2011 March

March 31, 2011

Crysis 2… Second Take

You all have probably read my initial impressions of Crysis 2 and it’s Multi Player demo and I was very harsh on it.  My initial complaints were the consolization of the title and the lack of effort showed within the demo. Against what I thought was my better judgement I decided to pick up the game from Intkeys.   I made the assumption that the final product would be just as bad.  If there is one thing I’ve learned from working in the IT industry for the last 6 years its to NEVER assume things.  That being I am forced to take back what I said about the demo.  Is Crysis 2 a consolized title?  In a way yes… it has been heavily streamlined to appeal to console audiences but that doesn’t make it a bad game.

Crysis to PC gamers is what Halo is to Xbox.  PC gamers wanted a new graphics benchmark and what they got wasn’t necessarily what they expected.  I’m going to call this out now before anyone starts complaining about this game not tearing up their system.  Crysis was one of the most horribly optimized games in history which is why it took systems so many years to finally be able to play it at max settings.  This isn’t to say Crysis wasn’t graphically demanding but that combined with the lack of optimization made it hard to run on the systems of the day.  Crysis 2 on the other hand is incredibly optimized… everything from the controls to the coding behind the scenes.  I’m running Phenom II X 965, 8GB DDR3, with an Radeon 5870 and I could max the game fully with the release settings on extreme.

Graphically Crysis 2 is just as gorgeous as it’s predecessor but in a completely different way. The original Crysis took place in a vast jungle teaming full of gorgeous wildlife where in contrast Crysis 2 takes place in a city.  One could say Crysis was a prettier game and they would be right.  That’s because a tropical paradise is going to be prettier then any major city, hands down, ever time.  You can’t even compare the two.  Could Crysis 2 of been better in the graphics department? Certainly.  Crysis 2 was touted to feature Direct X11 which is supposed to take PC graphics into the future.  However near release Direct X11 was removed from the product.   It was then announced that Direct X11 would be added at a later date.  The interesting thing is Nvidia was sure it was a done deal the DX11 would be released in tandem with their GTX  590.  However they recently stated that they aren’t sure if Direct X11 will be released at all for Crysis 2.  Regardless, even without Direct X11 Crysis 2 awes you with it’s visuals.  Massive buildings collapsing, bridges falling, explosions, and very realistic burning fires really add to the eerie atmosphere which is Crysis 2.

Crysis 2 single player is where the game really shines.  While the game starts off slow it really picks up near the middle and takes off from there.  Crysis 2 has streamlined how you handle your suit powers and it really lets you focus on the game instead of the radial menus that you had to mess with in the original.  The one thing that really stood out to me with Crysis 2 was the length of the campaign.  Needless to say I was expecting a 4 hour adventure that has become common in today’s FPS market place.  The most recent releases of COD:BO, MW2, BC2 and Homefront all follow this and then shove you into the multiplayer.  Crysis 2’s campaign rings in about 12 hours depending on how you play it.  I tend to take a little longer to play as I like to wipe out the enemy instead of sneaking around them and as such… I die alot.  That being said Crysis 2 can be played in multiple ways all of which will be enjoyable to different types of people.  Additionally you can upgrade your suit as your progress through the game.  Suit upgrades can be purchased by using Nano Catalysts dropped by dead enemies.

Overall Crysis 2 is a success especially in the single player department.  Crysis 2 campaign is better than Crysis in about every way.  It’s more focused, intense and moving then its predecessor and you actually feel for the character unlike the original.  I actually found myself comparing him to Shadow of the Colossus in the sense of as you progress through the story the main characters body is getting slowly destroyed.  Several scenes within Crysis 2 point to pain and agony the games is probably going through much like SOTC’s protagonist is slowly dying throughout the game.

Overall I loved Crysis 2 which is a complete surprise to me.  I started the game and couldn’t put it down until I finished and I actually found myself wanting to play it again once I beat it.  In my opinion Crytec should of used Crysis 2 to showcase what Direct X11 could really do.  While Crysis 2 is a great game in many aspects it’s held back from being a landmark title by a few issues.  One of which is the lack of Direct X11 but in addition to that there are several small issues such as texture blurring and AI problems.  I can recall several occasions where enemy and friendly AI were sitting right next to each other… neither one shooting at me or each other.  It was like they were best buds from high school.  While this is amusing it is distracting and can be really annoying at times.  There were also several times where you would be shooting an enemy AI and his buddy would just stand there like nothing was happening.  Crysis 2 is a great game even though it is held back by several issues.  I would suggest that you pick up a copy if for nothing other than the single player.

