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12:26 PM on 08.12.2010

I'll be damned.

First things first, let me quote myself from a while back:

"Oh Atlus, why do you hate Europe?
They make a good killing with their games as far as I know, so setting up a foreign branch is not an impossibile tasks. They could make a European branch and bring these games to Europe, but they haven't.".
-Myself, roughly nine or ten months ago.

Well, today I popped up on my PS3, and happened to let it dwindle on the PSN Store's "New Stuff" thing long enough to spot something.

Atlus USA had published Shin Megami Tensei: Persona on the PSN, as the start of an apparent trend of releasing PSP titles digitally. Hexyz Force and the PSP version of Knights In The Nightmare are to follow, evidently.

Atlus...I don't know what to say. So this image will sum my feelings up:


10:22 AM on 08.04.2010

Teh Bias: Activision (contains sad kittens)

I would like to apologise in advance for HUEG IMAEGS. I'm not sure if it's my fault, though I'm pretty sure it is, and I don't trust myself enough to resize them without setting something on fire and getting lost for days in the woods. Even though the nearest woodland is miles away, yes.

Biased!? I'm not biased good, ridiculously tiny sir! Everyone else just has very little taste! The plebs that you call "friends" and "the gaming public" are the biased ones! If anything doesn't have growling macho men who spray jets of raw, unfettered machismo from their nipples or bundles of absolutely pathetic "minigames" that can be "beaten" by just freaking out and spasming, they flee from it! It is as if everything is still in Jesus times (you know, the era after the dinosaurs) and my precious, precious JRPGs are lepers! Hah, you people have no idea on what you're missing out on, constantly playing the same boring, gun-metal grey shooters and plinky-plonky boop-beep minigame collections!


Year after year, you trundle out to your beloved Gamestop (GAME AND HMV ARE FAR BETTER, YOU TROGLODYTE) to preorder the next Call Of Duty game, even though it's essentially the same flipping game, with the same stupid AI allies and the same unforgiving enemy AIs that can blindside and buttfuck you hard before you even know what's going on. You'll still only be carrying a weapon, a subweapon, a knife and a bunch of grenades, you'll still move too damn slow ("realistic weight" my ass) and you'll still end up spending most of your time sitting behind a wall that reaches up to your chest (at best) trying to vainly shoot the bad guys who are doing the exact same thing. Despite all this, as long as you just hide your ass for a few seconds, you'll be fighting fit again, instead of feeling desperate and hoping, praying for a healing item or something.


Bah, what do you know!? You're just another pawn in the Activision Empire, gleefully filling their coffers with your hard-earned cash, wasting it on such...wasteful wastes like Call Of Duty or Guitar Hero or World Of WarCraft. How do you sleep at night, knowing that somewhere, Bobby Kotick is growing stronger off of your ragequits, your preorders and your continued purchasing of silly, overpriced game maps? How do you feel, knowing that you're aiding and abetting the crimes of The Dark Lord, commander of 108 legions divided up amongst his 4 generals (Call Of Duty Man, World Of WarCraft Man, Guitar Hero Man and Bobby Kotcik Junior)?


And I can prove it! Look here, at this image!

...Okay...maybe I am...a little biased against Activision. But only a little!

It's a common trend as of late to treat Activision as the current Satan-figure of the gaming industry, and admittedly I kinda roll with that. But I don't go about preaching that people need to cast out the demons from their consoles and burn their Guitar Hero peripherals, I just ignore their games. It gets kind of annoying come every Call Of Duty launch, when everyone in school is going rabid over it and discussing it and only it. Bit more annoying when I have to answer "No, I'm just not interested" about thirty times in a day, and will have to continue to do so for at least a week. Also, I kind of hope that another game, any game, would acquire the same kind of popularity Call Of Duty does, hopefully a game that deserves it for being legitimately good.

