Legitimately beat Mike Tyson and went through Another World Circuit undefeated.
Beat the original Contra without dying. Twice.
Can land the damn plane in Top Gun and can also refuel in midair.
Can't beat Ghost & Goblins without the level select code and has never lied about it.
Thinks Friday the 13th is a great game even if the physics, controls and weapons are garbage.
Mario Paint caused him to buy a Super Nintendo and largely leave his Sega Genesis behind. He has played it more than most video games and wore down the mouse pad so that the grid only shows around the corners.
Has beaten Street Fighter II: The World Warrior and Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers on the SNES on the hardest difficulty without losing a single round. Multiple times.
Is still friends with the girl who worked at a local game store and sold him Street Fighter II nearly 17 years ago.
Beat Final Fantasy 2 in a weekend when he was a kid, yet can't get through a role-playing game these days if his life depended on it.
Has never beaten Final Fantasy VII.
Prefers pads to sticks.
Likes the N64 controller.
Prefers the Duke to the S-controller.
Doesn't think that Super Mario 64 is all that great.
Got an Xbox mostly for Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. And thinks it's a damn good game. Really.
Swore he would never buy a Game Boy Advanced SP, but immediately broke down once the NES edition came out. (And regarding the NES Classics series, true in-store dialogue: "Dude, are you serious?! They seriously expect people to pay 20 dollars a piece for games they can just downlo...Ooh! Zelda!")
Really liked the first Halo. (Well, there goes my dtoid cred.)
Can rock out Dynamite Rave in Dance Dance Revolution like it's nobody's business.
Played the hell out of Animal Crossing: Wild World and hid that fact from nobody.
Stomped Brad Nicholson at Street Fighter IV, but had to resort to the cheapest of tactics in order to do so. ;)
Thinks you're really, really, really smart. And pretty.
Top ten favorite games (in no particular order):
The Legend of Zelda (NES)
Mike Tyson's Punch-Out (NES)
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (N64)
Phantom 2040 (SNES)
Street Fighter II (any version)
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (PS2)
Final Fantasy 3/6 (SNES)
Sin and Punishment (N64)
I love drawing, though I realize that I'm not very good. I figured early on that drawing my own header art would help my blogs stand out. Thanks to Destructoid, and to the scanner that Carollelogram got me for my birthday last year, I feel like I've developed a unique style that's distinctly my own.
Outside of games I've got a DVD collection that is exploding out of a 5'x6' shelf (over 400 titles). So suffice it to say that I love movies. I'm a huge horror fan and I host an annual Dusk Till Dawn Horror Movie Marathon nearly every October. My top ten favorite films in order are as follows:
1. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Il Buono, il Brutto, il Cativo, 1966)
2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
3. Seven Samurai (Shichinin no Samurai, 1954)
4. The City of Lost Children (La Citι des enfants perdus, 1995)
5. The Apartment (1960)
6. Strings (2004)
7. Heavenly Creatures (1994)
8. The Big Lebowski (1998)
9. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
10. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Music-wise, my top 3 bands are The Pixies, The Velvet Underground and Radiohead. I listen to damn near every genre of music (except modern country. I yearn for the days of Hank Williams, Sr. and Tammy Wynette). Hit random on my mp3 player and you'll get everything from darkwave to hip hop to 80's synthpop. I karaoke pretty regularly. I can't sing, but I surround myself with people who can. Still, you've not experienced all there is in life until you've seen me proper butcher True by Spandau Ballet.
Then, as for the literary interests, my love lies with pulp detective novels of the thirties and forties. Raymond Chandler is simply the greatest ever. And Dashiell Hammett is just fantastic. Lately, I've been reading through Frank Herbert's Dune Chronicles at Carollelogram's recommendation. Two books in and I have to say they're astonishing.
If you do the Twitter thing, Haxan1 is my handle should you want to follow me.
Feel free to friend me to your console of choice should you ever want to play a game of Street Fighter. Just be sure to let me know that you're from Destructoid and you'll get the royal treatment.
Do you recall the very first time you saw Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (yes, saw the movie. Not read the book. I'm going for a visual here. [Just so we're absolutely clear, we're going Gene Wilder!])? Do you recollect sitting through the lame songs of the first act (DO NOT defend against this. "Cheer Up, Charlie" was the worst travesty in film since the death of Basil Rathbone) and waiting an eternity for the factory visit? Do you remember the amazement that you felt when that tiny/huge door swung open, revealing an awe-inspiring array of edible scenery? I recently had a similar event hit me with that same level of childlike wonder. I had the uncommon privilege of peeking behind the scenes of Takeshi's Little BIG Planet creations.
Takeshi's Sackboy on the set of his third level, Sackburger(TM).
