Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Final Fantasy 13-3: Lightning Returns

It's taken me a while, but I'm finally closing this Final Fantasy 13 saga of mine. I've previously written two other articles about FF 13 and 13-2, neither of which were really reviews but critiques on one or more things that baffled me about the direction Square had been taking the Final Fantasy series. This one will be no different, and more of a combination of the previous two.

Final Fantasy 13 I outlined just how horrifically bad the battle system was and that became the most popular post on this blog. 13-2 I went into great detail the many glaring plot holes I saw as I went. I picked apart what each game did the worst essentially and what stood out to me as really questionable. With 13-3 though...I honestly can't point to one thing, and that's not a good thing. Literally everything about this game leaves me scratching my head asking, why? Why did they choose to do this? Ultimately, I ask myself, why does this game even exist?

I think I will focus this blog on the main character Lightning. I've discussed in the past how terribly vexed I am about this character. How she can have 3 entire games about her and yet I know next to nothing about her at the same time. How is it that Cait Sith from FF7 has a deeper and more meaningful character arc than someone who's had 3 games devoted to her? She has no arc what-so-ever. Hilariously, the opening cinema of FF13-3 explains how God has taken her emotions away for her to complete her current quest. To which...if I had been drinking water, immediately spewed it at my TV in shock and dismay. Lightning, for the uninitiated has NEVER had any emotions to speak of to begin with. God took nothing away at all. Her entire character amounts to protect her sister....the end. She has no personal goals or needs. She has no sense of humor, no personality, she is completely a blank slate.

What vexes me so about her though isn't so much that she has literally no character to speak of, or that they had 3 games to develop her and didn't, no what vexes me is the creators of the games have all spoken out about how much they are going to miss working on games with Lightning. Interviews with them they go into great detail how attached they became to her, developing her, and going into her life and struggles etc, etc. Here I sit with my mouth agape reading this and wondering...what am I missing here? What is there about this character that has them nearly in tears having to part with her after this game? I am at a complete loss for words on this. Here are some quotes:

"We would never feel sick of these characters or these worlds," Kitase-san says. "Don't worry, we love them and we have an attachment to this whole story and characters. But in terms of this story, the whole Lightning saga story, this is going to be the end, and we're going to be moving on and not continuing in any sort of way. But the characters, since we do love them and do have an attachment to them, we're hoping there might be ways where they can make like a cameo, or something like that. For example, in Final Fantasy XIV, we're going to be doing like a collaboration with that game, and Lightning will make an appearance within the game. So we're hoping that there will be an opportunity to showcase them in some other form."

And this little ditty:


"What sets Lightning apart from the other [Final Fantasy hero] characters is that you don't see very many female heroines being the main character," says Kitase-san, "of course apart from maybe Terra from Final Fantasy VI. So that's definitely something that sets Lightning apart. She's not only a woman, but she's also very strong and also very cool, and she can put up a good fight. That's definitely one of her positive features. Even outside of the series, I got to go see the show floor at E3 and at Gamescom, and looking at other publishers I noticed that Lightning is probably one of the only female characters that pushed out in the forefront for their game titles. Of course, we had Lara Croft when Tomb Raider was about to be released, but now that that has launched, Lightning is one of the only female characters that is out there being the face of a title."

This one is my favorite:

“When I was making the game, I wasn’t really thinking about it, that I was going to have to say goodbye to her at the end of the process,” Abe told IGN through a translator. “But when I was playing the game during testing, when I reached the very end of the story, for the first time I felt a kind of weight. All the time that we’ve spent to create her from scratch and develop and progress her, it dawned on me there that this was the end, and that was an emotional moment.”

See what I mean? This is all from the creators of the game. Is anyone who played the games THIS emotionally attached to Lightning? I can't imagine how. I couldn't find the interview I wanted, one that I read around the time this game came out, but I recall reading how much time they said they spent developing her character, her background, her likes and dislikes, how she ticks, etc. Of which, NONE of that actually made it into any of the games and it floors me how that can happen. It's almost like how people describe their favorite color and why. No one ever really gives a great reason for it, you can't express it all that well, you just say that you like it, the look of it pleases you in some way. I swear that is the extent to which we have Lightning. They made something pretty to look at, and that was it. Then they try to go into how much depth she has, and that she's the female "Cloud" and us gamers scratch our heads and try to figure out what the hell they are talking about.

Let me please destroy the comparison to Cloud if I may as well. Now to be perfectly fair the creators made the comparison in terms of "popularity" not to literally put boobs on Cloud and call it a day. The internet however has maintained that she's just like Cloud! Yet, offer zero reasons as to how this comparison makes sense. Cloud begins his journey as a mercenary who is only out for money. He makes jokes, snide comments, dresses in drag, he's full of personality. Then he grows attached to the quest of his comrades and eventually befriends them. So much so, that he'll risk his life for them. But then tragedy strikes one of his closest friends and he couldn't save her. This causes him to go into severe depression and he doesn't want to take on the responsibilities of leading his group anymore as he feels he is unfit to save anyone. His friends convince him otherwise as the quest progresses and Cloud gains a renewed sense of hope in himself. THIS is a clear character arc. This is also a very cursory glance at the depth to which Cloud was written and presented. There is so much more nuance into how he developed, how he thinks of himself, and how he views others thinking of him and I could go on all day about it. We were told all of this about him though in the game, he was very well developed. We know his mom, we know his friends as a kid, we know his hopes and dreams, we know how he reacts to tragic events and how he deals with stress. He is very well fleshed out.

