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Smash TV Review

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smashtv_boxPlatform: Arcade, microcomputers, NES, Master System, Game Gear, SNES, Genesis/Mega Drive, Xbox/Gamecube/PS2/PSP (part of Midway Treasures)
Released: 1990
Developer: Williams
Publisher: Williams/Midway
Digital Release? Yes, it had a digital release on XBLA (360) but was delisted in Feb. 2010

Smashtv01These days there is a good chance any gamer is familiar with the “twin stick shooter”, a concept where you move with the left stick and shoot with the right.  Back in 1982 when fantastic game designer Eugene Jarvis premiered the concept in Robotron: 2084, it was unlike anything we had ever seen.  The merits of that game, and what it brought to video games, cannot be denied and if you want an idea of how Robotron played you need look no further than recent neo-retro release Rock Boshers Dx.  It wasn’t until almost a decade later, in 1990’s fantastic Smash TV, that Jarvis along with a talented team at Williams created one of the most addicting arcade games from my youth.  Set in the year 1999 – oh how we thought so much was going to change with the year 2000 back then – Smash TV has you and potentially one other person shooting it out in a room-to-room TV studio playing the most violent game show of all time (Running Man anyone?).  It takes the building blocks of Robotron: 2084 and brings it into the nineties by giving you a second player, having you kill tons of humans instead of rescue them like in Robotron, and of course you’re doing it all for cash prizes to selfishly grow your wealth.  I loved it then and I love it now.

Smashtv02Anyone who has played modern twin stick shooters like Geometry Wars will immediately notice that most of your tactics will hold up in Smash TV and you will get quite far on each life.  Don’t get cocky enough to think that this means the game is beatable; it was, after all, a quarter drinking arcade game from the people that brought you NBA Jam a few years later.  Your odds are so stacked and boss battles like the always shown (and here is no exception) bald tank boss will have you cranking out credits in order to finally reach the final bonus level, The Pleasure Dome.  In fact, the game was so crazy hard, long, and expensive that although there is mention in the game text, the original 1.0 version of the arcade shipped without a pleasure dome implemented because the developers didn’t think anyone would beat the game.  They were wrong, dead wrong.  Fans across the country were spending God knows how much money to reach the Pleasure Dome only to be greeted with an unfinished ending.  The development team wasn’t all bad, though, aside from quickly implementing the Pleasure Dome and getting updated boards out as soon as possible, there’s a bonus room south of Arena 3 that will flood the room with keys and potentially get you to the end of the game without costing you too much money.  There’s also a fantastic announcer over your gameplay voiced by Paul Heitsch (known for other Midway greats like Mortal Kombat) and even the line “I’d buy that for a dollar!” from the movie Robocop, so what’s not to love.

Smashtv03It was understandably ported to just about every home console, microcomputer, and even the Game Gear portable by publisher Acclaim (aside from the arcade ports in the Midway Treasures Collection).  While the overall port didn’t lose much in the conversion process, even on the NES and ZX Spectrum, the control scheme took the biggest hit and to this day I feel the SNES is the only appropriate place to play the home version thanks to the four face buttons easily emulating the second joystick.  Once Smash TV came home, much like other home ports such as Revolution X, the challenge was mostly in trying to complete the game with the limited number of credits the game allowed.  Sure, a quick cheat code or Game Genie could overcome your health or credits issue, but I still can’t believe there was a time where a home port of an arcade game designed to screw you out of credits didn’t automatically give you unlimited credits.  After all, you would assume that’s the draw to getting the home port.  Either way, Smash TV has much better ways to play without resorting to the 8-bit and 16-bit era, but back in the early 90s it was the only option and a fun weekend rental.  If you were lucky enough to pick up the online arcade port on XBLA before it was delisted in early 2010, you can even play the game with online co-op as it should be played these days but it appears Midway licensing has eliminated this title’s definitive version.  If you want to get together with a buddy on the couch and have some fun shooting guys for an hour or two, the spectacle that is Smash TV can be a ton of fun.

Final Score: 4 out of 5 (review policy)

Written by Fred Rojas

March 24, 2015 at 11:34 am

The Evil Within Review

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The Evil Within is the stuff nightmares are made of.  I’m not being dramatic, almost everything in this game will cater to the popular nightmares that plague humanity – in my case that happens to be clowns – and throws them right in your face.  That’s not to say it is a scary game, because unlike other contemporaries the goal of The Evil Within is to disturb you and create tension rather than grab you with a quick jump scare (although it can’t resist the urge to do that as well at times).  Bundled altogether it creates the closest representation of a haunted house without forgetting that it’s also a video game and therefore can make death a reality for all parties involved.  This would be a fantastic reality for the definitive horror experience if it weren’t for the abundance of setbacks that range from visuals, to AI, and even creep into gameplay that no matter how big a fan you are just cannot be ignored.

 

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The first thing you will notice is that the screen resolution is narrowed.  Specifically the game has an odd resolution with full 1920 length and reduced height, which has black letterbox bars that extend to the entire screen of 1920×1080 (1080p).  This is a significant amount of real estate that surpasses traditional letterboxing and can be off-putting at first.  Whether the resolution is truly an artistic choice like Bethesda has claimed or if the game just couldn’t run at full 1080p (this is the case with all versions, including PC), I have to admit it becomes irrelevant fast because it wasn’t really noticeable once I had been playing for a few minutes.  Not only is the screen smaller, but the framerate is sub-par even by a console game’s standards, which tries to maintain 30 frames per second (fps) but dips down into the mid and even lower 20s depending on the situation.  With already flawed controls – more on that later – the inconsistency in fps might have come off as just another obstacle to success but in truth I had little problem with it.  Ironic as it seems, I never saw significant dips when a horde of enemies or sudden aggressive circumstance arrived so it really had little effect on my enjoyment.  All in all, whether it be aesthetics or lack of optimization, the biggest gripes I’ve heard about this game from screenshots were forgotten concerns a mere fifteen minutes in.

Normally I don’t talk about other games in reviews because I think that each game is a work unto its own and every work borrows from another, but the roots of The Evil Within and the couple of experiences it borrows from are too ingrained in its DNA to not draw such connections.  It is the creation of Shinji Mikami, who is best known for the creation of the Resident Evil series and is directly responsible for the decisions that led to the released versions of 1, 2, and 4, which juggle around as the fan favorites for the series.  Since the release of Resident Evil 4 Mikami has danced between a few titles and developers, but he always ends up back at his roots in horror games.  While Resident Evil decided to go more action based in its sequels, Mikami has kept the vision of the action/horror hybrid he demonstrated in alive through 2011’s Shadows of the Damned where he teamed up with Suda 51 to create what was then boasted as the potential Resident Evil 4 sequel that never was.  Both the critical and sales reception of that title proved that the quirky nature of Suda’s vision seemed to clash with the tension horror of Mikami and it was anything but the Resident Evil 4 follow up fans wanted.  That all changed when Mikami’s studio, Tango Gameworks, announced The Evil Within to be the true spiritual successor to his work and at its core you would be hard pressed to argue that this game is not a true Resident Evil 4 follow up.

