Early Maken X Impressions

Maken X INLAY

I was talking with a friend recently and coincidentally discovered that I never knew Atlus’s Katsura Hoshino, as well as Kaneko and Shoji Meguro all worked on a first-person-slasher for the Dreamcast in 99′. Being quite the surprise and hearing that it was only 12 dollars everywhere on Ebay I promptly picked it up. Oh, and it was also released in the states. Seriously wow. Anyway, I just thought I’d jot down a few thoughts I had about the first two hours I’ve played of the game so far.

Addressing the fact that this game is indeed a first person sword swinging action game for the Dreamcast let me mention that the controls are definitely weird. The only directional input is used with the control stick, meaning to turn you have to basically stop and turn left or right. Not the most convenient when enemies sometimes approach you from all sides, making simply turning around to face your opponent even the most tedious thing. Not only that but because of this you can be overwhelmed by just three enemies quite quickly. Although as an upside to movement there is a strafe feature when holding down the right trigger, as well as when locked on to enemies. This movement didn’t take me long to get used to, but managing enemies is still a major pain. Continuing in the vein of movement you can do short hops as a defensive maneuver or jump over locked on enemies to attack for more damage from behind. Blocking is preformed by holding back, and there is no chip damage but some attacks cannot be blocked.

To make keeping track of enemies easier there is a lock on button (Y), that helps a ton when one on one, but otherwise it’s basically useless when managing other enemies. Everything is kinda useless when that happens as I’ve mentioned. Maybe I just haven’t found a strategy yet who knows, this game is weird.

Before I go into attacking let me mention a really cool feature called “Brainjacking.” This is when the sword, spirit, thing you control can essentially posses another being to use as a host for attacking. This occurs sometimes within levels, or during cutscenes, or possibly even on the overworld map. Since you are able to switch bodies the type of weapon Maken X becomes always changes along with your fighting style. Not only that but your Attack, Speed, etc change as well. At one point I made the decision of being an injured flight attendant with a taser baton. That couldn’t have been a worse decision. If this game had difficulty levels flight attendant man would be the hardest difficulty.

So yeah you mash X to attack/combo, and most of the time the character will have a useless special move you can use to attack with by holding it down. If you hold back and press X you get a slightly different attack. That’s pretty much it. Dodge stuff, jump over the enemy for their weak point, mash. It seems kinda boring but it’s actually really fun.

I should mention that this game has seven endings. There are dialogue and level choices, and I don’t know if who you Brainjack with matters but it probably does.

The English voice acting is awful but at least it gives me a good laugh.

The story is pretty ehhhhhhhhhh so far.

The graphics are nice.

The levels are a good length and the difficulty is pretty balanced too. Just gotta get good at it’s odd mechanics and you’re set.

The music is pretty sweet.

And for a game by mostly RPG Atlus staff as well as the team around it, damn is it solid. I wasn’t expecting it to feel like a full game or something I dunno. If you like Atlus, Hashino’s stuff, and weird first person games please get this. The English copy is like 12 bucks everywhere.

Bloggin’: One Piece, MegaTen IV, and NiGHTS

Hello all! I decided that maybe I should do more daily posts, whether they are personal, reviews, or any other form of writing. You may see a lot of these type if I manage to keep up with this on at least a weekly basis. We’ll see. Now, onto the bloggin’.

As some of you may remember, Toonami made it’s return more than a year ago and has been steadily running every week without a hitch. Although I’m not really a fan of what shows they run, or the “watch one episode a week” thing, I’m glad to see it back. I decided to tune in yesterday at 2 o’ clock to watch an episode of One Piece. I have been slowly trying to get current with the anime, although that endeavor has been on hold for a year now. Well, until now. This morning I watched another five. It’s the one long running shounen anime I enjoy. Glad I turned it on last night.  I kinda regret staying up until 3 watching bad anime though. I mean, Soul Eater isn’t that bad, but then Sword Art came on and…ugh.

