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5:43 PM on 05.16.2012

Hype: Jet Set Radioooooo!!!

I could loudly bellow about Jet Set Radio and its Xbox sequel until the riot vans show up. They are my favourite games of all time and probably always will be. Their unique styles, cool-ass gameplay mechanics and intoxicatingly brilliant soundtracks have turned me into the person I am today. No, not a rollerskating graffiti-laying ne'er-do-well; rather an open minded individual with a love artistic freedom of expression, Japanese culture and all kinds of musical endeavours. In a nutshell, Jet Set Radio is the only game that completely changed my life.

So, to celebrate the upcoming HD re-release of the Dreamcast original and my overall unyielding love for the series, here's how I succumbed to the hypnotic pleasure that is Jet Set Radio.

I was first introduced to the series in 2002 when I was nine, going on ten. I already had a feverish love of videogames at this point, with my stepbrother and I squeezing countless hours of enjoyment out of my PSOne (because we couldn't afford a PS2) on a regular basis. Eventually, playing the same old games weekend after weekend grew tiresome. Duke Nukem: Time to Kill, Evil Zone, Resident Evil, Twisted Metal 2, Megaman X5, Metal Gear Solid, Ape Escape and Medal of Honor: Underground were all great games for their time and many of them still are, but those were all the games we had for quite some time.

It was when I flicked on Sky one day that I spied a channel I'd never seen before: the sadly now-defunct Game Network. Its name pretty much sums it up; it was my go-to channel for videogame news, previews and reviews before such things became more readily available on the internet (yeah I know gaming sites existed in 2002, but I was never really allowed on the internet back then, on top of the fact that my parents rarely used it). One segment on Game Network showed video clips of upcoming and/or newly released titles; it was probably my favourite show on the channel (though the segment's name escapes me). I remember seeing early footage of Half Life 2, as well as Knights of the Old Republic and Dynasty Warriors 3 which would all go on to be some of my most cherished games. One day, however, a game would be shown that completely blew me away.

Its name was Jet Set Radio Future. At the time, this game was brand new and was a lauch title for the Xbox in Europe. I couldn't believe what I was seeing; as various skating misfits grinded on the back of a spiraling, glowing neon dragon, I thought to myself: "this is the best looking game I have ever seen." Or most likely the nine year old equivalent: "Woah this game looks well good!"
As the video continued to show scenes of graffiti-spraying, trick-pulling mesmerisation only one thought remained consistent in my head: I need this game and I need it right now.

Somewhat coincidentally, I managed to find what looked like Future the following week during a visit to the Printworks, a massive cinema/mall in Manchester. The game was playable at a Dreamcast cabinet, so I rushed over and--hold on, a Dreamcast cabinet?! What is this sorcery?!! Well, my confusion ended when I found out via the title screen that this was in fact the original game, simply titled Jet Set Radio. Suddenly, the fact that two of these games existed was just too much. It was ages until my birthday, and I knew I had to get my hands on a Dreamcast. It wasn't like now, where I can just squander my student funding on random shit; back then I had two occasions every year where I could ask for a special something: my birthday and Christmas, and Christmas was even further away!

I ranted away to my parents about how amazing this Jet Set Radio game was, and how I just had to have it, and this Dreamcast thing (which I never knew existed until that point in my life. Come to think of it, the Dreamcast was basically dead by 2002, so why there were multiple Dreamcast stands in one of the UK's largest cinemas is quite baffling).

This Dreamcast would be nice.

A week later, I came home from school to find something that shocked me to the core. On the sitting room sofa, was a boxed Sega Dreamcast; and next to it, a copy of Jet Set Radio. Words simply could not describe how I felt, and it's a good job they can now, otherwise this blog wouldn't be here. I just stared at it in stunned silence.

After the celebration subsided and I had thanked my parents for completely spoiling me, I began playing the game, and wow. Just wow. It was the most mindblowing game I had ever played. In fact, I don't think I touched another game for weeks. Jet Set Radio was my religion, Professor K my god. If I never played any other game for the rest of my life I would have been content.

But then I remembered something. What about the future? The Xbox sequel was out, and all of a sudden, I couldn't stop thinking about owning it. One problem; we didn't have an Xbox. Nor could we afford one. You may remember that the Xbox was absurdly priced when it was released, a contributing factor to why it wasn't as popular as the PS2. So, the next time we were in town, I asked my dad if we could go to the local game store.

