't, which means I may have been the only sucker to ever play the game. Oh well, at least I have a good game to go back to; a game that had the sense to keep the fighting on a 2D plane in spite of the new development time frame friendly models being made out of polygons. This is why Capcom still exists under the same ownership instead of having died and painfully resurrected by a toy company.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

They come out of the woodwork.

Ranked mode in Super Street Fighter IV is full of absolute noobs right now. All the better for me to abuse with shenanigans, and I make no apology for it. I am not the only one who has had this idea, though, as I have run into more other Blanka's than usual. The scariest part is one or two of them have been okay. Then there was the one who spammed electricity, never figuring out that I could slide at him every time for free hits. This wonderland of combo practice is only partially because the game is so new; most people who are any good don't bother with ranked and are just playing one another in lobbies, meaning having a great ranking number is the just being the best of the worst. Still, as Milton said, it is better to rule in hell than to server in heaven. Heaven being where people beat on you with Juri wake up pinwheels and ridiculous Dudley combos, and hell is full of flow chart Kens and lariat spam.

As much as I like Street Fighter, other games are still demanding my attention. Samurai Showdown Sen with get an hour or so tonight, no longer. Just enough time to run through the story mode once with Haomaru and try to find an online match. If the net code is the same as King of Fighters XII was there will be no reason to give it any more time than that. One of the long weekend evenings has to be spent on Final Fantasy XII, as for some reason I cannot identify I care about what is going on and if the breaks between sessions get to long I will never go back. Then again maybe I just want to admire the excellent afro physics, which really are a sight to behold. Sazh has made a few interesting decisions in the first half of the game, one being opting to not kill one of the most annoying characters in a Final Fantasy ever (something that I will not forgive him for) but he is still the best reason to keep going. How can you say no to this face?

I wonder if he is going to eat that.

Make him skinnier and give him a filthy mouth and he could pass for Richard Pryor. How can I lose?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Three hours of impressions.

After one day of Super Street Fighter IV, I have the following observations:

Dhalsim - Improved by not being changed at all. Dhalsim was the only original character to not receive a damage nerf on his normals. This is huge as the vast majority of his hits (at least when I play him) are annoying little pokes to keep people away. If I can figure out the instant air teleport he may be a solid second.

Blanka - Almost unchanged. LP horizontal ball has a much shorter distance, which means I will have to relearn my ball-bite fake outs. His biggest advantage right now is that the game is full to the brim with people who don't know his tricks. I have several weeks, if not months, of people to abuse. I am a terrible person for doing this, but I have to enjoy it while it lasts.

Honda - LP torpedo seems better. I will never (ever) be able to do his Ultra II.

Adon - I really want to like him, but his normals don't have much range and his entire offense seems to be built around quick in and out combos for big damage. This would be fine, only I have a really hard time pulling off his FADC into Ultra combo. This is what killed Rufus for me, and I am determined to push through it for Adon.

I tried T Hawk and got killed because I cannot do circle motions for command throws. I tried Makoto and got killed because her normals don't make a damn bit of sense to someone who never played much Street Fighter 3. I tried Guile and he sucks significantly less, but his new easier to actually use ultra isn't much good and his shades offer no bonus beyond looking cool. Which is enough, I suppose.

Too much hype.

Got too much hype last night and forgot to upload the post.

My plans to not work today have fallen through, so I will spend the day thinking about playing instead of actually playing. Impressions later.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Midpoint confusion.

Final Fantasy XIII has a very clear middle point: a gigantic battle that took me around twenty minutes to slog through (five star time was under 10, and I have no idea how it could have gone that fast). Usually this kind of preview climax comes with some sort of plot revelation. Square has decided to put any sort of real information off even further. All I got was a ‘bad’ guy that I could not kill, who may not actually be a bad guy, who implies that the party are the bad guys, but encourages them to go about their evil business anyway. Final Fantasy XIII has turned into a trip to a high end art museum: I am there for the sites and the sites alone and have stopped trying to assign any meaning to anything.

The excitement for Super Street Fighter VI is excruciating. Many people have been able to obtain early copies now, putting me behind on a game that for all intents and purposes came out today. If I was still considering the pilgrimage to the Midwest Championships this would bother me. Being beaten soundly by Abel and Bison players has cured me of that. I have much to learn before any such event would be worth it, and the first part would be playing with people in person. And aye, there’s rub. I am not in college anymore, I have no real life friends who still make time for videogames, and actually looking for people to play with when I am somewhere in my thirties is liable to get me a starring role on Dateline. (Say no to bro-rape!) It’s a pickle, one that I will cure with mediocre skills and other games.

In what is truly terrible timing, Samurai Showdown Sen shipped out. Playing it will be incredibly painful, and it doesn’t even have Gen An in it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cross countered!

A modern tragedy.

I had a few moments after work to stab in the dark and try to obtain a street broken Super Street Fighter IV. My first thought was Target. They have games, but no one buys them there. People who work in their electonics department know nothing about games. The odds were good! And sure enough, on a display just behind the un-manned media counter were copies of the game locked into some bizarre case that was incinvinient to everyone, workers included. The register bicuit found me, asked me if I needed any help. I just pointed at the game and made some gutteral noise about buying it and fighting in the streets. He made a pasing comment about just getting these new, obnoxious displays the night before, then proceded to jam his key in the lock.

