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*

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

NooB Streaming Tutorial

I am nearly complete with my very long and arduous process of starting up a gaming stream. I have moved all of my equipment to my larger game room filled with...games...and now have the ability to stream my consoles with a capture card (cheers). I have a few minor problems left to sort out but if all goes well I should be able to stream nearly every night which is the plan.

But, enough about me this post is about you. You wanna stream stuff? Don't know where to start? Bought a canoe instead of a webcam thinking that will help you down the stream? Made a lot of bad puns like this one? Well I can't help you there since that's all I do...but I can help you get your stream off the ground with a few bits of advice. Sure there are plenty of tutorials out there, so why should you read mine? I'll tell you why! Because...if you don't I'll get you...I'll get you and then your pets...and I'll drop you all off smack dab in the middle of Detroit! FEAR ME!

Firstly, the equipment. What do you need??

1. A decent computer. Streaming costs a good amount of processing power, you want at least a quad core, intel i7 or something in that range. There are settings in the streaming software to work around that if you can't muster it though.

2. Decent internet. You want to have a good amount of upload bandwidth at the very least. Upload is the most important, try to have at least 3mb upload speed.

3. Capture Card. I recommend Elgato (google it) but any of them are pretty good. Avermedia is the other go to brand. This is only if you want to stream consoles.

4. Webcam. Not required but people like to see your shitty face. Dunno why...

5. Headphones. Very required. You can't have audio from speakers that feed into whatever microphone you are using.

6. Microphone. This can be attached to your webcam or headphones to save space / hassle.

7. HDMI splitter. This is to get around HDCP protection on the PS3 and PS4 (though the PS4 protection should be removed sometime soon).

8. Lots of cords/adapters, the more the better! I say this but it depends how you set things up. The issue with streaming console on a capture device is the audio gets delayed 3 seconds (more on that later). So you can't feed the audio from your computer to YOU and have it make sense, so you need to run audio from your headphones in your TV directly. Or you can hook it up to your computer monitor. However you do it the goal is, you need to hear something and your viewers need to hear something and it all has to match up in the end.

That's the hardware end of it and there's more to it you can add a green screen, amps, mixers, whatever. It all depends. It can also be as simple as you want to stream PC games and all you need is a very good computer (considering it has to run the game AND the stream software), a microphone and headphones and webcam though again that's optional. Some say the microphone is optional too, but honestly how are you going to talk to chat while gaming? If you don't want to talk to chat why are you streaming? lol

The next bit is Software and this is where things get hairy. It's taken me a good 2 months but I think I've got this bit down.

Firstly I recommend getting OBS

http://obsproject.com/

It is free, very easy to use, and very good quality and they're always plugging away to make it better. The other choice is XSplit which runs like $70 a year to use and has slightly more features than OBS but I'm not sure if you'd really notice in the end unless you were putting on a full scale gaming tournament. Although, one thing it has which is nice is you can auto-split your videos at designated intervals for offline copies of your stream which OBS should be adding in at some point.

ANYWHO

Once you get OBS installed there are some settings to consider....well a lot of settings to consider. For each setup though, your mileage may vary so it's not like I can just list a bunch of things and have it work for you.

What you need to consider are some important variables though.

Bitrate - This is how good your stream will look, and there are some rules to go  by when determining what you want your bitrate to be at. For me, I have 5mb upload speed which is the best I can do in my area. I have to have my bitrate be at a level that looks good, doesn't exceed 5mb, and also allows room for spikes. I set mine at 2700 to play it safe, but 3000 when I'm feeling lucky. These are very safe numbers, I probably could do 3500 but then I'd worry about playing online games where I'd need the extra bandwidth. You have to play with this number but eventually you'll get it right. What to look out for is your framerate while streaming. OBS will tell you if you are dropping frames and this means you need to lower your bitrate...or...

Processing Speed - There is a setting in the advanced tab that lets you overwork your processor in favor of bandwidth to make shit look nicer. Veryfast is the default and what that means is OBS won't use your processor that much. But if you have a really good processor you can bump that up to Fast, or beyond. I don't recommend going higher than Fast only because the other settings don't provide much more quality for how much performance you will dip.

Resolution - The goal for most streamers is to get a 720p stream essentially. This means you want your output resolution to be 1280x720. If your stream is struggling though you can lower it, but there's really no reason to go above this either. Why you may ask? Because you have to consider your audience will mostly not even be able to view a 1080p stream unless they have super ridiculous Internets. You would be limiting your available viewer base for a meager quality upgrade.

Those are the three main settings you will be playing around with until you get that sweet spot. The basics of using the program become self apparent as you play around with stuff like adding your webcam, microphones, capturing windows. Also, Twitch.tv shows you how to add your account to the OBS software to get it synced up.