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Knowing that’s where the roots to The Evil Within lie brings with it not only the great parts of the 2005 revamp, but also the dated and flawed gameplay that it represents today.  Right out of the gate this title’s flaws get revealed and never hesitate to remind you they exist.  Detective Castellanos, our lead, moves clumsily about in the rain at the game’s opening moments, which had me worried right off the bat at my ability to run, aim, and shoot with such floaty inaccurate controls.  It takes a few chapters, but when the gunplay begins to ramp up and with scarce ammo as a major liability, you can’t help but want to blame the controls for the pathetic misses at point blank range.  In fact, late in the game when you are forced into an arena atmosphere with many enemies and little ammo, it feels like a puzzle figuring out how to distribute your resources to effectively take everyone out.  It was pretty laughable as my wife watched me run around in circles like an idiot for fifteen minutes while a herd chased me, not in any danger of dying but also having no resources to handle my pursuers.  Mikami’s previous titles always had a melee option to get you out of these tough situations, especially because any enemy can drop coveted rounds, but in The Evil Within your melee deals a negligible amount of damage.  Even if you upgrade it, going to fists against any enemy leaves you doling out pointless damage while also allowing the enemy to get in a couple blows themselves with surprising strength.  In fact, most of the upgrade system in this game makes little difference in the overall experience save for the few items based on running and healing, both defensive maneuvers.  In short, ration your ammo, this is a survival horror game after all.

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Before you ever dawn a true weapon The Evil Within will introduce you to the game’s stealth mechanic.  For a majority of the game avoiding detection or methodically eliminating everyone in the room is as much an option as charging in guns blazing.  Your first encounter with this game’s twisted reality and subsequent enemies is more of an obstacle course where you can get acquainted with how to sneak up to or past foes.  It’s nothing complicated and for the most part the illusion of when enemies can and cannot see you remains consistent.  This is where The Evil Within attempts to pull off its best The Last of Us impression and it doesn’t do a good job.  Castellanos moves painfully slow in stealth mode to the point that sneaking up on an enemy, even if you mimic its moves from the moment it turns its back to you, can be a stressful encounter.  Once you get close enough the game will display an icon allowing you to perform a stealth kill, but if for some reason that prompt doesn’t show – and at times it won’t – or that enemy turns around suddenly you could be in for a world of trouble.  Thankfully it’s not instant death but the enemies have a knack for being able to pinpoint your exact location for quite some time after one of them initially sees you.  There are bottles in the environment that I figured would be helpful like they were in The Last of Us, but the mechanic almost seems broken at the onset.  Later in the game your bottle diversion is much more effective and this is most likely due to the openness of the environments early on compared to the closed tight conditions of the endgame.  Sneaking around also allows you to avoid traps and even disarm them for ammo, but again the minigame where you have to stop a needle in a small space has an odd delay that often ends with you blown to bits.  I also thought it was a huge wasted opportunity that the enemies can’t trigger the traps themselves, although you can definitely trigger them with bullets to make for environmental landmines if you see fit.  Clearly Tango checked all the boxes when trying to emulate The Last of Us but like most aspects of this game they didn’t sweat the details enough to give it that polished feel.

Despite many of this game’s weaker points, it is one hell of a ride.  Whether it’s sneaking past psychotic chainsaw-wielding butchers, disarming a booby trap connected to a meat grinder, or taking on an unnamable creature in a parking garage, this game wears its horror badge proudly.  Everything about the art direction, enemy design, and of course enough viscera to fill an ocean is meant to unease and intimidate.  While they may all initially look the same, your enemies do progress and have the same variety that Resident Evil 4 did before it, where each new section of the game had its own distinct enemy.  These standard foes will be a bit of an annoyance, but they are nothing compared the few, but impressive bosses you will encounter.  Each monstrosity that comes from The Evil Within will play upon horror tropes that are varied and create the game’s largest moments of tension.  As much as I’d like to gush about some of my favorites, I feel it’s inappropriate to give them away.  One well documented boss is The Keeper, but he’s better described under his nickname, Boxhead, due to the massive safe he wears on his head as protection.  While discovering how to take out each distinct boss may be a bit annoying, the fact that I was grinding my teeth on edge while I figured out the somewhat basic method of dispelling them to be of the best in my horror gaming.  This game is disturbing, disgusting, anxiety-filled, and I loved traversing through it.

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That said, it does wear out its welcome.  In a trend I’ve seen far too often these days,The Evil Within does feel like it was padded.  You will find inconsistencies in the levels with one action-packed chapter followed by a dull repeat of mechanics without even a boss battle to wrap things up.  That would be fine if the gameplay was diverse, but it’s during these seemingly padded chapters that The Evil Within loves to demonstrate its ability to be repetitive and boring or utterly cheap with quick “Gotcha!” deaths.  Sure, it’s cute once in a while, but after the 10th time on a part that requires memorization to best or that would have been a breeze if what to do was clear, you feel cheated, and did I mention the lengthy load times?  I’m also torn on the constant throwbacks to Mikami’s Resident Evil roots that make this game almost feel like a re-imagined hodgepodge of those initial games.  Any large fan of the series will see right through these nods but after a while it seemed to strip the unique nature expected of a new intellectual property (IP).  I mean come on, it even has an unlockable machine gun, RPG, and statues of the characters unlock upon completion.

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When you put it all together, the duality of good and bad that has remained consistent throughout this review makes it a difficult game to give a final verdict to.  The Evil Within nails the high end goal that Mikami started way back in 1987 with Sweet Home and finally made a true haunted house simulation that looks and feels every bit as twisted as it should be.  With this extreme attention to detail and tone, it’s surprising that the core of the game and the mechanics that surround it weren’t given equal effort.  It’s programmed sloppy, it plays sloppy, and it unfolds sloppy.  For fans of Mikami’s past work or anyone who’s looking for that new horror experience, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to play at least the first handful of hours with this game.  Hang on to that love and fandom, though, because you are going to need to grind through to the eventual conclusion that seems just as determined at making you quit out of frustration as it does encourage you to reach the end.  After having overcome the game’s final challenge, realizing what holes in the plot remained, and reflected on the last 15-20 hours of gameplay, I came to the conclusion that The Evil Within was a blast of a ride first time through, but unlike most of Mikami’s previous work it’s many flaws prevent me from wanting to delve back into it again.

