I couldn't believe how nervous I was when I started up the beta for the sequel to the one and only Slender. Sure, I expected to be frightened, but not so early. Installing it left a queezy feeling in my stomach. I guess I forgot just how much Slender freaked me out.
I wasn't ready.
For your enjoyment (or not), me and my time with Slender: The Arrival
You know how some folks will say they can't take more than so and so minutes or hours of a game before never returning to it again? For some people it's Dead Space. For some it's Amnesia. Hell, some are even afraid of Alan Wake. But, anyway. For me, it's Slender.
The horror of the game plays against your progression in ways that no other game does. The mere act of looking around can bring about this Slender entity. Even if it's just for a second, even if he isn't anywhere near you, you can't help but shiver at the thought of that faceless, still figure eyeballing (or, rather, "faceballing") you. And the fact that the further you get, the closer Slender creeps.
Enter Slender: The Arrival. A more story-centric, graphically-enhanced (by a large margin), priced version of the original. Sadly, the beta doesn't show off any of these new story bits. Rather, it's been altered to play exactly like the original. Strange way to "test" your game (if that's what they're going for), but at least it's familiar ground.
While the extra visual flair, surprisingly, does little to emphasize the horror, it's much appreciated and it's certainly not any less horrifying, thankfully. If anything, whenever Slender is near, that stock-ass distortion effect is now replaced with convincing (and sometimes jarring) screen tears, fuzzies, pulses and blurs.
This is what Slender needed to be from the beginning. It feels as if some actual budget and time went into making this. It feels as if I should be paying for this alone (which I have), and if the full game is going to be even more fleshed out, I've definitely gotten my money's worth. Even if I'll barely play it. This game makes me feel like a total pansy, which is a rarity with any form of media. I'm honestly afraid of it's power to make me, of all people, frightened.
Perhaps it was totally my fault I couldn't find my way around so easily, but it definitely wasn't as straightforward as the original. Only through randomly trekking through the nearby forest was I able to find my way to a small crate storage area which then led me to a building which then probably would've led me somewhere else I needed to be if I hadn't gotten jumped by that scary suit man.
This is yet another indie thrill to be looking forward to this year. As a fan of horror, I'm incredibly excited. And as one now weak-hearted individual, I'm scared as hell.
Never have I had the moxy to actually write a whole blog on it. Because while it was the scariest singular section of any horror game I've played, I don't wanna overstate it. I don't wanna overhype it. For you or even me. One day, those who haven't played Silent Hill yet may want to and they should, for one thing, go in completely blind. And expect nothing more than a good time. I don't want them holding a mindset of IT'S GOING TO BE SO SCARY DUDE BOY YOU'RE GONNA LOOOOOVE THIS SHIT.
So stop reading, you Silent Hill virgins. Pretend you never saw this. Screw Bloggers Response. I don't care if I risk many of the right people not reading this. You're not going to read this. NO.
For the rest, huddle together and I shall tell you a tale.
I played Silent Hill 1 only just early last year. So it took me long enough to get really into the Silent Hill franchise and that makes me a sad kangaroo. If I had been following the series since I very well could've been (back when I first played Silent Hill 4: The Room), I would be one of those guys that gets devilishly upset everytime Konami wrongs the brand. And I want to be one of those guys. I want to be one of those guys that draws DeviantArt fanpics of Harry Mason and Pyramid Head. I want to be one of those guys that regularly frequents Silent Hill Memories or the community forums. Alas, I'm still what you might consider a casual fan. A very supportive, but casual fan.
Anyway. As I said, I decided to start my adult journey into Silent Hill with the first one, naturally. And oh so nice of Sony's PSN Marketplace to provide me with a digital download, instead of me having pawn a PS1 and a physical copy off of some scheming ebay'er.
I went into it with the most open of minds. It didn't need to be scary, it didn't even need to be fun. All I wanted was to experience a piece of gaming history, in the end. A contained, interactive museum with grimy, dusty walls and uneasy attendants. But, at least I didn't have to leave my room to see it.
However, it immediately hooked me. The intro had some of the most effective horror pacing I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. It starts out innocently enough, but then a car crash. Your daughter is missing. You carefully, but anxiously venture forth to see where she has gone. Suddenly, a disturbing ambiance starts to bleed into your surroundings. Hardly anything feels normal, and pretty soon nothing is right. You scream out to yourself "WTF?!" at every glance of something new. Finally, you are attacked by screeching demon children. You try to run and it's no use as you're cornered and you await your death.
"Why like this? This can't be!"
You then awake to find it was, thankfully, just a nightmare.
... or was it?
All within the first several minutes. It didn't feel rushed or anything. It was so expertly crafted it was insane. A game so primitive by today's standards did horror better than the best of any modern classic. Whether it be Dead Space, Amnesia, or the likes of Lone Survivor, they can't touch this.
And that's.. only the beginning.
The reason I'm typing up this blog is the school section (pictured above). The main presentation. Grab your popcorn and drink.
However, it began as any other section of the game before it. Another play area for some puzzles and such. What could this game possibly show me that's so freaky and disturbing as to top that awesome intro? This isn't all that sc-
Boom. It hits you without warning. The school changes from your average, dark, thoroughly empty, haunted school into a hell suitable for only the evilest of souls. Or those innocent, but unlucky enough to find themselves trapped inside it as you have. Most of the walls are depressing, but vivid shades of brown, with bloodstains and wrapped, human-like corpses hanging from chains penetrating their insides. Are they corpses.. or can they just not move, unable to speak of their unimaginable pain?
