Thursday, November 7, 2013

Silent Protagonists and the Great Snore

I love playing RPGs, they are my favorite genre to play in all of video games genres.  But when I play an RPG(Or other genre of games games for that matter) I get sick of controlling a character who doesn't talk.  It never makes any sense to play as a character who doesn't talk in a game where everyone else spews their life story at you.  Note I'm not talking about games where you build your group of heroes from scratch since part of the idea of those games is that it's your story (Etrian Odyssey is a good example of this), I'm talking about games where you have established characters to experience the story.  It feels like game designers want to make the main hero to be the proxy for the player to be immersed in the story that is heavy in atmosphere already, and it's something I've been questioning as of late.

A great example is the MCs from Persona 3 and 4, they are suppose to be our proxy's to the story being told around them yet they feel flat.  They are both in wonderful worlds where the supernatural is around them destroying their perception of what they thought was normal, yet they are dead pan the entire time only making slight remarks when they are asked something.  What annoyed me the most with this is when the MC from Persona 3 sacrificed himself, and I really didn't feel anything about his death.  And this is why the proxy idea falls flat for me, if you don't have a personal point of reference how do you know what to feel?

Which is weird because a character death can be emotional to me, Nanako from Persona 4 had a really powerful death scene because you had a point of reference that they provided.  The scene was powerful because how everyone around her was sadden by her death.  We have a group of people who fought countless demons but the death of a friend they couldn't save broke them all down.  Yet the MC was pretty much "...", I would love to know what he was thinking at that moment.  Yeah he would have been sad but what would he have said?  Would he curse the person who put her in the TV, or would he have been mad at himself for not saving her in time.  We only have our own imagination to fill in for this, which would be ok if the game didn't give us a bad ending for thinking he would get revenge.

Another example would be Issac Clark from Dead Space, before the sequels we played as an engineer who slips on the action shooter helmet and we never hear him speak (A problem with most games of its ilk).  And part of the plot of this game was based around finding your wife who may or may not be dead, and it is lame because Issac never speaks and the game just tells us we should feel bad for him.  Why can't Issac speak so we know what he is thinking instead of being bold faced told?  This is a huge contrast to Solid Snake, who's "death scene" still haunts me.  Even if he didn't kill himself seeing him trying to build the courage to do it, and with the fear he was facing to pull that trigger was powerful image.

I have other examples like how Golden Sun has the "hero" be a mute and the "anti hero" talks, however in the sequel the "hero" finds the ability to talk and the "anti hero" loses the ability to talk for some reason or another.  Problem is I love the worlds these games can build, and the supporting cast that lives in it.  But when the person who is suppose to be the driving force has dialog that pretty much consists of motions and snippets of dialog choices it's not interesting.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pokemon Has Evolved to the Third-Dimension

Ever since the beginning I've been a fan of Pokemon.  I still remember eavesdropping on a classmates conversation about the game and going to K-Mart that same day to get a copy of Pokemon Blue.  The game had entranced me and ever since then I've had become a fan and played each generation ever since.  Now that Pokemon X and Y is out it not only introduced a new generation of kids to the series, but introduced the main series to the third dimension.  The question now is did this series now evolve into a Dragonite or a Bibarel.

Pokemon has never been known for it's stories.  With just a basic framework of get 8 badges, beat Team [Insert Name Here], then beat the Elite Four.  It's served Game Freaks for years and there is nothing wrong with it, but there is no good glue to hold the bits together.  As always you are a ten year old trainer tasked to solve a mystery more suited for a scientist then a child but child labor is cheaper though.  Eventually you run into more story related people, first is Lysandre who's outfit screams "I am leader of Team Not Rocket" and the other is Diantha who foreshadows that she is the champion.  After getting a few badges from the everyone is a winner league, you run into Team Flare who is the evil group of this region.  Which opens a few interesting themes the creators could inject into the story.  Going from how Team Flare talks they want to kill off most people to conserve resources in a very crazy population control scheme.  There is a subtle theme of classism in the story given how only Team Flare would survive while everyone will die with an absurd entry fee to join.  But the story trips over itself snapping its legs though with plot holes and bringing up plot points but barely touching it.  Why is it I had to fight for the right to use Mega Evolutions, yet three other people also some how have the ability.  Which is compounded even more when Lysandre himself uses it as reason for his plan, saying "There was only one and you had to fight for the resource".
I like how no one in game seems to think he isn't evil.
What is the point of the legendary outside of a power source for a weapon that looks like a nuke.  What was with the tall guy who only shows up three times, we know he was the king who launched a nuke yet almost nothing else.  All this screams "we will expand upon these points when we make Pokemon Z".  The reason why I harp on the story is that in a RPG people normally play for the story.  And it feels like they want to touch on a lot of interesting concepts, but they want to leave holes open to fill in for the "third version" of this set of games.  And I know this is gear towards kids, but kids are not that stupid.

