Friday, September 26, 2008

Kirby Super Star Ultra

Way way back in 'the day', defined loosely as the era between when I was 15 and 17, my obsession in gaming was over Kirby Super Star for the SNES. My cousin in tow, I would play KSS time and time again, avidly trying my damndest with Nintendo Power as my guide to find every one of the treasures in Great Cave Adventure.

Kirby Super Star Ultra is every bit as much Kirby Super Star as you remember, except even better. The silly minigames of Megaton Punch and the samurai showdown thing that is not, in fact, Samurai Showdown, have been taken out in favor of implimenting Mario Bros 64 DS-esque touch-screen sensitive ones. The game has been restored to its former glory, upgraded graphics and sound for the DS, and with the Metaknight himself as an unlockable character! It is a complete blast.

Go backwards about...a year? Yeah, I think a year. I pick up Kirby Squeak Squad, thinking, oh shit son, maybe it'll be like Kirby Super Star? I was sadly disappointed. KSS's main point of unbelievable fun was the multitude of different attacks each Hat had. Ninjas could explode after taking damage, throw shirukens, wall cling, and running slash. Most of these - wall clinging, for example - were hilariously pointless. But it was still loads of fun, finding each successive hat and discovering the new tricks you could learn. Squeak Squad didn't have this, and was merely one game of Kirby on the cartridge.

But Kirby SSU is the excellent Kirby Super Star brought to DS with new features. What more do you want? The reason I bought it was simple; Kirby Super Star isn't working on the version of SNES9x for PSP I have.

Crisis averted.

Monday, September 22, 2008

God of War 2

So I just finished God of War 2.

And you know, I was thinking that I'd have to buy a PS3 once God of War 3 came out. Thank god Wikipedia pointed out that David Jaffe isn't working for SCEA anymore.

Phew. That was close!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The List 'O Buckley

I don't like Tim Buckley or Control Alt Delete.

This is pretty much a given among people whom are well-read in the world of webcomics or comics in general. I'm just getting into the comic market and discovering exactly what I like and do not like. I've got my guilty pleasures, The Boys among them, but there are things about Control Alt Delete that I just cannot stand. So I have made a list.

Top Ten Reasons Buckley's Comic is a Shithole!

10 - Tim Buckley's shitty attitude. You know, he might just be the nicest guy in the world. But when you start talking trash about his comic, be it ragging on it for lulz or actually to give criticism, oh shit son it's on now. He has gone to his own forum and banned, locked, or deleted threads or post that rag on, criticize, or otherwise question his comic in any way. And he always puts it up to the classic 'jealousy' tag.

"Oh, I'm running a big webcomic and living off of it and you aren't, therefore anything negative you have to say is just you wishing you were me!" If you don't believe me, I offer you proof.

There was even a time when his horribly stupid "Church of Gaming" storyline was challenged for being extremely juvenile and offensive to people whom were actually religious. Ban and lock? You betcha!

9 - Tim Buckley's delicate ego. The man edits his own Wikipedia article to avoid making him look bad while under a false name. Gratuitous inclusions of "Criticism" being replaced with "Reception" as per the rules.

Best part: Current edit says that Tycho called the miscarriage storyline "the first Horsemen of the Apocalypse."
What they actually said:

I think he's an art criminal.

Tycho: I think Tim Buckley is the antichrist, and I think that miscarriage storyline was the first horseman of the Apocalypse.

8 - Tim Buckley likes to hear himself talk. Granted of course that's exactly what I'm doing. But I have a point. Most of his newsposts are like most good newsposts - don't talk about anything topical. Just keep it short and sweet. Nerd stuff for a nerd crowd.

But then he goes ahead and says shit like this. Whining? Moaning about his love life? Teaching people about miscarriages? You decide!

7- Everything Tim does that attempts to be shocking or incredible doesn't change the comic at all. This isn't just the miscarriage storyline, either. Just look at the overall time that CAD has been around - since 2002, right? And when did they get engaged? Like, what, 2005? Even if it isn't a direct parallel to real-time, you're still looking at the entire thing as a terrible plot device just used to attract attention. They mentioned wedding plans, what, once? And Ethan blew it off in favor of going to play video games? And it was okay because he's Ethan and that's what he does?

The miscarriage story arc was just an extension of this - Oh man, drama! But everything's better now. I got wind of that and actually was interested. A miscarriage? Intriguing! Maybe Ethan will grow up now? Maybe Lilah and him will have a rocky relationship and have to reconcile it, ooh, all kinds of possibilities!

And then, a few episodes later, Lilah returns home. They're fine. Nothing is changed. Everything is identical to what it once was. Publicity stunt = over!

6 - His strict adherence to the four-panel template kills every good joke he has. I don't know if I need to explain this, but if you just open up and go to the site (Well, okay, I can excuse you this time) and just look at any comic not featuring the main characters. We'll use his Soul Calibur 4 joke.