Certain other rooms have undergone an even more horrid makeover. It's hard to describe, it's so otherworldly.
This... is where I wanted to stop playing. This is where I first experienced true fright from some piece of media. The game had achieved absolute horror. I could not even stand walking around, let alone having to trek through the enemies so keen on making this crazy situation not only mentally painful but physically painful.
"No.", I said. I knew it wouldn't last forever, so I kept on going. "It's just a game.".
But then, with my progress halted for the moment, I reconsidered. I was tired of being here. Enemies kept coming, the music (or lack thereof) grated on me, everything stared back at me with figurative black, brown and red eyes with each second seeming like hours passing. Walls were getting closer together, and aren't we all a little bit claustrophobic?
And, mind you, this had nothing to do with the gameplay. It was the horror. This insane horror. I was on the verge of honest-to-goodness whimpering at the thought of being here any longer. I believe at least half my brain had left this reality and had unwillingly been pulled into the game's. It was far from simple immersion.
Finally, a break. Or so to speak. A boss. This signaled the end of this nightmarish thrill ride. It was as if I could feel myself trying to hit this thing with my own body, everything moving much slower. I couldn't do it, I thought.
But I triumphed. I could hardly believe it, but it was seemingly over. No more of this unrelenting nonsense. I soon walked out of that... "school" and back onto the refreshingly open streets of Silent Hill.
No. It's not Gears of War. It's not Call of Duty. It's not Halo.
It's a Dead Space game.
Thank fucking God.
I haven't taken enough notice of that "youtube" button in the blog editor, and I need to. Pictures and videos make everything look neat and official. So allow me to plug a video from my channel regarding me and my Dead Space 3 playings. It's not funny and it's not entertaining, but at least I have a video in my blog whereas most do not. Points!
You'll likely assume I'm a Dead Space fan, which I have been since the wee early Dead Space 1 days. I was there when everyone was chiming in about their new "scariest game ever", I was there when all of us got a little bit paranoid about the new direction for Dead Space 2, and I was there when I didn't mind that new direction. Dead Space was already a little on the action-y side for it's so-called survival horror-ness, so call it a natural evolution.
If you want, anyway. You can go ahead and say you didn't enjoy Dead Space 2. I did. More than 1. And Dead Space 3 is more of that. So if you didn't like Dead Space 2, I guarantee you will not like Dead Space 3. Sorry!
Without spoiling much, the game actually doesn't begin in the traditional Dead Space way. It's obvious the game is trying to focus even more on a story. Or at least presenting said story. For about a minute, it feels as if you're watching the opening sequence of a good flick which then bleeds into the first time you can move yourself around a bit.
It's a fitting and well-paced intro that seems to set the overall tone of the experience to come: plenty of build-up, upset Necromorphs to de-limb, but there's also going to be a fair share of... "AAA' flair". It's got setpieces and we even now have enemies that can shoot guns like you can shoot guns.
I should hate these things, but I don't. Used in moderation, they freshen up the experience. The human enemies, for one thing, have a place in this game that's hardly nonsensical. Of course now Isaac is going to be wanted by the nuts who once thought of him as an important piece of their misguided and totally messed up puzzle. He doesn't like being the man he is, and he's pissed them off since the last game by destroying their holy markers every chance he got.
And he'd do it again, given the proper motivation.
The primary focus is still, thankfully, on the Necromorphs and those oh so sweet and slow build-ups. And those stupid jump scares which still fucking get me more often than they should. I don't know how they still manage to surprise me (outside the usual, not-so-clever, actually not dead but undead... looking corpse), but they do. So props to that.
The environments have been thoroughly glorious so far as well. I always have loved a real well-constructed slum/city/downtown environment which the first chapter complements with the gorgeous visuals. Most notable improvement seems to have been the lighting which appropriately bounces and plays around the curves, twists and edges of your surroundings. Or maybe I'm just talking out of my ass and I just appreciate the vast variety of color within the first maybe hour or so. It's still dark, but not dreadfully dark. I'm sure that's being saved for later on.
They also still feel organic rather than constructed. The game gives you just enough non-linearity to make you happy, and with this being a game designed with linearity in mind, the "lack" of more freedom isn't a problem at all. Collectables and loot are still rewarded to those curious about what's off the beaten path.
What this first chapter has told me is that this franchise still hasn't gotten old. It's ability to somehow make it's additions like human enemies and a (pleasantly non-Gears-y) cover system feel natural rather than thrown in for fuck's sake is surprising. While there's no denying EA's influence on the franchise, Visceral, like with Dead Space 2, has been able to sugar coat it in all the right ways.
Though I have yet to experience those nasty microtransactions just yet, my only gripe is the dodge. It's kind of totally freaking useless. Even for dodging the sparse grenade throws as you're usually given plenty of time to casually walk out of the way. You would think in a 150+ years time grenades would be way more efficient. They're no more dangerous than round, lumpy firecrackers.
So. I'm happy that I'm happy with this latest Dead Space so far. And I hope you're happy for me being happy, even if you're not happy with the game yourself.