The three big things Gamefreaks gave us is the new Fairy type, Mega Evolution, and the game is now in 3D.  Fairy types changes the type match up and allows some pokemon who was not as good to have some worth.  Bringing in Fairy type curb has stomped Dragon types, and it makes me giggle knowing if I could take a fairy type to fight lance in Red and Blue he would be crushed.  Being only weak to Steel and Poison types and strong against Fighting, Dark, and Bug (while immune to Dragon) it seems that Fairy types will be "hard" to kill in the metagame.  I just like it because I can make my joke about having a male Gardevoir named Bridget even funnier.  Mega Evolution sounds interesting but how it is now it's just a gimmick, my key issue is that not enough pokemon can use it.  It feels they just picked pokemon they could make look "cooler" and ran with it.  It mostly feels like a situational tactic to use, and with so many pokemon that can't use it versus that can use it I wonder how useful it really is in the online battles.   But what most people who played pokemon might notice is after so many years pokemon is now in 3D.  Which I'm glad because I'm honestly sick of the whining from fans for it seeing how the DS could not render 3D without ugly textures, yet fans wanted it for that system.  No one seems to sit back and think about how many DS games that use 3D didn't look that great.  But for me the big changes was EXP Share, the changes in breeding, EV training, and I can customize my character.  Being able to train a bunch of pokemon quickly is a massive plus for me and knowing their EV and being able to directly train them makes playing the meta much more approachable.  Having better control over the stats via breeding shows Game Freaks wants to get rid of any need to hack pokemon.  The last feature is character creation and I just love how I can now make a trainer closer to my look giving it a more personal journey through the game.  Not much with it besides you can change how you look so like most games with the feature it's just there.  Even with these changes pokemon is still pokemon, so if you hated pokemon before this won't change you.

After finishing the story I couldn't really find an excuse to want to start over outside of playing through it again with a challenge imposed on myself seeing how boring the story is.  Even post game feels a bit boring seeing how I can only hunt for mega evolution stones only between a certain hour.  And it feels very sparse for what you can do after you beat the story.  After all is said and done it's not a bad game doing what it is trying to do just fine, but if your bored of pokemon or never liked it I would honestly skip it.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Uncharted Golden Abyss Should It Belong in a Museum or Secured by "Top Men"?

To me the first Uncharted game was a fun and exciting adventure through the jungles looking for long lost treasure, which on retrospect should have stayed lost given what it did.  The problem I had with the reveal was the villain who seemed to wanted to weaponize the lost powers these ancient people had.  It really hit home when I was at the climax of Uncharted Golden Abyss and found out what the treasure was and why it was lost.  The odd thing was out of all the ways I was getting around this old ruins that should have collapsed on my head this was the most grounded part of the game.  Enough of this though, I have my pick ax lets see what this game is like.

Graphics: Normally graphics are not a selling point of a game for me but wow did this game show off what it could do.  The promise was a console experience in your hand and they did hit that, it is a shame that if it where on a console it would look like a budget game without the budget price.  While the textures and character models look good there is this odd "phase in" thing objects would do, which on a technical level makes sense but from a game play perspective it just make me think we should be hunting for the magic fern that phases in and out of reality instead of a bunch of gold.  A major issue I had with the graphics was since the screen is smaller on the PSVita everything else is smaller.  Which the developers most have realized seeing how every climbable ledge is bright yellow, and this just raises a question that did this ancient civilization chose this stone knowing some annoying moron would be climbing around hundred of years later.  In short while the graphics do look nice and it is something to show off, for a game like this where graphics are a key aspect it needs to be on a TV.

Story: Like I said in the opening paragraph I like how grounded the reason was for why the treasure needed to be lost.  In Golden Abyss the treasure is gold, just a lot of gold.  But wait what is the reason why it should stay lost?  Well the simple reason is that it is radioactive.  I was honestly able to enjoy why this was a bad idea, it wasn't that man couldn't control this mystical power.  It was because if sold on the market it could be used in a lot of things everyday applications that would expose the world to radiation.  This was a real concern, and Dante was pretty much "Won't care got mine" instead of a insane person who his hordes of gun wielding henchmen should have stopped following.  As much of a dick he is he is the best written character out of the group sadly.  First have Robert Guerro who's sole motivation in this plot is funding his militia for his revolution, but what the hell is he fighting though.  We know nothing about his reasons for doing this and his only true role in this story is to be a mustache twirling villain who has a army to send at Drake.  Which is a moot point seeing how Dante later on hires a PMC which is swap-able for Guerro's army. But while Guerro has next to no motivation for his actions we have Marisa who's sole motivation is to finish what her grandfather started.  That's it, she is just a annoying person who while is knowledgeable in history seems to have no experience in adventuring yet makes smart ass remarks back at Drake.  The every punching bag known as Drake is still his Hollywood "flawed" character who while looks and acts perfect seems to be crap at everything he does.  And I question if this was done on purpose because my reaction to dying in this game was "haha served him right".  I question his motives to because he seems to just want to solve puzzles instead of find artifacts to bring to modern society for others to learn from.  Which I question his skills in puzzle solving seeing how when ever someone is with him they tell him when he got a piece right or not.

