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10:05 AM on 08.04.2010

Teh Bias: Ninten... no

In case anyone slept through it, I hate on Nintendo pretty much whenever I get the chance. Who knows where it came from... maybe it's because I started off with a Master System like a future bad-ass instead of being one of the sheep whose parents bought them a NES?

I don't like their games, and never did, but that's just my opinion and I don't care if anyone conforms to it or not. That's not what this is about. What really gets my goat is their hardware. Nintendo occasionally produces decent products like SNES and GameCube, but the company increasingly doesn't give a fuck when it comes to designing their gear.

Let's start with the N64. I figure that this is when Nintendo figured their fans would buy anything as long as it had some kind of Pokemon tie-in. How much market research does it take to figure out that your target audience only has two hands? Not much, and they still designed the controller to look like some kind of Klingon melee weapon rather than be anything where a human being can use the thing all at once. I know one guy who's so hardcore he thinks it was the best controller ever... but all the cool kids made proper fun of that piece of crap. When Nintendo got serious by giving the GameCube some solid processors and a goofy-looking but entirely functional controller (Z key aside) I was happy to pick one up for some sweet split-screen action on PSO.

Unfortunately it wasn't a case of "lesson learned". The second coming of the N64 controller was a lot more successful than I ever would have imagined. You might recognize it:

I went there

Yeah, I think the most successful game platform in the history of forever is so mis-designed that no human being should have been able to imagine it in the first place. Let's start with all the problems of the N64 controller. Now how about you hold a stylus while juggling between the crosspad, face buttons, and touch input. Just because it hasn't become a proper clusterfuck yet, let's give it one more screen than your eyes can focus on at any moment.

I guess the DS would be my platform of choice if I suddenly had a chameleon's head, letting me jab at the touchscreen with my tongue while simultaneously monitoring two displays.

While we're on the subject of Nintendo products assuming their customers have bizarre mutations...

that sure as hell isn't my hand

You would think game controller design would be a pretty well-defined science at this point. Historically only Atari should be able to position 4 game-related buttons on a 3D surface such that a player can only conveniently hit two of them... but here we have the most popular console of the day featuring a crosspad that's brutally uncomfortable compared to any other crosspad except maybe the DS, and has half its buttons located so badly that the fastest way to hit them is by fellating the controller.

Holy crap I just had the best game idea ever. Gonna cut this short.   read

1:54 PM on 08.03.2010

I have a gun jammed right through my head and it's awesome (game review)

Rengoku 2: Stairway to Heaven ... what was so important that I missed this game the first time it came around? Actually I remember having the box in my hands at some point and deciding that there was no way the game could be as good as the hot boxart and copy on the back suggested. It's a problem I have: in situations involving kickass mecha or boobs my judgement gets shot all to hell and it's usually for the worse whenever I give in to the temptation. There are a lot of sad excuses for robot games out there, and now that I'm a card-carrying jaded old bastard my standard response is to curse at whatever catches my eye and move on, because ignorance is more money for beer.

Fortunately the game's digital release performed the miracle of giving me a second chance to pick it up, and support reasonably priced digital games on PSN.

There's something to be said for good robot-in-a-tower games. That's like a whole genre as far as I'm concerned. I got my start way back, renting this absolutely impenetrable Japanese FPS in the 3D0 days. Tetsujin: Iron Angel of the Apocalypse. It's a real thing, check it:


The controls were sluggish and hamfisted, levels made no sense, and the backstory of your adventure was seeing a robot get shoved through some glowing piping or something until it's dumped in some dark room. I trudged the robot (let's call it TJ) through a bunch of the dark corridors finding very slightly less suck-ass guns to shoot spectacularly crappy enemies with... and the first cutscene hooked me immediately, a big shutter opens and you see burning clouds whipping across a dystopian nightmare world outside. Every few floors would offer another treat like that, the cutscenes were impressively rendered (it was the only thing 3d0 could do competently) and administered a burst of color and motion that the rest of the game was designed to surgically remove from your soul, leaving the player desperate to clear the next 5 boards or whatever and get another dose.

It was a nostalgic jonesing for Tetsujin that gave me the itch to look this game up after hearing about it again, despite Jaded Old Bastard protocols.