Final Score: 3 out of 5   (review policy)

This review originally appeared on All Games but was permitted to be re-posted on other sites owned by the writer.  A review copy from the publisher was not provided, it was purchased by the reviewer.  It was played for a total of approximately 20 hours and the campaign was completed in full.  The Evil Within is available on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC for $59.99 with identical content, display resolution (as opposed to native resolution), and performance (ie: framerate) on all platforms; however native resolution, visuals, and textures can differ between them.  

Written by Fred Rojas

February 22, 2015 at 11:00 am

Life is Strange Review

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Episode 1: Chrysalis

Adventure games have always been a bit of a split for me.  I was never good at them, never completed many of them, and thus I wanted to write them off as worthless but what they did for storytelling is undeniable.  TellTale somewhat switched up the definition of what goes into an adventure game, but try as they may I was hindered by either losing investment in the story or just not valuing these games any more than my current frustration with trying to beat Grim Fandango Remastered because I had never played before.  I guess the biggest problem for me was the balance is never quite there.  In a point-and-click adventure game there’s too much emphasis on puzzle solving and figuring out the developer whereas the TellTale games traditionally have too little and stand as nothing more than slightly interactive movies (that always seem to end in the same place regardless of those decisions).  Life is Strange stands out because developer Dontnod (known previously for the great action title Remember Me) acknowledges the reality that you are a player interacting with an environment, but also allows you to relate to the person on screen so distinctly that you get the best of both worlds.

The life of the high school teen...

The life of the high school teen…

I think the least said about the plot the better for a game like this, but the basic premise revolves around a just turned 18-year-old girl named Maxine (Max) Caulfield who is currently enrolled in an art academy in Oregon.  Both the academy and the town (Arcadia Bay) are significant because Max grew up in that town and when her family relocated to Seattle five years ago she apparently abandoned that life for reasons unknown at the start of the game.  Her main interest is in photography – the main draw as to why she would return to Arcadia Bay and attend a school she doesn’t seem too fond of save for her photography class – and while she does come off as a bit of a loner, I was glad to see that she is aware of most of her limited number of classmates.  Early into the game Max discovers that she has the ability to reverse time and uses it to protect someone, which later gives way to a slew of problems.  The story develops with the player being able to interact as much or as little as they please with the environment and the people in it as the story naturally progresses.  The game proves that it’s not just putting the episodic format to waste by creating branching storylines that don’t evolve much in this first iteration, foreshadowing the future, and creating an overall conflict that will no doubt take the entire five episodes to reconcile.

Interact with anything of interest, you never know what you might find

Interact with anything of interest, you never know what you might find

Life is Strange initially captures you for how effortlessly it captures the world it creates.  Those late teenage years are awkward for everyone and the way important issues are brushed off and pointless interests becomes the focus of the universe for these students reminds me of the days when I was in that same position.  There’s no beating you over the head with any specific character and the range of individuals you can get to know, or completely ignore, is placed with skill like a series of figures on a bookshelf that can be appreciated if the onlooker so chooses.  One of my biggest gripes for all adventure games is that I am being forced into difficult decisions without knowing the immediate outcome and then I have to live with them.  This may be the way real life works, but in video games it takes control away from the player and may force you down a path you never intended to take and thus don’t invest in.  Life is Strange allows you to see the immediate effects of any of the game’s handful of major binary decisions and then make your choice, but it’s clear that the consequences of these actions are tucked away to be thrown in your face later.  Now I know there are some that would sneer at this transparency, which is justified, but the the game doesn’t stop you from committing to a decision without considering the consequences and save for a few puzzles you are never forced to rewind time and consider a decision.  In short, it’s the true Choose Your Own Adventure video game, complete with the freedom read the first page of each decision.

Chloe, Max's former best friend, is an part of episode 1

Chloe, Max’s former best friend, is an integral part of episode 1

With only one episode in and a release date of March 2015 for the second, Life is Strange looks like it will take the greater part of this year to fully progress, but from this initial outing I’m invested in full.  Much like its previous title, Dontnod has taken aspects that we all appreciate from a handful of games and combined them together into a stronger cohesive whole.  Here’s hoping that the adventures of Max stay as strong through each of the five episodes as it did for the first.  My confidence is further heightened by the fact that this first episode was riddled with a lot more drama than action, meaning that there’s no need to outdo itself in the future.  As for now, it’s one hell of a pilot.

Final Score: 5 out of 5 (review policy)  – This first episode was played through twice by the reviewer.  The first time was thorough and took around 3 hours to complete, the second took under 2 hours but was streamlined.

Given that this game is episodic, this review will continue to build upon itself per episode.  Posts of each episode will go on the main page individually but this link will stand as the comprehensive review for all episodes.  Each episode will be given its own score initially, but the comprehensive review will have an overall score that will update with each episode (and may not necessarily reflect an average of the scores as this is not the method to scoring).  This game was purchased by the reviewer and played on PC, however it is available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC (including Steam), Xbox One, and Playstation 4 at a price of $4.99 for Episode One and $19.99 for the entire five episode run.  It is assumed that episodes will be available individually for $4.99 each.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 13, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Remember Me Review

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remember_me_boxRemember Me is not a sum of its parts.  That’s an important factor to keep in mind as you progress through this game, and frankly, is quite counter to a majority of experiences out there.  This title is trying to tell a complex story in the world of interactive fiction, which has been tried before with varying results, and manages to keep its focus on the big picture instead of being bogged down by the limitations of a video game.  As I played through it was fascinating to me how I wanted to keep note of the little gripes and problems I was seeing instead of paying attention to what was going on.  This is the one large hurdle, or caveat if you choose to view it as such, that separates whether you will enjoy Remember Me or pitch it to the wayside as a product of the end of this cycle.  Keep in mind it is by no means perfect, or even groundbreaking, but it offers a story and world that are unique and manages to maintain suitable gameplay that makes progressing the plot intriguing.

