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Demtor's blog

8:40 AM on 12.16.2009

Berserk: From Manga to Dreamcast and PS2

(Almost a year since I posted a c-blog... hope I still got it.)

"Berserk? What the hell is that? Wasn’t that an 1980’s arcade game?"

No, that was Berzerk. Most people, who know about Berserk, probably watched the Japanese animated series from 1998. An incredibly dark and violent medieval world based in reality but filled with gruesome demons and evil power hungry humans ready to unleash massive armies of misery. While the animation may not have been the best, its strength, has always been in its story. You will not find hobbits or silly elves in this epic tale. No, what you'll find is a very adult oriented struggle with themes of friendship, betrayal, sex, war, politics, sacrifice, revenge and brutality. It has just about everything I want in a dark fantasy setting. No frills, just violence.

While the anime ends in, well... a shocking series of events, the Japanese graphic novel (manga) is where you turn to in an attempt to understand what the fuck just happened. (And trust me, you'll want to know.) Only then do you realize that the anime series glosses over key plot details and left out important characters in an attempt to animate only a third of the manga, leaving the anime at a cliff hanger ending with no sequel in the making. We can all dream of a new anime series, but it’ll never happen. Get over it.

Oh well though, the story is still going strong thanks to Dark Horse who have been officially translating and releasing the manga volumes for quite some time. The artwork is astounding. The author/artist is Kentarou Miura who is basically a child prodigy who created his first manga when he was 10 in 1976. (When I was ten I once color penciled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and my teachers told me it was the devils work… but I’m not bitter.)This man lives for manga, and it shows. Berserk is his grand opus, and I envy his work.

This is the main character, Guts, with his problem solver

And this is how he rolls >:-)

"Whoa… interesting. What about the games?"

There were two. One was translated to English and released for the Dreamcast while the other (far superior) was for the PS2 and sadly, never made it over seas.

The games are a delightfully violent experience, truly enjoyed by fans of the series and probably not by many others. If you haven't read any of the manga, or even seen one frame of the animation, you likely won't bother to find either of these games. That is, assuming you even have a Dreamcast or a modded PS2 that can play Japanese imports, which most people don't. Regardless, if you meet a fan who begins raving about the Berserk manga, chances are you could impress them with your knowledge of the games they probably never played or even knew existed. I have attained both games, and here is a glimpse in to what they have to offer.

Sword of Berserk: Guts' Rage (Dreamcast - 1999)

This one serves as a side story not in the manga, taking place between volumes 22 and volume 23. The anime series covers manga volumes 1 to 13 so you can see there is a gap of material there even if you did watch the anime. If not, well expect to be confused by just about anything that happens in the game even if it is in English.

I always envisioned this game as an arcade beat ‘em up. It feels and plays like one, but in 3D. You even get a ten second countdown and credits to continue with if you die. The game is hard but somehow fun while rocking ten year old graphics with no lock on aiming and no camera control. The 3D models don't look half bad actually thanks to the Dreamcast, which was a pretty decent system for its time. You'll run through various levels with enemies to eliminate or simply find a way around them to reach the exit. The quick-dash move is useful for that as you can scoot your way past enemies pretty well.


For the most part the game is pretty fun. The combo mechanics are decent. Normal attacks mixed in with strong attacks provide various results. Clanking your sword against walls when trying to hit an enemy right in front of you can get frustrating. The trick is to draw enemies out in to the open where you can use your sword more freely. There is a berserker rage meter fills up as you kill causing Guts to automatically go nuts on people once its full, which is the most fun you'll have out of the game as your sword doesn't clip walls when you rage. You become an unstoppable force to be reckoned with, twice as fast and twice as deadly with new combo animations and an aura of red fire. Too bad it lasts for about 30 seconds. I have found no way to regain health, which is a real bummer as the game is hard and the save system is a bitch. There isn’t a whole lot of dismemberment but thankfully it has plenty of blood flying about. I care about that sort of thing because Berserk without dismemberment is like Doom without a shotgun. It just doesn’t feel right.

Berserk: Millennium Falcon Hen Seima Senki no Sho (Playstation 2 - 2004)

The second of the two games covers volumes 22 to 27 of the manga. It is entirely in Japanese as it was never released to English gamers. It does add new side characters and a story arc not covered in the manga which can be frustrating as there is no translation to be found, anywhere. The best I've found is a guide which covers the basics so you can at least play the game. There are some nicely done translated videos of somebody playing through the game, but it only covers the first 4 hours or so of the game. After that you’ll just stumble through the game splitting things in to glorious little pieces, all the while wishing you understood Japanese.

There is zero camera control in the game, once again... which is very strange as there is no use for the right thumb stick. Whatever though, this game is ten times what the Dreamcast one is. I wanted to obliterate groups of enemies with a very large sword, and shower in their blood. With this game, that is exactly what I get to do. You even gain experience from killing things, and who doesn't love doing that!? I don't even have to worry about my sword hitting walls in this one.

Another nice change is being able to aim Guts' seemingly wild swings in any direction with the left thumb stick as most of the enemies will surround you. As you upgrade your sword proficiency, combo level, and charge up attack Guts will get new moves along with different animations. The more kills made in rapid succession, the higher the reward in exp.

The motion capture work they did in order to create a realistic depiction of a black armored man ripping through hoards of evil creatures with a gigantic sword, is fantastic. Every angle of the sword attack discovers a new and satisfying way to slice and dice your enemies to bits. Seriously, body parts will be flying everywhere and blood will spray buckets of gore on everything. Guts' 3D model will even become covered in a nice shade of red/grey/green, depending on what's being mutilated. The combat is easily the best part about the game and you'll be doing a lot of it.