Rengoku starts your robot in the same straits and leaves you to hack and blast a path of destruction upwards from floor to floor in a massive tower, gradually revealing the nature of your machine and the place it is in. See? This shit does not get old.

not pictured: anything that got old

Fortunately for my childhood memories, Rengoku backs up the timeless concept and sick artwork with a blazing action game and massive character customization.

The robots' appearances are a terrifying fusion of human, insect, and military hardware. Need a big gun? Just jam one through the middle of your chest and grow some protective chitin or spines to hold it in place. Good to go. Where should that axe blade go? Your face is as good as anywhere else. There's a tremendous variety of equipment to collect off of fallen foes, and while appearances do start getting re-used the weapons represented can be quite distinct... one sword may perform a standing combo while an identical looking model later on lets you pounce on guys halfway across the room.

This shooter plays flawlessly on PSP by using a very generous lock-on (tap L) for camera control, it would be a necessity even with a second analog stick available... there would be no way to manually keep a recticle anywhere near your opponent given that one or both of you is pushing twitch skills to the limit with big sidesteps and evasive rolls to dodge the constant storm of incoming gunfire, warheads, and melee lunges. With each battle short and tense, and a vast supply of equipment / fighting styles to try out (and level up through repeated use if it's good) combat never comes close to being a chore as you progress up the tower and deeper into the religious imagery and robotic soul-searching.

By the looks of things, the multiplayer mode should be decent fun and Rengoku 2 supports the ever-elusive Game Sharing feature so you can play around with your friends even when you can't talk everyone into buying a copy.

If you're a shooter, action-RPG, or mecha fan you should do yourself a favor and try this out... especially if you've been waiting for a good fast-paced game on PSP since it's so easy to flop it without the second analog stick needed in traditional shooter control schemes.   read

8:01 AM on 07.20.2010

You can share your chubby. This is how.

om nom nom... there's no sign saying don't feed the princess

So I was on vacation a little while. One of the best things to happen was that my brother downloaded the Fat Princess demo for PS3. One of the other best things to happen was that my brother decided to buy Fat Princess because the demo was a hell of a good time.

What's up with that? The most recent update for the game added 4 player couch co-op to the game, including the online mode. The game was cute fun, but I always go for a game with more meat on its bones when I'm playing on my own... but with friends and/or family present the only acceptable response to "grab your hat, we're pwning noobs in Fat Princess" is to grab your hat and start pwning noobs in Fat Princess.

In terms of gameplay, Fat Princess is a very lean RTS where players each control one character directly. There are hats you can wear to turn your willager into one of a Worker, a Warrior, a Wizard, a Warcher or a Wpriest. The fighting and healing classes work like you would expect... warrior chops, archer shoots, mage burninates, priest heals. The worker is necessary to harvest lumber and metal, upgrade your castle's hat-factories (giving the advanced version of the corresponding character class) and build defenses or shortcuts throughout the map. They're also the fastest class which makes them great for carrying materials and cake back to your castle, and the go-to guy for escaping from the enemy castle with your princess. Every class has a handful of attack modes and are enjoyable to play, the real fun comes from well teamwork. Co-ordinated tactics and strategy between a handful of players is devastating in comparison to an every-man-for-himself offense. Other times, you end up on a team with my daughter and get turned into a chicken a lot. That's fun too.

Speaking of kids, it's well known that this game features a ton of cartoonish blood and gore and not at all mentioned that you can turn it off. It's not as good as the "no blood" option in Alien Hominid where it's replaced by sprays of flowers, but the gameplay is really kid-friendly, especially now, and one reason I passed on this game at release was that reviews never mentioned that the graphics could be set to match.

So yeah, there it is. The inclusion of couch co-op increases Fat Princess from a cute-but-eh title to an essential PSN game for anyone with one or more friend to share it with.   read

12:08 PM on 05.20.2010

Runs In The Family: two-handing a dull sword is no way to go through life, son

True story: I did it with a real hottie ten years ago.
How does this affect you?

Well, it has to do with that five foot long sword sticking out of the face of your character in Demon's Souls. It's my son who did that and I trip balls every time I think too hard about that. Ten years ago the PS2 was barely a glimmer in Sony's eye and a PlayStation couldn't even keep surface textures lined up with the rectangles they were sitting on.

Hell, there were only three Armored Core games and just one rehash of the original game's storyline.