I’ve also been reaching the end of Shin Megami Tensei IV on my 3DS. If it was possible, I would have liked to go down the neutral route, but it seemed like there was no way it would happen. Accepting this fact I began heading down the path of chaos…that is, until the game told me “What? You’re not evil. Get out.” Then I was thrust into neutral locked route. I suppose I was more law then chaos, and the choice put me on the path I wanted from the start. So that was pretty rad. Until the game told me to take care of around 15 bothersome sidequests to progress. Not only did I have to do a bunch of sidequests, but the game didn’t tell me which ones. So it was off to the internet! After slowly completing the quests, and wasting four hours on one I didn’t need to do, I am now progressing through Purgatorium. Then I’ll be off to hell or something. Fun stuff.

Oh, and on Friday night, part of my dream had me playing Saturn NiGHTS. Upon awaking I decided I wanted to play it, but psssh, I wasn’t spending $10 on the download one. Instead I settled for the Wii sequel, which I acquired for $2. Good deal. Maybe I’ll tell you if it’s really bad when I finally get the chance to play it. For now I’m gonna finish SMTIV, then move onto Tales of Xillia and Dragon’s Crown.

And that’s my weekend! Well, I also played Dokapon Kingdom with friends and watched Tokyo Godfathers, but that wasn’t on my mental list of stuff I felt like bloggin’ about. So that is all! Until next time.

Anime and High School

yuno

If you weren’t aware, I’m 17 and going to be starting 12th grade this September. I have also been watching anime since I was a wee boy. I became more active with it once I reached 8th grade. Now let me get to my point.

I would watch anime like Shakugan no Shana and compare myself to how old they were. As fictional characters they were older than me! Same with Persona and other stuff I was watching/playing at the time. Although now, I am either as old, or older than all of these high school characters! It’s so weird.

I still play Persona from time to time, and now I’m older than most of the characters! I got older than them, as they remained the same. (I mean unless we consider persona 4 arena and and and) AHEM. Anyway, now I’m able to relate to a lot of the struggles these characters have. Mainly concerning college, motivation, dreams, finding the path we truly want to lead and other big kid life talks. I have the general idea, but I’m still struggling to find where exactly I belong. What’s really interesting, is how much anime has legitimately made an impact/helped me indirectly. And I mean overall, relating these characters on as simple of a level as just being the same age, or doing similar stuff comes to mind as well.

Then I start thinking, “What happens when I get older? Will I be able to relate and enjoy such anime if I’m not in high school or college?” Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Even anime set in one place can offer many different views and events, even if it’s just a bunch of high school kids. I won’t deny, it’ll definitely make me feel weird and probably old. That’s the fun of it though, going in for the bittersweet nostalgia. Hopefully by then I can say I’m having even more fun than I did when I was their age. But hey, I’m only 17, I got a ways to go and a heck of a lot of work to do.

Credits to HidaSketchx365 Episode 9 2nd half, for prompting me to feel like writing this. HidaSketch makes me do feel like doing stuff like this sometimes. I thank it for that. Maybe I’ll write about it another time. Maybe.

Anyway! Hope this was coherent for something I just spontaneously wrote at 3:30 in the morning. Goodnight!

The Games I Beat in 2012

Hello and happy new year! As you can see I made no posts or wrote anything as I said I would, sadly. It’s not like this level of incompetence is new for me but it is still agitating. ALTHOUGH, I am going to throw together a list of what I have beaten this year, because that seems fun. This is all based off of my “Memory Card” on backloggery.com. You can find the link to my Backloggery in the Links section. Many of these games were not completely played through in 2012. As in, I got Demons Souls in 2010 but didn’t finish it until 2012.

  • Vanquish and inFamous (1/1)
  • Super Mario 3D Land (1/10)
  • Metroid: Zero Mission (1/23)
  • Metal Gear Solid (1/28)
  • Castlevania (2/11)
  • Rayman Origins (2/19)
  • Metal Gear Solid 2 HD (March?)
  • Mother 3 (3/3)
  • Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (3/12)
  • Rayman 2 (3/26)
  • Katawa Shoujo (Rin, Lilly) (Somewhere between May and June)
  • Kirby’s Adventure (Replay) 3D (4/5)
  • Shadow of the Colossus (Replay) HD (4/8)
  • Kid Icarus 3D (4/10)
  • Portal 2 (4/21)
  • Gunstar Super Heroes (5/5)
  • Klonoa 2: Dream Champ Tournament (5/6)
  • Devil May Cry 3 (5/10)
  • Journey (5/13)
  • Tales of Graces f (5/30)
  • Jet Grind Radio (6/1)
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater HD (6/11)
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga (6/15)
  • Digital: A Love Story (6/16)
  • Lone Survivor (6/17)
  • Killer 7 (6/22)
  • don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story (6/29)
  • Ico HD (July)
  • The Idolm@ster SP: Perfect Sun (7/10)
  • Grief Syndrome (7/17)
  • Corpse Party (8/19)
  • Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (9/1)
  • Metroid Fusion (9/18)
  • Mario 64 16-star speedrun (September)
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (9/28)
  • Demons Souls (9/30)
  • Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga, Super Mario Bros. 3 (October)
  • Rocket Knight Adventures (10/18)
  • Bit.Trip Runner (10/19)
  • Deathsmiles (iOS) (10/27)
  • Professor Layton and the Last Spector (11/1)
  • Persona 4 Arena (Story), Mega Man Maverick Hunter X (replay) (November)