Remember Me is the pinnacle of a cyberpunk story – it takes place in 2084, memories are shared experiences in a social network, the city of Paris has been renamed to Neo-Paris – so everything will feel a bit familiar for fans of the genre.  A corporation named Memorise has established technology and networks that allow you to extract, share, and sell memories, which has gotten so popular it controls a majority of the population.  As with any cyberpunk story, whenever there’s a large controlling corporation there is always an underground group set on bringing it down, in Remember Me they are called “Errorists”.  You control female protagonist Nilin, who in the prequel chapter awakens in a Memorise facility for memory erasure.  This is not circumstantial, Nilin was a clear target given her alliance with the Errorists and the fact that she can steal and alter other people’s memories.  With the help of Errorist leader Edge, Nilin works her way through the roughest and nicest neighborhoods of Neo-Paris in an attempt to take down Memorise.  It’s good to see a story that revolves around the tangible world, which is often ignored or background in cyberpunk.  While the setup may be relatively standard, I found the overall plot and especially the final hours, to be a unique twist that rarely happens, particularly in video games.

remember_me_2Gameplay varies, switching between different styles and formats, but essentially it’s a brawler and platformer with mini-games sprinkled in from time to time.  It will be tempting to compare gameplay to several games – Remember Me is acutely aware of what was popular this generation – but contextually it shares nothing more with the titles you could reference so I don’t feel there’s a point.  Brawling is a timing-based system of combos and dodging – the unique aspect in this game being the ability to add a perk to each hit of a combo allowing you to modify battle to your play style.  In addition you receive special attacks that assist in taking down specific types or certain combinations of enemies, which is the brunt of the diversity in combat.  After an episode or two the battles flow in such a way that they are not only manageable but also satisfying displays of your abilities.  Platforming is hindered a bit by the disconnect between Nilin’s pathetic static jump and her impressive leaps when aiming for a specific ledge or platform.  Throughout the campaign you will leap gaps, shimmy across platforms, scale large exteriors, and climb about with relative ease.  Instead of the popular glowing ledge Remember Me provides contextual arrows to guide where you can go next but it’s unnecessary because Nilin will most often not allow you to jump to somewhere she can’t grab on to.  I’ve heard claims of stealth in the game, but save for a few “dodge the robot’s line of sight” instances, there’s none to speak of.  At times you will be able to remix someone’s memory, which is mostly watching a cutscene with the ability to control speed and direction of playback while searching for little areas that you can change to impact the memory.  As a result a simple fight between lovers can result in a murder or a basic medical procedure can end horribly, but only in that character’s mind because you aren’t actually changing history.  There’s only one result the game wants you to get, but I was amused that making changes to the wrong outcome still allows you to see what could potentially happen despite the game forcing you to go back and choose the correct path.  Most episodes end with a boss battle that harkens back to the days of puzzle bosses that require you to try various tactics and pattern recognition.  I personally enjoyed the boss battles and found them to be an appropriate change in scope and battle, but the final matches do end up being quite derivative.

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Developer Dontnod is an independent studio from France that includes art director Aleksi Briclot, best known for his art in Magic: The Gathering, and science fiction writer Alain Damasio (although all of his books are in French) as predominant members of the studio.  It shows.  The world created in Remember Me is vibrant with that bright neon exterior hiding a cold and heartless mechanical nucleus.  Neo-Paris has depth, a layout, neighborhoods, and a is an established world from the start.  Not only that but the graphics looked great, even on the 360, with a consistent framerate no matter what was happening.  Unlike many other 3rd person action platformers, this game is as linear as it comes with few opportunities to explore or even wonder off the beaten path.  I know this may seem like a discredit to the created city, and perhaps it is, but the direct progression of the episodes allows the story to stay on point and the player to remain focused, albeit at the expense of the hard work put in behind the scenes.  I also felt the world was a bit scant in terms of population.  You will encounter an occasional citizen or street vendor, but they don’t directly interact with you and all of the homes and apartments you find yourself in will be void of human life whether it’s the middle of the day or the middle of the night.  Sure, Dontnod threw in a bunch of random housekeeping or maintenance cyborgs as placeholders within the environment, but I found those to be as remarkable as the random furniture in the room.  The back third of the game also involves many areas that look identical and granted the plot justifies the setting but I was hoping to see more of the dazzling atmosphere that is introduced in the first half of the game.

remember_me_3Remember Me not only has a series of technical missteps but also some conscious decisions that break immersion so distinctly I’m surprised they were left in.  For starters the load times, even installed on my Xbox 360, were extremely long.  Given that most of the times I had to reload were sudden action scenes that required you to know what was coming next to react or cheap deaths because Nilin didn’t register you were leaping to a ledge instead of her simple hop, it was aggravating.  I still don’t understand why games today have those intense action scenes completely focused around twitch reactions and then force you into specific routes or curveball counterintuitive inputs, it’s annoying and reminds me I’m playing a video game.  Thankfully these sequences are few and far between here.  Since Remember Me is so linear and scripted, there were a few times in the campaign where contextual events like a door opening or ledge dropping simply didn’t happen and I was forced to reload a checkpoint.  I’m not sure how widespread this was (I played a retail copy pre-release and there were no online updates during this time), but with the long load times and general confusion it was a rare but unpleasant occurrence.  Furthermore the dialogue is somewhat lacking, with most conversations being monologues or banter between Nilin and Edge, but hidden within this dialogue are often major plot points.  If you’re not paying attention, which can be somewhat difficult while you’re running around and trying to figure out where to go next, you may miss large reveals in the story.  They continue to be reinforced, but no one likes to piece the story together contextually.

Remember Me is trying to tell a complex interactive story without sacrificing the gameplay that so often falls to the wayside in games of this type.  I can already tell that several factors are working against it: it’s a title that comes late in the generation, it’s only single player, the campaign is around 12 hours long, it’s riddled with “take it or leave it” mechanics, and it doesn’t do anything all that new.  Still, I feel that this project was handled with enough care to justify the packaging it comes in – not all single player games should be $60 but the production value appears to justify the cost.  I can see where this is going to be popular among the crowd that latches to cyberpunk or deep single player experiences, something definitely lacking in today’s gamespace, but I fear that the typical turn-and-burn gamer will find nothing compelling about it.  Still, if you want to play a game that centralizes around the story and unfolds with decent gameplay and a few eyebrow raising mechanics, Remember Me is sure to satisfy.

Final Score: 4 out of 5 (review policy)

This review was originally written on The B-Team Podcast web site but the writer retained all rights to re-publish this review.  Keep in mind that all comments are based on the first week of release.  A review copy was provided by Capcom for the Xbox 360.  Later in time the writer replayed this title on PS3 and noticed no inherit differences.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 12, 2015 at 11:00 am

Posted in PC/Mac, PS3, Reviews, Xbox 360

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Resident Evil HD Remaster Under 3 Hour Speedrun

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Completing a longer game in a speedrun can be not only an accomplishment but also quite rewarding.  In the case of Resident Evil, completing the game in a speedrun is literally built into the programming with the expectation that after you’ve explored the game a couple of times you will jump right into it.  The recent Resident Evil HD Remaster came out and while I found the game quite difficult in my recent playthrough and it took me over 11 hours to complete, I dared leap into an under 3 hour speedrun (albeit with the gracious help of a guide from GameFAQs).  I also decided to capture it and offer voiceover so that you can not only enjoy watching a speedrun, but see what is done and why to somewhat bend the timeline of the game to be as short as it is.  I’ve embedded the first video below and you can see the entire playlist here.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 2, 2015 at 11:00 am

Mini Podcast: The Legacy of Shinobi

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For this week’s mini podcast Fred tackles the Sega franchise Shinobi, and more specifically the Joe Musashi games from the earliest years of the franchise.


