Monday, July 30, 2012

Home Gets Something Genuinely Interesting in Blueprint: Home

So, I have said it times in the past, and I bear no shame in admitting that I am in the apparent minority of folks out there who sees Playstation Home as something that -isn't- a waste of time or a failure or a waste of resources.  It is a thing that is not for everybody, certainly, and it is never fair to judge something by the lowest common denominator of folks that use it, as some do.  Honestly, if we did, Multi-player as a -thing- would have died out years ago, and don't try to disagree on that point since I'm sure we all know it's likely not a very arguable thing.  Regardless, though I'm likely not going to bother with Home anytime in the near future (talking year or so), I can't help but try and keep up with the news of how it's going, since there's always a chance of something genuinely neat getting into it, like the oft-requested and likely never-happening Trophy room, or things that add a more game-like feel to it that aren't necessarily mini-games and/or AR games or whatever Home has catered in the past.  And that hope, or at least that bet on a chance has certainly been validated in my opinion with the preview of a new thing coming to Home called, appropriately enough, Blueprint: Home.

It is appropriate because it involves Blueprints and Home on two different levels; not only is it for Playstation Home, obviously, but the space allows you to build your own Home (as in your own personal space) by making it up on the Blueprint offered.  While not as advanced as the Sims home creation, it can, nevertheless, be likened to that which is only a good thing in my opinion.  You get a rather large space to work with and are then allowed to draw a series of rooms on the Blueprint offered before deciding their style (basically the carpet, walls and ceiling), putting in as many doors and/or windows as you want and sprucing it up with a few additions.  Then, after it's made, you can obviously furnish it to your own whims as well using Home's own system of picking out items from your collection and plopping them down in 'real' gravity, meaning you can even sort of set a scene if you want to, with toppled chairs and knocked over items and such.  Which is kind of not the point, since the point is that you can make your own damn living space.

There are limitations, of course; judging by the instructional video a lot of content is going to be behind a pay-wall which is no good.  On top of that, it seems like only single-level structures will be possible at first at least, which is a shame considering stairs in Home are fun because of the simulated gravity.  Since you can drop things down stairs and watch them tumble.  Beyond that, while there are somewhat limitless possibilities already if you have even a slight bit of creativity, I imagine building single-level dwellings eventually gets old when they are just boxes, notwithstanding the possibility of putting 'rooms' together and knocking down entire walls to make odd-shaped rooms as is shown in the video for all of about ten seconds.  Without a lot of landscaping options on top of that, it seems like you're just getting fairly flat houses, no matter how intricate the insides can look depending on if you maze things up or get really wild with it.  All things that could likely get rectified, of course, but whether or not it will be free to do so remains to be seen, and I would bet fairly heavily against it.

Still, limited or not, it offers more than it doesn't, I feel, and can probably be used to make some really nice looking Home Spaces.  Certainly the fact that you can make and save up to five designs at a time will pay for it in itself if you have a bit of creativity or those folks with the creativity upload some youtube tutorials or something similar.  If you're so inclined to build a space and decorate it, that is, since not many seem to enjoy just the act of doing that.  My experiences in Home have mostly -been- those types of actions.  When I was not straying out into the different spaces to get free items, I was in one of the several Personal Spaces I had (all free of course) and playing around with different places to put things and different things to put in places.  It's just -fun- for some reason and I understand that I am more the exception than the rule in that aspect.  It is kind of why I long for a similar Home-like Application for the Vita; something that, judging by the assumed success of Home on the PS3, might not be an entirely far-fetched idea.  They did think something similar up for PSP, of course, even if it barely made it to a beta phase.

I'm pretty sure I'm the only person that honestly cares even a little about this.  That doesn't really bother me a whole lot all things considered.  Whether you're a fan of Home or not (most of you are the latter, I realize) it -is- a fairly neat thing on its own merits, considering it is a Building Tool in a semi-MMO type of -thing-.  I'm not quite sure how that works on the technical level, but I'm sure magic is involved on some layer.  Even if it's a little simplistic in design (or seems so) it's still got quite a lot of potential, and I hope that it manages some level of success so that others might try it, or at the very least, they feel the need to continually support it with the obvious upgrades it could receive.  It could just be the next 'thing' for the Home-space and something that might change a couple minds out there which will probably be more of a benefit than not in all reality.  If it's a success, Home makes money for Sony after all, and we all know they sort of need it at the moment.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Samurai Warriors 4 is a Thing That is Probably Happening, Don't Care

So, Siliconera had a piece that said Tecmo-KOEI is sort of planning on a February 2014 release for Samurai Warriors 4 (for Japan only, of course), and I realized something sort of terrible when I read it:  I had not a single shit to give about it.  Honestly, I read it, moved on as I do when the cursory skimming of news titles and such doesn't interest me, and only a few minutes later did I realize what it actually said and go back to it.  The post itself is pretty insubstantial:  Samurai Warriors 4 is going to be a thing which surprises nobody, and they're aiming for a release date in 2014 because it will mark the 10th anniversary of Samurai Warriors being a series which is truly a momentous occasion and certainly everybody should care.  While I'm dismissing it like pretty much everyone else who isn't a fan of the series, I imagine you folks understand that I sort of have a reason to be bitter with the series, considering the debacle that was Samurai Warriors 3 and every recent release KOEI has put out for North America (and announced).

It's really kind of a shame.  I really liked the first two Samurai Warriors games; in fact Samurai Warriors 2 with Xtreme Legends is probably one of the better Warriors experiences you could ask for.  There's a lot of stages, a lot of characters, and yet pretty much everyone manages to maintain a certain individuality, which is certainly a strange and foreign concept where it concerns Dynasty Warriors as a series instead.  Also Samurai Warriors 2 features Musashi Miyamoto as a character who is as goddamn broken as he deserves to be, as well as Kojiro Sasaki who is fairly underrated but has a pretty fantastic weapon and moveset.  Samurai Warriors 2 + Xtreme Legends does a lot and remains a solid, solid entry for the series, for the overarching Warriors franchise as a whole.  The fact that it's so good is probably why Samurai Warriors 3 was such a let-down in concept, if not just the execution from what I've seen.

Samurai Warriors 2 was such a step up from the original in so many ways, and the Xtreme Legends for it only helped with that, never detracted from it, which is fairly impressive on its own really.  I, perhaps foolishly, imagined a similar step-up for Samurai Warriors 3, something akin to the step up from 5 to 7 (we're ignoring 6 for the argument) where not only was there the same cast plus some which is customary (Minus Pang De, again for the sake of argument, but really nobody cares about Pang De, that much has been made clear), but there are actual, genuine gameplay changes for the better introduced as well.  I was expecting bigger things as well, in terms of the scope of the game itself which, again, might have just been foolish on my part.  But it didn't help at all when the game was announced and showed off looking....well, looking like Samurai Warriors 2.  But not as good.  The whole Wii-exclusive bit kind of necessitated that, I realize, since, without offending anyone's sensibilities, there's not a whole lot of a power gap or ways to get a Warriors game of a higher calibur than the PS2 versions on a Wii.

I have talked about the whole Wii-exclusive move in passing in the past and don't really intend to retread the topic much, but I will say that something that honestly disappointed me about the game is that from Samurai Warriors 2 to 3, they removed Musashi and Sasaki.  I....can't even defend the move, because -sure-, Musashi might not have even been old enough to do anything at Sekigahara which is kind of where 2 tended to climax at, but there was other stuff after that.  A -lot- of stuff, really.  As well as a lot of stuff between Hideyoshi dying and the start of the vying for power between East and West that didn't get covered either.  And yes, Sasaki did nothing but die famously to Musashi in a way that can't even be proven, but it's not like they were the only superfluous characters in the game in terms of actually existing/doing things.  For one, they -did- actually exist, as opposed to....well, just take 90% of the female warriors and then those 10% generally get cut down as well for not doing anything battle-wise.  And Musashi and Sasaki are incredibly popular characters regardless.  So, much like the platform jump, it was an excessively weird move, but a decidedly negative one as well.

What I honestly really wanted out of a Samurai Warriors 3 was a focus on the generations.  For all that it mattered, there were honestly three 'eras' to the Sengoku Jidai that could have been played out in their own ways without focusing on trying to do all three in 80% of the characters' storylines, especially when they were not in it.  Nobunaga's Rise to power got a lot of coverage, as it should have, Hideyoshi's unification of Japan got....not that much attention, but more than a token effort, and the unification of Japan under Tokugawa got, essentially, one single battle, that being Sekigahara.  Sure, it was big, but it wasn't the -entirety of that time-.  Focusing on all three eras individually would have been a much nicer balance and would have introduced -several- instances for new characters that would only be vital to that era.  The entire Saito clan, or at least the ones that mattered (Dosan and his sons that killed him and ruined his land basically) could be in Nobunaga's Rise, Hideyoshi's failed Korean invasions could offer an entirely new aspect and roster of characters as well, and the entirety of the Sekigahara era could be expanded, which means renewed focus on the participants that mattered, and perhaps even some that didn't, but Basara has popularized anyway like Otani Yoshitsugu.