Review: Paper Mario: Sticker Star

(Originally posted on 11/21/12 at Dtoid)

Paper Mario is a series that gained praise for standing out among other RPG’s as a more welcoming and cheery game when compared to the Final Fantasys and other Square/Enix properties. Its humor was something many of these games lacked and it expanded the Mario “universe.” Although I use that term lightly, Miyamoto would rather consider some of these plots non-canon because of how out there they can be.

Super Paper Mario changed the series up with its platforming-RPG gameplay, showing that Paper Mario didn’t have to be just turn-based.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star tries to return to form, but with a bit of a twist and a few too many ideas.

During the Sticker Festival, the citizens of the mushroom kingdom hold festivities centered around the sticker star, although Bowser would rather steal it. In an attempt to do so he ends up crashing into it; absorbing the star’s power. As a result, the five royal stickers are scattered and you must go retrieve them.

Upon the catastrophic destruction of the sticker festival, you meet a sticker that takes the shape of a crown and goes by the name of Kersti. She is essentially your partner and guide for when you are having a bit of trouble. Kersti then instructs you on the ins and outs of holding down “A” to harvest stickers for your sticker album. Once you finish cleaning up the town a bit, and helping out some toads in need, you encounter a tutorial battle.

As everyone may know, recently Nintendo has given hints and help for less experienced players. This game does not do that at all. The tutorial battle only tells you how to choose stickers to attack as well as pressing “A” when you jump on enemies. After this point, the only other elements of battle that are explained is how to use the spinner, which allows you to use multiple stickers at once. After stomping out the few tutorial goombas, you can head to the world map as well as checking out the local sticker shop.

Once arriving on the world map you are given four choices of departure, the first three worlds and the harbor. My reaction was more or less “Oh, I can choose where to go first,” but of course, you actually can’t since there are obstructions keeping you from progressing. I suppose that is alright since the levels are labeled 1-1, 2-1 to imply what order you should obviously progress in, but it leaves you a tad disappointed. This leads right into the next interesting bit of PM:SS – levels! Instead of exploring large areas, you travel through levels in a way that is similar to NSMB. For a handheld format, having levels was a good way to incorporate the pick up and put down play style for some gamers. The levels are not too lengthy and the game auto saves every time you head to the world map, which is convenient for a semi-lengthy RPG.

The major upset for me though, was the lack of originality in what kinds of areas each world was. I honestly felt like I was playing NSMB while looking at this map. You have your grass land, desert land, poison land, ice land and etc. Since the Paper Mario franchise always had such different and appealing places to explore, I had hoped this game would too. It just felt so stale for a game that was supposed to be different from the norm.

One of the first things I noticed once entering level 1-1, was how well the 3D compliments the art style of the game. Seeing as how the characters and set pieces are flat, the 3D helps to make distinguishing depth much easier and also adds to the paper gimmick. The game can really look like you’re staring into someone’s cutesy shoebox diorama. Along with that, if you look at your shiny stickers on the bottom screen and tilt you 3DS, it really looks like they are shining! Neat!

Although not everything is made out of paper, there are a multitude of stickers littered throughout each level for you to peel and pluck for use in battle. At first I was turned off by the idea of having to constantly stop and pick up stickers, but you honestly never notice it. My mind sort of went into auto-peel mode whenever I saw a sticker, making the process more part of the game than a tedious task.