Panel two, Darth Vader holding Soul Edge, looking at Luke Skywalker with a saber. Funny by itself, no need for anything else. That alone is great. Combined with sitting and talking about it for three other panels it's not even a 'meh'.

5 - Every damn character that isn't the three protagonists is a shitty rip on the very culture Buckley claims to be a part of. I'm all up for making fun of gamers. A little self-fun-poking never hurt nobody. But god damn, every single gamer in the world that isn't Buckley himself - Oops, I meant Ethan - is a fat, skinny, ugly, stupid, you name it, they are it gamer. He lampoons the very culture he's a part of, but see, he isn't, since he's already got the girl and therefore his life is perfect.

Hot damn, I knew Ethan was a Mary-Sue, but the parallels are becoming more distinct by the minute.

4 - He makes up shit for cultures he's not a part of and gets it all horribly wrong. The Gaming Religion was horribly offensive, and I'm not even religious. But come on - A bunch of priests come telling Ethan and Lucas (rightly!) that their religion is a huge pile of shit, and when provoked into explaining the existence of their gods, stare like a bunch of morons at an SAT test. I would think that people who are religious have a better answer to those who question their faith, Buckley.

Hell, why not go into gaming subcultures, anyway? He's got a comic where a guy rolls a d20 and kills a dragon. Dragon protests. "But I'm a fucking dragon." Guy says it doesn't matter, natural 20. Dragon dies. Has Buckley ever even played DND, or anything like it?

Favorite moment - Lucas, the bigger and burlier guy, going out with Kate while she was wearing her fatsuit. Really classy and sensitive, jackass.

3 - The comic itself's art style, layout, and execution. God damn son, that is one ugly comic. Every damn face looks the same, plus or minus 'fat' for Lucas and 'thin' for Ethan. The faces are identical for men and women, the only thing separating the former with the latter having breasts.

But it isn't just the faces, either. The whole comic! Body parts and hands and sizes and shapes and everyone looks the same. Period. He's done some experimenting lately with clothes, but it still doesn't change the fact that women = men with boobs in his art style.

And the comic is stuffed with words. For no reason!

My favorite comic is one from late 2007. A man is standing outside (I think it's outside, there's clouds and no buildings, trees, or anything) holding a guitar hero controller. The text bubble says "La la la, I love Guitar Hero. So much fun!" or something. Another man comes on, tells him to learn a real guitar. They argue. Final panel: Guitar Hero controller is a bat, and the head of the other guy goes flying into the background.

Not funny, full of unnecessary words, shitty drawing, lazy (no background AT ALL), I mean, the problems stack up. Speaking of which...

2 - Violence = punchline is the most awful comic ending you can have. I swear to god that for each comic that has a good joke there are five comics in CAD's archives that have absolutely no joke and tenuously related violent moment at the end of the comic.

Leaping in circles in an MMO irritating Buckley? Violent punchline. Middle aged jackasses telling you to play a real guitar because they see you with Guitar Hero? Whack his head off abruptly with the controller. First set of comics you've ever made and don't know what to do? Shoot an arrow at the protagonist and make him be okay the next issue. Penny Arcade did it, so why not?

Penny Arcade's genius lies in the hilarious avatars of Gabe and Tycho. They are extensions of the artist and writer, yes, but they are cartoon characters. They can die, act mean, kill people, kick babies, whatever. It doesn't matter because they are just mediums to make a joke.

Aaaaaaaand the number one reason that I hate Control Alt Delete...

1 - CAD's characters are completely, utterly, and incredibly awful. I have a hard time believing Buckley could possibly fancy himself a writer with the kind of protagonists in his comic. Ethan is a Mary Sue Superman in every way, right down to the godawful miscarriage story arc. He spends his time abusing his friends, family, and coworkers. He has the awesome girlfriend despite his alcoholism and violence and apathy. He is into comics, he draws, he writes, he games, he can build himself a robot best friend and robotic super-hands, he does whatever he wants to do because he can do it cause he's Ethan.

Let's not forget when he bought a scorpion and it nearly killed Lucas' new girlfriend Kate, and everyone just sighs, rolls their eyes, laughs hysterically, and the credits roll. That silly Ethan, endangering people's lives in wacky ways!

Lilah is the ultimate shitty stereotyped gaming chick. She exchanges things that girls actually do in favor of being some crappy plot device, (especially her ability to get pregnant and have a miscarriage, of course!) right down to having absolutely no friends or discernible life beyond being Ethan's Girl Gamer Fiancee. She is the ultimate woman in Buckley's mind; hot, pro gamer, no life, and willing to be with you regardless of how much of a dumb prick you are.