It was too good to be true. Way too good. The shop stocked Xboxes of course, but new ones came bundled with this strange disc that held two Sega games. One was Sega GT 2002, a fairly unremarkable racing game, but the other was my holy grail of complete gaming satisfaction. The game I saw on the Game Network channel that one time. It was Jet Set Radio Future. Holy hell, this had to be a dream, and it may as well have been. There was no way my dad was shelling out for another console and I couldn't blame him, dat shit was expensive. That didn't stop him from buying a second hand Xbox a year later, though. Hey, big spender!

And so, with both Jet Set Radio games in my collection (well sort of, dad rarely let me play his Xbox) the hype finally subsided. I was content. I still own both games to this day. If you haven't played them, I highly recommend them to any kind of gamer. They were both exclusives on two different consoles, and buying a console as well as the game can be expensive, but they're fairly accessible.

Or, you're probably better off waiting for the original's HD re-release this summer. I can't wait, I'm hyped. Wait a minute, hyped? That feeling, that overly joyous sensation! It's back! The Jet Set Radio hype has engulfed me once more and there's no stopping it. This game is incredible and I'm so glad Sega are once again giving it the attention it so rightfully deserves. It's not a brand new game, but when it's my favourite game of all time, I think I can let that slide.

Thanks for reading.


12:28 AM on 05.06.2012

Reviving the Horror Genre: What will it take?

Name five truly scary horror games. Pretty easy, right? I can do it, too. System Shock 2, Silent Hill, Condemned, Eternal Darkness, Fatal Frame.

Now name five truly scary games that were released after 2006. Amnesia, Bioshock, Lone Survivor. Erm...

Dead Space? Sure, if the list was about naming games that are a study in fighting for screen time.

Hmmm. Fuck.

Killer7? Nope, 2005. Shit! I can't think of any other than those other three.

My point is a fairly obvious one. In terms of games (and arguably film), horror just ain't what it used to be. Gone are the days of rich, creepy settings and the notion of subtlety. Say hello to monsters that wouldn't look out of place in a fighting game roster.

But...why? Why has it come to this? Why can't horror be just that any more?

Well, that answer is fairly obvious, too. Horror doesn't sell. It never really has. Other than Resident Evil (with which the term 'horror' is to be taken with a pinch of salt), not many horror-focused series have done all that well commercially. Silent Hill is probably the closest the genre has come to 'successful.' Even still, it's nowhere near the commercial powerhouse that is Resident Evil, with its angry Spanish peasant simulators and window-hating zombie dogs.

No, it's much easier to take an action-oriented game like a shooter, and just dress it up in some horror makeup. Dead Space did it, House of the Dead is damn proud of it, and Silent Hill completely whored itself out to it.

So if everything's already answered, what the hell is the point of this blogpost? If I was more popular as a blogger, I'm sure many of my imaginary readers would be itching to type something along the lines of "Oh boo hoo, horror is dead! Stop crying yourself to sleep you dead equestrian beater!" Thankfully I'm not that accomplished as a writer (yet!), so I'll tell you straight.

I have an idea. A sneaky, ballsy idea. Remember the time you were playing RE:4 and the guy jumped out of the oven? Remember how shit scary that was the first time, and how you were expecting it on subsequent playthroughs? Well, keep that in mind.

In thought, and after reading a recent (and excellent) article on Cracked, I realised all the best game ideas come from the gamers themselves. Hell, the Dreaming C-blogs on this site a few weeks back spawned a goldmine of creativity so sparkly that God himself was briefly blinded. It also reminded me, and made me sad that games are just so ambitious and so expensive to create. But then again, it's also sad watching series like Silent Hill being repeatedly bludgeoned by shallow Americanisation.

Anyway, this idea I had. Make a game. Any old game. It doesn't have to be great, nor does it have to be a particular genre, as long as it features the player controlling a character of some sort and, most importantly, it has to warrant more than one playthrough. It's a completely normal game with nothing special about it...the first time through.

On the second playthrough, however, take one part of a level, preferably somewhere around the beginning of the game, and change it ever so slightly. A door could be upside-down, an enemy could be missing; maybe a key is in a slightly different location. Something that makes the player think "hmm, that's weird."

