Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What I'm Playing, Majune '13 (Pt.1)

at 5:09 PM
In this feature, we commemorate games I have for the first time started and finished in the last few highly variable time units.

Man this one has clearly been sitting for too long - I hardly remember starting PSIV. Months are long, as Chow Tzu once famously claimed (only to land himself in jail - forever). Gonna split it in half (yay even numbers) for ease of reading, and to buy myself an extra day's post.

Oh. I guess I should add that "Majune" is just my little way of saying "the second half of May and the first half of June". Send me an email at if you would like to purchase the rights to this exciting new neologism.

Special Recognition for Starting and Finishing:

Anarchy Reigns (Xbox 360)

Yeah, like I was gonna miss this one. A Platinum game and the spiritual successor to MadWorld, one of the three best action games of this generation? So what if the concept is dumb? Vanquish seemed lame too, and that turned out to be Vanquish. Anarchy Reigns is more a fighting game than a brawler (though as we know, those are near-identical genres). Since the online is dead at this point (and I'm not an online gamer anyway), it's nice to see that there's a full Vs. CPU mode that will populate a match with fifteen sim players. The campaign offers up a few time-wasting challenges and large, non-linear Super Mario 64-style levels, providing a gradual introduction to the cast of characters with a few souped-up one-on-ones. The payoff is the expansive roster - 16 characters may not seem like anything incredible for a fighting game, but in a Bayonetta-styled 3D rampage, it's cool to get some variety. It's incredibly out of the ordinary for games like Lords of Shadow or God of War to offer even two playable characters, so Reigns is a bit of an indulgence. How much actual variety is there between characters? I won't tell if you don't. Because not much can undermine the joy of choosing between a double chainsaw and electric hands and gun leg and robo-jet.

Games Started:

Phantasy Star IV (Genesis / Wii VC)

I already pretty much made a first impressions post of Phantasy Star IV. I'm still at it, even if my pace has slowed down as the repeated turn-based battles take their toll. Why can't all RPGs end after 15 hours? I guess it's nice to have more to play later. One comment I didn't make in my prior post is the quality of the dialogue. It's surprisingly great, with a funny, down-to-earth tone. I cannot say I ever expected a 90s JRPG to land this many jokes, and one particular plot twist was that much more effective for it.

SoulCalibur V (Xbox 360)

Can you say "buyer's remorse"? Why on earth would I spend money on this game? "Because I'm a compulsive idiot" is the only answer. I already have SoulCalibur II and IV, and only play them for the single-player modes. So why get V, universally acclaimed as the most pointless and redundant entry in the series? Because I had a craving for SoulCalibur, and something new and shiny is unnecessarily hard for me to resist when I have $20 burning a hole in my pocket. So, yeah, SCV is exactly the same as IV, with all the single-player features and character-building elements excised. I'm only still playing it out of a sense of obligation to punish myself for wasting money. Really it just makes me want to go back to IV and finish the challenge modes I left undone.

I understand that the game is one budget cut away from non-existence, but that doesn't mean it was any cheaper for the consumer. Certain seemingly-minor omissions are simply infuriating. For instance, why can't I set the number of rounds in a match? I don't want to play best-of-five. Why can't I disable time limits? Why are there only 3 difficulty settings? Normal is too easy for me, but Hard is a gigantic step up. The older games had all of these match options (and many more), along with seven or eight difficulty settings. Were they that hard to port over or re-implement? That's the kind of corner amputation that makes me feel genuinely bad to have given Namco money for this. Please, please, please do not buy SoulCalibur V, and think really hard before you buy another Namco game.

Games Finished:

Lollipop Chainsaw (Xbox 360)

Not a long game, but LolliChain is one of the many that's been sitting on my shelf at 9/10 complete for almost a year now. It's got a great score-driven combat system that makes me want to invest time shooting for S rankings in all the stages, but unfortunately undermines its greatest strength with way-too-long levels that don't facilitate this at all. I thought DmC was awfully harsh for tasking me with 100%ing 20 minute levels - Lollipop wants me to perfectly run 30-45 minutes? It has an explicit score challenge mode suggesting this is exactly what Grasshopper was expecting, but why couldn't they break up the stages further?

You might think of Lollipop as No More Heroes minus the bullshit. I guess where "bullshit" means "satire". The result is a succinct and lively romp in line with lesser Platinum games like God Hand. It doesn't have the production quality or sheer sense of scale to rival Platinum's finest work, but its idiosyncratic combat dichotomy (between dance and chainsaw moves, predictably enough) gives it a nice strategic core that will leave you itching for the next battle just to perfect your moves. The boss showdowns are probably a bit too thinly spread, leaving them feeling like an insubstantial element of the experience - they're at a complexity level comparable to No More Heroes or Treasure, but you also only get six of them. 

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