Friday, February 27, 2009

My choice for the 2008 XBLA Awards

It is the second annual Xbox Live Arcade Awards in the coming weeks and Microsoft has listed there nominees. Here is Kotaku's write up on it. I will post them here as well and bold the ones I think should win for each category.

Best Overall Arcade Game

  • Braid
Though I didn't pick this game, I feel it will be remembered the longest and have the most impact on people compared to the others on this list.
  • Castle Crashers
  • Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2
I choose this game because they took a game that was so basic and managed to make you want to play it again and again. It was the effect Pac-Man CE had. I can always find myself going back to this game to play more of it. It was also the first XBLA game I stayed up all night to get.
  • Street Fighter II HD Remix
  • Portal: Still Alive

Best Original Game

  • Castle Crashers
  • N+
  • Braid
This game was quite different and not expected. When you are told about the main overview of it, experiencing it is quite a different thing all together. We have had time manipulation in games before, but nothing as drastic as this.
  • Penny Arcade Episode 1
  • Schizoid
  • Age of Booty

Best Family Game

  • Boogie Bunnies
  • Roogoo
  • A Kingdom for Keflings
  • Lost Cities
  • Meteos Wars
I haven't played any of these so I will not be picking one.

Best Co-operative Multiplayer Game

  • Castle Crashers
I had quite a bit of fun with this game far before the patch was even released. It was odd how much I played this online even when there was only one online achievement that was almost impossible to get. I never went for it, but I still came back to play with friends.
  • Schizoid
  • Bionic Commando Rearmed
  • N+
  • Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2

Best Competitive Multiplayer Game

  • Street Fighter II HD Remix
  • Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2
  • Soul Calibur
  • Meteos Wars
  • Age of Booty
I feel as I have only played Geometry Wars 2, I can not pick one of these games.

Best Solo Game

  • Braid
You may get stuck on this game for quite a bit with it's mind bending puzzles, but when you finally get it, you feel like the smartest man alive. It was a really nice game to just sit down with for a few hours as you made your way through it.
  • Mega Man 9
  • Penny Arcade Episode 1
  • Rez HD
  • Portal: Still Alive

Best Innovation in XBLA

  • Braid (time travel)
I don't quite think this was so innovative, but compared to the other ones it was. Though the manipulation powers you were given were quite new, I didn't find them to be ground g
  • A Kingdom for Keflings (use of Avatars)
  • Fable II Pub Games (retail game integration)
  • N+ (level sharing)
  • Duke Nukem 3D (dynamic replay)

Best Graphics

  • Street Fighter II HD Remix
  • Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2
This game just looked beautiful and when I finally got my HD TV, it looked even better. It was so colorful and vibrant. I had it descrive
  • Braid
I think this wins when it comes to the artistic quality of the graphics. I loved how it looked like a water colored canvas with marker drawings over top. So it's safe t say this category has a tie in my books.
  • Castle Crashers
  • Bionic Commando Rearmed

Best Classic/Remake Game

  • Bionic Commando Rearmed
  • Street Fighter II HD Remix
  • Mega Man 9
  • Galaga Legions
  • Rez HD
I did not play any of these, I can't make a choice.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Halo Wars is coming

So the next game being sent out to me for review purposes is Halo Wars for the 360 (if you read this blog, that should be obvious). This will be great for three reasons.
  1. I have only played Halo 3 so I am still pretty fresh in the Halo Universe
  2. I have not played a real-time strategy game enough to be considered actually playing it. This will be a nice introduction I think.
  3. I have not received a game for review for a bit.
Hopefully I don't run into too many annoying/mega Halo fans while trying out the online. I think that would just discourage me more from wanting anything to do with Halo's audience.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Starting to get it

It seems Microsoft is starting to get it (see what I did there?) when it comes to their gold subscribed member on xbox live. With this new program, which we can we can only hope will continue on for quite a while, they seem to understand they need need to give out more.

