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I love the Soul Calibur series. I think it is an awesome fighting game with fluid gameply, pereniallly awesome graphics, and strong single player offerings in the form of unlockables and campaign/dungeon modes. I have enjoyed every single one of the previous games and was excited at the news of the new one. Having never been disappointed by the single player features of the previous 4 games I made the assumption this game would follow suit.

Needless to say, I am horrified by the omission of things I assumed would be a given and the regression of Soul Calibur 6 to what I consider a bare bones game. The game has almost no unlockable content aside from the periodic character customization item and title. And I include titles for the sake of completeness because I do NOT consider those to be unlockables. I am sorry, but unlocking words is by no means exciting or satisfying. What happened to the museum? Character art, concept art, 3D model viewer and character bios? And for that matter, where are the character endings? I cannot stress enough how much the lack of endings bugs me. Even if they are silly, unlocking a characters ending has always been one of the great joys of arcade modes in fighting games hailing back as far as I can remember. Furthermore, Soul Calibur 6 decided to set the game a couple decades in the future, meaning that a bunch of the old characters are replaced by fresh faces with similar fighting styles. This is even more reason to include character bios and endings! Why should I even begin to care about the new characters as opposed to the old ones if I know so little about them? Why even bother changing them at all if they don't have any kind of a story behind them?

The game is a very solid fighter, and the gameplay is as good as it ever has been. However, the lack of extra content is, in my opinion, deplorable especially for a series that has had such a wealth of content in the past. It is beyond me why it was left out. The single player has been reduced to arcade, quick battle, and Legendary Souls which are all basically the same mode with varying difficulty. There is a short story mode which is decent but it only allows you to play as three of the characters. And I found Patrokolos to be all sorts of obnoxious in his cutscenes and storyboards.

I feel this game is basically an online game. There is very little reward to the single player experience. The game is perfect if you don't care at all about any of that and just want a solid fighting game to play online. But I have come to expect much more from the Soul Calibur series so I feel a little cheated. It is as if I went to a great restaurant but did not get bread, a side dish, salad, or anything. Sure the main dish was good but it feels like it is missing its compliments no?

Mortal Kombat delivered great single player modes in the form of a story mode with multiple playable characters, traditional arcade endings, the tower challenge mode and a ton of unlockable stuff. The comparison is night and and day.

Anyway, I think I have ranted for long enough. I know many people will be more than satisifed with what the game offers, but after having enjoyed getting endings and unlocking a plethora of content in the all the previous games, I am quite disappointed.

The Astros
11:10 PM on 01.24.2012

Does anyone still play Pokemon? Because I do. I am a generation one pokemon trainer. I started with Pokemon Red when I was in high school, and for SOME REASON, I keep playing them when a new one comes out. Why you ask? Because they are loads of fun! However, the last two installments (HeartGold/SoulSilver and Black/White) have taken me months to beat. Its not that I am logging countless hours. It is just that I play for a couple days when I travel for whatever reason then get bored of it and don't play again until my next trip. I enjoy them whenever I play them but the fun wears thin really fast without a long lapse of time in between. The elapsed time between major installments used to be more than enough but now I am asking for a little bit more from the pokedevelopers. I love these games, but there needs to be some changes. A few suggestions to get started:

1. Console? I have been wanting a legit installment on a console since the first game came out over a decade ago. The moves and monsters could be a lot more detailed and flashy. Moves could be animated (with a skip option of course) and the scale could feel so much larger.

2. Versatile move selection. The traditional 4 moves per pokemon selected, but enough with the damn heart scales already. You should be able to change up your pokemon's moves whenever you want. Like equipping abilities in other games. The strategy of picking 4 moves is still there but without the hassle of forgetting moves and relearning them should you feel you made a horrible mistake.

3. Mastery of moves. Almost like a job class system. Use the move more and it becomes more powerful, possibly gains bonus effects, and eventually is mastered. This I feel would encourage using moves you might not normally even bother with. And the ability to equip moves whenever you want would also encourage this. I am a huge fan of the leveling system in Infinity Blade. Even if you have a favorite weapon, armor, etc, the leveling system encourages you to use and master many different weapons and such. Great system that I think can find application in a wide variety of games!

4. Owning a gym. I think this would be a lot of fun and the possibilities are endless. You could maybe come up with a set of rules or pokemon class for you gym. You could customize it's appearance, decorations. You could scout around the overworld and recruit your underlings who fight before you. The gym would net you money with each win of your recruits. And you would have to defend your gym from the opponents that make it all the way to you.

5. NG+. Geez if any game needs a new game plus it is pokemon. Beating the game with a new set of pokemon would be a lot of fun for a lot of people, but who wants to delete their old game in order to do so??

That's just for starters I guess. I love this franchise but it feels like it is stagnating. Well for me at least since I have played so many of them and they have barely changed over all these years. But each new generation of Pokemon is introduced to a new generation of kids so for them, the novelty and magic of that first pokemon game is very much alive.

