Friday, July 12, 2013

What I'm Playing, Junely '13

at 6:23 PM
In this feature, we commemorate games I have for the first time started and finished in the last few highly variable time units.

It's pronounced "june-LYE". Because once again we're stuck between months, because I forgot when something ended and then a whole week passed and then it was like oh no my life is flashing before my eyes. It's summer, so new games aren't coming out, especially because a new console generation is on the horizon, but it's not like new games ever stopped me before.

Special Recognition for Starting and Finishing:

Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge (Game Boy / 3DS VC)

Despite Capcom having released up to as many as like I dunno I think six Mega Men on 3DS Virtual Console, only ONE of those is from the Game Boy Mega Man series (which itself contained five unique games). Because this is Capcom we're talking about, so they need to milk stuff they've already released - you know, those NES Mega Man games that were already re-released as a collection on GCN and PS2, then re-re-released on Wii Virtual Console? Where the hell are the fucking Game Boy Mega Mans?! Don't you worry, because I wrote on my Wily's Revenge post-play survey at Club Nintendo that if Nintendo doesn't get on Capcom to release these games, something bad is going to happen. Yes I fill out those surveys. You get 10 coins for it! That's like 1/10th of a free game!

Anyway. Wily's Revenge. Considering that the original NES series teetered on the brink of tolerability, often slipping into shit (MM1 and MM3 in particular), you'd worry that a Game Boy entry would certainly fall on the crap side. I know I did. Surprisingly, though it may be a bit tame, Wily's Revenge is awfully competent and occasionally even surpasses its console brothers with smart design twists. In particular it displays my favorite use of fuzzy blocks to date (to be elucidated in a later article) and one of the cooler boss weapons up to this point in the series, Enker's Reflecto-Shield. The game is short and the levels largely in the class of easy forgettability recognizable from MM1's Bomb and Cut Man stages, but it's a fun taste of Mega Man worthy of a look from fans.

Games Started:

Bad Bots (PC/Steam)

More like Bad Game! Eh, that was a cheap shot. Plus it's not a bad game. So double cheapshot. Basically I'm an asshole. Bad Bots was a relatively minor indie release on Steam that probably isn't benefiting from the hovering Metacritic average of fucking 40-something. It's not exactly innovative, but something this competently made by such a small (single-man) team at a low price-point hardly deserves that kind of derision. It's fun, it's unique to look at, it offers enough linear progression to distinguish itself from the litany of free Flash/mobile games out there, and it's fucking fun. Sorry if side-scrolling twin-stick shooters aren't en vogue anymore - anyone who likes them is sure to like Bad Bots. As is anyone who likes heavily saturated pulp-style scifi artwork. It's definitely not a must-buy, but the demo is worth a try, and if developers like Point 5 saw the same kind of cash flow as garbage-brains like Twisted Pixel and Team Meat, we'd have a much more colorful indie marketplace. Normally I'd complain that the writing is embarrassingly terrible, but it'd be kinda hard for the sole writer - who isn't a native English speaker - to be too embarrassed by his script.

Minecraft: Xbox Edition (what platform do you think?)

Never before has a game pioneered so quickly going from so addictively fun to so forgettably boring. Come on spell-check, your suggested corrections for "forgettably" are "forgettable" and "unforgettably"? How can those both be in the dictionary but "forgettably" isn't? What a mad, mad world we live in. This is like the time I killed that kid.

I'm exaggerating of course. He survived with fourth degree burns covering most of his body. But Minecraft certainly has the fun dynamic of like... those Flash games I played in the student center to kill free periods in high school. Kinda tedious at first, then it gets exciting, then it's just plain awesome, then around the three hour mark it's completely peaked and I move on. What was that one? Defend Your Castle or something? Minecarp is Defend Your Castle for a new generation. A generation where that is by far the most profitable business model in gaming. Could it at least have fucking quests or something? Why not just play with Legos?

See, I'm like a steelworker: I kill what I eat. See, I'm like a hunter gatherer: I kill what I eat. See, I'm like a bricklayer: I kill what I eat. See, see, I'm like a murderer: I kill what I eat. That's my description of Minecraft, and/or the lyrics to "Steelworker". Your call.

Mysterious Dungeon 2: Shiren the Wanderer (SNES)

Broooooooooooooo! Or is he???
If there's one thing I sometimes do, it's follow through on my promises here on this blog. So I played a bit'o roguelike in Chunsoft's original Shiren the Wanderer. Surprisingly, the game is damn fun - there's a gratifying responsiveness to the turn-based real-time action, the randomized floors are just the right size to feel unique but not labyrinthine, and the action comes fast and furious. Tying it all together of course is that one-death-ends-it-all tension that makes every rare reward feel even rarer. Unfortunately, I've now died so many times that I have a hard time reveling in any particular treasure, knowing that just around the corner some random-ass trap is probably gonna take it away from me.

Gradius II: Gofer's Ambition (Turbo-Grafx 16)

Konami riffing on Alien? I refuse to believe it!
The history of Gradius II is a bit odd - I'd actually like to do a feature comparing the NES and Arcade iterations of the game, as they're so completely different that they're essentially different games. What Japan got on the Turbo-Grafx (the US didn't get the game at all) is supposedly a pretty direct arcade port, one that will feel suspiciously familiar to any veteran of Gradius III. While II may lack III's coolest upgrade over the original (and the rest of the series), the customizable weapon sets, it otherwise parallels its graphics, music, and gameplay mechanics. Where the two differ is that Gradius II is really fucking hard. Maybe I'm speaking too soon, but after a few weeks with the game and dozens of runs, I can barely get through level 3. By comparison, I could beat the first five stages of Gradius III basically just by looking at them. II is almost like the Lost Levels of this series. 

Games Finished:

Saints Row The Third (Xbox 360)

Play through all two alternate endings! Experience morality choices like you could never dreamed was true! Man the ending of this game was dumb as hell. I was just excited that they finally gave me the chance to let a member of my "crew" die. Of course the game tried to make that feel super morally ambiguous or something and was all like "AH HOPE IT WAS WERT IT, DAWG", and I was like, hell yeah it was. That bitch was a stupid bitch. She did nothing but bitch and moan the entire game. She extremely deserved to die.

The climactic battle against the main villain is immensely unfun and ill-conceived. See, he's a luchadore, so the only way to defeat him is quick-time events. That's what I said. It's not like it was hard, but I was pretty pissed when the game glitched out and left me wandering around the ring for ten minutes mashing the attack button and thinking I was making progress, only to learn (after giving up and going online) that a QTE had failed to trigger and I had to reload my last save file. Weirdly (or thankfully), this battle isn't the end of the game, being followed by two 'cooldown' missions determined by the aforementioned moral choice. The better of the two sees the player take to Mars for one final confrontation with the villain (hmm... wonder if Volition reused their Mars assets from the Red Faction series...).

My final takeaway from this game: about halfway through, there was a zombie mission, and I thought to myself: for all the mayhem this game touts, how come there's no chainsaw melee weapon? Then at the end of the game, you do get a chainsaw. So good on 'em for including the chainsaw, but a little too late, no?

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