March 27, 2011

Crysis 2 DX11 Patch Tomorrow?

According to pcgamers.de they have reason to believe that Crytec will be releasing the much sought after DX11 patch that was not included with the game release.  In addition to including DX11 support the patch will also be include advanced graphics settings such as motion blur, AA, AF and several other graphical settings.  This is a PC exclusive patch and this should make PC gamers quite happy who were disgruntled at the announcement that the PC release would be DX11 only at release. 

I just finished Crysis 2 and am currently in the process of writing my review.  I may perhaps delay it and replay the game with DX11 turned on and compare.  Lets hope these rumors pan out to be true.

March 27, 2011

Our Favorite Games

No matter how long you have been in the industry, whether it be 5 years of 25 years there is always that one game that holds a special place in your heart.  It could be the latest release of Halo: Reach or back to an old Atari game that nobody has played in two decades.  I got to thinking about this the other day realizing that most games barely hold my interest for more then a few months before I shelve them to most likely never play them again and to most likely to forget after some time.  I probably own of 400 games across multiple platforms including the PC, Wii, PS3, PS2, Xbox360, N64 and so forth.  However there is always that one game that stuck in the back of my head years after I had  played it and I still find myself engrossed by the title more then a decade after its release.  I still find myself playing this game even though its graphical splendor of the time has long been surpassed by leaps and bounds however that doesn’t stop me from going back to it.


Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II is that one game that still holds that special place in my heart.  I’m not quite sure why that was… perhaps it was the fact that is one of the first few games I ever owned.  I remember clearly that my parents bought a computer back in 95/96 that could actually play games and as a present they bought me 3 games. Those games were Interplays Starfleet Academy, Lucasarts Xwing vs Tie Fighter and Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II.  I should mention that this was a hard choice for me between Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II and Xwing vs Tie Fighter as I played both titles to great extent for several years and I even got involved modding community back when they were released because of how much support there was for the games. 

Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II is arguably the best star wars title to date when it comes to the FPS genre and perhaps the entire Star Wars video game franchise.  It could be argued that Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is a better game but I guess that’s a  matter of opinion and for me at least the pinnacle Star Wars title to date has been Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II. 

JK:DF2 is actually still being played today and still has a very strong community supporting it.  The game embodies everything that has ever been good about PC gaming and the Star Wars franchise.  The story developed for it was top notch and it featured the first live action Star Wars scenes filmed since the original trilogy and while one could say they were cheesy to my 12 year old mind they were just as captivating as the original trilogy. JK:DFII was the first game to really push the limits of the FPS genre since doom and it could be argued that it’s one of the FPS titles of all time in the way it changed the industry and it pushed the graphical boundaries of the time by utilizing both Open GL and Direct3D. 

I mentioned earlier that JK:DF2 embodied everything that is good about classic PC gaming.  I say this because outside of Half Life JK:DF2 has or had one of the largest modding communities.  In fact there is still modding work being doing for JK:DFII and it’s worth mentioning that one of Counter Strikes original developers was part of that modding community.  The game is over 14 years old now and there are still people working to create new content for it.  There has been a complete graphics re haul patch in the form of JK Enhanced Mod which changes the textures and helps boost the overall graphical performance of the game.   The wonderful thing about the modding community is that it boosts the overall longevity of the game.  After I beat the game I made countless enhancements to the game including new weapons, lightsabers and force powers and in addition to these many modders made new single and multiplayer levels.  JK:DFII was completely moddable and because of this people are still playing and buying it to this day.  I myself have personally purchased the game four times.  There still several modding communities going strong for JK:DFII such as Massassi Temple and JKhub and if you are still into the game I highly suggest checking out these communities. 

In closing I guess it could be my favorite game of all time because its the first game I really ever played hardcore on the PC or perhaps its just a game from a bygone era where games had more attention paid to their story and community support then they did making money.  It’s most likely a combination all of these but regardless I find myself still thinking about this game today even though its day in the sun has long passed.  I’ve always said that gaming development industry is not longer about making a good game instead its about maximizing a profit.  JK:DFII is a game from an age where video game development and creation was still an art form and less about making hundreds of millions of dollars from constant repetitive releases.  Developers focused on making a QUALITY game with good content at release and if the game was a success they would release a content filled expansion pack.  JK is and always will be a classic example about what is good about the PC gaming industry and the gaming industry in general. 