Lucas is the Shitty Luck guy. You know how in Tom and Jerry they have evenly matched blows with each other, whacking one another on the head with giant hammers at an even exchange? Well Lucas is like the entire stretch of Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, and Ed Ed and Eddy rolled into one. Every girl he ever meets he either screws it up with, never goes after it with, or they end up being completely insane. He is always at the receiving end of Ethan's physical assaults, and yet he never thinks hey, maybe my best friend is completely batshit fucking loco.

And the Linux guy, fucking a, the Linux guy! I don't even know his name! He's been in the comic for like, what, the entire stretch of it's history and in the last year he's been in like, four comics? You've got a train of hilarious potential right there if you would just include him! But, nope. You got the Wacky Roommate, Straight Man, and Mary-Sue's Girlfriend. Anything else would be too much.

One might say, but Julian, he'd run out of material if his characters kept changing! To which I'd say, god forbid he ends up a little less like Megatokyo and a little more like Shortpacked. And so what if he ran out of character development material? That's fine with me! He could just as easily go find a new set of gamers to develop next, use them as a storytelling medium. Make them go through interesting story arcs! I am totally okay with that.

It offends me to no end as a writer that he expects me, time and time again, as a reader to take his characters as real people. The miscarriage story arc was a perfect example; here we go with Lilah suddenly pregnant, meaning that maybe Ethan has to actually man up and take some responsibility and grow up, but instead we're given a miscarriage. An awkward stab at provoking emotion and drama, erasing any possibility of doing anything beyond feeding his constant, steaming, shitty meal ticket.

CAD is a million times better when it doesn't feature his main characters. But that isn't saying much.

But hey, what do I know? I'm just jealous of Tim's success.

The best part about this blog is that I know if he ever does catch wind of it, he's going to blow it off in his usual, high-and-mighty, flippant attitude. And hey, I don't mind him disregarding some guy on the internet's opinion of him. But I would have guessed all million of us 'some guys' would have shown him that his comic sucks.

But than again, I guess not.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fallout 3 Preview

So one of the bigger things on the market that is getting both praise and hatred and curiosity and I think that was three things is Fallout 3. The issue is really divided into two very equal groups.

Generally, the fans of Fallout say, hey, this isn't Fallout. This is a Fallout-inspired Oblivion knockoff. This is because the game has been turned from a strategy RPG kinda hybrid into a first- and third-person perspective RPGish game. Bioshock comes to mind.

The other group is everyone else. They say, hey, this looks neat. Being able to target body parts in freeze-frame time and shoot them with an accuracy based upon your skills? Interesting.

I'm of the latter group, but I'm also of the former. Let me elaborate.

I played Fallout 1 and 2, and hey, they were pretty great. They were chock-full of problems but they were really great. I loved the engine and I got a kick out of the After the Bomb setting. My problems with the game were simple; the game was too difficult to play. There were way too many areas where I wasn't clear about the sequence you could go in, and therefore I would sequence break the hell out of it.

It was like to play Fallout you needed a degree in The Fallout Sequence.

Picture this: I go out of the Vault, I find the water chip, return it to my vault, get sent to the Glow, and suddenly there's a mutant who captures me and shoves me in a cell and demands answers from me. I answer with "I don't know," but at that point that was supposed to be a lie.

I totally understand Bestheda's twisting of the game itself as being perverse. I would love to see a fully immersing Fallout tactical RPG just like the old ones, but newer with a new story. But this is the catch; I'm more interested in the Oblivion/Fallout hybrid they've stumbled across.

Maybe I'm just being a Whorehammer, and yes I make up terms sometimes, but the moment he picked up, quote, a "Powerfist", I perked up and paid lots more attention. It severely lacked Space Marine Power Armor or Witch Hunter runes written on it, but punching someone's head off was awesome enough that I forgive them for not committing plagiarism.

Fallout 3 isn't without problems - it's still the Oblivion engine. People talk amazingly stiff, swaying only at the head and, if they feel dangerous, shifting their pinkie. I'm going to place big money on a few points where the game is just going to be loaded with bugs.

I'll still buy it, but the game comes with free redness and irritation.

Monday, August 25, 2008


So I wanted to take some time to talk about my absolute favorite game of all time.

(*WARNING: I'll probably call twenty games or so my 'favorite games of all time'*)

This game is, as the well-known Gabe has one said, the best hour of his life. I can't help but agree. See for me, whenever I play a game, I have to figure out how to define what kind of an experience it is for me.

Like, most games fall into a 'time passing and accomplishment' category. Puzzle Quest and Mass Effect and KOTOR series and all sorts of games with cool storylines are just something I have to beat to know what happens. The story book but with graphics, if you will.

Some games, fighters especially, are under the competitive flag. I have to play because I like being good enough to conquer my friends. I like being competitive and improving, being able to defeat any opponent, conquer any adversary. Knowing what I can do, and seeing what my opponent's limits are. Isn't that what wandering kung-fu masters do? If I think I was meant to be born in the Chinese Dynasty era.