It feels as if anything I say about DmC will not matter. I haven't played DMC1, or DMC2, and I've played very little of both DMC3 and DMC4. Suffice to say, I'm hardly even a casual fan of the franchise with this latest installment being my first real attempt at getting into it.
Everything should be pissing me off or at least making me cringe a teensy bit, no? Isn't that what being a fan of this series is all about?
But hey, screw you. This game is fun to look at!
Whoa! I know how a game looks usually doesn't mean much shit in the end... but look! LOOK AT THAT! Not just at Dante and him being all super sexy, but at the environments. They're...
Whatever you have to say about the supposedly dumbed down lot of the experience, there is no denying they put a hefty amount of work into the visuals. And while the game certainly feels like an Unreal Engine game in the worst possible ways (inconsistent framerate, texture pop-in, etc.), the actual art direction/assets are honestly phenomenal. I only wish I had bothered going for the PC version.
This is actually, probably, the only straight up action title that's made me pause for several minutes to take in the sights. Journey is jealous, Super Mario Galaxy is in self-loathing, and the Atari's best have all taken their cyanide pills.
Now, for the many many of you not too concerned with the visuals, I am personally having a lot of fun with the combat system so far as well. No, it doesn't flow quite as smoothy as I remember in DMC3, thanks much to the seemingly needless pause between certain moves/combos and the sometimes finicky camera, but it's still a fun time. Like that extra helping of seasoned fries you ordered with your meal. It's not that lovely plate of steak you see sizzling next to you, but it fills you up nonetheless.
I find that a good handful of my analogies revolve around food. Probably shouldn't eat when I'm doing this.
What I find pretty neat and intuitive is that you switch weapons with a mere hold of either L2 or R2 (on the PS3), pulling off similar combos as you would without holding them. These weapons offer up basically whole different styles as well as new moves. It's a very welcome change of pace from what I'm used to seeing in multi-style combat systems. Had the game been a little better with it's sense of flow, this could've been some sweet as heck gameplay. Worthy of the DMC franchise? Well, I'm not too sure. But it's certainly worthy amongst some of the better combat systems I've used.
Oh this is a great segway into talking of the boss I encountered early on! It was pretty sweet. And wubwub has never felt more appropriate. He had the right amount of challenge, variety, surprises and visual flair to already set the bar high enough for future boss fights. He felt like a legitimately well thought out first boss fight. Not astonishingly difficult, but not offensively easy.
And speaking of surprises, what I'm incredibly surprised about is the platforming. It's fresh, stimulating and I never saw it coming. I did know the game would have platforming, but not in this vein. It's awesome! So far, the game has been split about 50/50 between platforming and combat. Neither overstay their welcome at any point and it's thankfully no worse or better than the combat. The gameplay feels well molded and consistent.
Only other gripe? Well, supposedly, the combo system has been super casualized. And, well, indeed. It has been. But I'm not a "go for the high score" kinda dude with games like this. If this were an impressions blog on Geometry Wars 3, now, then you might see me go a little more into it.
As much as I'm enjoying the gameplay/graphics side of DmC, I'm finding it hard to fully enjoy the story side of it. This game's story.. is a Two-Face. One handsome, polished side... one imperfect, sometimes straight ugly side.
The good? I'm really enjoying the acting. For the lines and context these actors are given, they do a fine-ass job. Especially Vergil. He is always very sincere with his movements, inflictions, everything. I don't know much of the DMC4 Vergil, but this one's alright with me. And Dante DOES, on occasion, make me laugh. Whether he finally, successfully drops a tasty one-liner or tosses an empty can behind him to land perfectly in a nearby garbage canister. This guy is so slick!
But, not always. In fact, he's usually more along the lines of try-hard cool. An adolescent take on older Dante's truer cool.
Bad? The "satire". It's been said before here, and I agree.. the game thinks it's more clever than it actually is. There's hardly anything edgy or interesting about big business secretly controlling the people through debt, lies and... soft drinks? Yeah. This game is taking a few hints from Futurama of all fucking things. Adding in some of that "insight" from the game's writers, and these guys definitely have their own heads up their arses.
What doesn't help is that it's just not executed all that well. Perhaps chalk it up to the sometimes lackluster dialogue. Though, had it been at least a little more interesting, maybe it wouldn't be too bad at all. I'm getting a kick out of Bob Barbus, though. Who doesn't love a good O'Reily spoof, eh? Convincingly detestable, he's the shining White Knight in this otherwise very ordinary concept. Though, still a bit rusty.
You'd probably think I was lying if I told you I'm actually going through the franchise at the moment, mainly, for the sake of... homework? Yes, homework!
I have been tasked to do a comparison essay on any two or three topics and I have chosen to do it on these two "versions" of Dante. It's a great excuse to play some supposedly great games that I haven't had the pleasure to play much of. Not only am I typing up this impressions blog but I am essentially doing a write-up of the entire franchise. I'm going into their weapons, personalities, the enemies they face, etc.
I feel like JURNALIZM.
I'm having a great time here. Even if the story does sometimes get in the way, I can't wait to wrap up my perspective on the franchise. And I may even post up my character analysis here when it's done.
I'm not a JRPG fan (should I say "fan", though?). But, I'm a lover of RPG's! I'm not saying that I specifically don't like them Japanese ones. For whatever reason, none of them ever interest me enough to make me think "Yes. This is a game I'm going to pick up." and I'm not usually incredibly hard to impress. Perhaps once I got them going I would enjoy them, eh? A friend of mine is really into Persona, and he's inspired me to mark Golden on my to-get list, but beyond that, before now, the last JRPG I played, naturally, was a Pokemon game. And before that... probably more Pokemon!