Register biscuit called for a supervisor, who was apparently supervising something on the other end of the state. Eventually she arrived, showed the biscuit how to use a key (amazing!) and he was ready to ring me up. My credit card was leaping out of my wallet when he stopped, looked a little embarassed, and confessed that he could not sell the game to me.

'I don't know who put this out, but I can't sell in until tomorrow.'

Register biscuit just made the evolutionary leap to register monkey at the expense of my street fighting. I was too furious to even make a scene.

One more evening of Final Fantasy XIII, which isn't all bad. Everyone complaining that the story is too linear must have never played a Final Fantasy before.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Beginning anew.

As much as it pains me to admit it, maining Blanka is going to do me no favors in Super Street Fighter IV. I will never abandon him, as his style suits by lackluster execution just fine, but I really do need to branch out. Adon holds much interest, mostly because everything he does is gratingly annoying. After watching videos he will be someone I try to learn out of the new crew, but one of the old stand bys may be coming back. Every one got a damage nerf in Super. Everyone except Dhalsim, that is. I really enjoyed Dhalsim in HDR, but his rush down game is completly absent in the IV. It's not really back in Super, as far as I can tell, but the drills should be good for a little more than dodging things now. Some much of Dhalsim's game is just long distance poking followed up by ultra nonsense that his damage being increased by comparison is a huge bonus.

So I spent quite a bit if time with the skinny man in ranked battles last night and this morning. I am avoiding championship for now because taking my terrible Dhalsim into G2-A would not be a good idea. Even still, all the flow chart Kens and scrubby Ryu's (and Sagat's) that I learned how to beat with Blanka are a challenge again. It is amazingly frustrating to know exactly how to beat a someone, just not with the character you happen to be using, and Blanka and Dhalsim has absolutely nothing in common past a slide that goes under fireballs (and Blanka's is much better). I have yet to figure out any of the ultra - teleport combos; hell, I am still trying to learn which of his normals hits at what angle and what is safe and not safe. I quickly learned that sticking a stretchy limb out for no reason is a quick way to get dragon punched. This slower, more conservative play should do be a lot of good. I just hope that yoga fire into super is not as impossible as it feels. My hands just don't move that fast.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Almost a tragedy.

There was no way to end the God of War series happily. Good things just don't happen to Kratos. The final few hours saw a tiny spark of humanity return to the character, as he clearly latched on to Pandora as a replacement for his lost daughter, but everything he did was still driven my the need for vengeance. Kratos was ready to find another way to kill Zeus, as opening Pandora's box required Pandora's death. Only Zeus' prodding to for once in his life not fail at something prodded him to let the homunculus die. There was no sympathy generated for Kratos; his quest for revenge had destroyed most of the gods, several titans, and had left the Earth in ruins. I didn't want to see him walk off into the sunset in the final act, to sit on a throne with a crown upon his troubled brow. Thankfully, he didn't.


Kratos' final act, of killing himself to release the 'Hope' that Athena had hidden in the box, was both completely out of character and the only way it could have gone and still have been interesting. He came to the realization that his quest for vengeance would never end, that the only way to rest was to die, and that the only person capable of killing him was himself. Athena, or Athena's ghost anyway, was understandably upset. The final scene before the credits was Kratos laying on the ground with a self inflicted hole though him so large you could see through to the other side, gurgling a bit, and dying. Finally, I thought, a game not reliant on a happy ending! This was the only was it could have been done, and I was glad it ended in a wonderfully Shakespearean manner: everyone was dead. Only, it didn't. After the credits the cliff that Kratos 'died' on was shown again, with a path of blood leading to the edge. Kratos himself is never shown, but the message is clear: either he didn't die or something took him. After four games, each better than the last, they screwed up the ending. Way to go, guys.

Friday, April 23, 2010

You wouldn't think he would have the time.

God of War III threw a titillation curve ball last night: the first topless women in distress that Kratos ran across he did not sleep with. Instead he muscled her around for awhile, rescued her once, then used her as a jam to stop a wheel from turning. I can only assume that it was messy, it sure sounded that way. Less than an hour later he ran across Aphrodite and two of her boob-maidens. It should come as no surprise how that turned out. If it weren't for the red orb bonus I would have said no to her adulterous advances (this may or may not be the truth). This is as close to out and out pornography as I have seen a main stream game get. The camera pulls away and the two uninvolved women become involved with one another. Ready for the really creepy part? They looked pretty good. It was someones job to animate those things. I can only imagine what he used for research.

The whole jumping the bones of random busty women thing does not fit well with Kratos as a character. Perhaps in the first game when he had a little diversion in his boat, but each successive time has felt more forced. After the loud encounter with Aphrodite Kratos runs into her husband, Hephaestus, who asks if his wife has had another god of war (wiki tells me that Aphrodite and Ares had a thing). Kratos blows him off, goes on a suicide mission, survives, comes back and kills him, then jumps back through a portal and nails his wife again, still covered in the blood of his last victim. Of all the things that are just a bit too much in the series, I have the most issue with this random angry fucking, and this is in the same game that saw Kratos kill Cronus after cutting his way out after being eaten. It is unnecessary and does little more than give ammo to people looking for bad things to say about gaming.

And it doesn't help that Aphrodite looked even better than her playmates. There was a lot of time, effort, texturing and independent (and sometime personal) research put into her; energy I would have sooner have gone into another level or two.


Goodness, youtube has the scene available completely uncensored. I really shouldn't have checked at work.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Previous attempts.