The Astros
10:21 AM on 01.06.2012

I am a huge sucker for marketing, and this generation has been doing a great job with it, but almost too good. I love the collector's editions and the preorder bonuses. The way my mind works is "well if I was planning on getting it anyway, I might as well get the preorder bonus and the badass collector's editions!" That's all well and good but it is getting a little bit out of control now! It seems like almost every game now has a collector's edition or some kind of preorder bonus. Futhermore, a lot of games now have different pre-order bonuses at different locations. The collector's editions are my own fault for taking the bait. If I don't want to drop $100 on every game I buy now I just have to control my urge to buy CE.

But the pre-order bonuses kind of annoy me. If you can't already tell, I am crazy. I like to collect the bonuses and goodies that come with games even if it means spending a significant amount more on it. So naturally, when different stores offer different pre-orders, I am not able to satisfy my compulsion to collect them all. Most of the time, it ends up not being a problem. Mortal Kombat and Batman: AC are the two most recent games I recall that really went all out with different pre-orders at different stores. But they ended up releasing everything as DLC. This is the way it should be! Pre-order to get the bonus earlier and for "free," but if you pick up the game later and still want to bonuses you can simply purchase them. I wish I could say this was the case for all games but I know it is not. I purchased Enslaved: Odyssey to the West on Amazon gold box long after the game had been released. It was a great deal and the venerable Jim Sterling said he liked it so I did not want to miss out on the deal. Anyway, I enjoyed the game enough to want to play it again but figured I would use the alternate costumes that were offered as pre-orders. Unavailable. To this day they still have not been released for purchase, and if they have not by now, I doubt they ever will. Being a crazy person, this repeat scenario disturbs me. Which is why marketing is currently owning my soul.

Here's to hoping the various FF13-2 bonuses will eventually be available for purchase.

The Astros
9:49 PM on 12.27.2011

You know what I hate? There's this trend in fighting games (Capcom looking at you) to add challenge modes to fighting games. I commend developers for adding extra modes to their games BUT.... these modes suck (IMO). I remember back in the age of PS1, Dead or alive had a challenge mode. Unlike today's challenges (I sound old), this mode was actually a great addition to the game. It served to teach you a lot of the basic moves of the characters while also proving more difficult the farther you got along. It was informative, was extra gameplay, a decent challenge, but also manageable.

This generation has seen this mode in, I'd like to say, at least 5 games (MK vs DC universe, Street Fighter 4, Super Street Fighter 4, MvsC3, Ultimate MvsC3). I am disgusted by these modes. They add "replay" value by being grotesquely hard. Hard to the point that you can't even apply the combos to the main game because they can barely be pulled off with the computer standing perfectly still. I did learn a few useful techniques here and there from the challenges in SF4 and MvC3 but for the most part I found myself looking up strategies on the internet to find out what the current challenge even wanted me to do. The timing is so demanding and precise that it becomes infuriating. It is mildly satisfying to be able to complete a character's challenge but it would be more satisfying to be able to complete it with all of them. The combos are just too hard. Maybe I suck. But I know I don't. I'm not awesome at these games but I am certain that 99% of people who have played any of the above games cannot pull off all these challenges. They are just ridiculous.

And the trend continues. Capcom just keeps bringing back this mode (just as difficult and useless) in every single one of their games, like it is the best idea ever. SF X Tekken will feature it AGAIN for the fifth time. Am I alone on this? Does any one else hate this crap as much as I do?

The worst part is that we lose out on real modes where you can actually fight things. It's a LAZY LAZY way to add a mode without really adding anything. Just a set of highly precise button inputs against a stationary opponent. Disgusting.

I should not get worked up over this stuff. The simple solution is to just not worry about the mode and ignore it. But, being a little OCD, I like to try to complete the modes in games I like. When an insurmountable barrier, that is not even fun or creative, gets in the way of my enjoyment and completionism, I feel I have a right to be upset. I'm not asking for an "easy" mode or anything. Just a challenging and FUN one. It is a fine line, but one that talented developers should have a firm grasp on.

Look at Soul Calibur, in contrast. This game has had a single player "campaign" style mode in every iteration. They may be far from perfect, but they try to make a single player experience that revolves around fighting with unique twists here and there. They change it up a little bit each game too to keep it feeling fresh (as opposed to the challenge modes which are pretty much the same every time and impossible). It can be quite challenging too! But it always remains highly doable. I love this about Soul Calibur. The campaign mode in addition to traditional arcade endings makes the game have a robust single player experience. If SC5 has a challenge mode that is as demanding as these other games without a new campaign mode, I am going to shed a single silent tear.

The Astros
8:54 PM on 12.06.2011

I loved my time at PAX. 2010 was a fantastic time. I met a lot of really cool people and made some very fond memories. Watching Showgirls with Chad Concelmo was EPIC. One of the best movie watching experiences I have ever had. And that movie kind of sucks! But it was so much fun to watch! I also became aware of a little web show called Hey Ash Watcha Playin? which in my opinion is the best video game comedy on the web and probably one of the funniest web series period. Great writing with excellent delivery. The Burches made the debut of this episode of HAWP at PAX 2010.