But, now I'm currently looking into Ni No Kuni. Because, well, it really stuck out. The graphics, the hype surrounding it and then the demo I played which opened me up to the awesome combat. This would be my first seriously super duper hardcore JRPG in a long time. I couldn't wait!
Sadly, if things keep up this way, it seems I might wanna start treading even more carefully from now on within the JRPG space.
Alright. Yes. The game looks awesome. There's no denying that. How the heck could you say it's not visually inspired? It is!
But, what I'm talking about is it's presentation. It's the worst I've seen in quite some time. A mighty long list of tutorials, a dialogue piece/cutscene literally every 3-25 seconds (oh but at least it loosens up a bit after about 30-45 minutes!), it's just overall sloppy and sporadic. Consider especially that there's 4 different ways they go about delivering story/dialogue:
1.) Anime cutscenes
2.) In-game cutscenes
3.) Still camera jump shots w/ voice over
4.) Still camera jump shots w/o voice over
What is this honestly doing for the story? It's arbitrary as hell. They hardly ever come up whenever you'd expect them to, rather the anime scenes (for example) will just come up when the hell ever. Take out maybe one of those and it'd feel all that much better for it. More is not always more!
To make matters worse, the game starts off rather uninterestingly. Quite frankly, it's downright predictable and boring at times. The acting is mixed, the dialogue isn't much outside 1 or 2 innocent chuckles, I could easily recite some moments/entire scenes in my head just before they happened. Not just a teensy predictable. Painfully.
So, when something half-interesting FINALLY occurs, they expect me to feel sad and it just didn't phase me at all. I can honestly say I didn't care in the slightest, and I still don't. They spent far too much time setting up what seemed to be a run of the mill tale with hardly any extra attention given to it that by the time I was surely supposed to be invested I was just simply ready for the actual game to start up. When was that going to happen, HEH? This particular moment seemed to go by so fast that even if I was invested I would've raised an eyebrow. Nothing much in the way of proper pacing for what they were trying to go for. I could think up tons of ways they could've presented such an important story development better.
A couple solidly-acted roles aside, it just didn't hold much weight until the lovable Mr. Drippy came into the picture.
Now this little guy is a piece of work. I get happy everytime he speaks. He's got a lot of energy, a chip on his shoulder and one awesome accent. "Youer" in for a treat once he shows up and starts wrecking face (he doesn't actually wreck any face). He immediately brings some much needed spice to the story and gets me excited to venture to his parallel universe. Which is apparently a thing with this game.
BUT, even after he shows up it takes a while before they decide to fully stop wasting your time and excite your stimuli. So we're off to another world!
This is where the game FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINALLY starts to feel like the game I was waiting for. Awesome combat! A beautiful, sprawling open world! All these wonderfully crafted mechanics and such! Sweeeeeet!
Annnnnnnd then I'm treated to an even larger barrage of tutorials than before. Great. Some of which legitimately insulted my intelligence. YOU'VE TAUGHT ME HOW TO LOOK AT MY CREATURES AND CHECK THEIR STATS SO I'VE ALREADY SEEN THAT THEY LEARN NEW ATTACKS AT CERTAIN LEVELS YEAH YEAH IT'S LIKE POKEMON I GEEEEEEEEEEET IIIIIIIITTTTTTTT!
Granted, the combat system is as good, if not better than what I experienced before (surprisingly challenging too) and I love my little Familiar (the Pokemon, basically), who I've aptly named "OP". I gave him some cake and ice cream once. And I've made sure to call him back whenever he gets tired. Plus, more of those sorely needed interesting characters have shown up like the Deku Tr- er... I mean the Old Father Oak, a cat race that often speaks in "purr" puns and I've had the opportunity to take on some extra quests. I also love this Wizard's Companion, which is an honest-to-goodness, true-to-life length textbook on wizardry. We're suddenly Harry Potter up in this mowfuka.
It's just such a shame that I'm still being interrupted and hand-held far more often than I'd care to see.
Oliver, the main character, on multiple occasions, has said something along the lines of "Gee-willickers! That's a lot of information to take in!". Drippy will then respond with something like "Don't worry youer wee boy head 'bot et, eh? You'll get used to et!" as if the game is trying to resonate with the player. They really do think I'm stupid, don't they?
Will this game end up being as awesome as so many claim it is by the end? I hope so. The only way I see that happening in the slightest is when they take off these damned training wheels and give me some breathing room. I know this will happen eventually, but I just hope it's really fucking soon. And when it does happen, I hope it redeems itself.
I made my physical Christmas list a bit late. But, early on, I asked for one thing: a Wii U. A Wii U to enjoy. A Wii U for me. A Wii U.. so I could say I have the latest, greatest!
While it isn't the greatest console ever, I'm thoroughly impressed by it so far.
But I wanna immediately get something out of the way, what I feel is the best part about the Wii U itself: the implication of this "Miiverse".
You probably wouldn't know it until you experienced it for yourself, but this thing is very cool. Like a forum built within the console, a message board for each of the Wii U's titles. It's, honestly, genius. And I've actually been doing more than just browsing the Podtoid-centric Rabbids Land community. I've posted pictures, screenshots (which are incredibly helpful when asking about specific parts of a game), thoughts and asked questions. And my most recent question, I got a helpful reply within minutes. Even the most dormant of communities are fairly active, sporting hundreds of users at the least.