I recently began anew work on LBP levels of my own (re-inspired by my playthrough of Takeshi's latest level: Sackburger[TM]). This past weekend I put in a ton of time into it. Wanting to show it off my progress, I went straight to the greatest level designer in Dtoid history. After taking a tour and talking a bit of shop, he invited me to his pod to take a tour of some of the things that he was working on. What do you say to something like that, aside from "Who do I have to kill?"
Haxan's Ico-themed Sackboy visits Sackburger(TM).
I'm not going to ruin anything that he's putting together by divulging any specifics. What I will say is that I toured a new level that is nearing completion (which is every bit as great as what he's come up with up till now), I also got a peek at something we all remember from our childhood being recreated in LBP-form with fantastic results so far (Remember the dude that built the working calculator in LBP? Amateur by comparison).
Beyond that, though, was one of the coolest things ever. Takeshi has levels that are essentially warehouses of unused ideas. You enter the level, and you're immediately hit by cool device after cool device. Many things were created for levels, but ultimately didn't fit, or were inspirations that he's hasn't incorporated into a stage yet. It's like a garage where he tinkers and perfects a contraption before moving it out to it's final destination. An inventors workshop in a virtual realm. I can't even describe how impressive this all was to see.
Takeshi's evil mastermind terrorizes the Sackville Shop n' Drop.
If you own a PS3 and don't yet own Little BIG Planet, you're doing yourself a major disservice. If you've got both and haven't checked out Takeshi's levels, then you're seriously selling yourself short on this whole existence thing. Get on it, now. Do a community search for "johanhin", add him to your "hearted" creators and be sure to heart up his levels if (rather when) you've enjoyed them. And keep an eye out for more. I've seen the things that he's cooking up, and you're in for some serious surprises!
Takeshi and his first level: Destructoid.
If you've not seen them already, check out Takeshi's posts regarding his two of his previously released levels: Destructoid and Sackburger(TM). Also, check out his excellent tutorial for building your own Little BIG Planet levels.
Earlier this week I posted the first of three entries of unused drawings that I've created since joining the site. And a new pic of ν-13 from BlazBlue. Today it's more of the same! So, let's kick this thing off with a new pic of ν-13.
One of the things that I try to stay away from in my drawings is using reference materials. My mind has damn near no visual memory at all. Which is to say that if I close my eyes, I probably won't remember what you're wearing and I certainly couldn't visualize your facial features in all but the vague-est sense. Because of this, I will never be able to draw a picture that actually looks like the person I'm drawing. But it also kind of frees my drawings from the restraints of reality. There are obvious exceptions, like the ν-13 from the last post, where her costume was so intricate that I really needed to lock down the look. I did a pencil sketch of the detail, then only used my sketch for reference. And I deliberately changed a couple of things. You know, for fun.
I bring this up, because in this case, I wanted to get ν-13 out of costume. I was trying to boil the character down to what really draws me to her (well, the parts that aren't how badass her metallic angel suit is). And it really is less of a physical thing. It has everything to do with her voice. Her voice has a flat, mechanical quality to it, but also an innocense. It's like she's untouched by the knowledge of a human adult, and is constantly seeing the world through fresh eyes. Like a child, almost. So, that was where I was going with it. I did a sketch at work, and intended to match her in-game outfit when I did my final piece. But, I really ended up loving the vulnerability of the clothes I had given her, so I stuck with them.
For my post celebrating Destructoid's third anniversary, I had created a shooped NES controller, configured to look like Mr. Destructoid. This was inspired by the helmet of the Destructoid robot that is carrying Sterling from my page in the Dtoid alphabet book. I wanted to see that idea in real life. I started with a sketch, and then I used textures from a picture of an actual controller and combined them over the sketch to create the final image. But I still really liked the sketch as it was. So, I colored it and hung on to it as well. A smaller version was posted in the comments for RetroforceGo!'s NES episode.
These three pieces are drawings that I've made of Carollelogram over the last two years. Sadly, we're no longer on speaking terms, and she's all but left the site. I was really proud of these so I thought I'd include them here for everyone to see. The second one is actually the first thing I had drawn when I got my tablet set up. And the third came from me asking her for an idea of something to draw. She asked if I could draw her as Battle Angel in her Motorball uniform.