If you haven’t played it I recommend you do.  You can pick up JK:DFII, it’s expansion and it’s sequels from steam for $20.  There is a great deal of gameplay content across all of the titles and if you are looking for a quality game you won’t be disappointed.  If you would like to check it out you can purchase it from steam here

What is your favorite game?  What is that one title that you can always go back to and still feel the same sense and wonderment that you did when you first played it and why?

March 27, 2011

Japan Week Day 6: Nintendo

As I end my dedication week to Japan, there is one company that stands above them all in the land of the rising sun, Nintendo. Say what you will about their current console strategy, but no one can deny the influence they have had on the industry since the late 80’s. They have created some of the world’s most popular games, defined handheld gaming, and brought video games back from the crash. On the eve of the 3DS launch, I am honoring Nintendo and four of the most important people to come from Nintendo (again this is the writer’s opinion).

Satoru Iwata joined Nintendo in 1993 at HAL laboratory, inc. a second party developer of Nintendo. During his stay there, until 2001 when he become the CEO of Nintendo, he had a hand in some of Nintendo’s staple franchises; the EarthBound series (called Mother in Japan), Smash Brothers series, and the cute pink puffball Kirby. Iwata would reveal Kirby’s real English translation during his keynote speech at GDC2011, Tinkle Popo. Kirby’s original color was white as can be seen on the cover of Kirby’s Dreamland on the Game Boy. His name was changed to Kirby and made white (eventually turned back to his original pink) to appeal to western gamers. In 2002 Iwata succeeded Hiroshi Yamauchi as President and CEO of Nintendo. The Wii and the 3DS are both projects he started as President.

Satoshi Tajiri is not a name most people know, in fact, before I started doing research for this project it was a name I was unfamiliar with, but one everyone should start to recognize. He is the founder of Game Freak and creator of a game that would carry Nintendo’s handhelds for years to come, Pokémon. The original Pokémon Red and Blue (Green in Japan) would almost bankrupt Game Freak and took over 6 years to produce. The game concept was based around Tajiri’s childhood hobby of bug collecting. What made Tajiri choose the Game Boy was the ability to connect and share, via the transfer cable. In 1998, Pokémon launched in North America to an amazing success, reviving the struggling Game Boy and giving Nintendo a new hit franchise. Tajiri put everything he had into this project, often working 24 hour days, not being paid for the work, and having several people quit on him when he couldn’t pay salaries. The Pokémon franchise would spawn a new generation on every Nintendo handheld moving forward. Black and White was just released in September of 2010 in Japan and March of 2011 in North America, totaling the grand total of Pokémon to 646. Since 1996 Pokémon has spawned movies, T.V. shows, a collectible card game, a theme park in Japan, and other merchandise. I have played the series since 1998 on my old grey brick Game Boy, Diamond and Pearl were the only ones I skipped over, but I am very familiar with the Pokémon that came from that generation. I bought the Black version the day it was released and has been a part of my daily balanced breakfast at work, and was the first time I have chose a fire Pokémon from the start, a decision I am really happy I made. 

