Want to Know More About Japanese Videogame History? Back This Kickstarter Project

Untold History of Japanese Game Developers
/ by Alex Balderas

This is a cross-post with sister site Nintendo Enthusiast. If you are interested in following Nintendo news and forming part of their community, make sure to check the site out!

There is a new Kickstarter campaign making the rounds, and this time it’s for a book on History. No, it’s not the kind of History you slept through in High School — it’s Videogame History.

The Kickstarter project is for John Szczepaniak’s book, The Untold History of Japanese Developers. It will reportedly contain interviews with key staff for such Japanese game companies as Hudson, SquareSoft, Konami, Capcom, and more.

Many books have been written about videogame history before (such as Steven Kent’s great book, The Ultimate History of Video Games, which I am currently reading, and loving), but the language barrier had so far prevented the history of Japanese videogames to be told completely. John Szczepaniak plans to remedy this by heading into Japan, hiring the best Japanese-English interpreters his money can afford, and using his many industry contacts to secure even more interviews than he’s already secured as of this moment.

The phrase “many industry contacts” is truly accurate, for Szczepaniak has been working as a videogame journalist and critic for many years. His Author Biography in Gamasutra states that “John Szczepaniak is a journalist, novelist, and copy editor. He’s written for Retro Gamer, GamesTM, Official PlayStation Magazine, The Escapist, plus over a dozen other publications. He frequently contributes to Hardcore Gaming 101, where he helped put together The Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures book,” and he claims to have “interviewed over 100 people in the last 9 years.”

I have personally already made my pledge. If you are a fan of videogame history (and you may very well be. I certainly didn’t know I was one until I read David Sudnow’s Pilgrim in the Microworld), then you should take a look at the Kickstarter page, and see if the book entices you. It may very well turn out to be essential for critics and serious fans alike.

[Source: Kickstarter]

DmC Review (PS3)

dmc_feature
/ by Alex Balderas

DmC review

Publishers: Capcom.
Developers: Ninja Theory.
Release Date: January 15, 2013 (X360/PS3) – January 25, 2013 (PC).
System: X360, PS3, PC.


DmC Review (PS3)

by Bryan G (Alaska_Gamer)

It can be pretty hard to reboot a franchise. Especially one with a fan base that is attached to that franchise to the point of yelling and screaming as hard as they can when that franchise goes in a direction they don’t like at all. After over two years since its “controversial” reveal, DmC Devil May Cry is out. While I’m not the best at them, I understand what the Devil May Cry games are about and appreciate the fact there’s that much depth to its systems. So how does this new one compare?

As a DMC game, it’s obviously not on the same level. That was at least to be expected given the bold and different direction the game was heading in, in terms of presentation and gameplay. But what about as a character action game? How does it compare to the likes of other great titles in the genre? It’s better than average, and there’s potential for something great, but it makes several mistakes that keep it from being a great action game, and as a result kept me from really enjoying it.

At the start, there are elements of Devil May Cry gameplay that are recognizable. You’ve got Dante’s signature weapon Rebellion, and his firearms Ebony and Ivory, and the moves you have with them are straight out of original DMC. You’ve got moves like Stinger (which can go into Trillion Stab), High Time, Helm Breaker, and so on. The way you execute your attacks is different though, as there is no lock on, there’s an evade button (two actually), and a second attack button that usually works as that weapon’s launcher. Attacks in general are a bit slower than their original versions, but the base combat works well. The combat being as well designed as it is makes this the best playing Ninja Theory game to date.

DmC review

Presentation wise, the look and style of DmC, or rather the commitment Ninja Theory makes to that style, is the most striking part about the game. Things like the soundtrack from Noisia and Combichrist, vivid colors and crazy environmental shifting in Limbo, and very clever cutscene presentation. They take things in interesting directions regardless of whether you like the tone they’ve set or not, and I find that pretty commendable.

And now for the things the game does wrong. At least wrong by the standards I hold for this genre, so some of these things may not bother most players very much.

