Sunday, October 28, 2012

Heads-Up Quick Post

Since it seems like the Twitter gadget is good and broken, likely because Twitter is upgrading, I'm using an old Blogger layout or some other nonsense, I really don't think I can rely on it to deliver updates for me when I might not be on to make a post.  I mean, maybe I just have to take it off and put it back on or something simple like that, but I'm not going to pretend that it's even close to working currently, and that's really goddamn infuriating.  Since I don't want to do that whole "Hey, follow me on Twitter for all sorts of updates!" because honestly it's about 70% me talking about random things (most of it K-Pop) and 30% actually talking about anything of relevance to Kupowered at all.  I mean, if you -want- to follow, then hey, that's totally cool, but don't say I didn't forewarn you because I totally did.  Just right there.  That was me warning you.  Also telling you that I warned you is kind of warning you.

Speaking of warning you, as no doubt some of you might have noticed, and this is the main reason why I'm doing this post - Hurricane Sandy, the Frankenstorm or whatever nonsensical title it's been given is heading up the East Coast and then projected to move inland to be a giant sandy bitch.  That's a broad area, I realize, and that area contains the area where I live, meaning I may just be affected by it, whatever it ends up being.  It could do anywhere between raining a little bit and, like....rampant destruction, so I'm just going to cover my bases appropriately.  What that means is, if I'm completely unheard of for a day or so, then that means that the power has gone out or something and it'll likely be....well, a day or so before I can get back into things.  I'm not exactly predicting ultimate issues or anything, but losing power for a couple nights is certainly an option because it happens all the goddamn time apparently.

Don't worry though!  I have my gaming bases covered at least, in that I'll have a fully charged Vita and DS should the need arise and between those, I've got enough to keep me busy for a while, provided I can maintain a charging program.  Which, well, I -can- through the magic of generators if needbe.  For reasons that are far, far beyond me, I actually did start Corpse Party and it is....well, it is very, very frightening.  I am a sucker when it comes to atmospheric horror, as most noted by my attempts to play Dead Space, and Corpse Party likes to touch all of those buttons over and over again.  Of course, being a complete, total and absolute idiot as I am, I have been playing the game with headphones as is recommended.  This is, of course, going to go down in history as one of the biggest mistakes anyone has ever made, but I'll just have to rol with it I guess.  Gotta get the 'full experience' and all.

With any luck, this is all going to pass.  Pass without complications, that is, since regardless, it's going to pass.  That's kind of what nature does.  I mean, it'd be weird if the storm just started to hover in a single spot for absolutely no reason.  But in any case, I like giving warnings whenever something like this is looming mysteriously over the horizon, and since I can't just give a quick tweet and -know- that it's easily accessible on this site, I figured I could go a little in-depth into the thoughts about it and what I might be doing in the meanwhile.  So you can possibly know what to look forward to when I come back if I actually have to -come back- at all instead of know.  Doing this.  Like normal.  Because if I get to do this like normal, then nothing's gone wrong!  And that would be a good thing.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Assassin's Creed Liberations Touch Controls Seem Cool

Touch controls, from what I can tell, are still a point of contention for anyone, in that they can be used to do a single thing, or even be optional, but someone will still find a way to complain about them.  I say this with fully knowledge and in fact -because of- AssLib's touch controls that are clearly labelled 'optional', so that I can say, after watching the above video, I just don't get it.  I don't get the hate sometimes.  In the worst case, where I can understand it, touch controls replace a button press for absolutely no reason whatsoever and it is your only option.  Ham-fisting touch controls is clearly not the method we want to use, but even then, there can be a way about it that makes it alright in not inherently terrible.  The okay case is when it's simply another option to do something you could do with a button press and you can decide between the two things.  And of course the best case scenario is when you truly embrace it and use it to do something that you really cannot replicate with buttons alone.  There have been examples of all three usages so far with everything from DS games to mobile games and Vita games, giving us reason to believe that there -is- a way to use Touch controls in a sensible way.

So long as you use the Okay method at least, then you're golden.  AssLib uses the Okay method.  At least, that's what I'm assured, as the touch controls are labeled as Optional, so I'm completely fine with that, especially since they seem to have some neat implementations.  Of course, there's likely going to be some folks who whinge over it, which is completely their prerogative. I only bring it up because I haven't watched a single AssLib video that's come out for reasons that....aren't completely known to me since I really don't care enough to media blackout and even though I am getting the game next week, I'm not really worried about 'spoilers' or such.  Not that I want to know what happens at the end of the game or anything, of course, it's just that I don't have that feel, where I need to just have everything about the game happen and be shown whilst I play it.  Still, touch controls are a thing as I said, so I wanted to get a heads-up as to what I was to expect.

By far, the biggest thing that seems to be touch-controlled is the game's own version of what seems to be the Mark and Execute system from Splinter Cell:  Conviction.  Obviously not the exact same thing, but, well, it kind of -is- and since Splinter Cell is a Ubisoft thing, I'm going to go ahead and draw the parallel because I can.  Basically at seemingly any moment, you can pause time and tap a target to mark him, up to a certain amount of marks and when you un-pause, Aveline will shank them with great fury.  It's not like there's not precedence as, with both AssBro and AssRev, Killstreaks were a thing which this can be used as, pausing mid-battle and assigning targets to insta-shank is just saving you a couple presses of square, really, and that's just if you -choose- to do it.  And I'm assuming you can do it out of fights as well, meaning you can use it to mark guys walking the roads and whatnot if you so choose.  It's really just an alternative to hitting Square next to a guy and probably makes you feel more 'tactical' or something if you do it.

The other uses, the rowing and the pickpocketing are, you know, whatever they are, and I certainly hope they are optional as well because I like being able to just hold down X and walk by dudes, yanking their cash like a jerk.  Even though it', I don't think it was ever useful in Revelations.  I did have to use it that one time to get a key, but it was the once and it wasn't mandatory.  Just nice to be able to do, I guess and with any luck, AssLib will be a little more balanced with the money you get, need and spend.  Because it was a real shame just having a whole bunch of money pile up in the bank, but also needing that money to buy -anything- because it was the only source of real income you could count on.  Whatever the case, I'm sure I'll find out when I get it, though I suspect it might be a day or so before I put it in, since I do have an urge to try out Ragnarok Odyssey first.  Still, that I'm buying AssLib on day one should tell enough of my interest for the game.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Some Animal Crossing: New Leaf Information

First and foremost, some new information about Animal Crossing:  New Leaf is that it is named as such, since there really wasn't word of a Stateside title until the Nintendo Direct that happened just recently.  Certainly a better title than the Japanese one which I'm told translates to "Animal Crossing:  Jump Out" which is clearly a 3D thing and it gets my eye a-twitchin' because yes, we get it, the thing is called a 3DS and yet you're moving away-ish from 3D and blah blah, not really worth getting into.  There's not a whole -lot- of meaty information to dig into at this point, but there is some, and I would like to talk about it rather than sit here and let off a rather petty rant that I feel a-brewin' because of things as of late.  Like the Twitter gadget just not fucking working anymore what is wrong with you, and other stuff, but this is going to be a positive thing, a positive post.  Because I need to do a positive post and get some good feelings going to breed more good feelings to help with yet another hot/cold transition.  Since we all know how -those- treat me, or at least we would if the goddamn Twitter gadg-

Ahem.  Anyways.

We've known for a long time now that the 'thing' about New Leaf is that you arrive in the city and are near-instantly instated as the Mayor for reasons that I'm assuming boil down to "Because!", which gives you free reign most of the normal stuff in an Animal Crossing game, like naming the town and whatnot.  It carries some additional benefits this go around, however, in that you get to design the city to your liking with some level of creative control (in the trailer, it shows that you can purchase items to place in the town itself, like benches and bridges and the like) and I've heard tales that you'll be able to decide the hours at which the shops in your town operate.  I do have to wonder if there's going to be any restrictions on this, like the stores can only be open for a certain amount of hours, no matter when the open and close time is, or something like that, but it's still a neat idea in theory and will make the game that much more accessible since you likely won't have to fit your schedule around it rather than vice-versa.  I know I went to the effort of changing my DS' clock to play Wild World more than once, just so I -could- play it instead of walking around at night being annoyed that everywhere was closed when I actually had time to play it.

In keeping with the 'more customization' theme of the game, you can now apparently change your outfit 'from head to toe', which more or less means socks and shoes, I believe as it's shown in the trailer.  You could already do hats and stuff, though perhaps now you can manage hairstyles when wearing a hat as well, instead of getting the default "you are wearing a hat" thing.  More interesting, however, is the look that there will actually be more things to put up in your house alongside returning favorites like the Robot TV and such.  At least, I'm pretty sure I've never seen the wall mounted thing that gets thrown up in the trailer.  Or....any wall-mounted things for that matter.  So that's actually kind of a big deal!  I hadn't even thought about it, but that makes sense why it was specifically shown off then.  All sorts of possibilities there, which is good, since there's always a need for more.  Perhaps you'll even be able to put up designs in frames on the wall instead of (along side, I should say) the option to use a design as a wallpaper?  And hopefully you'll be able to have more than eight, since the 3DS has a whole memory feature thing and whatnot.