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Written by Fred Rojas

January 31, 2015 at 3:14 pm

Resident Evil HD Remaster Review

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Fred’s Take

After long last it appears that Resident Evil, specifically the Gamecube remake from 2002, is making a widespread appearance on modern consoles complete with increased resolution, performance, and controls.  This is significant because the number of people who owned a Gamecube was relatively small and the Wii port had such a limited print run it was a bit difficult to find.  Not only that, but at 12 years old, the game itself has plenty of dated setbacks that most gamers I talk to refuse to put up with.  Thankfully this new version is digital only (no need to hunt down copies), adapted for today, and relatively inexpensive ($19.99 on all platforms).  With all the tweaks made to this game it is so close to being worth the money I can’t see any fan of horror games or the original series not wanting to pick up this new version.  Besides, it’s January, what else is coming out?

If you played the original to death – and pretty much anyone who owned the game back in 1996 did as we waited two whole years for the sequel – it’s a pretty rudimentary journey at this point.  You know where everything is, you probably know most of the tricks, you don’t need to save often, and your completion time will be somewhere in the 3-6 hour mark.  On the other hand, the limited release of this game and the cumbersome systems it can be found on means that you probably aren’t that familiar with it.  This is no graphical coat of paint over the original design, it’s a brand new experience.  The mansion’s layout has been changed, most of the puzzles are different, there are new enemies, and everything is scattered in completely different places.  That doesn’t mean that experts of the original can’t jump in and easily conquer this title from start to finish, but it’s going to take you some time.  Even more impressive is the fact that despite me completing the original at least once a year since it released, this version was able to get some tense and great jump scare moments out of me along the way.  It’s a new Resident Evil and it’s worth replaying.

Suppose you already picked up and played the Gamecube original (or the more rare Wii version), then there may be a bit less that this version has to offer.  Instead of 480p/widescreen (widescreen was only in the Wii version), you do have the benefit of 720p/1080p depending on the version you pick up.  Like many of Capcom’s Resident Evil HD versions before it, this version varies in the benefits of the new resolution from looking incredibly crisp and on par with today’s games and looking like a blurry stretched mess of an upscale.  Lighting is probably the most obvious and appreciated upgrade, Resident Evil is a better game with dynamic lighting and shadows.  Capcom was picky in what it remade and didn’t for this version and the inconsistency shows no matter how well versed you are at visuals.  That said, it’s still as gorgeous a game as it ever was and I didn’t see much of an issue – it looks much better than any other version I’ve ever played.  When you start to break down the differences between the 720p and 1080p versions, however, that’s where the lines begin to blur much more.  In short, just get the version that helps you sleep at night.  Having touched the fully upgraded PC version and compared it to the 720p PS3 version, I see little or no reason to own both, they are essentially the same game, even visually.  There is also a control option that plays a bit more like today’s shooters, but as I attempted a play with them I found myself hiding back into the hole of the classic tank controls.  This may not be the case for you, but to me it appears that Resident Evil is truly only Resident Evil with those tank style controls.  It makes sense, once we had a first person perspective mode Metal Gear Solid just didn’t seem right in The Twin Snakes, am I right?

This game is hard.  Not impossible and I’m not going to compare it in any way to a certain set of games by From Software, but if you are careless about your surroundings and enemies it will cost you.  This often comes in the form of dying after you had gone on a 30-60 minute run and had to re-start a portion all over.  Not only that, but with the new items and locations throughout this game it can be harder to figure out what you’re looking for or what to do next to progress without consulting a guide – which I admit I had to do twice during the campaign and it made me roll my eyes both times I saw the solution.  Pixel hunting and finding that item on the shelf isn’t so bad with the original because I know exactly where everything is and what to do, but that’s not the case with this one and you may be searching for like an hour to find a power cell that’s tucked away in a corner somewhere.  All of these items result in a much longer play of the game.  It appears Jam beat it in 7 hours whereas I was more around the 11 hour mark – although to be fair I only died 2 or 3 times because I was constantly backtracking and saving like a scaredy-cat.  So play however works best for you.  I also noticed that with the difficulty ramp of the Jill campaign, which is the easier of the two and my personal recommendation for you to start with, I am very eager to jump right back in and tackle the Chris campaign.  That’s not normal for me with Resident Evil on the PS1.

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In the end this is a way to bring those exclusive Nintendo titles over to mainstream consoles and share them with the masses.  I’m not sure how popular this version will be, but Capcom has made it as cheap and easy to find as it can within reason – those Wii U complainers will probably be reminded that the Wii version works on their console.  If you’ve never played this version or wish to revisit it after all these years, the price and availability makes one of my favorite games of all time come back to life.  Thank you Capcom.

Final Score: 5 out of 5 (review policy and guidelines)

If you wish to see this game in action, feel free to check out our quick look.

Jam’s Take

Once again you have stepped into the world of survival horror, good luck.

remake_jamAs you may be aware I have been a Resident Evil fan from day one. Originally I rented the Playstation original from Blockbuster, I genuinely found the experience to be quite scary and difficult. Yes, the graphics on that version haven’t exactly aged well but the game itself still holds up as a solid but difficult survival horror game. I think I warmed more to Resident Evil 2 in the earlier days because it was a lot easier. Over time though I began to appreciate Resident Evil a lot more.

Resident Evil then received a very impressive remake on the Gamecube. This for some of us was the reason we purchased a GameCube. I remember playing this game late into the night and actually falling off my chair at some of the jump scares. Since Nintendo had a deal with Capcom at the time this version of Resident Evil would remain an exclusive title to Nintendo consoles. But of course time passes and Capcom needs money especially with increased financial pressure on the company. It was no surprise that we would eventually see Resident Evil finally get a release on other consoles including the PC.

remake_4Last year a new remastered version has been released and being the Resident Evil fanboy that I am, I was’nt whiling to wait a month for the digital only release in my own territory. So I imported  a physical copy for PS3 all the way from Hong Kong. Though this version is Biohazard, (the original Japanese title of the game). This review very much represents the digital releases.