So much in fact, some would say it gets boring. Especially since the enemies will endlessly spawn in every direction around you as you move throughout the levels. You'll soon become good friends with the square button. It fits the story if you know the source material but you could spend hours just killing things in one place if you wanted to, not even kidding. Seems weird, I know, but in order to advance the game you have to practically run past enemies at some points. You could just cut your way through of course, but it will take some time to get from point A to B that way. The music is outstanding, but can get repetitive depending on how much time you spend on one level. For long treks across the map, I usually just play some music and zone out in a whirlwind of death much like a Dynasty Warriors game would operate.

You'd think the experience gained from killing never ending enemies would break the overall balance of the game, but surprisingly it doesn't. The only time enemies will start to thin out and not mug you at every turn is when you opt to replay a level you previously went through. Each level will have an enemy spawn percentage starting at 100% and eventually drop to zero the more you kill. Experience isn't the only reason you go back to previous levels either. A replay will unveil newly hidden power ups to find and increase your stats. Selectable ambush spots will spawn too, which basically boils down to optional mini games where tons of enemies get thrown at you in waves and help to whittle down the overall enemy percentage if you prove successful. It’s addicting as all hell but can be exhausting at the same time. Even more so once you realize your stats will carry over to new games on highly difficulty levels.

Boss fights are a lot of fun, if a bit on the easy side. I'm only about halfway through the game though. Cut scenes are great, key scenes are taken straight from the manga and help flesh out all the characters... in Japanese.

The intro movie pumps me up, every time. The music, my God, THE MUSIC!! It really inspires a person to want to pick up a sword and whack the first thing that moves. Of course, it helps to know what is actually going on as it assumes the player knows the story already.


There is a nice magic system that adds some fun as well. 4 spells representing each of the characters that travel with Guts providing the standard magical array of defense, offense, healing, and freezing. All of the secondary weapons are actually useful in this game too. Auto crossbow and throwing knifes are kind of silly but can kill smaller nuisances and help thin out a horde of enemies. You can target lock on to bosses with them as well, which can come in handy. Bombs are fun but not nearly as useful as the arm cannon. That’s right, a mother fucking medieval mechanical arm cannon! (Eat your heart out Sam Raimi.) When fired, the force of the blast pushes Guts backwards. Time a slash attack right afterwards and he’ll turn with the momentum bringing his sword to swipe at enemies behind as he slides to a stop. I grin, every time. Another trick is to save up a good blast for the next time a boss to grabs you. Point blank cannon shot to the face, works like a charm every time. All of these abilities have limited timed usage though, but can be upgraded with experience.

The rage meter is handled much differently this time around as you can choose when to use it and for how long. It is, of course, fucking awesome. Everything you do is twice as fast and twice as deadly. Couple that with varying execution animations for different types of enemies, and you have one of the most addicting combat systems I've played in a long time.

"So... Berserk, huh?"


Yes, I highly recommend reading Berserk for anyone who has a stomach for a bit of the fantastical ultra violence. Personally, I crave this kind of thing but don't let all of the blood fool you. The story is intricate with lots of great character development once it picks up. The whole casualty vs Catholicism angle gets pretty interesting too as the church in this world reflects the same we all know and love... during the Spanish inquisitions. (Yes, it goes there.) There is a lot to be explained yet as the series is still on going. Events need to be expounded upon. Mysterious character motives revealed. Many evil doers have yet to meet their fate, but they will. It’s going to be epic when this series finally finishes because the art is so good he takes a loooong time to put out new volumes. I'll probably be 60 years old when the series wraps up, but it'll be worth it. The pay off is going to be big. Plus, after you become a fan of the manga, there is definite fun to be had by tracking down either of these games and a system you can play them on. Every character and detail are correctly handled and taken straight from the manga. So much so that it feels like the manga was based off of these games, instead of the other way around.

[i] -- (There we go. C-bloggin' again and I only said 'fuck' three times! Not bad ^_^ ) [/i]   read

7:28 PM on 01.14.2009

Rediscovering Tomb Raider

In the summer of 1998, I borrowed both Tomb Raider 1 and 2 from a friend and was completely engrossed. I beat them both, back to back. They were each completely different experiences to me, but I enjoyed each of them in their own frustrating way.

No... not like that, pervs. I meant playing the games.

For their time, they were amazingly original 3D adventures. They did new things no one had really done before at that time. It was fun going through the levels very slowly figuring out how things work, and what you needed to do to get to the end of the level. Pretty simple really when put like that but over time I learned to appreciate them for that. Even with their quirky camera, shoddy aiming and tank-like movement. It took a level of patience I never knew I had before. The full motion video cut scenes helped to make things better though.

They made all the hard work, worth it. Back then, FMV anything was still amazing and Lara Croft was a joy to watch in action. She moved like an acrobat, had great voice acting, and preformed some pretty impressive stunts. Yeah, she was sexy, but above all things, she was an interesting character that wasn’t full of herself. She had the right level of cockiness and confidence. She was the female version of Indiana Jones, and it worked.

What? The original games are VERY old 3D graphics. Retro Lara Croft is much easier on the eyes, trust me.

Then I tried the 3rd installment of the series... I choked back the bile in my throat and decided to stop playing the series. It didn’t feel like Tomb Raider anymore. It was something else and I had had enough. I was more than okay with that decision after seeing what Core Design did with the series in the following years. The Last Revelation in 1999, Chronicles in 2000 and The Angel of Darkness in 2003, by all opinionated accounts were all sub par games. I figured I wasn’t missing much.

Recently however, I heard mixed things about the new Tomb Raider game, Underworld. After reading reviews/comments and hearing random podcast discussions (Destructoid, I love you) about how good/bad it was, my interest in the series was sparked once again.

Where has the series gone since I last left it?

Where the games really good again?

I looked into who was making them these days and was shocked to find that Crystal Dynamics had taken the reigns from Core Design. How did I miss this news?? As a big fan of the Soul Reaver/Legacy of Kain series, I knew there was now potential for worthwhile Tomb Raider games once again. Not only did they do Underworld, they also made the last two games in the series, one of which was a remake of the very first Tomb Raider! Wow! Where the hell have I been? Oh well, it’s never too late to play a good game. So I did just that.

