Gillman and Zack are back for everyone’s two favorite things. Persona 4 and fighting games. Last time out they proved that they taste great together, this time the real question is if the addition of new modes will change things up in any way.
I don’t want to do the sad parent thing where they explain that they aren’t even mad, they are just deeply disappointed in what has happened—that has always felt like a cover for saying that you are mad, and disappointed, and changing the will for your STD infected youth. The truth is that I don’t even know what I expected this game was going to be aside from what we ended up getting. At its base it is solid and interesting and tells a great story; move away from that even a little and things start to get hazy and starting dropping off cliffs like so many bodies left near Trevor. Sometimes I wonder if it is me that has changed and the games are still delivering the same great content and I am just blind to it, but then I hear one of the ads on the radio and remember that it is the same humor, and almost exactly the same jokes, that they were delivering two console generations ago (almost three) and I know that I am the one that has changed and that isn’t wrong or bad. It was one thing to be making jokes about massive SUVs destroying the world and being entirely more than anyone on the planet would ever need, save possibly an entire team of marines taking a full soccer team to a warzone away game, but doing it again all these later with almost the same exact delivery isn’t interesting in anyway.
The game annoyed me to the level that I started to wonder if the only thing that I ever found amusing in my early 20s was anything that was anti-establishment sentiment. Then I feel dumb. Thankfully I can only feel that way for so long before Rockstar was nice enough to drop the terrible and broken online mode in my lap and tell me to go fuck myself with a handful of glass shards. Sure, it launched broken and that could be forgiven. Sure, they pretty much delivered what they promised. The problem was that they found a way to turn the promise into almost the same hot street trash that the last game had, while remaining entirely less interesting and kind of making me hate the game in the same exact instance. I am almost glad that this mode didn’t start functioning until I was done with the single player as I would probably not have bothered to spend more than 15 minutes inside of the game after I booted it up.
Harvest Moon Award for harvesting the most Moons:
Considering the fact that there were two Harvest Moons this year, and I didn’t even force Stark to play one of them, I would consider this a victory for Rune Factory to get this nod over the standard HM (as those of us in the know call it)—save the fact that the company went out of business directly after shipping this product to North America. For years now there have been off shoots of the core farming games set in other genre conceits, one was the future and several have been in a Fantasy realm: the only thing that they have in common is that they are normally not made by the same company that makes the standard game. I think the fact that this is probably the best one of these non-core games to come out in over a decade, by a large margin, should say something to the weirdness of the company going belly up when the game was released and greeted with pretty favorable sales.
Sure, the game still has strange callbacks to when it first came out—like attacking ghosts and orcs with your fully upgraded hoe because you have ignored upgrading your sword and all your farm tools, including watering can, now do more damage—but it is also the first time that one of these games felt like there was something pushing the player forward instead of just asking them to exist in this weird and strange world where they had to farm and kill tons of monsters. So this decade long experiment has concluded in producing the first real and stable experience in the series, but also managed to drive everyone at the company that made it insane. I don’t really get the management strategies in Japan, but I can tell you that I approve of their results.
Year of Luigi Award for Best Luigi:
If you were a child of the 80’s at all, in any way, even if you can look back and enjoy some of the pop-culture moments that they managed to give children, you should probably have been sadden to learn that the entire cast of the Super Mario Super Show is now dead. Danny Well’s had a career that spanned longer then some countries, and managed to be part of the greatest movie of all time (Shaft), but he will probably always be known for acting as Luigi next to Mario. The show wasn’t good, the cartoon was something that was farmed out to the lowest bidder at that exact moment, and all of the guest stars were whoever Captain Lou Albano was representing with his talent firm that week. Mr. Wells died in this, the year of Luigi, giving us possibly the best ending this side of a sequel to the live action movie where everyone does the dinosaur.