Hypothetically, I could've gotten stuck, pressed the Home button, clicked Miiverse, posted my question, gotten a helpful reply, said my thanks and been back to my game, exactly where I left of, all within a matter of about 5 minutes or less without having to switch over to my laptop or phone. Fucking awesome.
On top of that, you'd be hard-pressed finding a single blatantly jerk response. I haven't found any.
I'm a pretty decent artist... when I have a reference shot
But your first stroll through the Miiverse will take place at the Wii U's very home screen.
Several icons appear on your TV that form an oval with an army of mini Mii's rushing towards each one. Not sure how your experience may differ, but my icons were of NintendoLand, NSMBU, Blops 2, ZombiU, etc. and within seconds (granted you've properly activated the Miiverse at this point) you'll see popular posts pop up from within each of those games' Miiverse's. This is where I discovered some of the jaw-dropping artistic talent of some of Nintendo's fans, which was at least half the reason I decided to check out the forums.
I feel apart of a huge, friendly community with the Miiverse. And none of it feels intrusive at all, even at the home screen. The music, the pop-up posts, the sounds the Mii's make, it all combines to create a unique and very charming experience.
Just an awesome awesome job on a scene from Yoshi's Island
Then you have the Wii U's take on the eShop. Which is like McDonalds nuggets. Satisfying, but not too awesome (and if I may extend that analogy just a tad, by comparison, something like Steam is much like Wendy's spicy nuggets *droooooool*). For one thing, I tried searching up what demos were available and merely got results for the 3DS. Why is this stuff even accessible at all from here?
(.... anybody got any Wendy's spicy nuggets?
And I know there's at least two (Rayman Legends and Sonic and Many Cameos Racing Adventure). So I had to search up the game titles specifically and then there they were. Definitely needs to be a dedicated section for demos ala the 3DS's eShop.
Some other small annoyances hold it back a tad like you can only browse it with the Gamepad (rather than the options of that or the Wii-mote, Pro Controller, etc.), it doesn't feel as if it's fleshed out enough (at least there's still a Wishlist feature), etc. but I'm sure things will get better as more stuff is put out so that there's motivation to rework the system. At least it feels a little more intuitive than the Wii Marketplace with whatever is there (example: adding money to your balance is much faster).
Various other improvements have been made coming from the Wii to the Wii U, like a dedicated Download Management tab, a far more useful and enjoyable Software Data Log (it was interesting seeing that I spent almost an hour in the Wii U's surprisingly great internet browser on my first day while I never touched a single one of my games), the addition of an actual chat system and a friends list tab, etc.
And with all these things in place, so much has been done to outdo the original Wii, yet it all still feels very clean and simplistic. Sterile, without feeling devoid of soul or stimulation.
The only problems I can think of about the Wii U itself are the very minor inconveniences I've already listed, sometimes attempting to drag down the screen on the Gamepad will result in accidental clicks that will take you someplace you didn't mean to go, on initial start-up there's a patch that will take anywhere from 30 minutes (if you're lucky) to almost 2 hours (and I hear even longer) to download, the Miiverse notification pulse sometimes won't show up and then there's some occasionally unappealing loss of color vividness when playing a game on the Gamepad.
But, overall, as far as the system itself is concerned.... I love it. There's already a very solid groundwork for more features and improvements. I can't wait to see what this thing will boast in the years to come. Perhaps an attachable arms accessory for use with a Nintendo-twisted version of Patty Cake or Rock, Paper, Scissors? What idea could be better?
This thing is like a console-ized version of the DS with some extra flair and technology behind it. Which is also fucking awesome and not underwhelming in the slightest considering the DS's quality. I can turn off my TV, switch any game (or app) to my Gamepad and enjoy it in the bathroom or downstairs in the kitchen. Never have I said I've been able to have a full, true console experience within my hands.
[NOTE: Features such as TVii are of no use to me, so I never bothered with it, but I hear it's basically amazing]
Now we get to what's most likely the reason you or I would want a Wii U: the games. And, so far, I have played 5. Here's a little rundown of each one with my thoughts....
New Super Mario Bros. U
I've bought every core Mario title ever. I can safely say I at least enjoyed each of them, but most of them I loved. Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, especially. They're the kind of games that are the reason I play video games. Pure imagination and inspiration in both their influence and their design. These games, unlike any other platformer, take me to a place where I can hang out and escape into. The series has nearly 30 years worth of games and lore behind it.
Mario is big, and is a big deal in gaming for good reason.
But, sadly, as many have said that I will now echo, a couple recent core Mario titles haven't been the most imaginative or inspiring. I speak of the "New" series of Mario games, a franchise name now mocked because of it's lack of being exactly that. First a breath of fresh air, now merely a faint queef for some.
However, New Super Mario Bros U is like a can of Mushroom Mist Febreeze on that smelly queef. Oh this installment smells gooooooood.
I've made it a little past the first moments of World 5 and if you asked me how many new assets and interesting layouts I've come across, I would respond with "My head hurts. That's a lot.". While most of the environments are the same in concept (desert, jungle, water, etc.), they've been given a huge visual overhaul. The first world is a memorable one, for example. Large towers extend to the skies, multiple layers of blue/green hills off into the horizon, a tall acorn tree and a lot of the gravel platforms sport this very appealing teal blue. I must say I love the relaxing music too.
