Saturday, February 28, 2009

Great graphics, cheap tv

I understand video games have really pushed the envelope lately in terms of graphical output, but these days, it's just frustrating me now.

It all started with Dead Rising. The fiascos started when your story based partner would radio you via walkie talkie with (useless, inane) information. They popped up as text boxes rather then actual audio. Problem is though, the people over at Capcom made the assumption that everyone in their core demographic had really nice tvs.

They didn't.

The text was next to unreadable because the dimensions of the text boxs were made under the assumption that the running tv would be a big ol' HDTV flat screen. I remember when I played on my old sdtv, even squinting made the text look like little angry folks. It got a lot of coverage back then and Capcom was even forced to consider sending out a patch that made the text compatible with sdtvs.

But that wasn't the end. No, the problem for me, and probably many others, is that we're later adopters to newer television technologies (READ: shit poor). I'm now playing Street Fighter IV, and the problem has just arisen again. I want to compare myself to friends on the leaderboards, but half the time, I don't even know what kind of board I'm comparing myself to. Is this time trial? Ranked matches? Battle points?

Really, I hope not every game in the future is like this. Please think about the kids back home who playing games on the tvs in their rooms. Fancy tvs in the best circumstances are usually relugated to family rooms, but for me, I game in my room. And in my room, I have a cheapo tv that not only creates the small text effect, but the reds bleed out on my tv. That's how old it is. A specific color of the spectrum can't even display properly.

So I'll be gaming with the best graphics consoles have to offer while the red headband is fades onto my character's face.

Video games... in real life

Fellow blogger Tom Rhodes has some interesting drawings. Everyone thinks characters like Earthworm Jim and Gordon Freeman look cool, awesome even. But that's because they live in their own little world. What if we dragged them into our world?


Well, for more, check out his own blog. I'm sure you'll find an interesting character. Personally, I like Mario in real life.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Virtual On Coming to 360, Minds Blown

courtesy of Kotaku

If there's one arcade game I consistently play and enjoy, it's Virtual On. It captured the feeling of piloting a giant robot like a Gundam so intensely. Not necessarily accurately, but a close enough feeling. Who knows? Maybe we won't pilot robot via dual control stick inputs but with something like a steering wheel or something?

Screw having a robot, I can't even have the arcade game in my living room without taking up all my space. But now news is out that it's coming to the 360, and I'm already going over those convoluted control methods...

(side to side: jump, both forward: boost...)

Capcom's big announcement somewhat iffy

For those who noticed, Capcom mentioned they had something big to announce on Monday last week. Well, it's Tuesday, so let's take a little ride in the time machine.

The problem with unknowns like this is that you don't know how high to set your expectations. I had no idea, but a friend of mine told me last Thursday that he heard from anonymous but reliable sources that they were going to announce Dino Crisis 3.

To me, Dino Crisis 3 sounded unlikely. I was about ready to call him on his sketchy sources he reassured me of the likelihood. "It's been leaked, trust me," he told me with a smug look. "They're just going to announce it for reals Monday!"

Dino Crisis to me, is an exceedingly obscure game. It's in the same vein as Resident Evil, but with dinosaurs instead of zombies. But it's finally dawned on me...

Dino Crisis 3 already exists, and it didn't deliver.

What did they announce?

Lost Planet 2.

Lost Planet was a good game. I played it, but I had no idea the sales it garnered warranted a sequel.

So, there we have it. I've gone from Dino Crisis 3, to a revelation, to Lost Planet 2.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Art of Street Fighting

I was never really interested in the online gameplay on Street Fighter Turbo II HD Remix. The number one reason was because Dhalsim and Balrog players easily abused their throws. These characters had throws which involved grabbing, smacking them around, then giving them one more blow which knocked them away. What they do is give you a light attack, forcing you to block, then repeat their throw. That was a realy turn off. If I was going to be beaten, I prefer someone with some skill, not someone who duct taped his controller to throw constantly.