As I said above, the core combat is well built, and is better than the combat of something like God of War and all its derivatives. The problems come into play as the game goes on that, again, keep it from being really great by action game standards, not just Devil May Cry’s. First, while the lack of lock-on doesn’t appear to be much of an issue, the auto targeting will have you attacking an enemy that you weren’t trying to aim for, especially when flying enemies are thrown into the mix. Second, the color coded enemies that require the use of Angel and Demon weapons is not a bad idea, but the implementation really hurts the combat by forcing you to fight them in a very specific way. Angel weapons are weak but fast and easy to combo. Demon weapons are strong, but are super slow and don’t have very much combo potential. And you have to hit those enemies with that type of weapon or the hit won’t register. Blue enemies take too long to kill, and Red enemies don’t give much room for combo potential, other than abusing Trinity Smash after a demon dodge to increase your style rank by absurd amounts.

DmC review

Speaking of which, this is more of a DMC specific issue than an action genre issue, but the style rank system is busted. Nothing about it motivates me to create ridiculous and varied combos like Devil May Cry 3 did. So long as you don’t get hit, that style rank will stay there, and by abusing the powerful attacks of demon weapons you can get high rankings in a short amount of time. The game in general is pretty easy, even on Nephilim, which is the hardest difficulty available. While it did provide challenge in some spots, it was closer to the easy modes of past DMCs. Boss fights are very disappointing, being extremely boring and predictable without much variety in their moves. And the general design of the game is very impressive on the first run with all the crazy shifting environments and design of Limbo, but its set piece driven and interspersed with tons of mini cutscenes to the point that replaying the game on higher difficulties and looking for secret mission doors is a huge chore.

The story itself is a whole issue, and one that I’m not gonna spoil for obvious reasons. Ninja Theory had proven the thing they’re best at is their storytelling and use of motion capture. This game’s story does not live up to that. Their interpretation of Dante is the least of people’s complaints, heck he’s probably the best character in the whole game. It’s not any better than past DMC stories, and that almost makes it way worse than those stories because of the idea that Ninja Theory could improved on that aspect. And they didn’t.

DmC review

With all those problems I have with the game, it’s not to say it doesn’t have its high points. The opening scenes and level makes a strong first impression, Mission 13 takes place in Limbo’s version of a nightclub that is amazing in terms of both sound and visuals. At least one enemy in the game is really challenging and fun to fight. And again, the combat is generally fun and plays better than what Ninja Theory has put out in the past. As much as this game has disappointed me by what I expect of the genre, I would not object to the idea of DmC 2 if they addressed the problems with the game. The game could have been something very special, and for most people not familiar with the series or the genre, it might actually be special. But in my experience with the game I was not reeling to go through it again for 100% completion. The potential for a great game is in DmC, but it’s held back from being truly great and is just a good action game. Hey, it really could have turned out a lot worse than it did. Quite an accomplishment considering all the drama that’s surrounded this game.

Final score:

7/10

5 Games That Would Benefit From the LEGO treatment.

Lego Video Games
/ by Alex Balderas

5 Games That Would Benefit From the LEGO treatment.

by Thom


In 2005 a game, developed by Travellers Tales, called Lego Star Wars was released for the Xbox, PlayStation 2, Game Boy Advance, GameCube and PC. Unlike many of the Star Wars games of late, this one received massive critical acclaim at the time and has gone on to sell over ten million copies world wide. Since then Travellers Tales have developed and/or published numerous Lego games, all of which received great reviews. With the recent release of Lego: Lord of The Rings. I took a look at five games that would benefit from the Lego treatment.