Oh yeah. This is a movie from my childhood. We recorded it with one of our first VCR's, long before we figured out how to not record the commercials. My brother watched it about once a week; perhaps he had a thing for Lou Ferigno, or maybe he just liked the 'special effects.' I am no less guilty, but at least putting in it again was never my idea. Looking back at it now the fighting is laughable, with flashes right out of Batman punctuating the violence. Even the tamest games now show the moment of impact. Shielding the young from the evils of imitation violence is no longer such an issue. Sex is still verboten, but that is a different discussion.

Each boss battle in God of War III has gotten progressively more violent, and I have only been playing for about six hours. Last night was Hercules, prodded on by a drunken Hera. This is after you tear of Helios' head and keep it in your pocket, shatter Hades' skull after tearing him apart piece by piece and cut off Hermes' legs just because his boots would look better on you. Herculeas has his head turned to mush with his own weapons, and I am nervous about where things are going to go from here. How long can any game keep up this level of grotesque violence before it trips over the thin divide between 'Wow, look at that!' and 'Eww! Don't look!'? It still isn't as bad as Condemned 2, and I hope no game ever gets there.

I also wonder what gods are left to kill. Athena is already dead from the last game, though she is back again and being a non-corpreal pest. Thankfuly Ares has not managed to make the same comeback. Personally I would love an appearance by Dionysus. Imagine Kratos coming across a rotund god, sloppy drunk and wallowing in his own filth, and realizing that not all of the gods need to be killed. Killing Poseidon flooded most of Greece, the death of Helios blotted out the sun. Would even Kratos, the bastard that he is, kill the god of wine, thereby dooming all of humanity to live of sobriety? Could anyone be so cruel? I think not.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bloody One-upmanship.

I am no stranger to the God of War franchise, the PSP release being the only handheld game that I currently even consider wanting to play. The first two were truly amazing games, not just because of the violence and action, but because the story was not half bad and the environments were huge and well crafted. To put it another way, there doesn't need to be a God of War movie, the games have already done everything that needs to be done. I was understandably dubious about the third installment, wondering how it would be possible to one up smashing someones head in a stone door. For the first hour or so, it didn't; it was just God of War II in a higher resolution, something that I would be an idiot to find issue with. Then the Posiden fight ended and I had to endure a quicktime event of Kratos beating the ever loving shit out of him, only from Posiden's point of view. It was absolutely brutal, right down to things going dark when Kratos either rips out his eyes or crushes his head, I couln't really tell. God of War III is certainly not resting on its laurels, and even a return trip to Hades cannot dull my excitement.

It is also worth noting that God of War III's brief detour into the realm of the dead is better that anything Dante's Inferno had to offer, and that game was all about going to hell.

Rumour has it that the Super Street Fighter 4 release date has been bumped up to Friday, something that I heartily condone. I know that the games are most likely already languishing in the back rooms of GameStops and Best Buys around the country and it kills me. I do not think I will be able to convince anyone to break the date on this big of a game (like I did to Best Buy once with Doom 3, then called Activision to turn them in) so it is up to Capcom now. They already have all of our money, it is just a matter of when they get around to counting it.

Of course, when things like the following sneak through, maybe it needs a little more time in the oven:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A drop in the bucket.

A quick look at gamefaqs has brought me to the sad realization that I am less than half way through Final Fantasy XIII. A game should not feel like work, and large sections of this one does; even the combat has become little more than rote repetition of patterns I have discovered. The group hug/reconciliation that I predicted last week happened last night, adding a surprising amount of depth to several characters. Lightning is still a bitch, but she has ratcheted it back from an 11 to around a 5, making her presence slightly more tolerable. Snow apologized for letting Hope's mother die; Hope thanked him for it by trying to kill him. This could have been really interesting, but the arc ended with Hope's father forgiving Snow for being a really powerful doofus. A new character, Fang, was introduced, who has an rather out of place Australian accent, but other than that she reminds me of Payne from X-2, so who am I to complain.

I made the mistake about five hours ago of using up all the upgrade materials I found on the first set of weapons, assuming that they would continue to appear at the same rate. The supply of animal oils and broken circuit boards has since dried up, leaving me with weapons that hit hard but lack any of the status bonuses granted by weapons I have found since. The status effect game is more important that is usual for a Final Fantasy, with buff and de-buffs making or breaking boss battles. It is not quite on the level that Nocturne was (nothing is) but is a welcome level of depth that I may have screwed myself on with my absence of patience. Nothing unmanageable so far, and deaths are graciously glossed over as the game allowed boss battles to be re-attempted with no penalty, so I do not think it will be more than an annoyance. In a game full of them, though, it certainly isn't helping.

RPG break time. God of War III beckons, and who am I to say no to graphic violence and pointless nudity.

Monday, April 19, 2010

No, I will not stand up.

He looks so serious.

Where to begin.

I have, in a previous post, vented my complaints about Nintendo and their quest to make everyone who plays videogames look as silly as possible while doing so. I have kept myself completely isolated from this terrible plague by purchasing no Nintendo products and not being intered in a nursing home (yet). Sony and Microsoft are now following the money, and while I will give Microsoft a few points for at least trying to look different, Sony is about to release the exact same thing. Yes, it relies on Eye Toy 2.0 for depth perception. Yes, the most and sub controllers are connected via blue tooth instead of a card to eliminate the chance of strangling small children. In practice, though, they are indistinguishable, only now with the horse power of the PS3 behind them, you can look silly in 1080p instead 480.