I absolutely loved it. Now only was it really funny, but I also have a good friend who I knew would also love it. I knew the way papa burch reacts is exactly the same way he would react. I was right. That video single handedly got him back into video games. We both now avidly watch HAWP for more gems. There have been many.

"Run Away" featuring Sax Man by a band from Moldova named Sunstroke project was my official theme song to this year. Thank you to Suff0cat for making me aware of it!

PAX 2011 was even more awesome. My friends and I dominated the show floor walking away with 9 or more shirts and tons of SWAG. We played the top games without even having to stand in line for more than 20 minutes by waiting for specific times when the crowds were gone. And that was only during the day, during the evening and mornings we would take in the great city of Seattle. Very balanced trip!

The Bro-urnal had this to offer. No explanation is needed. I had a new theme song for Pax 2011.

Keeping it short. These stories are not done justice with the written word.

In honor of HAWP, what am I playing? Uncharted 3, Batman Arkham City, Saints Row 3.

I am currently playing SR3 and I am loving every minute of it. This game took me 100% by surprise. I actually did not play Saint's Row 1 or 2 nor was I planning on playing SR3. However, I did play a lot of Batman Arkham City. I had heard SR3 (from DTOID) had a fun character creation which was pretty powerful. Now I don't know why this dawned on me, but after playing Batman I thought to myself "How cool would it be if I could create and play as one of the Batman VILLAINS in a game all about CRIME??" So I decided to try out SR3 for this very reason, just for shits and grins. First off, I was exceptionally pleased with how my character turned out. Second, I was fairly impressed by how ridiculous the game starts out. Then, lastly, and most importantly, I was shocked at just how much FUN I was having with the game and my new character. I was not planning on playing the game for more than just a couple hours but I ended up buying it, beating it, and loving it.

The comparison must be made to Grand Theft Auto. Saint's Row 1 was by many considered a GTA clone. I myself was already committed to GTA and loved that franchise so I did not feel compelled to play another crime sandbox game. Especially since GTA: San Andreas was an opus in my opinion. GTA 4 was destined to be something out of this world. Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed by the series latest outing. When compared to GTA:SA, GTA 4 was a fraction of a game with a substantial amount of content removed. A lot of the mini games (while most were stupid they were still more stuff to do) and side missions got removed. There were no planes, no Harrier jump jet, and not even a TANK. Is this even GTA? How could a tank not be included?? The ultimate helicopter you got at the end was awful. The world of San Andreas felt like it was CJ's to own. He could do almost anything in it (from the most mundane tasks like driving a train to going dancing to working out). It was a huge sandbox and was that much more immersive for it. GTA 4 felt lacking in it's side offerings. The awesome extras that you can keep as trophies or just wreck havok with. Instead there are 200 pigeons to shoot. Now GTA 4 was a good game. But I just felt it was too limited given the scope of GTA:SA .

Saint's Row 3 is like GTA electrified and on steroids. It adds all the mayhem that was to be had with the super weapons of GTA:SA but with this generation's technical capabilities. The explosions look fantastic. The whole game is like the gang wars side quest in San Andreas but hypercharged to mach speed. So much shit goes flying. And the tank's ability to crush cars instead of just blow them up is awesome! These observations are made in the context of the missions and side quests too. I seldomly go on killing sprees just for the sake of doing it. The rampage just seems to happen over the course of pretty much any mission or side mission! This game basically brings back all the ridiculousness of the super weapons in GTA. But makes it look that much more impressive and feel more satisfying. It does not take itself at all seriously and is totally over the top action, kind of like a Jason Statham movie. Any game that features a giant, floppy, purple dildo as a weapon is obviously having fun with itself.

Creating your own character is great. And the freedom to change their appearance completely whenever is a relief should you decide you want a change (of sex). I have found the missions to be quite fun, entertaining, amusing, and well paced. The side quests can be repetitive and sometimes frustrating, UNLESS of course you choose to use a tank. Then you can lay waste to any and all opposition. The gang members are likable and also pretty funny. Recruiting them works a lot like it did in GTA:SA but they are a lot more useful in this game. The leveling system is a lot of fun and adds a great deal of depth to the game. Respect is like experience and allows the unlocking of new abilities for both your character and your gang. Money is used to purchase said abilities as well as new guns and upgrades for guns, cars, and hideouts.

There are certainly things I liked better about GTA 4. I think the music was better, I liked the vehicle models more, the city felt more real, there was a more attention to detail and more varied locales and environments. But there is no denying how much I enjoy playing SR3. I love the character creation, the potential for mayhem, the missions, and sheer ludicrous nature of the game. I think the single most positive thing I can say about this game is that it was essentially off my radar without any plans to play it. But after picking it up, I have had a very difficult time putting it down.
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