Lightning though? Uh...we know she wants to protect her sister and she doesn't really give a damn about the other people in her group either. She's very cold, she's all about the mission, whatever that may be and that's really it, that's all we can say about her. She's also exceptionally gullible as we see in the first game the villain outright tells her what he needs her and her group to do, and she DOES it essentially helping him succeed at destroying Cocoon. Only slightly after that does she attempt to save it, but she was helpless to do so and her friends had to be sacrificed to stop it from being destroyed. GREAT job Lightning...In this third game she's also unquestionably following the orders of God to round up souls for a new world. Now I haven't beaten the game yet...but I did discover that God is the final boss...so clearly it was being evil in some way or another and once again our gullible heroine was helping evil apparently.

I'm not sure I've ever played a game where they wrote so much and said so very little about the main character except for those games where you create a character and it has literally no character at all. It's dumbfounding that a company like Square can make characters as profoundly deep as those seen in earlier FF games or Xenogears and then have an entire trilogy devoted to what amounts to nothing more than eye candy. That's Lightning's character, eye candy, and this game pushes that notion to the forefront. The battle system is designed around changing her outfits for fucks sake.

Even characters that didn't have any depth to them in previous efforts like Squall in FF8 still had some notion of character in how they reacted to problems. Squall's character arc went from not caring what happened to Rinoa to risking his life for her. The game doesn't do a great job expressing WHY they become close as Squall's dialogue amounts to "...." and Rinoa incoherently goes from wanting to jump Seifer's bones to immediately wanting Squall's wang after they presume Seifer to be dead...but the point is Squall does go through a character change in that he is no longer self centered. What change can we say about Lightning? That she went from emotionless to God stole my emotions so now I'm even MORE emotionless? That about sums it up right there honestly and really this is not only the most glaring flaw about this third entry, but definitely the overriding flaw of the entire 13 series of games.

*If it looks like plastic, smells like plastic, and tastes like plastic, then you just ate plastic...wtf is wrong with you?*

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Off Topic of Gaming - Political Correctness

So Gary Oldman had an interview where he went off on a tangent about how this country is far too touchy lately, and how no one is really allowed to express themselves freely. I generally agree with his sentiment, and urge people to also read George Carlin's When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops which is mostly an outline of the ridiculousness of people, and essentially mob mentality bullying through this guise of political correctness.

Political correctness is ok in small doses. It mainly serves as a barrier from the public and hate filled diatribes. Much in the same way you shouldn't yell fire in a movie theater, you also really shouldn't directly attack a certain group of people based on race or gender on TV. But lately it seems that nearly everything said, even ever so slightly is a broad based attack and the person that made those comments should be completely and utterly destroyed over it.

A rebuttal was made to Oldman and, while I agree with some of the things said in it, I'd like to point out how very wrong it is:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-peron/gary-oldman-doesnt-get-fr_b_5532638.html

What the author here is basically saying, is no free speech is not dead, but you will reap what you sow. This is a fair assessment, but not a fair assessment of certain instances. Much in the same way Bill Maher is allowed to say call his audience Lesbians and get away with it, Stephen Colbert is bullied by the internet for making a harmless joke about Asians. The author is attempting to show that circumstance is what leads to the "reaping" for these people that make these off the cuff comments. And yet, it's entirely inconsistent. Someone like Colbert can be utterly eviscerated online for a harmless joke, whereas Maher is ignored for his harmless joke?

This is where I feel this author and I part ways. I am in agreement with him in regards to bad things said shouldn't go unpunished, but I feel there needs to be consistency in this whereas he doesn't feel it matters if the mob rises over one thing and not another. It's their choice to bully them and that bullying is perfectly ok. There's also a degree of bullying at which I feel is entirely unjustified.

In Colbert's case, sure his joke may have indeed offended some people. But the level to which the hatred rose seems far too high than what it deserved. This is the mob mentality effect coming into play that the author is ignoring. And I pose the question, which is more harmful? Colbert's simple joke, or hundreds of thousands of hateful comments from anonymous "victims" some that include calling for his death and other unsavory things.

And let's ask some HONEST questions, something that I feel is entirely ignored by these internet victims that turn to bullies. Was Colbert's joke an attack against Asians? Clearly, no it wasn't, it was a joke. Was Alec Baldwin slighting all gay people by using the word fag against someone that was upsetting him? Was it really? The answer, I feel, is no. Sure the word is used as a slight, to demean, and it's representative of that group, but our vernacular has taken the word "fag" to simply mean someone you dislike, and that was the context with which he was using the word. If you lived in England your concept of the word fag is also different, it means ciggarrette. And our use of words evolve over time too. No one says they are having a "gay old time" anymore, and in that time period it wasn't used to describe a circle jerk or some other gay activity ;) We live in a time where the word "fag" can mean TWO things, and Alec didn't mean them both at the same time. Who does, unless you're trying to be needlessly clever utilizing wordplay. So we have to ask ourselves the HONEST question of was he using the word to slight gay people, or to use the word in the same way we could also say, that "jerk" or that "moron."

This is where political correctness goes too far, and will tear down a human being like Stephen, or Alec, by taking their commentary out of context or reinserting their own context. More obvious instances would be ones like Mel Gibson who the author and I are in agreement, clearly was attacking the Jews unprovoked and really got what he deserved. Donald Sterling would be another example of this. If you were to ask yourself honest questions with their instances, rather than take a knee jerk emotional reaction to buzzwords, then the answers are much more clear and the flack given is deserved.

But even still, it goes too far. These people that make these lousy statements deserve second chances too though. Instead they are thrown out entirely without another word and bullied endlessly. They can't defend themselves or explain it either. It could be they were just having a really bad day, or drunk. And we've all done stupid things like that, every human alive has, and that's Oldman's main point. The punishments aren't befitting of the crime. They are far too extreme.