What bothers me, I suppose and I'm not sure bother is the right word, but what I'm not sure I like is that it kind of any other Animal Crossing game.  They make a point to show off how you can explore your 'old favorite past-times' from the previous games which include fishing, catching bugs in a net  Because we all did that, I guess.  I have no doubt that digging up fossils and such will also make a return, though I certainly hope that there will be a little more variety in what comes out, or perhaps a better way to look at the things you collect and put together in the museum.  With the new island paradise thing, I hope it'll breathe a little more life into the 'daily routine' as it were, inspiring you to stick around instead of just doing what you have to do and getting out again, but I'm not getting my hopes too far up - all in all, it looks like an Animal Crossing game on the 3DS which is a good thing and a less good thing, depending.  We'll see how it works out sometime next year, however!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Eidolon Fights Are Stupid

So, I wasn't planning on talking about Final Fantasy XIII two nights in a row, certainly, but I have to have a bit of a rant and there's dick-all else happening so that's what's going on.  Since I really have to just put this out there and be angry about it so I can move along with the game, otherwise it's just going to fester and I'm going to shake my fist at folks and be angry for a good portion of the rest of the game.  I'm certainly not unique in complaining about the Eidolon fights, which, Eidolons are Final Fantasy XIII's version of summons, and I'm certainly not breaking new ground here, but that's not the point.  I'm specifically not really caring about whatever the rest of everyone says about the game having played it and only care about what I'm thinking about it as I play it.  And what I think about Eidolon fights is that they are, as says in the topic, stupid.  Incredibly so.

Let me sort of explain just -how- an Eidolon fight begins so that I can help illustrate the areas in which it is dumb because I am in fact this petty.  So, these come out around in different story points, all of them pre-determined as is the entirety of the first whole chunk of game I'm learning, and they're kind of out of nowhere.  Since I mean, I certainly didn't look at a bridge and go "Well.  That's where I have to fight Odin." even though yes, that bridge is where I had to fight Odin.  The battle starts and immediately, the Eidolon will then cast Doom on the party leader.  Final Fantasy XIII operates under the logic of "If the Leader falls, we are all fucked", so this is a very bad thing and in effect puts a very restrictive time limit on the battle.  So now with a time limit, you have to understand that you cannot defeat the Eidolon, but instead have to do certain things enough times within the time limit that will make the Eidolon 'Yield', meaning you'll be able to form a pact or whatever and enter Gestalt mode.

These yield conditions aren't generally difficult, at least, the first two weren't since it was basically "Block and do Chains" and "Do chains and heal" respectively, but it's the amount of times you have to actually do them versus the time it -takes- to do them versus the actual time that you have in the battle.  It's incomprehensible how this was thought of as a good idea since I had to play the Odin battle six times doing the exact same thing before it worked fast enough to win me the battle.  It is purely down to luck and not much else, since, well, there is not a whole hell of a lot that you can actually -do- for yourself at this point in the game.  Paradigm shift and auto-battle, or decide between the paltry few abilities you have accrued by this point which takes precious seconds you don't have.  Not really a hard decision to make, even if it's the one that apparently isn't fool-proof.

So, I'm spoiling things, but nobody even really cares at this point, so I'm certainly not going to and especially not when it comes to this pile.  Odin's yield conditions are the second ones above, or specifically they're listed as "Yields to those who create attack chains" and "Yields to those who heal the wounded".  Smack him around and heal.  Easy enough, right?  Right?  Hahahahahahahahahano.  Odin starts the battle, casts, and you'll want to definitely paradigm shift to Dual-Casters (Both Ravagers) before anything else.  Smack him with attacks whilst he rides up and pummels the fuck out of Hope (85% of the time) or Lightning (happened to me once) and switch to Double Dose (Both Medics).  Heal heal heal heal heal until he enters a defensive stance, Paradigm shift to Dual-Casters again, rinse, repeat.  This creates effective attack chains and allows you to heal to satisfy the conditions as well as generally not dying.  Because he likes murdering the hell out of your party and he don't even care.  This is the strategy I used six times.  This is the strategy that worked precisely one time out of the six.

There is something inherently wrong with that.

The issue generally lay with the fact that in his rampant dickery, Odin would launch Lightning up into the air, preventing her from doing jack-all.  Or the issue would lay in the scant few times that Odin just straight up killed Hope with a combo instead of almost killing him, losing me precious seconds as I threw a Phoenix Down down and he built his ATB back up.  And there was generally just issue with the Gestalt meter just not filling up because I don't even know.  The whole of it just resulted in me being incredibly frustrated (which wasn't helped by a switch to Sazh and Vanille as they had to sort out several parties of Bombs and Pulsework Soldiers directly afterwards) and a lot less forgiving to the system as a whole.  This is just a step closer to that precipice, I fear, to where I simply jump off the ledge, giving the game both fingers as I fall into the comforting arms of something sweeter and something more enjoyable.  But I'll soldier through, as I'm not completely turned off by my experience, and I'm still seeing little bits of potential.  I just want the game to let me chip away at everything preventing me from getting to that fun core.  Because I -want- to like it, damnit, I really do.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

So I've Been Playing Final Fantasy XIII

I haven't played long, but I can already start to understand the myriad of complaints that have been leveled at Final Fantasy XIII in the time after it's been released, but I'm not really prepared to add to them, at least not yet.  I can't say that I've actually had fun playing the game yet, but it's only been a few hours really, and in an RPG where you'll spend a good 40+ hours through it, that's negligible and not really indicative of the overall experience.  When you start it, you're just supposed to be learning the systems that will take you through the game, and it's after that point, when you have the tools, that you're meant to be able to make of them what you will and there's where the fun comes from.  In picking this and that, making these combinations as you see fit, and fine-tuning them as necessary.  That's when the real experience starts, for me at least, which is usually well past the intro.  Still though, in a series where you make kind of a big deal about the way it's intro'd, I'm not quite sure what I think of Final Fantasy XIII's intro myself.

I feel like Squeenix was doing what they -do- and trying to throw you into a scenario at the start where you're already in a situation and the only way to get any idea on what's going on is to get through it.  Make you look for your answers and wonder a little, that sort of thing, while also keeping you interested because there's a ton of shit going on.  In Final Fantasy VII, it was the whole infiltrating and blowing up the Mako reactor, in Final Fantasy VIII it was getting you tested for SeeD by sending you into a Mercenary Mission, and in Final Fantasy XII it was giving you a likeable character as he was set upon a mission....and then killed him off to give you Vaan.  We....don't talk about that anymore.  Regardless, XIII throws you right into the thick of things, but I sort of think that perhaps they threw us too into the thick because of the way the actual beginning sequence is orchestrated, which I think is more than a little off-putting for anyone who might not be initiated in Final Fantasy games or even RPGs as a whole.

You see, during the first couple of hours, the 'party' as it were has more or less just not met up and you end up spending a little bit of time with just about everyone individually or at least mostly individually as their own 'story' starts to get set up.  In theory, it's kind of brilliant and something that -should- happen, because it sets everyone up as a fleshed out character instead of "that guy who stabs stuff" or "that girl who is a healer" and you would expect that their story would only progress naturally as the game goes on.  In execution, however, it....sort of loses something in that there were about nine character swaps between the three or four 'parties' (counting some where one was left out separate since sometimes that meant controlling the -other- person) in the first two hours of the game as everyone raced towards the same conclusion for their own reasons.  I'm not sure -what- bothered me about it in particular, but it just didn't work and that's a shame.  Perhaps if the switches had been less jarring or if more information had been spread out during them instead of literally just moving some of them forward a bit instead of them just 'showing up' at an area, or if there'd just been less of them, it would've been better, but it just began to grate a little.

And so far, that's kind of been the mantra of the game as a whole, in that it's -trying- to do something right, but the way it does it just grates.  It's dangerously close to being something enjoyable, but falls short and it feels like any minute now, it'll break that barrier, yet I'm not sure if it will.  The rumblings of the '30 hour tutorial' (in that the first 30 hours are a tutorial, and not the 'real' game) have certainly instilled me with a fear, since I feel like I know from where that draws, but I haven't let pessimism take hold yet.  I do, however, find it a bit odd that when the battle system is supposed to be unique and great because it offers on-the-fly customization (ala Paradigm Shifts) I'm limited in its useage in the formative moments of the game, where it should be teaching these things.  You don't get to use it at -all- for the first few hours, and then once you're inducted into its trappings, you're not given the full thing.  You see, game, I know that at some point, I'll be able to do what the fuck ever I want with classes, but you won't -let me-.

Characters only start out able to use a few different classes and more unlock as the game progresses (Not everyone even starts with the same, meaning people have defined roles in a game with on-the-fly customization) and that breeds a battle system where I can only do so much with it in terms of using that customization.  Pre-made values are all that's available to me, with 'witty' titles to them like Slash & Burn (Commando/Ravager) and War & Peace (Ravager/Medic, I think) and that's governed by who is in my party which -seems- to change every five minutes.  I mean, this is the point where it kind of sucks being a guy who knows about games because I know what the fuck is going on, because it's that transparent that the game is just trying to make me use everyone in every scenario to get a feel for them, but I just want them to knock it off.  Let me try this out, take away the training wheels already.  I got this.