Game Play: This is where the game falls apart for me.  The issue with the game play is that this was a major launch title for the PSVita, and that means shovel in as many features to show off the hardware.  I already talked about the graphics and how it showed off what the PSVita can do in that respect, but there is much more that was done poorly.  First I'm going to harp on the fact I had to point my PSVita at light to burn a image on paper.  One this barely worked and second it was only used once and I kinda burned the image of the light so for a bit I was shooting a light bulb that wasn't their.  The fact I had to stand right under a light source and kept moving showed to me that this just doesn't work at all.  While that was a one time deal the one thing I hated was having to rub items.  Rub the dirt off this, rub the image on to this, rub this rock formation till maggots shoot out, rub your stomach and shoot more of Guerros men.  It didn't make the game more immersive for me it just pulled me out knowing I had to keep rubbing objects until the game told me I did well.  Which while I felt was show stopping on important cut scenes it wasn't as bad as during hectic action scenes.  For some reason the developers thought QTE with buttons was last gen so why not make QSE (Quick Swipe Events) for fight scenes and the two boss fights.  So for every melee combo you have to end it with a QSE or you screwed up, which is not bad since it's easier to just cap the guy in the face.  It fell apart during the final boss fights where you had to swipe your fat finger over the screen blocking the action.  To put it plainly this was a very bad idea because it block the view, and I know the devlopers have shoved their heads up their asses with this because during these "fights" you have 3 misses yet during the middle of the Guerro fight they take away those misses so out of no where so if you fucked up there you start the whole fight all over with him.  It's like one game developer got pissed off that he wasn't invited to a party or something and removed the lives out of spite.

Conclusion: I honestly could not recommend this game to someone if I had played this at launch because the price was fifty dollars.  Luckily I was able to get this for seventeen dollars used so I didn't regret my purchase that much.  But personally at the launch price it would have been more suited to have console controllers and been released as a budget side story for the series.  Bottom note if you like the Uncharted series and can find this on the cheap I say go for it.  But you could do a lot worse on the PSVita, you could buy a iPad game released for it that was given the full handheld console price.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Man Mobile Gaming Isn't Real Gaming

I never understood the mindset that gaming on a mobile device isn't really gaming.  I've seen people say iOS/Android gaming is fake while 3DS gaming is real gaming before and it honestly made me go "What the hell?"  The big sticking point in this reasoning is that the lack of buttons on the hardware, kinda not of a good reason for these games to be looked down on.  I didn't even think how stupid that reasoning is until I was playing Ikaruga on my Nexus 7, a popular shmup made for Arcade then ported to XBLA, Gamecube, and Dreamcast. 

Plays pretty damn good to me.

The funny thing is I think it was pretty damn good on a tablet, and I was so floored about how well it played I bought other shmups for my tablet and they pretty much played better then using a arcade joystick.  Something about controlling a ship with your finger feels like you have a much more precise control over your ship in all honesty.  Now don't get me wrong there are games that don't play well with touch controls, but to be fair that can be said about any game with any method of control.  With all the gimmicks we have had in the past to control games it's surprising that we draw the line at touch screens.  I mean we have had IR, camera, motion, light gun, "mind control" (yes that was a thing in the works), and touchless controls; yet people stop at a touch screen.  But with the growth of the tablets and gaming on it this raises a fun question. Would games like Metal Slug, Sonic, Final Fantasy not be considered real games anymore because they are on tablet going by what the "hardcore" (which I say with disgust because these people make me wanna distance myself from gaming)?  Hell what does this say about Nintendo DS and its games that use stylus only controls, if you get a stylus with a point to it (hard to find but they do have them) for a tablet would a touch screen only game for the Nintendo DS not be considered a real game because it can be done on a tablet (like The World Ends With You)?  I mean if we are talking how a game plays I much rather play a tablet game like Ikaruga then something like Kid Icarus Uprising for the 3DS, because as a leftie it had horrible controls.  I think gamers need to stop whining about the method a game is controlled by and worry if it plays well with the control system given.  Because if we can tolerate the gimmicky way a game could have been played in the 80's/90's when a game wasn't even built with that method in mind, we can learn to play a game that was built for a touch screen and not instantly dismiss it just because it uses a certain method of control.