Then we get to the third category, which is kind of the point of this newspost. I play some games because I like being enthralled by the experience, carried away to literally feel myself becoming part of the game. Very few games have managed to do this to me so far, Rez and Shadow of the Colossus are the first and foremost examples.

Most rhythm games follow a pattern where the music is being played and, in that, you have to keep up with the music to make it sound official. You are, in essence, repeating the music. An actor playing out a script that has been written for him.

Rez takes this approach in reverse. Instead, you are the rhythm, and you become the music itself. The background music is just the setting for the music you produce; everything from locking on, firing, missing, activating the power-up, advancing your form, even getting hit all are just music-making sound effects that mesh.

I have never, in all my life, been so in unison with music itself as I have been with Rez. The first level - Buggie Running Beeps - made me feel as though I really was that hacker trying to enter a super-high level security zone, captured my extremities and pulled me in.

I really was fantastically absorbed by that game. But, really, why? What made it so amazing?

Synthesia is, I think, the word we're looking for here. The game was nothing special as far as video games go. But I'll be damned if it wasn't totally worth the ride.

See for me video game music has always had a special place in my heart - that's for another newspost, of course - but I'd like the record to show that I truly believe games just aren't the same unless they have amazing music. God of War needed it's epic surging of classical and vocals. Shadow of the Colossus needed it's sweeping, shifting fantasy music to cue in at the appropriate moments. Devil May Cry 3 needed to abandon it's entire rock/metal aesthetic in favor of a full-on orchestra with vocals leading "Devils Never Cry" for the final battle.

And, in that, Rez needed it's trance.

I mean strip everything that makes it Rez away and you've got a cakewalk of a rail shooter. But in doing that, I think, you'd be undoing everything the lead developer actually spent time on. Instead of dumping his money and planning into a rail shooter you've probably seen a million times he made you feel like you were a part of the game instead of holding the controller.

And hey, it worked. Game of the year, or something. Woo.

One other game has managed to do that, and that is Shadow of the Colossus.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Too Human review

Looks like my thoughts were right. "Do not buy this game." But the writer in me must insist upon telling you more. Brace yourself gentle reader.

I'm generally a patient person.

Like, only a few things really piss me off. Someone being intentionally a jerk because they think it's funny comes to mind. But everything else - stupid customers, stupid customer service/tech support, braggarts, dying repeatedly in video games - I can handle it. I'm generally calm enough that I can blow it off.

Too Human seems bound and determined to test my patience with death.

I have spent years - years! - being extremely trial-and-error in video games, starting with Mega Man, Castlevania, and Mario back in the day. Today I have Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden to provide me with those sorts of love/hate relationships. One false move, and that's it. You get comboed and there goes a huge portion of your life.

But do you know why I have an infinitely easier time stomaching - indeed, loving passionately - these games? Because they allow you to heal yourself, or give you the ability to block, or some combination of the two (God of War, in a way). Too Human does none of this. In fact, out of five classes, only one of them even has the rudimentary ability to heal, and your only method of not being hit is to dodge.

But, again, this wouldn't be so bad if you basically knock everything into a 'stunned' mode for hitting them, Double Dragon style. Too Human barely does this. Let me explain.

Here is a basic encounter in Too Human: Twenty minions with a handful of hits a piece. Two to three missile-launching mortar-machine whom can launch about four at once, all of which track to your last known location. One to two melee-combat decked out robots whom are immune to the 'stun' effect until you break their shield.

So, what do you do? Wading through the hordes of minions is fun, but you're still being peppered by missiles. Well, if you go to fight the missile-launchers, you get fucked up by the Tricked Out Rape Bot. Engage him? Well, every attack you hit him with just hits his shield instead, meaning he doesn't get stunned unless you air combo him.

So, okay, the encounter goes Air Combo Robot, Kill Mortars, Finish Off Rest. Well that's when the game fucks with you.

Instead it'll pitch out the whole system to instead throw four or five ranged arrow-launching fuckers, or three of them and an ogre-like robot with an attack throw, all of whom immune to melee stun, or (and here's the kicker) minions that explode or freeze upon death, thereby making you more dead/vulnerable to the other minions.

So, like, the game hates you.

That's not even counting the fact that the game mercifully grants you the ability to respawn after death with slight durability damage back at a checkpoint. However, like the benevolent asshole, this merciful event is knocked from your childish grasp by the Goddamn longest death animation ever, where a Norse tech angel swoops down and picks you up. Slowly. Unskippably.

It would be less annoying if the game didn't rely on you dying once or twice every encounter at minimum.

Let me flash you back to this time two weeks ago. I go into Gamestop. I know everyone there. The Assistant Manager Jessie is talking to me.
"You getting Too Human?"
"Huh? Oh, probably not. I haven't heard too much about it."
"It's going to be awesome! I heard it's like a sci-fi Diablo for the 360, but better!"
I think a moment. "...well, sci-fi would make Diablo suck less."

