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So About Them “Videogames” August 2013

August 13, 2013

Hey folks. It’s around the time of the month in which I get on here and ramble about incoherently for a spell about video games.
It’s slow, slow, slow out there. By terms of releases as well as news. Xbox Live is doing their summer of arcade program again this year, though personally I think the line-up this time around is somewhat lack-luster.
My own opinion, of course.

Something I think a lot about with video games is difficulty. I’m by no means one of those people who absolutely needs to play a game on its hardest setting or using some obnoxiously difficult user-made rule-set or anything, but I do enjoy a fair challenge in a video game.
Far too often nowadays, you run into cases where you can turn your brain off completely while playing something and still come out on the other side of it relatively unscathed. The Call of Duty series is a good example of this. I of course don’t mean to single out Call of Duty; it seems like that series is the go-to punching bag for pretty much any complaint one could have about video games in recent years, but the effort required from the player to get from start to finish in the recent Call of Duty games is just shy of nil.

Difficulty can be executed improperly in other genres as well though. One of my favorite racing game series is Forza, and those are some games with some equally mind-boggling difficulty designs.
In Forza 3, as you progress through your career, you’re able to upgrade your car as much as you want just so long it still fits within the chosen event’s restrictions (in most cases, no A class car can participate in an E class race for example). Because of this, your car will just about always be better than those of your opponents’, as theirs are regular old stock vehicles. Since your car is better than theirs, each race essentially becomes less of a race, and more of a time trial.
They attempted to fix this in Forza 4, as there are settings to turn on opponent upgrades, but they went overboard with it here. In Forza 4, there’s a threshold you will reach in your single player career in which placing first in a race is practically impossible, as your opponents will run perfect, effortless circuits about the track each time.
In both games’ cases, the game may be pleasant to play regardless, but there is very little excitement involved in the races, as either you have a better car than your opponents’, or your opponents are free of human inconsistency, and are practically impossible to win against.

It’s tough to mention difficulty in video games these days and not mention Dark Souls, and while I can say that Dark Souls can be a challenging game, it wouldn’t call it a difficult one necessarily.
When I think of “difficulty”, I think of something in which the odds are so stacked against the player that they don’t have as much of a chance as they should, or in a way that player reaction/effort wouldn’t facilitate their success. Max Payne 3 is an excellent example of this “difficulty”. Difficulty to me is a bad thing. Difficulty is what comes from inexperienced game design teams, who are incapable of properly balancing their video game.
Dark Souls on the other hand, is a fair challenge. You will die, and a lot, but it will never feel like it was unfair. The world feels dangerous, and the enemies feel powerful, so you need to have your wits about you if you plan on trudging forward into unknown territory and expect to come out on the other side unscathed.
It’s a challenge that encourages you to think about the play area and its inhabitants and to try and suss out the most effective way to progress; and it’s this thought process that makes me so quick to designate Dark Souls as a game that, in a period in which games are either lazily designed to be difficult (in cases such as I Wanna Be The Guy or They Bleed Pixels), or intentionally designed to be easy (as is the case with most big budget games you see these days), Dark Souls is a game that executes on old school difficulty, but does so in a modern way.

 

What I’ve Been Playing-

1841439-box_ikarugaIkaruga-
Speaking of difficulty…
One of my favorite genres is shooter – and not first or third person shooters – I mean traditional 2D side-scrolling or vertically scrolling shooters in the vein of Gradius or R-Type.
My favorite types of shooters though are the bullet-hell variety, with some examples being Deathsmiles, the relatively recent Sine Mora, or the excellent Touhou series. I may be truly awful at playing them, but there’s a certain amount of joy that comes from wading through a screen full of dots that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else.
This is what Ikaruga is, but this was the game that (unless I’m mistaken, which I may very well be) originally began the polarity mechanic that you might have seen other games copy, such as Outland or even Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.
In Ikaruga, you control a ship which can be swapped between light and dark polarity at will. If a light enemy fires a shot at you, and your current polarity is light, you will absorb that shot instead of it destroying you. Absorb enough energy, and you can shoot out a volley of powerful polarized missiles.
Enemies are weak against the opposite polarity, and your own shots change to match your own polarity, so if you’re sitting in dark polarity and fire onto a light enemy for example, your shot will deal additional damage to them. But if you destroy an enemy that is the same polarity as you, they will send out a scatter of bullets upon death.
This mechanic takes a shooter that would already be challenging to begin with, and takes it to a whole new level. It’s a tremendously challenging game, and a tremendously beautiful one; and when you’re able to weave your way through a level without dying all the while keeping your score chain up, it’s tremendously rewarding as well.
It also has a nice narrative to it, but unfortunately most of that has to be learned of by reading manuals or what-have-you, since only fragments of it are shown within the actual gameplay.
Ikaruga is easily one of the best shooters I’ve played, and I find myself returning to it time and time again, if only to get completely destroyed by it.
People think something like Dark Souls is hard? You should play Ikaruga some time.