Now I'm watching as my son's character leaps from the top of a castle wall in a scene that looks as good as my TV being a window to another reality. If I took a time machine 11 years back and kidnapped my past self for a moment to show this shit off it would blow his mind so badly I can't even imagine it.

Back in reality - closer anyway - Tommy's knight rolls to avoid the shock of a hard landing and holds off on his strike in order to ensure that his attack counts as a backstab against the player-controlled phantom come to kill him. The attack animation is brutal, a devastating looking hit to the kidneys followed by a smash on the back of the head that follows the phantom all the way to the ground. The invader recovers and rolls away to avoid damage before using a healing item, but this is a pretty standard move and Tommy follows up on the savage beating with a Soul Ray spell that strikes as his foe rises to his feet.


I told my son not to get started with this game because it was out of his league and he gets frustrated easily. He still wanted to because us big kids were all playing it, so he made a save. The first two weeks of attempts at the wall of Broletaria* castle where the game begins were made of rage and tears. Demon's Souls doesn't go easy on someone just because they're a little boy. It doesn't care that the cool characters in TV and movies never use shields. Tommy's one to play games 75% in his imagination and then sort of relate that to what's happening on the console... made-up rules, character stories and interaction, things he has to do that are his "style" like he has to pick up EVERY weapon in a RPG or use specific tactics or weapons that are more "cool" to him than others. Anybody not taking this game on its own terms though is going to be given the most uncertain "no" in the history of humanity. As many times as it sent him back to the start my kid was willing to get back up (sometimes after a time-out for throwing a fit) and try it just once more.


I had only seen him persevere in stuff like this one time before. I came home from work to find him in the thick of a boss battle - winning - in Armored Core 4A. The same fight I had to try a handful of times and change my build pretty significantly to pull that one off... my first reaction was just "what the hell" and for a while what I was seeing was so impossible as far as I was concerned that I had to take a few seconds to get a grip on it. Armored Core is one of my favorite game series and seeing him pwning it was awesome.

Since then, we've become good buddies in Borderlands, Lost Planet 2, and too infrequently Warhawk. We like the same level of planning and teamwork (e.g. none). He's a decent shot, knows to keep his head down, and good for the occasional laugh riot with stuff like "why is everyone always trying to break my wonderful robot?" or "fine. you can drive the sweet jeep I spawn." ... among the people I've played with I'm the only one who has a feel for Borderlands' odd vehicle steering, he's an awful driver.

We've even got a special brofist we do, with a big wind-up and then we go "meh" and drop it. Sometimes I forget we do that and go for a real one and he does that. It's never not funny.

* just made that up!   read

5:33 PM on 05.05.2010

True Story: where my PSN tag comes from

King Boah is a character from a table top RPG campaign I played in. I like him, he's maybe my favorite imaginary person.

me: "Holy crap, dude you made archmage a character perk? I am so rolling an ogre and giving him that."
DM: q.q
me: "The only question is can I make a rock so heavy I can't lift it, after buffs. This dude is awesome."

My plan for fighting was great fun... talk a lot of smack, get stuck attacking last, and (unless I'm already out) go so hard on the first turn that the start of round two involves a lot of squinting through clouds of billowing smoke trying to take a head count. That usually gives me time to improvise a plan for round two.

Personality-wise I just imagined a really big, fat obnoxious tourist in a surf shirt. He didn't have a volume below shout, and he didn't have punctuation besides loudly inhaling before he could shout some more. If I couldn't think of anything to say I'd just give a huge fake laugh. Victims of his rants and monologues and diatribes (anything but a conversation, unless you were really good at squeezing words in while I breathed) were usually assailed with all manner of handshakes, shoulder claps, back-slapping, and bro grabs. Acting like that for a couple hours every saturday gave me a really positive attitude about everything in the game. Maybe it was the hyperventilating. Boah thought everyone he wasn't being paid to beat up was just awesome and just wanted to be friends as long as you didn't expect him to share any of his food (he needed that) or hoarded loot/junk (he realized his trash might be someone else's treasure, so it was his treasure too). It didn't matter who he was talking to or what they thought of him, everybody got the same... bums, knights, kings. Watching the usual "mysterious introvert" emo characters with traumatic pasts try and interact with him was hilarious.

