aboutprojectslinkslinks
 

b.l.o.g.

(blogs let others gawk)

April 8, 2016

Reviews: Steins;Gate (Vita)

Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward gave me a strong introduction to the world of Japanese visual novel adventure games. While I had long been aware of visual novels like this, none of them really grabbed my attention. Finding that I simply can’t wait for Zero Time Dilemma (the conclusion of the trilogy) to get my next fix I decided to take a shot at Steins;Gate since almost every conversation swings back to it being the defining title for the genre. While originally released on the XBox 360 in Japan, it has gone on to be released on other platforms and spun off anime, manga and a sequel that I hope to be able to play some time. For this review I played the Vita release.

If you’re looking for a great read, Steins;Gate has you covered. Unlike most of the games in the genre which are more akin to a Choose Your Own Adventure story, Steins;Gate doesn’t have bad endings. Just different endings…

The story is riveting and very hard-core science fiction on the topic of time-travel. It also deals with topics of identity and relationships. No puzzles. Just branching story elements that lead you to one ending or another. Also the story may seem slow to start but as you get into it you realize you’ve been getting critical plot elements right from the beginning. Then throw in a smörgåsbord of hacking and Otaku cultural references along with a dose of heavy innuendo to keep you snickering. Did I mention the story is really great?

I know that purist are going to hate me for this but I enjoy games like this with a good spoiler free branching guide at my side while I play in order to experience all of the story arcs and endings without having to take away from the experience by thrashing around, wasting hours on repeating things I’ve already read. These guides take the form of “At this prompt, Save and pick X for ending #3 or Y for ending #5, reload from here to resume to the ending you didn’t watch” with no context so you really need to be reading the story and paying attention, but this saves you time at guessing where the critical forks are. I know for some people that’s part of the experience, but I’ve got a life and I’m just here to read the full story. Yes, I could simply watch a video but that’s really just not the same.

The bottom line is if you like this genre and you haven’t played this game yet then YOU GO, YOU GO NOW.

Next up… the Corpse Party series (PSP/Vita)… we’ll see how that goes unless Zero Time Dilemma comes out first… or I break down and watch the Steins;Gate anime. Much dilemma.

Lotus hacking

Junpei in awe of Lotus the supa hacka from 999.

Share and Enjoy

April 5, 2016

Reviews: Criminal Girls (Vita)

So all I wanted was some old school RPG action. Honest. What I got was Criminal Girls: Invite Only on the Vita which was a fantastic, 100% solid, old-school, 90’s RPG experience if you don’t count the bizarre, pervy mini-games that unlock your team member attacks. No seriously, I could have really done without the mini-games and those alone make this game almost un-recommendable to pretty much anyone who… hmm… yeah, I got nothing. I almost regret playing this game. For comparison this was way worse than Conception II which reaalllllly bothered me as well. 🙁

The game… you are in hell and you are escorting a group of “teen” lolly girls (they really make a point to age them as all high-school graduates… yeah) out of hell by directing them to fight monsters. The pervy mini-games for boosting their skills consists of one-on-one sessions where you drive out their temptations by spanking, tickling, etc… Just typing this out is making me uncomfortable again. Look, I know there are people that like this stuff but frankly I can’t imagine how this got released outside of Japan. Worse yet, they made a lame-assed attempt at censorship of the mini-games for the Western market that really didn’t make the mini-games any less pervy to the point where they probably shouldn’t have even bothered since all it did was get everyone online bitching about the censorship. Why am I playing this again???

Criminal Girls

Mini-games aside though the RPG part of the game was great fun, the music was fantastic, very much a solid 90’s style RPG experience. Hat tip on grind management as well. At one point you can get a spell that allows you ward off monsters (not bosses) while you wonder dungeons, and a second spell to summon a monster encounter at will. This allows you to perform grinding on top of the save marker. Fight a few battles, rest, save, repeat until you’re ready to continue the game. I never really felt like grinding was a chore, or atleast I never felt like the task of grinding was going to risk me getting killed where I would have to repeat level building for the sake of not being able to save. Dungeons were pretty linear with minimal back-tracking that was fairly straight forward when it did happen.