I guess not, then.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Treachary and Judging

It recently hit me that I am too long-winded when I blog. I'm nowhere near as interesting or as arrogant as Tim Rogers, so I should keep things relatively short from now on. I shall do so. Starting...Wait for

Today I was playing FFTA2. It is a good game. In fact, I daresay it is a very very good game. I have one slight problem with it though, and that is some of the Judgment system's choices for 'banning.' It seems slightly unfair to me when I end up entering a fight that pits me against four Black Mages and a team of fighters at the front, and the Judge says I can't use actions that "Consume MP."

Picture this: You enter a fist fight, prepared to brawl, but you can't make attacks that "Utilize Limbs."

But then I thought, oh, that's okay, I can't heal or nuke, I still have two fighters and a thief on my side, and they can't nuke either. Hell, that's over half his party! This should be easy. Come to find out these universal rules don't apply to my cleverly-constructed opponent. Sure, it may have been a challenge specifically created to raise my guild's stats, but I will not give the game the satisfaction of being right.

Especially not when it then bans "Reaction Commands," right after they give me a Thief-class character who comes equipped with counter.

I mean, sure, it probably was my fault for not looking at what powers she had, but come on! This was the beginning of the game! I figured it was a safe assumption to believe that, if none of my party could get this power, neither could newcomers. Consider myself taught.

Too Human comes out tomorrow. It's getting mixed reviews by people who call it Diablo on the 360. I hated Diablo 1 and 2, so with luck this game should be a simple review of "Don't Buy This Game."

I'm going for 'short and sweet' from now on, so 'simple review' sounds pretty good to me.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Soul Calibur 4 Review

So, Soul Calibur 4. Let us discuss.

Soul Calibur has been a fixture of mine for years, ever since Soul Calibur 2. It has always held a small spot in my heart, because I'm a huge fighting game fan. But, like Tycho, I prefer when my fighters are situated in the second of dimensions. Fighters are, have been, and always will be at home when holding "away" is the best defense you'll ever need.

Soul Calibur manages to do it right, somehow. I'm pretty sure it's abandoning the entire 'twitch mechanics' that was repeatedly introduced with counter systems like Dead or Alive, and peppered up with weapons adding range, functionality, and all kinds of crazy extra shit. It adds a wonderful amount of balance to a game when you can change a character's range, power, speed, and the like with logic.

I mean, when you pick up Rock or Sigfreid, you know he's going to be stronger and tougher than Talim.

Regardless, Soul Calibur 4 is a pretty great game, so let's get to reviewin'.

Let's not kid ourselves here; it is Soul Calibur. That's a huge part of the review right there. We've hit a point in our gaming lives where a good half of the releases that come out end up starting the review by saying "This is a sequel. If you haven't played the original, go do something horrible to yourself and come out from your Batcave" or some variant thereof.

Here's the scoop for those of you who are just turning in; there's a powerful evil blade called Soul Edge, made by a weaponsmith to be the ultimate weapon. It just so happened to go around sucking out people's souls as well. Lots of people either want it, or want to destroy it. There's also a blade called the Soul Calibur, the antithesis of Soul Edge. People want this or to destroy this too. Thus the game starts.

Characters are varied and awesome. I am especially happy with the changes they made to my favorite characters Rock and Sigfried among them. Rock in the last game was pretty bad, but this time around they gave him lying-down opponent throws, meaning he can usually squeeze out a bit more damage each time he overwhelms you. These sorts of changes are more than welcome and they spread out all over the roster.

But then there's the one small problem: the veterans are the balanced ones. Amy and Rock were pretty lousy last time around, so they got amped up. Amy became less Raphael and more of a swashbuckler, trading in Raphael's precise foil fencing for lots of sweeping maneuvers, twirling, and jumping. But now we have the infamous Guest Characters, hailing from a galaxy far, far away.

First guest character is the Apprentice, from the upcoming Force Unleashed game. And, let me tell you, he is too good. You have been told.

Back in Soul Calibur 2, they gave guest characters to each console. Namco brought out their own guns in the form of Heihachi on the PS2. Todd McFarland guest-designed Necrid and Spawn. Necrid was on all consoles, Spawn was on the Xbox. Nintendo got Link.

The Apprentice is, for lack of a better term, a completely tricked out Spawn. He should be a veteran character and therefore have no problems being balanced, but the similarities end after 'balanced.'

Lots of his attacks combo into Force Levitate, allowing him to air combo. He can summon an unblockable Force Lightning from the ground or a slightly weaker one from the air. He flips in all directions for mindgames. All of his attacks are quick and some have long range. Many of his attacks can Force Throw his lightsaber. He has a bursting shieldbreaker and a Force Pull that stuns you and brings you close range from medium range.

The Apprentice is good. Again, you have been told.