Do this a couple of times, up to three or four times; add or subtract something to make the experience seem a little off. Then, somewhere in between the middle and end of the game, hit them with a scare. Something brutally scary. Something so scary the player might even turn the game off. If this happens, if the game is (ever) turned back on again, the game will load a save just before the scare. This time, the player is expecting it...but it doesn't happen a second time. In fact, nothing particularly significant happens for the rest of the playthrough. It's psychological horror at a simple, yet effective level.

For the next few playthroughs, a completely different scare could occur at a random point in the game, but only once each playthrough. This way, players will always be on edge in an otherwise harmless game.

Of course, if such a game were to hit retail, more than one person would buy it; so a lot of the effort would go into creating a sizable number of scares. A community could form; one person could say something happened to them while playing the game, and other could respond: "What? I don't know what you're talking about." Or maybe even: "Yeah, that happened to me as well." Copies of the game could be made to only come with a set number of scares; you won't get all the game's scares on one disc. Two people would potentially have two different sets of scares. Maybe some discs won't have any scares at all.

If it were to become popular, the game could spawn communities in which members tell others of the scares they've encountered. Unlike most horror games where the scares are the same on every playthrough, this game would be unique in that no one really knows what's going to happen at any given moment. Some playthroughs could have more than one scare, or be dominated by scary bits. Others will play out normally and be scare-less.

I guess it's more of a horrific experiment than a game, but I think it's pretty interesting nonetheless. What do you guys make of it? Would you want to play a game like this? What kinds of scares could you see happening to you?   read

5:20 PM on 04.16.2012

Collaboration: The 2015 Crossover Summit-A Recap

8th January, 2015. 9:30am. Videogame developers the world over have gathered at the White House to discuss and effectively attempt to save the industry from certain collapse. Their mission? To create the most awesome crossover game of all time. Ideas have dried up, companies are folding, and Mario Party 12 has been cancelled. The videogame industry is on the verge of obscurity, and these men are the key to its survival.

Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon is the first to arrive and greet president Barack Obama, two minutes later than expected. The president is unimpressed, as he bears a grimace that typifies his thoughts on the whole thing.

Ed Boon has not the chance to finish his lacklustre Sub-Zero pun, however, as Casey Hudson arrives by helicopter. Boon wastes no time in mocking Hudson's flamboyance. "Damn, Casey! You sure know how to make an entrance!" Boon remarks. "It's a shame you don't put that much effort into your exits!"
As expected, Casey takes the bait and swings for Boon. The president wastes no time in interfering and breaks up the fight: "Mr. Boon, please! This is exactly why you're in this mess in the first place!" Obama yells. "It is a damn good job I'm an MK man, else my tolerance for you would be Sub-Zero!"
Ed backs away, and shakes the hand of Casey Hudson. The three men head inside the White House.

An hour later, in the scheduled meeting room, the president pipes up: "Six devs? Six? This is our turnout? Your industry is facing certain doom and...and, six?! Just you six guys?"
The party of developers look to the ground, as if being scolded by a school teacher. Ed Boon glances solemnly at Casey Hudson, who hopes Tod Howard has some ideas. Tod Howard's "don't look at me" expression confirms his cluelessness. Suda51's expression is blank. While his track record remains excellent with 2014's No More Damned Killer Chainsaws, his own crossover, it seems his creative juices might have finally dried up.

Suda looks toward his friend Peter Molyneux; the two have the most collaboratory experience of the bunch, as they worked together to create one of 2013's more original titles, Black and White 3. The five look towards magic-man Gabe Newell, who announced only last year that Half-Life 3 will "never be a thing."
Gabe solemnly shakes his head, saying: "Where's Yoshinori Ono when ya need him?"
Ono, you will undoubtedly recall, was fired from Capcom after last year's poor-selling Ordinary Civilians vs. Capcom, which was also crowned the "most unbalanced fighter of all time" by IGN, Gamespot and Gametrailers.

The group sit in awkward silence for the next twenty or so minutes, with the occasional "what if..." followed by a hopeful gasp, and then a sweeping sigh of hoplessness. Many ideas are tossed around to no avail, as most of the companies behind these games have folded.

"Dynasty Warriors: Assassin's Creed," Tod Howard suggests. Followed by a hopeful Tekken vs. Mortal Kombat from Ed Boon. Follwed by an "everything has to be Mortal Kombat with you" from Casey Hudson.