Tomb Raider Anniversary (slight spoilers, not really)

Tomb Raider Amazing, is what they could have named it. I am blown away by how much difference 10 years can make in a game series. From beginning to end, I felt like this was the absolute perfect Tomb Raider experience.

No longer does Lara Croft move like a robot. She is agile, quick, and easy to control. Everything about her movement, feels very tight. From wall running with the newly added grappling hook to pole swinging acrobats onto moving ledges, everything has a smooth feel with seamless animation that makes for fun, not tedium. I can do so many cool things with relative ease when years before, I could only watch them in cut scenes. Its almost as if the FMVs of the old games are now the gameplay. Well, almost.

The level design in Anniversary has got to be some of the best out of all the Tomb Raider games. There were parts I remembered vaguely from the original game, and it wasn’t surprising to find out that Crystal Dynamics purposefully worked memorable sections in to the new designs. They kept the original feel and look of almost all of the levels, and then added so much more with traps and puzzles galore. It became very addicting solving things on my own without a guide.

Told you Tomb Raider 1 screens are hard on the eyes, lol. Back then, it was amazing I swear.

Seeing how everything else is fun in this game, it comes as no surprise that fighting enemies is too! Flips, spins, rolls, along with the new dodge mechanic are all a delight to work in combination with the lock on aiming. Boss fights no longer suck the fun out of exploring! They are a welcome and exciting change of pace now. Enemy encounters are still as short and intense as I remember them, only now they have a seemingly cinematic quality to them.

The biggest change from TR1 to TR2 was the addition of human enemies. It always felt like killing people was wrong. Add a flawed aiming system (or lack of) on top of that and you have a recipe for fail. TR1 was full of creatures, monsters and critters. Then, out of no where, Lara Croft found herself in a John Woo movie, complete with motorcycle tricks and all. While it was entertaining to watch, the developers kind of missed the point of their first game. Lara had now become a cold blooded killer with zero explanation as to why. I have no problems killing people, if that’s where the creators want to take the character. They just forgot to lead us there story wise.

Anniversary did something very clever with the writing in that regard. They added an element of character development for Lara, by including the emotions, feelings and events that surrounded her very first kill. I won’t give away the exact details, but it is very cool to witness and once again especially because Lara now has actual facial expressions to show a mixture of emotions. Like everything else in this game, it felt right.

Why are the quick time events awesome in Tomb Raider Anniversary? Because my friends, the action on screen slows down when a button press is about to be present. That way, you can focus both on which button to press, as well as what is happening to the characters on screen before, during, and after a button press. What a novel concept! With most games, QTEs have things moving at an unbelievably fast pace. So fast that you can’t enjoy what’s going on, because the second you get absorbed by the action, you miss the button. By slowing things down momentarily and then speeding up again, it gives the player a chance to both be a part of and enjoy the event. Sweet!

Musically, I have no recollection of the original games. None. Not to say they weren’t good, but 10 years ago, they really didn’t make an impression on me. Anniversary however, is another story. It took Troels Brun Folmann 5 months to compose the score, and it is outstanding. The title music is wonderful and if you play through the Croft Manor side quest, turn up the volume! It never once got old to me. Subtle changes in track from room to room while keeping the main Croft Manor theme going was a very impressive artistic choice. More games need to do this.

Needless to say, I love this game. I know, I probably should have played Legend first since that is Crystal Dynamic’s first attempt at Tomb Raider, but I just couldn’t pass up the original Tomb Raider experience of isolation and exploration. I love that feeling, and they recaptured it very well.

From what little I played of Legend just recently, it is easy to see how much extra polish they put on Anniversary. Everything just feels a little bit better. It is also weird to be killing people again, but not nearly as jarring as TR2 was thanks to Anniversary’s story. I’m glad I went back in to the series in this order as things make more sense.

I’m looking forward to completing Legend and then playing through Underworld. By that time, they’ll have screwed up the series again I’m sure. From what I hear, Eidos wants another revamp in gameplay, another re-image for Lara in another sub par game. They just don’t know a good thing when they have it, do they? In any case, at least Crystal Dynamics was able to attain near perfection with Anniversary.   read

11:25 AM on 11.24.2008

Time For A Game Plan?

As most of you know already, its rough to be a gamer these days. There are so many good games out right now its easy to get distracted. This is especially true if your open to retro gaming which can open up years of awesome backlogged titles you missed out on. If you can't find a game worthy of your time these days, you may be a bit touched in the head and should probably get that checked out. Or am I the crazy one? You tell me.

The list of games currently be played by me on a weekly basis

Fallout 3 (PC)
Dead Space (PC)
Suikoden 3 (PS2)
Armored Core (PS1)
Front Mission (DS)
Godfather:The Don's Edition (PS3)
Pixel Junk Eden (PSN)
Wipeout HD (PSN)
Mega Man 9 (PSN)
Bionic Commando:Rearmed (PSN)
Warhammer:Age of Reckoning (PC)
Left 4 Dead (PC)

Am I an idiot for still wanting an XBox360 to add even more games to my list? Do I have Gaming ADHD? Is there such a thing? What does the tooth fairy do with all of those teeth?

What I looked like when I saw this months release list


And I love it! Its one of those problems in life that you don't mind being troubled with. Like having a significant other that makes you watch movies your normally wouldn't. Or having too much beer in the fridge. These are all good problems to have. Solutions aren't necessarily needed either, thats the beauty of a good problem. You don't need to fix them, just manage them.

However, my big problem with my problem is that twelve games isn't very manageable. I should really finish a few and narrow the focus a bit. Which is hard to do when two of the twelve are open world games, and another two are online games you can never truly finish. Plus, my newly boughten copies of Valkyria Chronicles and Zelda: The Wind Waker are begging to be played, but do I dare add to this list? Playing so many games is almost exhausting!