It feels as if there's a certain attention to detail not seen in previous "New" titles.
Most of the levels are very competently designed and fun while not feeling like they're playing it too safe. They will surprise you and they will actually challenge you. At least half of the levels I've played, in trying to get the desired coins, power-ups and Star Coins, have forced me to buckle down and pay attention rather than blowing through just another level. A couple times I've even skipped Star Coins and such because I was tired of making one mistake too many. Pff, hell, I've died several times from the basic platforming you need to get through to progress (not including the times I just made some real dumbass moves). Several of the layouts even give off a fan-made vibe, but in a good way. A sort of "There's no way that Nintendo themselves would design something so devious/cool in a modern Mario title." feeling.
And there's not just a ton of new visual assets and layouts, the same can be said for the actual gameplay additions. Even the Toad House mini-games are a million times more exciting than they were before. And there's Nabbit, who works a lot like if the rabbit creatures from the beginning of Mario Galaxy got fat, turned to a life of crime and put up a fight. He ends up in various parts of the map with a bag of stolen items that you can choose to retrieve. If you do, you have to run through the stage fast enough to catch the fleeing purple perp where a single misstep can prolong the chase that much longer. Get 'em!
Probably most importantly is the new flying squirrel suit, which is interesting because it doesn't provide you with any new methods of attack. Instead, you just get a new way to travel, and a fun one at that. Think the propeller suit from New Super Mario Bros. Wii only without a ground pound ability and you can stick to walls. Oh and it's not just boring, red latex.
Tons of new enemies, gameplay modes, etc. round out to make what I believe is the best Mario game since Galaxy 2 and one of the best 2D Mario games. I can't wait to find out what this game still has in store for me. This might even be a new favorite for me by the end.
It's odd playing such an eerie, mature game on a modern Nintendo console that isn't Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition, but here I am. Essentially Dark Souls in first person with zombies, ZombiU manages to be way more of a quality Nintendo launch title than Ubisoft's other, Red Steel.
Real Talk: I love zombies, and I'm not tired of them... but I wouldn't be surprised if this was the game that made me re-fall in love with them. If only I were tired of them. Then maybe this highly enjoyable adventure might've been even better. This game makes zombies an actual threat again.
Something something prophecy. Something something plague. The story of ZombiU is hardly it's focus, despite the attention to it and the slow-paced gameplay. The slow pace is actually what makes ZombiU stand out, and along with it's high challenge it's what keeps me playing. You get your breaks, you're not constantly being bombarded with zombehz, but that doesn't mean the tension is any less.. tense. Every sound triggers an alarm in your head. Every corner, you check. Because when you're learning the ropes, even just a zombie or two is formidable. Yet the game doesn't use peanut butter chunky controls to make them formidable. Instead, you have to prep each strike and know when to time each said prep and strike. It's not always a good time to swing or shoot.
Now, 3+ hours in, I feel like I can handle myself against several zombies at once granted I'm not backed into a corner. Oh you better pray there's not a wall behind you as you're backing up. That's where you'll likely get yourself killed the most. Pick your targets, throw flares for distractions, know what to keep in your quickslots, etc. and you'll be fine.... maybe. It's survival, baby.
Then... the graphics, feeling overdone at first, have a certain appeal. Like a low-quality camcorder without any of the HUD. Intense flares and overall somewhat blurry/muzzy (possibly intentional...? .... eh), it's definitely got a "thing" going rather than just a base presentation. Grittyyyyyyyyy.
While the graphical presentation is arguably try-hard, the attention to detail is exquisite. Environments are believably shattered and torn, various debris lay about, even the zombies look pretty frightening. What I find really awesome is that their howls and blargs are properly synced with their mouth movements, which don't feel canned at all. I feel as if each zombie is a real creature.
Now, a while back I mentioned this game was a lot like Dark Souls and I'm not the first to make that comparison, for reasons I'll explain. For starters, when you die, you start with a new survivor, spawn with merely the default gear and at your last checkpoint (being one of the mostly sparse safe houses). But, you're given a chance to recover your lost stuff you've spent so much time pillaging if you make it back to your now zombified corpse and kill it.
It's interesting when it happens. You have pretty much just killed yourself. And not only that, but occasionally the zombified corpses of other online survivors will "invade" your game (loot intact). Finally, you also have the ability to leave vague online hints on walls in the form of various icons. Yet another Demon's/Dark Souls influence, but it's all given a special ZombiU twist and I love it.
Oh and the menus are in real-time.
And completely separate from the Normal difficulty is something called "Survival Mode". Where if you die (and you most likely will), you die. In the truest of forms, you just die. The game starts over and no progress is saved. Even though I've worked up a decent amount of experience in my playtime so far, this scares me. But, also excites me. I have a feeling that eventually I'll only wanna play it on Survival. I've even set aside some money for an extra Gamepad should it push me over the edge.
With only the occasional feeling of repetition and a framerate stutter here or there to complain about (so far), ZombiU is quite possibly the most hardest of core Nintendo console titles we've seen in a very long time and it's a quality one. I could see the game getting more and more repetitious by the end, but at least it's not "going through the motions" repetitious. The tension, difficulty and solid gameplay make you wanna overcome. And when you do, it's time to breathe again.