I feel that a lot of this started with the Michael Richards incident. Now I grant you, public figures who say bad things have gotten their just desserts too in the past and probably didn't start with Richards. But what DID start with him is the internet flaming that is now the expected reaction. The bullying. The vitriol. The outcasting online. One really bad incident and suddenly Richards is less than human. It wasn't until a year later where he was even allowed to discuss what happened and explain himself, and by then no one listened. What actually happened that night was he was doing his bit, got heckled, got upset, and tried to heckle them back using broad based black generalizations, but sadly lacked the material and light touch it needs (like say Family Guy or South Park) and he came off as hating them. And yeah, it was really bad. It's what's stand up comedians call dying on stage, but Richards just kept nosediving and put himself in a far worse position. He has apologized endlessly for it, but his career is still in the shitter anyway. All for one bad performance and internet bullying. The HONEST question that should be asked here is, is Richards actually a racist? Was his goal to victimize an entire group of people, or combat hecklers? If you answer these questions, and then read the hundreds of thousands of comments wanting Richards to be killed, then please answer me this....who are the real victims of political correctness here?

Hilariously, this entire piece I've written here will be misconstrued as protecting racists or people that spew hate or giving excuses. That's not at all what this is. This is a plea for common sense. This is a plea against needless victimizing of people on knee jerk reactions. I want the people of the internet to think and discuss rather than cry foul immediately for every possible little thing. The internet called racism over the new Far Cry 4 game box because a "white" guy (who is actually Asian) had another guy held captive of a different race. Clearly the game is about racism and how great it is! Look how successful he is! I want to be just like him! That's the message it's sending...apparently...to people with a screw loose. This is political correctness at it's finest folks, this is what we're dealing with, and this is what I can't stand. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to play a game where I kill thousands of Iranians. Which game is that? Who fucking cares there's hundreds of them, and no one calls those games Iranian people genocide simulators.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Mario Kart 8 - Too Well Balanced = Unbalanced



Mario Kart 8 is an enigma for me when it comes to how well, or how not well they've managed to balance this game. In Mario Kart Wii it was obvious, the bikes were over powered as the wheelie boost they got from straightaways eclipsed any hope of karts having a chance. Thankfully, that's been removed in this game but it has other problems...

After 30 some hours of online play here's some things I've noticed.

1. People that place 1st seem to win outright, untouched by others, seemingly gods of Mario Kart.
2. When you're in 5th place or lower after the first lap, expect it to stay that way for the rest of the race. You will be stuck there almost no matter what.
3. Getting thrown off course, or hit by things doesn't slow you down enough.
4. Nothing you do seems to make enough impact on your placement.

Now I am a Mario Kart veteran, I typically dominate this game and exploit weaknesses to get first whenever possible whether it be snaking on the DS or wheelie boosting on Wii, or knowing all the little tricks of MK64. This is a game I have so far, not been able to do that in. One would argue then, that this game is really well balanced! Well...it is, except not in that good old Mario Kart way I'm used to.

Let's review my points briefly to try and get at what I'm talking about here.

The first point is people who get first do so practically untouched. Why is that? Are they that good? No, they're not that good. When I get first in this game, I do so masterfully looking just like they do. But in the very next race I'll get 6th or 7th performing my very same masterful techniques and so will they I've noticed. Sure I've seen someone get 1st twice in a row, then I've seen them get stuck 8th or below for the remainder of their stay with the group. So what is balance if skill is not at play? Let's look at point two.

In my next point, this is the crux of Mario Kart 8. It seems to me that this Mario Kart, more than any other has its items balanced in such a way that you can't escape getting stuck in the middle of the pack if you're still there early on in the race and promotes those who have separated allowing them to gain such leads. The problem is the items are just less powerful than they've ever been. Getting hit doesn't deter you enough if you have a sizable lead to be overtaken, and being stuck in the middle constantly bombarded doesn't allow you to have a chance at 1st unlike older Mario Kart games. This leads to a head scratching dichotomy that I'll get to in the 4th point, but let me balance this out with the 3rd point.

So, you're stuck in the middle, what usually fixed this in other Mario Kart games? The blue shell would usually help here coupled with good driving. Getting blue shelled in this game is a minor annoyance. Previous games you'd get hit with it and be stunned long enough to lose position, but in this game online I've rarely seen the blue shell cause a shift in positions. Furthermore, bad driving also caused you to lose positions but in this game falling off course just doesn't punish you enough. You don't see your character fall in, there is no cut to black as you get put back on course. No, you get saved from the clutches of going off course IMMEDIATELY with very little repercussions. Shouldn't the guy who gets knocked off be delayed more than the guy who got hit with a green shell? Yes, but not in this game.

Lastly, it seems that no amount of good driving practices nets you better placements if you're stuck in the middle. Coupled with the item issue not punishing people enough, boosts also don't help you enough after you've been hit. I take every corner perfectly, do every shortcut right, boost on every jump with tricks but if I'm in the middle from the start due to one errant green shell and no one has checked the guy who got into first, there's no coming back from it no matter what. The mushrooms don't boost you fast or far enough, the stars don't speed you up enough to break away, shells will just keep you locked into the perpetual war that is the middle, and bullet bill is only acquired when you're in the bottom moving you back to middle hell. There is ONE exception to this that I've seen and that is the Gold Mushroom. That is by far the best item in the game as it's the ONLY thing you can really honestly do to pull yourself out of the middle if you got trapped there early on. The only other way you're getting out is if the top 3 racers checked each other enough to bring them back to the middle pack, but that is firstly very rare, and secondly out of your personal control, and frankly out of their control if the item gods are not looking at them favorably.