Its a hard knock life, let me tell ya

What about you guys? Does anyone else suffer as I do? Shall we start up a support group and enjoy punch and pie with group hugs? Who out there has a bigger list to make me feel better and how are you managing it?   read

9:36 AM on 10.10.2008

First Time Impressions: Armored Core (PSOne)

So after almost two weeks solid of Warhammer Online and various half hour sessions of Mega Man, I decided to take a little break by starting a new series I haven't played before. After seeing the trailer for the new Armored Core game coming out, I decided perhaps it was time to check those games out.

1997 with my Playstation, here I come!

Now, usually when someone goes back to play an older game like this they have a safety net built from nostalgic memories to fall on to when the game appears to fall short. That is, unless you've never played the original game before. In that case, its a requirement to always remember two things.

1) The graphics are old, get over it.
2) No, the game doesn't suck, you do. Learn the controls, learn the game.

My first attempt at play, was a complete failure. At first, it seemed like an easy enough concept. Just complete missions, earn money, buy upgrades. Sure I sucked pretty bad but thats alright. I didn't have a manual for the game and I wasn't using a guide. Learning things the old fashioned way left me feeling pretty frustrated only because I had no idea what to do.

I kept at it though. Each mission I tried to move just a little better, aim just a little straighter. Using L2 and R2 to look up and down really threw me for a loop, but I got used to it. Just like a good pilot, you have to put your time in to learn how your craft moves and become better at maneuvering. 10 missions later I felt like I was finally getting a handle on things and pulling off some slick moves with my boosters, except I was -10k in the funding department... not exactly good.

Then it hit me. Progression relies on your ability to buy the right upgrades which in turn depends on you making as much money possible by not sucking. I had not thought of that. This is a good thing to know. So far my mech sucked and I bought him crap parts with what little I could afford.

However, I then discovered the beauty of this game. You can sell your parts at full price, and buy them back at full price. There is no penalty for scrapping your equipment and trying out different parts. I soon found out that this is key. And so began the process of learning what works and what doesn't through trial and error with experimentation. A few hours later and I was ready to start over.

With everything I learned so far, I was finally able to demolish the first 10 missions. Auto-firing missile lock is slick, laser weapons have terrifying power but limited ammo, quad legs (Tachikoma style) to zip around and support the most weight are VERY useful, shiny new generator to recharge energy levels quickly is a must, sell the useless radar, and mix and match the core/arms/head to get just the right build down. Now I'm having fun! Missions went much easier for me the second time around and I had lots of money to try some of the pricier parts and options.

So far I'm very glad I decided to play this series. I can't wait to finish this game and get to Armored Core 2 where the graphics start to really catch up to what the AC units look like in the much improved cutscenes. Not to mention a farther draw distance and levels that don't make me feel like I'm playing in a dark basement.

I'm also thinking the story might be better told in later installments of the series, because right now... emails from random corporations just isn't cutting it for me. I guess if wanted story in my mech games, perhaps I should be playing Zone of Enders.   read

8:39 PM on 07.25.2008

The Punisher Is Back Mother*#$%er's (NVGR)

Not sure how many comic/movie nerds that we have amongst the D-Toid readers, but I'm thinking more than enough to warrant a blog on this.


Now I know... it looks somewhat cheesy with THAT much violence but you know what... I say fuck it! There is no way they could top Batman and the Watchmen (verdict is still out but I'm hopeful) for intelligent comic book depictions, so why not? Lets have some balls out violence that the Dark Knight was missing. We need some more bad assery guts and gore in our movies!

Why not? All these horror torture porn flicks can get away with it? Why can't I enjoy a bloody gun fight as opposed to Saw or The Hills Have Eyes. Bring on the new Punisher movie... lets hope they make it an R.   read

6:11 AM on 07.14.2008

A Cast of Thousands: Garrett


Castle Wolfenstein, originally released for the Apple II in 1981, was the first game to ever use stealth. It wasn't until 1998 that we got to see the next form of stealth based games in two Playstation titles you may have heard of, Metal Gear Solid and Tenchu: Stealth Assassins. That same year their was a little known PC game that came out and pushed the limits of what an first person perspective game could do in terms of stealth play. From the great minds that brought us Ultima Underworld and System Shock, came the PC masterpiece entitled Thief: The Dark Project. And with it, introduced us to this man...


This is what he calls home

"The City"

And this is his world

The Game

The Thief series has a unique and twisted setting oozing with dark atmosphere. It combines a disturbing mix of medieval steam punk, fanatical industrial cults, and pagan magic.

I dare say that Thief is probably the most engrossing series I've ever experienced. Everything is designed to make you believe. From the ambient sound, to the interactive level design, as well as the hidden backstory given in the form of readable diaries and eavesdropping on conversations. Even the menu screen has grinding gears and menacing machinery while you change settings.

Immersion is something the people behind Looking Glass Studios perfected. Sadly they went bankrupt after Thief 2 in 2000. However, the same people from that studio continued to do things correctly later on in a little game you may have heard of called Bioshock. Say what you will about that game, you can't deny that the atmosphere is an incredibly creepy and unique experience.

If you play this game with the lights on, your doing it wrong.

Thief is also one of the most tragically misunderstood games ever. During the time of its release, every game of the FPS genre on PC consisted of the same formula; find guns, find bad guys, shoot them dead. Thief was NOT like that, at all and most people just didn't get it. Garrett is a master thief, not a murderer. That’s not to say he won't snuff out a life or two when pushed, quite the opposite in fact. He'll plant an arrow in your skull and not even think twice about it if he has to. It’s just a hassle to hide dead bodies, that’s all.

Selfish by nature, he is a thief after all, the only valuable life is his own.