Some helpful tips:

Audio delay - This issue will come up in more ways than you'd realize. You must understand that there are multiple audio sources happening in different places all going through one channel so issues arise from this. Especially with capture cards. The capture cards will give you roughly a 3 second delay on audio vs your mic and video game. So if you die and yell "shiiiiiit!" that shit won't come until 3 seconds before you die on the stream, giving yourself away. There is a very simple fix in OBS that will delay your mic by however long you want it to. I have set mine to 2500 milliseconds but you have to play around with it. You also have to delay your webcam the same amount or you'll end up looking like a poorly dubbed kung-fu flick.

Sever - Pick the RIGHT server. I can't stress the importance of this and how much time it will save you. After I bought my new fancy high speed internets and tested it out I was very disappointed that it wasn't working right....then I figured out I was using the Twitch California server and I'm in Michigan, doh! Very simply, in OBS you can select which server is closest to you. That's a good rule of thumb but there is a program out there that pings all the servers and you can determine which is fastest for you. Just google Twitch server ping and it's the first one there.

Cropping - OBS has a lovely hidden feature to let you crop things when you select "edit scene" for monitor capture. You just hold Alt down while sizing stuff and it crops it down. This is VERY useful.

And that's all for now. Leave questions in the comments and I can help out if needed. I didn't cover everything but went over the most important stuff.

*Gaming is complicated these days*

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Super Mario 3D World - Review

It has been a good while since I've reviewed a game, which is a shame as I've played so many and there have been a lot of gems in there. I guess it always takes Mario though to bring me out of hiding as it is always something special and Super Mario 3D World is no exception to that rule.

My first thoughts of this game couldn't have been lower. When it was revealed at E3 all I could think was, this looks terrible. Gone was the large scope of a 3D world we were used to ever since Mario 64, replaced with an isometric view similar to a common Mario Party game. That's what I thought of it too, it looked like Mario Party. Heck, even 4 players at once gave that Mario Party vibe and I was decidedly turned off.

But game sites began writing previews and first thoughts of the game. They wrote nothing but praise and love for what they saw and my heart lifted. I am the last person that wants a bad Mario game after all. It was shaping up to be another great Mario game, but I remained skeptical assuming Mario gets praise simply because he's Mario.

But then the game dropped on my doorstep, and I played it. A good indicator of a great Mario game for me can be simply looking at my massive grin and mouth agape. Giddy laughter soon follows from clever game mechanics and tricky moments that only Mario offers. All of this happened while playing this new Mario game and I'm not ashamed to admit I giggled like a little school girl for the first 2 hours of the game. That's not to say the rest of it is boring, I just got a bit tired. On to the review!

Graphics: 

Mario for me has never been about graphics but I must say, this is the very best he has ever looked in 3D. The game runs at a buttery smooth 60fps in 1080p and it never ever dips below that. After playing through launch titles on PS4 and seeing Xbox One games streamed on Twitch, it is difficult to describe in mere words just how talented the Nintendo team is when they are always able to get their games running technically flawlessly where the competition with all their horsepower continues to make games with framerate issues, like they don't understand the tools they are using. Nintendo in this regard makes them appear as cavemen still tinkering with the wheel while Nintendo is riding around in go-carts.

But really, everything looks stunning. The levels with the rain truly impress me. Mario doesn't just have a sheen to him as you romp about, but you can really see where water was hitting him and places he is drier. There is a fluidity they managed here rather than take a lazy approach of here's a wet Mario.

Story: 

It's Mario dammit....

Sound:

Ah, now here is an area I never thought Nintendo would top itself on after Galaxy, come up with a better score than that. Well...they absolutely did. Not only did they bring back a lot of those amazing tunes from Galaxy and rework them, but they added all new songs too that rival or are even better than the Galaxy score. My personal favorite is the new Haunted mansion music. Those strings....I could listen to that all freaking day. I hum the main theme from this game often while driving to work as well. It is without a doubt the best collection of songs to ever grace a Mario game.

Gameplay: 

The all important gameplay section. This is where a Mario game lives or dies.....although I have yet to ever play a main line Mario game where the gameplay was bad. So needless to say, Mario controls perfectly, as does his other 4 cohorts you can play as, Peach, Toad, Luigi, and Rosalina (unlockable).

This hearkens back to Super Mario 2, or Doki Doki Panic Mario edition as I call it. Each character plays somewhat different and offers their own unique challenges and skills using them. It's not as obvious as SM2 was though, or rather doesn't affect your play as much. In SM2 Peach gliding MEANT something, it gave a very specific dynamic to the character that the others couldn't touch. But in this game, everyone can float with a tanooki suit. Toad's ability is he speeds up faster when running. There's never really a moment in the game where that becomes apparently useful, unlike his SM2 ability where he picked stuff out of the ground lightning fast which was very useful.