Despite all the negative things I say about Squeenix, I almost always genuinely hope they put out something good because what they do put out is...kind of uncontested anymore.  There's simply not a whole lot of RPGs out there, even ones that pretend to play at the old style as FFXIII does with its clinging to the ATB system in a sense, but there are some of us out there who do quite enjoy RPGs.  Just make a good game, and we'll buy it, anyone out there making games, don't worry about trying to 'keep up' with trends or anything, just don't include the trappings that classic games had that we have outgrown.  What those are, I couldn't tell you right now, but I assure you, there are some out there that are unnecessary anymore, that you can make a good, proper RPG without including them.  With any luck, I'll grow to enjoy the game, but I'm not really going to put any bets on that.  I just want to get through it to the fun that supposedly awaits me on the other end.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Review - Assassin's Creed: Revelations

I think that every time I begin playing an Assassin's Creed game, I go into it expecting something sub-par and yet hoping upon hope that it will change my opinion somehow and make the hype that many, many others out there feel for the series whenever a new one is announced.  Then I start playing it, and for the first few hours I near being impressed, very impressed, to the point where I start thinking maybe -this- will be the one game that captures the feeling that I'm looking for from the whole series.  -This game- will be the one that makes me understand, that I leave excited for, even after finishing up the little extra bits of content hanging around beyond the story.  -This game- will be the one that makes me -want- to do that extra content, rather than feeling that I'm obliging myself to do so for the elusive Platinum trophies that I hoard for no good reason.  -This game- will make me stand up and finally put the disc in its case with reverence when I am finished, because I will identify as a true Assassin's Creed fan.

That never happens.  More importantly, it did not happen with Revelations.

Assassin's Creed:  Revelations (henceforth referred to as AssRev) is, however, a rather accomplished game in my mind, almost surprisingly so, especially when weighed against the scorn that the game seems to hold in certain areas of the internet.  It's not completely undeserved, though, as there are some parts of AssRev that I cannot wrap my head around why it was considered a good idea, and other things just feel under-utilized completely.  Those are not the markings of a great game no matter the context and some of AssRev's highlights of that area are particularly egregious unfortunately.  Still, there's quite a lot to like and actually some improvements over Assassin's Creed:  Brotherhood's offerings, which you might remember that I was pretty happy with all things considered, and certainly a step up from AC2.  I'm not sure if I'm willing to say that AssRev is a step up from AssBro or even on the same level because of the issues with it, but it's certainly hovering in the same area, thankfully.

Re-reading the AssBro review so that I could effectively gauge AssRev against it has made me realize something a little hilarious in that the game has more or less traded the good points for fixing the bad points of the predecessor, which I will explain as it comes up.  I'm confused as to how it's possible to do this and still end up with a product that I quite like, but Revelations has managed to do that, and it's an impressive enough feat that a little elaboration on just that is necessary, I feel, so what better of a forum to do that in than that of a Review?  Kind of easy to do when you have a structure already to build with instead of sort of just free-wheeling it.  Trying to flow from one thing to the next without being too contrived or anything of that sort when all I really want to elaborate on is what AssRev does well and what it does not do well, which are very, very different camps than I expected.

To start on a positive note, I'll do a little re-iteration on bombs to really try and express just how much I enjoy the mechanic and how it was used while also being sad about how it -wasn't- used.  To explain a little further than I did in that post, let me go into the basics of it.  From one of your assassin contacts, you gain the ability and the knowledge to create bombs that you can use for tactical or combat purposes throughout basically the entire game.  As you can see above, there are three key elements involved:  the shell, the gunpowder and the effect, all of which determine just what kind of bomb you end up making.  Of the shells, you have Impact, Fuse, Tripwire and Sticky which are fairly self-explanatory I'd say - Impact explodes on impact, Fuse has a delay, Tripwire are things you set that are then set off by someone walking over them and Sticky bombs stick to things, exploding after a few seconds delay.  The three gunpowders just dictate explosion radius and power and it's the effect that -really- makes a bomb a bomb.

The Effect is the soul of whatever bomb you're making what it is and the effect is what changes the most depending on what bomb slot you're making for.  The above three options are for Diversionary use, where Sulfur makes a sound, Salt of Petra makes a smoke signal and Pyrite Coins explode in a shower of gold, drawing civilians over to it who will actually fight any guards off that also come around.  Tactical effects include Lamb's Blood which explodes in a shower of blood, frightening everyone in the vicinity, Caltrops which stops enemies dead in their tracks as they pull the little tacks from their feet, Phosphorus which makes your smoke bombs, and Skunk Oil while will repulse anyone away from the target, making it useful to single someone out in a crowd.  And finally Lethal effects are your basic Shrapnel which sends bits of metal flying everywhere, specifically into your enemies, Datura Powder which is your poison bomb, imbuing the same effects as poison but on an area, and coal dust which injures but also staggers, making it a fairly dual-purpose bomb, as you can launch one, hurt your foes and get out of there if you so desire.

Combining the elements from each one of those slots will make your bombs and each casing and effect has some sort of tactical advantage that you're going to want at some point in the game.  Personally, I'm a fan of filling sticky bombs with shrapnel and impact shells with sulfur while playing around with impact shells filled with caltrops or phosphorus for my tactical pouch.  If I had to complain about anything, it would be that you're limited to only three per pouch, each pouch a category, and you can only increase that number to a maximum of four (five if you bought the Signature Edition) which is honestly just not enough for as wonderful as these toys are.  And if I could complain about a second thing with bombs, it'd be that the game just completely ignores that you have the ability after granting it to you, never really 'making' you use them, nor ever giving them a purpose that really affects the 'world' at all.  Like throwing a Thunder bomb (bomb filled with Coal Dust) at a scaffolding making it collapse.  Does it?  I don't know, I never had a reason to try it, and that bothers me since I would have liked one!

Still, for what they were, just a toy you're given at the start of the game to use or ignore as much as you want, they add a surprising amount of depth to the game in that I spent real time specifically wondering about the merits of each type of bomb as I made them, eventually falling into a groove with the type that I enjoyed the most.  And using them effectively was always a point of pride and entertainment - Tossing a Cherry Bomb (Bomb with Sulfur) somewhere to draw all the guards in an area to a spot and then throwing a smoke bomb in the center of it, jumping down and stabbing the lot of them and rushing off to leave a heap of guard bodies in the middle of a road was an amazing feeling, no matter how many times I did it.  And don't even get me started on Sticky bombs, because I love sticky bombs.  In anything.  But especially here, as they made for fun and excitement, as well as efficient room-clearing whenever it was necessary.  Finding ways to clump guards together just to set one off was enjoyable to see the mass heap it created, and whenever I needed to scavenge some ammo or crossbow bolts in a hurry, that was quite a way to create a supply.

Not all of the things that were added in Revelations worked out quite so well and, in fact, Bombs might be just the only one really.  One of the big things that came into the game was Den Defense which is exactly what it sounds like - the Assassin's Dens you accumulate throughout the game will occasionally come under attack by Templars, and you, as the Mentor of the area, have to guide your Assassin's into successfully driving them off.  The mini-game is basically every flash Tower Defense game you've played with an Assassin's Creed skin in that it's slow, unbalanced and is just generally not fun to play.  I'm not a fan of Tower Defense games as it is, and this certainly did not change my opinion as, if anything, it only strengthened it.  It's not really thematically fitting for Assassin's Creed, what with Templars playing fair and only attacking in waves, giving you time to bring in Assassins wielding rifles and other Assassins that just like to punch whatever comes past the flamethrowing barricades you are given ample time to build, unless it's a battering ram to assault a building that the Templars want to inhabit, in which case you probably need to signal unseen Assassins to fire cannons at it that are also basically unseen.  Because that makes sense.

Similarly awful are five easily missable missions called "Desmond's Journey" which offer a special slice of hell for you, should you choose it's wise to attempt to brave them.  It's not that they're difficult because they're not at all and in fact there's such a lack of difficulty that they're basically superfluous, but that there's a specific bug for the PS3 version at least that I encountered in a big way until I went to consult the internet.  In Revelations your 'hub', as it were, is the Animus Island, which is a sort of default program that you're allowed to wander around in if you're trapped inside the Animus as Desmond is for Revelations.  On this Island, there are five gates for the five missions that are only unlocked after you find Animus Data Fragments hidden around Constantinople (and another location) serving as the 'flags' of this game which makes even the barest amount of sense as opposed to the Borgia flags of Bro.  Now, the bug for the PS3 version is that if you do anything but WALK inside the gate, as in if you fast walk, if you run or if you jump into the gate and try to load the level, your PS3 will freeze about 90% of the time.  Four times, I attempted it without knowing the correlation and thereafter, simply walking into the gates never gave me a single issue.  That is piss-poor QA.

