Thursday, September 25, 2014

What I'm Playing, May '14

at 6:00 PM

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

More catch-up on unfinished posts. Again, the ones with long summaries I actually wrote back in May and the others will just get a sentence. Never gonna get these done if I keep giving every game a huge essay. Next up is the summer list. 

Games Finished (that never had a Started entry):

Mega Man V (Game Boy / 3DS VC)

Really like the execution of level themes in this game and its downplaying of gimmicks in favor of small unique moments.

Mega Man Xtreme (Game Boy Color / 3DS VC)

The Game Boy Megas Man were really all over the place. Dr. Wily's Revenge is a semi-port of Mega Man that retools the level design, Mega Man V is 100% original, and now there's Mega Man Xtreme, a mixed port of X and X2. Four stages are drawn from each game and strictly recreated here, so while the level design remains brilliant because the first two X games are, there's also no need to play this game if you have access to the SNES titles (which, if you own a SNES, PS2, Gamecube, Wii, or Wii U, you do). There are a few things that set Xtreme apart as distinctly worse: 1.) Select is the dash button, which is really pretty awful on a 3DS, 2.) the gameplay is a little crunched down to fit the smaller screen (enemies missing here and there), 3.) the level selection doesn't cohere since it was taken from two different games, 4.) most of the collectibles are gone and 5.) when you charge your gun (aka all the time) the lead guitar track cuts out of the music, making this the rhythm-only version of the X/X2 soundtrack.

Spec Ops: The Line (Xbox 360)

Spec Ops: The Pretty Good Story about PTSD That Wasn't as Much an Adaptation of Heart of Darkness as People / The Game Itself Said It Was. And would have been more effective with less shooting, to be completely honest. If it's supposed to be mind-numbing and emotionally dulling, mission accomplished, but we were there by the halfway point.

Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires (Xbox 360)

The Dynasty Warriors: Empires games are a sub-series all their own, having run for five or six games now (they started at 3). They use the same engine as their main series counterparts but instead of focusing on character variety and bosses, they shift the focus to tactics. It seems a little silly that at this point "Empires" isn't just a mode in the main games, since I can't imagine them having separate audiences. Just a cheap move by Koei to inflate sales from their die-hard fans.

Anyway, worth an extra purchase or not, DW6: Empires is a solid game. Like in DWG3, the player is still conquering territories by grinding through troops at enemy bases, but enemy commanders don't play as big a role in the action, functioning as HP sinks more than bosses. The movesets are extremely basic, allowing room for tactics to take over as the key gameplay element. Each map is wide open and contains almost a dozen bases and enemy armies, meaning there are far more critical points to the battle. Because the enemies are so plentiful and widespread, the player needs to take advantage of their ability to pause the game and issue attack and defense orders to allies. The game feels more along the lines of Battalion Wars or Battlestations than pure action, as winning requires the full utilization of the player force.

The strategic over-map (familiar to anyone who's romanced the three kingdoms) is more a stage select than anything, offering far too few options to make for real macro-strategy. Still, Empires seems to provide a nice middle ground between the tough arena fighting of the main series and pure turn-based tactics.

Games Started:

Tomb Raider (Xbox 360)

Basically the same gameplay style as Resident Evil 5, this shines when it breaks into exploration of broad climbforming hubs, but does so too infrequently and bores with it's scripted mini-game segments.

Lone Survivor (PC / Steam)

If you've ever said to yourself, "what would happen if I made Resident Evil into a sidescrolling pixelated thing and gave the player character the ravenous hunger of Ultima VII's Avatar", then you've played, sealed, and delivered Lone Survivor. See you're in this post-apocalyptic world and there are zombies and you can only shoot in three directions so to get headshots you gotta get real close but worse than ammo scarcity is food scarcity and also your little dude is going insane (maybe? or is the world going insane?!) so you're forced to trek out into the wilderness and keep moving to keep fed. So maybe it's like Don't Starve meets Eternal Darkness. There's some neat mystery going on (that of course as all insanity-based games threatens to get overindulgent) and a bit of old-timey adventuring of the go-find-the-scissors-to-cut-through-the-skin-wall variety. It's definitely thrilling to duck through a dark passage and have no clue where in time or space it may lead. I generally like the tiny graphics, as it reminds me that part of the horror of older games was the power of imagination. The old rule is that what you don't see is scariest, but I'd say that what you can only kinda-sorta half make out is even scarier. Trying to figure out what the fuck I'm even looking at can get some twisted possibilities running through my head and be even stranger than the often bland cut-and-dry 3D of modern horror.

The low-res art looks great on the environments but a lot of the monsters come out looking more silly than scary

Moon Chronicles: Episode 1 or whatever (Nintendo DS / 3DS eShop)

This was a shockingly boring game that wasn't survival horror at all, more like a spaced out visual novel whose remaining episodes I certainly will not be playing. Also, how many Alien references do you need in one game?

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