Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Completionist 2014: Shooter Trio (Metal Slug 3, Broforce, Expendabros)

Awwwwwwwwww yis. Soo many 2D sidescrolling shooters! And I'm just nailing them all down. Such reflexes. Very asian. I'm glad to get this ball rolling on hammering down my backlog and finally getting on with... Buying more games. BUT WHO CARES!?

Metal Slug is a classic 2D side scroller that has probably eaten more quarters from me than any other game. There's something timeless about the gameplay. You move right, and shoot things. There's a good variety of weapons for you to pickup by rescuing captured POWs. They really haven't strayed from that formula since forever. The artstyle is always a constant, with brilliantly animated sprites that really make the game look good. Even though they've been making Metal Slugs for almost a two decades, I still feel like you can pick any of them up and really enjoy yourself.

Broforce is TECHNICALLY still in early release. However, I did complete both the arcade campaign as well as the mission campaign. Though, I don't think they have fully finished the last part of the mission campaign, I feel like I've sufficiently done enough to call myself a BRO. Broforce brings together the greatest action heroes of our time into one insane shooter. I really get a kick out of seeing all the memorable characters they've thrown in the game. I've had the game since it first went on sale and I am so happy to see how the roster has grown over time. They started with the classics like RamBRO, B.A. Broacus, and the Brommando. Since then they've expanded the roster to over 21 characters and growing. It is an awesome homage to old school action movies as well as a very fun 2D shooter. My only complaint would be sometimes there's too many explosions, and it makes it hard to figure out where your character is. I know rite? My only complaint is there's TOO MANY FUCKING EXPLOSIONS. Granted they are always glorious, the problem is you sometimes lose your little character sprite in the midst of all the glorious carnage. Still. Awesome game bros.

You know, when you really think about it. The Expendables is basically everything Broforce was trying to be in the first place. It makes total sense that they'd mash the two. And they also get proper licensing. Holy shit. This is an actual movie tied in game that doesn't suck horribly. By god, its like a fucking unicorn from the gaming world. Would be cool if they'd import the Expendabros into Broforce because they actually gave them some really cool moves.

>SCORE = -57

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Completionist 2014: Mitsurugi Kamui Hikae

Another one bites the dust. This time I took on Mitsurugi Kamui Hikae. Yayyyy Humble Japan Bundle. Your games are all so fucking short. I mean really, it took me less than an hour to beat it. Thank god I got it in a bundle. I mean, I like having these short games to bump up my score. But, this one felt almost the most hollow out of them all(so far).

Mitsurugi Kamui Hikae (Fuck it I'm not spelling that out again. I'm doing the 'Murican abbreviation to MKH), appears on the surface to be a third person sword action swing killing slash slash fest of the likes of Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden. And you know, the more I think about it, it KINDA is. If you boiled down the game flow down to its most basic elements, MKH is almost identical to those AAA games. Your character fights against waves of enemies that spawn out of thin air. Killing them without taking a hit increases a combo meter which rewards more Special Points(SP) which is used to upgrade your character's skills, health, or Magic(Katana in MKH's case). You repeat this X amount of times until you face a boss. Then you repeat this process until you get to a last boss which may have multiple forms.

I have to give MKH a lot of credit in the combat system. It starts out pretty clunky and limits you to only a few attacks. Honestly, I felt that it was a bit too clunky and limited. But once you complete the first level, you gain access to upgrade your abilities and learn new attacks. This let you add a bunch of attacks that greatly improve the system. There was a good variety of attacks that all seemed pretty cool, but you really had no idea how well they will perform in combat until you spend the points to get them. I fell back on my tried and true, GET ONE SKILL AND SPAM THE SHIT OUT OF IT TILL YOU WIN strategy. Granted, it is usually not the best strategy in this type of game, but I found one that works. Holynub protip: Get the dashing slash thing and upgrade the fuck out of it. When its maxed out (which really doesn't take a lot) you will just out maneuver all enemies and sidestep majority of all their attacks. Dodging attacks appears to be the best way to avoid any incoming damage in MKH. There is a block/counter feature, however I rarely found myself in a position where it would work. I think I've countered an attack once in my whole play-through. Your SP resources(called your Katana Gauge) is regenerated by performing unarmed attacks. This SP is used for all attacks that require your sword, including the all encompassing dash slash win move.

MKH also has a few "Cool looking" combat mechanics built in. Enemies that are damaged beyond a certain threshold will begin to blink red and start to bleed. Bleeding enemies are susceptible to an arena wide attack(Zanshin) that deals massive damage to them while also regenerating health and restoring MP. There is no cool down on this ability, so you can spam it if you want. However, you are not invincible when performing the technique and it does leave you vulnerable while casting it (about .5 seconds). To make best use of your Zanshin, you should damage all enemies until they're in a bleeding state, then spam Zanshin to clear the board. However, you can also forgo the Zanshin and continue to dash slash your way to a ridiculously high combo, leaving the Zanshin for only when you need to heal or regenerate your SP. There's a charge attacks called Holy Trinity. These require you to hold an attack for a few seconds and usually has multiple levels of charge. You can forgo the charge by pressing a button which burns a big chunk of your SP in place of time. These attacks are basically frontal ranged slashes that deal a lot of damage. I could never get the hang of them, and quite frankly, I never really felt the need to use them.