"Thief is the single most terrifying, immersive, and rewarding game I have played and the one single-player game I continue to replay … There are countless books I wish I had written; Thief is one of the few games I wish I had worked on." - Marc Laidlaw, Valve (writer/designer: Half-Life 1 and 2)

Thief is a game that is meant to be role played. Yes, you probably could put the difficulty on easy, grab your sword and run around all willy nilly chopping up people and completing missions. If that’s the way you play, you are missing the point entirely.

Thief is also a shining example of using the first person perspective correctly. It’s not just so you can aim better with your bow. Your suppose to feel like your in the game, seeing as the character sees and doesn’t see. Never actually being able to view Garrett as you play is a design choice that helps to put the player in his boots, that is until they completely missed the point in the third game.

The Character
Folks just passed him by, like he wasn't there.

While his origin is a bit of a super hero cliché it does however work in doing two things at once, provided a set up for the training mission as well as give an introduce to Garrett's relationship with The Keepers that will become a huge part of the plot later on. After the little training mission is complete, the story skips ahead almost 15 years where we find Garrett is a cynical, sarcastic and legendary king of thieves that has made a living off robbing the fat and wealthy nobles of society without them even knowing.

They don't tell us why Garrett left the Keepers exactly. Who doesn't want to hang out with a bunch of soothsayers, living in the sewers, whispering prophecies and annotating the history of mankind in secrecy? Sounds fun, right?

Less is always more though and a little mystery to Garrett's past is essential to pulling the player in even more by piquing their curiosities. Who is this man? Who were those Keepers? Why the hell was that intro movie so freaking crazy? All these questions will keep you gripped to your keyboard, desperately seeking answers. Remember when I said everything in this game is designed to immerse the player in to the game’s world? I wasn’t joking.

Over the course of the three Thief games, Garrett goes through a lot of changes. It is a complex story, which is precisely the way he doesn’t want things to be. He is a man who likes things simple, allowing him control over any given situation. That’s how meticulous he is in his craft. Careful planning leads to quick and quiet execution, with no messes or surprises. At the end of the day, all he wants is to be left alone. Karma is a huge bitch though. And while the Keepers basically allowed him to leave and live as he pleased with a life of crime, eventually things catch up with him.

Garrett is constantly bothered with having to correct wrongs he inadvertently became a part of in a big way. That doesn’t mean he won’t crack a safe or two while he’s saving the world though. After all, it’s his neck on the line, why shouldn’t he be able to make a dishonest buck or two?

What He Means To Me

So now we get to the real heart of this write up. The reason I love Garrett happens to also be the reason this game still has an underground cult following still to this day. He offers me the perfect escape from life because when you play Thief, you don’t just play as Garrett. You are Garrett. It’s a game that practically opens a doorway into another world where you become this anti-hero that robs people blind then turns around and saves everyone with some amazing feat of heroics. The strong bond you will end up having with its fictional leading role is a very different experience than most games.

Sneaking through dark corridors, picking locks, knocking out guards, dousing torches, hiding bodies, rappelling off of rooftops, solving riddles, finding secret passages, making that narrow escape from detection, stealing anything that isn’t nailed down and just generally being a sneaky badass gives you this nervous anxiety you’ll soon learn to love. Keeping your calm just as Garrett would in tight situations takes practice and becomes an addicting thrill. It’s exhilarating when you start to make those right decisions with precision timing under pressure. The first time you find yourself stuck in a long open hallway with locked doors and you hear a guard coming around the corner grumbling to himself about his lack of dinner… you’ll know what I mean.

It’s as much of a mental game as a physical. All of your senses are honed in on not being caught. Almost like stepping in to the zone, where you just focus so much on what you’re doing, everything around you just kind of melts away. You forget about everything else for awhile.

After the first few introductory missions, the story begins to unravel in such a way that both Garrett and the player are left in the dark. There’s no lame amnesia cop out here, just spectacular writing. You’ll be second guessing things just as he will, because you’re both sharing the same experiences. In that sense, you really feel like you are him. So when things happen to the character, they are also happening to you. When it hits the fan plot wise, you’ll really feel the pain and anguish in his voice.

Speaking of his voice, the more of it you hear, the more you’ll fall in love with him. It’s a very rare thing to come across a game character that’s so engaging you hang on his every word. You’ll even start to look forward to mission briefings as they are narrated by Garrett himself. He’ll give his own thoughts and insights on the task at hand and as he fits the plot pieces together, so will you. Soon you even begin to think like him. A suspicious mind racing through a weaving tale of twisted plots, always on the guard for the set up, the fall, and of course, the big payback.

Mission Briefing
Stephen Russell is for Garrett what David Hayter is for Solid Snake.

His smooth yet menacing tone coupled with a unique style of delivery becomes engraved in your mind even as you play. Their are rare moments where he will make a joke out loud to himself and chuckle as certain things happen to you during play. Every time, its a delight to here insight from the voice inside your head that is you. Sounds odd, but it works so well.

Garrett’s story arc over the course of the games is fascinating. You’ll come to find that in this dark world Garrett is actually the single shining light of hope to be found. Which is absurd because he’s a thief that lives in the shadows and wants nothing to do with the laws of civilized society. This is exactly how you’ll feel too as the more you discover about the inner workings of the influential powers controlling the city, the more you'll find a genuine dislike for just about everyone. You’re the only level headed person that isn’t cooking up some crazy scheme to wield dark supremacy. All you want is to whack a few guards, steal a few purses, pay the rent and look cool while doing it.

Underneath his suspicion and contempt for organized religion and politics though is a lost soul that wishes things were different. He just sees no point in doing anything about it. That is, until he is forced to. It isn’t until the story comes full circle at the end do we get to see what his true character is worth.

For anyone interested in shining up their PC retro goggles and playing through the series for their first time I assure you, if you can get past the outdated graphics and the drastic changes in the third game, you won’t be disappointed.   read

9:12 AM on 07.01.2008

R Rated Tekken Movie = Good?