As the summit draws to a close at noon, all hope seems lost. As the devs take it in turns to shake President Obama's hand, suddenly, something miraculous happens. A man jumps through one of the meeting rooms' windows with considerable force, breaking the window, and injuring Peter Molyneux in the process. The man gets up, dusts himself off and smiles at the group.

It is Shigeru Miyamoto. In perfect English, he enthusiastically bellows:
"Guys! You guys! I've discovered a cavernous loophole in the videogame copyright legislation! All those old licenses? We can do with 'em what we will!"
"And just how could we go about that?" questions a skeptical Peter Molyneux, who may be in desperate need of medical attention.
"Hear me out," says Miyamoto, "since last year's revision, there's nothing in the legislation to say we can't take all these licenses and make something truly unique, when the industry is on the verge of collapse! I already have it all planned out in my head!"
"Let's hear it!" proclaims Gabe.

Miyamoto-san takes a deep breath, before he bursts into his pitch:
"Okay! It's like a Smash Bros. style game, yeah? All the fighting game characters ever are having this epic war. Street Fighter is mad at Soul Calibur, but Soul Calibur kinda likes Street Fighter so they get Mortal Kombat to fight it out for them! Then Guilty Gear gets involved but it has to hold off Blazblue at the same time! Meanwhile, Skullgirls and King of Fighters are having it out even though the Skullgirls are massively outnumbered! Then they all remember that they all hate each other anyway and a huge fight breaks out between everyone! Then, things REALLY get crazy! Everyone from Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors shows up, but that doesn't stop our very own Mario from trying to pull everyone's trousers down! Then Sonic rushes in to aid Ryu Hayabusa and the Tenchu ninjas, but Sonic and Ryu aren't very good at stealth and they all get caught so...get ready, 'cause THIS will blow your mind...Duke Nukem and Solid Snake team up to save them from prison! What prison? Well, it's not a prison, it's the factory island from Beyond Good & Evil, and surprise surprise, Jade and Rayman are there because we have to please everyone! And speaking of pleasing everyone, it turns out Gordon Freeman is behind the whole thing! He's working with Captain Price to make sure the only games left are Call Of Duty games, because Gordon LOVES COD! In the end it's up to a crack team of game heroes to save the day: Link, the Doom guy, Travis Touchdown, the Arctic Avengers and whoever you are in Dark Souls are that crack team! So, what do you guys think?"

A stunned silence fills the air. There seems to be no disagreements. This is the game that is to save the industry. A game so grand in scale, ambition and sheer ridiculousness that it just has to work. It seems none of the group has any objections...

"Needs more F-Zero," says the president.
"Yeah that was pretty silly," says Suda, "even by my standards."
"Oh. Really?" says Shigeru, quietly. "I'll just...I'll just go...then...?"
"Yeah, we'll think of something else," replies Gabe Newell, whose eyes light up when he sees Peter Molyneux writhing in pain on the floor. "I've got it!" he shouts.

"Peter Pinata!"

Applause go around as Valve's first Kinect title sells in the millions, though Peter Molyneux unfortunately died during his motion capture sessions.   read

12:27 PM on 04.03.2012

Dreaming: The Ultimate Ninja Experience

WARNING: This will be a long blog entry about a game I hope I one day acquire the funds and support to make. If you don't like reading long walls of text, this may not be for you. If, however, you're interested in hearing what I have come up with, read on; you may be impressed. Or not. We'll see.

By law, we're required to think that ninjas are awesome, and they are; you'd have to be a pretty cold soul to not love or respect the skill and finesse that ninjas (probably) brought with them on their missions. Like with everything, popular culture has had its own take on the ninja persona multiple times through numerous media.

Sometimes ninja are celebrated:

Sometimes they are ridiculed for the sake of awesome cartoons:

And sometimes we're just doing it astronomically, embarassingly wrong:

Seriously. What the fuck.

But you can always tell when the ninja is done right, whether it be through historically accurate means (i.e. Koei's Samurai Warriors), or just straight up, unrivalled badassery. Case in point: the Tenchu series.

Tenchu is one of my most beloved series of videogames. From developer FromSoftware (Dark Souls, Armored Core), the Tenchu games revolve around a pair of ninja: the shinobi non-shit-giver Rikimaru and the sexy-yet-deadly kunoichi Ayame.