But really, my bias against Activision comes from their actions in the industry. Stuff like trying to prevent Brutal Legend's release simply because they had no confidence in Guitar Hero 5, various statements from CEO Robert Kotick (regardless of who he's saying them to or why), and a few occasions of acquiring promising studios and then dissolving them sometime later. Also, I live in the UK, and find their price-gouging simply despicable (good on retailers chopping 10 or so off the price, at least). Yes, the public will eat their games and the expansions and DLC for their games right up irregardless, but that still doesn't justify it in my eyes. My bias extends beyond the games Activision primarily uses to keep its bloated corpse afloat, too.

Fear my MSPaints!

My bias against Activision is pretty much the main reason why I don't already have games like Transformers: War For Cybertron or Prototype; I simply do not want to support Activision, so no matter how good their games are, I just will not get them. Sure, I may try to cheat with some of them (still trying to find a preowned copy of Prototype for the PS3 and with a reasonable price), but usually I just lose all interest as soon as I see the Activision logo on the box. It's petty, I know, but that's just how I am.

...And quite frankly, it's how you should be too. Thinking of buying Call Of Duty: Black Ops, or whatever the next Guitar Hero is, or getting a WoW account?

Look at this image. Keep looking at it. Still thinking of buying Activision's games? THEN KEEP LOOKING.   read

12:20 PM on 07.02.2010


One of the things I really liked about LittleBigPlanet was Stephen Fry's voice. Man, I could listen to him talking about anything for hours. But, one of the other things I really liked about LittleBigPlanet was the sheer amount of customisation on offer. Even the very basic stuff, like the simple skins and simple items you found about the stages would bring a smile to my face because the Sackpeople always looked so cute no matter what they had on. Imagine if life was like that? Where you could change the colour of things with a magical glowing ball on a wire that came out of your hands? Where you could lift things and arrange them as you like without having to shove about that washing machine?

A world where you could pull off a face like this...

...and no-one would bat an eyelid? At least, I hope they wouldn't, because I'd be rocking that face all the frigging time.

As you may have guessed from my title (if you haven't played the game), in LittleBigPlanet you can change the colour of your character's skin. Do you know how wonderful that would be? No more racism! People are all different because they can change their skin colour at will! Well, there would probably still be racism amongst those groups of people who decide that pink coloured skin is the sign of evil or something, but hey, you never know! LittleBigPlanet is all about being happy and creative, not destructive and angry! World peace would be quickly achieved if real life was more like LBP, because everyone would happy and making flowers for all the little children to enjoy!

People all around the world would be creating wondrous works of art for the enjoyment of mankind! And when LittleBigPlanet 2 rolls around, think about what its expanded game options would allow! Everyone could have their own bumper car rally, or their own death course to plough through on a giant pink tank covered in firebreathing cats! Everything would be a hell of a lot cheerier and happier!

Or nothing would change except now a bunch of idiots will regularly plaster your house in cardboard penises and cover you in paint when you walked outside to complain. And they'd probably dress themselves up like this:

Yes, I purposefully chose this image because they have weird things sticking out of their heads.

Because, hey, there's always going to be some idiots around to ruin it for everyone else. But thankfully, you can have revenge by setting every individual brick of their house on fire, or electrify every last bit of their house, or just make all the floors emit toxic gases. Even homocide in the name of vengeance is fun in LittleBigPlanet!


There's another upside to the world being like LittleBigPlanet: anyone can look like their favourite videogame characters without having to get your photo taken at some anime convention! Don't lie, you'd love to be able to dress up like this:

I just got the first Patapon game recently and holy crap is it wonderful.

So yeah, if life was like LittleBigPlanet, it'd be awesome. Except for all those cardboard penises on your house. And the police outside waiting to arrest you for arson.   read

2:50 PM on 01.11.2010

So today I saw something that baffled me.

Today I wandered into town after school with some buddies, going to have a look at some game stores to see what they had lying around. I'm still 15 at the moment, so I always feel a pang of disappointment when I see a game I'm really interested in get slapped with a 16+ rating or an 18+ rating, because it means I'm either going to have to wait or rely on an older sibling to get it for me. So imagine how baffled I was when I was looking at some copies of Bayonetta and noticed something odd about the boxes on the shelves.