This picture of Sam Fisher was meant to go along with June's Monthly Musing. The topic was regarding unfulfilled potential. That reminded me of a story arc in the first Splinter Cell game. Sam's loses contact with his daughter just as the US has been attack in multiple locations by terrorists. This just after he's learned that there's a mole in the CIA, and he now has to break into CIA headquarters (his own government's agency) to find the mole, all the while worrying about the safety of his daughter. This was the coolest thing I had ever experienced in a video game up until that point. As good as any movie, really. Until I beat the level and they explained away everything that made the situation so groundbreaking. I wanted to tie in his daughter's kidnapping to her death that kicks off the upcoming sequel. But replaying, it, I realized that I remembered it wrong. She wasn't kidnapped. The phone just disconnected because the terrorists had destroyed all military communications. Oh well.
This last picture is from another abandoned blog. This was right after the Wii's firmware upgrade 4.0. I went from having Wii with zero excess memory, to one that was relatively devoid of games. I was wanted to run a contest to fill up someone's SD card. But I ran out of cash. Damn economy. Maybe I'll get back to that someday.
I've got one more lost art blog to go which features an early concept of my alphabet page which was going to be drastically different than how it ended up. Really super neat, because I wasn't even going to draw it. So keep an eye out. And be sure to hit the gallery for full res images of today's ν-13 pic and both versions of the Destructoid NES controller.
Over the weekend I was reinstalling Windows on my computer. While I was backing up all of my files I spent a little time going through my art folders. There was kind of a slew of materials that I created for the site and for other purposes that, for one reason or another, never saw the light of day. And others that were created simply to comment on someone's blog, that I liked and didn't want to get lost to time.
All weekend after playing BlazBlue for the first time, I had been kid of jonesing to draw a pic of v-13 (or Nu, if you like), but since I really have little to say on the game itself, it would be a picture without a blog. The idea struck me that I could put together a few blogs showcasing some of this previously lost art. This is where you came in.
When I first started contributing to Dtoid, one of the things that I did a lot of was quick photoshops to go in the comments. This was one of the first. I was always kind of proud of this one for some reason. More for the message than anything else. Never really caught on, though. But I thought it was funny.
When I started illustrating my blog pics from scratch, I drew a bunch for blogs that I've never ended up writing. This was one that I was going to use for a review of Phantom 2040 for the SNES. That's one of my all-time favorite games that gets very little attention (play it now!). Sadly, I never got around to replaying the heck out of that game to remember how to achieve all of the various endings. Someday I'll get back to it. But I always liked how the illustration on that piece turned out.
I should mention at this point that I draw primarily for fun. I really like the way my style looks. I also realize that it's not very good by most people's standards. I've got a lot to learn about things like anatomy and perspective. I am getting better at that sort of thing as time goes on. I really like that my style is so unpolished, though. To me that gives it a ton of charm. I may one day be able to draw a human figure and have it be proportionately correct, but I'm always going to have that sloppy, sketchy style. It's just what I like.
About a year ago, I wrote a blog celebrating RetroforceGo!'s 1st anniversary and their 50th episode. I had made a pencil/watercolor painting that I further edited in Photoshop to add in screen captures of various retro games. That painting actually gave birth to my current, sketchy art-style. Prior to that, however, I had started that drawing in photoshop the way that I always had. Back then I would draw a rough light sketch, then build layers of color and shading over the top. I didn't get too far, and I can't remember specifically why I changed up. But I did get Topher almost completed.
I really like the way that was turning out. I kind of wish that I had finished it (it looks much more like Mr. Cantler than the final blog version).
This is another unfinished pic that is much more recent. When my little brother, Paul, gave me a tablet for my computer recently, I became addicted to drawing as much as I could. I was doing a lot of experiments to try to get my tablet sketches to look as close to my pencil sketches as possible. Recently I started reading the Dune Chronicles, and this was a piece that was inspired by that reading. Doubt I'll ever finish it. It was more of an exercise than anything else.
That's it for today. I'll have two more blogs of lost artwork to share very soon. Including a couple of alternate takes on my page in the Destructoid Alphabet Book. Be sure to hit the gallery for a full res version of v-13 from BlazBlue.
The question at hand is, "What does Steampunk mean to you?" As one who lives for gaming, I see the answer to that question as I do all questions of meaning: through the veil of videogames. I think of Violet Beauregard, who entered the mythical chocolate factory only to ask, "What kind of gum you got?" Throw me into a world filled with mechanical prestidigitation and I'll simply ask, "What manner of games do you possess, dear chap?"
In a world where Benjamin Franklin neglected to merge kite and key to catch lightning in a bottle, video games would not come to be. Not as we've come to know them at any rate. You see, every possible universe has their own Yaniero Gonzalez (but only one per alternate timeline- Don't get greedy). In a steam-powered world as in our own, Niero has got our backs.
He would make gaming possible in that world where sophisticated mechanical technology powers all manner of modern gizmos, doo-dads, and thingamajigs. Niero would make it his business to seek out the games, the entertainment, the tests of skill and daring-do. What didn't exist, he would create himself. When his quest was complete, he would bring it all back to the world at large.