Maybe Samurai Warriors 4, considering that it will be 'forced' to go Next Gen (perhaps even Next Next Gen, ala Wii U which would make me grumble all the more) will be able to do these lofty things.  With two years to work on it, I expect that it will make the visual leap that Dynasty Warriors 7 made, but I have no clue what else it will include.  Given that weapon switching would be entirely more thematic with Sengoku Jidai era warfare, I hope to see it in SW4, but I have zero expectations for the game.  I will probably not follow a whole lot of the development for it unless something pops out at me.  And that's....that's something that really gets me down, since I should, in theory be all -about- Samurai Warriors 4.  But the knowledge that it's so far off, might be dumb, will probably be on a system I don't own currently, and might not even see a retail release if it gets localized in the first place....well, it sort of kills enthusiasm that one could have for the game.  I guess we'll see, but I'm not about to hold my breath.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Storms and Fried Routers and Chrono Trigger DS Rants

So, as I warned might have happened on my Twitter the other night, the storm that we had was a rather nasty one.  It was pretty obvious that we were going to lose power and I unplugged things that I worried weren't safe, whereas things that I thought would be safe, I kept plugged in.  However, when the power went out and there was a rather loud 'Pop' noise, it was clear that when the power came back, something would reveal itself as a casualty.  The next day, when it came back, the problem ended up being the wireless router.  It was fried.  Like, plugging it in resulted in just the number "4" port lighting up as a light would come on during a horror movie - that practiced, tell-tale flickering that means something is either struggling to light, or simply struggling to -not- turn off.  On the cusp of life, you could say, but it was safe to also say that such a sign means the router is no longer going to work for its intended purpose; that of supplying internet.  So I have a new one set up (I won't be sharing what it is because I don't need the purchase criticized or praised; it's bought and set-up, not worrying about it anymore) and I presume it works, since before me is my Vita with a fully loaded up youtube video of Moto - BoA, but we shall see if it lasts, since it was almost -too- easy.

These outages are getting fairly taxing, as I'm sure you all realize, being as much affected by them as I am, but there's not a whole lot I can do against them.  The upside is that generally when they happen, either the downtime means that enough news is brought up in the meanwhile, or that I, without internet, am forced to do -something- that I can then talk about.  As you might infer from the above picture and the title, I am totally up for talking about Chrono Trigger DS which I picked up, much as I did the last time there was an outage and in my playings this time, I have made it to one of the two big things that was added to the DS port, and it is very clearly the single thing that pretty much everyone agrees shouldn't have been added in.  Or at least, I'm assuming everyone agrees because the Lost Sanctum, what I'm talking about, is unequivocally, universally terrible in design and execution and is a blight on gaming as a whole, not to mention the otherwise great game (and good, not great, port of it).  This is probably where you think I'm kidding.  The next few paragraphs is where I'm going to convince you otherwise.

As always, I'm going to blatantly talk about Chrono Trigger and Cross while throwing out plot points like candy in a parade, so if you're not into that, look away.  So, the Lost Sanctum is a place that exists not only in the Pre-Historic age (noted as 65,000,000 BC), but also in the Middle Ages (noted as 600 AD), denoting a 65,000,600 years worth of difference.  This is, unsurprisingly, important to remember since I specifically brought it up.  However, despite the two gates (they are gates, as in Time/Space gates on the map, so it's not like it's a finite, existing place in the world) being in those two eras (and no others, further denoting it as a non-finite place in the world of Chrono Trigger itself) it's only done so as a convenient excuse to have to time-traveling an excessive amount of times to accomplish goals, and Pre-History and the Middle Ages are pretty much the two places lacking the most reasons to visit.  (Antiquity, or 12,000 BC, should be on that list, but, well, the Kingdom of Zeal portion and the whole Lavos blowing errthang up kind of nixes any reason to consider the place for things.)

Regardless, as I have inferred, the time periods have little to do with it since I'm of a mind that the two Lost Sanctums aren't really 65,000,600 years apart.  There are various reasons for this, of which I will eventually cover, but the one prime among them is the fact that I am pretty sure that the Lost Sanctum is -supposed- to be Dinopolis in its early days (both times), which is pretty much based solely on the fact that Dinopolis is a place that existed where only Reptites lived (as they do in Lost Sanctum) and the port job just -loved- adding in superfluous things to tie it closer to Chrono Cross.  Having you do menial tasks for the folks who would end up getting transported into the proper timeline and trying to destroy the world with dragons sort of fits the bill.  And yes, that is a plot point from Chrono Cross:  'Time', in an attempt to bring balance to the world, brought in Dinopolis, a civilization of dinosaurs that never grew up technologically to counteract Humans using super-technology to accidentally time travel a super-advanced scientific facility that harbored FATE, a machine that controlled the world in Illuminatti-esque ways or something.  Because Dinopolis had Dragon Gods that stood absolutely no chance against FATE.  Try not to think of it too hard.

One of the strengths of Chrono Trigger is the fact that it uses on-screen monsters so that you can, in theory, skip most battles if that is your thing.  And when you're doing menial fetch quests, you generally like to just get from Point A to Point B with as little resistance as possible, since you just want to get it done.  Of course, one of the failings of the Lost Sanctum is that it takes this tenant and just kind of throws it out the window, in that the detection boxes or the forced battle boxes, cover entire paths.  In layman's terms, it simply means that the places surrounding the Lost Sanctum proper (as in, the cave where the Reptites live) all have at least a few forced battles per screen.  They're not even difficult battles, and some of them are simply insulting, like one of the Fetch Quest Mountain screens features a battle with an enemy called a Jadewing.  A single Jadewing.  You have to use magic to kill it.  It goes out with a single Dark Bomb if you're rockin' Magus, and likely goes out with a single magic attack from anyone else because it's a pissant enemy.  Those forced battles are both way, of course, since going up the mountain necessitates that you come back down it, obviously.

So honestly, if it were just a matter of getting requests from all the reptites, going out, doing them, suffering the forced battles and coming back to be done with them, it would be bad enough, right?  Some poor design decisions, assuredly, but nothing too dire.  That is why it doesn't end there.  Only one reptite thinks of a task for you at a time, meaning that you'll have to do them all pretty much in succession.  There is -some- overlap, as I have three requests, so to speak, open at the moment, but just to get to a place where I could technically do those three requests, I had to do another request that is an utter abomination in design and is pretty much what governs all of my anger at the port at this moment.  This, coincidentally, also reinforces my "This is not 65,000,600 years apart" theory, which kind of helps, but it also just makes everything another degree of stupid.  Simply because my position that it's not that far apart is -purely- conjecture, whereas one would assume that it is to be considered that otherwise.

One of the things that happens in the Pre-History Lost Sanctum is that one of the Reptites says "I need something from the top of the mountain, but a Nu is guarding the bottom of it".  So you go and beat the Nu and then go get the thing from the top of the mountain because the guardian was just -a- reason not to go, not -the- reason.  The Nu, after you beat it, says it's going to train for your next encounter, which I'm sure you can't guess where it happens.  So, for various reasons, you'll need to go to the 600 AD Lost Sanctum to go up the same mountain and when you do, the Nu is at the bottom because Nus live for several millions of years and challenges you to a fight if you make it to the top of the mountain.  You need to get to the top of the mountain anyway.  So he runs off and you head towards the top of the mountain.  There is a problem, however, as the first rope ladder you encounter has broken in the middle which is entirely a possible thing that has happened after sixty five million years.  Or, presumably, the Nu broke it because he is a dick.  You have to, of course, approach the ladder close enough so that your characters can stop and confirm that the ladder is indeed broken, instead of just turning around after seeing it is broken.

This is still sort of non-offensive at this point.  One of the reptites has gone on and on about ladders so you think he is an expert on them.  So you go to him and he's like "Well, there's some sturdy vines in the glade to the south."  The glade, in 600 AD, is what you have to pass through to get to Fetch Quest mountain.  In Pre-History, it's a swamp.  I'm sure this is how nature works.  So you get the sturdy vines which are in fact vines and know...something else.  Something that could presumably be more sturdy than vines which are just vegetation which is known to rot away and such.  Especially over the course of sixty-five million years, if that's what they really expect us to believe.  (By the way, if that's what we really are to believe, then that Nu has been training for that sixty five million years and yet you are expected to beat him?)  So you think "Well, I have these vines, so I need to take them to the ladder guy" right?  Wrong.  If you take them to him, he will not acknowledge them whatsoever.  And you will probably be confused.