See the problem here? It's the same game, but the boxes have two different age ratings. On the same shelf. It baffled me and my friends and we pondered that, if we actually had some money left over from Christmas, could we have actually bought the game? I'm pretty sure we could've, but I'm still not entirely sure. I now know why such a thing is happening (the store is stocking UK and EU copies; the 15 rating is from the BBFC, the 18 rating is from the PEGI), but I want to know why the people running the store decided to do that (might not entirely be their fault; they could've gotten a mixed shipment or something). I'm still wondering which rating counts; does it differ depending on which box you take up to the counter?

Oh, and it's not just Bayonetta that's confusing me, either.

On an entirely unrelated note, The Last Rebellion now has a confirmed European release date! It's been effectively sent out to die, though, given that Final Fantasy XIII comes out just three days beforehand (and there's the fact that us Brits seem to be snorting up copies of Modern Warfare 2 like crackheads going into withdrawal, without any sign of stopping). I'm definitely going to get it, if only to support Nippon Ichi Software's cause (and Koei's, given that they bring over these obscure RPGs that I love so much). Couldn't have been a better time, either - my birthday's right around that time, so I'll definitely have the money for it.   read

2:01 PM on 12.09.2009

Love/Hate: Kingdom Hearts

Fair Warning: Spoilers for Kingdom Hearts 1, possibly Chain Of Memories and probably 2. Also this is fairly long.

Ah, Kingdom Hearts. One of the more popular franchises that spawned in the previous generation, its games have sold millions globally and captured the hearts of many an odd-smelling, yaoi-loving teenage girl. It came more or less completely out of the left field (Square and Disney suddenly working together? No-one saw that coming, and if you did you probably wrote some eerily similar fanfiction or you're lying. Please be lying) to become one of Square Enix's major franchises. It's no Final Fantasy (even if it does lift characters, names and ideas from Final Fantasy) or Dragon Quest in terms of popularity, but it's getting there. The latest game in the series, the ridiculously named Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (oh Square, you and your really long videogame names), came out this year, and it's did fairly well for itself (from what I've heard).

I'll admit; I'm a fan of the series. Well, sort of. As you may have guessed from the blog's title, my relationship with the Kingdom Hearts series has been kind of...well, rocky. I only really got into it when I gave Kingdom Hearts II a go a year back, having not bothered with it at the time of its release because I was seriously put off by the first two (the original and the GBA spinoff Chain Of Memories). In this blog, I'm going to elaborate why I didn't really like it in the first place. If you're a big fan of Kingdom Hearts, and cannot bare to see anyone tarnish the original game, you'd do well to stop reading right about here, because I have a lot of negativity to spew onto Kingdom Hearts 1.

I didn't get Kingdom Hearts 1 until about Christmas 2004, when I actually got my PS2. I was really excited for it because it was a brand new game for a brand new console that had a lot of cool stuff on it. After trying all the other games I got with the PS2 (I can recall Final Fantasy X, another game I really did not like, being amongst them), I finally decided to boot up Kingdom Hearts and see what I was missing out on (a few friends of mine who didn't dedicate themselves to a GameCube had been talking about it for like a year). After a few hours of playing, I switched it off and didn't touch it for a few months. Kingdom Hearts 1 had not only failed to impress, it was the first PS2 game I outright hated (I didn't really hate FFX until a good while later). All the complaints I had about it then I still have today, only now I can actually word those complaints properly.

The game just failed to impress in all areas. It didn't look at all good compared to other games on the system when I got it (except for the CG cutscenes; those still look awesome to this day), and I still say it looked worse than some other games that were out around the same time (to name two: Ratchet & Clank and Final Fantasy X). While at the time I really did not care for videogame music, looking back at it now, the music was mostly forgettable. I can't recall a single track from Kingdom Hearts 1's soundtrack, except maybe that really weird song that played during the intro movie. But the major problem I had with the game was that it didn't control at all well. It felt so clunky and awkward, combat was slow and a bit of a pain and attempting to jump over things was aggravating because the jumping just wasn't good. The lock-on wasn't much of a team player most of the time either, for some reason (this may have just been my incompetence, I admit).