We would not have Pokémon, or the way Nintendo dominates the handheld industry if it wasn’t for one man, Gunpei Yokoi. Nintendo’s greatest hardware engineer, he was responsible for bringing Nintendo into video games with the Game & Watch handhelds as well as developing the hardware for the Donkey Kong arcade cabinets. In 1989, Yokoi’s creation came to life. The Game Boy was crude, resembling a small brick with stereo speakers and a monochrome LCD screen, but it worked. It was portable gaming with ease. The handheld lasted around 10 hours’ two AA batteries and was bundled with Tetris all for just 89.99 USD. The Game Boy would go through several iterations throughout the years and is still the best selling system of all time. To note, the best selling game on the Game Boy was Tetris, a pack-in; second to this was Tajiri’s Pokémon. Unfortunately, all of Yokoi’s projects were not successful. In 1995 Nintendo and Yokoi would unveil the Virtual Boy, a single colored stereoscopic device that stood on a bi-pod and looked like virtual reality goggles. It launched at 179.99 USD in August of 1995. The console would be an utter failure and be discontinued not even a year after its launch. I still have one of these ill fated systems; Teleroboxer, Mario Tennis, and Red Alarm were my favorites mainly because they were the only games I ever had for the system. Only 14 games were ever released for the system, the games themselves were not poorly designed, at least the 3 I had the opportunity of playing, and the system itself was to blame for the quick demise. Staring at the red LED displays would be headache inducing and lifting your head from the neoprene sleeve, surrounding the display to keep outside light out, was disorienting. On October 4th 1997, Yokoi was leaving his car to inspect the damage to his car, from a minor accident, when he was hit and killed by a passing car. Yokoi had such a great success with the Game Boy, and a great failure with Virtual Boy, though every great developer would not be without a black mark on their career. Even the great Miyamoto would not go without a failure, to date; Wii Music holds a 63 on metacritic. Remember Yokoi as a man whose successes outweigh his failures. The Game Boy was and still is Nintendo crown jewel, it brought portable gaming to the masses and even when presented with technological advanced opponents (the Atari Lynx) prevailed untouched. The Virtual Boy was but a small pot hole upon Yokoi’s road of success.

Finally, last but certainly not least, we honor the great Shigeru Miyamoto. Often considered the greatest man in video games, he has given the world great games, for over 25 years. Miyamoto was the creator of Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, and several other key Nintendo franchises, always trying to design games after his interest. Zelda was a creation out of his love of adventuring in the forest by his childhood home, Pikmin was created out of his hobby of gardening, Nintendogs out of his love for his dog Pikku, and Wii Fit was due to his family being more health conscious. Starting at Nintendo in 1977, we would create Nintendo’s greatest arcade game of all time and only second to Pac-Man, Donkey Kong. After Donkey Kong, Miyamoto would go on to make hit after hit on the NES, Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, and 3; The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventures of Link. In 1991 the SNES was release with a pack-in that would be called by some has the greatest Mario game ever created, Super Mario World. Miyamoto would help create hits on this console as well; he would have a hand in F-Zero, Star Fox, and Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. Nintendo’s next console the Nintendo 64 would be the greatest canvas displaying Miyamoto’s art. Miyamoto would create two games that have stood the test of time; Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Though Miyamoto would go on and create Luigi’s Mansion, Pikmin 1&2, Nintendogs, Wii Fit, and produce Super Mario Galaxy 1&2, nothing has set his bar higher than his 64 titles. I could go on and on about how great Miyamoto’s games are, but my words do not give them justice. He receives standing ovations at conventions and brings a sense of child hood fun to his presentations. The most renowned video game maker in the world and well deserving of the title and his games will never cease to capture the imagination of people of all ages.

Thank you all for reading this week and posting your comments they have all been appreciated. Thanks to soundman for bringing me on to the site and giving me free reign of my topics, AceofNades for introducing me to soundman and for all the long winded nerd related discussions at work, and I would like to thank Holly, my girlfriend, for always supporting my writing and not only support my passion for gaming but being a part of it as well. To all my friends and family thank you for your support. I hope everyone that reads this week’s articles to Japan’s greatest designers will think of them, their families and everyone affected by the unthinkable devastation that has occurred. Again thank you for reading and I hope to do more gaming history pieces in the not so distant future.


March 25, 2011

Japan Week day 5: Tecmo/SquareEnix

Next to the last day in my dedication to Japanese developers and we are going to take a look at two companies with two different styles. Tecmo is known for the DOA series, Ninja Gaiden, and the Tecmo Bowl series. SquareEnix on the other hand has had a running track record of great RPG’s that includes ChronoTrigger, Final Fantasy, and the Dragon Quest series.