From the makers of World of Goo and Henry Hatsworth (I knew something felt familiar about this art style), it's your very own Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace!
... this game is somewhat unsettling. As if the demented part of my brain that loves playing with fire made a video game. It comes off in everything from the art style, to the gameplay, to the items you can burn and their descriptions. Oh.. and speaking of which, of course almost the entire premise of the game is to just burn things. Many things. From paper, to toys, to food, to bugs to even miniature planets.
The genius behind the game, though, is that it not only gives you the power to burn shit up, but it structures and drip-feeds the entire process in a way that's hardly the least bit annoying. Because, c'mon, you just wanna set stuff on fire. It can't afford to be annoying.
See, you can't just burn willy nilly if you wanna get anywhere. First, you need coins to buy stuff to burn. Poke a few Unknown-like spiders and they will drop some. Then you may purchase 1 of several available flammables. As you buy newly unlocked items, other new items will unlock. The items you burn will drop more coins. Use those to buy the items you just unlocked.
And so on, and so on. Until you unlock everything within a catalog. Then you have to perform burn "combos". Such as burning a Corn on the Cob and a Television for the Movie Night Combo. 4 combos will unlock the second catalog of items.
This system moves along fast enough on it's own, but once you purchase an item from one of the catalogs, it has to "ship" to your inventory. Smaller items take around 10-15 seconds, with bigger ones taking anywhere from 30 seconds to well over a minute (although you can choose to express ship an item using tickets which also drop occasionally).
Now, you're probably thinking "UGH! You say it isn't annoying, but it all sounds like a hassle. A needless halt to my pyromania!", but it really isn't. There's just something pleasant about burning various objects... but constructively or while gradually opening up more and more possibilities. If I had the freedom to set off the miniature nuke right off the bat, it wouldn't feel quite as satisfying or awesome. I would've probably started with the more interesting items and the surprises would be non-existent. I earn what I burn, but without it feeling like a slow grind to the best stuff. It's all quick enough that it never bothered me.
There's also a story to this sort of burning simulator, wouldn't ya know. A simple enough one, where it's basically colder than Antarctic ice and the only thing keeping you and everyone else warm enough is the Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace from the Tomorrow Corporation. Told through notes (although strangely written in real-time) with straightforward dialogue, quirky grammar and off-putting character stills, just like the economy it adds a surprising amount to this incredibly simple game.
It's weird. Just like it's weird to get so much enjoyment out of burning things down to fragile ash. But, that's the way some of us work.
Now, what would probably make all that pretty annoying is repetition. If everything burned the same. There's hardly any real challenge to the game so there needs to be at least a reason to keep burning this or that. And, thankfully, each of most of the items burn a little differently. Whether it's their after effects, how they affect other items, how they explode/burn/sizzle, etc. which when combined with the sheer amount of stuff available, it only gets a teensy boring when you've played for hours at a time.
I'll tell ya, I've had most of my fun just ignoring the story and combos by creating scenes or structures... and then watching them burn up! I set down a boat, a pirate doll on top of the boat and a fire-breathing dinosaur plush to the left of them. Lighting the dinosaur on fire causes him to spew fire from his nose, roasting the boat, causing oil to erupt from it's top, coating the pirate and eventually turning to flames that then roast the pirate. I laughed. And I think I need help.
There are some framerate issues with this edition, but if you're an easily entertained pyromaniac like me, you'll wanna jump on this game ASAP.
Nano Assault Neo
Nintendo consoles now have two sticks, people. So it's time we break them in with a look at the Wii U's only twin-stick shooter (at the time of this blogging), Nano Assault Neo (what the fuck, spellcheck... neo is a word). It's the Wii U's answer to Geometry Wars and Stardust. Or the Wii U's answer to the 3DS's Nano Assault. Either way you look at it, it's got legacy, expectations and comparisons and I'm going to use Geometry Wars/Stardust for comparison, if you don't mind.
Like Geometry Wars, it's got awesome visual flair. Like Stardust, it has power-ups, a visual style not made up entirely of geometric shapes and bosses. Bosses that look really squishy.
What's really awesome about this game, and what makes it unique, is it's stage design. It's got that Stardust perspective, but with crazy hills, turns and stage obstacles. Shooting enemies from atop a hill and having your pellets swoop down the sides never ceases to feel uber topsy-turvy and it'll screw with your mind for a while. But it's great.
The game also has microorganism-inspired assets. Enemies that resemble mites, bacteria and cells. Same goes for the stage designs, which, again, I love. However, there's only so many of them. There really could stand to be one more "cluster" of stages and in playing the mode that I'll probably be playing the most, Survivor, you can get repeats pretty quickly as there's only 12 because they don't include the boss fights.
And speaking of Survivor Mode, I wish they had handled it in a more traditional fashion. Have a set stage, perhaps with randomized enemy spawns. Or, better yet, have a stage completely designed around Survivor. That would've been amazing, what they could've done with that. But, as is, it's just randomized stages (with their usual enemy spawns intact) until you die. I sort of might as well just pick a single stage and go for the high score in that or just play a cluster because that's about as long as I can last at the moment.