Basically, I didn't like it. It just didn't work for me, and when I came back to it in the summer of 2005, I ploughed on through it and found several other things I didn't like about it. First things first, the Gummi Ship sections. Pretty much pointless, as the enemies didn't try to shoot you or try to fly into you. The game just seemed to be doing its best to bore the shit out of me. And then there was the story...

The story was simply boring. Some kid turns out to be the chosen one after his home island gets destroyed by evil shadow monsters, he can use a massive key as a weapon and it's the only thing that can truly kill the monsters or something. I stopped caring about what was going on fairly early into the game, and I ended forgetting about a few things. The main character, Sora, was an annoying little git. His voice was annoying, and I didn't like the way he got on. In fact, when he (HERE BE SPOILERS) stabbed himself with the evil Keyblade thing belonging to Riku (who I guessed was evil the second I looked at the box. Seriously, he has that weird sword and is looking in the opposite direction of the heroes), I was genuinely pleased. I thought I was free from the twat, and that I wouldn't have to bother with him. "The game's finally doing something right!" I thought. All throughout my time with it, the game seemed like it was trying to piss me off, only for this. I imagined it to be the reward for putting up with the game for so long.

Sure enough, this joy proved to be short-lived just a few minutes later.

Basically, Kingdom Hearts 1 was not a good game in my book. It had that Disney nostalgia factor, but that wasn't enough. I hated it, and I decided to have nothing to do with the series after that. And then came along Chain Of Memories, one birthday morning.

Oh dear lord, Chain Of Memories. I think I had this game for all of one day before I brought it back to the shop and used the money to get something good (Wario Land 4, I believe. I know it was a Nintendo platformer for the GBA). Chain Of Memories didn't do anything right. The card combat system just seemed overly complicated and pointless (they could just let you run around and hit things with the B button, for Christ's sake), I once again did not care for the plot (though Axel was a pretty cool guy), and the rest of the game was forgettable. I got as far as Olympus Coliseum and gave up after having to fight Cloud again. Not only did the game have yet another poor combat system, it was also essentially a retread of Kingdom Hearts 1.

I'll not say much more on the game, because I never actually beat it. Or got that far into it, I would think.

So, with two Kingdom Hearts games failing to impress, I stayed clear of Kingdom Hearts II, avoiding it like the plague. In the meantime my older brother acquired the God Of War and Devil May Cry games, and I had an absolute blast with those because they were so awesome to play. I remember thinking "Why couldn't Kingdom Hearts play like this?" at the very least once, still believing Kingdom Hearts II to be another terrible game just like the first two ones.

How wrong I was.

Kingdom Hearts II pretty much fixed every problem I had with the series up to this point. Combat was much faster and much more engaging; sure you were just mashing the X button and occasionally Triangle, but it at least looked really cool. Jumping didn't feel clunky anymore, Sora moved much more nicely than before, the game actually looked decent, and the soundtrack had a good number of memorable tracks (mostly the battle themes, you'll hear those a lot). The story was at least a bit more interesting this time around, and the voice-acting had improved considerably, to the point where I did something of a double-take when I first heard Sora's voice in the game, and noticed how much more mature it was than the whiny kid voice in Kingdom Hearts 1. It seemed that Sora just needed to grow a pair before he became likable.

Another major, and I mean MAJOR, improvement to the combat was the addition of the forms. These were essentially super forms Sora could change into in the midst of combat, should the conditions be right (you need Goofy in the party to access one form, Donald in the party to activate another, and the other three use 'em both. Also, there's a gauge that needs fillin' before you can use the forms), and good god did they make everything a hell of a lot more entertaining. Especially the first form you get, the Valour Form. Sora gets a swanky new set of clothes, and with them he gets the ability to use the forms. His clothes change colour to match the selected form. Valour Form, the form based around sheer ass-kicking, gives an awesome set of red clothes for example. Another cool feature of these Forms is that, with the exception of two, Sora now dual-wields Keyblades. When I first saw this, my first thought was "KICKASS!".