Now I have to debate whether I leave this review up and admit to playing the game. I need a shower and some eye-bleach.

Why!?!

Next up we’ll cover Steins;Gate.

 

Share and Enjoy

April 1, 2016

Reviews: Volume (PS4), SOMA (PS4)

Filed under: General,Reviews,Video Games — Tags: , , , , , , — Bryan @ 6:00 am

If you’re looking for some weekend gaming where you can knock out 100% solves over a couple of days and collect a set of trophies for your trouble, Volume and SOMA should be on your list.

Volume is a pretty basic 3/4 perspective stealth action game, and is very mindful of Escapee Go! (DSiWare) which you might have seen if you did much Nintendo DSi/3DS gaming. I’ve also seen it compared to the Metal Gear VR Missions… but with the bonus of not dumping all the crappy Metal Gear baggage on you. The story is pretty bland, you’re a kid/rebel/hacker using a stolen security A.I. to puzzle out home security of the rich people in town. You’re apparently live streaming this to the world so that others can do the break-ins like some strange modern Robin Hood? Hmm. IDK. Needless to say, don’t worry much about the story.

The game itself can be played by simply brute force, slamming through all of the stages in a few hours, or if you’re really up to the challenge you can go for high-speed stealth solves to see how you rank on the public leader-boards. Either way is fun.

Next lets tackle SOMA. SOMA is a first-person, survival horror game by the same author who created Amnesia. While it is a first-person platform game, I personally identify it as more of an interactive novel with light puzzles. One of the key selling points is the graphically detailed, fully fleshed out world you traverse. Frankly I think they did the creepy undersea base full of monsters way better than BioShock managed (and I love me some BioShock). There’s also no run-and-gun, just run and hide. There’s even some zomg running in a panic to get away from chasing monsters though, including the “I don’t know what was chasing me and I hope it doesn’t get through this door I’ve just locked shut but I sure wish it would stop banging and shrieking at me while I go change my underwear” moments. Yeah, it really has some good moments of scaring the crap out of you.

The story was excellent as well and constantly kept you on your toes, so be sure to dig into it. Everything adds to the mood starting right out the gate with the Total Recall hat tip to Philip K. Dick that leaves you wondering what’s real and adds extra weight to some of the narrative exploration around just what it means to be human. An excellent game for a weekend escape.

Share and Enjoy

March 30, 2016

Reviews: Project Diva F2 (Vita), Persona 4DAN (Vita)

Over the last many months I’ve bounced between StreetPass mini games on my 3DS and playing Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F2, followed by Persona 4: Dancing All Night on my Vita.

As far as rhythm gaming goes on the PlayStation Vita, these two are the top choice. They both are fun to play on Easy difficulty, nicely challenging on Normal and time to move on to something else on anything harder (lol). Both of them have excellent music with a soundtracks that will stick in your head and make you want to jump back into the game at the first chance you have. They both also have nice clean interfaces and in the case of Project Diva you have a tuning option in the config to help with tuning your button reaction time to the beats.

Project Diva was so much fun that I tracked down copies of the original PSP import games as well (which you can get translation patches for) to play through. They’re pretty much the same game mechanic minus the touch screen. Great stuff. Also, if you don’t have a Vita and you’re not looking to import (or download) Japanese PSP games you can get pretty much all of the best songs and then some on the two U.S. PS3 releases. Although I think F2 is probably the definitive version right now (I haven’t played the 3DS release though, so I can’t compare) until Diva X comes out.

Hatsune Miku

P4DAN was an odd one. I really enjoyed playing Persona 4 Golden and simply couldn’t imaging how the hell that could be translated into a rhythm game but wow, once I played it I was instantly sold. They actually tie the whole thing together with a sequel story of sorts that follows after Persona 4. While I would say it’s a very strange story, it’s pretty much in line with the Persona series. They brought back all of the original voice actors as well, so it was fun hearing all of familiar characters working through the story.

Rise Kujikawa

Share and Enjoy

January 28, 2016

Video game review scoring vs. movies, music, etc…

Filed under: General,Historical Rant,Perspective,Videogaming Rant — Bryan @ 6:00 pm

Today I ran across the question about why when searching through Metacritic there are more high scoring reviews on video games as opposed to other entertainment mediums. It’s a good question on face value, but there’s actually more to the answer then you might think.