So in explaining my enigma we have to define balance, and that is does the game provide an even chance for everyone to win. The answer is clearly yes. So in this regard the game is balanced right? Well....not really.

As I've outlined, you'll win if you move away from the middle pack right at the start and don't get trapped with them, you won't win if you don't, and everyone has this opportunity at the start. You also can't really control getting out of it either through good driving practices, and even most items don't assist with this. So in this regard the game is very unbalanced as it promotes the players who by sheer luck managed not to get bombarded early on. Plus, even if they mess up mistakes are not harshly punished enough to make a big difference.

What made previous Mario Kart games more balanced is allowing for good driving, or items to let you break away from other drivers to get into the lead. This game's items are too ineffective, and the pitfalls too gentle to really allow for this. In other Mario Kart games I would get in 1st or near there each and every race. Because I'd race perfectly, hit all the right boosts, gain all the advantages of the course with driving and it mattered. That doesn't seem to matter in this game at all though.

But the game is still amazing, it's still Mario Kart, and it's still really fun, just don't expect to win all the time =)

*I'm a Luigi, I'm a number 6....then a number 4...then a number 10....really depends on a when I get hit with a shell...*

Thursday, May 29, 2014

E3 Predictions - 2014


Start Button News used to be cool. We used to make videos of our E3 predictions and excitement every year. Now it's just lonely me toiling away at this blog every now and again when I find time in this crazy existence we call life...

But enough of that, let's dive into what to expect from E3 2014!

Nintendo Logo

So Nintendo has been having a rough go of it these past few years. When the Wii and DS came out Nintendo was rolling in success. So much so I highly doubt they really understood what they did right this time after the semi failure of the Gamecube. To my dismay, I was right. They didn't have a clue what they did right as we cut to the Wii U, Nintendo's biggest failure so far tracking worse than even the Gamecube did. What happened? Well it's simple. The Wii U was an attempt to cater to the hardcore gamer again after leaving them high and dry with the Wii. What's that you say? The Wii U is for hardcore gamers? Yes it is. The console when it launched was over $300, an investment only us gamers are willing to submit to. The controller is of standard fare despite the screen on it (and let me just say the screen does make gaming better where the motion control did not).

But where is this hardcore crowd at? Why would they come back to Nintendo now? Those are the questions Nintendo has to answer at this E3 quite honestly. Or, revert back to catering to the casual crowd they had so much success with. There are two roads here for Nintendo, which will they take? My prediction, is they take both roads.

#1: Nintendo will announce a new Zelda game on Wii U. Nintendo has all but confirmed they are going to tell us about the new Zelda in some recent interviews, and they've had footage of a really good looking Zelda game as a demo a few years ago when they were first showing off the Wii U. It's very likely they have this ready to show at this point. They also need it desperately to reign in fans holding off buying the console.

#2: Nintendo reduces the price of the Wii U to $250 or less. This is the first console Nintendo's released where they are already taking a loss on each one they sell, but it's not by much and they need to learn what the other companies have learned, that if you're making a console with high specs like the Wii U has then you have to take a hit there to break into the market. Sure, Nintendo is really hurting but they need to increase the market share of the Wii U to give developers a reason to make games for it.

#3: Nintendo announces cheap new consoles for smaller markets. Nintendo already announced they were doing this, but I think they'll show off what they were talking about.

#4: We'll see most of what they've already told us like the Pokemon remake. Nintendo has lately decided not to keep the lid on things they're working in lately. Probably in hopes to find ways to raise demand for their consoles, so every other week or so they've been letting the gaming community know what they're up to.

#5: They will announce more 'health' related software. Iwata has said he hopes to rebuild Nintendo by providing health conscious hardware and software. I'm guessing we'll see more on this in their E3 video. I really hope not, but I doubt Iwata will back down from these statements.

So overall I'm not expecting a big game announcement outside of Zelda. I'm also not expecting any big changes either. My wishful thinking prediction is they announce some sort of Netflix subscription to have access to their Virtual Console. They won't do it...but I wish they would.



Sony has had tremendous success with the PS4 since it came out. It has hit the gamers funny-bone hitting the right price point and also by not being complete ass-hats with hubris like Microsoft was trying to shill an always online Xbox.

This ultimately lead to the success of PS4. But what will they do to keep all of this success going? News has been very grim for Sony lately this past year, despite the success of the PS4. Sony has been closing down headquarters, closing Sony stores, selling off their PC division, considering splitting their TV division off, laying off countless people in their in-house gaming studios and cancelling projects. None of this is good news for gamers or stockholders. Sony is shrinking dramatically and the only division actually making a profit is the gaming division. Which is a good thing, but is that reason enough for Sony to keep going? We'll see.

Here's what I suspect the Sony E3 will look like.

#1: New God of War and Uncharted game. The hope for God of War PS4 is very high, but also with a dash of uncertainty as Sana Monica Studios was told to ax the project they had been working on for 2 years to start a different one and was hit with layoffs. After Sony had been retooling and shrinking it was noted that the most recent God of War game sold very poorly, so it only makes sense that they probably cut the God of War game they were making. I'm just hopeful this speculation is unwarranted. The Uncharted announcement is all but confirmed though, so look for that.

#2: Project Morpheus gets a release date and price. Though it's still really early hearing about this project, Sony is very late into it and nearly ready to release it if reports are accurate. This isn't their first foray into head devices as they've been releasing their head mounted display or HMD devices for the last 4 years or so already. Apparently, that light bar on the PS4 controller interacts with Morpheus too, and they'll show that off at E3. Sony has kept a tight lip on that for a while now because they weren't ready to show Morpheus off, but now they are.