But even though it fixed all my problems with the previous games, Kingdom Hearts II had some new problems. The first, and the most glaring, as the two hour long tutorial. The prologue of the game is just one long, boring tutorial that stars an uninteresting character who, important to the plot of the game as he is, I did not miss when he got knocked off at the end of the prologue to make way for Sora (and that's not much of a spoiler; the box features Sora, he's obviously the star of the game). The tutorial was needlessly long and rather unentertaining, but if you stick through it, there's an absolutely wonderful game beyond it.

Another problem was the way Square tried to balance the Forms. Namely, the Anti-Form, a shadow version of Sora that runs about on all fours really fast and pulls off insane combos and attacks. However, Anti-Form is rather crappy. It has pathetic defense and can't heal, meaning you're likely to die with it. It can't be levelled like the other Forms, so any enemies you kill are just wasted experience. It also appears randomly when you try to access a Form, its chance of appearing being determined by some hidden point system. The thing is, the Form system didn't really need balancing. Levelling up several of the Forms is time-consuming and awkward enough, and Anti-Form would be an awespome Form to use if it could be levelled for abilities. It feels like a wasted opportunity, to be honest. To be fair, in the right hands Anti-Form's pretty deadly, and it feels really awesome to kill a boss in it because you know you just murdered a boss with the crappiest Form in the game that's probably a good bit weaker than regular Sora.

Also, the less said about Atlantica, the better. I'm not going to bother with it.

But yeah, Kingdom Hearts II was what made me a Kingdom Hearts fan. It made up for all the mistakes of the previous games. 358/2 Days, the DS Kingdom Hearts, seems pretty good from the little I've played of it (a friend's copy, don't you know), so I guess Square Enix finally learned from their mistakes.

(Whew, that's that done. I'm hoping I did this Monthly Muse thing right, this is my first one.)   read

11:59 AM on 10.28.2009

Venting Is Fun: Why it sucks to be a gamer in Europe

I've realised that I'm always bringing this up in every comment I have ever posted in the Destructoid articles, so I figured I might as well write up a big blog about it. Originally I was thinking about trying to get in on the Monthly Muses thing, but by this point it's likely that every conceivable thing for the "Nothing Is Sacred" subject has been covered at least three times by now (also I'm not very good at wording stuff, so it'd look a shameful when compared to the more awesome ones that have been featured already, like that awesomely done Tower of God one). So, what else can I whinge about other than what I've already whinged about: How much it sucks to be a gamer in Europe.

When's that coming out over here?

The major thing that sucks about living in Europe is the fact that we will almost always get games well after everywhere else, sometimes never (I'll get to that in a bit). It's really quite aggravating to know that while all my internet buddies (most of whom are American) are playing really awesome games that won't be arriving in Europe for months, even a year away. Case in point: Kirby fucking Super Star Ultra. It was released in the United States on the 22nd of September, 2008. It arrived in Europe on the 18th of September, 2009. Pretty much an entire year later! And the most aggravating thing is that they had no excuse; they had provided review code in December 2008! They didn't explain away the delay, they just delayed for no real reason. It was reviewed, the box art was all ready, the game was finished (it's a Kirby platformer, you don't need an entire year to translate it) didn't come. I was actually looking forward to it, too. Then Nintendo didn't release it. Now, I have utterly no interest in the game because all the cool little secrets and shit have been spoiled completely for me (thanks, you American pricks. You know who you are. Not referring to anyone on Destructoid, mind). If Nintendo delayed it because they thought it wouldn't sell, then they're frigging stupid; I know a few people IRL who wanted the game, and they lost interest months ago when it never came out.