Pictured: Most definitely ninjas.

Under the command of Lord Gohda, the deadly duo take on missions with self-explanatory, yet unintentionally hilarious names; like "Punish the Greedy Merchant," "Stray Dog Slaying" or my personal favourite: "Kill the Shameful Monk."

The games, if you've never played them, are heavily stealth-focused. Normally, a multi-purpose icon on the HUD shows how close you are to an enemy, when the enemy are suspicious of your presence, when you're in their line of sight, or when they've outright spotted you. Each mission usually gives you one ultimate objective, such as killing a target of the greedy or shameful variety. To get there, you can cling to walls and ceilings, run over rooftops, roll around between shrubbery or stay in shadowy areas to remain hidden. Ultimately though, you're usually graded based on how many guards you killed during a mission, and this is where the Tenchu games really shine. Successfully sneaking up on an enemy allows you to perform incredibly stylish stealth kills, which is where the big points lie. Being spotted will deduct from your score and decrease probability of being awarded the highest rank at the end of a mission.

Now, look at these screens and just try to tell me you don't want to play these games:

My point being these are awesome games and everyone should have the privilege of playing them. I play them all the time, and as an aspiring game designer I love to think what directions I would take the series in. Granted, I most likely will never make a Tenchu game so, here's the meat of this blog post finally: The Ultimate Authentic Ninja Experience Game (working title).

The Tenchu games have always done an amazing job of making the player feel like a complete badass; the satisfaction of being a ninja paired with gameplay that required genuine skill, awareness and timing is a gaming experience rarely matched and done this well. Tenchu Z (2007) furthered this experience by allowing the player to create their own ninja. This is something that will be an integral part of The Ninja Experience. Players will not only be able to create their own character from a massively robust creation tool, but they'll also be able to share designs and enter online contests. These "ninja pageants" will have prizes such as exclusive apparel and accessories, weapons and ninja gadgets.

The Ninja Experience will be set during Japan's Sengoku period, between the 15th and 17th centuries when war was rife. The game will be free-roaming and every NPC will be a smart one. What I mean is, based on what kind of a ninja you are, people will react differently towards you. If you're a good ninja, or do good deeds for one city, the people there will take notice, hold you in high regard and often donate items and money to aid you in your quest. Also, officials may take you on board, thus opening up more questlines and areas. Contrarily, if you're a ruthless or evil ninja, townsfolk will avoid you in the streets and maybe even shriek and run away at your presence. If your tyranny grows so much in one area, people may refuse to leave the house, resulting in barren cities. However, some brave souls may seek to kill you for a bounty, officials will place kill orders on you, or maybe tyrannical rulers, such as Oda Nobunaga, will take you under their wing. The important part being you play how you want to play, but what determines good and evil in the game?

Well, there are three ways to neutralise threats in the game. For instance, a good character will perform non-lethal (but still very stylish) takedowns. A neutral character would perform stealth kills, and evil characters can perform savage kills, which strike fear into the hearts of your enemies, if you will. There are good and evil variations on all neutralisation types. For instance, an evil non-lethal takedown might see your character choke or beat an enemy within an inch of their life, or savagely break their legs. A good lethal takedown might see your character break a guard's neck, or kill them with very little bloodshed. Along with this, gestures such as helping civilians, doing favours for officials or acting on your own accord can add to your morality in certain ways. Swinging too much one way will open up certain questlines and close others, whilst various groups will want you dead based on your morals.

The game will be stealth-focused, meaning fights should be avoided at all costs. Players can dispose of enemies in various ways, and how they go about it will make other guards in the area behave in certain ways. For example, savage kills, or a great number of kills, will terrify guards, which will either cause them to flee or be reluctant to hunt you down. They may even cower in your presence if they spot you.

There will be a leveling system, though not in the traditional sense. I believe numbers are restrictive and in cases with online games, somewhat intimidating. Players will instead show progression through personal efforts such as carefully crafting their own weapons or piecing together their ideal apparel. On top of this, being a help or hindrance in another player's "world" will increase your notoriety among other players. As such, if you're lawful and show you can get things done, other players may send requests to you for help on a certain mission. In opposite fashion, if you've killed a great deal of players, your bounty may rise to such an extent that your name appears in many players' worlds on wanted posters or in official hearings if you're a real threat. A player can claim this bounty if they kill the other player.