The King part was because he always said he was the king of a tropical island that nobody even believed existed. He would always reminisce at the most inappropriate times about stuff like hot springs and hunting and perfect weather and the rainforest plants and making totally impossible stuff out of trees he had pulled down. There was a tribe living there but Boah probably washed up on shore or something as a baby so he didn't really have anything to do with them. As a society their only export was King Boah much to everyone's relief. His big quest was to travel the world telling everyone about how great his island kingdom was, figure out how to get back there again, and bring home a whole bunch of friends to share it with. Later on a demigod broke his heart by saying she had destroyed the island with a volcanic eruption. I like to think it was an easy lie because he had no idea where it was to go and check.

King Boah's primary exports were whoop-ass and handicrafts. The former needs no explanation for a RPG character. He made papier mache masks of his face to celebrate some festival he'd made up for his island one day, and limited-edition gold masks from beating fancy plates really thin and trying to pull them over his face. It turned into a running gag, how he would try making masks from really improbable stuff like brick, marble, adamantium ingots, etc. He threatened to make a mask out of some villain's head once. His biggest project though was making a golden sail for his boat. When he put it on of course the massive metal sheet flipped his primitive wooden boat and dragged it to the bottom of the bay, but it was always something he would go back and try to get right.

... that's why you never really needed that magical hat, the power was inside you all along! The aristocrats. I dunno if anyone's even going to read this far.

BTW I'll go back and add pictures later.   read

6:33 PM on 05.04.2010

Photoblog: Wipeout Fury p0rn

Wipeout Fury, I love you.

The races in progress that you let me join as a spectator. Spying on good players is a great way to learn.
The badges you hand out like party favors after every event. I always feel special.
The dozens of trophies you play so hard to get with. I'm going to be paying you attention for a long time.
The sleek curves on your tracks and the all-natural feel of handling your ships. Okay, that was straight-up dirty.

Enough poetry, you guys came to watch me dance:

I'm trying to get a little more artsy with my photo sessions, at first all I wanted was to capture the stunning ship models, but the scenery and camera settings can make the pics freaking stunning as far as my artistic sensibilities are concerned.

Any other DToids that race, send a friend request to KingBoah... and if you've got photos share, dammit!   read

3:31 PM on 04.26.2010

Come look! The beating of a dead horse.

I believe in "games as art" but like anybody who really cares about a thing, I am really mean about what counts and what doesn't in my books. Behold my cruel demands:

1) please have some kind of artistic message, some insight or emotion you intend for me to "get" from your game. Without some intended meaning on your part, the game is just a blank that I can draw anything I want on and if it happens to be art, it's my art. Thanks and all, but that's not an art game.

Fun games without a theme miss the first rule. Pac Man is the game design equivalent of a shark, it showed up at the dawn of time already in its perfect form. On the other hand it's a case of fun for fun's sake and the experience isn't some Big Reveal about life for the player.

not pictured: a Big Reveal about life, the tent I'm pitching at the thought of playing this more

2) its artistic message has to be communicated through game-play primarily compared to graphics, sound, story, etc. Games are the only art form with interaction like that. Those other elements could just as easily be a movie, talking book, etc. as proven by Final Fantasy movies.

Heavywieght games on exposition and cut-scenes, most famously Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid, miss the second. They're artistic, but the art comes from something outside of the game, usually in movies. The game you have to play as a chore to advance from chapter to chapter. I still enjoy titles, sometimes the game and the movie are both really good, these are also the kind of title that can manage to be bad in a hilarious and endearing way.

The most art-y games I've played are fairly mainstream titles. Ico did it very well, you're constantly guiding the strange girl you find through an abandoned castle. The game has you calling to her, holding her hand to guide her along, running to her rescue as she is attacked by shadows while you try and solve some sort of puzzle. Over time I think any player will become genuinely protective of her and anxious about leaving her on her own for too long. This is something that transcends the platform's technology, it would have worked just as easily in a game for PlayStation or Genesis or NES or even Atari Jaguar if only someone had thought it up earlier. Anyway nobody ever rubbed it in my face that I was playing "art", I only found out like a few hours after the fact.

art world: pwned

Some games succeed as art just for a moment ... the ultimate of those for me was near the end in Metal Gear Solid 3 where you have to pull the trigger yourself so that Snake will shoot The Boss. All you have to do is press a button, but I don't think there are many people who press it easily even though it is the only option given.