And that's just one of the thousands of examples of Europe getting games ages after Americans do; don't even get me started on Tales Of Symphonia 2 or indeed most roleplaying games, especially anything about Atlus (which, again, I'll get to later). Simply put; if you live in the US and are feeling pissed that you aren't going to be getting a certain game for another few months, spare a thought for us poor Europeans. We won't be seeing it until the next year, if we're lucky.

...Why isn't that coming out over here?

And then we come to the games that just don't, for whatever reason, come out in Europe. As you may have guessed, Tales Of The Abyss is one of those games. Hell, the entire Tales series is like that. We only just got the original 360 version of Tales Of Vesperia this year. The US got it in the same month as Japan, August 2008. And I don't mind mentioning that we didn't get that special Premium Edition, either. Europe gets shafted a hell of a lot on games, and usually the ones we get aren't that good (if you're sore about missing out on the PSP version of Tales Of Eternia, don't be. Trust me, it's not at all good!). Yes, the only examples I've actually brought up so far are Tales games, games that rarely get released out Japan as it is. But there's a hell of a lot more examples out there, most of them being RPGs.

Now, I know what most of you are thinking. "Just import you silly twat", right? Let me grind that to dust right now: I am 15. I don't have a debit card or a credit card or any other means of importing games. My parents are paranoid about using the Internet for anything, even though it'd save my mum a lot of time and effort to just order the groceries online through Iceland or Tesco or whatever. I have no means of importing, and even when I get a debit card next year when I turn 16, my mum's still going to be overly paranoid and restrict my use of it. So no, I cannot import and most likely will be unable to even when I have the means to. It's a bloody shame, I know.

And there's more to this, too. I now turn to Atlus for several examples of games that will likely never come to Europe.


Oh Atlus, why do you hate Europe?

I'm pretty sure all of you are familiar with Atlus. Pretty much everyone on this site seems to love them, and I am, to be honest, no exception. For the most part, anyway. Atlus are loved for their really impressive games (the Shin Megami Tensei series is pretty much my favourite series, the games are consistently hard and awesome) and for the fact that they will bring relatively obscure games over to the United States. They're well-loved by pretty much everyone, and a lot of people pray they will bring certain games from Japan to the US, and there's quite a few instances where they do. This is all fine and dandy if you live in the US. But I don't. So, I can't exactly love Atlus as much as everyone else.

Atlus does not have a European branch. Their PS2 Shin Megami Tensei and Persona games were brought to Europe by either Ghostlight (a relatively unknown publisher that handled the PS2 Digital Devil Saga games as well as SMT: Lucifer's Call, known to you Americans as SMT: Nocturne), Koei (of Dynasty Warriors fame, yes. They handled the first PS2 Devil Summoner game as well as Persona 3 (both the regular 3 and FES)), with only Persona 4 slipping past them (big ups to Square Enix for bringing that over!). Over the summer, SMT: Devil Survivor was released in the US. Still no word as to whether or not it's getting a European release. And then we come to the mountains of relatively obscure RPGs that Atlus brings to the US, along with some other games. This is what particularly aggravates me: Atlus isn't a particularly small company. They make a good killing with their games as far as I know, so setting up a foreign branch is not an impossibile tasks. They could make a European branch and bring these games to Europe, but they haven't.

Yes, I'm putting the blame squarely at Atlus' feet here. They're seeking to expand into development for the 360 and PS3, so they can't be extremely small. They've thrown out a ton of PS2 games, they know they have an audience. They brought Demon's Souls to the United States and even made luxurious special editions, which they will do for several other games (hello, Persona Portable. Oh yeah, that hasn't got a European release date either!). There's no excuse for that! There's a market over here for RPGs, and I know quite a few people (FIFA nuts, the lot of them) that are genuinely interested in Demon's Souls (which I described at length in an attempt to heal the pain of knowing it likely will not see the light of day over here). And hell, even if they didn't want to form a European branch, they could do what Nippon Ichi Software does and form a partnership with another, bigger company (NIS having formed something of a partnership with Tecmo-Koei. They also had Square Enix bring Disgaea DS and Disgaea 3 over here, too). It can't be too hard, can it? I'm sure if you approached them, Square Enix would gladly work their new European division's arse off to get your shit over here, Atlus.