Even though I have played the Resident Evil Remake multiple times on the Gamecube and even the Wii version it still felt utterly fantastic booting this game up again and playing through. The opening cutscene remains untouched in terms of graphical quality, but, once you head into that familiar Spencer mansion I was surprised how good the graphics looked compared to the Gamecube version.  The game runs at 30fps on the last gen consoles and looks fantastic. Character models look great and the pre rendered backgrounds look even more detailed than before, it feels like there is less of a fog on the screen. Then again I am now playing the game on a flat screen TV whereas before I was still using a CRT. I found myself just wandering around appreciating the environments as a Zombie was lowly slumping toward me.

remake_1The entire Resident Evil remake campaign remains unchanged. The developers have now offered a easy mode which is available right from the beginning of the game (before I think it was only available when you died multiple times on standard difficulty). The biggest inclusion to the package is the altered controls. Don’t panic if you want to play the game in its original vanilla form with the tank controls you can still do that. To appeal to a new audience the developers have offered an alternative control scheme. Unlike before where you would have to hold down a button to run  pushing on the left analogue stick will make Jill or Chris run in whatever direction you want. These controls really simplify the experience but it kinda takes the tension away. I personally avoided this because I am so used to the original controls, it just felt right that way.

Since the Gamecube lacked online support the HD Remaster has included online leader boards so you can see how ridiculously fast other people have finished the game. You can also compare your scores to your friends. Of course with this being on next gen systems the game also has trophy/achievements included.

remake_5Resident Evil is a survival horror game. Health items and ammo are limited and it’s greatly discouraged to kill every enemy. You have limited inventory space to carry items, so you have to choose your equipment wisely. You get to chose one of two characters Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield. You are members of S.T.A.R.S (Special Tactics And Rescue Squad) hired to investigate some suspicious murders in the mountains. Of course you end up finding a mansion where hell breaks loose and your only goal to to escape. If you want an easier game you’ll pick Jill, but it is encouraged to play both campaigns as the stories play out completely different. As you explore the mansion you will come across Zombies as well as other nasty creatures. In between surviving those experiences there are also puzzles to solve some of which by failing could lead to your death. If that wasn’t enough the game throws a fair few boss battles at you. Should you enter a specific room under prepared this may also lead to a cheap death. Dying is a common place in this game the first time through, it’ll probably take you around 7 hours. Once you have memorized the correct pattern and route you will soon find yourself speeding through once you know what to expect. Nothing beats that first time experience though. You can save but it is limited to the amount of ink ribbons you have in your inventory. I came across a problem here with my copy the game took a very long time to save the game. Whether this is a problem with the import copy or my own PS3 console I’m not sure but looking at footage online it didn’t appear others were having this issue.

Unlike the original game on Playstation the remake does make a lot of changes to the game. For starters unless you get lucky and blow the head clean off a zombie the bodies don’t disappear. In fact if you don’t dispose of them properly they return again from the dead as the more threatening Crimson Heads which can kill in just a few hits. As well as that it is not uncommon for Zombies to bust down doors and follow you into other rooms practically forcing you to fight them.

My favourite part about the remake by far is how it surprises those that have even played the Playstation game to death. Certain memorable scenes will not play out the way you remember them. The puzzles in the game have also been re-worked so even though you may remember what you need to do, the solution now plays out completely different.

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All the audio has been rerecorded for the game in Japanese and English depending on your preference. Since this is the remake there are no infamous ‘Jill Sandwich,’ lines which I kinda miss from the game. The voice acting and script is actually fine in the game. The use of sound in this game is excellent. Your footsteps will change as you run from carpet to marble floor. Lightening will occasionally fire off as you run past windows and on many occasions you’ll feel like you heard something in the dark distance but will just dread investigating further.

Resident Evil HD Remaster is a great horror title. Fans of the series will find reason to buy this again despite it being the same experience on the Gamecube (and Wii). The game still looks incredible and was a joy to playthrough again even though I am very familiar with the experience. Despite the inclusion of a simple control scheme and easier mode this probably still won’t appeal to the mass gamers. If the original Resident Evil games were not your cup of tea this new update will hardly convince you to have another go. If your new to the series and love horror games this however is a must buy.

Final Score: 5 out of 5

Now lets have a moments silence for the S.T.A.R.S members we lost during this game.

Resident Evil HD Remaster will be available tomorrow, January 20, on the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC for $19.99.  This release is digital only.  The 360/PS3 version runs at native 720p 30 frames per second (720p30fps) and the Playstation 4/XB1/PC version runs at native 1080p 60 frames per second (1080p60fps).  Content is identical in both versions.  The reviewers purchased advanced box copies from Asia, where the game released back in November, for this review.  If you’re interested in this version, visit play-asia.com.  This site and review have no ties to the Play-Asia web site.

Written by Fred Rojas

January 19, 2015 at 10:43 am

Resident Evil HD Remaster First Look

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Sorry this is going up on Sunday night.  Normally Retro Game Night is recorded on Friday and goes up Saturday morning, but we had to delay recording a day and these HD videos take a lot longer to render and post to YouTube.  Either way, the video speaks for itself, but Fred got a retail copy of Resident Evil HD Remaster on PS3 that will be coming to the US in “early” 2015 (according to Capcom).  Well since there was another option, we grabbed it early.  Enjoy!

Written by Fred Rojas

November 30, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Review: Alan Wake

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aw_boxPlatform: Xbox 360, PC (Windows only)
Released: 2010 (360), 2012 (PC)
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft
Digital Release? Yes, this game is available on all released platforms digitally
Price: $8.55 (disc only), $10.00 (complete) per Price Charting

The wind howled violently outside, coupling with the darkness to generate an atmosphere of dread.  Had it been raining the scene would be complete.  On the other side of the window, a reviewer sat down and began to play a new video game in the dark.  While the gentle glow of the television provided just enough light to see around him, it was as if he were transferred to the fictional location of Bright Falls along with the game’s protagonist Alan Wake.  What unfolded over the next dozen or so hours was impressive.  This game was not unlike others he had experienced in terms of what to do or how it looked and felt, however thanks to thoughtful plot progression and deep character development the reviewer was able to let other faults go.  He was repeating the same steps over and over again, the algorithmic nature of the confrontations were drowned out by the need to proceed forward and see where the story went.  He wasn’t even sure what was going on anymore because, in truth, the plot was convoluted.  It didn’t matter, the experience was begging him to move forward.  He hoped it would not end.  This was Alan Wake.

aw_02If you have a flair for the over dramatic then you will feel right at home with Remedy’s action thriller that was recently featured in our vaporware podcast.  So little was known about what to expect from Alan Wake that when everyone finally got their hands on it there was this mixed sense of familiarity with the type of game it was, coupled with intrigue to the way it handled being a video game.  At its core Alan Wake is nothing more than a third person shooter with a so-so dodge mechanic where you use a combination of light and gunfire to absolve a haunted world of enemies.  If that were all the game had to offer, you wouldn’t be reading this review.  No, the soul of Alan Wake is the unique storytelling style that merges metaphysical realities with an unreliable protagonist and keeps you guessing over the course of the game.  While Deadly Premonition ticked all the boxes to look and act like Twin PeaksAlan Wake uses a more subtle approach to feel like Twin Peaks.  It’s much closer to being a Max Payne game than the studio would care to admit – I wouldn’t be surprised if it started life as that – but much like those original titles its barrage of enemy encounters are just varied enough that the gameplay never gets tiresome.  Barring that, there’s a larger layer of tone and aesthetic that work together to transform the world of Alan Wake from being more than just a simple video game, it’s an entertainment production.