More ambitiously, a duel system will be put in place for these PvP battles, and it will have impact on players' alignments. For example, if a good or neutral character kills an evil one, they will be regarded as a hero in that players' world, which acts as a sign for the evil player to either better themselves, or never cross paths with that player. Likewise, if an evil player kills a good player, they will be feared in the good player's world, and subsequent "invasions" by them will cause townspeople to flee, or rejoice if they are a good character. Of course, to avoid frustration, PvP battles can only occur whilst the player is not on a mission.

Eventually, you'll become so famous (or infamous) that people will begin writing about you, or painting depictions of you, and so on. You'll play a major role in the final act which will most likely see you assassinating the main good or evil NPC. Of course, if you'd rather be a neutral, lone wolf sort of character, you can take on any mission at any time. In this case, the final mission could be your first. You can of course improve your gear and gadgets purely through exploration without doing any missions. However, if you choose to take on a mission further down a questline, all the missions that would have been available before that will no longer be available.

These are the very first thoughts of an admittedly incredibly ambitious project. One day I hope a developer makes a game like this. Hell, maybe Tenchu's developers will take the series in a direction like this. That would be pretty cool. I'm not aware of a ninja-focused game to be as in-depth as this; I mean, the Tenchu series is pretty deep in its mechanics, but is yet to really step itself up into something this robust.   read

2:27 PM on 03.22.2012

Disappointment: Fable III & the Molyneux Guffstorm

Oh Peter Molyneux, whatever are we to do with you? Countless hours of my life have been squandered on your games; most of which have been excellent. Disregarding health and safety in Theme Hospital, making B-movie schlock in The Movies, and of course, terrorising the unassuming with disembodied hands in Black and White. All in all, under Bullfrog and Lionhead, Mr. Molyneux has made some of the finest games of all time. His trademark sense of humour and knack for innovation has made him one of the most prolific game designers the industry has to offer.

Which brings me to the Fable series. The first two games are competent action adventure romps, but with the creation of this series seemed to trigger some form of ongoing insanity within Mr. Molyneux. "Plant an acorn and watch it grow into a tree" was a promise Peter had made when giving details on the first game in the series. This feature was absent, though made a triumphant debut in Fable II where you could plant a staggering one tree.

Wow. Well...cheers Pete, I suppose.

What I'm getting at is that Fable is a series built on false promises, and none were more disappointing in this regard than Fable III. The first part of the game involved the player (a prince or princess) attempt to overthrow their tyrannical brother and king, Logan, by raising an army and starting a revolution. A fairly simple setup, and the game introduces the player to several of Logan's evil associates and the harm they're causing to the people of Albion. This characterisation is easily the best part of Fable III. There is also plenty of entertaining dialogue, along with Molyneux's trademark humour. It's easily one of the funniest games to be released in recent years.

The problem here is how bare bones the game is. Sure, Peter Molyneux and his studio followed up on more promises than ever before. Imagine Mr. Molyneux has made a delicious multi-layered trifle, but instead of digging down to the delectable lower layers, he's simply ran his finger along the custard surface before throwing the thing out the window. In other words, all of Fable III's gameplay mechanics had so much potential, but all we got in the end was...well...custard...?

Pictured: Fable III

I was personally looking forward to raising an army of rebels to overthrow an evil king. By the sounds of things, the overall effort I put into creating said army would have determined how efficiently I claimed the throne. But no, I got a series of compulsory missions that gradually added to my army as I completed them, with a big battle at the end, so this notion had completely lost its magic.

I loved the idea of a weapon that changed shape and colour based on how you played. What Lionhead delivered was a basic leveling system that changed your weapon when you opened a series of reward chests. Aw.

But what about all the grand, difficult choices you have to make across the game? Choices that will come back to haunt you? Choices that have a massive impact on how the game plays out. Oh, the choices are big alright, and to the game's credit, there are a few that require some thought. But these choices only boil down to A or B. Good or evil. That's fine I guess, but in the game's second half when you become king/queen, you have to raise a ludicrous amount of money to fund an army to take on an unstoppable force that could destroy all of Albion (read: a large black blob. Real imaginative). You raise this money, mainly, by holding meetings in your throne room. For example, one choice you have to make is to spend a lot of money rebuilding a school, or to rebuild it as a brothel that will create revenue. So it's much less good or evil, and more pacifist or complete douchebag. When you're not making the big choices, you can raise money through a limited real-estate system, searching the world of Albion and fighting monsters, or by making pies.