Okay okay, maybe I'm raging at Atlus too much here. But I get a bit aggravated every time I see an obscure Japanese RPG get brought to America with the Atlus logo somewhere on the box, because it's sort of like a symbol guaranteeing that there will be no European release for that game.

Online stuff. No, I have nothing particularly witty/special to use as a title here.

So, recently America got a revamped Club Nintendo. It got a new point system (Coins) and apparently Nintendo distributes enough point cards with their games to get people to Gold and Silver status. Amongst other things, they have awesome stuff like Mario hats and Club Nintendo-exclusive games (it's a Game & Watch collection, but still) and game add-ons (like that Doc Louis Punch-Out!! thing). Basically, by supporting Nintendo you get a cool variety of shit. All good for you Americans, then. Let's not get started on the Japanese as the stuff they get will make everyone here nerdrage a bit.

Now, what's it like for us Europeans? Well, very few games actually have these Club Nintendo points (they're Stars over here). All the games I have for my Gamecube, Wii, DS and GBA combined equals...8750 Stars. Sounds cool, right? Well, it isn't really. The really cool stuff is priced around 5000-30,000 Stars. And the really cool stuff is only a few items (the only things I've considered getting are that golden Twilight Princess Link statue, the Mario Galaxy soundtrack and one thing I've daydreamed about is that Giratina Special Edition DS Lite). As most of this didn't get added for a while, half my Stars went to Wii Points, which are exchanged at a rate of 4 Stars to 1 Wii Point. So now I have even less Stars, and because Nintendo are really, really, really stingy about handing out Star Point cards with games I've been stuck on the 3900 Stars mark for two years now. You get about 100-200 Stars per game, 500 per DS and 750 per Wii, mind. Basically, it's been incredibly hard trying to get one of the cool things off the store because Nintendo isn't giving out the Points enough.

Yes, Europe is getting shafted in this regard, too. Club Nintendo sucks hard over here, as half the stuff is ringtones and wallpapers, the other half being Wii Sports/Fit/Music merchandise with three cool items and Pikmin plushies (no Purples, sadly).

The European PSN isn't at all bad; it has a considerable amount of good dames available on it, and the prices are all fair enough, I find. The only real problem I have with it is...well, remember when Sony promised mountains of DLC for the PSP Go, that would be on the PSN Store for all PSP users? Well, it seems most of that shit is for America only, as Europe hasn't gotten any of the TV shows or anything, and all those games just don't seem to have arrived yet. It's even more aggravating when I see Atlus and several companies I adore (like NIS) throwing their games onto the US PSN but not the one over here, and I just feel shafted again.

And I think I've went on long enough. I dunno, I just felt like venting, even if no-one cares enough to read it. Tl;dr if you're a gamer and you live in Europe, things are going to suck for you.   read

4:14 PM on 10.15.2009

A game that deserved better: Mushroom Men The Spore Wars (Wii)

(Fair warning: some SPOILERs in this post.)
(Second fair warning: long post.)

That, my friends, is the PAL boxart for the best game on the Wii.

Mushroom Men is quite the odd little game. It's a 3D platformer in the vein of Banjo Kazooie, only here you play as a little mushroom man. I first found out about the game when I watched an incredibly brief trailer on a DVD that came with some gaming mag (because the monthly Official Nintendo Magazine was late and I needed something to read. I believe it was...NGamer? Can't remember), and I was immediately interested because of the artstyle of the trailer. The game then seemingly vanished off the face of the earth until a good amount of time later when ONM ran a preview of the game, and I remembered it. I was psyched; it was a 3D platformer for the Wii, and I could do with another platformer for the thing (Mario Galaxy, as nice as it was, let me down a bit). The game was then delayed a bit, and I couldn't find any proper release date. It wasn't until about June of this year, as school ended and I went on the hunt for some games for the summer, that I saw it sitting on a shelf in HMV, going for 20 (incidentally, I got Deadly Creatures at the same time for the same price. Two great Wii games for the price of one!). I got it, brought it home and then had the main story finished the next day.