About as equally piss-poor as the levels themselves, unfortunately, which feature very very basic 'puzzles' that involve you throwing down blocks in a way that allows you to get around.  Sometimes you make bridges and sometimes you make elevators and sometimes you make stairs.  That'  There are things you have to dodge because they'll kick you back to the nearest safe zone to try it again, but they are very, very easy to get around and again, they really offer nothing resembling a real challenge.  Throughout them, you're given the barest hints of development for Desmond that tastes specifically of Retconning even though I don't remember a lot of the original game (and even though it's included on the PS3 disk which would probably highlight said differences) and given the most meager sense of 'resolution' I've experienced in a game in quite some time.  That they're in the game is confusing to me, but that there's specifically a DLC pack that adds more of them baffles me, and not in any way that is good.  They really do not belong whatsoever and I thought all the nay-saying about them that the internet had to offer was a little overmuch, but after experiencing them first hand, I have to take part in the echo chamber.

The only other 'addition' that the game has to offer is the Hookblade, an improvement to your wristblade and its newness is minor at best.  You will be primarily using the Hookblade to use ziplines which are pretty fun and offer a nice way to get around when they're available, but the game -does- offer some other things for which they are apparently useful.  Such as the battle uses they've implemented, and by uses I mean use, called the "Hook and Run" which basically allows you to ninja flip over an enemy if he is in your way and you decide the best way around him is through him.  If you use it on anything but a guard, however, Ezio will instead default to running up to them, stopping and tripping them like a gigantic asshole which not only kind of defeats the Hook and Run thing, but also makes it -dangerous- to use if you're honestly intending on getting away.  For instance, the game insists that you are able to take down scaffolding with the blade as you pass by them, taking out guards under it and causing a blockage for a few seconds of escape time.  However, any attempt by me to use that technique (specifically for the Mousetrap trophy) met with disturbing amounts of failure as Ezio saw fit to do everything -but- hook the scaffold.  Tripping old women, jumping over an old man, actually jumping -on- the scaffolding, never just hooking it and taking down the thing when it was necessary, like the brief window that you have before guards come back from the caltrop dance.

The core of AssRev, however, remains as the core of AssBro was, with Ezio having a heaping dose of murder to hand out to anyone standing in his way through a multitude of fashions.  Beyond the new ways like the bombs, you still have the trusty dual wristblades (even though one is a hookblade now and strangely doesn't change some murder animations as you would suspect), a main weapon of your choice (default being a sword of course), a secondary weapon which means knife, throwing knives, poison darts, your hidden gun and a crossbow, should you chose to repurchase that.  I don't know why it's necessary to give you everything -but- the crossbow, but it's only 18k and you'll make that really really fast.  You also have access to the Brotherhood early on which is just as overpowered as it was in AssBro and just as satisfying as well.  Even in AssRev, there's nothing quite like walking past some guards, calling in a set or two of assassins and just walking away, listening for the sounds of them getting shanked, knowing that's just what is happening without even looking.

Similarly, you are again allowed to send your assassins off on missions to do various things that occur well off-screen and only bring you numbers to dine on and then look at more numbers to increase other numbers.  Numbers.  What I don't like about the Assassin missions in Rev, however, is that every place you send them to has a Templar rating at first that you whittle away at with missions, eventually causing a mission to show up that allows you to wrest control of the city from them.  Following that, you're given a bunch of missions that will raise your control of the city as well as make it profitable for you in new and exciting ways, like raking in bomb ingredients for you with no fuss.  The downside of this is that your control is also represented by a percentage, and one that is only raised temporarily before it's ebbed away at by the flow of time.  If and when you start to neglect your missions, your control will slip away and Templars will eventually contest your control, meaning all those benefits you've installed are inaccessible to you.  After time, they probably even recapture the city if you do not deploy Assassins to defend it successfully (that you thankfully do not have to play a terrible mini-game for), but I never found out.

I've been told after-the-fact that you can apparently install an Assassin to a city to make the percentage static, or at least reduce the amount it goes down by, but I cannot check the validity of that, nor do I care to, as the game certainly didn't want me to know as much.  It was merely presented to me as I presented it - a battle that you cannot win, but merely prolong the amount of time that your grip is absolute.  Even still, I imagine the amount of cities you have access to is greater in number than the amount of assassins you can hire, so the point is a little moot anyways if it only applies to -most- of the cities and not all.  I'm not sure if it was implemented as a quick-n-dirty way to ensure longevity without relying on 'randomization' or what, but it really kind of detracts to one of the things I personally actually enjoyed from Bro, even though it was a completely menu-based system that had no real payoff whatsoever.

Something else that felt the sting of a tarnish between AssBro and Rev was the Borgia Towers which pains me because I liked the Borgia Towers so much in AssBro.  In Revelations, the Towers are the Dens, specifically starting out as Templar Dens before you go through much the same means as you did to claim a tower in AssBro to claim the den for the Assassins.  Specifically, you have to find the captain in charge and murder him, then go up, light the fire and suddenly, you are victorious!  I didn't think it was possible to make me dislike that set-up, but they managed it by drastically cutting the amount of times you get to do it, and making the bulk of the Templar Captains cowards, which meant that if they saw you and you weren't able to get to them in time because you were, oh, say, caught up on something because of the awful controls or you couldn't lock on to the captain because I don't know, why wouldn't you work lock-on?!, then they would escape and you could only rush off impotently and wait for the next in-game day to try it again.  Because of sniper dens and the like, you -are- going to get noticed early, which completely kills any ability to build tension and wait for the perfect moment to strike, effectively neutering all the fun to be had.

Unlike AssBro, I am able and willing to talk about Multiplayer -before- I wrote this and, by that measure, as I write this as well.  I gotta say, I'm still rather impressed with not only the concept, but the execution of the multiplayer direction that they've taken and even moreso in Rev.  Rev's multiplayer just works and they've fine-tuned it and improved it in many ways from the few matches I managed to find in Bro when I tried it out.  Joining the original modes is a slew of what I am fairly sure are new modes, all based around some popular other multiplayer modes while still steeped in AC's different controls and setting, bringing a new freshness to them.  Capture the flag, base capturing and tagging are all styles executed with a little flair, becoming Artifact Assault, Chest Capture and Corruption respectively.  They play as you expect, with the first two being self-explanatory - grabbing a flag and bringing it back to your base and standing next to chests to 'capture' them (or defending them if that's your duty), where Corruption has you converting people to your team with violence, necessitating you survive or convert the survivors before the time limit runs out, allowing all the points you accrue to be your score.

So long as you're up for Deathmatch games and the odd Artifact Assault or Chest Capture game, you'll have absolutely no problem in finding a match to play, and in most cases, I found that the netcode was rather good, never really giving me any issues I could blame on lag, even with my entirely poor internet and poor NAT type.  Of course, if you're looking for that shiny Explorer trophy, which necessitates that you play one round (rather, finish one round) of every single multiplayer type offered, you're going to find a bit of a problem as most nobody wants to play those 'extra' modes.  And...for good reason in some cases.  Still, if you find yourself in a group who aren't quite as attentive at the end of matches as they ought to be, you can hope that your vote and perhaps the vote of someone else who might be similarly searching for a trophy will steer the game into one of the modes you might need, but it's hard to count on.  But so long as you can muscle your way into a game somehow, even if you connect in the last minute, so long as you finish out a round, it'll log as a play and then you'll never have to try that again.

When I can say that I had fun with a multiplayer game, you know that it's something to look at with a little interest at least, because I just cannot stand most multiplayer experiences for whatever reason.  Still, AssRev's MP offers a good amount of choice and personality in the way you try playing, which necessitates different strategies depending on how your prey is playing.  Some decide to go with the more impatient method of playing, choosing to run around, taking to the rooftops and searching around for their kill.  This has the advantage of allowing for air kills which cannot be contested, and if you're on the top of a building, you're practically requiring your hunter(s) to come up and get you, which blows their cover entirely.  Then you'll find the more methodical players, the ones that walk everywhere and try to be as discreet as possible, oftentimes choosing the option to poison whenever possible (when that ability is purchaseable at least) because it's quite effective.  I know several times I keeled over from poison without even knowing when I was injected and that alone is impressive.  The downside to this style is that if you're pursuing someone, you might find your kill taken by another templar as you try to build up your approach meter for more points.  Then there is the middleground play which most people will end up falling into for the first few levels at least, I think.

The whole meta-game surrounding the Multiplayer, or the meta-story at least, is rather impressive as well, and certainly a step up from Bro's offerings.  It really pushes the Templar angle, having you in the 'advanced training' of the MP, and as you advance in in-game ranks, you'll sometimes get the odd cutscene here and there where the 'perks' of becoming an influential and effective Templar become more and more obvious and granted.  At level 20, the highest I made it before I was done because I wanted to move on, Vidic (the guy in charge) basically showered me with riches an inducted me into the high-life, ensuring that my life couldn't get better as I had all the money I could want, servants to attend to my every need, a mansion to inhabit, and the best of the best for my family.  For a very brief moment, I forgot that it was just a meta-story and I wondered how I would be able to celebrate, in-game, that I had 'arrived'.  But I then discovered the only way to do that was by spending Abstergo points on some abilities and/or playing some more matches.  Maybe some later date, but not right now as I have a ridiculous backlog as is.