Tecmo created two series of games for the NES that hardly ever left my console, the Ninja Gaiden trilogy and Tecmo bowl. Tecmo Bowl is still a classic and Bo Jackson was the ultimate cheat. Ninja Gaiden was a difficult game but yet something I really enjoyed. (See people I was about 8 when I played these and they are still considered tough games, I encourage challenging your kids no matter the age.) Hiedo Yoshizawa was the producer for the trilogy on the NES. Ninja Gaiden was first NES game to include cut scenes and had well over 20 minutes worth of them. In 2004 it was given a reboot by Team Ninja, a subsidiary of Tecmo. The game was originally released on the Xbox and given an updated look and content for the PlayStation 3 entitled Sigma. The head of Team Ninja during this time was Tomonobu Itagaki. Besides the Ninja Gaiden reboot and its sequel, Itagaki also created the Dead or Alive fighting series. DOA was a fighting game in same court as Virtua Fighter, it left out super moves and blood and gore for martial arts and a counter system. DOA would be released in the arcades, on the PlayStation and Saturn. DOA 2 would be released on the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2. The series would then make an Xbox run with DOA 3 being a launch title and DOA 4 would again launch with a Microsoft system, the 360. After working on Ninja Gaiden 2 for the Xbox 360 Itagaki would leave Tecmo and file a suit against his former employer for unpaid royalties. Last year it was revealed that Itagaki has started his own development studio, Valhalla Game Studios, and is currently working on Devil’s Third. Itagaki has always been known as the “Rock Star” of the game development world. Always sporting sunglasses and long hair, and on occasion leather, he is always someone always worth watching out for.

SquareEnix has a great deal of great developers new and old, but none as important as Hironobu Sakaguchi, the father of Final Fantasy. Sakaguchi worked on a few games for Square Soft (which was SquareEnix before the merger) before tiring of games he was designing. Final Fantasy would become a cultural phenomenon and no RPG to date has had such an impact (I am open for debate but you know I’m right). The title Final Fantasy is derived from the fact that it was to be Sakaguchi’s last game of his career. After a long run of games on the NES and SNES, Square left Nintendo to make games for growing PlayStation market, due to the CD-Rom technology inside Sony’s machine. His next game would be what some consider one of the best games of all time, Final Fantasy VII. Final Fantasy VII had become a hit in Japan and in the US, and Sakaguchi was on the top of the nerd pile. Final Fantasy VII was the top selling game of 1997; its characters, music, and sweeping cinematic cut scenes would become a cultural phenomenon. Every gamer knows of Cloud Strife, Sephiroth, Aeris, and the heartfelt scene where Sephiroth kills Aeris; these have become staples of gaming culture. The last Final Fantasy Sakaguchi would produce would be Final Fantasy IX, which some feel, was better than VII. In 2004 Sakaguchi would leave SquareEnix and form his own studio Mistwalker. Sakaguchi and Mistwalker would go on to create two RPG’s for the Xbox 360, Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey, as well as The Last Story for the Wii.

Any of Sakaguchi’s games would not be complete without the wonderful compositions by Nobuo Uematsu. Uematsu was at Square for the same duration as Sakaguchi, in 2004 he became a free lance composer, though he did still work with Sakaguchi on Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey, and The Last Story. Uematsu has done performances, featuring the music he has made for video games, all over the globe. His music is one of the main features at the Video Games Live concerts held all over the US.

These two companies have given great gaming joy to the masses around the globe. Temco for creating a football game that has lived on in dorm rooms across America for decades, a great (and underrated) fighting series, and a great series of my childhood (may controllers were lost during the play through of this trilogy). SquareEnix brought RPG’s to pop culture status, have woven great journeys with breathtaking  musical scores, and have tried to bring games even closer to cinema (i.e. Final Fantasy: The Spirits With In and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, both of which I have in every format possible). Final Fantasy XIII is still sitting half finished, something I have desperately wanted to finish, but have not had the time. Sakaguchi has made the only RPG’s that I can really get into outside of Bioware’s. For all the great designers and developers I have hit this week, I hope we get to see lot more of these creative minds in the future.  

As this week comes to a close it is sad. I have enjoyed writing these articles and doing the much needed research to get my facts straight. I wish I had the time and energy to write these types of article all the time. I may start this as a weekly writing and see how it evolves from there. Thank you all for your comments, they have been greatly appreciated. I will see you guys tomorrow for one last article on Nintendo, and the 4 most important people (in my humble opinion) to come from that company. Again thank you all for reading.  

Here’s a bit of Uematsu’s work from Final Fantasy VII (One Winged Angel)


March 25, 2011

Heroes of Newerth: $10 Account Weekend!

Some of you may remember the article I did a while back about the Future of DotA. One of the games I mentioned, Heroes of Newerth, is currently on sale. While anyone can download the client, you need an account (usually a one-time fee of $30) to play. Accounts are currently on sale for only $10! If you’re like me and excited for Dota 2, this is the game to practice on. Almost all of the game is a direct port of DotA, with only a few minor balance tweaks and upgrades. Get it at www.heroesofnewerth.com

The sale ends this Sunday, March 27th, at 11:59 PM EST. Don’t miss your chance to get in on this game. Comment below if you did just purchase an account. We’ll link up and play! Trust me, this is a game where you don’t want to go it alone.