I'm a huge fan of movies, but an even bigger fan of games. However, the two forms of entertainment have been at odds with one another for as long as I can remember. Very, VERY, few video game movies manage to get it right. So when I came across this news, I am hopeful for at least one enjoyable video game movie in the future.

I mean, could they really get it right here? Doubtful. But hey, an R rated bad movie is better than a PG-13 rated bad movie. So this is a good thing right? I mean, if there is going to be a terrible movie based on a good game, why not throw some violence in there to make up for its shortcomings?

Take the movie Wanted for example. Were it not for the R rating, I don't think I would have loved that movie quite as much as I did. Same could be said for the last Rambo flick. Thankfully there are some people in the industry who still see the value of putting some balls into their action flicks. I mean, isn't that what they are suppose to be about anyways? Gratuitous violence and over the top action!? Yes, please!

I would hope the success of Kill Bill, Sin City, and 300 (to name a few) would have already shown film makers the value of keeping violence in action films today but apparently someone tried hard to shit on Die Hard 4 in a big way. Tsk, tsk.

Keep the heads rollin' I say >:-) Both in my games and in my movies!

Please come back to your roots Mr. Chow!   read

10:26 AM on 06.30.2008

The Start of the Affair: Doom 2

Let me take you back to a time before the acronym FPS was recognized as a genre. A time before mouselook and jump/crouch buttons. A time when blood flowed as freely as the thousands of spin offs that would soon follow this game's unstoppable reign of terror.

The "2" stands for "Your Going To Die"

As much as I loved killing Nazis in id Software's first creations of Wolfenstien 3D and Spear of Destiny, there was just something so satisfying about making demons spill their intestines that hypnotized me as a teenager. What was it? The sound of their gurgled death screams? The piles of broken bodies that I left in my wake? Or the look on my mom's face when she passed by the computer as I played? Its hard to say.

This game was my first real addiction in gaming I experienced. I would play, and replay it, over and over again. I became so good that I'd actually turn the tint down on my monitor so it was harder to see the enemies. It was also the first game I discovered fan made map packs (WADs) that made me fall in love with creative PC gaming communities. Oh, and this little beauty...

"This... is my BOOMSTICK!"

"Ohhh! Thats gotta hurt!"

With point blank fire being as powerful as a rocket blast, this new gun gave way to a new gameplay style that made the original Doom look like child's play. Speaking of, let me make a quick look back at the original Doom first to understand how we get to Doom 2 in all its glory.

Artwork for Doom? Only Brom could fit the bill. A match made in hell.

The first Doom had three episodes and for the most part used a level design that was much more compact and enemy placement was more on the sneaky side. There was a lot more exploring with those early levels and everything was built around a methodical, plodding pace. This is especially true in episode 2. In episode 3 we saw a more frantic style of levels with tight spaces and lots of enemies for a more in your face approach as opposed to the earlier episodes. However, by that time the player has already seen just about everything and knew how to handle themselves well enough to carve their way through the hordes of Hell. Taking that hectic pace to heart, id Software moved on to create Doom 2.

Doom 2 - A classic start to a classic game

Level design for the first few maps was pretty standard. But as soon as you get that double barreled beauty in level 3, it was on. You'll see the numbers of enemies almost double. Nothing too crazy yet, just standard mix of what the first Doom had along with the new chaingun asshats.

Snipers with a machine guns right here. These fat fingered zombies will pick you apart from the distance if you let them.

Maps 1 - 5 were designed to get you used to the level of difficulty and the proper use of the new shotgun, which you are going to need. However in map 6 we get to see the giagantic spiderdemon boss from Doom get crushed, literally. That happens in map 6! Holy hell!

Right there you knew something was up with Doom 2. Those original bosses were held in unholy revere, kept hidden until the very end of the game in Doom. Here we see him in level 6! Its almost as if John Romero said, "Doom is dead, I crush it. This is Doom 2. Just wait for what we have in store for you later my little green space marine."

Once map 7 hits, you had best be ready. Cleverly titled "Dead Simple," this map introduces both the Arachnotron and the Mancubus in one unapologetic right cross to your face. Object of the level being, be the last man standing.

A Plasma gun and 4 legs of loud mechanical annoyance.

MumjuMAARR!!! At least I think thats what they scream as waves of fire fly at you.

Did I win yet?

From then on they slowly bring in the new enemies you'll learn to fear in different ways. The Pain Elemental that spits flying skulls at you, or the Baron of Hell's little cousin that packs the same punch but goes down a little bit faster. Then we have these skinny bastards...

Thats right, skeletons with two shoulder mounted launchers with homing rockets. Eat your heart out Predator.

And the ultimate of demonic healers...

Revives the dead as well as torches you with fire. Pretty much a must kill immediately if you see one. Just the sound his laugh is enough to make you cringe.

Once you hit levels 12 and on, the maps begin to open up in larger areas providing more space. Why? Because you'll need it to run your ass off! At times, very large groups of everything will come at you in seemingly never ending waves of evil.

Sweet Jesus on a pogo stick!

This is when I learned how to REALLY play Doom 2.

What enemy to kill first and exactly what gun works best given the distance between us. How much damage it will take to drop said enemy. What amount of running space I have to work with if things get too dicey. Naturally you just start to pick up things as you go. What works best, what doesn't. Even what the enemies sound like, the way they move and attack.

And just when you felt like you were getting the hang of things, the next level would mix it up entirely. Levels began to take on a new form of ugly. Instead of just allowing you to have fun in exploring, they were also meant to destroy you. Ambushes became common and very dangerous. Need that health pack in that corner? Go ahead, take it... but that wall drops instantly and you'll find yourself staring at a horde of very bad things.

If you've ever watched a talented Doom 2 player, its a thing of beauty.

To see how they switch between weapons on the run and reacted quickly to a changing hostile environment. Its amazing to see how much chaos gets thrown at a player while they somehow manage to stay calm, assess a situation and think on the fly.