But in SFIV, things have been rectified. There are no throws like this. Wake-up attacks are more reliable too, and throws can be escaped in my experience. The point of all this is that online competition for Street Fighter doesn't scare me as much as before. Now that I've played it online, I've gotten a reall good look at myself and at others. Pardon my long windedness, but here it goes...

First of all, my characters are Dhalsim or El Fuerte, both representing different play styles. As Dhalsim, I play defensively, shooting fireballs, reaching across with his stretching heavy punch, and generally taking a slow and thoughtful approach to countering my opponent or setting them up for another attack. Particularly, I've gotten used to teleporting right behind my opponent while my fireball is still on one side.

On the other hand, nearly all of El Fuerte's attacks come out of his dash special, making him a very mobile (and annoying) opponent. Run then body slam, run back then rebound and slide kick, or run back and jump and rebound off the wall and do a flying elbow. That's just the tip, but the point is it's very hard to tell how El Fuerte can mix up his attacks. They all have different hit boxes so it'll be a pain for the opponent to correctly defend against.

So that ends the rant on my side, but it's interesting what kind of players I meet online to fight against. Some are deadly and skilled, while others are surprisingly bad and predictable. I guess I'll talk about it some other post.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


After a few days with SFIV, I've noticed some subtle things...
  • there's no air block
  • ultra combos are more common then supers
  • it's fucking awesome
The system is as complex or simple as you want it to be. Back in the day of SFII Turbo, we didn't have luxuries like air blocking and stuff. Things that slowly got more and more common place with the introduction of contemporary fighting games like the Alpha series and King of Fighters.

With the return of Street Fighter IV, there are subtle tweaks here and there that make it feel fresh yet familar. Focus strikes allow you to absorb an attack and quickly counter attack, with unblockables even, giving you the tools necessary to throw a pressure gamer off your back. Like wise, a focus strike can be done to cancel most attacks, then either follow through with the attack or cancel it with a dash forward or backward. This continually opens the doors to offense and defense, while at the same time, simple focus strikes being employed as counters is about as much as you need if you can't get into such complex motions.

At the core of it's appeal though is are the return of the faithful veterans and classics without feeling like an easy port to 3D. The new 3D design makes the game somehow more mindful of tactics, and alll the original world warriors from SFII return, as well as old favorites as voted by fans like you such as the bubbly Sakura, Bruce Lee knockoff Fei Long, and classic badass Akuma.

The new comers also due a good job or feeling in place. 3rd Impact had a problem of having really out there character designs. Lots of mutants and freaks in the mix like 12 and Mr. Q. Crimson Viper's relationship against Chun-Li gives her a place of belonging. Abel's move set and design give him reward those curious in playing him. And El Fuerte takes his place as the typical racially insensitive Capcom fighting character.

This game is great for returning fans. This game is also great for new comers who hear about the hype from vets like me. SFIV is definitely a well crafted fight game. Tiers will be developed, but thoughtful fighters may find the sky's the limit towards victory. So onwards young warrior, as someday you may shatter the hopes, dreams, and ambitions of hundreds of opponents, piling them together as a stairway towards victory and immortality.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Guess what folks?

Street Fighter IV is in my hands now. It was actually in my hands at around noon today, but of course, I just had to crack it open and see how it is.

Full looks later. Now, I've got some homework to do... badly.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Flying High in the H.A.W.X. demo

Tom Clancy games have had a history of high difficulty curves. I draw this experience from the Splinter Cell games. And now Ubisoft's newest Tom Clancy game has hit Xbox Live as a demo, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X..

You play as U.S. Air Force pilot David Crenshaw. The game takes an interesting split between simulator-like fighter game play to high flying arcade dog fights. The feature responsible for this is the ERS (enhance reality system). In game, it's explained as a computer system that keeps the pilot safe by correcting common human error and making flight adjustments. In actual game play, this lets you turn on ERS for a steady behind view (whether 3rd person behind the craft or 1st person in the cockpit) or turn it off for a freed up view as if from another aircraft. The mechanic is that with ERS on, you'll have a steady flying experience. With ERS off, you're free to pull off fantastic aerial stunts in order to better your opponents, with the risk of problems such as stalling and loss of control.