My issue is not with looking like an idiot, as I rarely have witnesses to my game playing and own a few too many undersized plastic instruments to make that arguement stick. Motion control itself is the sticking point. Motion is control is supposed to add something to the game, an illusion of interaction, or maybe just get your fat ass moving, but without any form of feedback it is nothing more than flailing limbs. The idea of lightsaber battles sure sounds cool, but when my attack is blocked and the only feedback I get is visual all the motion control in the world isn't going to keep the immersion from breaking down. I submit that sitting idly with a controller is better for the vast majority of existing genres. The new forms of 'game play' that are being invented to work with the fancy new controllers are all so shallow that they grow stale after only a few hours. Shoe horning existing games into this arena fair no better. I cannot wait for Socom fans to complain when they realize that the Sony lolipop is their only option and it makes accurate aiming and movment impossible. This nonsense may very well be the next step in the evolution of the hobby, but it is a step that should have taken place behind closed doors, held out of the public eye until the technology has caught up with what marketers think gaming is all about. Right now it feels like a step backwards as there is nothing that swinging my arms around can do that pushing a button cannot do better.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

One man show.

Final Fantasy XIII has boiled down to one character I care about, one I don't know and several more that I just want to go away. This is not a good way to keep people interested for the full length of an epic RPG; it is a good thing that the combat system, once fully opened, is fairly engaging. From what I understand side quests don't become available until one of the final chapters, and even then most of the really interesting ones are post end-game. This will save me a lot of time, as once the story ends I am done. Required griding has always struck me as poor design, and grinding for the simple sake of one last trophy (playing this on the PS3 because it looks better, something that seems to be happening more and more often) is just a waste of time.

As if I haven't gotten enough brooding from Hope, the hopeless teenager that has glommed onto Lighting as a combination mother replacement and drill instructor, God of War III has shipped and will arrive next week. At least this brooding comes with a healthy does of ultra-violence, making it a little easier to ignore. Kratos does need to lighten up a bit, though. He rivals Batman in his 'my family members are DEAD!' schtick. If past experiences hold it will take me about two days to run through it. This means that it will be back to Final Fantasy by the weekend. This also means that Final Fantasy will not be finished by next Tuesday, which could cause a problem. Adon isn't going to jaguar kick people on his own.

I really hope this is a taunt.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

It should come as no suprise.

Marvel vs Capcom 3 is real.

I don't want to care. Marvel vs Capcom 2 has always been a mystery to me. I owned in on the Dreamcast and have since bought it for XBLA and I still really don't know how to play the thing. I am part of the 'lets make an odd team and mash buttons' crowd. As long as there as still plenty of us around, it will be fun, but I have no hope of ever actually being good at the game. The idea will be fought, but I most likely cave in and buy it when in comes out; here comes my scrubby Venom - Ryu - Jin team, beware!

Wait a minute, Marvel is owned by Disney now. Hmmm, could this mean absolutely random Disney characters showing up? Think about it: Mickey wielding a keyblade vs ryu! Goofy laying the smack down on Cyclops! Morrigan and Minney going at it! Donald Duck swearing incoherantly at a drunken Iron Man! The possibilities are endless, it's a shame that it wont happen. Not even Thanos can hold a candle to this guy:

Well, maybe, but it would be a good fight.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Yes, I cheated.

I posted Thursday's post today and back dated it.

About an hour from home my contacts decided to stop working and I finished the drive in a haze similar to that of a quickly consumed six pack minus the comfortable feeling of invulnerability. I was (and am) in no mood to maek poast.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Where's the funny?

Between Final Fantasy and driving incredibly long distances I have managed to squeeze in Battlefield Bad Company 2, playing most of the game last night on the a SD-TV with mono front inputs, so I don’t think it really counts. The single player in the first Bad Company was standard modern shooter fair with just enough humor dropped in to differentiate it from Modern Warfare. Modern Warfare 2 upped the not funny factor, so I was hoping that Bad Company 2 would get sillier to compensate; instead it has fallen into the same trap and gotten a little too serious for its own good. The guys are still funny, but their adventure is now ‘save the US’ instead of ‘keep all this gold and retire to Tahiti.’ It is just as well, as it is not as good of a single player shooter as the last one was either.

Bad Company and Modern Warfare worked very well as shooting movies. Incredible scripted events were common, the action itself was never that difficult, and everything moved along at a pace that would properly accommodate popcorn and a wasted afternoon. Bad Company 2, on more than one occasion, bogs down into repetitive success by death scenarios that have no place it what is supposed to be a chewing gum game. One of these takes place in the second level which had me calling bull shit far too early to be forgiven. Finally after dying for about thirty minutes I had memorized where all the RPG guys were going to pop out, killing them first in a very un-movie like manner. Spending that much time in one area gave me pause enough to notice all the other problems that are normally hidden by a brisk pace. First of all the enemies always shoot you first, regardless of what any of your team mates are doing. This is especially bad when one in two bad guys can one shot you and/or destroy your cover. Secondly, even though the rest of the squad is never being shot at, they don’t do anything offensive either. Army of Two’s agro system is the perfect example of how to do single playered multi-player right; this is just annoying and repetitive.

There is clearly going to be a third Bad Company, as the Russians have invaded through Alaska and are busily socializing Canada while heading south (wait, would that even work?). I predict more of the same, which is unfortunate. Bad Company was Three Kings the game, minus Ben Affleck, which is not a bad thing. Bad Company 2 was just Modern Warfare 2 minus the gratuitous airport massacre, which leaves it pretty bland in comparison. The role of gritty, humorless modern shooter has already been filled, EA was better off trying to make me laugh a bit while killing people.