What you have to do is go back to the broken ladder to confirm that it is, indeed, still broken and to realize that there is no way you can hang the new ladder vines, since if you could hang them, you wouldn't need them.  You -need- to trigger this event.  It's literally like two lines of dialogue if that, but it's one of those event flags.  So you have to take these vines, once again going through all the forced battles all through this entire journey of going to this point on the mountain, through the glade and swamp, and go back to pre-history to go through the swamp again to the point where the ladder is you can move a foot to the left and drop the vines which make a carbon copy rope ladder.  Which is supposed to survive the apparent Sixty Five Million years between events.  And of course, it -does-, since once you go back to 600 AD -again- and go through the glade -again- to get to the mountain -again-, there is the vine ladder that looks like a rope ladder right next to the broken rope ladder that actually is a rope ladder.  And to top it all off, when you go up the vine ladder that looks like a rope ladder absolutely nobody remarks on it.

I'm not sure I've effectively quantified just how poorly this all is executed and, indeed, designed, but I like to believe that I have.  Ten Trips to a single area in a mountain for what is honestly just one request (beating a Nu's ass twice over the span of, again, apparently Sixty Five Million years) with at least two forced battles each way, I think, hammers the point in a little more effectively than I could hope to do otherwise, but it still doesn't really cover the soul-crushing tedium that is generated by the Lost Sanctum.  This is just -one portion- of the entire thing that was apparently so good that Squeenix thought it was just a fabulous idea to throw into this otherwise half-baked port of a great game.  "Oh, but Mogs, it's purely optional!"  Yeah, so is like everything else at endgame which is when this unlocks.  Getting ultimate weapons, going through the Black Omen, reviving the main character of the fucking game is all optional.  They're not entirely banal, superfluous and terrible though.  Still, if a selling point of an enhanced port is the 'enhanced' portions of it, as in the stuff that was not there originally, or the stuff that is changed, I would suggest that it's a little less optional than those things, even, since this is supposed to be the stuff that makes veterans of the game want to buy it.  So that poses the question:  Who the -hell- would want this?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Squeenix Says FF Versus XIII is Not Dead, Internet Remains Skeptical

I briefly considered simply updating the previous post about Final Fantasy Versus XIII in which everybody believe Kotaku for some reason when they said that Final Fantasy Versus XIII had been quietly cancelled and would not appear at TGS. know, anywhere else, for that matter, since according to their 'inside sources' the game had been cancelled weeks prior and was in the process of being folded into a different project.  I figured that maybe it would just be enough to put down a paragraph at the end of that Versus post with the thing that says Squeenix CEO Wada says Versus isn't dead and elaborates a bit.  I was really, really leaning towards doing this, but I decided against it - not because this is something that I feel I can be long-winded about, or that I really want to talk of at length.  The simple reason I'm throwing this down as its own post, rather than an update, is for the simple fact that an update simply wouldn't be quite as cathartic as doing this post, and I simply cannot have that.

First off, as I do want to make this as fair as possible, all that happened was that Yoichi Wada tweeted that Versus was not cancelled and he had, in fact, just been in a meeting about the game in which he was shown things that he assured would cause everyone else to fall on the floor in amazement.  Nothing else was shared.  We are, in essence, exactly where we were before Kotaku decided to stir the pot and not really better for it, since the game is still nebulous in many, many ways.  That place where we were is a place where Versus XIII 'totally exists you guys' despite all indications to the contrary.  That place is a nice place nevertheless, but it's a place that we've known for years now, a place that we didn't really need to be reminded of its existence.  It is not, despite what several people say, a place of 'victory' in any sense of the word and would, in fact, likely be the exact opposite of that.

You see, in lieu of everybody feeling really goddamn silly at news of the rumor getting 'officially' debunked, everybody is instead turning this around and saying that it was in fact Kotaku's rumor-mongering that 'forced' Squeenix to respond.  Since Kotaku reported it, and then everyone else reported it, citing Kotaku's 'inside sources' as a valid font of information.  By having this wave of unease swarm out through the whole of the internet in an 'official' fashion, it -needed- to be stemmed by Squeenix, which is what they did. sure that I don't have to inform you that this is not how news works.  Even if you take 'gaming journalism' and throw all of the quotation marks around it indicating various levels of snark and such, this is not how it works.  We all have our favorite sources, I'm sure, that we cite as our favorites because we can expect them to keep a level-head in the face of knee-jerk reactions, but unfortunately nobody really survived this one intact as I was quick to point out in the post I made.

While nobody got it as bad as IGN for their "REPORT:  Final Fantasy Versus XIII Cancelled" headline, I really don't think anyone put it in the right light.  I don't cite myself as a 'source' for news, so I won't even suggest that my post on it, the post I really expected the majority of the internet to put down rather than what we saw, did the right thing.  I know the easy counter-argument is that "Hey, everybody just said it was a rumor" and yes, they did, save for IGN, but that's clearly not the point.  It's less in the actuality of what was said and more in the method, just in the way it was given credibility for absolutely no reason.  I could say anything in this post and say "But it's just a rumor, remember", like saying that Final Fantasy Type-0 is totally getting remade for the Vita with new features and Near integration.  And say that I have "inside sources" suggesting this is truth, that this is how the West will receive Final Fanasy Type-0, as a Vita game.  Because it's just a rumor, right?  If it gets picked up and Siliconera, IGN, etc. start reporting what I said in even just a little more credible manner than I did, we'd have the exact same situation.

And that is why this is cathartic.  Yes, it is rather petty to sit here and say "I told you guys so", but goddamnit, I did, and I shouldn't have had to exist as the voice of reason in the situation.  Not that I consider what I'm doing on the same level or anything, but you guys know what I mean.  As I said, we have officially gained -zero- ground after the whole situation, since before Kotaku posted that thing, the line was Squeenix saying it's being worked on and fans being skeptical.  Now, Squeenix is saying that it's still being worked on and fans are still skeptical since Squeenix refuses to show anything.  The only thing that can be gleaned from all of this is that people believe anything that Kotaku says.  I don't.  Hopefully after this, the trend will start moving back this way.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ubisoft: 'We Want New Consoles!', Won't Develop For Them

I was really really hurting for something to talk about tonight because there is just fucking nothing noteworthy going on.  I've spent all my free time today watching a Let's Play of Dark Messiah and Magic (precisely three episodes) which is fantastic, but not exactly something to write about, and there is just nothing in the news.  At least, nothing that instantly grabbed me.  It was only after I slowed down and started re-reading headlines that I got that look that you only get when you're being given something that's almost too good to be true and then you discover that it is, indeed, true despite all conventions of how it just shouldn't be so.  Like common sense in this case, which will make more sense when I get more into this, but just as an opening, I wanted to stress that this is pretty much too good to not talk about because it's hilarious on the conceptual level if nothing else.  I at least to make that point abundantly clear if nothing else before the end of this post so you can -get- where I'm coming from.

So in an interview with Gamesutra or something, Ubisoft's CEO, Yves Guillemot said that it's time for new consoles because, and I quote, "it's important for the entire industry to have new consoles because it helps creativity."  Also going so far as to say "We have been penalized by the lack of new consoles on the market," because, as inferred, new consoles = creativity flourishes, whereas long console lifespans = stifling creativity.  I'm sure there's a very elaborate diagram of this exact process and it's not Grade-A Bullshit coming from his mouth and all.  I mean, it's not like there are more things that define how creative something can be than how new the thing it's on is or anything.  Snark aside, I kind of understand what he's really saying which is no less terrible here.  Basically he's just saying that new IPs are a good thing to launch on new consoles because there is usually a vast wasteland of absolutely nothing on them so your game, your new IP, tends to get noticed by virtue of a lack of choice.  It is...shrewd at best as a statement to make, but well, it's nothing really surprising, I suppose.

Here's where it gets funny, however.  You know that thing you just read, about how they're basically hurting for new consoles at this point to get the creativity wells going?  Yeah, just fucking throw that out the window.  I like to imagine it was during the same interview, but it wasn't, as he apparently said "we don't have a huge investment in the Wii U" during an investor call.  There is literally only nine hours between the posts, I want you to realize that.  While I understand there is a process to gaining and writing about information and such, so these were likely at least statements made on different days, I like to imagine that there was just immense amounts of backpeddling going on because it is hilarious to me.  Regardless, that's not the point; the point is that he basically said, "New Consoles breed Creativity" and then turned around and pointed out that they're not really doing a whole lot with the new console that is coming out.  Pretty much just a new game in an established franchise and the reboot of a twenty-six year old game.  (Oh yeah, btw, I realize the screenshot above is from before the name/genre/theme shift where Killer Freaks from Outer Space became ZombiU, that is because there are no ZombiU screenshots that I found and I'm not going to go looking for them since it is probably the exact same game with new skins.)