aw_1Your first episode in the game is Alan and his wife arriving in Bright Falls, simple as that.  It’s daytime, everyone is nice, everything is peaceful, and with the bright lights and vivid scenery there’s little pause as to what danger may be lurking.  If you were fortunate enough to know nothing more about the plot, you might not even know this game is slated as a thriller or horror game above everything else, so when it takes a drastic turn you’re caught off guard.  I referred to the game as an “entertainment production”, which trust me is not an attempt to oversell it.  What I mean by that is this game is trying to blend media at an aggregate rate: the storytelling is that of a book, character development of the cast has an arc like a movie, the level progression is separated by “episodes” that even feature a “previously on” like television, each episode ends with credits and an official song that together make up a soundtrack well worth the extra money I paid for, and your traditional linear action gameplay well represents a video game.  If you’re keeping track that means Alan Wake has hints of a book, movie, television show, audio album, and video game; something I felt could only be described as an entertainment production.  It works, too, which is what I never expected.

aw_04Keep in mind this is still a video game through and through, so no matter how good the graphics are, how well the storytelling subtly foreshadows or develops, and how great the soundtrack is, you still spend a majority of your time playing a video game.  That video game, while doing nothing really new, had the right mix of level design and encounter variety to keep me wanting to come back.  If you look at a barebones list of what happens in the game or view a handful of random clips taken from it, I can see how you would deduce that everything is the same as everything else, which is probably true.  Even the collectible pages come together to give more depth to events happening, it’s all part of the plan; well, except for those Twin Peak-esque thermoses that have no value to the game whatsoever, those should go.  It’s perhaps that fact as to why the game delves so deeply into other media and styles for its soul that it took so long to come out and tweak just right.  Whatever the reason, it’s a solid mix that fascinated me back then and continues to amuse me now.  Without giving away any spoilers I can just say that Alan Wake is a full experience that will have you on edge from the creepy beginning to the frantic ending.

Extra Episodes

At the time of its release, Alan Wake didn’t quite feel finished once you beat the game.  Some of the game’s stronger plot points get reconciled, but there’s no question that the most key concept was missing in action.  This all eventually wrapped up in two supplemental episodes: The Signal and The Writer.  While these episodes take a lot of time to wrap up a relatively basic concept, the gameplay of each drastically switches up the nature of how you had played the rest of the game.  This is why I feel that the story was already complete in an earlier version of the game, but they had no good way to integrate DLC with more of a story unless they just stripped the end of the story out of the main game and used it for the plot points of the extra episodes.  I only say this because the gameplay either gets harder or has you using styles or concepts absent from the main game that while the plot feels like it was stripped from the core product, the gameplay feels anything but.  If you grab this game on PC, both extra episodes are integrated into the game and you enter into them after beating the main story, but if you grab this on Xbox 360 (disc or digital) you will want to plunk down the extra money for this DLC because the game and plot won’t feel complete without them.  Kind of a cheap tactic if you ask me, but it’s a worthwhile amount of content for the price that I’m willing to let it go.

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American Nightmare

This download-only title released in 2012 around the time of the PC port for both PC and Xbox 360 that serves as a spin-off tale of the original.  You can ditch everything you know about the plot, the characters, and to a certain extent even the gameplay rules of the original because despite being a shorter experience, American Nightmare is its own game.  Remedy replaces the isolated New England town of Bright Falls with the isolated and desolate environment of a roadside town in the Nevada desert.  If Alan Wake was Twin PeaksAmerican Nightmare is most definitely Stephen King.  All of the different things I loved about the experience of Alan Wake‘s multimedia experience make a return, but that’s about the only thing that carries over.  Whereas the original game was about a somewhat familiar setting that involved characters you didn’t know, American Nightmare takes a character and circumstance you are intimately familiar with and gives you a setting you don’t know.  This one isn’t just shadow people, it contains larger than life creatures, foreboding abandoned warehouses, and even monsters from other worlds.  They flip the unreliable protagonist nature of Alan Wake once again, but in a new way.  I also have to commend the use of the model for Alan Wake in now real full motion video for a lot of the cutscenes, which makes it all feel more “real” while the events continue to be more “surreal”.  It ends a bit too quickly, but I get the feeling Remedy was ready to put Alan Wake to rest for a while by the end.

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If you decide to delve down the delightful rabbit hole that is Alan Wake, provided that you get intrigued by all of the unique things it does, you are in for a treat.  By the time I was half way through the first game I wanted (and purchased) the book, the soundtrack, and watched the Bright Falls mini-series that should still be available on the Zune Marketplace video store for free.  I wanted to become immersed in Alan Wake.  Returning to the game after a few years had passed and now for this third time I am pleased to say that it’s all familiar but still delightful.  It’s still a video game and you will find yourself having moments that come with any sort of challenge or annoyance that accompanies all video games, but it’s also unique enough that you will be glad you came.  Did I mention that the fantastic soundtrack that includes the likes of Poe and Roy Orbison blew my mind when I heard them return for this game?  When we look back at the wonderful games that defined the first HD generation of consoles, Alan Wake is going to be one of those fine examples that sadly seems to be locked in time and doomed to never return.

Final Score: 5 out of 5  (Review policy)

Written by Fred Rojas

November 20, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Posted in PC/Mac, Reviews, Xbox 360

Tagged with ,

Review: Bayonetta

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bayonetta_360_boxPlatform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii U
Released: 2010 (360/PS3), 2014 (Wii U)
Developer: Plantinum Games (360), Nex Entertainment (PS3 port), Bee Tribe (Wii U port)
Publisher: Sega (360/PS3), Nintendo (Wii U)
Digital Release? Yes, this game is available on all released platforms digitally
Price: $7.59 (disc only), $11.24 (complete), $14.99 (sealed) per Price Charting

Bayonetta is an anomaly.  It succeeds where many before it have failed.  Merging a Japanese style video game in every sense of the word, whimsical plot, a female sexually independent dominatrix lead, and incredible gameplay that attracts both Eastern and Western fans alike.  It is a true testament to the fact that if you bring a bunch of ideas together, no matter how outlandish, and they all remain consistent with an overall theme then more can definitely be better.  The first major release from Platinum Games knocks it out of the park, provided you don’t play the PS3 version.