But what really matters in this new game is the newest suit, the cat suit. Nearly every level is designed with this suit in mind, usually hiding away secrets where you have to be a cat to uncover. Luckily, the cat suit is very fun. It offers a new dimension with which to explore the large blocky levels of this game. I often found myself limited on time exploring every nook and cranny of each level with the cat suit. If I had one gripe about it though, it would be that it feels a bit overpowered. You can physically attack anything (much like Mario 64's punch), the cat has very high stamina when climbing so you can go pretty far and avoid a lot of pitfalls, and the cat has a dive mechanic that gives your jump a diagonal burst of speed along with being invulnerable to anything but spikes. Still though, it's still not quite as strong as the tanooki suit which lets you float and makes platforming a breeze so it's not a game-breaker.

The level design is some of the best I've ever seen in Mario as well. Much like Galaxy 2, Nintendo made each level feel different and special and it's almost overwhelming. You never really get a chance to get familiarized with an area, or an idea they've thrown at you. Each one is different and unique and you have to roll with the punches rather than get settled in. It's great for a Mario enthusiast like me though, but newcomers may have preferred the approach of Mario 64, Sunshine, and the first Galaxy where they reuse levels a lot allowing the player to get used to it.

My only real complaint about the game though stems from the Fire Flower. I was thanking the gods of gaming for finally allowing us to have 3D Mario with an unlimited use of Fire Flower. Finally, no more timer, no more restrictions, fire fire everywhere and not a drop to drink...? Nevermind. But my GRIPE is...the isometric view ruins it. It is VERY hard to use the fireballs in this game with any sort of accuracy, and no experience describes this better than the level where you have to light a bunch of torches to release the second green star. The level was a one hit kill poison swamp with piranha's and fire piranhas everywhere, with flying unkillable drybones in the mix. You had to cross the swamp avoiding all of that on moving platforms whilst lighting all the torches, something around 8 of them and not get hit losing your fire power. It goes without saying this was hard, but really highlighted just how difficult it was to aim Mario's fire shots. I had to leap at the torches just so I could gauge Mario's direction then release the fireball. In a level where death is all around leaping at torches that are surrounded by a death swamp is not advisable and was not easy. I feel like it didn't have to be this way if the Fire Flower was done better, or the view changeable somewhat, but alas...it was hard for the wrong reasons.

I was very happy that the game was challenging though, and LONG. You get the standard 8 worlds and can unlock 3 more fully blown worlds that are quite difficult. Then you get a 4th world you can unlock that contains 3 remaining uber-hard levels. One is a standard level, one is a Captain Toad level, and one is a green star marathon level. Captain Toad levels are very clever old school levels where you play as Captain Toad who cannot jump. You have to navigate him through a maze-cube collecting 5 green stars while avoiding danger and figuring out how to get him through. They are amazing levels and many have said in the in-game messages that he needs his OWN game and I couldn't agree more.

Final Thoughts: 

I beat this game in around 13 hours completing every level, collecting every goodie, and massaging my face from hurting due to all the smiling I did. Even though we have had 2 brand new systems the highlight of this holiday season for me is clearly this game. That's what gaming is about right? The games. Nintendo, and Mario have shown once again who is still the best at making a damn fine game. No lengthy cut-scenes, no knee high walls, no lame fetch quests to pad gameplay, just pure gaming bliss is all Nintendo brought to the table and all they ever bring when Mario comes to town and I can't believe I ever doubted them.

*Meow muthaf#%$a! - Sam Jackson*

Friday, November 08, 2013

Next Gen - Thoughts

So it's that time again, after some 7 years of no new consoles (except the Wii U) the 'next gen' is nearly upon us. In one week the trumpets will sound ushering in a new age of tech with a new age of games. Parades with circus animals will roam the streets, jets will fly overhead, fireworks will go off, bunnies will have sex....well bunnies always have sex....It will be a time of jubilation for us gamers, that's what I'm getting at.

Or is it??

Now don't get me wrong, I am intrinsically hyped for the new consoles as is my techie nature, but something about this new generation of consoles leaves me with reserved feelings. Each new generation has offered a promise of better games for some obvious tangible reason or another. Let's break that down for a moment.

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The NES gave us prospects of gaming where we could identify characters, there was obvious level progression, boss encounters, and a general beginning and ending to games unlike previously with Atari games which were all high score based.

The SNES / Genesis promised us what all consoles will do from here on, which is better graphics. It advanced gameplay further by mastering the side scrolling adventure so they weren't mostly shitty expierences but instead and understood medium by now and developers made good ones generally. We also got a glimpse into 3D gaming, and 3D modeling for some games.

The N64 / Playstation reigned in the very awkward transition into 3D gaming. One could argue whether the graphics were "better" here though as the 3D polygons were so early, and so terrible, that during this early period gamers were crying out for those well drawn 2D games they came to love in the previous generation. But time passed and the devs got better at it and the games started to look pretty great. Never the less, this gen will be defined as one that brought us 3D worlds for the very first time.