And no, I have no idea how the multiplayer turned out. I’m sure it’s fine; I’m just not interested.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The other woman.

I do have a hobby aside from gaming; shocking, I know. It is unfortunately dependant of both season and weather and requires leaving the house, so it something that I do not get to do very often. Today I have found myself back in the northern reaches of Wisconsin with an afternoon to kill and nothing to do. You know it is bad when you have to drive thirty minutes to find a Subway. Anyway, I was literaly wandering the back roads when I stumbled across an open field overlooking a quaint river. I stopped, checked the wind, and turned off my phone.

Fuck it. I am flying my kite.

And now to attempt to save my manliness. This is not some single line kite that is sent up into the sky and held like a child holding a lolipop that is impossible to lick. This is a two line parafoil quite capable of pulling a grown man off his feet on a good, windy day. Today was unfortunately not one of those days and I spent more time nursing the poor thing back into the wind then being dragged around, but it was still good to get it up in the air for a while. Much to my surprise after about an hour someon else shows up and sends up another kite just down the field from me. It was another dual line, this one with spars in a more traditional triangle shape (mine looks like a rectangular parachute and has no solid parts). It took him a few tries to get it flying, but once he did he was looking good. It was a good loud kite, ripping through the air and getting lots of attention while my parafoil quietly ate up more wind with much less fanfair, crashing much less often (if ever). In the end the wind proved to fickle for him and he packed it up before I did. I took the oppourtunity to sneak over into his spot, which I admit was much better than mine, and attempt to strile up a conversation. Please note that in the past I have found people who fly stunt kites to be of much the same mindset and eager to talk to anyone about their hobby.

'What kind of kite is that?' I knew was it was, but I was unfamiliar with the brand, and I was trying to make small talk.

'...mumble, mumble, mumble...'

'Oh, ok.' and I walked away. Apparently this gentlemen took issue with some out of towner using up his wind. Oh well, I tried, it turns out Xbox Live does not have a total embargo on assholes, it just has the worst ration.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Insincere hate.

It is rare for a character in a Square RPG to be completely unlikable. There have quite a few that have been boring, uninteresting, emo, spikey haired, spikey haired and emo, but Lightning in Final Fantasy XIII is the first one I have run across that I hope dies a painful death as quickly as possible. In an effort at making her ‘real’ Square has made an emotionless bee-otch whose egotistical detachment from the rest of the party is just plain ugly. I understand what they are trying to do: no one in the party gets along right now, they have split up into three different groups, at least one actually wants to kill another, and all this will build up to some sappy moment at the three quarters mark where everyone is brought back together in a post averted tragedy love fest. It will be difficult to watch (and I will fall for it, because I always do) but there has to be a better way to do it than making me hate one of the primary characters.

To be honest, I hate two of the characters, Tenille is nothing more than Rikku on a heavy dose of pain killers cut with meth; she grates on the nerves during every appearance.

Yet I keep playing. There have been no choices to make so far, just hallways of varying shape and size that are sometimes so bright they are difficult to look at. Leveling up offers little variety either; I have decided what each characters focus is going to be and there will be little chance to vary that until the new game plus areas which I won’t play anyway. What is here, though, is polished to such a degree that it is irresistible to anyone who enjoys killing things with a menu and commands. Battles can be so visually hectic that I focus entirely on the players HP levels, ready to switch paradigms at a moments notice, snatching characters from death while maintaining combos is a beautiful thing. I like Final Fantasy XIII, warts and all, because I have always liked Final Fantasy’s. Being a fan of JRPG’s blinds me to most things that annoy everyone else, and I do not think this is a bad thing.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Why yes, it is lunch time.

Finally, over six hours in, the last game play mechanic (I think) has been unlocked and I now have the fullness of Final Fantasy XIII laid out before me, and it is a warmed over plate of leftovers glistening with 1080P MSG. There is nothing wrong with re-using ideas; I can count games that were comprised of entirely new concepts that have come out in the last few years on one hand. My problem is I was expecting more, something that I should know better than to do with Square-Enix. Final Fantasy XII was just XI minus the need for real people to play with, and XI was a way to generate money to recover from Spirits Within at the small cost of human souls. IX was a throw back to XI, XIII was just XII plus angst and XII itself was a gigantic middle finger to Nintendo. I'd go back further, but then I would have to lie and say that I actually played them from beginning to end. Oddly enough, XIII and it's quick paradigm shifts in combat reminds me most of X-2, a game all about the quest to bring back someone who never really existed in the first place and look as slutty as possible in the process.

Y, R, P, in position!

Yes, I have have played every game mentioned from beginning to end, and in spite of my condescending dismissal they were all good. Even X-2. I cannot help but be sucked into their overly complicated stories, thinly stereotyped characters and gorgeous but completely uninteractive set pieces. Final Fantasy games are the RPG equivalent of Carl Buddig meats. Individually sliced hours are often thin and tasteless, but once that package is open forty or more can disappear all at once, leaving you with indigestion, slightly embarrassed, and hungry for something with a little more substance.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Responsibility Creep.

We take you now to the HR office of Cauldron HQ, developers of Jurassic The Hunted.

HR: Thanks for coming in. I know you are busy as we are getting close to crunch time. This will only take a few minutes.