The fact that Nintendo managed to start this year off with a Tuesday announcement stating that they were going to double down on everything and make you totally want to buy every system they have made, and that they were going to do it with their number 2 guy, seemed like a stroke of pure insanity and genius and retardation and the best E3 press conference that took place 6 months before E3. It was like they loaded an old and rusted shotgun full of candy and made kids believe in Santa by killing hobos with jolly ranchers, it was an act of pure will that worked so in their favor I can’t even believe I want say that Nintendo won this year simply by promise alone—that an by giving me a cloning Mario in a cat suit. I have seen many things in my life, but the brothers Mario dropping on all fours and meowing at the screen after hitting the top of a flag pole is probably a high point.
Best Call Back:
Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds
There is a fine line that needs to be walked between remaking an entire game, save with better graphics, and doing something completely different and just slapping the number 2 at the end of it. This generation has seen tons of examples of both of those, and while some are great games they are still basically not what you want from a sequel. A Link between Worlds is what the kid who played A Link to the Past thought that the next game in that series was probably going to be, exactly in the same place but with totally different dungeons and puzzles and new mechanics that changed everything. There are about two companies on the face of the Earth that could pull off this game without messing it up so badly that the company would be declared a war crime the next day, and I am pretty sure that Nintendo owns both of them. Oddly one is a love hotel.
It is strange in the most off beat ways too, because the over world map is almost identical to the previous game in tons of ways, as is much of the music—but in the same instance there are pieces and moments scattered throughout that make it just different enough that it stops feeling surprising that something completely different and unexpected is around the corner after the first dungeon. It seems odd that a game would lift, with such love and care, exact and impactful moments from a game and implant them in another, and still manage to make it this wonderful and worth playing. There are times that I swear all of this companies design documents are just letters from children taped to the wall with the words “make this happen” above them.
Spent Way too much time with:
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
Earlier this year I picked up a copy of Monster Hunter 3 and the second stick add on for my 3DS and proceeded to spend amazing amounts of time slapping creatures in the face with entirely underpowered weapons in hopes that they might drop a fraction of a piece to make a sword that would do more slightly more slapping damage. It is less a quest about being the most OCD and completion-ist to gather up every single piece of monster excrement to form something that finally feels useful and powerful, and more about the continual refinement of play throughout the life of the game. I will happily be the first person to admit that Monster Hunter is not a game for everyone, but it is oddly a game that is designed to prove the point that video games can make you gain a feeling of accomplishment through play, even if that is just making a virtual persons that much more interesting while your own life suffers.
For me the game seems to be about fits and starts as well, long periods of passion where my boss basically has to tell me that I am not allowed to have the 3DS at my desk as it has seeped past “just playing at lunch” and ignoring my wife while she watching crime shows on the Television, to forgetting about it for months at a time. I would lie if I didn’t say the entire reason for picking up a Wii U was to secretly get back into it, but with better controls and the possibility for people to tell me directly online how bad I am at the game. Fans of the stream will also notice that I have picked up a rather devoted friend that is insistent on getting me through the trials of late game hunting, so as far as I can tell this game is probably going to be a part of our lives for the foreseeable future.
I just want to talk about this game Award:
I wrote a review about this game about a month ago and went clearly out of my way to avoid talking about how much fun it is to play a game with ninja that run around with giant breast that beat the ever loving hell out of each other. It is the kind of thing that I would have written as a design document when I was a teenager and then spent the rest of my life working towards to make a reality. There are moments in your life that it all becomes clear, and you are suddenly happy that people who grew up in different countries can grow up just as perverted as you and strive to make the world as wonderful a place in the same odd and entirely deranged methods as you. Sometimes I wake up in the morning smiling, thinking about these things—then I drive to work and have 8 people cut me off and someone jay walk in front of my car in a clear attempt to kill themselves and that is all forgotten for a while. Senran Kagura has a weird way of bringing me back to that happy place though.
Did I mention that Nintendo didn’t want the game to come out; because they actively did that exact thing I just said. When it was released they put on such a back shelf in the virtual goods store that it would literally be like having to walk into GameStop and ask the clerk for a game, then spell it correctly before they sold it to you. Joke ended up being on them as about three days after it came out it ended up being the hottest selling game of the week in the store and was automatically promoted to the front page, which is like if Karma wasn’t just the name of a really good stripper but also the doctor that you saw because of that rash you got from her.