#3: We will finally get details on PS Now. We'll get release dates, and probably pricing points. I'm guessing they will have a subscription option and a rental option for this cloud based streaming service. Very excited to see this.

#4: Sony will hopefully not forget the Vita this E3 and announce the Vita TV for US markets. I'm also hoping they announce some games for it....but that's not likely.

#5: Sony will spend most of the show tooting it's own horn at how many units they've sold. Typical Sony treating E3 like a stockholders meeting they will tell us how awesome they are.

My wishful thinking prediction is pretty much God of War PS4....but it's also that fucking ICO game Last Guardian that never surfaced to the PS3. We'll see.


So...I'm not the Microsoft guy here at Start Button. That was always Keith and he's not here to hold my hand and tell me what the hell is going on with them...I know sales of the Xbox 1 have been lukewarm...and it has games on it? Still I'll try my best for predictions.

#1: We'll hear more about the new Halo game and Gears of War game. Buzz of a new Gears game has been hitting the gaming sites for the past few weeks now, so bank on it at E3. Halo is a bit of a mystery, but we got a teaser last year so I'm thinking we'll see something.

#2: Microsoft tries to sell us a Kinect again. They just recently announced an Xbox 1 without the Kinect, so they're distancing themselves from it finally....but that won't stop them from trying to tell us how amazing it is still at E3. Expect to see them integrate it with new apps, or have some lame Skype call with it. Maybe they'll do something useful with it and show off new Twitch streaming integration.

#3: UI updates to the Xbox 1. From the start people are complaining about the Xbox 1 user interface and how awful it is. And it is awful....it was designed to be used with the Kinect so it works when the Kinect works which is...not much. They will likely revamp this and go back to a 360 style or make something new so it functions cleaner.

#4: Microsoft talks about exclusive games. Microsoft is always looking for ways to show how the Xbox 1 is different from the PS4 and beats over our head again and again games you can only get on Xbox, or DLC that is exclusive though timed (they never say timed...). Expect to see some exclusive deal they made with Activison on the upcoming Call of Duty game. That is typical of them.

#5: Microsoft announces some kind of new plan for PC gamers. This is probably also my hopeful prediction, but it seems more likely than not. With the death of GFWL and Microsoft knowing PC gaming is bigger than ever, and with the Steam boxes on the horizon, I'm betting MS wants to throw their hat in with PC again in some form or another. Sadly, I'm betting it will have something to do with the MS Surface rather than big AAA games, and likely still be connected to the Xbox 1 in some way too. It's probably a bit too early for them unless they're killing off GFWL to make room for their next attempt, but this has a chance.

Overall, my speculation of Microsoft is pretty sub-par. I just don't follow them that well. I have a gaming PC that I'd rather use than an Xbox 1.

Wishful prediction, they announce Killer Instinct for PC!

Final Thoughts: 

With E3 just looming around the corner as a gamer I am very excited. This is the first E3 the new generation of consoles will get where we focus on the games that's in the works for them rather than hardware specs. I can't wait to see what is just around the corner for these new consoles.

*E3 used to have AIDS. That's funny if you've followed us for the last 8 years.*

Monday, February 17, 2014

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze Gamespot Review - More of the Same

I've been around gaming quite a long time, and one important thing I learned very early on is being able to recognize a quality game before I buy it. Gaming is expensive, and people like me hate wasting their money on a bad game, so I've been very good at not doing that and discerning the crap from the gold.

That's where reviews come in. They help you decide if something is good or not. Some reviews are less informative than others though...so I'd like to comment on the recent review of the new Donkey Kong game, Tropical Freeze. I've never actually done this before as a blog, but nothing has been quite as dumbfounding as this review. You can read it for yourself here:

http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/donkey-kong-country-tropical-freeze-review/1900-6415667/

Now, I don't want to go into a long diatribe about review scores, or things being poorly written or what consideration is given to what as my reviews are probably full of holes just like I personally feel this one is. To summarize, it seems he gave the game a lowish score because he felt the game was "more of the same" as is my title in this blog, see what I did there?

But on that note let's consider the reviewer for a moment, and let us also consider hypocrisy. This reviewer lists his top ten games of 2013 here:

http://www.gamespot.com/articles/mark-walton-s-top-10-games-for-2013/1100-6416737/

On it, we can see some striking choices. Most notably that 6 of these 10 games are sequels, and by design are "more of the same." Sure, there's some outstanding creativity in games like Bioshock Infinite, and Super Mario 3D...but is there uniqueness there, or am I personally loving games like this for what I know they're repeating?

That's an interesting question that I pose to myself when I see such a harsh review of something I am sure I will love for the same reasons I've always loved Donkey Kong. So when I see a harsh review like this, I question the hypocrisy of it especially in the face of seeing past reviews and not even mentioning "more of the same" as a critique, yet it surely can be applied. Let's take his top 10 list of sequels one by one very briefly.

Bioshock Infinite: This game provided a new story and a new environment, but down to brass tacks the gameplay is the same and perhaps even less interesting than Bioshock 2 where they advanced the combat a bit. Overall, all three games are corridor shooters where the gameplay being good is based mostly on how interesting your abilities are, and how interesting the enemies are. Personally, I feel Infinite had the weakest set of enemies, with nothing as imposing or prominent as Big Daddies were in the first two. The powers were fun though, but I wouldn't say they were better or worse than the first two either, if anything most of them felt "more of the same." (please note though, I loved this game)

Super Mario 3D World: As my review of this game stated, I loved this game. But I loved it for knowing what I was getting, which is something I love playing, which is a Mario game. Sure, I can identify a bland entry to the series like New Super Mario 2 on the 3DS, but I'll still enjoy it because the gameplay is solid. Ultimately, what is this game though? Mario being in what was mostly an isometric view has been done on the 3DS game of a similar name. The levels are bigger in this one and more interesting but at the end of the day you can indeed slap a label of "more of the same" on this game too.