Programmer: No problem, I was running a new build anyway and that could take a while. We made some changes to Spike (note: boss dinosaur) and need to make sure it doesn't break anything.

HR: This is exactly the kind of dedication I wanted to discuss with you. Today marks your one year anniversary and I must say that your superiors have been very impressed with both the quality of and dedication to your work.

Programmer: What can I say? It's tough, but I am making a game about shooting dinosaurs. If I can't find something to smile about while doing that, I should go back to writing code for Microsoft.

HR: That kind of attitude will take you quite far in this business. On that note, it pains me to say this, but because the game has not yet been released Activision hasn't paid us, we are going to have to discuss your annual raise another time.

Programmer: I understand, as long as we do discuss it. Once the game goes gold there will be more time, right?

HR: Well, that is something else we need to talk about. See, we are running a little short on talent at the moment. How do you feel about voice acting?

Programmer: What?

HR: The work you, your team, and the artists have done is really great, but there is just no money to hire any voice talent. You would only have to read a few lines and sound tough doing it. Do you think you can handle that?

Programmer: Well, it's quite a bit out of my job description, and I do find it a bit odd that we are talking about this right after I found out I wasn't getting my annual raise on time, but I suppose if it helps the game get out, I will give it a shot. I just can't promise that I will be any good at it...

HR: Oh, we're not worried about that.

Programmer: Excuse me?

HR: That about wraps up our meeting, unless you have any questions.

Programmer: I would like to see the script.

HR: The what?

Programmer: My lines? The ones I have to read?

HR: Oh, we don't have them, you have to write them.

Programmer: Are you serious?

HR: Quite. And come up with a plot while you are at it, because we certainly have no idea what the hell is going on. Something about time travel and the Bermuda triangle would be nice. And try to explain the inclusion of dinosaurs in the least ridiculous way possible. Got it?

Programmer: I think you have the wrong guy for this, I really want to...

HR: Sorry, but we have a schedule to keep! Have a script draft of my desk by this afternoon! I will take a polite but ineffective glace at it before sending you off to the recording studio in the janitors closet. And about that raise? I wouldn't worry about it, you are all going to be fired as soon as the game goes gold anyway. Have a nice day!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

If it moves, shoot it.

There is something strangely comforting about shooting things that cannot, for the most part, shoot back at you. After game upon game of jumping from bits of cover to smaller bits if cover lest I get my highly trained but non bullet proof ass shot off by mercs who have nothing better to do than wait for me to stand up and stretch my legs it is nice to have dinosaurs come running out of jungle monster closets intent on nothing more than having me for dinner and getting to me as quickly as possible. There is nothing complicated about Jurassic The Hunted, and that is why I like it so far. As long as no one is talking I am busy re-extincting giant lizards I am fine; it's only when plot is injected that the game moves from passably amusing to mind numbingly stupid. There is something in here about time rifts and Nazi submarines (which is oddly similar to Dark Rift) but I haven't been paying attention. After a few hours of mindless killing I fell off a cliff and was invited into an HDR lobby, so it was time to quit anyway.

It is telling that the game I plan to turn on again this evening is Jurassic and not Final Fantasy XIII. Of course that could also be because I don't want to crawl behind the TV and move my HDMI cable again, but sometimes you are in the mood for drivel, and shooting dinosaurs in the head with automatic rifles delivers. I mean, how many Turok games did they make? And most of those were terrible. Turok II had the cerebral bore, and was the reason I bought the expansion pack for my 64 (screw Donkey Kong and his bizarre hip hop intro, I'll pop heads thank you), but that was the peak of the series.

Note: I just spent ten minutes searching for a picture of Tobias Bruckner from Turok: Evolution. I am not so embarrassed that I have done this, only that I failed terribly in the attempt. I suppose this will do:

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hoarding the good stuff.

For the first hour or so in Final Fantasy XII there was no clear reason to bother killing anything. No XP gain was shown, they dropped items that didn't have any apparent use and handed out no money. These battles were also unavoidable, so this lack of progress made them feel like a big waste of time. It wasn't until the three hour mark that leveling up characters finally 'unlocked,' the HD sphere grid was shown, and I could actually do something beyond wandering through long hallways and mashing the auto attack button. Of course I have already maxed out what little it unlocked so I am waiting for the next teaspoon full of game play to be doled out, and I can't help but feel that the game is being terribly condescending to me. There should be an option to turn baby mode off and actually play the whole game from the very beginning. I am quite capable of learning what I need to know through experimentation or trial and error, I do not need a tutorial for every damn thing. This is the 13th title in the main series (not counting X-2, which I actually liked), so assuming the audience has a little history to draw from is not a big stretch.

Super Street Fighter II HDR was booted up last night for the first time in many months. Moving back from Street Fighter 4 is quite difficult, as Street Fighter 4 is designed to be forgiving to sloppy inputs and HDR makes fun of your lack of skills and makes no apologies for it. It did not take long for me to get back to juggling fools with tiger knees (Sagat was broken then, too), at least until the bugginess of HDR came back. After two frozen matches that required re-inviting people it was time to give up. I really hope the lobbies in Super Street Fighter 4 are a little more stable.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Peas in a really big pod.