Every sticker that you pick up (excluding key items) is stored on the bottom screen in your sticker album, and can be used in battle. Battle stickers can range from jump to hammer and other usable items. To make it a tad more interesting there are different types of jump and hammer stickers such as the “Line Jump” which allows you to jump on each enemy in the battle a few times. Along with different types of stickers, there is also varying shininess, which determines how much stronger each sticker is.

Now with that in mind, this means that Mario’s power only increases depending on how shiny the stickers are. Here is one of my biggest problems with the game. Because there are no magic points or attack stats which is caused by the sticker system, you also gain no experience from battle. None. In a game that wants be an RPG and a little bit of something else, going into random battles is absolutely pointless. Throughout the entire first world I was able to avoid almost every enemy other than about three mandatory battles.

I thought “They’re going to give me a reason to fight these battles, right?” Wrong. They fix this by throwing too many battles at you while you’re trying to figure out how to complete stages. Some levels have more unavoidable enemies than others, but even then you can decide to run away from them with no consequences. I think it is always good to experiment and try something new, but when you take away one of the main structures of this game genre it feels absolutely pointless to keep playing it. You may find health upgrades in some levels, which is helpful, but otherwise you would be pretty prepared to just beat the game from the get go. Regardless, the battle system isn’t that riveting, which just makes matters worse.

In addition to stickers, you can also pick up what are referred to as “Things.” Before you say anything, let me elaborate. Things are 3D items that you can pick up and are added to the Things section in your inventory. After acquiring a Thing, you can head back to town and turn it into a sticker. Each Thing can be used in a different way and for different purposes. One of the few uses is as a battle sticker to deal a chunk of damage. These Thing stickers can range from a pair of scissors to a jackhammer among other items. Some of these attack stickers are very required to defeat a boss, but which one you should carry on you, save, or use is sometimes not very clear. Since each Thing is one use, you may have to do a lot backtracking because you have either missed the Thing you need or accidentally used it earlier. The banality of this process is so irritating, especially because you may not even remember where you got some of these Things. As a result of wanting to avoid this grueling process, your Things section stays full with each and every Thing you find in fear of having to go back and pick it up again.

Attacking is not the only thing you need Things for (See what I did there! Ha!). Some are used for solving puzzles in a mode called “paperization.” By pressing the “Y” button, Mario can zoom out from the field of view with the help of Kersti, and affect or fix the environment. When in this mode, you may either notice things that can be peeled, or boxes where stickers can be placed. Some boxes are used to create item blocks to upgrade stickers, while larger boxes are for placing thing stickers. One of the few problems you encounter is an unmovable windmill, which can be affected by placing the fan sticker. It adds another charm to the sticker gimmick.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a flawed RPG, platforming, puzzle solving mess of failed ideas and is lacking in a silly narrative, rather than “Collect the stickers and save the princess go go go.” Nintendo definitely put a lot of work into the game to make it feel solid, and it is, but it just felt too jumbled and flawed that I was so unmotivated to keep going. The cute aesthetic and fantastic music sadly did not make up for the rest of this game’s flaws.

6.5/10

Review: Sonic Generations (PS3)

(Originally posted on 12/8/11 at Dtoid)

After every Sonic fan’s whining and complaining, Sega finally decided to take the best approach to creating a game celebrating Sonic’s 20th anniversary, a simple but fun and exciting mix between classic 2D Sonic and modern 3D Sonic.

Sonic Generations begins with seeing our favorite spiky hedgehog running through Green Hill Zone until an evil shadowy figure appears, casting some funky time magic, but in the future, all of Sonic’s friends are throwing him a surprise birthday party. Eating a delicious chili dog whilst surrounded by happy faces…what could go wrong? Well, the obvious of course. The same shadowy creature appears and opens up portals to what appears to be different stages from Sonic’s past. His friends are all sucked into these different portals and Sonic tries to give chase, only to be knocked unconscious and sent into a world where all these timelines exist together. Now, it is your job to save your friends and fix time.

The basic level select of Sonic Generations is set in a type of hub, where you are able to move about freely to select an Act or Challenge. In every section of the hub there are three Zones and one boss stage. Every Zone is a recreation of areas from Sonic’s past games, but with a twist. Each Zone includes two Acts: one you can play as classic Sonic and the other as modern Sonic.