Pokemon X: Do I need to even outline what is more of the same about this game? Surely, I don't, but I will say the game was fantastic like previous entries. But, "more of the same" this game most assuredly is.

Rayman Legends: Also, another game I loved tremendously and fully recognize how amazingly uniquely it handled itself and level design. But....so did the first game. It's more of that game, or...how should I put this..."more of the same."

DMC - Devil May Cry: Yes...he lists this game as his top games of 2013...somehow mistakenly missing the fact that this game plays nearly identically to all the previous entries. Sure the story is better and actually makes sense, and the characters are therefore more interesting but from a gameplay point of view what we have here is "more of the same."

Grand Theft Auto 5: Now this game, I haven't played. I can only comment that I've heard the cast of characters is unlikable, the online is great, and there's a lot to do in the game. But it's Grand theft auto FIVE. Certainly, without any detail I can probably say this game has "more of the same" in it and not get any flack from this.

So, this is his best of 2013 with 4 notable other games that you can't really say is more of the same. The argument can be made for The Last of Us since the game plays pretty much like Uncharted but I give it a pass since it's a new IP and that alone is a risk for developers.

Still, if this list isn't identifiable as hypocrisy enough to make the claim that "more of the same" isn't actually a bad thing, here's a link to a random review I noticed this reviewer did:

http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/god-of-war-ascension-review/1900-6404941/

See what that is? That is God of War Ascension. Now I'll be the first person to admit loving these games, but I'll also be the first person to tell you all 6 entries have been EXACTLY the same game. I can think of no other series that has done so little in advancing what goes on in the game than say...Mega Man, than that of God of War. And here we are with a glowing review from the guy that claims this new Donkey Kong game is boring, and same old same old, by the numbers etc. He was bored by Donkey Kong, being realistically the 5th entry in the side scrolling version of DK in over a 20 year period....whereas we've had 6 entries of God of War in the last 9 years....

Seriously though do the math on that one. 5 side scrolling Donkey Kong games in 20 years, versus 6 God of War games in 9 years and somehow Donkey Kong is old and boring now?

Now, I wasn't going to poke holes in the review specifically but let me note just one thing he mentions that the level design is stale and doesn't excite him...In EVERY entry of God of War Kratos fights his way out of hell at some point (pretty sure it's every one...most of them anyway...) Never the less, how is that not "stale" level design? How are Bioshock's obvious rooms of enemies not stale, how are Grand Theft Auto's escort driving missions not stale by now, how is catching over 700 Pokemon NOT stale by now?

What I'm getting at here, is the crux of this review is written on the notion that it bored the reviewer personally, because he's been there and done that, and seemingly less so about the qualities of the game itself. As I've outlined here, more of the same is not a bad thing, and I've pointed out how hypocritical this reviewer is being about this game due to his own personal history of obviously liking games that are the same as previous entries. To such an extent he would give 6 slots to his top 10 of best games of 2013 to sequels.

Obviously, I haven't played the new Donkey Kong yet, but I expect what other reviewers have noted that the game plays great just like Returns did, the levels are well designed and challenging. And the game gets high marks for that polish as it should. But, if anything maybe this will help gamers begin to learn how to sift through garbage articles and help figure out if a game is something they'll like or not.

Also, one big thing I'd like to note against "more of the same" is what if this is your very first Donkey Kong game you've ever played? Suddenly, it's not the same as any other game now is it?

*Donkey Kong swung on a vine again....fuck yeah!*

PS - Two the "negatives" in the summary section of the Gamespot review make it sound like he was butt hurt by how challenging the game is...lol.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Yahoo - Gaming Illiterate


So I wrote an article maybe two years ago outlining really dumb shit Yahoo posts about video games...

Today suddenly really boiled my noodle because once again they post or link articles directly pointing out once again just how loathsomely incompetent they are about the industry.

Here's link 1: http://games.yahoo.com/news/nintendo-boss-halve-pay-profit-dives-104753497.html

Ok, so the article's main point is Iwata is cutting his pay and so is his board due to weak Wii U sales. As with nearly every article I've read about weak Wii U sales has been outlining one main point to help fix Nintendo and that is "Nintendo should utilize MOBILE gaming!" Smartphones, iPad's etc, etc. That would solve everything! Right? Fuck no.

The Wii U is not selling. That's Nintendo's problem. Selling mobile games isn't going to magically fix that problem. They know basically why the Wii U isn't selling and there are some very obvious points that IGN outlined a few weeks ago in a post that made some damn sense.

1. The Wii U confused people. They didn't understand it was a brand new system.
2. There are no killer games yet. Wii U probably released a year too early.
3. Third party support is lacking more than it ever has with Nintendo.

Those are good solid points, and things Nintendo can easily address.

They need better marketing to express the value of Wii U to consumers. They need to ride this year out for #2 because they are coming out with some AMAZING games like Donkey Kong, Mario Kart 8, X, Bayonetta 2, and possibly Smash Brothers. Combined this will get a lot of people who call themselves gamers on board and have a second system next to Xbox or PS4 as typical with Nintendo the past few generations.