As a point of reference:

I have been a fan of Yahtzee since his first video reviews over a year ago. He has never made a secret about how much he hates JRPG's, so it was no surprise when he took the time out to rip on Final Fantasy XIII. It is telling, though, that his complaints are really limited to being about the genre; very little of what he hated had to do with the game itself. What he did miss was the chance to compare what Squeenix and Bioware have both done: simplify their games to the point where anyone can play them. Mass Effect 2 had most of the actual RPG elements removed, instead giving the player control over conversations and plot. I never felt like I was just an observer. Final Fantasy games have never been about choice, or the ability to affect what character you are planning to make a move on. The players control is limited to the combat, to playing with equipment, abilities, and party composition. Take most of that away, like Final Fantasy XII has, and what is left? It's becomes a long movie with very limited interaction. If you actually expect to control anything, like Yahtzee did, you will be very disappointed. There wasn't enough game there to begin with for the slash and burn simplifying to work.

I played Final Fantasy XIII for about two hours last night. It looked great, the combat required even less interaction than XII did, and I have almost no memory of what happened or who the characters are. Only the black dude who has a bird living in his hair stands out, and even he is just Barrett on a diet. List most Final Fantasies it will pick up as time moves along, and I have every intent on making it there, but the game still seems like less of a capstone on the Final Fantasy series and more of an old Japanese company knowingly passing the torch on to a better developer.

After Activision buys Square-Enix (and don't say in couldn't happen) we could see a Bioware Final Fantasy. The first thing I would do is make the main character's sex easily identifiable.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Post 100!

Yeah, I got nothing.

Didn't play anything new last night, being fairly tired. I had just enough energy to finally push my scrubby Blanka all the way to G2-A. It was nice to pass this benchmark on a win, unlike many of the previous ranking levels that were limped past on the backs on ignomineous losses. The last 100 points came all at once against a semi-flowchart Ken who didn't know that EX up ball beats almost everything. He never learned, either, which made things pretty easy in the end. I know full well that Blanka's power lays entirely in people not knowing his matchup. I have tricks that I only use on people who I can tell have no idea what he can do, and others reserved for people who think they have seen it all, and still others that work only once per match on almosy anyone. Once a person has seen all the shenanigans and I have to improvise on the spot, things turn out much differently.

In that way I provide an important service: teaching people how to beat other Blankas. I just hope that I get to them first.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It's someone's job.

In the dusty confines of the Gamefly money factory (seriously, why didn't I think of this?) there is a foul troll whose task it is to decide which games get set out when multiple ones are available on a queue. The little notes on availability are meaningless, it is entirely up to this 'person's' will and what kind of day he is having. As an example: I receive texts when things either are returned or ship out. There is no good reason for this, I just thought it was nifty. While on the road, hundreds of miles away from all of my stuff, I get a text stating that Final Fantasy XIII has shipped. This is unexpected, but entirely welcome. Literally five minutes later another text: Jurassic the Hunted has also shipped, a game added because I never really got over the 'ooh, dinosaurs!' stage of my childhood and it has been a while since the last Turok game.

One is good and one is terrible. This should not be a problem, but it will be. When they both arrive I will be torn between a 40ish hour interactive movie that I will enjoy more than I should and a shooter that can be knocked out in two sittings that I should not enjoy but will.

My only hope is to win the lottery tomorrow.

In other news Super 8's are terrible, there was nothing good on HBO, and my man-crush on Hugh Laurie has officially moved on to Mike Rowe. He's dreamy.

Monday, April 5, 2010

So they do.

It's just not very good.

I-65 South from Gary to where I am now has got to be the most boring stretch of road in the entire world. Straight, flat, but at least legal to go 70 on.

Man, I hope there is something good on HBO.

Once more into the wilderness...

of Indiana.

Preliminary post in case my flop house has no internets.

They have the internet in Indiana, right?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

It's just not right.

Mega Man 10 finally made it out on the Xbox Live marketplace this this week, nearly a month behind the Wii and PS3 versions. There is no good reason that I didn't pick it up on the PSN a long time ago, other than I was playing something else at the time. This weekend finds me with little new to dig in to, so indulging in just a little nostalgia is okay. I have many fond Mega Man memories from my childhood, like beating Mega Man 2 when no one was around and leaving the ending credits scene up on the TV for hours just to piss off my brother, but I never remember them being that difficult. I had more pacience for repetition then (and much younger fingers) so it it may just be that I didn't mind running through the same level for a half an hour learning which pits have things that pop out of them and kill you and which don't. It is also possible that Mega Man 10 has decided that I Wanna Be the Guy is their new template because there are some pretty serious controller tossing moments here, and I have only finished three levels. The only concession made is allowing the player to hoarde energy tanks between levels. Emergy tanks don't do much when you are falling to your death after you inadvertantly let the screen scroll back to the left just enough for an enemy you had perviously killed to reappear and knock you off a ledge with a shot so perfect that it is hard to believe that it was not planned that way the entire time by developers who feel they were given this assignment as a punishment and take out their 8 bit frustrations on innocents (like myself) who are just trying to recapture a bit of the old wonder associted with electronic entertainment before things like HD TV's, stereo sound, and the widespread acceptance of games as watered down, arm flailing, nursing home appropriate distractions.


See? That's what falling into the same pit over and over again will do to you. It's just not right, but that's the point. It's not right, but it's you fault you died, and it's up to you to figure out how not to die in the same place again. And God forbid that your focus drifts for just a second. Challenges previously bested never actually get any easier and are still quite capabale of killing you.

Mega Man 10 is a merciless test that has no limit on retakes but never gets any easier. Good stuff.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Ghosts of generations past.