A big part of his balance is that lots of his moves rely on the Force meter, a feature for the Star Wars characters. Attacks that use Force drain the Force bar, and when it is depleted it slowly recharges but puts you into a 'dizzy' state for a moment. With so many attacks and abilities relying on the Force meter, it basically demands that he end up in the dizzy state repeatedly. But this is a small weakness on an amazing character.

Yoda, on the other hand...well, I'll put it this way. When Final Fantasy 7 came out, everyone shit themselves at how great it was. I was a bit more cynical - it seemed like it did everything, but not very well, as though it had been pulled in too many directions at once. Think X-Men 3 of video games. It had some epic and moving moments, but it also had the awful chibi-sized graphics mixed with the taller, darker, mature fighting scenes. It was a huge mixed bag.

Much in that way, Yoda seems to have everything you could need on paper but in execution it can be awkward, clumsy, and embarrasing. Like a threesome.

And now you can all think of Yoda orgies.

Yoda's 8-way run makes him leap, and from there he can do an attack. While attacking, he can burn up Force to leap again and make a new attack. This can go on as long as he has Force to consume. Add to the fact that some attacks totally whiff over him, he's incapable of being grabbed, he can use the Force to make a GI-field around himself, and most of his flips completely dodge all low attacks and you'd think he'd be an all-star character.

Problem is most of his attacks are slow as hell and easily telegraph themselves. If you see Yoda flip in the air, he's probably not trying to dodge, so block for a moment. However if you avoid spamming the flips you can mix it up quite a bit before unleashing, problem is getting close to the opponent is difficult when your range sucks and your run makes you flip forward. And, you know, stubby legs.

Where was I? Oh, right.

Aside from that, Soul Calibur 4 is a kick and a half. The engine itself is nicely polished and everything looks great and plays amazing. Which reminds me.

On principle, I don't play fighting games online. Halo's twitch mechanics are constructed in a way you don't have to have perfect lag, as it can handshake the effect quick enough that when you know you killed someone, you know it. Fighting games are not this way. Guilty Gear is not this way. Nor is Street Fighter or Soul Calibur or Smash Bros. It just can't be. I will always have less than stellar performance and, for that reason, I just can't play fighting games online. I will eternally curse at the ever-present lag and feel horrible at my unchivalrous spamming of a 'safe' move to combat the lag.

My own honor gets in the way of me winning, yes. I would make a good samurai if it wasn't for my laziness.

However, Soul Calibur gets it damn near. When I played it online, it was only fractions of a second off. I've seen few fighters that get it that accurate.

The one thing that I seem to be alone with is the game's one-player modes. This is a strange one.

See since Soul Calibur 2, as far as I know, the game has always forced you to crawl through an agonizing single-player mode that was, for lack of a better term, 'thrown together'. Chronicles of the Sword has been a pain every time I played it, both 2 and 3. Worst thing was I just wanted to unlock the characters, then I can worry about getting everything like costumes and, later, character armor. But instead I was forced to play through this thing every time I wanted to just get Cervantes.

And Story mode is like the Star Fox of plot single players - every time it tries to take itself seriously the world just stops paying attention. You were given branching pathways and interactive cutscenes in Soul Calibur 3...

...when actually it was only given to you if they felt like it. The branching pathways didn't actually alter my fate or change what I saw or who I fought to the point where it mattered. It was just another Fight Followed by Fight. Guilty Gear handled it the best - cutscenes with interesting dialog and stuff that actually mattered. You actually learned the plot and the characters to a degree. Branching storylines changed things and mattered. To this day I've yet to see a story mode as effective as Guilty Gear's.

So now that you've been caught up, here's what Soul Calibur 4 does: Story Mode is an intro, five fights under different circumstances for each character, and an ending for that character. Instead of dealing with all that shit, you just get this. And it works because they're not shoving gimmicks on us. While I'm not praising it for sucking, I'm just saying the alternative is much worse.

Instead of Chronicles of the Sword, you can just take whichever character you like - even your custom characters - and throw them into the Tower of Souls. Remember how most games had challenges that were totally impossible that unlocked cool shit? Well, that's what this is. And it's great. Instead of a super-long single play campaign with tacked-on RTS elements, you get to fight a few matches one-after-another with tag-team style mechanics, including your custom character and all his bonuses and special items.

My one problem with it? Fighting in it gives you gold, but doesn't unlock items. Instead you have to do challenges that are ambiguous and nonsensical. Minor complaint, though, it's a great way to enforce playing the game through trial-and-error. The way fighting games should be.

Plus you can just play through arcade twice or three times and buy all the characters. Simplicity.

Character creation is amazing, but I have yet to delve into it.

All in all, totally great. Get a copy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Old vs New Finisher

Short post today.

Continuing the Old vs New thing, I just have a hard time believing that people can be so defensive about their sacred cows. Aren't the changes necessary? Isn't there some sort of reason as to why they would have added/removed/altered content within the game itself?