Credit for finding this out goes to fellow Aspect Gamers member Amnes. Thanks a bunch, bro!

March 25, 2011

Full House Poker Raises the Stakes on Avatar Games

Well Full House Poker is in full swing after being released this week on Xbox Live. Now I was a big fan of 1 vs. 100, so I had high hopes for this and I believed it delivered. Full House Poker is a single and multiplayer poker game that allows you to use your Xbox Live avatar at the tables. Now of course with single player you play the CPU and build up a bank roll playing either standard games or tournaments. Along the way you earn XP and rewards such as outfits, poker room chairs, playing cards, and other poker items. When you make a custom game you can select from the different unlocks to make your very own poker room.

Now Full House Poker really shines in multiplayer. You can choose to play at a single table for a while or join a tourament with up to 29 other players. Tournaments have buy-ins and pay outs that go into (or in some cases out of) your bank roll. Each table consists of 10 seats, so you can get a lot of friends to play at once. With different game types and plenty of room customization you always see something new.

 One fun feature seen a lot online is the chip tricks and timid or aggressive play. While sitting at the table your avatar can perform chip tricks that you unlock along the way. Wether its fliping a chip on your fingers or spinning a chip on one finger, it adds a little fun to the game. Also while playing you can choose to call, fold, or raise timidly as well as aggressivly. Again its just another fun wrinkle in the gameplay.

 Another cool thing about this game is Full House Poker is one of a few games playable from the Windows phone. You can log on your Xbox account and start playing just like from home.

I enjoy playing games from the Xbox Live Arcade and I love poker so this was a win, win for me. There is plenty they can build from this and I think Full House Poker has a bright future ahead. So I will see you at the tables, I will be the guy in the ghostbuster outfit taking all your money.

March 24, 2011

Japan Week Day 4: Konami & Namco

Today we concentrate on two companies with great legacies ranging back to the NES and beyond. I know that I have been taking one company per day but I have so much material that I will not finish in a week if I don’t combined some and I am sorry if there are ones that I should have included it was hard narrowing down to just a week’s worth of material; I could have easily done a month. But back to business, Konami has two industry greats that I am going to focus on and Namco has one. Hideo Kojima, the master of great games with convoluted plots, Koji Igarashi the Castlevania 2D expert, and from Namco Toru Iwantani, the father of Pac-Man.

Pac-Man is a game I could spend hours playing and never tire. I should own a Pac Man cabinet with as much quarters I have spent on that game. Pac-Man is the most renown arcade game and with good reason. The game was made by Toru Iwantani back in 1979 when he wanted to do something different than create pinball tables for Namco. He wanted something that would appeal to everyone; the subject of eating was perfect.

“The actual figure of Pac-Man came about as I was having pizza for lunch. I took one wedge and there it was, the figure of Pac-Man” – Toru Iwatani.  P. 138 the Ultimate History of Video Games, Steven Kent.

Food was even the reason for his shape, as would be for the ways to earn bonus points in the game.  Pac-Man was a huge success selling in an excess of 100,000 units in the U.S. alone. Iwantani would never see anything for the vast success of Pac-Man. Iwantani left Namco in 2007 but his legacy lives on. There has been a great retro remake of his masterpiece with Pac-Man Championship Edition and Championship Edition DX (which has become one of my favorite XBLA games). Even the great Shigeru Miyamoto has taken a shot with Pac-Man with the seminal Pac-Man VS.  Pac-Man was immensely popular for a reason, great simple game play. Despite Pac-Man being older than I am, is a timeless classic that can still be enjoyed by everyone of any age.