And while I'm on stories, let me finish this out a little ranting about Assassin's Creed 2's overall story, as it's quite a bit overdue.  Since we have the entirety of the story now after this third game, I'm now finally able to voice my opinion on the overarching nature of it because there's no more "oh, are they going to explain this before AC3" or "is that going to make sense before AC3" and while I'm not going to outright spoil anything here, this is your warning that I -am- going to talk about the endings in vague terms, so skip the next paragraph or two if you don't want anything even resembling a spoiler.  Now, the answer to both of those issues that I raised is a resounding NO, and if anything, each title serves only to further obfuscate the predecessor's already confusing groundwork.  And if it's not bad enough that the ending bits don't make sense at all, they're jarring and completely out of place as well.  They could be completely excised from the game, and not only would you not notice, but all three games would probably be better for it.  If you've played them, then you -know- what parts I'm talking about, and you probably agree unless you really, really like cryptic bullshit.

Of course, they are slightly more intertwined into the 'actual' story more than I would suggest, but only barely which I think is exemplified by the fact that you -only- get these bits at the end of each game.  It's 99% 'normal' stuff and then in the last ten minutes, here's the game to wiggle its fingers and go "WooooOOooooOoOOoooo" at you that I'm guessing is meant to leave you wanting the next game so it'll explain any of that, but as Bro and Rev have taught us, the next game does -not- do that and doesn't even touch on what's presented there unless it's in another one of those sequences.  Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.  Fool me three times, and I'm just happy I bought the game for $10 because that part alone frustrates me to no end, despite any good will I have to the game for what it is.  I'm not even going to delude myself in thinking that AC3 will manage to explain these sequences in a satisfactory manner, much less one that will occur in any actual part of the gameplay proper.  It'll be less disappointing that way, and perhaps even surprising if they decide that it's important enough to actually put some effort into trying to actualize, instead of using it as a shock tactic.

That all aside, the actual story of Revelations proper is decent, perhaps even good, in that it's actually easy to follow, even if it's not necessarily the best story the series has to offer.  (I'm not sure what would be, but certainly not Rev)  All throughout, it's pretty clear as to what's going on, and there's not a whole lot that's decided and/or done without you knowing about it or participating in it, and if you're participating, it's pretty obvious as to why.  That was refreshing among the rest of the confusion sprinkled about the entire series and in Rev's over-arching story itself which will leave you scratching your head if you don't remember the whole artifact angle and explanations from both games that came before.  Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that remember, there are a -lot- of artifacts and I'm guessing that some of them might be similar?  Or something.  Just.....just go with what the game offers and don't think about it too much and you'll do fine.  Because trying to make sense of these things without some help will leave you wondering how this guy has that when this was there for four hundred years and it's just better to not put yourself through that.  Just be satisfied that most of the game in Rev is understandable enough.

The Good
  • Combat remains visceral and satisfying and offers slightly more variety
  • Ezio's final chapter is pretty easy to understand and follow, thankfully
  • The parts where you play Altair and get more insight into him are rather enjoyable and entertaining
  • Calling in Assassins to kill guards?  Nope, still not old
  • Bombs, bombs, bombs, I love them because they're fun
  • The multiplayer is also incredibly fun and deep
  • The sheer variety Ezio has when it comes to death-dealing is impressive, if nothing else
  • The actual scale and flow of some of the missions is really rather wonderful, and there's not a one that I 'disliked'
  • Full Synchronization was never incredibly difficult to achieve
 The Bad
  • Desmond's Journey was a chore at best, not to mention the severe bug associated with playing them
  • Den Defense sucked and was completely out of place
  • Templar Dens did not effectively replace Borgia Towers in a fun way
  • Assassin Missions offer only a way to fight against time and is ultimately unsatisfying
  • That Ending
  • No, really, I still don't understand anything not pertaining to Altair and Ezio what are you doing
  • The controls still aren't great and seem a little less optimized than Assbro's own
  • The Hookblade never lives up to its potential aside from allowing you to zipline and feels wasted, much like bombs, which is not how you treat new toys
Mogs Says
It's impossible to say Assassin's Creed:  Revelations is the best of the three titles in the Ezio Trilogy because it's not.  No one game really is, in my opinion, as they all have some rather glaring issues that prevent them from being really elevated in any fashion.  Still, had Revelations not packed in the things that ultimately were only detrimental to it, it would have been the sum of the other two games and would have been a strong contender for that 'best' spot.  Strong Multiplayer, decent story (for Ezio), and the strong combat from AssBro make it a game that's enjoyable, and things like bombs that add versatility and extra enjoyment really nudge it towards that golden zone.  Tying up Ezio's story and Altair's story in a single game without feeling exceptionally rushed is an impressive feat as well, and Rev is probably worth it for that alone, but the fun bits make it worth staying around.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Why Sega Whyyyy

With all that's been going on this week, the releases, the wonderful Halloween Sale on PSN (Seriously, if You're a PS+ Member, inFamous 2:  Festival of Blood is two dollars and fifty cents and Costume quest with the Grubbins on Ice DLC is just under four dollars; you can't not buy them at that price) and my health not being the greatest, I've let something very terrible slip by for this long and it's slightly irked me.  Not only that I just haven't spoken of it, but because it happened in the first place for seemingly no reason, or at least reasons that are very bothersome to consider, since the implications no matter what are rather dire.  These things happen, of course, but when they do, no matter what, it's a hard thing to take and it just makes everyone all-around a little more annoyed at the company which, considering it's Sega that the ire is being directed at here, is a very big problem.  They attract enough negativity as it is, and moves like these only help to further that sentiment.

What am I talking about, you might ask?  Why, Jet Set Radio for Vita getting an 11th Hour Delay of course.  At literally the last possible moment, Sega came out and said that the Vita version of the game had to be delayed for rather unspecified reasons, citing only optimization needs which is rather broad.  Considering that the game was running and playable, and sharply at that, if we can trust those who played it at PAX, this is rather suspect, though certainly not really unthinkable.  If I were a betting man, I'd put it on something that only happens in the long-term - perhaps memory leaks after extended periods of playtime or even a dreaded saving issue.  Redesigning the game to save to something that isn't a VMU could probably be tricky as most things are, after all.  And with Sega, all things are terms of how little credit I give their QA department, at least.  For games that aren't Yakuza games, that is, since those always come out impeccably, and it's only after playing something that doesn't offer quite that level that you truly appreciate games that are damn near bug-free like the Yakuza series.  Or at least, in my experience, I've never seen something untoward or anything that made me cock a brow and wonder how it slipped by.

The thing that really burns is that they just don't know when it's going to be released now.  Again, that makes sense in the sense that issues take sometime between an hour and forever to fix when they're found, leaving a window of uncertainty out there, but it's already out there for everything that isn't the Vita (or a Nintendo product) and for those of us that were planning on the intrepid little handheld being our home for the game are feeling the burn because of it.  Not only was it going to come out later regardless, necessitating a wait, but now the wait isn't even a completely certain one, just a faint glimmer of 'sometime' now in the Vita's release schedule which is filling up, no matter what anyone says.  If it misses October completely, that'll really burn for those of us who were expecting that $10 to go towards the "Spend $100, get $20" deal that's going on.  At $10 that's, well, 10% of it right there, and only for the grace of options are there about four dozen PSOne RPGs for that price that you could pick up in lieu of the game.  (Like Xenogears!)

Still, this was supposed to be something to Sega, and I can't help but wonder if they're intentionally trying to sink it.  I imagine the endgoal is to release -something- on the Vita (aside from Sonic Racing thing) to see how it sells to gauge whether or not it'll be worth it, but it almost can't be that because the playing field is so goddamn skewed that it's not going to produce results worth any paper they're printed on.  Which I fear Sega will take directly to heart, thereby keeping any other Dreamcast games off the handheld in the future which would break my heart.  Releasing it on day one next to the rest of the platforms it's on would have been a hard enough sale, but then a month after?  And then not even that after a last-minute "NEVERMIND GOTTA WORK ON IT" notice?  God help them if the game runs even less than as smoothly as the console versions after all this, because they will be crucified and it might just be justifiable if it happens.  Because this is amateur stuff right here and we all joke that we expect this stuff from Sega, but goddamnit stop playing along.

It -is- a bit of a blessing, admittedly, that Jet Set Radio will not have to compete for time with everything else out there (as well as the things that I'm just now starting to play like Final Fantasy XIII) but that's barely worth any sway in the areas where it really counts.  I'm still going to buy it the damn day it comes out for Vita just to send Sega the message that I am very, very willing to play Dreamcast games on my Vita, and I can only hope that enough other people out there do it as well for it to be viable.  I'd even take them late, so long as they come around.  Sonic Adventure 1 and 2 would be most welcome to the handheld for me, and I would be more than willing to pay ten of my dollars for each if Sega would just let me do that.  Maybe after figuring Jet Set Radio out, they'll have a firm enough grasp on the whole porting from PS3 to Vita thing to be able to swing it easily, since I can't imagine Sega -not- trying to sell Sonic wherever friggin' possible.  And I'm more than willing to put my money where my mouth is.  Sega just needs to come through with one of these things that I have bet good money on.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Nightmare in North Point DLC Looks Wonderful

One of the first bits of Story-related (or at least has -a- story in it) DLC has been announced finally and it is a doozy already.  Scheduled for a Halloween release, Nightmare in North Point brings the undead to Sleeping Dogs' version of Hong Kong, but not quite in the way you're picturing, nor anyone is saying.  As a base stance, however, that they promised six months of DLC and choose to head it up with this is pretty damn ballsy (not counting the piddly packs released last week), and it does set the bar high so I hope they're willing to reach it again or perhaps even top it.  Provided the DLC they come out with isn't too big a file size, I'll be more than willing to part with some cash to pick it up, and I'm really, really looking forward to Nightmare in North Point specifically, though I suspect they could release a DLC where Wei Shen runs around in a Tutu kicking girl scouts and I would look forward to that as well simply because it means more Sleeping Dogs which is a thing to celebrate in my opinion.