Niero would bring together a community of gamers and inventors; artists and engineers. As time marches onward, his dream will grow and grow. With it did the community and the marvels of their creations.
As impressive as is the first game which you'll find in Mr. Destructoid's Arcade of Wonders, "Hunter of Ducks", just wait until you get to the newly unveiled "Colossal Shadows of the Ancient Gods" attraction.
A full resolution version of this image can be found here.
The making of Steamtoid
This one illustration took me over thirty hours to complete from start to finish. It started with a simple idea: Mr. Destructoid in a Steampunk style. I wanted to go all out with this project. I wanted to put as much detail and shading as I could to make this much cooler than any of my previous illustrations. Maybe even something borderline good.
As I continued to work on it, new ideas kept popping up. Why not throw Colette in as well? How about tying it into games in some way? Colette's addition proved to be a lot of fun. It wasn't just a simple cartoon-y pic.
I actually needed to design an outfit for her. Borrowing all that I could remember from Project: Runway, I went to town with my Steampunk Colette Bennett concept. It was actually the third design that I ended up using. Then, I needed to figure out her hair. This also took a couple attempts.
Then came the attempt to tackle the gaming aspect. How could video games exist without electronics? My first inclination was to go with a shooting gallery. Title it Dunk Hunt and call it a day. I sketched that into the photoshop drawing. But that seemed so dumb. The idea that followed really changed the entire project around. Why would there be anything special about an acient shooting gallery? We've had those for over a hundred years. This needs to be epic in scope. The shooting gallery became a full-on animatronic version of Duck Hunt. This meant much more designing. Starting with the booth itself. I had to study up on Victorian architecture (and found that it's an absolutely horrid style with all of it's needless gaudiness).
Then came the characters themselves.
The really awesome thing about Steampunk is that it's a mixture of Sci-Fi technology that can work and exist because the creator says so, and obsolete technology. You can't just throw something together and say, "Here. This works. Accept it at face value." You have to make it plausible. Extra thought needs to go into the design so that when people look at it, they can get an immediate impression of how it might work. It really gets the brain working on neat concepts for tiny details that people might not even notice at first glance.
So, I'm putting this all together in the middle of a 12-day work week. I used up nearly every second of freetime available to me (not counting the hour that I played against Y0j1mb0 in Street Fighter IV), and even now as I finish writing this, I've been awake just over 24 hours and have been at it nearly 14 hours since I got home from work. Just about everything in that illustration was drawn, colored, erased, redrawn and recolored again. This really is the coolest thing that I'[ve ever drawn (granted from a real artist's standpoint it's not so great), and I'm really proud of it. Hope you enjoyed seeing behind the scenes of it's creation.
In the gallery you'll find full resolution versions of the final piece (perfect for 900x1400 widescreen desktops ;) ) and some of the daily works-in-progress. I want to thank a few people. First, to my little brother, Paul. He gave me an inexpensive but awesome tablet that has totally changed my way of drawing (for better and for worse). This couldn't have happened without him. To Y0j1, who encouraged me to really make this a finished work when I would have been content to stick with Niero and Colette against a solid background. Finally, to John D., one of my best friends for over 15 years now. He gave me a solid critique and I was able to use at least half of his advice (even though it meant completely scrapping the helmet and starting over at the last minute).
Only two years after the incredibly successful release of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time along came it's sequel: Majora's Mask. Taking over the role of Chief Director from series creator Shigero Miyamoto, Eiji Aonuma crafted a drastically different Zelda game using the same engine as OoT. Though previous games had slightly diverged from the Zelda formula, Majora's Mask is still the game that feels the most unique in the series. Is this download worth your time and 1000 Wii Points or will it's age, peculiarities and lesser focus on dungeon crawling prove to be too off putting?
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask picks up the story soon after it's predecessor ends. Link has left the Kingdom of Hyrule in search of an unnamed old friend and finds himself robbed in his sleep by a mischievous imp, Skullkid. He awakens to find the legendary Ocarina of Time taken, and it's pilferer riding off on his horse, Epona, to make his escape. Link makes chase on foot, but finds himself transformed into a Deku Scrub (a small wooden creature) by the imp. He's wearing the stolen Majora's Mask, which gives him the powers of a god. Link eventually finds himself alone and disfigured in the foreign town of Termina, forced to embark on his darkest adventure yet.
As the town is setting for the annual Carnival of Time, it's residents are growing alarmed. An evil-looking moon overhead is coming ever closer to the town (talked into this murderous collision course by your friend, Skullkid) and threatens to destroy the village in 72 hours. The three day period lasts for roughly an hour of play time, but can be extended to almost three hours with the learning of an ocarina song. This gives Link precious little time to retrieve his lost belongings, transform himself back to his human form, and save the town from an imminent disaster.