So let's drop the pretense here:  Ubisoft doesn't necessarily want New Consoles, but really just the PS4 and NeXtBox (which is a lot more appealing to me than calling it the 720.  Though it might just get called the XBox 8, what with the integration with Windows 8.  Nobody cares.) which isn't too bad to want, really.  Obviously, I want a PS4 more than I want the Wii U and I'm sure plenty of people want the NeXtBox instead of the Wii U as well and it's all about the familiarity bred by this generation that could probably only be shaken by a prohibitive barrier of entry ala PS3.  Do I think that Ubisoft will actively develop -more- for the two consoles than the Wii U?  Absolutely, unless the market shifts towards the Wii U which nobody honestly knows how that's going to pan out, least of all Nintendo who don't seem to rightly know what they're actually doing with it.  I imagine smart money is on the same trend that it's been forever: Buy Nintendo product for Nintendo games, buy something else for everything else, but hey, who knows.  Nintendo might finally win over the third parties with this one.  Or they won't and it won't matter whatsoever still.

Is there anything really gained here?  Probably not.  Always fun to point out the double-talk and ultimately unfortunate statements that are made within a short window of each other, but while some things can be gleaned from these, it's ultimately not indicative of anything.  It is also kind of important to point out that Wii U ports from PS3/360 games to the system have cost something just north of $1.2 million, when Rayman Legends and ZombiU, native titles to the system, cost less than that.  Maybe.  Again, this is coming from the same guy who wants new consoles but openly admits to not doing much with said new console.  Which is just hilarious and also bad timing all things considered.  That is about what we get when there's nothing else that can be considered news, of course, so I hope the humor that I saw at least made it out to be at least somewhat worth it.  Because, really, it's just funny.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

How Did I Forget About Sound Shapes?

So, being one of the first wave of titles really announced for the Vita (then NGP), Sound Shapes has surely been in the back of all our minds for quite a while.  And there has been news coming out for it steadily since the early stages of the Vita's release, as Sound Shapes, er, shaped up more and more in development, but I suppose I filed them all aside in lieu of not being release date announcements.  But I suspect that it was a little too much, as even when the release date was finalized through the PSN PLAY promotion (August 7th, for those interested, which should be all of you) I haven't really given it too much thought.  So tonight when I was anxiously looking about for something to talk about, I saw the latest news on it, the fact that three new Beck Songs will be in the game, I had a moment where all of that excitement and such that I should have had going for weeks now hit me at once.  So much so that I wondered just how I left it overlooked so pointedly to this moment, but that doesn't matter so much as I am making steps to rectify that now.

In that vein, let's sort of re-familiarize ourselves with the news that has come out about the game in recent memory, shall we?  The biggest news, I suspect, is that some time prior to E3, Sound Shapes was announced to be a PS3 title as well which was sort of a double-edged sword, of course.  People will always complain when a game is not available on another system, as well as when a game is announced for one system, and is then later moved to something else.  Because, in terms of the latter, it makes the original version 'less special' or other such nonsense.  I'm sure others have already claimed that a PS3 version simply shows a complete lack of faith in the Vita to carry the game and blah blah blah, nobody cares.  The upside to this, however, was that everybody, regardless of owning a Vita or PS3 or both, gets to enjoy the game at the same price - $14.99 (or $11.99 if you have Plus).  And when I say the same price, I mean the same price overall, as if you buy one version, you get the other version on your account.  So if you own one system only, Sound Shapes will be there waiting for you if you pick up the other eventually.  Obviously any DLC purchased will work on both versions as well, should you go that route.

Now the question swings to "Okay, it's a game about music, so who all is involved?", which is an easy thing to answer of course, but not exactly a short answer to give.  Attached to the game already is Beck (as mentioned above), Superbrothers, Jim Guthrie (same link) and Deadmau5 who you all might have heard about by now.  Just...maybe.  You know, people who clearly have had no musical impact or anything like that.  (Of course I'm being facetious.)  That's all that has been announced so far and I imagine it might be all that'll be announced for the game proper.  Of course, this is where you have to wonder about DLC and consider that they could technically try and woo just about anybody they want.  It's a musical game, after all, which means by its very nature that it's supposed to be a varied thing in its own build.  While I could suggest a few people I would buy on-sight (Daft Punk, of course), I'm not really going to put down a whole lot here, as I'll choose to simply be surprised.

We know what the game is 'about' in a way, what with all the talk of music and such, but that leaves the very real question of, well, what -is- the game about?  The game is a platformer built around music.  That is the simple answer.  The complex answer is....well....complex.  You'd be best served finding one of the many youtube videos about the game to help you with understanding the concept.  (I'm not linking any here because they're all in the Blog posts I've linked already)  But allow me to try, because when I say it's a platformer built around music, I mean exactly that.  The level creation tools (you can make your own levels, of course) have you make a song first and then you tool the level you make around that so you're running through parts of the song as you go through the level for an interactive music experience.  It sounds -really- cool just as a concept and, after looking at some of the videos, I'm convinced that it works in practice as well.  Because, I mean, I see it work in the videos, especially the Jim Guthrie video, as he goes through the process of making a level.  It doesn't show the entire process of course, but it seems fairly intuitive.

I'm not too sure how successful I'll be in the whole creating music thing, but I'm more than willing to give it a shot, of course.  Being that I'm in Plus and I'm interested in the game, I think $12 for two copies of the game is more than fair and will likely be buying it for my Vita as my new "Play whenever I have a minute" game over Treasures of Montezuma Blitz, hopefully.  Or at least being -one- of said games, since I gotta level with you, I'm friggin' seeing in match-three vision I play ToMB so much.  It's ridiculous.  Getting to enjoy some new music while also playing a new game, a platformer at that, is tantalizing, so I don't see a way I would be able to think I could pass it up.  Let's hope that others feel the same way come August 7th, as I really want this game to succeed, if just because it's a different game, and if just because it's been associated with the Vita since it was announced.  Would be a nice bit of validation, I suppose.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Music! BoA Edition

So, it's been a while since I've done up a Music! post lately, and considering I've delved quite a bit more into some new songs and such lately, I believe it's about time.  I briefly considered doing a second K-Pop Edition since my library has exponentially expanded since the first K-Pop Edition, but that's....kind of where I ran into an obstacle.  You see, I believe I have started to listen to and enjoy too much K-Pop (such a thing is impossible in some circles, of course) but I say this for the express purpose of the fact that thinking on just three songs to feature from the grander library I've come across is quite a task.  I needed some way to narrow it down, so I decided on being a bit more specific and simply focusing on an artist at a time.  So, in that vein, I instinctively went to BoA first, as I've certainly been listening to more of her stuff than anything else lately.  Even still, picking three just from her catalog is a bit rough, but I can certainly make it more manageable than the alternative.

The first song to put down is probably the easiest of the three, since I simply want to throw down the first BoA song I was exposed to.  It really is just as simple as that, as in my persistent nagging of friends for their reserves of K-Pop references, as if it were something far more valuable than it was, I was eventually tossed this video for my efforts.  It was, to put it shortly, exactly what I wanted in that it was entertaining and upbeat while also exposing me to another (fantastic, as I later learned) artist to look into to cut my dependence on others more and more.  Since I could only listen to the same Miss A, Girls Generation and 2NE1 songs so many times, and looking into the rest of their songs wasn't turning up any winners.  (Of course, it didn't help that I wasn't looking at the right songs, as I have since found songs from all three of them, but that's for another time.)  BoA, as you could guess, ended up opening quite a few new songs for my listening pleasure, of which I'm sharing now.  But like I said, it started with this song, and this song is "Copy & Paste".  Hope you like silver things.

I think what first drew me to the video itself (speaking of just beyond the song since I am providing the actual videos for these, being as they've been my exposure) is the fact that the dance routine featured in it is quite a bit more elaborate than most other K-Pop videos I've seen.  This is because BoA is a pretty fantastic dancer, which will only shine through more and more as I get through each video.  Copy&Paste doesn't really show it off as well as I remember, but that may just be because I've seen more than it, which lets me evaluate her abilities overall.  I guess we'll see, since again, this is the first of three that I'll be sharing and I assume at so of you good folks who read this on a semi-regular basis will play along.  Maybe.  Hopefully without judging me.

Now, whereas Copy&Paste is the first song I got into of BoA's, the second here is one of the more recent ones I've discovered and it's quickly rising up in my own personal popularity.  Not because I think the song is a lot better (I pretty much can't judge the songs themselves since it's more a mood thing), but simply because the video for it is so much fun.  I personally can't watch the video without getting sucked into the enjoyment it sort of permeates.  I just can't imagine that it was not a fun video to make in any fashion, so that part of it is certainly enjoyable on its own merits.  Aside from that, the video has like everything one could want from a song without realizing it.  Seriously.  To prove this to you, I humbly suggest that you do give a listen/watch to "Lose Your Mind", if just to get in on the fun.