Konami hit the jackpot in the PlayStation era. They had two great designers that would create some of the best games on the console, Hideo Kojima and Koji Igarashi. Hideo Kojima was making games well before this with the Metal Gear series during the NES, but really never hit a grand slam till Metal Gear Solid. The PlayStations technology opened the door for game designers to give their games a more cinematic approach. Resident Evil, Final Fantasy (7-9) and Metal Gear Solid are excellent examples of this. Metal Gear was special. It had great protagonist in Snake, tight, tactical game play that lead the way for games such as Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, and story that was deeply rooted in government conspiracies. The first time I played MGS was on a free demo disc that Pizza Hut handed out, that demo lead to a purchase and several more down the course of the series. Even with the release of MGS4 on the PlayStation 3 back in 2008, Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation still captures me like none of the sequels have. Kojima Still heads up Kojima production a development house for Konami. Despite creating other games that deserve recognition, Zone of the Enders and Boktai, his Metal Gear series will be his legacy.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was the other hit Konami had during the days of the PlayStation. Ever since this title Koji Igarashi would produce the Castlevania series, from the 3-D outings on the PlayStation 2, to the great 2D games on the DS. Igarashi was responsible for the design of SOTN in which it wasn’t a level by level progression; it was an open castle for you explore. Between SOTN and Super Metroid they coined the term Metroidvania that would describe any game that was designed from this type of exploration, most notable was the XBLA Shadow Complex. Igarashi would produce the 3 great DS titles, Dawn of Sorrow, Portrait of Ruin, Order of Ecclesia, and the XBLA Harmony of Despair. Unfortunately, Igarashi had no hand in the Castlevania reboot, Lords of Shadow.

Another day, another great group of people that has given us great titles throughout the years, I will continue with these articles through Saturday. Up tomorrow will be a Tecmo and SquareEnix/Mistwalker and then on Saturday will be Nintendo. Again, if I have missed games or developers you like, I apologize. Narrowing people down to write about has been difficult, there are just so many great people in this industry; I wish I had all the time in the world to write dedication pieces. I hope you all are enjoying them, I will see you tomorrow.

One last note, Steven Kent, your book has been an invaluable tome of video game history and I have enjoyed it thoroughly. There are not many video game history books out there and yours I have enjoyed the most. Reading this made me miss the days of when G4 wasn’t trash and I would watch countless hours of Icons.

March 24, 2011

Games for Gameless Situations: Pokémon

Brace yourselves. We’re going back on a trip to the mid-to-late 90’s. A lot of you were probably playing early FPSes or RTSes at this point behind good old CRT monitors, ball mouse in one hand and “generic-old-computer-beige” keyboard under the other. Did any of you have a little brother? Maybe even a little sister? If you were born between 89 and 94, or had a sibling who was, chances are you were EXTREMELY familiar with this one word.

Pokémon. Properly pronounced Poke- EH (like a canadian)- Mon, but frequently pronounced Pokeymon or Pokeuhmon. It was a game. It was a TV show. It was a toy franchise. It was my entire world for so many years. The grip that Pokémon had on my generation was uncanny, almost unholy. It was a religion, a science, a job, a sport, a hobby. We ate Pokémon Pop-Tarts for breakfast. We dressed up as our favorite Pokémon for Halloween (many of which were some of the most embarrassing costumes ever, looking back). If you didn’t know Pokémon, you were either too old or dead.

^If you’re currently between the ages of 15 and 20, there is a 75% chance that you have eaten a birthday cake very similar to this one.

So, let’s say you’ve been in some sort of cruel gaming science experiment where you’re a gamer and you’ve never heard of Pokémon. I’ll attempt to explain the concept in the simplest terms possible.

In the world of Pokémon, animals called Pokémon take the place of the animals we know. They roam wild areas, people keep them as pets, some are rare while others are common. The difference is, these animals have superpowers. In this world, we allow children as young as TEN YEARS OLD to randomly roam on their own by foot and attempt to catch these Pokémon in scientific/magical “Pokéballs”. The most common sport in this world is to pit your pet Pokémon against your friends’, and make them fight until they’re knocked out. That’s right, the final boss should totally be Michael Vick.

^And when you beat the game he gets arrested for improper usage of balls.

As far as genre, Pokémon games fall under the RPG category. Your party members are the six Pokémon you carry with you (apparently your belt can only hold six Pokéballs, I guess fat people can carry up to seven or eight?), and they level up and gain experience and all that. They each have a specific type. Some have elemental types (Fire, Water, Grass), while others have more difficult to explain types (Psychic, Fighting, Flying, Ghost). Many Pokémon are dual typed, and every attack also has a type. Unrelated types do a normal amount of damage, but using logic, one can get “super effective” hits (A fire move like “Ember” against a grass Pokémon like Bulbasaur). By that same logic, some attacks are “not very effective” (like using “Ember” to attack a Water Pokémon like Squirtle. Some of these “counters” make sense, others require a little thought (Rock is super effective against Flying, presumably according to the “kill two birds with one stone” adage.)

