Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What I'm Playing, March '13 (Pt. 3)

at 5:07 PM
In this feature, we commemorate games I have for the first time started and finished in the last few highly variable time units.

Finally we put March to rest. It was a busy gaming month, what with being out of work 'n all. This feature is going to be dramatically shorter in the coming months, not requiring weekly installments.

Games Started:

Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters (GB / 3DS VC)

When did Kid Icarus become a classic? I think it was around the time Pit showed up for a Super Mash Bros. Brawl. At least, that's when it somehow jumped from the ranks of lesser Nintendo works like Pilotwings to being mentioned in the same breath as Super Mario Bros. and Mega Man. Leave that for another time though, perhaps my coverage of the 3DS game... what was it called... blanking here... my brain is saying Of Myths and Monsters and I know that's wrong... Uprising, that's right. Anyway, Myth-Mon is to Kidick as Metroid II is to Metroid: a full-fledged handheld sequel, same team, same story, expanded gameplay. Weird, right? Sequels shouldn't be on handhelds! But they were, and they did. Myth Sand Mo cleans up the formula of the NES game, instating all-directional scrolling, infinitely respawning enemies, and better balanced (fairer) dungeon gameplay. Downward scrolling alleviates the ridiculous oversight of the original which turned the bottom of the screen into a constantly rising deathtrap, and horizontal adds an element of exploration, hiding rewards beyond the player's direct line-of-sight. Infinite enemies creates potential for grinding, which may not sound like a good thing, but is at least in keeping with the game's demanding RPG elements. There is also more payoff to the role-playing/grinding, as this time around, upgrades stick around for dungeons.

Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS)

This never once happens in game - these characters are allies, best friends, and [spoiler]
I kinda already did a first impressions on this when I played the demo. After 25+ hours, I feel vindicated in my prediction that this would be the most interesting Fire Emblem in years. One interesting mechanic that doesn't reveal itself until hours into the experience is marriage/child-having. I don't think I'm spoiling too much by saying that the game involves time travel - this allows for parents and children to co-exist at the same age in the same time, skipping those BORING "growin' up" years. "Boring" in the RPG sense. Pairing off characters to get hitched is a game unto itself, allowing for skill and (mild) plot variance. Each arriving child opens up a new mission, and these missions provide more opportunities to cupidize your soldiers, creating more children and more child-missions. If you're anything like me, about two-thirds of the way through you'll get completely side-tracked and leave the plot for like ten hours to get all your gal-soldiers knocked up. This provides further incentive to utilize as many characters as possible, as there are only so many potential parents, and each pair only gets one child. The only complaint I have with this system is that it's a bit more rigid than it leads you to believe - the child and their story arc is entirely determined by the mother - the father only determines the hair color (a fact winkingly mentioned in one of the father/son conversations, wherein the father asks "did you get anything from me but your hair color?!"). I realize it would have been a shitload of work to program a unique child for each unique pairing, but it also would've inspired me to replay the game just to see all the different kiddies. Gotta catch a mall! As is, the only limitation on which ones you see is how many characters you manage to betroth. I don't know if that word can be used that way, and franklin, I don't care.

DmC: Devil May Cry (Xbox 360)

Even by fanboy standards, the four-game Devil May Cry series is extremely hit-or-miss. The only opinion that seems to bear any general consensus is that DMC3 is the best. So before saying anything about  the fifth and newest, DmC, I should mention that the only one I've played at any length is (note: DMC is not the same as DmC - the former is the first game, the latter the fifth). The only real point of comparison I'm going to make is that DmC is probably better. Dante's moveset is more expansive than it's ever been, probably more expansive than any combat character I've played outside of fighting games. He probably ranks in the same tier as BlazBlue in terms of sheer input variety. This provides a lot of combo options, and a less technical feel to it all - once you get used to the controls (and they will take some getting used to), you'll feel like you have a dozen choices for the next attack in each string. On the flip-side, the only way DmC makes you feel the need for these moves is the score counter. The basic X, X, X, X, X combo will usually clear the path if you're feeling lazy, even on the highest difficulty (the highest available from the start - there are three or four more that unlock after beating the game). So there's a lot of cool stuff to do, but the motivation to do it needs to be internal. It has to come from your heart.

Games Finished:

Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES / Wii VC)

Another Virtual Console game I've had for ages, this one I've near-completed many times, but never felt was worth the time to conquer. Golem helped me make it through the final boss on a co-op run (and by "helped", I mean "stole a bunch of my lives"), though as with Strania, we didn't get to see the True End-Boss since we played in Normal difficulty. Alien Wars is near-universally touted as the best Contra, but it doesn't really butter my bread. It's over far too quickly, and only three of the six stages are actual side-scrollers. Two are top-down - a style of shooter I like, except when reliant upon the ridiculous world-spinning controls found here. Most of the bosses are good, but the final impression was "it's over already?" More on this in an upcoming duologue comparing it to Hard Corps: A Contra AdventureIII's Sega Genesis counterpart.

Sleeping Dogs (Xbox 360)

This was quite the Herculean labor. Sleeping Dogs is one of the longest games I've finished in the past few years, clocking in above 30 hours. If that doesn't sound impressive, you don't know my opinion on long games. The last RPG I beat probably happened in the '90s. I suppose I always finish my Zeldas, so there's that. Still, it's unusual that I stuck this one out. What it came down to is that I loved the melee combat, the gunplay was half-decent, and the pacing was just right to keep it all fresh. You know how the Arkham games worked so well by alternating stealth and brawling? Sleeping Dogs works exactly the same, though it has about five types of mission instead of just two (though the focus certainly lies on driving, shooting, and punching). This one's got a full post to come. I'm still working on the major DLCs.

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