The misconception with Nightmare in North Point, however, is that people look at it, see undead and go 'whelp, ZOMBIES' and either stop caring or get really angry about it on the internet.  The problem with that is that they're only partially right - and one Youtube comment actually brings that to light more than any other.  I'm not going to give credit or anything, since you shouldn't care about Youtube comments, but someone said "Oh great, Sleeping Dogs was such a nice, atmospheric game that was mostly down to Earth and now they're throwing in zombies." and most people probably think this.  But to United Front Games' credit, which seems ever lasting because the -things- these guys do, they -are- still keeping it setting-specific, in that what's going on is rooted in Chinese mythos.  The guys running (well, likely hopping) around Hong Kong are Jiang Shi which are basically the middle point between Zombie and Vampire for Chinese lore.  As reanimated corpses, they do not gain complete control over the body they inhabit (sometimes, they're the product of possession) forcing them to hop about, unlike the slow shambling (or swift running, depending) of 'traditional' zombies.  They hunt only at night, stealing life force from whatever they happen to catch before returning to a cave or a coffin to sleep the day through for the next night's hunt.

The being that has brought the Jiang Shi is most likely a Yaoguai, or a Chinese demon basically, by the 'name' of Big Scar Wu who is presumably a former Red Pole.  I say 'former' because he was made an example of by the boss at the time who had him stabbed 42 times before thrown into the grinders at the Smiley Cat Food processing plant where he was presumably made into cat food.  In actually keeping theme with the Yaoguai bit, Big Scar Wu has returned in something of the form of an animal spirit, specifically the "Smiley Cat" itself as he wreaks havoc for having been wronged.  So really, the DLC, as far-fetched as it is, still -does- manage to capture, to encapsulate the things that Sleeping Dogs did in its own story and presentation which I think is absolutely brilliant.  And that requires some dedication to pull off - dedication that I can certainly admire even more than I already admire United Front Games for what they've managed to do against the odds already.

What's got me really excited for the DLC, however, is just the new things that it seems to offer from just that minute-long teaser video.  First off there's a new outfit that I -know- I recognize from somewhere and then the video goes on to feature not only a new weapon in a Jian or Chinese Straight Sword (at least, it looked like that) but a new move where Shen knocks a Jiang Shi off its feet and then kicks it with an impressive amount of force, perhaps superhuman amounts, sending it flying off.  That states that there will likely be DLC-specific abilities and items, both in wearable and wieldable fashion beyond what was shown, and this excites me greatly.  The prospect of having something 'new' in Sleeping Dogs is tantalizing, forcing me to prevent myself from drooling a bit  It would be embarrassing if it was a lesser game, but that's certainly not the case here.  Hopefully it'll be under a gig and I'll be able to buy it and enjoy it!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

And Yea, As I Prepare To Gaze Into The Abyss

...I regret nothing.

I'm closing in on the point where I will fully have AssRev in the bag, completely and totally and were I in better health, tonight would be a review for it.  Or a review for Retro City Rampage.  Both of which I -want- to do, but I can't stay focused enough to even attempt.  I need to build up a verve, an energy to really put out something of that length that maintains quality I'm happy with, so I am more than willing to wait for when it'll be right than to attempt it and fail.  Which surprises me, because I would never describe myself as a patient man, but I suppose that sort of thing just comes naturally when you care about what you're doing.  Anyways, melodrama or whatever that is aside, with AssRev out of the way, I'll be heading off to new journeys to get through the backlog that I carelessly add games to at a whim because I am extremely short-sighted or something.  My options are various and tempting, though my eye has been warily trained at Final Fantasy XIII since its release, admittedly merely because of those that came before it, and the polarizing nature of its content has had me even more curious.

I've stated various times that I feel like I am too lenient on most games, most of the time (not all of them, of course, as you'll see with the few Ragequit posts I've made) so a lot of the time, I'll still find a way to speak positively about games that others have panned, probably rightly so.  Of course, there are times where I find that my opinion falls right in with the general consensus out there, and in those cases, it just cannot be helped - you like what you like and you can't really do a whole lot about that.  Still, when I see a game so polarizing, I can't help but want to try it -just- to see which side of the fence I land on - a simple curiosity to sate rather than hoping for an experience or preparing myself for a flop.  My standards are low that way, in that I'm not expecting -anything-, but also -everything-, simply for gathering purposes, that I may come up with an aggregate of my feelings, my own thoughts, of whatever the game is in question.  That's sort of my mindset with Final Fantasy XIII, or as best at it as I can.

I fear that I may already be a little painted in my opinion of FFXIII because of 'Hope Estheim' (Who, for some time, I thought his name was literally Hope Esteem which is disgustingly cheesy and inexcusable) who seems to fill 'that role' as that character you just say "ugh" to for the most of the game before he does a turn for awesome or something and I roll my eyes because I am not swayed so easily.  What I mean is that I already have a little negativity built for the game which is unfortunate and I should know better, but I have been trying to put it aside.  It may be a few days yet before I begin the game, depending on how kind AssRev's MP is to me (and how easily this infection surrenders from my body), so I may be able to 'cleanse' myself of these off thoughts of the game, ready and eager to put it through its paces in my own way

Given my history with Final Fantasy as a series, being that I have only dabbled, never really conquered aside from a handful of games, it's actually a bit of a mystery going in because maybe I just won't beat this one either.  Obviously, you go into any game expecting to beat it, but attention spans fade when it comes to RPGs, and I can already feel the tug of Deus Ex:  Human Revolution, but I think the thing that will inspire me forward is the prospect of playing FFXIII-2, which is apparently, by all accounts, fun.  I -seek- fun, I live for it in games, and I want to always find fun in the games I play.  I expect to find -some- within the confines of FFXIII, but I expect more from the sequel.  And that alone, I believe, will be enough to bring me through the entirety of XIII, if just to be able to experience XIII-2 and try to make sense of its story, which is probably a fool's errand.  Whatever the outcome, I'm sure I'll end up throwing it out here!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I'm not sure if it's been obvious with the last few posts, but I just haven't been feeling all that up to par these last few nights.  I've felt a little sick-ish (which teaches me to never joke about getting sick, even in the comments of one of Chance's posts) and the overall climate is just interfering with my ability to really process things.  Interestingly enough, I looked back a year and found this post this was basically around the same time (a couple weeks earlier, sure) that suggested a situation much the same as my current one.  I'm going to suggest that it simply speaks to my inability to tolerate climate changes initially, since I'm not sure if there's anything else that would follow a schedule and get me all slumpy like this.  Because I am decidedly in a slump of proportions that I dare not consider, lest I make the hole any deeper than it is already.  That's how slumps work, right?  Right?

Anyways, it's a little more than the weather I suspect and I'll not bore you all with the details (mostly because I don't care to share them), but things have been changing around in my life a bit fairly recently which also might have something to do with my day-to-day.  I got a new job of sorts, which means a newer, shinier flow of cash that has afforded me the ability to actually buy games that I would have otherwise passed up on in favor of games that I simply could not do without.  It's a foreign concept to me at this point, seeing as I've been a regular tightwad the last couple years, but the splurging -has- been a bit therapeutic and will only help myself and my blog in the long run.  In the last week, I've picked up copies of Deus Ex:  Human Revolution, Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIII-2 for the simple fact that FFXIII-2 was on sale for fifteen bucks and I am not about to pass that up since I actually want to play XIII-2.  XIII?  Not so much, but I cannot do things out of order, so I picked it up at the bargain (less bargainy than the sequel) price of twenty dollars at a different store because the one I purchased XIII-2 from was fresh out of copies of the predecessor, much to my chagrin.  And while I was getting XIII, I saw DE: HR and had one of those "Eh, why not?" moments - a literal whim that I have not experienced, or at least not acted on, for months - before grabbing it and throwing down the $40 for the both of them.

I've had my eye on Deus Ex for a while now - probably since before its release on premise and pedigree alone, but I never found the impetus to pull the trigger and I'm not sure why.  It has the aesthetic I crave, it's been touted as a generally pretty good game (aside from a few design flaws) and it offers a level of constrained freedom that I find tantalizing against the more 'actual freedom' design off some of the sandbox games I've been playing as of late.  It is a game that I have wanted, yet I never found the reason to give it that shot.  With any luck, my whim of throwing a twenty dollar bill at it will pay off with dividends and I will be at least half as enthused with it as I was (and remain) over a certain other game that I cannot help but associate with it in my head.  Alpha Protocol was basically -my- Deus Ex in lieu of not being Deus Ex.  The amount of replayability it offered based on making your character different, as most took to doing with Deus Ex thanks to the body mods and such, in the same world to see how it shaped around you was tantamount to wizardry for some back then, just as it remains with Alpha Protocol.