Like a good SHMUP player that can dance in and out of fire without blinking, a good Doom player can predict the direction of enemy projectile fire and how little they need to move left or right in order to bob and weave their way in close to unload that double barrel blast without getting hit. Being able to time their movements with the awesome reload animation that takes about 2 seconds is essential.

Feels so good to watch you die.

I played this game for hours on end. I was memorized by the hellish levels and sense of accomplishment I gained with bleeding my way through each new map. Every area provided a new challenge and double barreled blasts of holy retribution were usually my saving grace.

In looking back, the original Doom seems slow and easy compared to the experience provided in Doom 2. However, with a re release of Doom seen in "Ultimate Doom" they added a 4th episode titled Thy Flesh Consumed. With the knowledge taken from Doom 2 on how best to kill the player, they created the hardest official Doom experience ever.

Still though, nothing will ever compare to the first shock of playing Doom 2. With its new level of difficulty and the massive amounts of in your face action that 32 levels provided. A landmark in gaming history and the reason I'm terrible at FPS games on consoles today. I was born and raised in the hell fires of Doom. Lost in a satanic world with my mouse, my keyboard, and my dear ol' double barrel.


9:37 AM on 05.30.2008

Heavenly S Word Rant

(Warning - long winded rant draws near, no spoilers though)

I loved Heavenly Sword... like I loved Kill Bill. It was B movie material except with an amazing soundtrack. You'll find plenty of over the top nonsense with outlandish plots and characters. The spectacularly gory martial arts violence was a massive delight for me! The main character, Nariko, is probably the most drop dead gorgeous female video game character to ever walk the virtual earth. Its just not even fair that they can make a perfect female of such stunning beauty and then give her the perfect voice along with her facial animations. (English accents... Mmmmm)

She is beautiful, its just too bad she couldn't have been in a better game

Speaking of facial expressions, this game says much more without words. For once in a game I'm seeing real emotion on ever inch of a characters face, its crazy. GTA IV did this well too but Heavenly Sword takes it to a whole new level. I remember when Valve first did stuff like that with G-Man in Half-Life 2. Heavenly Sword makes G-Man look 8 bit in comparison to facial detail. Better still they have the guy who did Gollum for the LotR movies as the main bad guy. He brings life to the lead villain of the game in such a way that only he could. Well acted, well timed, with funny little one liners mixed in for variety.

The levels have this amazing art to them too with huge sweeping vista's of waterfalls and sunsets that are just spectacular.

Being able to beat three shades of shit out a lot of baddies never gets old for me. As long as there is always a healthy dose of blood and options in attacks. Nariko has more moves and combos than I could count with her three different stances plus the ability to switch mid attack to mix up the array of offense provides for some VERY satisfying results. I made kills with moves I didn't even know existed. It made Kratos look almost gimped by comparison. ALMOST.

I never once had a problem with the controls except for the shit brained idea of having the player waggle the controller when knocked flying in the air so she can pull off another amazing move. Fuck your waggle Sony! Last time I checked, the buttons on controllers still work. Fucking use them. Pretty much gave up on that move, making it a goal not to get knocked silly.

Grace and beauty flying through the air just tearing shit up. This is obviously the best part of the game, and its as impressive as watching Tony Jaa tear through people.

But alas, all of the above is tarnished by the following faults...

Gameplay... dear God what were they thinking? The sections that will put you up against 50 baddies you can tear through to your delight in an good old fashioned beat down are tons of fun. I want more of that! I wanted more blood, more action. The fighting is so sweet! I wanted to watch Nariko twist and turn all day long while sending spouts of blood and bodies flying in every direction. Thats not what I got. Instead I got to spend 40 minutes firing a cannon at some catapults using the siaxis motion controller... while being timed. Not so cool. In fact, it was fucking awful. And if that wasn't bad enough, their are sections after that which has you playing as a different character with a crossbow and nothing else. Enter the obligatory frustration with the motion controller. I don't want to spend hours fine tuning motion control with flying obstacles. I really don't. If I wanted that, I'd buy a Wii.

And how the hell is she able to make arrows fly like that anyway? Mind control? Is she the Revolver Ocelot meets Psycho Mantis of medieval times with curving arrows?! Fun character but she left me with a feeling of - Huh?

When I am given the most stunning combat action since the first time I played Devil May Cry, the last thing I want to do is play mini-games with motion controls. *sigh* Soooo much potential but Sony just had to show of their motion controller. Good for you guys. Have a cookie you rip off douche bags. The whole game is like that. You'll have one level that is just bad ass and has you singing praises for the game and then it will turn around and slap you in the face the next. The pacing is all wrong.

The puzzles involve... you guessed it, throwing stuff with motion controls. This I didn't mind as much. Puzzles are what puzzles are. Pushing blocks in God of War wasn't really ground breaking material either, but lets face it, the puzzles aren't there to challenge you really. If I want that I'll play Alundra or Lolo's Adventure. The puzzles are there to break up the action, give you a breather... but it fails in this game because there isn't enough action as it is!

Also - Quick Time Events. FUCKING DIE! Thank you God of War for giving us something great so other companies can try it in every game possible and fail miserably. There is so much intense and very quick action going on in HS that you can't help but watch the action in awe, so when it pops the "press this button" it takes a second to realize, "Oh shit! QTE!" and by then its too late. You seriously need split second reaction for them or you fail. I found the trick to them though, look through the screen. Try it, let everything going on screen blur out and just focus your mind on looking through the one point on the screen. When the button pops on screen you will recognize it immediately. Thats what I had to do in order to pass some of the QTE's. Which sucked balls because I wanted to watch the amazing action! And we're talking Legolas taking down a Elephant type of material. Real grade A in your face cinematic action playing out and I had to instead focus on pressing a fucking button. GARH! Good thing that the QTE's are not random, so you can memorize the buttons that will pop at least.