Seriously.  Catwalk, Weapon Demos (that staff-twirling could totally be part of combat and you all know it), Chair Dancing and a Guitar Solo out of friggin' nowhere.  In the same video.  What more could you possibly want?  I submit to you that there is very little that I could think of beyond what was offered.  Although, to be honest, I chuckle to myself a little everytime I mention all four of those elements in a row because it seems....kind of nonsensical.  And I believe that's kind of the point as to why I point them out to begin with, but it's enjoyable nonetheless.  Like I said, pretty much everything about the video just oozes -fun-, which is why I really really enjoy it and wanted to show it off at least.  It also does help illustrate my earlier point about the dancing being more elaborate than your usual video.  Which also, of course, speaks to BoA's dancing chops which are, as shown, quite good.

The last pick is kind of the hardest here, because I want this video to be the one to show off the most, to really drive in the point that I've been making about the dancing which is honestly one of the main selling points when it comes to BoA.  The first song was easy, as I just wanted to throw down the first song I heard.  The second was a little harder, but I decided on Lose Your Mind because it's the most fun of them.  And now, as I said, I just want the last one to just hit it out of the park in terms of my whole point here.  Which...that's a hard thing to narrow down.  I could honestly put at least two other songs in this spot and it'd show off just as much in that sense.  But, as this is a Music! post, the song itself counts just as much, and I went with this one because of the song, since I've probably listened to it about four hundred times.  I wish I was kidding.  The song is "Hurricane Venus" and, of the three videos here, this one offers some weirdness, so don't let that distract too much.

I don't really know what's up with the feathers, masks and flying or anything and it doesn't really matter, I say.  Despite the video being decidedly what you might expect from the genre in terms of outfits worn and such, the song and dancing is fairly consistent with the rest in that they are both quite enjoyable.  The song at least is pretty different from the other two as well, which might be why I've listened to it as much, but I don't know.  That also probably does not matter so much.  Regardless, I think that was a pretty good one to end it on since it probably makes my point pretty emphatically.  I think the real reason BoA's pretty great at the dancing thing is because she has an absurd amount of body control which is accentuated quite well in this video.  Maybe a little moreso than the previous two (though Lose Your Mind was pretty good for that as well)  If K-Pop isn't your thing, I doubt anything here will change your mind, but if you enjoy it generally, then hopefully I've given you a few more songs to enjoy.  Without judging me, I remind.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Kotaku Says FF Versus XIII Is Dead, Internet Rages

First thing's first, I would like to make a note of the fact that I am doing what most are -not- doing, which is keeping cool on this matter.  I'm not doing some knee-jerk "Final Fantasy Versus XIII is DEAD" titled post, nor even alluding to the fact that there is a real possibility that the game has been cancelled.  I'm not saying "Report: Final Fantasy Versus XIII Cancelled" like it's gospel truth.  I am merely taking something that is not only of personal interest to me, as well as a fairly big, recent story, and putting down what's been said of it, not only just so it gets out there, but also so that it hopefully does so in the correct manner.  Since I see so many people are doing it wrong.  (At least, wrong in the sense of just trying to post up stuff versus trying to ensure something is read by a bunch of people who will completely misinterpret what's there.)  Considering the, er, 'origin' of this story, I think it's a particularly egregious misstep for many folks out there, but not a surprising one, I guess.

So let's not dawdle and just lay things out on the table so that we may explain them, yes?  Kotaku (yes, they're still around, yes, the site is still miserable) has said that 'various sources' have confirmed to them that Final Fantasy Versus XIII is no longer a thing in development.  They are claiming that the game itself has been quietly cancelled, where the lengthy development time and results are merely being folded into another project which may or may not be a numbered Final Fantasy title.  This is all, both the quiet nixing and the folding, are apparently on the hush-hush because Squeenix fears that the mere notion that they are dumb enough to put six years worth of costs into an entirely new game without releasing the game they were attached to will scare away investors and affect the overall stock price.  Which is pretty much the only bit of any of this that does, in fact, make a little sense.

So yes, that means that the entirety of the story is that Kotaku has made a post about something that very well could be true without providing anything to back it up beyond what 'sources' have claimed.  Just let that sink in for a moment while I repost IGN's post on it titled "Report: Final Fantasy Versus XIII Cancelled" which is in no way a thinly veiled criticism or anything of the sort, let me assure you.  And when I point out that the actual Kotaku post itself which started all of this ends on this note: "So, is Final Fantasy Versus XIII finally and officially dead? Without confirmation from Square Enix, we can't say for sure. [...] But if the game fails to make an appearance at either the upcoming Final Fantasy celebrations or the 2012 Tokyo Game Show? Then yeah, given what we've heard (particularly of Square's reported desire to kill the game quietly), you'd be a lot safer assuming Versus XIII is kaput and start looking forward to the next big FF game." which is about as non-committal as can be, it's certainly not me indirectly stating my disappointment and dissatisfaction with the various news sources who have not only gone full-bore on something with a shaky leg to stand on, but have done so on something Kotaku themselves isn't even fully behind.

Is it easy to believe?  Absolutely.  Versus XIII is quickly on its way to becoming another Duke Nukem Forever considering that in the six years since it was shown off first and announced, we have received maybe half a dozen trailers, some screenshots early on, and some sketchy information that you know, back up with it being in motion which obviously Squeenix has lacked in doing.  If any other site had broken the 'story' first with something at least a tiny bit more concrete than 'inside sources', it would definitely be at least a little more believable since who honestly know just how much of Versus is done?  It only officially entered 'full production' last September, which I'm assuming means that they at least had an Alpha build of the game built at that point.  Which suggests, you know, kind of more of a game than one that you'd want to cancel, barring if you're Activision and have gone somewhat crazy.  But I don't think we're beyond thinking Squeenix is capable of doing something on that level of dumb.

I'm clearly a little unconvinced, of course.  I whole-heartedly believe that this is a thing that is possible, in spite of the fact that GAF (who is a surprisingly valid source) has people who has said Versus will be shown off at TGS and the fact that Theathrythm has recently received DLC (in Japan) featuring songs (a song?) from Versus XIII.  Strictly because Squeenix has done nothing to earn my, nor anybody else's, good will with something like this.  The actual fate of Versus, specifically just how the final product will turn out, has been nebulous since day one beyond "Action/RPG in a modern setting" which, in all fairness is more than enough to begin to generate the hype.  But you've got to follow up and follow-through, which Squeenix has simply failed to do.  So, much like Kotaku (ugh), I have to say that we'll just have to see how things go at TGS.  Perhaps it's just my own hope, but I think it'll be there.  Unfortunately, I'm not willing to back that up with 'inside sources' which may or may not exist.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fez Is Busted, Will Remain Busted

Oh boy.  Strap in for this one, kids, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

This was somewhat of a hot story yesterday that seems to have died down because...well, I'm not quite sure why.  I believe I'll submit a few theories towards the end here, but let's just start off with the facts, shall we?  So, I'm sure you've all at least heard of the game, Fez, considering it apparently has about five years of development under its belt, with the last two of them simply being release date delays and the like for the casual outsider.  It did, eventually, release to the surprise of most people, on XBLA all the way back in April and, surprising absolutely nobody, it was really really buggy.  As in, 'game-breaking problems' buggy.  As in, corrupt your save buggy.  This is important, do not forget it.  About a month later, specifically May 17th, the long-awaited patch was submitted to Microsoft and failed certification about a week later due to two 'critical issues'.  Truly a good omen and not a sign of things yet to come.  So it took some time, but around June 8th, a new build of the patch was submitted and was finally released June 22nd to the tune of everyone stating in a completely flat manner: "Do not use it."

This is because the patch, finally released, did manage to fix a number of the problems that were in the game since its release two months earlier, but it also introduced another one that, surprise had the nasty side-effect of corrupting your save game.  Again.  The only suggested method was to clear your 360's cache which, I will be honest in saying I have absolutely no idea how that would help, clearly because I am not a brilliant developer, but aside from that, not a whole lot could be done.  Because of the issue which, at the time was said to be "fairly widespread" (seriously, it's in the post go look at it), the patch was pulled and Polytron set to work on trying to patch the patch.  It was all really kind of sad, I suppose, and it just seemed like Polytron couldn't catch a break.  You take a look at stories like this and go "Well, this is one of the flaws of the 'indie' team, in that you don't have a whole lot of people and resources to test as extensively as larger developers" which is a sad truth, but a truth nonetheless.  And clearly, trying to give the people who have supported you the best product you can make is the goal.