This is where the games sharp turn to previous games occurs. There is no Ganon here, and no quest for the Triforce. Instead the focus is on time puzzles. At the end of the three day period, the moon crashes into the Earth, destroying the town and it's inhabitants. But recovering Link's Ocarina allows you to return to the very beginning for another attempt. During this travel back through time you'll keep your most of your weapons and items, but you'll lose replenishable items like arrows, bombs and any cash you have on you at the time. You'll spend as much time helping the townsfolk as you will in the game's four dungeons. Aiding the townies will net you new masks that grant different abilities when worn, like super-quick running or the ability to talk to animals. Bringing happiness to the citizens of Termina, however, is not always an easy task. Oftentimes, it takes learning the routines of the various characters or being in the right place at the right time with the right solution.
There are definite upgrades to the Ocarina engine on display. While so much looks identical, there is a much greater draw distance making the world seem fuller with less polygon drop-in. There are also far less of the low quality textures than were seen in the previous game. Many more special effects are here to impress, like some fantastic N64-era motion blur. It's the lighting, though, that is the most striking upgrade. As the time of day changes from dawn to day to dusk, or when it rains on the morning of the second day, the color of the environments change along with it. The sun makes everything appear more warm as it hangs closer to the horizon at the beginning and end of each day. And when the moon is out, the world is bathed in the blue of night. The sunlight is muted and murky when the sky is overcast, and gives the town a beautiful glow when it peaks out after the storm. It's such a subtle effect, but when you've got this game hooked into your HDTV with component cables and are viewing it in progressive scan, you'll be blown away by some vivid, old-school beauty.
If the lighting is the graphical cake, then the cherry on top is the moon itself. As the dementedly grinning satellite slowly gets closer and closer to the Earth, you will actually see it change from a small ball in the sky to an object so large that you won't be able to see more than half of it on the screen at a time. I found myself at points looking straight up into the sky and literally watching it grow. It's very subtle, but just like the minute hand on a clock, it's in constant movement.
And then there's the music. Oh heavens, is there the music. Koji Kondo outdoes himself with music that is every bit as much of a character in this game as Link himself. The highlight is the town's theme. It's a tune that changes in tone and intensity as the time moves forward. Starting out cheerful at the beginning, the tune becomes more hurried as time moves on to match the hurrying intensity of the worried citizens. In the final hours the music becomes a haunting mix of despair and terror as the moon completes it's descent into the town square. The dungeons and surrounding towns all have catchy themes of their own. And after being sadly missed in Ocarina of Time, the classic Zelda Overworld Theme makes it's return.
Sound design in this game is also incredible by N64 standards. Throughout the town you can hear the ambient noises of the citizens readying for the big carnival. Hammering and sawing can be heard in the town's square as set-pieces are being erected. Outside the town you'll hear the faint sounds of objects (for instance, a waterfall) grow louder as you approach, long before you even see them. This is old hat in this day of 5.1 surround sound. But this was quite a feat 10 years ago, when this game first debuted. It does play a key role, as certain characters have different footsteps, and you can be clued into where they are around you (and if they're entering doors nearby) just by keeping an ear out.
And this becomes important in the beginning, because the townspeople move in a set routine. And it's your job to help them achieve happiness to collect masks and progress through the game. These are various sidequests that are more fulfilling than in most any game I've ever encountered. This is because of the game's incredible personality. The residents of Termina all have their own backstories that you'll discover in different ways. It's very easy to become emotionally involved. When you hear the guilt-ridden confession of one of the characters, it actually feels good to have taken that weight off of that person's mind. Or in the most convoluted side-quest that involves tracking down a lost groom and ensuring a coming marriage ceremony, the sadness and urgency of the characters is incredibly touching. Playing through the game, I always felt a tinge of guilt each time I went back in time without stopping the moon from falling. I knew what dire fate I was abandoning these poor people to.
As with all Zelda games there is a system of advancement, where you'll need to acquire certain weapons and items to unlock specific areas. And this is managed all the more cleverly in how it effects not just dungeon advancement, but also how it relates to the interweaving storylines. A prime example is the massive boulder that blocks the way to a cattle ranch outside of town. A worker with a pick-ax diligently cracks away at it over time, but is unable to clear a path until the final day. When you finally arrive, you find the two sisters who run the ranch too distraught to speak. In order to find out what happened and, hopefully, prevent that fate, you've got to find a way through much earlier.