1. Lego Call of Duty

Lets be honest, the COD franchise is getting stale. Sure, when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was released it became one of the most acclaimed, not to mention bestselling, games of all time. With its edge of your seat story and addictive multiplayer it’s not hard to see why this is one game you simply must have in your 360/PS3 collection. However, since then the COD franchise has begun to wane and the release of a new COD game is generally greeted by a mild shrug by most of the gaming community who know it will never recapture the glory of Modern Warfare. Of course a new COD release still sells millions of copies by way of their loyal fans but I suspect that deep down in their heart of hearts these fans know that the glory days have passed. CODs decline can be attributed to number of issues that have cropped up since the days of Modern Warfare. The graphics, which both Infinity Ward and Treyarch claim to be improved in each release, still look so similar to 2007s Modern Warfare Graphics you can’t see any real difference. The latest games look almost historic next the beautiful vistas seen in the likes of Uncharted, Metal Gear Solid 4 and Red Dead Redemption. But graphics aren’t the only issue COD must deal with. Lawsuits between Activision and its employees regarding owed royalties, wrongful termination, and the rights to the COD franchise suggest all is not well in camp COD. There biggest mistake in my eyes however, is the fact the release a game every year. Initially the idea seems sound, after all they have both Infinity Ward and Treyarch working for them but, but as Shakespeare said: “there is too much of a good thing”. Like a spoilt child we gamers got a COD game once a year for the past five years, no wonder we’re bored. Clearly then the COD franchise could use a fresh coat of paint, something to make the next game stand out from its predecessors and, most importantly, something to get it out of the shadow of Modern Warfare. I present to you: Lego Call of Duty. Imagine being in a first person view seeing nothing of your character except his yellow hands firmly clicked onto his rifle. Imagine Lego characters coming apart when they’re hit by a grenade. Imagine the fun. Of course Activision could later go back to making more realistic COD games but a Lego game might be the breath of fresh air they need.

- Continue reading

Critical Hit: Super Hexagon

super_hexagon_cover
/ by Alex Balderas

 
Super Hexagon
Terry Cavanagh wasn’t kidding.

 


Critical Hit: Super Hexagon

 
I have just now, seconds before writing this sentence, beaten the “Hexagoner” game mode in Super Hexagon. It feels as if Adrenalinus, the totally fake demigod of adrenaline I just made up, kicked me in the face with a steel-toe boot.

I wanted to start this review with a sentence like “I wanted to love this game, but…”

Instead, I’m forced to begin with: I wanted to hate this game, but…

…but the adrenaline won’t let me. It would be like eating a tub of Ice Cream, then proclaiming that Ice Cream isn’t really that delicious. It would also be like watching 30 episodes of Twin Peaks, then proclaiming: “this series sucks”. Is that why you spent about 25 hours of your life watching it?

Just so did I spend about 7 hours becoming skilled enough to finally beat the second out of six levels in Super Hexagon, mumbling to myself the entire time “this one thing sucks, that other thing sucks, that right there also sucked, those other things also suck”. In reality, what I feel about this game is that its shortcomings only keep it from being classified as a dangerous narcotic.

This is how you play Super Hexagon: you move a little triangle around a hexagon, trying to avoid the incoming shapes coming toward the hexagon in the center in randomized blocks of predetermined patterns. Eventually you become entranced, your brain shuts off and your eyes and muscle memory do all the work. The video should give you a gist of it.

 

 
Let me tell you what Super Hexagon is about, at its core: pattern recognition. Let me tell you about the obstacles the game prepares for you: everything else.

There’s a serious problem here, and that is that everything in the game seems designed to trick you or stop you from getting down to learning the patterns the game throws at you. Sometimes the patterns come toward you with the same rhythm as the music, lulling you into a state of security where you rely on the music’s beats to move your little triangle – other times they come at a different rhythm (offset not just by a simply half beat, but two-thirds or even three-fourths of a beat), causing your foolishly comfortable brain into running your triangle into an obstacle; The music causes the hexagon in the center to pulsate, obliterating your sense of scale; The screen rotates at an ever increasing speed, messing with your perceived speed of the obstacles and of your own avatar; The colors change, making it harder to understand whether your little triangle is in a safe or unsafe position (and trust me, every millisecond matters); The display is rectangular, which means you sometimes can’t see incoming patterns until it’s too late (if it were circular, or, wait for it, hexagonal, you would have a similar view of the incoming obstacles no matter their position on the screen); and finally, some levels only throw more difficult patterns at you after you’ve powered through the simpler patterns – this means that you will get less much needed practice with those more difficult patterns, and you will need to get by the quickly overmastered early patterns, each and every single time you die.

 
Super Hexagon

I’ll be seeing this pattern in my nightmares.