...Unless it costs money to patch it a second time.  Then everybody can go get fucked.  While a bit over-dramatic on my part admittedly, that is unfortunately the message that I read, even though I'm not part of the people who are affected by the 'fairly widespread' problem.  Which apparently wasn't 'fairly widespread' if you believe Polytron, who are saying that the issue only affects under 1% of the people who played the game.  Which seems totally legit and I can't see any reason why that would be a falsehood at all or anything.  I would, of course, like to know just how this information was ascertained since I am apparently not savvy enough to know just how your save game getting corrupted can be reported back to the developer without going to loony "Big Brother" types of lengths.  Apparently included in this less-than-1% of people are generally people who have either beaten Fez or are close to the end of the game, which means that they are apparently people who have 'pretty much seen what Fez has to offer' which the implication is that they are fairly low-priority because of that.

We believe the save file corruption issue mostly happened to players who had completed, or almost completed the game. If you hadn’t already seen most of what FEZ had to offer, your save file is probably safe.

That's how that reads to me at least.  Maybe, again, I'm looking a little too hard into it and picking out stuff that isn't there or whatever.  But this is my post and this is pretty much where my editorializing starts, since I pretty much laid out the 'facts' as they are over the course of the end of Fez's journey through development to release to post-release support, such as it is.  Regardless, all that the above means is that the patch that was pulled because there was apparently a reason that it had to be pulled was put right back out for players to download against all previous warning because it's 'good enough'.  Because getting to the end of the game, going off to know anything and coming back to a corrupt save is totally acceptable and we should all just go "Oh, Polytron, you jokesters, now I get to play your game again so I can see the ending!" Likely as canned laughter comes out of somewhere and the credits begin rolling.  Because this is not a realistic situation, you see, that's the joke.

Now, something that I feel I should put down before I go on any further; is everything on Microsoft's side perfectly acceptable, considering I'm of a mind that Polytron's position is not?  Of course not.  Many developers have said that the patch certification process (for the second and beyond patches to a game as everyone gets a free one, which I've stated) can be as expensive as $40,000, which is the number everybody is throwing around regardless.  While I understand that the members of the certification process have a very specialized task, are numerous in number to increase their overall effectivity and must be paid for their time, I really doubt they're seeing, as a whole, a good portion of the alleged $40,000.  I would go so far as to suggest that they barely see any of it, as QA testers (which I assume the Cert. board basically is) do not really have an enviable job in any aspect as the work is tedious, the conditions are often less-than-stellar and the pay is not supposed to be all that great.  So clearly, if the number is indeed $40,000, it's entirely too high, especially if that is attached to patch number two, number three, four, etc. individually.

So honestly, from a pure logistics angle, I can't -really- blame Polytron and/or Phil Fish (seeing as he gets tossed out regardless, he seems to have been thrust into a spokesperson seat for the developers and thus is held responsible accordingly) since if the numbers they're using are true (which we might as well assume they are, considering we're probably never going to get any other 'truth' of the situation) then it's ridiculous.  Let's use the 100,000 copies sold figure that was tossed out as the early earnings figure.  Obviously they've probably sold quite a few more of those, but it's a nice, easy number for math purposes.  (You didn't think you'd get out of a post like this without math from me, did you?) 100,000 copies at $10 a copy (yes yes, Microsoft points, blah blah, it's ten fucking dollars) is, obviously, a cool million that Polytron probably sees, like a half of, conservatively.  If that.  Using the <1% figure, that means that less than 1,000 people are affected by the issue.  Does it suck to be in that group of 999 people?  Absolutely.  But from a purely numbers stand-point (I have to stress the numbers part since I will be making a radical 180 next paragraph) it's very minute, considering that $40K is 8% of the, again, very conservative estimate regarding the net gains Polytron saw from Fez.

Here's the thing, though.  Just because it doesn't make sense from a numbers standpoint, that doesn't mean you get to be a dick about it.  Marginalizing people, looking at cost vs. profits and the like is a big part of what people dislike about big developers/publishers, and it's likely one of the driving forces behind Indie Gaming as a whole.  Since it's supposed to be about a person or small group of people with a vision and a little bit of programming talent bringing that vision to all of us in any manner possible.  In that vein, it's how we've seen such games as Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World from Zeboyd Games, and other such Indie 'darlings' as they've appeared over the last couple of years.  Just people who said "Hey, I want to make an awesome game" and then did so.  Steam was the most accommodating service for these people, apparently, so a lot of them went that direction.  Others (yes, like Zeboyd) turned to XBox Live Indie Games, considering it was a game development platform put out there for the very specific purpose of delivering the tools to make a game to Indie Devs and then giving them a platform to sell it from.  Of course, Microsoft doesn't seem very good at the latter part since XBLIG seems to get little attention, but that's a whole other story.

Saying "Thanks for the money, hope your save doesn't get corrupted, good luck!" is the very epitome of something you don't get to say in -any- circumstance if you are a developer.  No matter if you're an Indie Developer, a big-name one, or whatever, this is simply something that you don't get to do without expecting justified backlash.  The fact that Microsoft is a big company and expects you to pay when you screw up absolves you of exactly zero.  And honestly, the thing that annoys me the most with this whole situation is that instead of just thinking for precisely -one minute- or any other quantifiable amount of time, Polytron dusted off the Indie soapbox and hopped onto it, despite how silly doing so is, all things considered.  "THE MAN is oppressing us!  This is why Indie things are superior!  RA RA!  They want a large sum of money so we can fix our thrice-bugged game!"  All said after paying for the XBLA exclusivity (which entitles, among other things, a rather sizeable amount of advertising, thus ensuring your game likely sells fairly well) and going on record as saying they went with XBLA purely because Fez is a console game, one that you have to play, and enjoy, on a console whilst sitting on your couch or such.

“Fez is a console game, not a PC game,” he states, emphatically. “It’s made to be played with a controller, on a couch, on a Saturday morning. To me, that matters; that’s part of the medium.” I get so many comments shouting at me that I’m an idiot for not making a PC version. ‘You’d make so much more money! Can’t you see? Meatboy sold more on Steam!’ Good for them. But this matters more to me than sales or revenue. It’s a console game on a console. End of story.”

Obviously, Fez is about the experience, man, and not the money.  No sir.  And when the timed exclusivity expires, I'm sure we won't see the game hit Steam because who cares if "the game would have been fixed two weeks after release, at no cost to us.", because money doesn't matter!  No amount of money, no tens of thousands of dollars, matters!  Because it's about the -game-, goddamnit, because this is Indie Gaming.  It's about the principle of it all, which means standing up for the little guy who gets ignored when it's not profitable to help them!  So, seriously that settles it.  You won't be seeing Fez on any other platform even after the exclusivity runs out, because it's purely about making sure everybody gets the full experience of the game and not like....most of the experience.  Minus the ending.  The whole experience.

It should probably be illegal to have that much snark condensed in a single paragraph.  I think it sums up my thoughts on the matter rather nicely, however.  Now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to resume playing a game where a patch has completely improved the experience without adding any game-breaking glitches.  Which is apparently an impossible process.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review - Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble

Sorry, no theme song for this game on Youtube.  Who'da thought that one, huh.

I honestly didn't figure I was going to be doing a review for this game, but when I sat down to write up the Impressions post for it, I realized "Well, I ran through it completely twice as well as just randomly playing around with it, so I pretty much know what it has to offer".  That is...pretty much the requirement I have on myself for a game that I review: ensuring that I know it pretty well so that I can sufficiently put it on display for what it is.  And saying that I believe I can do that with Kenka Bancho is pretty much a statement on the game itself, all things considered, especially when I start to lay it out as to what kind of game it is.  Not to be cryptic or anything, I just like to have something of a preface up front to work through for the rest of the post which includes something of a hook, ala the previous statement.  Maybe it loses something when I then go on to explain it but whatever, the absurdity matches the mood of the game for better or worse.

I'll say this upfront: Honestly, they could've called the game "Way of the Bancho" and it would have made so much more sense going into it.  The game basically revolves around a school trip to Kyouto which is certainly not Kyoto, get that out of your mind right now, okay?  The main character, Sakamoto Takashi (Or Takashi Sakamoto, I never know anymore) is the Bancho or head badass (delinquent) of his school and, upon arriving in Kyouto, learns that the school trip plays host to a big unwritten Bancho Tournament every year.  He quickly decides to participate in the festivities, which basically means finding the other Banchos and punching them until you win in a fight with them, whereupon they become your 'Peon', signifying that you have 'conquered' that territory.  Really, it's almost like a Conquering game, something you all know I want, only it involves punching people a lot, which again you all know I love.  So this should be the perfect game for me, right?  I should love this game to death by definition.