For a Tom Clancy game though, it's much easier then I thought, at least with it's selectable difficulty. On normal, you'll take a fair share of hits before being blown out of the sky. The rest is just keeping your reticule on your target for a lock-on and letting your missiles fly.

The interesting thing is the RPG-esque level up system. As you rank up from completed missions, you unlock new aircraft with different weapon load outs and stats from armor to speed and handling. There were three to unlock on the demo; the standard versatile fighter, a ground bombing specialist (resembling a Harrier), and the anti-air fighter (with a resemblance to the Tomcat).

The missions presented was the standard training mission getting you familiarized with the controls, and a mission giving you a sudden coup d'etat in Rio De Janiro. The action is pretty intense, especially with the ERS off, letting you pull off awesome brake turns (reducing speed dangerously to stall, turning, then throttling up), loops, and the sonic booms that come with all that boosting in speed.

Multiplayer was available in forms of head to head and co-op, but I didn't get the chance to try them.

All in all, H.A.W.X. was a surprise. It got me interested in what the final game will look like, but if it's like the demo, it should be an awesome ride in the sky.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Burnout's Back Baby!

It's pretty hilarious how one simple addition breathed new life into a game I used to love and loathe at the same time. Now it's just love all the way.

Burnout Paradise, released over a year ago, is surprisingly engrossing, especially so for a decidedly different take on the "drive this car to the finish line" formula. Instead of racing in a point A to point B style like, oh I don't know, a normal racing game, Criterion decides to mess with our heads and tell us "Just get to point B. I don't care if you go through points A, C, D, Omega, or Niner. Just get there."

Yes, this racing game takes place in a city that you navigate for missions ranging from a simple race to a death match on wheels traveling through the streets of Paradise City like a pestilence.

The only problem at first? As you complete missions, you earn points towards upgrading your license, from a lowly Learner's Permit to D to A and eventually the Criterion Elite License. The easiest way to progress is to beat one and move on. At first, when you fail a mission, you can easily move on to another. this becomes a problem later on when you've completed a large majority of the missions, so you'll have to drive long distances just to get a new one.

The new February update adds the ability to restart failed missions. This greatly improves the way you play the game in case you fail a mission.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Cosplaying Gone Right

Yes, that man is wearing a playable Game Boy, so don't ask.

Quality Time with the Halo Wars demo

Ensemble Studios is releasing Halo Wars, an RTS (real-time strategy) game take on Bungie's ever prominent Halo franchise. In all three games of the Halo game trilogy, the player takes the helm of super soldier "Spartan" Master Chief, the last of the Spartans from Earth's super soldier program.

Players are used to playing the seemingly invincible Master Chief from a 1st person perspective. Halo Wars however, pans the camera out for you to control either Earth's UNSC army or the Convenant forces in massive battles with you calling the shots over a large area.

The transition for me however, was easy. And by that, I mean the transition from shooter to RTS using the ripe Halo backstory and franchise was great. All the great units I've fought against and alongside with from the shooter are a blast to see in action en masse in an RTS. From the cannon fodder Space Marines to the few but strong Spartans who can be upgraded to wield the deadly Spartan Laser and the Convenant Hunters and Elites; everything that was memorable from the shooter is jusst as iconic and memorable in a large scale RTS.

Just imagine having three Spartans, all wiping out the front lines with this baby.

The only caveat is the question of whether classic Halo fans will bite. Certainly the curious ones will, but what of the hardcore shooters? I'm not even a big fan of RTS, and even I know that RTS games belong on a pc. Picking apart specific units to send into strategic positionsisn't exactly easy when I'm using a control pad instead of a mouse.

However, the one stand out thing to set Halo Wars apart from other RTS are the units' special abilities. You see, sicking a unit on an enemy with the X button may yield predictable results, but using the Y button for it's special ability can be far my interesting and fun. For example, Warthog vehicles will ram, Space Marines lob grenades, The Prophet of Regret calls down a daming space beam.