What Zelda game would be complete without dungeons to explore and bosses to conquer? Certainly not this one. While there are only four major dungeons, there is a lot of preparation that is involved before reaching them. They are located outside of Termina in each compass direction. Each is off of another village of creatures, such as the the Deku, the Goron and the Zora people. There are mysteries that must be solved before being able to enter the dungeons themselves. In these locations, you'll find yourself putting the spirits of the dead to rest which will grant you special masks which allow you to actually transform into these creatures at will. Each creature has it's own special powers, like the Goron rolling attack, or speeding through the water as a Zora. These are a lot of fun to play around with, and are necessary for advancing through certain areas and the dungeons themselves.
This is where time really becomes important. Because if you don't complete a dungeon before the time runs out, you'll have to start it all over again. This usually isn't a problem. But you may find yourself returning to a dungeon again just to unlock all of it's hidden secrets.
Controls contain the only tiny dent in the game's otherwise solid armor. They're not terrible by any means, but just a few tweaks could have helped this game achieve absolute perfection. With so many masks and items to sort through, selecting items often takes a bit longer than you wish it would. Having access to only three items and/or masks at a time, you'll be spending a lot of time in the start menu. Movement and combat are pretty tight for the most part. One exception would be the Goron's rolling ability, which often requires more precision than the game allows. There's also an issue that's carried over from the previous game when riding Link's horse, Epona. When jumping onto him, I often hit the gallop button for an immediate burst of speed. The problem is that the button is shared with the dismount button, so unless you've taken a step or two forward, you'll immediately jump off again. Conversely, you must wait for Epona to come to a complete stop before you're able to get on your feet again. As he doesn't stop on a dime, this feels like it takes longer than it should. These are minor gripes that don't affect the overall enjoyment of the game, but do add a noticeable level of frustration at times.
The boss battles vary between average and incredible. Some are basic Zelda fare, but some are even impressive by today's standards. One such boss is a 6 story tall beast named Goht. He runs circles around a giant arena, leaving you to try to chace after him with your rolling Goron form. It's a huge, epic battle that still stands up ten years later.
I first played Majora's Mask over three years ago on my N64. I honestly didn't know what to expect. What I found was an amazing game that immediately jumped into my top 10. It had some classic Zelda elements, but it's focus on a darker story and solid characterization really made it a richer experience. They could have removed all references to the franchise entirely, and it would have been every bit as good. Still, I'm very glad that the franchise turned out to be the Trojan Horse to get an amazing game into my system. The time puzzles are totally satisfying, the characters and storylines are so absorbing, and the presentation is so far above anything of it's time that I give this game my highest recommendation. Add to that the addition of crisper graphics and richer colors through the Wii's component cables and progressive scan, and an amazing game just got better.
My score (using the Destructoid Scale): 9.5/10
(Tomorrow or Saturday, I'll be posting a companion piece to the review as a Monthly Musing article. That will be spoiler-filled affair and offer more of an analysis of the characters and storylines. If you have played and enjoyed this game and would like to see it looked at in more detail, keep an eye out!)
(Jonathan Holmes recently posted a c-blog challenging the community to play through this game and write a c-blog about it. He was concerned about being crazy when he recently gave it a glowing review which ended up being the highest score on MetaCritic, where the average is 63%. I took him up on that challenge. Here are the results.)
When Capcom announced that they were porting the Xbox 360 game Dead Rising to the Wii, many people were shocked. Dead Rising was one of the first games to truly take advantage of the horsepower that this generation of consoles has to offer. How could it possibly survive the transition to the Wii, which is only slightly more powerful than consoles from a generation past? Not having played beyond the first 20 minutes of the original version, I'm not qualified to answer that question. If you read on, however, you'll find out if the Wii version stands up as a good game on its own merits.
Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop follows Frank West, a photojournalist who is following up an anonymous tip that leads him to the town of Willamette, Colorado. Flying in by helicopter, he finds that the whole area has been cordoned off by the military. It soon becomes clear that the town has been overrun by zombies. Frank is dropped off at the local shopping mall. He has three days to uncover the story behind the outbreak before his ride returns to fly him home.
The Wii version of the game is built upon the Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition engine. This is most obvious in the shooting mechanic of the game. You control Frank from a third person, over-the-shoulder perspective. Hitting the B button draws your weapon, and you're then able to aim with the Wii remote's pointer. Hitting the A button then fires the weapon. Aside from gunning down your enemies, you also have the ability to use various items strewn around the game as melee weapons.