Worst Game of the Year:
So you take one game that is pretty universally beloved by anyone, Trials HD, but slightly in the back of most people’s minds, as it came out a couple of years ago, and then you slam the most generic physics system in the world on a cheap copy that you had some third world high school students—who’s only contact with the original was on low resolution YouTube video— make for you in a day. Don’t QA test it, make sure there are some conditions that levels are unbeatable and then throw it out the door. Oh, and over charge and hint at micro-transactions. Kids love those. Everyone loves those.
The truth is that I am given a ton of terrible games to play throughout the year, most of the time I am able to either say no or pass them along to someone farther down the food chain of the site. Every now and then, though, I get something that I get stuck with that has manage to so completely missed the point of enjoyment it is a wonder that my system didn’t eject the disc at top speed in an attempt to kill me like the classic 1990 film “I come in Peace”. In all honesty most of the time it would be a sweat and joyful release, and something I will be sad I can no longer hope for in our all digital and downloadable future.
I own all of the Yakuza games, aside from Dead Souls. Most of the games can be gotten for a song, and until recently this was the one time that rule didn’t hold up. Dead Souls, the zombie infested version of Yakuza, just seemed to hang out there and demanded to have people pay full price for it. Clearly the bottom has fallen out on that idea as it can be gotten for cheap. From what I understand it isn’t the best of the series, but when you take into consideration that the core series is a crime drama about the worst people in the world with deep and involved plots a zombie side story might not be the most serious thing in the world.
Buy it here
I own Resonance of Fate. I have played a respectable chunk of the game as well. My thoughts about it are kind of mixed at best, at worst I don’t know if I could tell you what the plot of the game was besides JRPG and Guns. That said I thought that it was kind of enjoyable. For me it came out during sort of a dry spell in both gaming and the genre so I played more than I probably would–although lets be honest, this entire generation has been a dry spell for Japan and their shenanigans. The game is non-nonsensical, oddly paced, and probably just what you are looking for given the fact you are reading this site.
Price: (PS3) $18
Buy it here
So I own Record of Argest War Zero. I have only ever opened it to check out the limited edition collectables. I also, regrettably, bought it from GameStop; meaning that the packaging had of course been opened for no real reason and I had the impression that I might have been missing the case for the music CD. This is one of the many reasons that I bit the bullet and got Amazon Prime. I hate waiting to get things I want, but I hate it even more when you pay a premium, are treated like a moron and possible thief, and walk away with a shoddy product. Record of Argest is a forgettable JRPG, something that we haven’t gotten a ton of this generation. It is also dirt cheap in all versions now on Amazon (not the PS3 limited, as that sells for almost 70 dollars).
Price: 360 :$15
PS3 : $16
360 Limited: $20
If I am being kind when talking about NeverDead i would say something like, “You have probably never heard of it”. If I was being honest I would say that it was an attempt by Konami to make another triple A franchise, but instead of giving them the money that they might require to do that, or the marketing to make people even aware that it was a thing. Most of the reviews that I did hear about the game said that it was fine, but not 60 dollars fine. I am going to gather from that the current, stupidly low, asking price is just about right for this game. If you have Amazon Prime it is kind of a no brainer to pick with the free shipping, or if you are just looking for something to play in this the slow season.
Price: About $10
Buy it here
Rock of the Dead is kind of a terrible game. Not even in a “so terrible it is good”. The game was a commercial, critical, ideological, and un-colorful flop. The only reason people even know it was a thing is because they had one of the world’s worst E3 boths ever. They took mildly attractive women, put on the world’s worst makeup, then made them stand outside in the sun just to make sure that they would not be able to take that stuff off with a Brillo pad and acid. Also, it wasn’t really an E3 booth as much as it was a booth that was located around hotdog vendors that people running the convention couldn’t legally tell to go away. Thankfully it is stupid cheap. So cheap it is more expensive to buy new than used.