Similarly so with Final Fantasy XIII, I had always intended on picking it up, but I also never really saw a scenario in which I would pick it up for lack of time or desire.  After finding that the shine has, indeed, quickly faded from AssRev, I'm that much more wary of other games that the internet as a whole has similarly disliked, especially FFXIII, as the reasons for its reviled nature are more numerous than several other games combined.  Yet at the same time, those naysayers generally have positive, or at least less damning things to say of XIII-2 which has me intrigued certainly.  Being that I have not actually finished a Final Fantasy aside from 7 and 10 (kind of 6, but it's cheating a little - I played a game from the start of the second half of the game, beat it, and then later started a new game and made it to the point where I picked up my initial play.) and only dabbled in the other titles, who's to say I won't wring some enjoyment out of it?  Aside from common sense and the like.  Yet if I must suffer through XIII to get to its sequel, to the 'fun one', then that's something I'm willing to do.  If I beat Dark Void (well, less beat it and more conquered it with my platinum trophy) for only the sake of spite, than I can muster up enough bluster to soldier through XIII, even if it is a cluster.  (Okay, little forced, but I had to)

With any luck, this little spell I'm stuck in will be gone within the next few days and I can get back into posting things of actual substance.  Seemed to have cleared up last year, at least, so whatever's going on will clear up here as well.  I suspect one of the main problems is my lack of a definite sleep schedule as my job has me getting up and going at times where I would normally be....well, sleeping.  Meaning that I'm sleeping far less overall.  I'm sure I don't have to point out the obvious with that, so add that with the climate change, as well as the thought that I might just have a cold instead of the climate being a thing (or as well as, perhaps) then I suppose it's understandable that I find it difficult to function in the areas that I normally find it fairly easy to function in.  Still, with any luck, I'll get things sorted, but just in case, the next few days might be a little bumpy in terms of what gets posted and when.  Just a heads-up!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Retro City Rampage Has a Lot of References, You Guys

If you were to ask me just how many references one can find within the 31 MB confines of Retro City Rampage, my answer would be a succinct "so many".  I'm sure you've heard as much from the rest of the internet, as it's been a -thing-, but to hammer in the point at just how -many- references there are, I decided to show a few of them off.  Now, anyone who has been playing games since the NES days (or before) -should- probably get -all- of the references, but there are a few that perhaps not everybody is in the know about, or just wouldn't think about it.  As well as one that's kind of hard to make out and requires you to really think about it for a moment before it just clicks as to what you've got on your hands.  Really, I'm just very excited about RCR still, even though I'm sitting at about 95% completion of it and there's probably not going to be anything for it after the fact, because it was and is just a really lovely little game for those of us who've been in this for a while.

So, having said all that, let me just start with possibly my favorite reference which isn't a video game reference whatsoever, directly counter to the whole set-up I laid down because shut up. I bring this one up because I assume it's in the game for the same reason that I noticed it, since it's from about the same era as everything else.  The building is clearly a reference to the late 80s/Early 90s sitcom "Married...With Children"  And that's....that's just awesome.  I'm not exactly sure just -how- popular the show was, or rather whether or not it reached "Household name" status, but I do know that I grew up watching the show.  I really probably shouldn't have, all things considered and it's weird to watch it now and know what's actually going on, but it was definitely a big thing for me at least.  So when I saw that and got that it was definitely a reference to the show, I couldn't help but let out a hearty chuckle, especially because of the signage.  "NO REFUNDS" is probably one of my favorite parts of the entire game.  Yes, just written on the walls of that building as it is.  That's how you do a friggin' good reference, folks.

This one is probably still a little obvious, but seeing as they haven't been relevant in years, I don't think, I think it's worthy enough to point out since there is a very off-chance that there's folks out there playing games that doesn't know what a Game Genie is.  I know, I know.  Relaaaax.  We don't speak of those people when we can help it.  I do like how the sign is modeled specifically after the NES model of the device, however, as it's a nice touch, certainly.  Appropriately enough, the Great Gamedini has a few signs in his building with some of the many, many cheat codes littered around the game, harkening back to ye olden days of gaming.  And just like the not-so-olden days, no good code goes unpunished - entering any single cheat code disables your ability to save until you re-launch the game.  I want you to read that again for me, very specifically.  Re-launch the game.  That doesn't mean quit to the main menu and then jump back in, that means quit to the main menu and get out of the game.  Tear it off the screen (if you're playing on the Vita, which you -should-) and then bring it back up to launch fresh again.  I'm certainly not warning you about this because I was an idiot and completed about 30% of the game after putting in a single code that ended up just giving me $100,000, rendering that all moot.  Certainly not.

This right here, however, this is -the- reference of the game that I anticipate some people just won't get.  Mostly because I almost didn't get it - I knew it was familiar, but why it was familiar was completely lost to me until I just thought about it for a moment.  That hanging refrigerator is the main clue of it, so I'll allow you a moment to read this sentence and try to get it before I spoil it for you.  If that hanging fridge in a dump reminded you of a certain part of Earthworm Jim then congratulations, you had a fantastic childhood.  Two things stand out here in particular though which just really speak of the detail that actually went into the game.  It's almost staggering when you think about it.  First off, driving a car onto the platform that features a car emblazoned on it will, perhaps unsurprisingly, cause someone to shoot the rope, dropping the fridge on the panel, launching the car off into the water just outside of the dump.  It's a pretty fantastic effect for something that is purely an easter egg, and just fits the whole 'love letter to gamers' theme that everyone has said the game carries.  (And rightly so)

The second thing is kind of hard to tell in this picture, so allow me to show you this which is a much clearer image and a bigger one at that.  When you pass by that little bit of yellow in the first picture, the results is what is shown off in the second.  Jim peaks out with his raygun and blasts little energy bullets at you for some real damage if you're not careful.  It's not a trap, it's not anything negative just because it can damage you, but it's's surprising.  The whole -game- is surprising, especially when you consider that these little touches?  The easter eggs I've pointed out?  That's the entire game.  A mishmash of theories and memorable sequences and quotes (from the hilarious mistranslations of years gone by) on the foundation of a pretty solid game regardless.  I could literally do a dozen of these posts, pointing out three references in each, and it would take a while before I covered everything.  It's really just kind of amazing that there's -that much- and borders on sensory overload.  In a good way.  With any luck, my brain will cooperate and I'll be able to write up a review tomorrow to tell you what I really think about the game.  (Because I haven't made that clear enough yet.)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Music! Girls' Generation Edition

This post.....has been a long time coming, I suspect.  I've dabbled here and there in K-Pop posts, talked about people in particular like BoA, but I'm pretty sure that a lot of people out there are conditioned, at this point, to equate K-Pop with Girls' Generation.  Mostly because of the staggering success(?) of "Gee", which you'll find that people who don't even really know much about the genre at all, have heard the song.  They have presence in the genre, is basically what I'm getting at, and to say that they will come up in a conversation -about- K-Pop is something of an understatement I think.  Aside from that, being that I've listened to a lot of Girls' Generation in the past week, so it seemed like a pretty good fit, being that I'm still trying to sort of pin things down with regards to how I feel about Retro City Rampage and how I can put those feelings into words.  The hard part, as it seems to be with all of my 'Music!' posts is just condensing things down into just three different songs since I generally have twice that at base, but I like the three-song format, so I'll stick with it.

The first song introduces a sort of trend that follows in the rest of the songs I'll feature, or at least the videos for them, in that I'm just going with the 'dance only' versions of the videos.  I've found that sometimes, not all of the time, but sometimes the 'normal' version of a video for a song ends up loaded with....let's say unnecessary elements and when you just want the song and the framing of the song itself, and not the minute and a half of 'build' that 'sets a scene' and such, these dance only versions are very handy.  In the case of the first song here, I watched the original video and it's....just awful.  The parts they splice in that aren't just the basic dance parts (generally there's two costumes for each half of the song with a little mixing in between) with separate costumes are gaudy-looking and badly implemented and just make it kind of hard to watch.  But with this version of the song, it's really quite pleasant to watch and the song itself is pretty enjoyable as well.  So, with that introduction, here's the first song of the Girls' Generation post - "Hoot".

I think, moreso than any other video, I really like the overall aesthetic and theme of this one the best, really.  I'm not sure why I really like the whole '80s spy movie feel that the video has (which is expanded on in a...not so great way in the actual video), but it just works, and I think that's why this is a song that I keep coming back to.  Gonna be honest and say that the outfits make that easy to do as well.  Like with the feel of the video itself, I don't know why I like the outfits in particular, perhaps because they, well, fit the whole thing well, or perhaps because they're simple, yet well accessorized, but they're just really outstanding.  Well worth the loss of basically all my masculinity in saying that, clearly, which is saying....well, something I suppose.  Really, as a general rule, whoever picks out the outfits for the Girls' Generation videos does a pretty bang-up job 90% of the time, but they knocked it out of the park with this one.