So what comes of all this? Well, one of the most unsatisfying endings of all time. You think Mass Effect 3 had a bad ending? Well, that ending is a magnum opus compared to this one. If you don't raise enough money to fund your army, which normally happens through playing the good guy, Albion is spared, but the blob monster basically exterminates all life there, save for guards to make sure you don't rob any shops. If you play the bad guy, you'll likely raise more than enugh for your army, but the people will still hate you for being a brothel-loving, children hating bastard. Both endings make the player feel like a complete dickhole.

All things considered, Fable III is a decent game. The combat, while a little choppy, is often satisfying. The world of Albion is varied and good-looking enough to make the game somewhat immersive from start to finish. The dialogue is entertaining and often hilarious. But it all could have been so much more. In Theme Park, if you set up a new store, you could set the price of its items. Even better, if you erected something like a coconut shy you could set the probability of a person winning and the quality of the prize. Ice cream stores let you set the amount of sugar, fries stands the amount of salt etc. That's depth right there. Sure, it's not amazingly deep, but a lot of thought went into Theme Park's various mechanics, making it feel like you were actually running your own park and were totally in control.

Again, Fable III just skims the surface on a plethora of potentially great ideas and in the end just becomes a choppy hack-and-slash game with tacked on "choices." Peter Molyneux's touch is not as golden as it used to be.   read

7:18 PM on 03.16.2012

My thoughts on Mass Effect 3's ending.


Well well, Bioware. You've really stirred up the hive! I've read that 90% of users on Bioware's own forums were more than dissatisfied with the trilogy's conclusion, and rightly so. The ending practically ignores everything the series has built itself up on the past five years, instead delivering a half-assed conclusion that barely changes based on the player's choice of ending.

If you haven't seen it, the ending in all three cases plays pretty much the exact same cutscene with differing filters and effects depending on your choice of ending. Seriously. An animation undergraduate could have done better. Which leads me into where I'm going with this.

I did not hate the ending. I'm not angered by it. I just feel an overwhelming sense of emptiness no matter which ending I pick. It was disappointing for sure; the only decision taken into account was which ending I picked, not the decisions I'd been making these past five years. None of that mattered anymore, and that's dead wrong.

I've seen an overwhelming desire for an ending in the style of Final Fantasy VI or Fallout: New Vegas. In both cases, the ending wraps up the stories of pretty much every single character the player meets during their adventure. I too believe this is the way to go as I was expecting the exact same thing. To be honest, looking at all the characters we've grown to love over the years, it seems this is a logical and obvious way to make a satisfying ending to Mass Effect 3.

As it stands, we don't know what's happened to all of Shepard's squadmates other than the two you bring with you on the final mission. We don't know if the final push against the Reapers killed them off or not, nor are we sure what their future holds. We want to see Tali set up a house on her homeworld. We want to see what Ashley/Kaidan's life as a Spectre continues. But above all else, we don't want Commander Shepard to die. Or at least, he/she deserves a more refined exit. This is where most of my emptiness resides. The conluding mission shows Shepard basically on death's doorstep, but his/her determination to stop the Reapers makes her hold on until the very end. We've all heard about the rumoured "perfect" ending that hints at Shepard's survival under the renegade ending. That's all well and good and if anyone can provide proof I'd be more than grateful, but it still doesn't make up for what the other endings lack.

The Paragon ending was depressing as hell. Seeing Shepard fade into nothingness was truly heartbreaking, and not in a good way. Next time, I settled on the Deus Ex-styled synthesis ending, wherein all organic and synthetic life merges to create peace between them. Even here, there are no implications on what the future holds for this synthesis. We see Joker and EDI finally at peace in a loving relationship with one another, which is nice. But again, no word from your squadmates. All I was treated to was Liara emerging from the Normandy (now a single woman), and Garrus with his permanent smirk.