I don't.  I want to love it, so badly, but I just do not.  Don't get me wrong, I like the game, I really do, but I can't hold it aloft and claim it to be wonderful, I can't say it does everything I want is amazing for it.  Because it simply doesn't.  Clearly, I am going to pick the game apart and say what works and doesn't work and it will be glorious I assure you, but I also talk of games sometimes being more than their parts as well.  When that happens, it's wonderful and I would've liked that to happen with Kenka Bancho, but it simply didn't.  Which is probably the only disappointment I had with the game in that, once I learned of its intentions, I expected to be wowed and was not; which some could rightly argue is simply my own problem.  Indeed, if you keep your expectations down, you could walk away from Bancho with a pretty good overall opinion (like I did) without it being hampered by a nagging let-down.

I would like to highlight what makes the game pretty damn badass first, of course, before going in and picking my nits, since what Kenka Bancho does well is entertaining, which in most cases should be top priority.  First, let me simply point out that the game has fucking eye lasers.

I don't think anybody would think that I made that up.  I don't think I really have to prove the fact that the game does, indeed, include fucking eye lasers.  But that image is less 'proof' that the game has them and more simply touting that fact.  Because it is awesome despite the fact that they are not lasers in the common sense, despite how it may appear in the above screenshot.  You see, the Laser Eyes is actually your 'Menchi Beam" which is basically just a tangible representation of staring someone down which is what is used to initiate fights or, in some instances, cause potential foes to simply soil themselves and run in fear.  As only a true badass can make happen.  Indeed, if you see someone who appears to be a Shabazo (basically someone who you can fight who is -not- a Bancho, but simply a weaker delinquent) you can use your Menchi Beam to 'challenge' them to a fight.  Upon doing so and fighting them, they sometimes drop their Itineraries, which shows where they will be on certain days, thus allowing you to plan where you have to go to take down a Bancho.

Something else about the whole set-up to a fight that is amusing in small doses is that cutting a menchi beam (indeed, this is how the game refers to it) at someone and having that challenge accepted initiates a 'smash talk' sequence.  You are given a statement (one of the ones I remember is "It'll rain your blood!") which is then cut up into three pieces and you have to do something of a QTE to assemble it.  Going step-by-step, you'll get prompts that correspond to the four face buttons (for stronger encounters, L and R will be included as well) that have parts of your statement on them, as well as three other starting phrases that are sometimes intentionally put there to try and confuse you, given that you have a few seconds to hit each part.  So using the example "It'll Rain Your Blood!", the first batch of four could be "Square: It'll stain", "Triangle: It'll Rain", "Circle: I'll pay", "Cross: This Game's" or something to that effect.  To match the Smash talk, obviously you hit Triangle, then the next four pop up, etc. etc.  Using this method, you can assemble the correct Smash Talk statement which gets you the first shot, and should you mess it up, obviously they get the first shot.

Of course, in true fashion for these types of games, there is a -third- option for the outcome of this sort of thing.  Most, if not all, Smash Talk sequences have a 'Hidden Smash' statement that will constitute as a win for you despite not being the right statement.  The pieces of a Hidden Smash appears much as the regular and decoy ones, and you just have to go out on a limb and experiment to find them.  I don't know if they give you more of an edge than simply the correct smash, but I can imagine there's a title in it for you if you use them enough times.  One that I remember, having run into it already is "This Game's Really Awesome!" or something to that effect which is clearly just a wink from Atlus and/or Spike or whomever (wiki lists the developer as 'Bullets'...who don't have a page of course), but other Hidden Smashes have proven to be more along the lines of the general Smash Talk statements.  It's a neat layer of depth that may, in fact, be wholly unnecessary, but I have to acknowledge the fact that it's there, if just because it suggests that the game as a whole isn't wholly rigid in every element.

It may seem like I have talked about every element about the fighting except the fighting itself, since I devoted three paragraphs to -starting- a fight and this is indeed a correct statement.  That is because the fighting gameplay is....pretty simple.  This works for and against it in fairly obvious ways and while it allows you to completely customize every move (by switching it out with others that you learn by leveling up and defeating banchos) it's all held back by a combat system that's just a little bit too slow.  Speeding up the animations by like even a second probably would have made a world of difference, because it simply causes a disjoint with me while I'm playing with it.  I punch and it doesn't immediately slam a fist into someone's face, but rather takes an instant just -beyond- immediately to do so.  It may seem like I'm picking at something really small, but trust me, it shines through when you're actually playing the game.  It prevents the combat system from being great, but it is still fairly good for the mentioned reasons, as well as for being fairly simple to master in a way that will get you the best results.

As with most all combat systems out there, the combat is only as deep as you chose to make it which is something that I'm sure anyone would be more than happy to hold against the game.  True, you can win most fights by simply throwing charged attacks in between grapples involving two attacks and a throw (and then a pin three-hit combo on top of it), but that gets boring.  You can mix it up with dash attacks and jump attacks and generally just decide what the best approach is, depending on your moveset and play style.  The addition of Finishers under the guise of 'Local Specialties' that are just about optional is another layer of depth to the system as a whole as well.  They are, unsurprisingly, strong moves that can only use at the expense of a great amount of spirit (which is restored with items or simply squatting to focus) that do have a good chance of taking a chunk of health off your foes if not take them out completely.  They're best used in circumstances in which you are surrounded by foes, which happens fairly often, as you get the most bang for you buck, so to speak.  What with spreading that damage out as far as possible, since it really does do a good clip.  As they should.

Now, harking back to something I said towards the start of the review, I can finally really clarify just what I meant by calling the game "Way of the Bancho".  The reason is fairly obvious; the trip covers seven days which, upon completing, you can restart from the first day in classic New Game+ sense to redo events, try and fight new banchos, etc.  So much as in the Way of the Samurai games, the game is meant to be played several times to get the whole scope of the game which flows quite a bit beyond the basic "defeat all of the Banchos!" goal that the game sets as the 'over-arching' goal of the game.  Even with my two and so plays, I haven't seen even more than half of all the events that the game has to offer, which certainly inspires replaying as much as the seemingly impossible goal of defeating all the Banchos (47 in all) in a single run-through of the game proper.  It's a basic and fairly effective approach to designing a game, if the four Way of the Samurai games are any proof of that and when it's done well, it's quite a bit engaging.  To that end, I should say that Kenka Bancho does justify its cost, provided you take what it tasks you with as a challenge that you -want- to complete, and not merely one you feel compelled to do so.

As is probably quite a bit obvious by the above screenshot, a good bit of the events in the game revolve around the three ladies that Sakamoto comes into contact with during the trip.  The one on the left-most is Manami, a class-mate of Sakamoto who is a close friend and clearly has a thing for him and he doesn't realize it and blah, blah, you all know this one without me saying so.  She doesn't like Sakamoto devoting his life to fighting people and generally being a jerk which isn't entirely unreasonable, but she doesn't do a whole lot to stop you aside from asking.  Sometimes.  She's....about as compelling as you could assume from her by-the-book backstory and while I haven't quite won her heart over (haven't won any of them just yet, actually) I could imagine just how that would work out.  I'm not sure if it'll actually impact the ending or anything like that, but I imagine I'll find out sometime.

Kotone and Aya (middle and right respectively) are two girls that you meet via an unskippable event in which Kotone gets accosted for being a geisha-esque girl and Sakamoto runs to her rescue because it means getting to beat people up.  I'm not kidding.  After said dudes are beat up, Kotone starts thanking Sakamoto who promptly gets dropkicked out of fucking nowhere, no I am not kidding.  This is done by Aya, of course, who is basically the antithesis of Manami, as is required by japanese law or something.  (I poke fun, obviously, but come on.)  Where Manami is studious and polite, Aya is loud, obnoxious and skips school fairly regularly because why not.  (She attends Ikeda High, the school of Kyouto which is totally not a plot point or anything, no spoilers here.)  And Aya is clearly no delicate flower if the goddamn dropkick did not tip you off in some fashion.  She fills out the requisite trope list quite well enough and, in my experience, does just as you would expect romance-wise on said list as well.  I suppose what I am saying is that the story and such isn't anything new, nor is it something that you -have- to experience, but it's capable enough to carry a game about punching dudes.

The story is, of course, completely divorced from the actual writing itself, as the writing is pretty funny when it wants to be, and it wants to be funny often.  The more obvious examples in attempts come from the smash talk lines as indicated earlier (I say attempts because "Yo momma" and the like are sometimes interspersed in the attempts) whereas the real executions generally be in the Bancho introductions.  The banchos are quite a strange collection of characters, if you hadn't figured, and Sakamoto has no issue with pointing this fact out to them directly.  The exchange with the above chicken-esque bancho stands out as one of the particularly humorous ones, but it is by no means the only example, nor the one that really -needs- to be pointed out as the 'staple' example or anything like that.  Indeed, I could probably boot up the game and discover a couple other legitimately amusing exchanges, but that's a bit more effort than I need to put in at this moment considering I'm....well, writing this.