Buy it here
Team Fortress 2 set the bar for stylized shooters several years back, almost to the point that no one has really tried to do anything in that vein very seriously since that game shipped. Thankfully Zombie Studios has stepped up and taken a page from both Gears of War and Call of Duty to try their hand that rather small but always rather interesting niche.
Team X has an uninhibited sense of unique style. Headshots are greeted with the recipients skull flying off and being replaced with jets of blood, the characters all seem to be rejects from the last Predator movie, the level design seems to take place in what only Dr. Evil would ever think would be a functioning factory/supply yard, and someone decided to see how far the desaturation effect on Photoshop would look when applied to absolutely everything. The one thing that stands out the most about the game is that there is zero possibility that anyone is going to mistake it, visually, for anything else, ever. While that does manage to put the game on a pedestal in a competition no one else was in it also has the distinct effect of making it feel like the game didn’t get the last pass on textures from the art department.
Even if the game does sometimes look like a late era PS2 game it does still hold its own mechanically. An unlock system based off of Call of Duty’s level progression makes an appearance, as it is in many newer shooter titles, but instead of being limited to guns only it reaches so far as to unlock character customization traits—even if all them kind of just make the avatar look like another generic and interchangeable background action movie character. If those forgettable B-roll film characters were placed in a washed out level of Gears of War you would have something that resembles Team X.
The problem with the game isn’t anything that it does– the art style is interesting and something that they should be glad that they went for, and through play it does prove itself to be fairly competent at the way it plays—the problems comes in from the fact that it never really seems to do anything new along the way. The games that inspired Special Forces Team X to be the way that it is gained a fan base by doing things that other games hadn’t done or weren’t doing right, and while copying those ideas might gather some people waiting to kill time until the next sequel in those series come out it will probably only be a matter of time before is entirely forgotten.
Tony Hawk was released for the PlayStation in late 1999 and it managed to change the way that people looked at alternative sports games, their accessibility, and controls in action games. Since that point the game has been successfully driven into the ground by only catering to an ever shrinking fan base that seems to want longer and more obscure combos that can reach across vast levels driving progression forward. Interestingly enough Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD serves as a great example of the divide between these two extremes.
The first thing that is noticed while playing is what is missing from the interface. There is no choice to view what song is playing, or even select a rotation and what songs to remove from it. This option might have only been introduced in later games that had significantly larger and varied playlists, but that basically means that all sessions that last around twenty minutes are almost guaranteed to be forced to listen to the same song, possibly several times. Also oddly missing is the ability to pause the game and look at a move list, which can be helpful when going for a score attack on a level after collecting all of the S-K-A-T-E letters to look up the score heavy special moves.
The additions to the classic levels come in a mixed grouping. On the positive side there are additional goals on levels. This lets people who still have the sense memory of these games to lengthen out with additional items to collect and another tier of scoring to reach for some of the levels from the first game. On the odd side of things is the exclusion of all competition levels, which could make a form of sense if this was meant to be more of a goal orientated package, making this the first in the series to ship without such maps. The negative side is that some of the levels from the first game that didn’t have crazy high scores to reach now do, some of which were never designed for 200,000 plus scores.
On the issues of levels, the selection that was included in the game is questionable at best. I do understand that everyone has their favorite memories of the “good” Tony Hawk games, but I have never heard anyone praise Downhill Jam. Two levels that I personally remember being not enjoyable have been included—the aforementioned Downhill Jam as well as The Mall. While my view on these is limited to my friend group from when the game came out, I do remember us all feeling that all downhill type levels were simply something that needed to be completed to continue on with the game.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD is the first game to be released for this summer of arcade, and honestly one of the ones that I was looking forward to for some time. While there are a bunch of negatives about the game it acts as such a nice trip down memory lane that it is hard to have any negative feelings about it. I am sure that regardless of the actions that were taken to make the game fans of the original series would still have something to complain about, namely me, but I think that they might have hit a rather nice middle of the road mark. Hopefully some of the promised downloadable levels can even out the content, and at a reasonable price if one can dream.