Well, Garrus, I'm glad things turned out well for you. You are my favourite character after all. Wonder how the your family's doing on Palaven. The ending sure didn't tell me. In conclusion, my wish is no different from the majority of players who have beat the game. I'm sorry Bioware, but a series this prestigious deserves a brilliant ending and you haven't delivered. If your DLC rumours (an extended, better ending) do come true then great, you may be able to subside the rage. But as it stands, a rewrite or endgame-extending DLC is a must.

We fans have stuck with the best trilogy of this generation for the last five years. You've provided us with some incredibly tense moments and seriously impactful decisions over these three games. Doesn't it seem like a no-brainer to tie all that together in an ending to be remembered? An ending to be proud of, and an ending that's different for every player. Come on Bioware, you owe us this much.   read

4:11 PM on 03.02.2012

Rhysybaby's Semi-Cynical: The Bleak Future of DLC

I just finished reading Tony Ponce's review of the soul-crushingly disappointing Megaman X iOS port, and while it's not the first time a classic has been forced to walk the plank (Shadowrun anyone?), there was one detail featured in the review that made me believe Capcom had established a brand new low: introducing unnecessary, redundant DLC to classic titles.

To quote Persona 4's Yosuke Hanamura, this is so wrong on so many levels. Let's start by examining the original Megaman X. It's amazing; considered one of the Super Nintendo's best games, and Megaman's finest hour. It was an incredbly challenging, yet rewarding experience that championed player skill through its tight controls, top class level design, demanding enemy placement, intuitively crafted boss fights and an innovative weapon system. It was the perfect action platformer.

None of that has really changed with the iOS remake. Everything is basically the same bar one key plot element and a hit-and-miss visual update. In any normal case, this would be a no-nonsense, slightly experimental but ultimately harmless remake, but Capcom have gone a step too far here. As stated above, Capcom deemed it right to introduce DLC to Megaman X. This would be fine if the DLC in question added anything substantial to the game, like new levels, weapons or bosses, and if it was adequately priced. Hell, I'd be all for that.

But no, this DLC, if you can even call it that, is just cheat codes with a price tag. The main option, priced at $3.99, unlocks all armour upgrades, weapons, energy tanks and so on. That's the main attraction, the rest are variations of this, offering standalone unlocks at cheaper prices. The one worthwhile piece of DLC here is arranged music tracks, but something so trivial should be included with the game anyway. I mean, this is a remake after all, I didn't know Capcom would be remaking my bank balance at the same time.

I think it's downright insulting that Capcom would even think of defecating on such a prestigious title with shoddy, tacked on DLC. Again, if this DLC was worthwhile I wouldn't be complaining. DLC has been amazing in many cases; just look at Oblivion's Shivering Isles or Mass Effect 2's Shadow Broker, both first class DLC packages that greatly increased the playtime of their respective titles. That should really be the ultimate goal of DLC, as well as being good of course. Megaman X's "cheater" pack is neither. If anything, it diminishes playtime significantly by doing the legwork for you, and it definitely isn't good.

Is this really where DLC is headed? Sure, shit like this has flown before. Just look at EA's Time Saver packs that now seems compulsory for all its titles (even NBA Jam on XBLA! The nerve!). I mean, what next? Imagine if Capcom re-released the original Resident Evil (again...), but locked away the infinite launcher as paid content, rather than as a reward for beating the game under challenging criteria. Why stop there? Maybe Nintendo will jump on the bandwagon? Expect damage-dampening suits for Samus at $3 a piece. Infinite Tanooki suits for Mario? Yours at 500 Nintendo points! Do you think Link can never have too many rupees? Breach that annoying 999 rupee limit by giving Link access to a bottomless wallet, much like the buyer of all this wank DLC!

Okay, obviously I'm exaggerating, but for how long? DLC like this already exists, and while sometimes it can be a fun change to throw down a few bones on a new set of weapons or armours, stuff like that has never really taken priority over mission packs and such. I recently played Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires, and was delighted to see the developers created new clothing for your warriors as free DLC.

In conclusion, I guess what I'm getting at is developers and publishers are still experimenting with just how far they can go with downloadable content. iOS Megaman X seems like a step too far, but do Capcom think that? Will they, and many other developers, keep pushing for less productive stuff like this? Will developers be drawn away from more ambitious DLC offerings just to make a quick buck. I think so. While level packs, map packs and such will definitely continue, I believe this pointless DLC exploitation will carry on and only worsen as time goes on.   read

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