 
It’s very much like playing Hot Potato with a Scorpion (you think I don’t know what that’s like? Just try me), or trying to dance Salsa with a woman who has random and spontaneous leg tics, or trying to sing Karaoke alongside someone suffering from Tourette syndrome. There is a terrible element of luck and unpredictability in what should be a clean but extremely challenging learning experience. Instead, you will have your neighbors thinking you are the one with Tourette’s.

Now, this is not to say that the game isn’t masterable with enough patience – almost any game not entirely reliant on chance is, after all. My point, in actuality, is that the game’s length, or rather the practice time needed to master it, is only extended by somewhat artificial means: the rotating, accelerating, pulsating, color-changing screen, for example. The difference is akin to that of learning to play a detuned, crooked, too-heavy-or-too-light guitar, as opposed to learning how to play a perfectly tuned, perfectly straight, perfectly balanced guitar. If you can make the rubbish guitar sing, can you imagine what you would be doing with the good guitar?

That is why I said, “I really want to hate this game, but…” how could I? It still shoots adrenaline through my body at a rate I’d never experienced before. It’s a rush the likes I imagined the protagonists of Trainspotting were experiencing through their heroin addiction. I sit down to play it, and by the time I remind myself to blink it’s already been a straight hour of play.

 
Super Hexagon

Only made more bearable thanks to Chipzel’s excellent music.

 
Super Hexagon is fantastic, and I absolutely want to punch Terry Cavanagh is the nuts for teasing me with all the game’s imperfections. Not that I can blame him much, however, considering the original Hexagon (a far, far easier affair) was made in a single day for the Pirate Kart V, and it seems to me like a huge part of the code already present was simply copied over to Super Hexagon, which leaves little room for improvement (not that there couldn’t have been).

Ultimately, It’s a fantastic little unpolished gem that sells for a great price on Steam ($3 for one copy, $5 for two), and absolutely goes out with all my recommendations if you know how to take a beating before gearing up for some truly intense fun. There’s really little time for your brain to take in all the game’s little impurities; like a teenager that has just discovered alcohol, you’ll find yourself going for the next round without hesitation every time your game is over.

 


Get Metro 2033 While it’s FREE

Metro_2033_cover
/ by Alex Balderas

Metro 2033


Normally I don’t really like to do endorsements of uninspired “social media tactics” some publishers use, such as “Like our page and get a chance to win some swag”. In this case, however, an actual free game is being given away to anyone that likes the page, and, best of all, this game is the PC version of the gorgeous and wildly atmospheric Metro 2033

Now, why should you give your time to this game, you ask? I just told you, it’s gorgeous and atmospheric as hell. It has a great setting (post-apocalyptic Russia) and some truly memorable moments – the ghost tunnel and the Library come to mind, as well as the trippy ending, of course.

So, if you are the kind of gamer that gets impressed by a game’s visuals, atmosphere, and overall mood, I very seriously suggest you go get your free copy of Metro 2033 and try it out for yourself. You can find THQ’s promotion in this link: HTTP://WWW.FREEMETROGAME.COM/

One last thing I want to say: THQ is going through very severe financial difficulties. I don’t say this to engage your sympathy, I say it to explain why I care about this promotion. Simply put, the more people out there that know about the franchise and become interested in getting the sequel, Metro: Last Light, the better of a chance it has to even make it to the market. Otherwise, it might just go down with THQ if things get bad enough for them, and then nobody gets to play it.

Sleeping Dogs: Nightmare in North Point DLC Review

Sleeping_Dogs_Nightmare_feature
/ by Alex Balderas

Sleeping Dogs Nightmare Review


Let’s get straight to the bottom of this thing: what is the Nightmare in North Point DLC for Sleeping Dogs?

Like we reported earlier, it’s a ridiculous halloween scenario for Sleeping Dogs, set in one of it’s districts (North Point).

The idea is simple: there is an ex-Sun-Un-Yee thug come back from the dead as a demon, to terrorize Hong Kong and unleash vengeance upon all who wronged him. Of course he takes a love interest hostage, and protagonist Wei Shen must find him, but first acquire the necessary powers to be able to fight his minions, and ultimately him.