AAA games will progress the level by making you traverse through a map and deal with different combinations of enemies in different types of terrain. Maybe you'll be running on a rooftop, BAM! You're now falling and running around a village dealing with horses and shit. Wow that's awesome! What does MKH do? MKH forgoes the terrain changes and puts you in a static arena. On every level, the setting of the arena changes but there are no obstacles. You're basically fighting in a big open circle every time. The outer wall of the arenas don't even provide any type of environmental interaction of knocking enemies off the ledges or anything. Just a big invisible wall.

The plot is super generic and paper thin. Somehow, this schoolgirl is an heir to the Mitsurugi demon killing clan. Her best friend SOMEHOW gets a hold of a demon sword which makes her evil. So these demons pop up out of nowhere and its up to her to kill them in these big circle arena places that are randomly placed in Japan. That's it. Two characters. The demons don't even get a personality or anything. They're just, "Blah I'm a demon. Let me try to slash at you." At least in AAA games they throw some absurdly convoluted story line at you. Something to keep you interested in progressing the story. But not MKH. This game makes a complete zip-line from beginning to fighting the main boss in under 5 stages. Anything interesting happen in the in-between stages? Nope. Nothing. Just more "Oh hay there's demons here. Kill them." They couldn't even throw us a goddamn bone in trying to give a crap about these characters. Which kinda sets my feeling about this game in general.

The character models on the main character and her friend are pretty well done. Almost... A bit... Too well done... You can kinda see what they were really trying to focus on. DEMOGRAPHICS. Look at how short dat skirt is. Yup. The fan service is strong with this one. Granted, its nowhere near the levels of something like Vanguard Princess or DOA: Xetreme. But for a game that is as bare bones as it is, you can clearly tell what they were trying to focus on more. Although the models do look good, and the combat animations are pretty well done, the cut scene animations are pretty pathetic.

I really can't hate on this game too much though. It is a Doujin game made by indie developers for the Comic Market (Komike). The Japanese doujin game scene is very different from the western indie game scene. I felt like there was some thought that was put into this game, and it was executed fairly well. If this was put out about 10 years ago, it would rival that of some AAA titles of that time. But when it all comes down to it, I wouldn't pay $10 for it. You MAY get about an hour of entertainment from it. Part of a bundle, yeah that works well. $10 straight up, no thanks. Maybe sub $5 I could go for it.


>SCORE = -60

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Completionist 2014: Skullgirls

Yes! Another game down. After surviving the hurricane, Weir and I decided to try out some of these fighting games we picked up on steam. I have seen things around about Skullgirls before, and it looked kinda... Interesting... I like the art, but it does seem a little fan-service-y. The sprites are fantastically drawn. They've added lots of details to both the characters and the backgrounds.

The plot varies from character to character. Unlike Vanguard Princess, I was compelled to complete the game with every character. This includes the two unlockable characters, Valentine and Double, as well as the hidden Fukua character. Basic premise is there is a thing called a Skullgirl, and that person is generally giving the world a bad time. And its up to the characters to get to the Skullgirl for one reason or another. Many of the stories tend to be on the darker side. I find the various plots to kinda fall in line with most fighting games. Not a lot of exposition, and lots of common themes. I'd have to say the general feel reminded me a lot of Guilty Gear.

The game mechanics is what really kept me interested and hopeful to beat the game with all the characters. Unlike Vanguard Princess, the game mechanics felt very... In frame. For lack of better words. When I was trying to perform moves, even though I was button mashing most of the time, I felt like I was in control. I could tell when and where I could attack and hit boxes were easily defined.

Playing against Weir was really fun. We setup the matches with him hosting the games and I connect to him. Skullgirls has a fantastic system for dealing with latency and I never felt like my network ever got in the way of our matches. Even during a goddamn hurricane. Whoever figured out the netcode for Skullgirls really did a good job. Whoever you are, go buy yourself a beer/soda/beverage of choice.  You've earned it.

My previous experience hearing about Skullgirls was always something on the negative side. I remember reading articles about how their publisher dropped them and they had to re-release under a self published indie sorta title. I mean, that had nothing to do with how the game played, but it did sorta make me think twice about purchasing the game. Which is unfortunate, because this is really a great game. I will chalk this up to "play it for the game, not the news around it." Really glad I played it.

>SCORE = -61;

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Completionist 2014: Astebreed

Wow. That didn't take long. I finished one game from the Humble Weekly Bundle Japan Edition. I was a little afraid to tackle this one, because it was a SHMUP. I am just... Just aweful at SHMUPS. But this was was pretty fun. Its a little on the short side, but most SHMUPs are. Astebreed does show what kind of quality you can find in the Japanese doujin(indie) game scene. Well, this and visual novels. But I feel this is better.