The Gamecube / PS2 / Xbox will be known as the era that got 3D gaming right and nearly perfected. No longer were gamers subjected to mostly empty, often overly large 3D worlds. Things became more inhabited, realistic, and overall more fun as the gameplay got fine tuned. This generation also ushered in the beginnings of online gameplay, we got a taste of the future here.

The Wii / PS3 / XBox 360 era is easily defined as the online console era. Gamers were no longer restricted to one TV anymore to play with other people. Games were designed with online experiences in mind, and most gamers were expected to have access to them. Multiplayer overshadowed single player experiences in many cases. This gen will also be defined as one of trying to bait a casual market of gamers with mostly unsuccessful results minus the Wii. Now at the end of their rope, we can pretty much call it a short term success seeing as none of them transitioned to the Wii U if sales are any indication.

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But here we come to this new generation of games, what will it be known for? What will it do that previous generations could not? Sure, we'll get better graphics again as we always do, but what else? Is there anything else? I can identify a few things this gen might offer, but none of them are as wholly groundbreaking as 3D gaming was, or the online era.

1. Indie games. All 3 new console makers have stretched out their hand to indie devs. No longer will the process be super restrictive like it was in the past. Indie devs can make games and not go through very much red tape to get their games on the new consoles. We'll either see an influx of creativity from this, or a lot of trash.

2. Second screens. Again this is another sort of 'meh' improvement of new consoles, IF they even bother taking advantage of it. The Wii U clearly has this figured out providing all gamers with a second screen for various uses making some games a lot more enjoyable not having to pause for menus anymore. The system also is selling worse than any Nintendo system previously and isn't garnering support to showcase its second screen. PS4 will allow gamers to use the Vita as a second screen, and Xbox One is letting gamers use the Microsoft iPad (wtf is it called?) as a second screen. Will any of this amount to anything? I doubt it personally, but it's there and I can see it actually improving gameplay if utilized.

3. Social media. For someone like me still getting his feet wet in streaming games and recording shit for youtube, this new addition is sort of a godsend. Both the PS4 and Xbox One will allow gamers to stream and upload gameplay to youtube and Twitch TV. How well this will work is still questionable though. Will we be able to do webcams, have separate audio, can we green screen ourselves out, etc? If the utility of this is mitigated in most ways, prominent streamers will continue to use capture cards and their PC setups to make sure they are still making quality streams. So again, this is interesting but will gamers even use it much?

That about sums it up for what I feel these new consoles can really offer. Oh sure, Microsoft will tout it's "cloud" until it literally becomes a flying nimbus in their own minds...

What I'm saying is...it's not gonna do much of anything worthwhile. The cloud isn't going to revolutionize the way developers make their game worlds, and it isn't going to streamline any online gameplay either. What it will do is serve as a talking point of marketing and those in the console war debate much like Sony's PS3 CELL processor we all thought would change gaming like Robo Cop changed crime...except...


...Yeah didn't really do anything for them did it...

Maybe it's because I've been a part of the PC master gaming race for the last 3 years and a lot of these so called "advancements" consoles are getting are just something I've already had on PC. The graphics are a downgrade vs my computer, live streaming is already here and I have more options to choose from, indie games have been a staple of the Steam community since its inception, and second screens are...well...multiple monitors.

So what it really comes down to this gen is the games. We have to see a deluge of good games that need to stand out from the crowd...but so far the games I see devs focusing on ONCE again are First Person shooters. Destiny, Titanfall, Halo, COD, Battlefield...will it NEVER end with these things? Now we're getting "new IP's" with MORE FPS games? There will be some devs that will take chances as there always are, I just with more of them would lest gaming become some pseudo virtual paintball hub.

Son of a bitch!!

*NEXT GEN IS SO SOOON CAN'T WAIIIIT!!*

** please be aware the views and comments given by "*" are not consistent with the views given by "**" or this blog. The new consoles offer nothing new and suck donkey dick...good day **

* Screw you **! You and your logic! GAMES Muthafuckkaa!!*

** I will not lower myself to this petty argument...I have standards **

*Here's your standards*









** touche' **

*Damn right Frenchie!*

Friday, October 11, 2013

Streaming Schedule!

Ok so I am going to lay out a pseudo stream schedule over this weekend. I'm either going to play one of two games, haven't totally decided yet.

Either I'm going to play Bioshock Infinite on 1999 mode:


OR I'm going to play Crysis on some kind of hard difficulty, not sure if I should do the maximum hard though because it's REALLY unfair.


In any case it should be fun and I should get annihilated a lot which is always entertaining. So while everyone plays Pokemon this weekend I'll be murdering myself with one of these games. Enjoy!

*PS I might be getting pokemon too....damn the hype monster!*