Sleeping Dogs Nightmare Review

This leads us into the actual developments found in this DLC: after some small progress through the boring Jiang Shi and possessed thugs you fight, you encounter a demon you cannot beat yet. You then go on a short fetchquest to get a ridiculous tea that gives you magical Kung-Fu powers. Then there are portals with Jiang Shi, as well as demons. Then there is a mystical sword you can use to further improve your odds against these enemies. Then there are “hell shrines”, which you can find scattered around North Point. Then of course is the main story of the plot, taking a total of about 2-4 hours to complete.

Sleeping Dogs Nightmare ReviewSleeping Dogs Nightmare Review

How does it all actually work? Well, first of all the combat of the game acquires a new feelings through Kung Fu. Whereas the combat of the full game is more like modern hand-to-hand combat, this game has Wei Shen performing all sorts of Kung Fu moves (taken from stylish martial movies, no doubt), which not only changes the pacing of the combat a little bit, but also makes you feel like more of a badass when fighting enemies. When you get the sword, too, you will earn many sorts of new moves, making it a fun death instrument to learn in addition to the bare-fist combat moves you have been practicing all along. The “hell shrines” are merely there for padding, though I suspect they do unlock at least a bit of dialogue for a certain character. I didn’t get to find them all, because unlike the regular health shrines, the hell shrines are never marked on the map, which means you must find each one of them by endlessly exploring North Point’s every nook and cranny.

As a final detail: you don’t carry over any of your cars or clothes from the main game into the Nightmare in North Point DLC. Instead, you start with a generic Kung-Fu garb, and as you close demon portals and save people around North Point you will unlock other traditional garments, as well as vehicles. There are also some new achievements, for those that care.

Sleeping Dogs Nightmare Review

So, is it worth getting? Hey, I’m not here to tell you that. I’ll only say that, if you played dozens upon dozens of hours of Sleeping Dogs and wish you had some excuse to play some more (I certainly did), well this isn’t a bad excuse at all for just about $5 (On Steam; it depends on your platform, of course). If you didn’t finish Sleeping Dogs, or don’t feel any fondness for the game after finishing it (how dare you!?) then this DLC won’t change your mind.

Dishonored DLC Announced

dishonored_daud_feature
/ by Alex Balderas

Dishonored is a brilliant game, and it’s now getting not one or two, but three separate pieces of DLC.

Here it is straight from the horse’s mouth:

We are pleased to announce three upcoming add-on packs for Dishonored, the critically-acclaimed first-person action game developed by Arkane Studios. All of the Dishonored add-on packs will be released simultaneously on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

Dishonored: Dunwall City Trials, being released in December for $4.99 (or 400 Microsoft Points), will include 10 challenge maps that will test and track your combat, stealth and mobility skills. Ten distinct trials await challengers – including an arena battle against waves of enemy AI, a gravity-defying run of drop assassinations, and a race against the clock. Dunwall City Trials also features a whole new set of achievements and trophies as well as a global online leaderboard that will establish the greatest assassins for each challenge.

The second and third add-ons for Dishonored will be coming in 2013 and will each feature story-driven campaigns. Pricing on these two packs will be revealed closer to launch.

Apparently the first story-driven DLC will feature Daud, a prominent figure in Dishonored. Whether this takes place before or after the story of Dishonored’s protagonist Corvo Attano, there’s no way to say, though my guess is before.

The more important question was not answered: will this DLC take place only within the confines of Dunwall yet again, or will it also venture outside, to the much-more-interesting-sounding Tyvia, Morley, Serkonos, or even better, the Pandyssian continent? The press release does say “new Dunwall locales”, but I’m holding hope they don’t mean “new Dunwall locales only“.

Let me talk about that for a bit: Dishonored’s biggest flaw, in my humble opinion, is that it takes place in the potentially least interesting city of its universe. Within the game, you read so much literature about the incredible Pandyssian Continent, that you can’t help but feel duped for playing a game set in crummy old Dunwall. If we won’t get to see those sights in the DLC, then perhaps on a sequel? I’d love to speculate more, but a sequel seems unlikely at this point.

Let me just say one last thing: where the hell are my ship battles against whales? Why would you write so many amazing accounts of what capturing whales is like, Arkane Studios, if you won’t even let us capture one ourselves?

It’s alright, we still love you.