First off, the plot just kinda drops you in there. Who is this guy? Are those voices his daughters? Why are his daughters big fucking robots? Many questions will be asked. And its your job as the outside party to kinda piece together what the fuck is going on. So basically, aliens invade earth and are being big jerks about it. They kidnap a town, turn some bad ass pilot's daughters into mech suits, and he tries to get him back with his team, team dies, he dies, one daughter robot suit thing rescues him, the other stays behind for some reason, guy goes back to earth, gives suit to some kid who can somehow pilot said suit, blah blah blah world saved. The story really isn't anything spectacular. If you watch anime, all of the elements in the story are horrendously predictable. That's not to say its bad, but they do a really bad job of giving backstory. I guess a SHMUP isn't exactly the best story telling game medium around.

So, like all modern Bullet-hell SHMUPs, Astebreed comes with some tools to make the bullet hell less... Hell-ly? You don't die instantly when you take a hit, you instead take shield damage. This shield recharges over time and can take a few hits depending on the strength of the shot being fired at you. You have a sword that can destroy most bullet types. You also have a homing shot that can acquire targets in two fashions. You know what, they are actually more like fin funnels from gundam than actual shots but they look like glowing balls that shoot more glowing balls. Fuck it, I'm calling them funnels. You can either target all enemies around you in a circle, or you can pick a cone of fire. The cone allows multiple funnels to lock onto a specific target very quickly, causing them to swarm around and maximize damage on a single target. You also have a special gauge that recharges over time, but can be boosted by using your sword to destroy projectiles. The special attack has two variations. The default is when you have no targets locked on by the funnels. This one causes an AOE blast followed by a temporary invulnerability shield around you. The other mode occurs when you have an enemy locked on with a funnel. Depending on how many funnels, your mech will do a blitz dash towards the enemy and generally give them a bad time. The special gauge recharge mechanic works well in combination with the bullet hell to always provide you with a way of dealing with a billion objects on the screen at one time.

The game is split into seven chapters. The first chapter, technically its chapter zero, is a prologue that introduces you to the game and gives a VERY brief tutorial. After that, each chapter is a pretty standard, swarm of unrelenting waves of bullet shits then a boss. There is quite a bit of banter from the characters, and its voice acted in Japanese. I enjoy this, but if you don't speak Japanese, you won't have the time to really take your eyes off the action to read the subtitles in the bottom corner. Chapters are fairly short in length. I'd say each one runs around five to six minutes, and you can spend a bit of time on the boss if you decide to play it more defensive.

Hmmm. This is getting a bit long. Didn't intend to write a goddamn review for this thing. All in all, I enjoyed the game. I still don't really like bullet-hell SHMUPs, so if you don't like that, this game isn't going to really change your mind there. Mechanics were pretty solid. Story could have been told a little better, but I get that the gameplay really doesn't lend itself to evolving plot. Still, was a nice fun story. Glad I finished it. Another game down.

>SCORE = -62

Completionist 2014: Humble Weekly Bundle Japan Edition

Why I do this to myself? Why? Goddamnit I'm stupid. I saw this bundle and at first was like, "meh." But after seeing some of the games, I got that itch. That stupid fucking itch to buy more stupid games. Le sigh. Maybe it was the will of the emperor. BANZAI!!!!

  • Unholy Heights
  • One Way Heroics
  • Ys Origin
  • Mitsurugi Kamui Hikae
  • PixelJunk Shooter
  • Astebreed

>SCORE = -63

Friday, August 1, 2014

Completionist 2014: Spec Ops: The Line

Wow. This game was everything I had hoped it would be. I heard rumors about how traumatic the plot was, but the rumors couldn't prepare me for what this game had to throw at me. It was a crazy descent into madness, and I'm glad I was able to beat this one.

At first glance, Spec Ops: The Line appears to be a standard military 3rd person shooter with chest high walls. But the reality is that the game mechanics only serve as a vessel to push the story along. You won't find any innovation with the combat in this game. It is very generic 3rd person, cover based combat. However, that is not what makes Spec Ops: The Line unique.

You start off your mission with the greatest intent. Dubai has suffered a massive climate shift leaving it to be barraged with massive sandstorms. Your job is to investigate what happened to an army battalion that was supposed to have evacuated the city, but has since gone silent. But things are terribly wrong in this desolated Dubai landscape. Bodies lay about, some executed, others tortured. There's a deranged radio DJ broadcasting propaganda and pointing wave after wave of enemy troops your way. You need to fight to survive and try and evacuate the city. But somewhere along the way, things got... bad.

"I had no choice. I had to do what I did. It was them or me. They forced my hand." This is the type of justification you give for your actions. You go into battles with two squad-mates who slowly crumble under the weight of what they've seen and what their actions have wrought. Infighting, loss of trust, grudges, resentment. As the atrocities pile up, you and your squad slowly begin to lose track of what is right and wrong. Should your survive, are you really the same person you were coming into Dubai? Or are you just a broken shell of what you used to be. Haunted by your actions, trying to justify every order. You had no choice. You had to do what you had to do. It was either them or you. They forced your hand.

Spec Ops took the military shooter story in a dark direction. One that many games would prefer to avoid. There is no fanfare. No glory in what you've done. Just guilt, regret, and death. God I need to play something cheerful now.

>SCORE = -56