In Act one, classic Sonic stages are truly what they say they are. Classic. None of the homing attack gimmicks or modern look that Sonic 4 had. Just your simple run, jump, and spin dash; the way I remember it. I really enjoyed and appreciated these levels. Playing through classic levels like Green Hill or Sky Sanctuary was quite the treat. Even a few level design callbacks to the original stages. Later on in the game you even get to explore originally 3D levels like City Escape or Seaside Hill in standard 2D platforming, which proves to be quite interesting.

One thing I really enjoyed about classic Sonic was enemy hopping. A mechanic that wasn’t as important in original Sonic becomes much more prominent here. Enemy hopping in certain areas can lead to shortcuts, brand new paths through the level you haven’t seen before, and red star rings that unlock collectibles. Oh, and spin dashing is insanely fast.

Act two features modern Sonic and as of Sonic’s recent game, Sonic Colors, Sega seems to be slowly bringing Sonic back to life, and this game surely finishes the job for me. Colors’ gameplay is a mix between forward running 3D environments and sidescrolling 2D. Despite it being an improvement, the gameplay and level design still felt like it was missing something. It needed some more polish, and that’s exactly what’s delivered here. Modern Sonic has moves such as speed boosting, sliding, wall jumping, homing attack, and more. All of his skills blend smoothly together in these well designed and vibrant levels.

There’s also an online mode to get your name on the leader boards. Here, you have two choices: Time Trial or 30-second trial. In Time Trial it’s you’re average “get to the goal as fast as you can” deal, but in 30-second trial you’re given 30 seconds to race as far as you can through the level.

One thing that every modern Sonic gamer knows is the massive amount of glitches that come along, but there are almost none. Being able to flow through the levels without the constant frustration of bad level design and interrupting glitches is an improvement I never thought I would get to expierence.

After all three zones are completed, three sets of challenges appear, ten for each stage. There is one key placed in each of these areas that are needed to gain access to the boss. All you have to do to obtain these keys is beat one mission in each area. That’s it. One challenge. Out of 10. Here you can see they aren’t trying to force the extra content on you, but at least having you take a stab at it if finishing the game is all you are really looking to do. I really like the idea that I don’t have to go through an onslaught of these; I guess you could say, side quests, to progress.

You may be wondering, what would provoke me to even play the rest of the challenges if I can just win by playing a few? Collectibles. After every challenge you unlock a new piece of artwork, music, and sometimes even a new skill. The artwork can range from concept art of stages to just original character drawings. The music on the other hand is all from past games. Literally, almost every Sonic game has at least one music track featured. Then when you collect these songs, you can apply them to different stages if you want to mix things up a little. Oh yeah, and they’re just damn fun. Missions ranging from beating another you in a race, having Sonic’s friends help through obstacles, or even bouncing the end level flag to the end of the level as a Sonic 3 callback.

The boss fights are all brought back from the past as well but bigger than before. Although they may look more intimidating or more challenging, they really aren’t. They just didn’t give me the same feeling of excitement as the originals did. Even the final boss is a let down which was kind of a disappointment for me. Rival battles for chaos emeralds are also included as a nice touch and I actually, despite their low difficulty, had a fun time with them.

Another cool addition is the Skill Shop. Here you can purchase upgrades that make finishing stages or completing challenges easier like “Power Sneakers” that make you even faster or the “Flame Shield” from Sonic 3. Up to a max of five skills can be equipped and you also can’t go over a skill point number of 100. So be sure to choose your skills wisely.

Without a doubt though, this is one of my favorite looking PS3 games. It’s bright and vibrant colors just stand out so much in its high definition quality. The green grass of the Green Hill Zone, the ruins of Sky Sanctuary Zone, or even just watching Sonic fly across the screen makes Sonic Generations look outstanding. It’s just such a nice change of pace from the very gray and stagnant colors we usually get in HD, not saying those are a bad thing though. The presentation of the game itself is a little overdoing it for my tastes. The cluttered level load screen to the odd looking pause menu are just, shall I put it simply, ugly. It’s definitely bright, but just a little too confusing.

While Sega had been digging a deeper, and deeper hole for Sonic video games, they finally clambered out of that ditch with Sonic Generations. Fast-paced and polished gameplay, a simplistic story, gorgeous graphics, and plenty of replayability, Sonic Generations really proved itself, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.

9/10