The article is a Kotaku article about how Microsoft is giving gold members discounts on specific marketplace items each week. This week's discount is Braid, normally 1200 points (~$15), being reduced to 800 points (~10). I'd like to not that if you don't have this game, now is the time to get it for sure! It also says that later this month we will be receiving Ninja Gaiden II DLC, Project Gotham Racing 4 DLC and Xbox classic Fable as further discounts. Remember that these only go on for a duration of a week so you will need to act somewhat fast in your decision to throw down some points.

This is a good idea for Microsoft because up till this point, gold members were getting the short end of the stick. If you look at the PS3 owners, they get the same online play, but don't have to pay for it. This doesn't look good for the 360. Silver members weren't missing too much as well if you look at all the free online weekends Microsoft puts out for silver members. Hopefully these bonuses will keep coming.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Emotional Responses

I have been thinking about this since Thursday of last week -- the day I picked up Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon. If anyone has been following my Twitter feed then they will know that I really like it. I would say that I'm almost at the point where I like it so much, I want to go back and finally beat Path of Radiance on the GameCube and even look into Radiant Dawn on the Wii. We shall see how far this goes.

Anyway, there is one moment at the beginning of the game which caused a bit of personal controversy for me. If anyone is looking for an entirely non-spoiled game, I would skip down a bit. I won't try to spoil much as this is a major part, but I know there are people out there who like going into a game knowing as little as possible about it. Which is fine.

Shadow Dragon offers a prologue for anyone playing the game through on the normal difficulty and though it is bogged down with tutorials, it does contain quite a bit of story to it. Needless to say, it's worth playing through. During part 3 (or maybe 4, can't quite remember) where you are forced to have to kill one of your players. Your team gets to a point where a load of very powerful enemies are on their way and on the other side is a locked door. Your choice from here is either get your whole team slaughtered and try again to just get slaughtered again or sacrifice someone as a Decoy in order for the door to open. The only way to proceed is loosing someone.

The issue here is in a Fire Emblem game, when someone dies, they are gone for the rest of the game. Not many games do this considering there is usually some way to bring back someone. In Final Fantasy we have Phoenix Downs for example. So whoever I lost, I would not get to use from then on.

What troubled me so much about this is I have made it my own goal to go through each available Fire Emblem game without loosing someone. Up till this point I was doing fine. I went through both the GBA games and half the GCN version while maintaining a full party. This not only makes the game harder, but it makes me need to think more strategically -- which is what should be done with a tactics game such as this. It can also lead the game's play time to be longer as I would have to retry various stages.

Being forced to lose someone on purpose was quite a weird experience. I found myself searching through many online websites and forums looking for some way around it. When I realised there is no hope of getting through with everyone, my next concern was who of my units would I need to sacrifise. I spent around 45 minutes searching for reasons why people were losing who they did. In the end, it was really quite hard for me. Seeing that I wouldn't be able to get the perfect game I had saught after for so many years with the previous installments was crushing. TO make matters worse, after the chapter, they show your man being captured and sentenced to death. It was quite hard to watch.

This made me wonder why I reacted in such a way. After all this is only a game character and I had only had him for a couple tutorial-based prologue chapters. It wasn't like I was losing someone I had grown attached to. Or maybe I was? Was my past experience with the franchise causing me to grow attachments to every character from the minute I receieved them? The majority of people playing this game probably didn't not feel this emotion release during the point. Though it does draw parallels to the time when Aeries was killed in Final Fantasy VII. A key difference to that event was that we had grown a relationship with the character for several hours and discs of gameplay, we were losing quite a bit more. This however was a meer 20 minutes.

Do any of you feel some sort of uncomfortable feelings when losing a character in these games? Do you not care about them at all and just want to finish? Let me know in the comments. This will also be this weeks poll on the side bar: Does losing game characters permanently cause an emotional response in you?

I also plan to add images to each of my posts from now on, it makes the site look more alive.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I'm a Sheep

So I finally reactivated the old Twitter account I got about a year ago. I seem to update it a few times a day, mostly with video game related stuff going on with me. I'll also use it if anything interesting has happened/is being released/is going on that I think should be checked out but isn't big enough to warrant its own post on here. So maybe look into that if you have your own account. You can also read the latest 5 entries on the side bar of this site in case you don't have your own Twitter account.