Third party support is an issue they've always had but it's never been quite this bad. Developers at Bethesda have come right out and spoken against Nintendo for how terrible they are with this. Guys from Sony and MS all reached out to companies like Bethesda, met in person, discussed their new system WITH them to assist in the transition and made it more of a partnership to making great games. Nintendo makes a new system, barely tells anyone and expects them to start making games for it. This is not a good business practice in the slightest, and it's making Nintendo isolated and obsolete. They need to get off their ass and start kissing ass if they want more third party support.
**Though they may not need third party support to consider themselves successful, but still, the goal is to sell Wii U right? Third party support would help that**

Back to my original point though, what the hell is wrong with all of these analysts blasting Nintendo for not delving into mobile? Honestly, they don't bash Sony or MS over it and do we see Infamous, Uncharted, Sly Cooper etc on mobile? Do we see mobile Halo? Not really, and not enough to claim that these companies are such stewards of mobile gaming and profiting heavily off of it. The MOST that we see from big game companies on mobile devices are FREE companion applications for their console games, smaller mini games, and ports of older games like Square has been doing a lot.

So why bitch when Nintendo doesn't bother with it? They made a Pokedex for Japan on iPhone....that's pretty much just the same as Capcom making that free companion app for Dead Rising 3. What the hell is the difference?

Link #2

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/01/27/3-reasons-sonys-ps-vita-failed.aspx

Here fool.com advertised by Yahoo outlines an article of why the Vita failed....and my god it's dumb.

First, I will agree the Vita is doing poorly. But what is stated here is super dumb. The first issue they note is how well some other PSP games have sold against the Vita. Some games they list here weren't released until 4 years after the PSP came out. Monster Hunter 3 for instance was released in 2010! Another issue with this list is they are showing lifetime sales, not sales of the games as they released over the course of 2 years. The Vita has been out for TWO years, not the nearly 10 years the PSP has been around (my god it's been nearly 10 years since the PSP came out). So yeah...really fair comparison there guys...

I mean there's no denying the Vita is lacking good software, but you can outline it differently and more accurately. The Vita needs system selling games...which actually is actually the second point they make and while I agree with what they stated "Nintendo convinced consumers to purchase the 3DS for one major reason -- it offered new chapters of its flagship franchises"   my beef with this is very simple....what the fuck?

Ok, so I am going off a bit and the article isn't relating this point elsewhere but they just stated that Nintendo convinced consumers to buy the 3DS because of how great its flagship franchises are....now take that statement and tell me WHY the hell are people like this also saying the opposite of the Wii U? One big complaints of the Wii U is people complaining that they are just rehashing old tired franchises like Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, etc. Yet! People don't say that about the 3DS success? So the 3DS succeeds because it has awesome Mario and Zelda games but the Wii U fails....because it has awesome Mario and Zelda games??

The last portion of the article bugs me a lot too....saying the Vita failed on backwards compatibility...yet the Xbox One and PS4 do not have backwards compatibility and no one bitches when they sell record numbers. Plus Sony tried to bend over backwards to make PSP games possible on the Vita despite not needing to do so. What is with all this inconsistency?

So what is actually wrong with the Vita?

1. Not many good games. No argument from me here but I'm not going to bullshit you. The Vita has been out 2 years and good hell the first two years of PSP was total ass also if you remember.
2. Memory cards. The memory cards really killed the Vita in my view. Gamers like me saw that we had to buy a $250 system, and then a $80 memory card? On top of that the launch line up was kind of a yawn. It's no wonder the system didn't sell well out of the gate, and the memory card issue still lingers for it.
3. Can't hack it...yet. PSP sold really well after people figured out how to emulate on it and run NES/SNES games etc on the unit. Companies fear this nonsense, but frankly it saved a failing system. Being able to hack it and run what you want on it sold systems, and made gamers who now owned one to also purchase a game or two.
4. Third party support issue. Just like the Wii U developers just aren't making games for the Vita. It sucks, and Sony needs to fix it.

To summarize if you're looking for gaming news please god stay away from Yahoo...

*Yahoo....it's for Yahoos*

Monday, January 13, 2014

Crazy Big Review Time Happening!

I have been VERY busy lately playing an innumerable amount of games that I could actually count if I bothered...still...

My gaming stream is going well, as in it is functional whilst on and I have been relatively consistent with it but it needs improving as all things do. Anyway, I would like to share my thoughts on games I've played via the stream. So without further ADO!

Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag

Ass Creed 4 as I affectionately call it gave me a good 45 hours of fun and romping around as a Pirate. As anyone worth their sea salt knows this is the first really big open world Ass Creed game where exploration takes a giant leap forward from previous games. This was probably one of my most favorite games to explore in honestly, maybe only just less enjoyable than Just Cause 2 but not by much. The world is VERY detailed, very large, and very interesting. Not a lot of things went reused or rehashed, you're always discovering something new. The ship controls are the best, plundering other ships is a joy and never a hassle. It's just fun to do all the stuff the game has laid out for you....except...

The main missions....


Above is my compilation of the main missions in AC4. If you're not keen on video watchin' let me sum it up for you...you tail things...then you listen to them talk about stuff...then you kill them. Every single mission is this way with very little variance. There was a lot of guff thrown at AC3 for how long it took for that game to get going, but give credit where credit is due that game had some interesting missions and very little eavesdropping and tailing. This game doesn't know what else to do with itself!

Apart from that the game is a joy to play, the story is a fun romp though the main character is as bland as a paper bag. Luckily he has interesting side kicks. The music is top notch though still doesn't dethrone Brotherhood in my opinion, but still worth buying the OST.

Rayman Legends: 

Oh, Rayman...I have wanted to play you since you promised to release back in February when my Wii U was a barren wasteland of gaming. It remained that way until you finally DID come out...bitch...