Say that you are writing a review of a game on a scale of 1-10. In 1986 a game like Ulitma IV might have easily garnered a 9 or 10 because it was the pinnacle of that genre, remarkable as a video game in general and an overall exceptional game. It had many notable “new” features such as an exceptionally large game world, lots of NPC interactions for the time, a morality system of sorts, etc… It was also cutting edge in the use of audio technology (on the Apple it supported dual Mockingboards allowing 12 channel audio, which was simply unprecedented at the time as most games of this era might only use a computer’s built in speaker, if that to generate clicks and buzzes).

Ultima IV released exactly as it is today as a new game might only garner anywhere from a 5 to a 7 because while it is still a well done game it is now an overused concept and unoriginal by current standards and expectations.

In contrast, an exceptionally filmed movie from 1930 can still be just as visually compelling and artistically comparative to a contemporary film made now. Consider the movie Metropolis. Even today this movie is visually impressive and story wise, quite contemporary in its subjects of worker oppression, class elitism and surprisingly… A.I.. Granted, while the silent presentation and slower pacing may prove difficult for some to watch, it can be quite enjoyable for a modern viewer and it is easy to both acquire and watch without much trouble. The only options for variation in experiencing this movie are between watching in a theater or on a TV. Granted those experience differences can be significant they are typically not considered a factor in a review.

To carry our analogy, Ultima IV may be enjoyable for modern players but they must also endure the added burden of many significant technological barriers to overcome before they can even try to experience the game in a way that in the end almost certainly will not be the same as the experience of 30 years ago. You can still potentially go to a movie theater and watch Metropolis with a live pianist. Finding a complete, working Apple //e with Mockingboards and functional game media is more of a challenge, and that’s if you decided you want to try and play the Apple version and not the MSDOS-PC or Commodore-64 ports (most people these days only play the PC port via DOS emulation). Which takes us to our next topic…

Ratings in video games unlike any other medium are highly context sensitive to the technology used and moment in time they were written for which is why a review generated in 1986 for Ultima IV is more relevant than a review written for that same game today. The prevailing attitude in video gaming culture is that there is literally no way a contemporary reviewer could write a review with the same level of enthusiasm or appreciation and recognition as a period reviewer. To that end, “retro reviews” are typically considered of lower value than period reviews. Another aspect of retro reviews to keep in mind is that many of them now are performed under emulation using non-standard controllers which may effect the overall experience (eg, NES games played on a PC via an emulator using a PS2 style gamepad controller. This is simply not even the same experience.). Even things like up-scaled pixel resolutions or the lack of scan-lines on modern displays (an artifact of CRT based display technology) can effect the visual experience of a game when the designer incorporated something about that legacy viewing system into the visual aesthetics of a game’s art design.

Let’s consider another example… Stunt Race FX for the Super Nintendo. My magazine at the time gave this game a combined review score of 94.0/100 spread between four reviewers. I distinctly remember this game being visually impressive and I spent hours playing and enjoying the game.

Recently, based on those fond memories I dug out the SNES, dusted off the controller, loaded up the game cartridge and tried to play it. I found the game almost impossible to view let alone play. It was an incredibly jarring experience. If a game like that had been released right now on a modern platform and I was reviewing it, I probably would have tanked it.

As I eluded to above, video game scores take into consideration aspects such as the player interface as part of a review (eg, the responsiveness of the controller, the screen resolution of the video output, etc…). For the most part movie reviewers do not consider popcorn quality or sticky floors as a relevant element in a movie rating (granted, the quality of the camera and projection format may impact movie reviews but that’s generally the exception, not the norm), yet in video games, interface elements of the user experience are generally intrinsic to a reviewers scoring.

Lastly, you can’t look at gaming scores as a spread spectrum the same as other mediums. You really need to quantify your data, be it by era, platform, etc… as those extra parameters are just as relevant to the nature of the score beyond the raw play experience itself. I suppose movies and music have similar strata but the differences between eras in technologies aren’t typically as critical to the content as they are with video games.

Share and Enjoy
« Newer PostsOlder Posts »