I also got this site it's own Twitter account that runs off of the RSS feed from here. So if you have a Twitter account and are into following people, you can add this one up and won't have to check back here so much to see if I've made a post. It will show the latest entry I did and link back to here to read the full thing.

Since I just started it up, it's not 100% yet but I will try and make sure it is by the end of today.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Still can't decide!

This is definitely worth a check out. Especially if you can't decide which car(s) you should be buying. I still think the Delorean looks the best even with the increased price point. Not I only wish it was a stunt car.

I included the 88 Special's video in this just because we have NOT seen enough of it.

Update: Went with the 88 Special alone.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

There are no roads where we're going

So Criterion announced their prices for the Legendary Cars for Burnout Paradise. These will be the second installment of paid DLC (after the Party Pack). The cars included in this pack are K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider, The Dukes of Hazzard's General Lee, the Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters and the Delorean from Back to the Future. Pretty good. The prices however are a bit much in my mind.

Three of them will be available for 160 MS points while the Delorean will run for 320. That's around $2 for the cheap and $4 for the last. I think this is a bit much for one car, granted the Delorean can hover. If you wish to buy them all as a pack, it will run you 600 points (~$8) which is a saving of about $2.

I am however, ok with them charging this but only because it's Burnout Paradise. Normally I would think these are too much but with all the free content coming out for this game, they need to start charging and soon. It was mind blowing how this game only run for $20 retail, they release several free updates -- significant updates -- and it's published by EA. Crazy!

I'm not sure yet if I will be downloading any of these, I think I might grab the Delorean due to my love for Back to the Future. Speaking of which, I need to find a copy of all those on DVD.

This also brings up this week's poll: Which of the BP (Burnout Paradise) legendary cars are you getting?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Should've gone to Wal-mart or something

So the clock tells me it is 3:42 - in the afternoon I should add - and I have been running a download on my 360 for over 6 hours now.

Let me back up though.

Block Busters is currently having this deal where all games have a minimum trade in value of $10. This is good. This is especially good if you look at my collection of 360 games. Since I tend to stop by an EB or BBV when I'm in the area, I can usually find some crap-ass game for $5. These are games I never play again, so it's safe to say I have a pretty varied assortment of games I could bring in. My first run doing this got me $60. I have another 4 or 5 games I'd still like to bring in. I really don't want to own Bulletwitch anymore. With some of the credit I got, I picked up Burnout Paradise.

With my new game, I had set aside quite a bit of time and the majority of my night to be playing this online. I stopped playing it before when I borrow it off a friend and returned it long before the now-released DLC was even heard about. So there are definitely new experiences to be had.

Starting up my game I was alerted that I couldn't play online with the new download. So I began the download last night. I haven't played much of the game since as I only really want to play online or try out the new bikes and other add-ons. I had it going for a few hours last night and started it back up around noon today. 6 hours later, we stand at 49% completed. Great.

Assuming the download moves along as it has been for the past few hours, I should be done around 10 o'clock tonight. I will be playing quite a bit afterwards. If anyone is looking to do some of the online challenges, let me know for I will be doing a lot.

5:17 - 64%
5:48 - 68%

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Review: Afro Samurai - 7

Afro Samurai is a game entirely focused on the old hack and slash action system and despite some awkward plat forming sections, lives up to its name. You play as a samurai conveniently named Afro Samurai as you disembody your enemies throughout numerous levels. It does a great job of making you feel like you are completely destroying your foes but begins to fall short when actually adventuring.

The main character, Afro, is in search for the number 1 headband which is being worn by the man who killed his father. Afro currently holds the number 2 headband (which you collect early in the game) and is on a path of revenge. Possessing the number 1 headband means that you are the greatest sword master in the entire world. This is the reason that your father was killed in the first place and now you must fight your way through mass numbers of enemies in order to avenge your dad.