The combat in this game is very glitchy and poorly designed. The vast majority of the weapons you'll pick up are used in pretty much the same way. You have the option of hitting the A button for slowly delivered, weak attack, or waving the remote for an amazingly slow, but more powerful blow. Trying to rely upon your melee attacks is futile, because you'll be taking damage left and right from the hordes of zombies that are coming for you. At the beginning of the game, you have to endure a long pause between attacks. This isn't helped by the questionable addition of auto aim. The game decides which enemy it wants you to hit and will turn Frank towards that zombie whether or not it was the one directly in front of you or not.
There are nods to the classic NES beat'em up, River City Ransom. For instance, there's an RPG system and you can buy books that will allow you to gain special abilities. Killing zombies gives you experience and upon leveling up you'll gain nonsensical upgrades like extra inventory slots, and the weapons that you pick up won't break as easily. Half of the books for sale will allow you to swing particular weapons without pausing in between strikes. Most of these are only semi-helpful because they are being applied to weapons that attack very slowly to begin with. But one book allows rapid swinging with the knife. This is a must get item, as it turns the knife into the only legitimately usable melee weapon in the game. Since the knife attacks quickly, you can generally get multiple hits on the zombie in front of you before you get attacked on the sides or from behind by another enemy. It doesn't slow you down much at all when you're running and stop to knife the zombie that gets in your way.
The rest of the books grant you special attack moves which mostly seem to apply to downed enemies. There are three reasons why they are completely useless. First, enemies on the ground are of zero threat to you, they're very easy to avoid. Second, stopping to attack them destroys the flow of the game and opens you up to attacks by other creatures. Finally, you must hit the A and B buttons together at the exact same instant with little input forgiveness. 90% of the time you will draw your weapon or punch the air.
This leaves the gunplay as your most reliable source of offense. The RE4 aiming controls as smooth as ever. Sadly, this is not without issues of its own. First of all it is incredibly slow. Pulling your weapon takes more time than it should, with some weapons taking a solid second or two before the first round is fired. In addition, all of your weapons will hold precious little ammo, and it takes half an eternity to reload. Trying to blend hand-to-hand with gun combat is made more frustrating in that you can't switch freely between them. If you try to hit the B button to draw your gun while you're waiting for a melee attack's animation to complete, you will get stuck in a loop of melee attacks. You'll first have to release the button, wait until you're standing still again, then finally draw your gun. Finally, the control scheme is wasted. Only a couple of enemies have location specific damage and animations. This is just unacceptable for a game engine with this much precision.
The two most common non-zombified human enemies that you will face bring the frustration to a boil: the zombie poodle and the grenade dropping parrot. Both of these characters feel like they escaped from an 8-bit platformer with the silliness of their concepts and their near-infinite numbers. They don't have any business in this game. That aside, they make combat a pointless endeavor. The dogs are too low to the ground and the parrots are too high to hit with a melee attack in most cases. Which leave your firearm as your best bet. However, once they spot you and come running towards you, you're a sitting duck. They can only hit you when you're standing still. Which is exactly what you'll be doing when you draw your gun. The poodles immediately run directly towards you and dive at you. Afterwards they're so low to the ground that you can't see them unless you're looking down at your feet. The parrots are difficult to aim at, because they will swoop overhead beyond your field of vision. By the time that you've lowered your gun, spun around and take aim again, they've managed to disappear. It will take another few seconds to locate them again, giving them plenty of time for another attack.
All of this would seem to make the game difficult. In truth, though, it's a ridiculously easy game once you get the hang of it. There are very few things in this game that will do much damage at all. That's only when they hit you. If you stay on the move, you'll survive the vast majority of situations relatively unscathed. Even if you get grabbed, you can usually waggle the remote to escape without getting hit. As the game progresses, it doesn't become more difficult, just more frustrating. You'll eventualy face cult members who will throw dust in your eyes that causes you to pass out. You'll wake up in a room with your clothes and inventory stolen from you, except for your guns. I know when I kidnap people, I want to make sure to give them ample opportunity to shoot my ass to death and make their escape. You'll then need to kill about 15-20 of these cult guys before you can leave the room and continue your mission. If you're carrying any irreplaceable items, they're gone for good. It's best to reset and pick up from your previous save.
Then there are the gun-toting enemies that you'll face en masse towards the end of the game. They will hit you with almost every single shot. And when they do, any action you're in the middle of will immediately be interrupted, even reloading your gun. And the camera's perspective will shift, making aiming your counter attack incredibly difficult. And if more than 2 of them are on you at once, it becomes impossible to reload. You will have to run straight towards the nearest one (pausing every second to get hit by a bullet) and slice him open with your knife, then turning around and going for the next guy. But as I said, it's frustrating, not difficult. Their bullets only take out a sliver of health with every hit.
The escort missions are the real heart of the gameplay. Frank is holed up in the security wing of the mall. You'll walk up to Otis, the Janitor, who will tell you of a survivor that's in a certain location in the mall. It will be up to you to track them down and bring them back to the security station.