Fourth edition of DND obviously favors the player - they are harder to kill, can alter their own fate with Action Points, and have a powerful cache of abilities to utilize to make the fight go their way. Third edition put everyone on even footing and insisted upon the DM to send tough but beatable fights your way, so you wouldn't dump time and effort into a story and campaign setting and preparation just to have your party get killed. If DMs were particularly sadistic or just sucked at math, this whole equation got thrown out of whack.

And Second Edition was even worse.

But this isn't even for just DND. New edition of Warhammer has brought out slews of naysayers all calling bullshit on the entire edition due to changes they made to make the game simpler and more fun.

If rules get in the way of the game being enjoyable and fair, they get changed. If you don't like the changes, play a different game.

Gritty realistic fantasy warfare is what Warhammer RPG does really well. Realistic anything is what Savage Worlds does.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Old vs New

One of the things I've been thinking alot about lately is the old versus new debate. And this doesn't just pertain to DND4, but I'll use it as an example.

Some people really, really hate change. Severely. Like, totally refuse to see the intent or point behind the content they have been handed. My favorite example of this was the third-fourth transition in DND's theme - they wanted to step away from the hyper-realism that second and third tended to, instead leaning more towards the idea that PCs in DND are heroes by trade.

Being a hero doesn't just mean lucky-enough-to-survive-an-entire-campaign. It means your very actions and path have been set before you by the gods whom have chosen you to be special, a cut above the rest.

Some people want the hero in their game to be just as easy to kill as the NPCs he encounters. And you know, that's fine for something like Savage Worlds, where you get three wounds (That progressively give you a -1 for each wound to everything you do) before you are dead or, if the DM prefers, permanently injured.

Savage Worlds had the system of Bennies; Bennies are chips of fate that you can use to reroll, add to, or otherwise fix a mistake you might make. 'Wild Cards' are those whom get it, and that ranges from named NPCs to the PCs themselves. It gives the players more control over their fate.

DND followed that idea, but instead, just gave them to the PCs only, and called it action points. The point is to show that the PCs have more control over their destiny. They can get killed, but it's much harder due to their die-hard nature and pluck.

Purists of DND don't see the point behind this. The point is to make the game less likely to get a lucky shot in and kill you, thereby forcing you to reroll a character whom the PCs meet in the next town that is identical to the guy who got killed. It gives the PCs options in combat.

But, hell, was it any different from the ADND to DND3 jump? You used to have to roll level 1 hit points, making it entirely possible that your wizard started with one hit point. Hell, it made it possible that your barbarian could start off with only a handful of hit points too. It made it realistic I suppose, but more than anything else it was just annoying.

In third, you get your dice's maximum hit points at first level, plus con modifier. Flat. And do you know why this is such an awesome decision by Wizards/TSR? Because there is no point in building a character that you really like only to have him die due to shitty luck he can't control. Any reasonable DM will let you just re-create them and put them back in the party, or more so, just ignore it.

One of the things they changed is, in third, wizards had tons of capabilities per day that did tons of things, as did all spellcasters. Fighters and anyone who didn't have spells barely could do more than swing their sword and, sometimes, stuff like Whirlwind Attack. Rangers and Paladins could cast a handful of spells, but it was halfway through their levels and only one or two. Wizards were a thousand times more fun to play than fighters. Clerics got tons of spells but it all was dumped into making sure the main characters didn't die. All this leads me to my next point.

The other thing that I'm hearing thrown around; "It's just like World of Warcraft now!"

Um, stop me if I'm wrong about this, but wasn't DND the first World of Warcraft? Like, DND at it's core required a fighter to tank, a healer to keep everyone together, a rouge for traps, and a wizard for area of effect and utility? Right? Cause I remember a good party in second edition, third edition, and 3.5e looked pretty much the same. Hell it even was like that in Baldur's Gate I and II, and that practically was ADND at it's core.

So they got to the "Lots of options to chose from" party a bit late. So what? They have molded the game itself to allow each class to do what the class was designed to do better and easier. Fighters have abilities that make it a really good idea for an enemy to fight him. This was originally the intent. In third, it was because he was in the front and everyone else would escape if the mob attacked them. In fourth, it's because if he doesn't attack the fighter, he gets a huge penalty on that attack.

So, the fighter is effectively all over him. How is this such an awful thing.

What I also hear is "But it's not DND anymore!", but like I said earlier, this is DND, they have changed the base mechanics to make it more fun. I'm sorry your wizard is no longer Inspector Gadget with his spells able to do everything you could ever ask and therefore totally bang your DM in the ass, since you could whip by any encounter or trap or puzzle with a well-placed Chain Lightning/Levitate/Knock spell. Really, it hurts me deeply that you feel this way, except I don't and I'm lying.