The game’s main focus is on its battle system. Throughout each level you will encounter many enemies in which you must kill before continuing on. It goes with the norm for these kinds of games whereas it gives you X for a quick attack and Y for a strong attack. You will be mainly using these two buttons and just mashing them for the entirety of the game. This brings up one of Afro Samurai’s key flaws: its monotone nature. As most hack and slash games are, the only thing to do is continuously hit your attack buttons until you are done the game. Afro Samurai is no exception to this.

However, the game’s combat varies by the addition of “Focus Attacks.” These attacks are more powerful than your regular moves and add a bit more thinking to your battles. Apart from the standard fighting, you can go into focus mode and then angle your attacks with the left analog stick and choose either a horizontal (X button) or vertical (Y button) slash to perform. This causes the game to slow down so you can target your enemies’ specific body parts to chop off. Once you can pull these off with no problem, the fighting becomes quite fun. Stringing together your sword attacks, your kicks (B button) and even being able to flip around in slow motion make for a great time. It’s quite satisfying when you finally slice your opponent clean in half right when they were in mid air. Killing them also leads to their blood pooling out which is a nice addition.

Apart from the game’s combat moments, which are about 75% of the game, you will need to run move around through each level and even some plat forming sections. This is where Afro Samurai has its greatest downfall. The plat forming sections will require you to execute tasks such as wall climbing or running along walls. The reason these sections are flawed is that the controls specific for the section aren’t the best. You will only be able to run along a wall if you have angled yourself exactly as you need. Since the game requires no buttons to be pressed or held to initiate wall runs, you can only jump (A button) towards the wall and hope you got it right. This also becomes evident when you need to wall jump between two walls several times. This requires you to run up the first wall and then jump to the one opposite and continue this till you reach the top. Around 25% of the attempts of these will end with Afro not grabbing the edge or wall section and falling back to the bottom. There have been several moments that I was cruising up a wall until my character, for no reason, back flipped back to the ground instead of launching himself to the opposing wall.

The game also doesn’t allow you the ability to run up/along any wall in any other parts of the game. You can only pull off these gravity defying stunts when at the appropriate points. This harms the game since it shows how restricted some of the controls and game play elements are. This also shows how insignificant the plat forming is to the overall game. You do end up doing it a lot, but specific ‘wall-runable walls’ take away from the charm of the game. This makes the game feel choppy as it doesn’t all flow together. You are either doing crazy wall runs or you are in a fight. It would have been much nicer to be able to pull off some wall jumps and insane stunts during the combat.

To add to the annoyance, the camera in Afro Samurai doesn’t fit well at all. It inverts the X axis without giving the player an option to adjust any of the controls for it. This comes up as an issue most of the time while fighting. It can be quite irritating to not be able to see the enemies behind you and thus, leads to more damage being done to your character. It also has a tendency to get stuck on small objects or pass behind trees and once again, this can lead to a quick death. Lastly, as the plat forming sections are hard enough as it is, not being able to adjust the camera the way you like it ends up with costing you more time or having you jump off a cliff that you couldn’t see.

The most appealing aspect of Afro Samurai is its graphical style and original soundtrack. The artwork is very different from most other games on the market and especially in this genre of games. When the camera zooms in on the characters or scenery you can see that shadows have been cross hatched to add depth. For example, a close up on Afro’s face will reveal little diagonal lines running across all his skin. The beauty of this graphic style is a good fit for a game paralleling its anime version. It just feels right. Partnered with the soundtrack, the game is both good looking and sounds great. All music was composed specifically for the game and makes a good fit. This puts it apart from most actions games since you will be hearing a fantastic hip-hop song playing with lyrics based on the Afro Samurai story instead of fast passed techno or rock music.

Afro Samurai does a great job of making you feel incredibly powerful during its combat. Being able to slice any enemy’s body part off in one quick (or slow motion) attack feels great. And seeing your enemies explode into pools of blood just adds to this. Partnered with a beautiful art style and awesome music leads to a great game. You won’t be frustrated with a certain plat form section for too long and after getting used to the dreadful camera take away most of the issues. These issues don’t take away from the game’s charm however as most of the game is brutal hack and slash fighting, and Afro Samurai pulls this aspect off quite nicely.

Overall: 7/10