Archive for the ‘Xbox 360’ Category
Switching It Up
A lot happened both in the talent pool of Mortal Kombat players and in the game design overall between the release of Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3 (MK3). For starters there was a mass exodus of on screen talent due to royalty disputes, so almost no one from the original two games returned for the third release. In addition, Boon and his team were trying to turn Mortal Kombat into a viable fighting game with things no one had ever seen before and mechanics that could compete with the massive rush of fighters in arcades. The game was completely Americanized, with all hints of Eastern influence including symbols, locales, and the soundtrack completely absent without a trace and instead replaced by urban stages, 90s hip-hop soundtracks, and cyborgs replaced the signature ninjas. These locations were now composed of pre-rendered 3D backgrounds and the character sprites were almost totally digitized as opposed to the digitized/hand drawn hybrid of the previous games. Along with it came an overhaul of the controls, including combos and a “run” button to address rightful claims that defensive players ruled the previous title. It’s all one giant 90s metaphor but that doesn’t change the fact that MK3 (and it’s update Ultimate MK3 or UMK3) stands as the moment I felt the series went into the mainstream fighter territory. Couple this with the fact that it was on just about every console that existed at the time, still dominated arcades, and had more content than rival Street Fighter II could ever dream to do with its iterations and I see why it’s creator Ed Boon’s favorite. Mortal Kombat 3 definitely upped the ante.
Platform: Mega Drive and PS2 (Japan Only), English translation available on XBLA (360), PSN (PS3), and Virtual Console (Wii)
Released: 1994 (Japan only), 2012 (English Translation)
Developer: Westone (English port handled by M2)
Digital Release? Yes
Price: $8.00 (Wii), $9.99 (XBLA & PSN – part of Monster World Collection)
The Wonder Boy/Monster World series is one of those unappreciated darlings in gaming that has spread its love across various Sega consoles and even arcades but never reached it’s height of popularity in the West. So I guess it made sense that the series swan song, titled Monster World IV, was released on the Mega Drive in Japan only. It was not until 2012 that a official English re-release came out on services like XLBA and PSN, which is the version I will review here. [Editor’s Note: There is a fan translation of the original game released by DeJap in 2000, that site can be found here. Our review does not account for or evaluate this fan translation.]
Platform: Arcade, microcomputers, NES, Master System, Game Gear, SNES, Genesis/Mega Drive, Xbox/Gamecube/PS2/PSP (part of Midway Treasures)
Digital Release? Yes, it had a digital release on XBLA (360) but was delisted in Feb. 2010
These 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.
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.
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.
Remember 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.
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.
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.
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!