Anyway, Rayman Legends is simply amazing. It's one of the best side scrolling platformers I have played in a very long time. If I didn't have nostalgia glasses on for Donkey Kong Country 2 I'd say it's the best one I have ever played. From how visually amazing it is, to the spectacular soundtrack and tight controls the game hits every note perfectly. Every single level is unique. Let me repeat this...EVERY LEVEL IS UNIQUE. I don't know how they managed this, but they made a side scrolling platformer that doesn't wear out its welcome. Even on levels where I was like, man that was cool hope I get another one like that, Rayman says fuck no we got other shit for you to love. And I'm all like...seriously? Also, this game is now coming to PS4 and Xbox One! Amazing! BUY IT!!

Don't believe me? Watch my damn playthrough!


Saints Row 4

I am the type of fan who loves Saints Row games more than GTA games. Personally, I play video games to break down the walls of realism where all GTA does is try to build them up more and more. Saints Row does the opposite and takes out anything that isn't fun right down to entering a damn car. In GTA you open the door, step in and sit down, maybe you'll even fiddle with hotwiring a bit before you get a move on. Saints Row? You just dive into the nearest window and go!

Saints Row 4 is hilarious like Saints Row 2 and 3 were (didn't play 1). It has a bombastic plot with enjoyable characters and scenarios. The mini games are pretty fun too all generally focusing on your new super powers. Super powers you ask? Yes you get super powers in this game because you are literally a character in a computer program designed by aliens that took over Earth. So look out for endless references to the Matrix.

While I enjoyed nearly everything this game had to offer the problem is I enjoyed NEARLY everything unlike everything AND wanting more I got from SR3. What I deemed was the problem is very simple for me, the main plot wasn't handled well and didn't hook me as much as SR3 did. And it's not that SR4 couldn't have captivated me like SR3 did. The actual premise of SR4 was perfectly awesome and so were the first few hours....but then it devolved...quite literally into Mass Effect.

All you do in Mass Effect games is collect a crew, and this is exactly what you do in SR4. It takes over the main plot putting it aside until the VERY end of the game which is exactly what happened here. Everything takes a back seat while you go gather your peeps. Sure some funny antics happen here and there, but overwhelmingly it feels like nothing is getting done. There's no interaction from the main villain, you don't know what he's up to or why. He doesn't seem to mind that you're doing all this stuff to defy him either. Nothing is happening! And it's like this until the moment you get all your crew back and then it's time for the final mission....so there's hardly a payoff for all your efforts. Unlike SR3 where you were constantly battling the enemy, one upping them, and they'd REACT to it in the story. You felt like you were making differences the whole time and moving through the plot with everyone instead of without everyone.

Metal Gear Rising Revengence: 

Ah, Platinum games...is there anything you do that doesn't make me love you? You made me enjoy a Metal Gear game...how did you do that?? For the uninitiated, I really don't like Metal Gear games. Sadly, a few bits of that creep through in this game too, but the MAIN aspects of the game were enough for me to like it a lot. That is of course the super tight combat. Playing as a cyborg ninja is great fun, and the combat in this game does that justice. You get two main attacks of heavy and weak and connect them flowingly until you are prompted to press the slice and dice mode. In this mode you chop off either the left hand for  bonus points or the torso to rip out the spine to heal for nearly every enemy. This stays fun for the entirety of the game. And for an action game it ticks the other most important box of offering wonderfully designed boss battles. MGR has fantastic boss fights. There aren't enough of them, but I'll take quality over quantity any day.

The few Metal Gear aspects that creep its way in bugs the shit out of me so I'll outline them. Firstly, you can avoid combat with sneaking (god knows why you'd want to) because the enemy AI is dumb as shit. This is such a huge complaint of mine with the MG series that fans tout as so damn clever. What is so clever about a cardboard box being a cloak device for retarded people? I should post a video later of my exploits with this in one area that encapsulates just how these "sneaking" games really function. It's a matter of dumbass AI, not clever game interaction. Granted, there's not really a good way to design this any other way. My bitching is directed at people thinking they're actually outsmarting something when playing these games. They're not, they're beating something programmed to be stupid all for the sake of saying "I sneaked around him tee hee!" And I just don't find the enjoyment in that over beating a well designed combat scenario forcing me to learn patterns and skillful timing to avoid death as opposed to avoiding an enemy sight cone while I lie in wait for them to go down corridor B while I crawl around in a box...ooooh how exciting!

The OTHER complaint I have is of course the plot. Typical MG story happens here in MGR where there's far too much talking, especially in an action game. I'm not even sure if Kojima wrote this but he could have. Hours of dialogue for no good reason to tell a story of they're using child brains to make robots and I'm a Cyborg Ninja out to stop them, and the bad guys are creating war scenarios...because money...and then not money because we need more dialogue to explain some really stupid anti-philosophy.

You know, that's really the best way to describe MG stories. They are honestly anti-philosophies. The bad guys in these games go out of their way to drone on and on about what they're doing is for good, and why they're good and how they're the same as you all with an overarching theme of war is bad but not so bad if it's used for good merry go round of discussion that has ultimately no clear idea of what the fuck it's trying to say about anything. IE; an anti-philosophy, as philosophies are clearly stated ideals where your actions or proposed actions correlate to those ideals and just like EVERY other MG game this one flies in the face of that with just one passing glance. The main senator boss guy wants everyone to be free to choose their own wars as he controls them with his devised wars.....*facepalm* I swear people don't turn their brains on when they listen to a MG game. People talk really long and make you forget just how badly written this shit is...

AAAANNNYWAY....I can't wait to play this game again and skip the cutscenes lol.

*so much to play so little time*