Bayonetta_1Bayonetta opens in the fictional town of Vigrid where an endless battle is being fought between light and dark wages on.  Representing the light are the Lumen Sages and representing the dark are the Umbra Witches, and right off the bat this game turns the tables on you by revealing that your lead character, Bayonetta, is an Umbra Witch.  Not that the light is portrayed in a particularly positive way – all of these “angelic” creatures don halos as well as aggressive weapons, massive sizes, horrific appearances, and an affinity for causing death.  As Bayonetta you will trek across areas that vary from natural modern cities to metaphysical interpretations of heaven, purgatory, and hell, all with help from the game’s handful of unique characters that add some spark to Bayonetta’s lone wolf demeanor.  That’s not to say you’ll be swapping who you play as or that there’s a multiplayer component – because you won’t and there isn’t – nope, all of these cast members merely break up the monotony of the typical “hero on a quest” formula.  It’s all a good fit for an entertaining story, but that’s only the half of it because from both a plot and gameplay perspective Bayonetta herself has plenty of depth.

 

Get Ready!

Get Ready!

Developed by former Clover studio members(they made Viewtiful Joe and Okami for Capcom, among others), Bayonetta is one hell of an action beat-em-up title that feels like an alternative reality sequel to the original Devil May Cry (which creative director Hideki Kamiya is also responsible for).  Bayonetta  is a tall, slender character that has plenty of finesse and flexibility, which will be flaunted both for the benefit of battle and to flirt with the player.  The push and pull of combat is juggled by Bayonetta’s combos and a dodge mechanic that, when timed correctly, can give you an opportunity to dole out some massive hits on groups frozen in time.  This game is not about memorizing combos, despite the presence of a countless number of them, but rather responding with twitch reflexes to the actions of your opponents.  By the time you reach some of the later battles you will be required to anticipate the counter to an enemy’s action, thus making the final stages feel more like a dance or game of chess than a beat-em-up.  This might have been a setback were it not for how elegantly Bayonetta blends it all together and slowly builds to the point of some of those late encounters.  It also doesn’t mind making the most of Sega’s library as it taunts and emulates some of my favorite classics from the late 80s arcade era, complete with a surprising level that kept a smile on my face the whole time.

bayonetta_2In lieu of all the craziness, complex battles, and seemingly noble battle between two forever warring sides, Bayonetta is hardly a game to be appreciated by all gamers for a number of reasons.  First and foremost the game is definitely not for kids with consistent swearing, graphic violence, and lets not forget a cascade of sexual innuendos, suggestive poses (complete with camera flash), and the fact that Bayonetta’s finishing move involves her getting completely naked.  Yup, you read that right, she gets completely naked.  Before you worry too much about what type of game this is, for the most part the animation of these finishers is kept somewhat classy by covering up the lead lady’s naughty bits and never really having any true nudity, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t spend a significant amount of time in the buff.  It’s explained dutifully by the fact that all Umbra Witches have long hair that houses their powers and thus everything attached to Bayonetta, including her unique wardrobe, is actually her hair wrapped firmly around her body; when this power must be unleashed, all of her hair exits and generates various intriguing avatars for which to dispel the largest of her enemies.  So basically in order to kill a big monster she’s gotta have hear hair leave and that renders her naked for the moment.  I could also see how the consistent spread legs, bent over, and licking lollipop shots could be construed as distracting when you consider most of these shots occur at the end of a battle, but frankly it feels more like just an extension of the character.  Bayonetta is in control and she doesn’t care if you know it or not so when she teases you.  She poses in such a way as to get your attention and remind you that if anyone is being exploited here, it’s you the player.  I thought it was a great play on roles and a surprising way to break the fourth wall, but historically Bayonetta is viewed more as an oversexed male perspective of a character rather than the strong female lead she represents.  Perhaps this will have no bearing on your interest in the title, but it is a consistent and necessary theme.

While it’s a blast from start to finish, I have to admit that Bayonetta is not without flaws, and that’s assuming you dismiss the fact that the necessary 60 frames per second (fps) of the 360 and Wii U versions are throttled by poor porting on the PS3 and can be responsible for a drop to the lower 40s on Sony’s console.  This is critical in that the entire game depends on the flow of combat and literally five frames of animation can mark the difference between a perfectly executed dodge and a clunky late jam on the button that leaves you open for large combo damage.  This game is also difficult to play in long strides due to the 12-15 hour campaign being chock full of high tension and twitch reflex gameplay that make it far from a “sit back and unwind game”.  Fortunately each new encounter feels more like a new puzzle rather than a batch of throw away enemies and once the gameplay gets its hooks into you Bayonetta is addicting.  I could see many starting the game but eventually coming to a point where it’s too exhausting to continue to the end, not to mention some of the less than ideal checkpoints during boss battles.  If you stick with it, the accolade of completion and seeing the conclusion to the story are a fitting reward for your efforts.

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Bayonetta is a game that skates the lines of many games I had enjoyed in the past but was one of the first to nail that overall hybrid.  With a playful Japanese style, larger than life opposition, and almost rhythmic combat style there’s a lot to love with this title.  It may have a few flaws and for those that never quite get down the timing, can seem like it starts to wear out its welcome, but I was always anticipating my next session from the first chapter to the large scale ending.  It takes a bit of time to sink in and you get bombarded by some jarring minutia at the onset, but in the end Bayonetta is a must play title for anyone who owns a 360 or Wii U.

Wii U Extras

bayonetta_wiiu_costumesIn truth the more recent port of this title that accompanies its sequel in the states is almost indistinguishable from the 360 version, especially when the 360 upscale to 1080p is up for comparison.  Nintendo’s true stamp on the original comes in the form of various costumes of popular Nintendo franchises that make guest appearances in the Wii U version.  From the beginning you have the Peach, Daisy, Link, and Samus costumes at your disposal, which not only change Bayonetta’s aesthetics but also provide her with appropriate special abilities.  At first I was eager to try on each of these costumes and enjoy the gameplay benefits they bring, but after a short time I regretted their presence.  That’s not to say I don’t think they should be included, more optional content is better than no content in every case, but rather that I just didn’t find any value in them.  I can’t get over how goofy Bayonetta looks in all of the costumes and the fact that the game doesn’t acknowledge them – which I knew it wasn’t going to do because those cutscenes were created long before Nintendo costumes were considered – but in a title that thrives on ridiculous over-the-top circumstance it felt just a bit too far even for Bayonetta.  I also thought that complicating the gameplay with these seemingly super moves actually hindered my ability to effectively chain combos and thus acted as more of a handicap rather than a special benefit.  In the end, it’s up to you, but I played the game as if the costumes didn’t exist.

Final Score: 5 out of 5  (Review Policy)

Written by Fred Rojas

November 13, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Posted in PS3, Reviews, Wii U, Xbox 360

Tagged with , , ,

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