I knew that Last Rebellion was not good going in. I also knew that it was not going to get played fore more than a day or two after just barely surviving White Knight Chronicles.

But damn.

Things did not start well. The update (or down-date?) that I mentioned a few days ago has gone live. I had no reason not to install it, so I clicked okay. This was before I remembered that updates on the PS3 take around fifteen minutes to complete. Fifteen minutes is not a long time, but it was a lot like sitting in the dentist chair while the dentist revs up his drill. What's coming is going to be unpleasant, and you just want to get it over with. After the update I started up Last Rebellion and it had a long initial load like most newer PS3 games have. I assumed that it was caching things to the hard drive, but while I was waiting (more) I noticed that my receiver was not running in 5.1. Every other game I had ever played on the PS3, or 360 for that matter, had run in Dolby Digital.

'Great, the update screwed up my settings.'

Yes, I said this out loud.

I backed out of the game and clumsily dug through the PS3 cross media bar until I remembered where the audio settings were hidden. Nope, everything is still correct. Last Rebellion is so budget that they didn't even bother to mix the sound into Dolby Digital. This was not a good sign. Trying not to be too elitist I started the game up a second time, only to be greeted by the same long initial load. The game had not cached anything to make future load times slower, it was just that slow. Pressing start and skipping the opening cinematic (strangely voiced by the Colonel from Metal Gear Solid) led to one of similar length. At least I could skip past the voice acting over poorly rendered stills to get to the combat tutorial.

I honestly knew nothing of Last Rebellion beyond its terrible reviews. The combat started out almost interesting, once I got past the PS2 jaggified look. It was a single player controlled character against monsters in a turn based style straight out of Final Fantasy VI. Each turn started out with me selecting any number of body parts on all the enemies and the order that I would like to attack them in. Order was important, as each monster is weak to a specific combination. After physical attacks damaged body parts are marked and can be targeted by magic in the following round. On paper, it sounds okay, but in super slow turn based practice, it is torture. Attacking different appendages producing identical animations. Enemies jump forward and whack your character as if you are calling them by name out of line. Yes, these same mechanics worked many, many years ago, but then there were good and bad RPG's, and Last Rebellion is like the zombie of one of the worst possible 16 bit RPG's returned from the grave to wreck havoc upon those looking for a PS3 exclusive after God of War III and Heavy Rain. Keep looking, folks, there is nothing to see here.

Here's a taste anyway:

Take it out. Turn it off. Move along.

Afterward I got back on that horse. That horse? It's a mean horse; mean, uncontrollable, pissed off that I came back. But in spite of it, I will improve. Or break another stick trying.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Stark reality.

Apparently Abel is a terrible match up for me. I did not know this until last night when I was manhandled for quiet a while, punished by my own reflexes. It is a preview of Super, as Abel's ultra makes Blanka balls unsafe even on hit. His second ultra in super will be even faster, and Fuerte has one just like it, so I need to learn to be much less reliant on my down back ways and play a little footsies. It also couldn't hurt to add a little depth to me roster; I played a series of random matches with a different person and lost most of them, though I did make a very good showing in a Dhalsim (me) versus Sagat round. I kept him out for as long as I could, but the rubber man was simply no match for pressure knees.

I know where my particular plateau lies: my execution is terrible. Hand me a Ryu and ask me to do his ultra and I will only get it about 75% of the time. My experiment with Rufus ended when I couldn't cancel anything into his ultra consistently. The answer is simple: sit down in practice mode and do the moves over and over (and over), but I lack the patience to do so; I have no focus and have been coasting by on old skills for a very long time. This is also the reason the I skipped Street Fighter 3; it's scary and I had no one to fall back on. With the entire cast getting a damage nerf in Super, the execution piece will only become more crucial as openings get smaller. It will be like fighting Sagat all the time, only oiled up and occasionally wearing pink.

Perhaps I am just discouraged. Time to get back on the horse.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Vitamin D deficiencies.

Every single interesting story idea that anyone who worked on White Knight Chronicles had was crammed into the last three hours. There were betrayals, double crosses, maniacal laughter and a death in the family. There was also no resolution of anything and a last guy so out of left field that it gives 'fate' from Final Fantasy XIII a run for its money. None of my characters was anywhere near the level cap of fifty, so I assume I missed a lot, but beating the final boss was not exactly difficult as it was (turn two characters into knights, hit with strongest attack, allow avatar to heal, repeat until done). I didn't even load up the new game plus, and foolishly deleted my save afterward. They are already working on the sequel, and as Mass Effect II showed pulling old characters back in is a great way to build interest from the very beginning. On the other hand, my avatar might as well have been a walking potion dispenser; all he did was heal and remove status effects.

Not much else to talk about today. I could complain about Sony pulling Linux support from old PS3's (I have a launch 60 gig, go me) but I don't really care, and such shenanigans are commonplace for Sony. Plus I had no plans of ever using the feature. I could laugh at Microsoft for releasing updates for Modern Warfare 2 in the wrong order, but again, it really doesn't affect me. I could even lament Capcom almost ignoring my chosen character in Super Street Fighter IV, giving him very few if any updates, but at least I don't play Sagat or Gen. In truth, it is almost 75 degrees outside on the first day of April in the central Midwest, and even the palest, most isolationist bastard (of which I am one) feels the need to not be in a basement for a few hours.

It's a shame I am at work, and have nowhere to go. Time for an extended lunch break.