Something I would absolutely love to see would be a big budget bullet-hell shooter; one with top notch music/voice acting/etc. As it’s an incredibly niche sub-genre (here in America at least), I can’t see it ever happening, but I believe it would truly be something to behold if it were to happen.

 

Persona4ArenaPersona 4 Arena-
I have a lot of things I’d like to talk about with Persona 4 Arena, and I think it would be best to save the bulk of that for its own article, but I can say that while I do enjoy Persona 4 Arena quite a bit for what it is, it falls short in some unfortunate places.
The biggest one is the writing. I’m unsure if a different team localized the game than that of Persona 4 proper, or if a different team wrote it, but this game seems to lack the smart writing that Persona 4 (and 3) had. There are too many superfluous lines of dialogue in the story mode to wade through that repeatedly explain things you already know, or things that don’t necessarily need to be said to begin with. The story (so far; I’m not finished with it just yet), is fine and all, but the method in which it is told to you isn’t as impactful as was the case in the original game.
Gameplay-wise it’s fun enough, though there are some things about the fighting system that I don’t care for either. The main one is the pre-loaded combo you get when you spam the light attack button. This combo sucks away a small chunk of your life bar, but if it isn’t blocked, it does much more than that to your opponent.
I understand its inclusion as something to ease newer players into 2d fighting games, or people (like me) who don’t like them enough to invest time into learning super elaborate combos, but performing these pre-loaded combos feels kind of cheap, and being on the receiving end of them isn’t particularly fun either.
Second, the fights can end a tad too quickly. Even if you use the Burst mechanic to get yourself out of a combo, fights can still end in just a few lengthy combo strings.
Those things aside though, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played of Persona 4 Arena so far. It’s cool to see characters from one genre of game appear in a completely different one, and the Blazblue folks were able to cram just about every Persona RPG mechanic you could want into the fighting system (all-out attacks, spell casts, one-more, etc).
I wouldn’t call it a bad game, but so far it just hasn’t been as enjoyable as the last few Persona RPGs were.

 

super_house_of_dead_ninjas___promo_art__steam__by_sovanjedi-d622wo8Super House of Dead Ninjas-
A game that was on sale on Steam recently that had caught my attention was Super House of Dead Ninjas.
Sure, the low price point is always a good way to turn a few heads, but SHoDN is easily one of the best uses of three bucks out there as far as I’m concerned.
At face level, this game hits all of the typical modern-retro buttons, with pixelated art, throw-back music and a horizontal scan-line filter to boot, but it’s the gameplay that had me so pleasantly surprised with what I got for what little coin I tossed out.
In Super House of Dead Ninjas, you’re tasked with making your way down a large tower which is laced with traps, enemies and bosses. You have the usual repertoire of go-to ninja weapons and abilities, with all of the wall jumps, shuriken tossing and ninja magic you might expect, and as you make your way further down the tower and perform various tasks, new weapons and bonuses can be unlocked ranging from different types of weapons (with one of my favorites being the upgraded nunchuks, which can deflect enemy projectiles if timed correctly), new magic abilities, as well as bonuses to make your descent a little easier, such as extra lives or more timer.
The timer is important, for if you aren’t constantly moving and/or collecting clock power-ups, you will be chased down by (from what I could tell is) an unstoppable killing machine.
It can be a challenging game, as you die in one hit (though you do have multiple lives, as well as continues on the normal difficulty), but enemies are equally as fragile, and once you get the hang of how quickly the game moves, the feeling of breezing your way down the tower, flipping over obstacles and lopping the heads off of enemies left and right makes you feel like an insatiable angel of death.
Super House of Dead Ninjas has a nice throw-back tone about it, but its frenzied, energetic play-style and rogue-like elements keep it feeling modern at the same time. It isn’t a long game, but I think it’s worth every cent.

 

I’ve been fooling around with a number of other games, but not enough to have much of anything to say about them other than “yeah it’s alright so far”.
It’s slow-going’s-on out there at the moment, and I apologize if I’ve been unable to make the video game monthlies worth the read because of it.
Next gen is right around the corner!
That’s July/August though. Next time I post one of these, summer will be on the decline. Most unfortunate, as it seems this summer has come and gone in an instant.
Ignore this video game post and get out and enjoy that summer heat while you can! (Unless you can find SHoDN. Then uh.. play that. It’s awesome.)
じゃね。

From → Games, Rambles

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