Why oh why am I STILL being forced to rewatch cutscenes after failing a level. "I just saw this, lets move on. I need to practice this level. Ahhhh for fucks sake, do I need to hear this shit again?" I thought this is Next Gen. I thought we moved past this.

And let me just get downright mean for a second here while I'm at it. I watched the behind the scenes making of where everyone and their mother drooled over the graphics and motion mapping and it became clear to me... these people don't look like they play a lot of games. They look like a lot of overworked programmers and art designers. These fucking people probably never even played their own game. I mean, it took them 4 years to make a game that I can beat in two sit downs (7 hours total). Not sure if thats because they had no dev kit to work with the PS3 at the time or what but I hope their next game can focus more on the GAMEPLAY content and not the "oooh, did you see that pixel shading? OMG Motion Capture! The colors! Wow! This is amazing! We need more graphical power, where is the PS4?!"

They spent so much time focusing on the wrong things in my opinion. Yes, the game looks beautiful (See the above screen shots) but what does that matter if the game sucks overall? How can you make fighting that spectacular and not have more? I don't get it.

Alright, enough rambling, I think you get the picture. Overall this game is best treated like a popcorn movie. Take in its flaws and try to have fun where you can. Don't worry if it gets frustrating as its not a long game, and your bound to kick some serious ass eventually even if it is against a VERY predictable boss fight. This beautifully flawed game needs more ACTION and less GIMMICKS.   read

10:38 AM on 05.27.2008

I Am A Shadow of the Colossus Cry Baby

It was about a month ago today that I beat Shadow of the Colossus for the first time and looking back, I can't remember the last time a game choked me up as much as
that game did.

** SPOILERS (obviously...)

(This is seriously how mentally tied in to the game I was as the following actually went through my head as I approached the last Colossi of the game, adding my own narrative in my head.)

My horse and I, the only friends either of us had in this strange land.

We moved deliberately slow to the massive dark doors. Raising my sword to shine the light of the sun seemed like the only natural thing to do. The magical doorway opened and for a brief moment I thought I heard angels singing as we moved cautiously in to the shadows again.

Trotted to a stop before jumping off to say a quick prayer at the shrine to whatever gods may guide me, or not at this point as there was always something sad about killing a colossi and for the life of me, could not find the reasons why. It just, felt wrong. I buried the doubt again as I had before with the thought of the dying girl who needed my help. Turning to my horse I found reassurance.

Thats when it occurred to me, "this is the last colossi of the game, I won't be able to control my horse after this. I probably won't even need him anymore." In my mind I imagined my character saying a final farewell. So I gave him a last look and then bounded up the steps. When I got to the top of the steps I looked around the canyon, my thoughts lost on what to do next and how to cross over to the other side. Behind me, the echoes of "clip-clops"
reverberated off of the stone walls. I turned to look, then waited. Agro slowly plodded up the stairs, he had followed me.

I called his name and smiled. My faithful friend would not let me go so easily it seemed. I obliged and mounted his back one last time. As I sat in the saddle, I put my sword away and gave him a good pat on the head. We slowly stepped around the edge, there seemed no way over to the other side but an ancient walkway. It soon dawned on me what had to be done. I could not make that jump alone, Agro would have to come with me to the other side. I was happy to get the chance to spend just a little more time with him before I most likely had to leave him sitting somewhere while I continued on to tackle the next colossi like I had so many times before.

Another pat on his mane, and a whisper in to his ear for assurance, I leaned in close to him and snapped the reigns three quick times and off we went. We bounded playfully over the first jump however the seriousness of the situation became immediately clear to me as the ancient walkway started to collapse behind us. I kicked Agro again, pleading for more speed even though he was giving me all he could muster. Then it happened. My friend had tumbled, lost his footing and I was launched forward, landing safely on the other side of the expanse.

I remember saying to myself right then and there, "No!" It was the strangest thing that has happened to me while playing a game in a long time, fuck me, maybe ever. My in game character got up from the fall, turned and looked at the screen and cried out the same as I did, mouth agape in shock. The emotion he showed on his face was actually the same as mine at that time, a look of helpless shock and disbelief before crying out to his friend.

The poor noble beast struggled desperately with the falling rocks before finally tumbling
in to the dark waters below. It still chokes me up now as I write about the experience.


But I swallowed hard, looked to the skies and swore I would make someone pay for that. It was easier to continue on as one would actually do in life... bitter, angry and vengeful. I made the last climb up the rocks biting back the tears. I had come this far, no turning back now. I remember in the end, thinking as my sword finally stabbed deep in to the massive giant's head, "that one was for Agro you son of a bitch!"

What an amazing game full of sad and tragic emotions. My heart was hurting, my gut was wrenching and that wasn't even the end of the game.   read

9:07 AM on 05.23.2008

What a Horrible Night To Have a... Crossover?

Intrigued? I hope so. No, this isn't me having fun with photoshop again. This is an actual creation of my brother's from 11 years ago. I thought I'd share this with you guys as I think its pretty sweet and fellow retro junkies might get a kick out of it.

For those that don't know, the picture below is Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest for the NES...

And this is Super Castlevania 2...

Yes, that is Birdo from Super Mario Bros. 2 and the Eggplant Wizard from Kid Icarus. Tell me now, who hasn't wanted to whip the holy hell out of each of those guys? Notice too the classic Belmont garb instead of tight black leather pants. They provide a much more comfortable flow for the whip snap action while giving you the ability to avoid looking like a lead singer of an 80's hair band.

New sprites for items and enemies all taken from other classic NES games. The story is completely rewritten from every character dialog to all three of the endings, which I wrote. It seems that a bunch of famous Nintendo characters have been trapped inside of Castlevania 2! Oh no! Will they ever make it back to their own games?

You can find more pics and details here. Warning - The site is 11 years old so its a little rough on the eyes but the pictures of all the changes are worth it. Plus there is music from the entire game to be found and the actual remade game itself. Enjoy!   read

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