Next up is another video where they did a pretty stellar job with the wardrobe despite the outfits being more or less pretty simple in concept.  The oddity about this song, however, is that it's actually a Japanese version of the song, as it was the first one I heard of it and by the time I heard the original Korean version, I was too attached to the Japanese one to move along.  After consulting several music experts (Read:  Not experts at all), we have deduced that, despite the song -being- Japanese, it's still a K-Pop song by virtue of the group being identified as a Korean group. least two of the girls being American-born, actually.  That brings us into a whole other discussion, however, so I'm going to just move along.  Because if I start wasting time trying to dissect the semantics surrounding a Japanese version of a Korean song whose band members aren't actually all Korean, it's going to get really weird and really confusing really quickly.  So, to move on, here's "Mr. Taxi".

I should say that, despite my warning, that's not labeled as the dance only version of the song, but after watching the dance only version, it's...pretty much identical.  This one has better quality, being directly from the source and all, so I'm running with that for the sake of having decent videos all throughout this.  Provided you're cool with Japanese versions of Kor-I'm kidding, I'm kidding, I'm not going to get into that here.  It's just going to be something I think about for....uh....the rest of the night, likely.  And it's going to bug me a whole lot, but that's really not the point of contention here.  I'm not sure if it's something that I need, or necessarily want, to say, but for the first few times I watched the video, I couldn't help but start giggling at the intro of the chorus where they do the little 'turning the wheel' move.  I don't know what's worse - that I have watched the video a -lot- of times by this point, or that I -still- laugh at that, since I'm not quite sure what it says about me.  Or....what any of this says about me.  Probably not good things.

The last video, since I inadvertently became a fashion critic because who am I even kidding anymore, is a rare miss in the outfit category.  Rather, the outfits themselves are pretty fine, it's just, accessory in particular that is a little strange to say the least.  However, this is one of the videos where I actually have to pick between two different dance versions, and to hammer in the fashion point, I'm going with the latter.  Or, if you go by numbering or whatever, the former, but semantics.  Again.  Don't need that right now.  I do want to offer the other version, however, so I will do that by linking it here, and if you like the song, I'd recommend checking that out to differentiate to the other outfits which are much nicer more or less.  Not a whole lot else to do with this one besides get it out there.  So the last song featured in this grouping of Girls' Generation songs is "Paparazzi".

So, yes.  Those gloves are.....well, they are something, I suppose.  What that something is, I'm kind of at a loss for, but it is certainly -something-.  Delving into the comments (which is always a bad idea, never do it, I do it because I hate myself or something) suggests that they wore the gloves to draw attention to their hands to show off all the hand movements the dance bits actually entail which...makes sense, but there are ways that could've done it a little better.  If that's the real reason of course, as another theory just says it's a shout out to actresses of the past who wore gloves like that, though not expressly as pink and unfitting.  Whatever the reason, it really does just seem a little excessive, for a lack of a better way to explain it.  Without being exceptionally rude, at least and I don't want to be rude.  Still, of the three songs I featured tonight, this one -might- be my favorite - it's a hard call between this and Hoot, and I think it more depends on my mood, but it is a pretty good song regardless.  I'm a sucker for the bit at the end when one of the girls says something and rolls her "R" with it and I'm not entirely sure why, but I suspect it might have something to do with the fact that it's a little different to hear and I cannot roll Rs.  So it's nice to hear every now and then, I guess.

I really didn't anticipate this write-up to actually make me feel this, uh...not embarrassed, not shamed.....self-conscious? about my music choices and such, which I suppose is saying something since I went into this going "Hey, Girls' Generation, gonna talk about that".  Still, at the end of the day, it's just music and you either like it or you don't - the reason behind whichever doesn't matter so much to anything.  Still, I feel like I have to work up a little masculinity again after this one, so if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go ahead and binge on some Burn Notice and such.  Possibly look for, uh....sports to watch.  Maybe.  I'm not sure if that counts as helping anymore after all the jokes about them and such.  Maybe I'll just default to throwing Sleeping Dogs in again and kicking the shit out of dudes.  Yeah.  Yeah, that sounds like a plan.

Friday, October 12, 2012

So, I Actually Really Like Assassin's Creed: Revelations

I feel like, based on what I've heard about the game, that I should qualify that with "But I'm only in chapter 3 or whatever", as well as given my own track record with AC games, but I'm not really lying.  It's too early to say just how it's going to end up, of course, but I went into the game with my expectations low and it really has surprised me.  I keep trying to think of excuses, keep thinking "Well, they're good at openings" or "I'm just excited to be playing PS3 again" or stuff like that, but I really think that it's just that the general gameplay of AssRev is enjoyable in a vacuum and it's more or less the framing and the rest of the game that tends to get in the way of that.  And....eventually the gameplay, yeah, but what I'm saying is that most of it, on its own, is pretty righteous, and they made a really good effort at an engine.  I'm very glad to know that there's been improvements on it between the Ezio Trilogy and Assassin's Creed 3, but it wasn't -bad-.  It's just that, when you compare it to some of the other freerunning/parkour-based engines out there or just the basic 'climb everything!' engines, it doesn't always measure up.  Which is a hard task to do, really, so I can't blame it -too- much.

Of course, basically being AssBro's engine means that it has inherited almost all of the issues, control-wise, that I had with AssBro itself.  I can already experienced these problems as well, and it's.....Not disappointing, but I guess a little disheartening, perhaps.  I just remember the hour I sank into that one Romulus Dungeon, trying to make it through without getting injured and the game literally wrested that victory from my hands and smacked me across the face.  "You're not getting Full Synch!" it said.  "This is happening right at the end of the level to make a point!" it said.  And I raged and raged, but I moved on, yet am still obviously a little bitter about it.  And having one of those moments where I have literally stood up on thin air next to a rooftop.....only to plummet to the ground because I wasn't standing on the rooftop in the first hours of the game is certainly a little telling.  Though I suppose not as telling as climbing to the very very top of one of the weird steelped towers and dropping to get back down to the synch post...only to be bounced about four feet away from the actual tower to fall to my death.  So again, I'm not completely impressed with that.

What I -am- incredibly impressed with, however, is Revelations' "Build-Your-Own-Bombs" mechanic that I had absolutely no idea was in the game.  I mean, when a high-profile game comes out and you're like "I'm not going to play it right away" you inevitably find that certain things get spoiled for you just because of cursory browsing and this and that.  I never actively looked into Revelations info, and I don't think that I've had any of it really spoiled for me, so I guess it's pretty natural that I missed this.  But at the same time I'm just left confused as to the how, because I'm just like, how are people not talking about this all the time?  It's simple, yes, but it doesn't have to be big and complex or anything, because it's just a really goddamn good idea implemented well, save for the low amount of bombs you can carry at one time.  (I'm hoping you can upgrade those pouches, but I have a sneaking suspicion you cannot)  They work out like 'tools' instead of just straight-out weapons which is pretty damn astounding, really.

Though their weaponized functions are quite above average anyway,, which I more than appreciate.  I had two separate instances where bombs -really- proved their worth in not only a utilitarian way, but an entertaining one.  After experimenting with different casings and such (and doing all the 'tutorial' missions), I had a few Fuse Lethal Grenades with Arabic Gunpowder and Shrapnel made up since that's...well, pretty standard bombs.  Just wanted to try and keep it simple to start out.  And, as sometimes happens, I found myself surrounded by an amount of enemies that was more than six but less than twelve, I'm guessing (after seeing how many entities can be on-screen at once, I wonder honestly) and I wondered what to do.  Sure, I could just counterkill/killstreak every single one of them, but I have shiny new toys so I want to use them, damnit!  So I throw one of my bombs at my feet and rush off through the crowd.  Shifting the camera to look behind me as I run, I watch as none of them break battle stance and I await the ticking time with an anticipation that was palpable.  And then, in a flash of wonder, it did exactly what I wanted.  The bomb exploded and every single soldier was dead.  It was amazing.

There was another such scenario when I had done up a different batch of lethals - pretty much the same really, but with the Resin bag instead of the fuse case.  Sticky bombs are always fun, after all, yes?  Well, I wandered around Constantinople, looking for particularly fun uses when I happened upon one of the norms you come to seeing.  There was one of those semi-closed off areas with archways that contained a sparse few treasure chests within, with four guards standing...well, guard.  With two per archway and enough space between them all, no one bomb was going to take them all out just like that, but that's what I -wanted- to do, so I pondered on a way.  And then it hit me. Folks familiar with the line of Assassin's Creed 2 games know that the poison used in the game has the effect of making the affected spaz out and go crazy before dying and, when that happens, other guards come to investigate just what the hell is going on.  I also noticed that planting a sticky bomb on someone's person, against all logic, does not alert them or anyone else.

I'm sure you can see where this is going.

I used a poison dart on one of the guards, waited a few ticks and then hit him with a sticky bomb as well - after that it's just the waiting game after all.  I couldn't stop myself from grinning as I watched the guard flail around, in the throes of his poisonous demise, nor could the other guards posted.  They gathered around as he entered the final steps of his strange, intoxicated dance and I, from afar just waited for that last second.  Just before he fell, the sticky bomb planted squarely on his core exploded, taking all four of the guards out with it, allowing me to get my bounty without a single problem and in rather good spirits, I must say.  It was just that simple and it was quite enjoyable as well, if only for the fact that, I was given the tools, tried to use them in a logical way, and it worked.  It was satisfying, and that's pretty much why the game has impressed itself so positively on me as it has.  We'll see if the shine begins to dull or anything of the sort, but I'm not so sure.