But, where the game lacks, it makes up for with it's uniqueness. Yet again, the stage designs are interesting, awesome and occasionally beautiful. And you'll sometimes pick-up (or equip within the mid-stage upgrade shop) extra turrets (although called satellites) that'll help you out which you can actually customize where they are around your ship and even how they arc mid-fight by just touching the Gamepad screen once, making the game pause until you start moving your ship again. It's cool and very intuitive.
At 10 bucks, it's a liiiiittle bit steep for how they handled the mode that'll likely keep you coming back and for how short the campaign is (about an hour+ or so long), but it's still a very competent little twin-stick shooter with some awesome visual concepts.
Here it is. The Wii Sports of the Wii U.
Yet another mini-game collection, is it? Well, yes. But this mini-game collection has managed to hold my interest and keep me playing longer than any of the other Wii U games I have played. This, friends, is why I've saved this one for last. ZombiU's interesting survival horror pleasantness couldn't do it, my reinvigorated love for Mario couldn't push me to play NSMBU enough... that thing from E3 2012 that we all said "... what?" to, has beat them all.
Obviously, you wanna know why.
Coming into it, I would be lying if I said I wasn't expecting to at least have some fun. Nintendo just doesn't make unfun games, IMO. And this game definitely is fun. But, not only that... it's incredibly fun. The kind of fun you'd expect a 5-7 year old express. "Whooaaa.", "Cooool!" and *giggle* are among the various, child-like phrases spewed from my word hole while playing this. I wanna stop typing up this too long of a blog and play some more, but for the sake of JURNALIZM, I must continue.
This mini-game collection succeeds because it tries to be more than just that. Some of these games could house an entire separate experience. More like little adventures than mini-games, the likes of Zelda Battle Quest, Pikman Adventure and Metroid Blast have the meatiest content on display here. Up to 20 or more stages, each lasting anywhere from 2-5+ minutes. With "Mastered" ranks to achieve and Stamps to earn as well, these will take a while to 100% because don't think that those ranks, especially, are easy to get. They are not.
That is also where Nintendo Land surprised me: It's challenge. I still have yet to beat even one of the levels in Donkey Kong's Crash Course, it took me a handful of tries to get the Mastered rank in just the first stage of Pikman Adventure (and I was trying REEEEALLY hard), my brain keeps giving out at the last stage of Octopus Dance and how THE LIVING HELL am I suppose to pass Gate 14 on Yoshi's Fruit Cart?!
Then there are prizes to earn through a neat little Pachinko meta-game, that's played with the coins you earn in the 12 attractions. A whole 200 of them.
This is where the fun of Nintendo Land lies. Not only in it's insane amount of charm, but it's challenge and amount of content/goals. You wanna become a star player for each attaction, you wanna nab all the prizes to make your Nintendo Land Plaza the ULTIMATE of Nintendo Land Plazas and you wanna get every single Mastered rank.
Talking specifically about the games themselves, Zelda Battle Quest is probably my favorite. Playing as either an archer with the Gamepad or a swordsman with the Wii-mote, you will journey through 9 different normal stages and 5 "extra" stages with a Triforce to obtain at the end of each (which kinda sort of really really undermines the concept of the Triforce, but whatever). Played completely on-rails, too. Which is surprisingly a non-issue because it at least does on-rails right.
And it's also not exactly the template for the next core Zelda title.
The controls work very very well. Full 1:1 motion and attacks, all without having to carefully prep each strike like I felt I had to do in Skyward Sword (although you still have to a teensy bit if you wanna make double sure your flurry attacks land precisely).
Steadily introducing new enemies and with some great musical numbers (some, if not all, remixes though), glorious visuals and consistently enjoyable encounters. Only some padding out towards the end to complain about, where bosses and environments are repeated a time too many for my tastes, where I can't justify their existence at all. The final battle with (take a wild guess) Ganon and the extra stages make up for it though.
My other favorite is Captain Falcon's Twister Race. A time trial-centric speed course with you as Mr. Fal-koo Pawnch himself. Holding the Gamepad by it's bottom and top sides controls the steering, with a touch of the screen used for breaking. It's an awesome ride the first few times through, and I have yet to complete the advanced areas. Another game with fantastic visuals and great touches like when things get intense and you're forced into skidding across the very railing of the track or turning sharply which causes road sparks and a shift in handling.
The only one of the 9 mini-games available to me as a single player dude that didn't totally impress me was Octopus Dance. While it still managed to keep me coming back a few times, and I still have the final stage to pass, it feels really dated when compared to stuff like Zelda Battle Quest or Pikman Adventure being merely a match the movements rhythm game similar to the Rhythm Boxing mini-game in Wii Fit but a little more to it.
When it all comes down to it, Nintendo Land is one of the best mini-game collections out there. However, it is still a mini-game collection. You won't get the same kind of enjoyment out of this as you would, say.... a full-blown Zelda or Mario game. It's a time-killer kind of enjoyment. But, an awesome one.
So, get the fuck outta here with the basic edition Wii U. You want the DELUXE. A game with free extended memory space and blank paint job.
That was a lot of freaking typing. I'm tired, I'm shaking, I need to get my ass to get sleep or at least off this laptop.
Dudes, I'd say... get this Wii U when you can. Because it's got something real sweet going with this Gamepad, a pretty damn good launch line-up, still hot, and it's got a pretty awesome future ahead with Bayonetta 2, Pikman 3, Wonderful 101 and... huh. Wasn't Funky Barn supposed to be a launch title?