I will go ahead and say that between the Bancho events (which is basically the before fight and after fight chatter) and the girl events, there's not a whole lot of other story to the game.  At least none that I've found.  Usually in the Way of the Samurai type games, you find at least a few stray storylines to entangle yourself in and while you could simply say those are the girlfriend ones in this, it feels like there should be more to it.  Or just maybe a story about something else to do in the game besides bancho hunt, if that makes sense.  I suspect, however, that this is the part where I just start reaching and hoping for more than the game can sensibly offer, so I won't linger too much on it, simply saying that while novel, it would have been nice for a little -more-.  Maybe just a storyline where you constantly bait and escape the main cop going after you or something to that effect.  Maybe one where you -join forces- with the cop!  Something like that, to which I'm not quite sure (in fact, I would say I doubt) exists in it.

Really, I think I'm not saying anything that you couldn't really glean from a quick look at the game in motion or via review somewhere else.  While I may be a touch more in its corner for the mere fact that it allows me to punch things in a portable game, I can't say things about it that aren't true and that I don't really feel for it.  Despite how much I would like to, since it would fill a hole that could, but never will be filled by another series in a way that matters.  But the game is merely capable at best in most regards, with the highest marks going towards the writing of it.  Or at least the localized script, since who knows if it was originally that funny without relying on cheap jokes and the like as is suggested by the smash talk.  So all in all, that makes it a 'good' game that you will likely play and enjoy, but immediately forget.  I could imagine seeing people letting the whole "need to play it multiple times" slip right over their heads as well, since the game doesn't give you a whole lot of indication about that feature which is....well, a shame, considering it's like a bulk of the game.

The Good
  • Allows a lot of replayability by following the "Way of the Samurai" gameplay approach
  • The writing is pretty hilarious at times, honestly
  • You get to punch dudes...
  • ...while 'conquering' Japan, in terms of taking out the Banchos for every province
  • Two words.  Eye.  Lasers.
  • The screenshot system (using your camera in the map, and hitting select during cutscenes) is fantastic for this purpose exclusively.  I took all the screenshots used here.
  • Some of the moves you get are quite rad
  • Itineraries are one of the things that carry over between games, so you don't have to re-collect them 
  • Seriously, Eye Lasers
The Bad
  • The combat system is just short of great which is incredibly frustrating
  • The OST is about a notch below "Forgettable"
  • Story is pretty 'by-the-numbers' stuff
  • Not enough branch-points that I could find
  • The Smash Talk thing gets really old eventually, even if Hidden Smashes add a little life to it
  • Getting around is a pain until you realize the world map is hidden in the Itinerary menu (Hit triangle)
  • After finding the world map in the Itinerary menu, time still goes by too fast
  • It honestly just needs a little more polish to be -great-
Mogs Says
Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble is, as I said, not a -great- game, but it is a good one.  If you are just frothing at the mouth for a brawler on your portable, your choices are basically this and, uh.....but that doesn't mean it wins by default, of course.  It does almost everything at a level that will not offend, but won't get you really pumped either, while giving you a good laugh here and there.  For the sale price of $7.50, you get a lot of game if you want to put in multiple plays (which you probably will) and I can't see a reason for you to regret the purchase unless you pride yourself on only acquiring the best of the best.  Still, maybe take a look at videos elsewhere in case you're on the fence before pulling the trigger, since I can safely say this is a very "YMMV" game, even moreso than the usual fare that I enjoy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Yggdra Union Impressions

The second game I want to talk about in my big Atlus Splurge is Yggdra Union which was sold to me the minute it mentioned "Cards" in any fashion in the description.  It took me a bit to actually get to the part where I bought it and downloaded it, yes, but I'm sure you understand what I mean.  Unsurprisingly, if you take a look above, the game is another GBA conversion that I had absolutely no idea about prior to actually buying the game, but I think it shows it a little less than Riviera (which doesn't show it all that much itself) does, and if anything, it's more Gameplay that shows it as such than the actual style of the game or anything else.  Still, I should say the biggest thing about Yggdra Union is that I completely didn't know what I was getting myself into by playing it, and I still don't, really.  On top of that, I haven't quite decided if that's inherently a bad thing or not just yet.

As you might have also gleaned from the above screenshot, Yggdra Union is a strategy RPG, of which I could best equivocate it to Advance Wars.  Which is...fitting, given the original platform for the game, for both games, rather, and Advance Wars, I'm told, is a fun game in its own right.  I...don't really remember it too much myself.  GBA was quite a long time ago, you realize, and I didn't play a lot on mine beyond Pokemon and Harvest Moon which was completely not a damn-near prediction of my trend with Nintendo devices or anything.  No sirree.  I mean it's not like I've spent the most time with any game on my DS on Pokemon or Harvest Moo....Well it's not like I'm planning on buying a 3DS exclusively for Pokemon and Harvest Mo....hrm.  (Yes, I'm being facetious, but only because it's uncanny and I didn't realize it until just now.)  Regardless, the staples you might expect here, grid-based movement, combat that you don't necessarily directly control which is influenced by percentages and Weapon affinities, they're all present and drive the game in a way that I honestly don't mind so much.

Just to get this out of the way, the way cards come into play is pretty much the entirety of the game, despite part of them not taking place in at least the first four or five battles of the game.  (the skills.  I say this because I haven't gotten to use a one just yet)  Cards control how many movements your units can take in your turn (move pool is shared, so 12 move means one unit moves twelve spaces, two units move any combination of moves equalling 12, etc.) and how damaging your attack will be when and if you use one.  Notice I said attack, as in singular, because only one unit may attack per turn.  This does little beyond force strategic usage and pad the game length as, if you could attack once per unit, then rounds would last a lot less time.  And of course, it's not so easy as 'only one attack' as you can use the units placement on the map to extend that out for prolonged battles.  Without getting too deep into the specifics, if you have three units and place them just so before attacking, all three of them will launch an attack in succession against that unit unless its own units are in a similar formation, meaning Units just sort of pair off.  If it's 3-on-3, then each one has one attack, 3-on-2 then the first two match and the third one attacks the first unit again, and 3-on-1 obviously means that one unit is in three battles, which likely means poor things for that unit.

Battles are a thing, since you really don't get to influence a whole lot of what happens in it, much like Advance War (I believe), which once again perhaps points at the influence.  You have your unit numbers (Generally I've seen units of 8 for swordsmen and axe-users, but only 4 for Knights which use spears, though I'm sure there's plenty more variation) and every battle starts with a charge and retaliation.  Depending on the weapon affinities, that first hit could just decide a battle.  I've seen units get -halved- on that first strike if the weapon is strong against that type, which essentially means that unit is then proper screwed.  The basic affinity chain, by the way, is like Rock, Paper, Scissors.  Spear beats Sword, Sword beats Axe, Axe beats Spear, no don't ask me how, I have no idea.  Following the first strike and retaliation, the units just sort of stick on their side of the screen and swing their weapons until the complex background math decides that somebody has died.  The battle ends, obviously, when everybody in a unit has died and after that, Morale is deducted from their overall total.  When Morale hits 0, that unit disappears from the map.  Some units obviously take more than one loss to get removed, but the upside is that your cards attack power goes up with every victory, be it a Morale-duster or not.

So what can you do while the little people are flailing about with their weapons and doing things that only vaguely make anything resembling sense?  You can hold Left or Right, of course!  There is a Passive/Aggressive bar that allows you to make your unit fight more....well, Aggressively or Passively.  Fighting Passively restores the bar (which will eventually be used in conjunction with skills) where Aggressive stance drains the bar.  The options merely increase or decrease your attacks effectiveness which means effective use could win you victory in a battle you should technically lose or absolutely spank foes who you hold superiority over.  Aside from that, there's not a whole lot you can do in battle aside from let it play out, which means that the battle is more fought in the way you approach it, rather than the way it plays out.  It's a good sentiment, of course, but doesn't make for the most involved gameplay one could hope for.  Still, it is a bit rewarding to get those victories and those times when it just works out for you when, again, you -should- lose pretty much legitimize it.

From what I've played so far, it's a pretty interesting game.  I can't say that it's wonderful quite yet, but it does have another rather unique set-up that I could see eventually elevating it to something beyond what I've seen.  Especially when skills come into play, whenever that is, since that will of course add an entire new layer, not only for the player, but against them as well.  The story is nothing if standard at the moment but that's how they're supposed to start, anyway, so I'm not really too fussed about it just yet.  Much as with Riviera, I don't immediately regret the decision to buy it, nor do I suspect I will ultimately do so, but I am far more forgiving on games than most, so take my recommendation with a little bit of salt.  Take it more like "If you like these games, this is what it kind of has to offer, so make your decision on that" than me simply saying "This is great, buy it".  Because trust me, if I tell you something is great and you should buy it, you'll know it.  (Still waiting on Second Chapter, XSEED.  You have my money when you make it happen.)