Yes, that last one was a leader unit. Leader units are above all the best units you'll have, leading the fray with useful skills like the Cleansing Beam, Repair and Regeneration, or a good old fashion murderous frenzy.

Halo Wars is shaping up to be a fun romp if not at least for long time Halo fans. It might not be the easiest RTS to control due to the console's natural limitations on precision, but it'll be one hell of a ride at least.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Hilarious Romp Through Nostalgia and Masochism

The title is a nod to the classic Mega Man II intro

I Wanna Be The Guy! (henceforth abbreviated as IWBTG!) is retro throwback to the classic 8-bit games. It's chock full of references and parodies to such classics as Mega Man, Bionic Commando, and Metroid. It was made by a rag tag group of misfits so it's free to download at the above link.

But be warned. IWBTG! isn't just some lame game to cash in our childhood dreams. The following statement is not a hyperbole: You will die within the first two seconds of playing the game. Seriously guys, the game can make you go borderline insane if you seriously want to beat the game and become the Guy. Levels are made in such a way that you'll never see your death coming unless you've done some sort of trial and error. So here's a spoiler about your first death, depending on the direction you take in the game: an apple falls on you.

Yes, the traps engineered into this game is compounded by the old one-hit-kill game design philosohpy a la Gradius or Contra. However, you get a number of save points to save your progress (how numerous they are are dependant on the difficulty level you choose) and you get an unlimited number of retries.

This doesn't make the game anymore bearable. Many traps are teeth-grittingly difficult, so even if you know how the trap works, it's still difficult. Many times in the game, the margin of error is literally one or two pixels.

Believe it or not, it gets worse...

However, despite these problems, IWBTG can be a surprising joy to play through. Everything in the game are recycled sprites and music ripped from the original source games, so when Ryu suddenly shoryukens you out of no where, it's the actual sprite and sound from the actual Street Fighter II game. Even the background music is ripped straight out, so you'll be enjoying the tunes you heard when you beat Super Mario World or Mega Man II.

Make no mistake, this game is hard. But it can be an enjoyable experience for the truly hardcore, or as I did, watching a friend play it and seeing him claw and scrape his way to victory (after 350 deaths).

Manic depression as caused by IWBTG!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Circuit City: A Not-So Tearful Goodbye

Circuit City has always been a sort of odd man out in terms of electronics stores. I see far more advertising for Best Buy and I see more press, both good and bad. Fry's has relatively no advertising on television or on the internet, and yet it's no doubt it has a large store with a wide range of products and prices.

Circuit City to me was the middle child. No outstanding characteristics, but safe from most exposure with it's brothers receiving more attention.

Here was my last, unfortunate experience with Circuit City.

It was another lazy Sunday afternoon. January 25, the day before classes resume, and I had finished my textbook shopping on the Friday before. I had been following Circuit City's liquidation like a hawk over it's prey, though I guess a vulture on a dying animal is more accurate. What I wanted was an external hard drive. The drive on my laptop had been filling up with videos and misc applications and games, so I needed some new space.

Hopping over to my nearest CC in Huntington Beach, I peruse the aisles for it's external memory storage aisle. My location, unfortunately, was just another location like all the others. 10% discounts on most with 30% at best on a random assortment of pcs. It was big disappointment as the $99 hard drive I had my eye on for the longest time had only a 10% off tag.

I leave bitter and angry, and decide that out of spite, I'll drive to Fry's. The nearest one was 5 miles away from CC; 2 more miles when taking my drive from home into account. I had classes to get ready for, so it probably wasn't a good budget of my time, but I was determined to find something of worth today.

Here is the Iomega 160GB external hard drive. It was $60 at Fry's, but $55 since it was opened. It works perfectly, and has offloaded 50 gigs of data off my laptop.

In all honesty, I don't remember how large the capacity of the hard drive from Circuit City was. However, 160GB is more then enough for me, and I definitely saved a ton of money. Moral of the story? Always shop around before making a purchase. You never know how much money you'll be saving on the next great price.