Ironically the products of the games-are-art movement tend to miss the mark completely for all their trying rather than hitting. Developing game mechanics that lead the player into an intended mental state is really difficult. Is it easy to discover how you're supposed to play? Is it fun when you do? My experience is usually a huge no. Flower tries to be relaxing and non-violent, yet players find themselves wrestling with the sixaxis controls, trying to collide an invisible object with flowers, and dealing with a frustrating break of flow (or resignation to loss) when they don't completely sweep groups of targets. There's even a trophy for a perfect fly-through of an area littered with shocking power-lines and broken towers.

me being relaxed by flower

Sorry for all the tall pics guys, but I was in a hurry and didn't crop.   read

1:35 PM on 04.14.2010

E for Effort: Def Jam ICON and also a videogame gift buying guide

So, I'm out with my buddy last weekend and it's my birthday. I got him a second PS3 controller back a month or two for his so we're off to the game store for my present. Presents are good. Here's the thing though, I can't for the life of me pick a game I want him to buy:

* Resonance of Fate: normally RPG purchases are for my wife and more often than not I play a bit then stop and just watch her go through the thing.
* MAG: I want very badly, but I don't want Adam to get it for me or else he'll feel like he needs a copy as well and has to split from Modern Warfare 2.
* Modern Warfare 2: he's trying to push it into my hands but I won't go. I know a lot of people who want me to play it and I'd have to let them all down with the pathetic amount of game time I put in.

Picking a couple cheapies was much easier than one big-name title, and the store had lots of good ones for $20. I was looking at the likes of Killzone 2, Resistance 2, and Bioshock (my FPS exposure is weak since they make my wife seasick) when Adam jokingly suggests Def Jam Icon. I really like music games and don't mind hip-hop... I can even breakdance a little. I've heard that older Def Jam games were pretty good fighters and according to the back of the box Icon has all sorts of things going for it: create-a-character, split screen action, cool boxart & screenshots.

tl;dr 30 minutes shopping for games with a friend and I walk out with Resistance 2 and Def Jam which is this:

I didn't start playing 'til last night, but I absolutely love the game. Metacritic's 68 is totally underrating the actual game and more importantly what it potentially could have been.

Fighting is okay although the opponent AI can be absurdly cheap. Being able to recognize the different speed advantages of various fighting styles helps considerably, which jabs are fastest, how often you can get away with trying to grapple. Using the right analog for move input is a little flaky but really cool when it works out... nailing a big hit feels awesome and gives you time to make use of the sweet taunts and dance steps, or start air-scratching to switch the music over to your character's fight song. Grabbing control of the soundtrack like that changes the lighting and powers up your moves. A lot of complaints in reviews are about the pace of the fighting and how the combat's not centered around flashy throws or long combo strings... totally overlooking that it's pretty innovative when you play it for what it's is about which is throwing your opponent into stage hazards and then blowing the crap out of them with a showy big-beat attack. For my own constructive criticism, I thing fights could end faster... you're not properly rewarded for pulling off a handful of devastating knockdowns and explosions, on the other hand the AI would have to get dialed way down since it's the better opponent at pulling that crap out of its hat.

The career mode to the game is also growing on me really quickly, it provides setting and personality for the series of one-on-one brawls that makes up the action of the game and it's empowering to get holla'd at by my boys for this and that and picking which problems to settle for them. There's an unfortunate lack of control over what's happening in the story, for example when there's beef between my artists I want to step in and deal so I can have both my guys happy but the game essentially forces you to pick a side or let it simmer with both of them getting mad at you.

The game's sense of style is over the top. There are all kinds of licensed clothes and bling, the scenery bounces and rattles with the bassline of the song, and a blurry over-exposure filter that kicks in when the fighters get to low health. I'm having a ton of fun dressing up the me-with-a-black-guy-voice rapper and just watching him walk around his pad, chill in cutscenes, do taunt poses in fights... he's such a badass.

What's frustrating is how dated the 2007 game feels on PS3 without custom soundtracks, character / story / music DLC that I can find, or trophy support. On the other hand, no trophies means I won't be replaying the game past the point where it wears out its welcome for me.   read

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