Just...just look at high-level third edition. A 15th level party needs to get to the city that's across the continent. The DM figures this will be enough random encounters - plus or minus the big evil that's sending assassins to kill your PCs - to level them up.

The Fighter jumps on his magic carpet. Rogue puts on his Cape of Flying. Wizard casts Overland Flight. Cleric puts on his Ring of Flight. Suddenly you have the Goddamn Justice League flying high over Metropolis, fifty feet in the air, unchecked by random encounters.

And multiclassing. God. Multiclassing. I won't go into detail, but suffice to say now instead of the disadvantage of not gaining a level in the class you were before (which didn't matter since picking up levels of Fighter as a Barbarian was the best thing you could do) you actually have to trade-in abilities your class has to get features and powers that you can use only once in a while from another class.

In short: Fourth Edition is fun in ways I never realized that DND3 lacked. I'll continue on the Old vs New thoughts later.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

DND 4e

I finally had my first session of 4e tonight. We didn't get far, most of it was the team learning how to put together 4e rules, but I can safely say I'm hooked.

It's so good now. The game mechanics are very bizarre, very abstract, and don't make much sense in real-world application. You can make attacks that utilize Charisma instead of Strength, and cause status effects, as a paladin. Why? Because it's magic. They don't make sense if you think about it at all, but if you step outside of the 3e mindset it's totally great.

Sure, WOTC has put a blanket-ban on all powergaming and Red Mage-ing your character. You don't roll hit points anymore. Stats all go up constantly throughout a campaign instead of just a few times. There's no freedom-of-manipulation spells anymore. Magic Missile requires an attack roll. There are hardly any illusions. Gnomes and half-orcs are gone. Multiclassing is very very specific and not nearly as powerful as it used to be. The system enforces using rogue backstab and abilities only with Rogue proficiency weapons.

But, I mean, who really cares? 3E was broken to hell. Ranger was level one, and MAYBE level one through five. Fighter and wizard were the best classes. Not multiclassing hurt your character immensely. Prestige classes were vital. Fighters were usually horribly boring to play. Clerics were impossible to have any fun with, as every spell ended up getting dumped for spontaneous healing. Wizards were the best class period, and able to handle any situation with the right spell. 3e practically praised continually playing the same character into epic levels, instead of just knowing that, at one point, your character's campaign is over and he's made his claim as an adventurer.

4e fixes all that. Each class does fun things. Rangers are the only ones whom can dual-wield at will, and multiclassing them takes 11 levels and several feats before you can use both attacks. Everyone else gets the choice of which weapon to attack with and gets bonuses for two weapons depending on a feat. Fighters are tanks and melee destroyers. Rangers are distance bowmen or close-range damage machines. Wizards are nukers and controllers. Clerics have abilities to heal and deal damage simultaneously, thus removing the awful "Healbot" status. Rogues are damage machines and combat manipulators. Everyone has several abilities at once, including per-encounter powers and once-a-day supermoves. Even without this, casters have Rituals, giving them more capabilities of casting beyond mid-combat.

4e is everything I wanted in a DND game. Even better, as a DM, it's simple as hell to run. Instead of the complicated CR system, you just have an XP budget and purchase monsters from them, and they encounter each set of monsters one-at-a-time.

I love fourth edition and it's so incredibly wonderful. I heartily endorse it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Megas

I got The Megas' CD. It's a mixed bag.

On one hand, everything's flat-out good. Guitar and drums and rythm guitar are all really well done. I'm a whore for video game music (And hey, I'm a Mega Man fan), so this was a nice little niche for me.

I do have some criticisms, though.

Sometimes - Annihlation of Monsteropolis, for example - the vocals are great. Vocals are crucial. But not always. Never always.

Really this is one of the reasons I don't like vocals in garage-band work, and video game music especially. Almost all of the time the vocals end up being cheesy and corny, and the lead singer really doesn't know what to do with it.

I don't know why it is that all amateur singers have to do the "aaaaAAAAAAaaaaa" warble. It bugs the crap out of me because it's honestly embarrassing to be listening to a CD with a singer whom you know is bad. It makes an aura of uncomfortable, as though the Love of Your Life is going to walk in the door just once in your life, hear the music, and go, "Bleurgh," quickly running away before you have a chance to talk.

I mean, I don't know why I have this, but it's something like that.

Simon of American Idol is totally right - Warbling makes your voice sound like you're trying just too damn hard, as if the warble is a big sign above your head saying "Look at how cool and awesome and huge dicked I am, cause I'm terrified you won't notice!"

Sure it's extreme, but that's how I see it.

The point is that The Megas have some passable, some good vocals sometimes. Then there's other times - Just the use of the word "Mega Man" in the lyrics alone - just makes me cringe and turn red. The very first song's very first lyric almost made me skip it;

Name is Meg-aaAAAaaa Maaan"


But other than that, the CD is surprisingly good. Recommended for video game music fans. Cheap as hell too.