^We had that shit memorized. Credit to this Matthew Lankard Chronodreamers dude.

The story to the games is kind of bland. You’re on a quest to become the greatest Pokémon trainer ever, and catch every single Pokémon that exists (This gets harder with newer games, as more of them exist.) PAUSE! Let me interrupt here by saying that Nintendo and Game Freak are sneaky bastards. In order to catch all of the original Pokémon,  you had to have at least two games,  at least two GameBoys, and a Link Cable. Some Pokémon were unavailable in either the Red or Blue edition, and the starters were only available at the start (except in yellow.) So to get them all, you had to trade from one cartridge to the other. And even then, Mew was still unavailable. The only “Legit” way to get that final Pokémon was to go to a freaking convention! Of course, you could always use a hexadecimal cheating system, or execute a really convoluted glitch. Either way, the “storyline” of the game is an epic marketing ploy. The only other real subplot is related to Team Rocket, a group of evil people who apparently mistreat Pokémon worse than the ORGANIZED FIGHTING SYSTEM THAT SEEMS TO GOVERN THE WHOLE WORLD. You beat them.

^That was the sound of a thousand nostalgic teenage nerdgasms.

There’s also the TV show, which follows Ash, a shittier trainer than many of us were when we were ten years old. The show led to many discrepancies and misconceptions about the game (The first and second “gym leaders” you face in the game became his best friends and followed him everywhere. We weren’t as lucky.), but overall was a pretty good show. To start with.

As the years went by, Pokémon got lamer and lamer. As new generations of games came out, the developers clearly were running out of ideas. Everything showed. The TV show got retarded, new Pokémon were unmemorable and bland, and the gimmicks began to fail. We’re currently on Generation number five, and it sucks donkey balls is a “Death Magnetic” level improvement . Also, it’s offensive to Americans.

^This Pokémon is directly responsible for the September 11th terrorist attacks. Look it up on Cracked.

So, I guess it’s time to score these games up. How do they hold today?

These numbers are for the “Good ones”. Emerald was the last “Good One”.

Storyline:3/5- The actual storyline is meh. Trying to catch all the Pokémon, however, is one hell of an experience. If you’ve ever gotten all 151 of the originals, you feel somewhat fulfilled. Also, you feel like a huge nerd. The culture is moreso where Pokémon hits. Get together like five friends and “experience” a game all at once, complete with link cable trading and battles. You’ll know what I mean.

Control:4.9/5- Nothing too wrong here. The menus are expertly laid out. The only problem is the excessive text. You might make a wrong decision whilst clicking through various afflictions.

Addictiveness:4/5- The games can occasionally get slow, and in some parts it’s easy to get lost. However, when you’re on a roll, you’re on a roll. Sometimes, grinding to find that one Pokémon that only appears in one small area 5% of the time is just as entertaining as the battles. If you move through the game fast, things can get challenging. Pacing and difficulty are directly proportional. If you have friends also playing, it can become cracklike.

Ease To Obtain:4.5/5- The good ones aren’t in stores anymore. But if you don’t have them, someone in your neighborhood does. Offer them $5. These games were huge, and sold bajillions of copies. They’re hard not to find. You can probably get a couple game boys, all games necessary to catch the full set of whatever generation, a link cable, and WormLights (for nostalgic late-night adventures) for less than 50 bucks.

^That’s a WormLight. Bask in the old-school pre-backlight glory.

Battery Life: (varies)- Count up how many AA’s you have. Divide that by two. Multiply by five. That’s how many hours of Pokémon you can enjoy. Divide by two, and that’s the battery life score.

As small as these games may seem, they can become a whole adventure if you let them. If Mario is the crack of nostalgia, Pokémon is my own personal Charlie Sheen. They’re best enjoyed in numbers, so grab some supplies, and enjoy the adventure.

EDIT: NON-JOURNALISTIC SOLELY WRITER OPINION ALERT: Also, only homos pick the Water starter Pokémon. Except in generation three when it’s Mudkip. He’s awesome.

March 24, 2011









Archives - Powered by WordPress - A theme by cssigniter.com