Here is an example of a single escourt mission: Talk to Otis. Enter the ducts that lead out of the security area. Wait for a loading screen to finish. You'll find yourself on the roof of the building. Run to the elevator. Loading screen. Exit the elevator into the basement. Run through to the door that leads to the mall. Loading screen. Follow the on-screen arrow that directs you to exactly where you need to go, while just running past the zombies who will almost never touch you. The survivor will be in one of the 5 areas of the mall, and each one is separated by it's very own loading screen. When you find the survivor they will follow along behind you. Then you reverse these steps to get back to the security area.
If that sounds like fun to you, then you're in luck, as you will have to go through this exact same sequence of events about 40 times throughout the course of the game. Once in a very great while they will throw in a a short fetch quest before the survivor will join you. But that's almost the best the game does to offer any sort of variety. There are a couple of bosses throughout the game. They are all human. They all take the equivalent of dozens of shotgun blasts in the face at point blank range to kill (which is still an easy task in most cases). It confuses me how the humans in this game can take so much damage, while the reanimated corpses will drop right away if you hit them in the large toe with the second handgun you find early on in the game.
The game is very tedious to get through. After the first 45 minutes of gameplay, you've pretty much seen all that there is to see. And you've certainly done all that there is to do. Your first escort mission encapsulates how you will spend the next 15 hours that it will take to complete the game's main campaign (only 8 1/2 are spent on gameplay the rest are all cutscenes and loading screens). To call the game repetitive would be an understatement.
In addition to all of these complaints are bugs, glitches and design flaws that are too numerous to list. They really show the lack of polish on display. Here are some examples:
Zombies don't just run up from off-screen. If you kill enough of them they will just magically appear as if beamed from a UFO. Often right behind you where you where you can't see them before they attack you, or right next to the survivor that you're supposed to be protecting.
Zombies wearing hardhats are completely immune to damage in their heads. Shooting them in the face or in their exposed ears will have no effect. But a bullet in their belly, kneecap, toenail or wherever with the second level pistol and they will immediately die.
If you enter an elevator filled with zombies, and hit the button to switch floors, the elevator will be completely empty when you reach your destination.
When you kill an enemy, they will often scream out after they've already died and their body has disappeared.
The arrow that leads you to where you need to go will often just flip out momentarily, and point behind you before correcting itself.
The ammunition of the gun that you're carrying is not displayed onscreen. At any given point in time, you'll only see the rounds left in the guns clip. You have to move to your inventory screen to see the total ammo in each gun.
At a couple of points you get to drive a car to plow over zombies. You walk up to it and press the Z and A buttons and instead of getting an animation of getting inside the car, or even just opening the door, you get a loading screen followed by the camera being behind the car which is now under your control. When you reach your destination, you get another loading screen and you're magically out of it again.
With all of this going against it, you might hope that the story would at least be good enough to keep you wanting to play. Unfortunately that is just not the case. The plot is completely inconsequential. The events that happen usually come out of nowhere and are so random that you can't possibly have any real concern for what is going on. And even if you did, the Young and the Restless-level dialogue and voice acting will kill it right away. And just when you think you're near the end, you'll encounter more false endings than The Return of the King, forcing you through more and more fetch quests.
I haven't yet mentioned the graphics. And really the less said about them, the better. This is not a game that is concerned with pushing the Wii to it's limits and showing you what how it can compete for your hardcore attention. The graphics are dated. This isn't a reved up GameCube game. It looks more like something from the early days of the Playstation 2.
For a system that is struggling to maintain any credibility with hardcore gamers, it was important for Capcom to knock this one out of the park. This was a rare opportunity to take a game that had been done well on a high def system and make an equaly strong game that delivers a new experience on the Wii. Unfortunately, instead of bringing their A game, Capcom turned the reigns over to the C team. They may have hit the ball out of the park with the Wii port of Resident Evil 4, but all they were essentially doing was adding motion controls to an already legendary game. When they needed to almost rebuild a game from the ground up, however, they ended up failing miserably. The Wii is capable of so much more. But it will have to be another game that proves it to the hardcore gaming community.
I'm sorry to say that I spent $40 on Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop, and can't recommend that you do the same. It doesn't even feel like a beta build of a game. I was expecting, at worst, a game that was at least a fun diversion for a quick, brainless bit of fun. What I found was an unpolished game that offered zero enjoyment whatsoever, and more frustration than I could bear to deal with. Even with it being released at $10 less that the average Wii title, it's still priced much too high. I've played many a bargain title that have far more polish, far more playability and are far more fun than this game. Please avoid it at all costs.