What did I think? I thought I had just found the best game on the Wii.

The thing I love most about Mushroom Men is the nostalgia rush it brought on as I played through it. I found myself being called back to simpler times, where a much smaller me sat wide-eyed in front of the small TV in my room, exploring the vast levels of Banjo-Kazooie, marvelling at the massive tree in Click Clock Woods, slowly sneaking around Mad Monster Mansion, just generally being enthralled by the levels that featured massive versions of everyday things. This was the nostalgia rush that I'd thought I'd get from Chibi-Robo! on the 'Cube, but didn't because it wasn't exactly like the games of old. Mushroom Men is more or less exactly like those games, only recreated on the Wii. It's as much of a joy to play as Rare's old N64 platformers, and it has all the staples of them (quirky characters, relatively simple story, lovely graphics, kickin' soundtrack and great gameplay) and a bit more. Some people will declare me to be a vile blasphemer for saying such things (admittedly Mushroom Men is a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it affair, very much like another Wii game, No More Heroes), but I don't care because this game is unbelievably awesome. It's pretty much the Wii's very own Psychonauts, minus all the crazy mind shenanigans.

The story of the game isn't exactly complex. Basically a meteor strikes the earth, mutating all kinds of animals and plants, leaving humans unaffected. The humans don't really notice any change, but in the world beneath their feet, new life was blooming. Mushrooms of all shapes and sizes sprung to life, forming tribes and clans and starting up villages. Lumps of the meteor began to get passed around as trophies and valuable trinkets, but their power was dangerous. Many creatures had been grotesquely mutated by the strange radiation emitted from them. Soon, battles began to break out between mushrooms who wanted to control the meteor shards. The protagonist of this story, a young 'shroom by the name of Pax, is orphaned when his village is attacked and destroyed. He starts off on a journey to find a new home...and finds one at the start of the game. Yeah. No, the quest in this game is not "find Pax a new home", but rather, "find Pax's new home a new meteor shard after he absorbed their one". Yes, Pax has the odd ability to absorb meteor shards into himself, getting more powerful with each one he absorbs. The meteor shard he absorbed was used as a trophy for the little sparring contest the village usually held, if you were wondering.

From there, Pax travels through a variety of awesome levels, continually absorbing meteor shards against his will (it happens naturally) and discovering that a sinister plan is being put into effect by an evil tribe of mushrooms (coincidentally the same ones that torched his village). Pax decides to try and stop them, using whatever abilties and weapons he can. The story's alright. It has a bit of charm to it, admittedly, but it's nothing special. Nay, where this game excels is the gameplay.

The basic gameplay is pretty simple; in each level there are a set of tasks that you must complete in order to beat the level and progress through the game. Usually this involves defeating a bunch of enemies, defeating a boss, finding something or solving a puzzle. The controls are basic, too: move with the Nunchuck, jump with A (pressing A in midair makes Pax glide by using his mushroom cap. It's somewhat adorable), attack with a swing of the Wiimote and Z to guard against attacks. Nothing too fancy, but it works nicely. I've heard people have had problems with the camera, but personally I've never had them. Maybe fanboyism is blinding me, maybe I'm just lucky, who knows. If I'm honest the combat could be better as swinging the Wiimote (in any fashion) all the time gets a bit boring. But now onto the really cool part of the game; the weapons.

Throughout the massive levels, you will find little container things. Bust them open to find a bit of junk like a paper clip or a twig or something. If you have the right combination of crap, Pax can MacGuyver up a new weapon for him to wield. Among the first ones he builds is that one in the image a bit up the page. The game divides weapons into four seperate categories: one for stabbing weapons, one for blunt weapons, one for flail weapons, and one for absolutely badass weapons. What does this game consider to be a badass weapon? Well...

Yes, a frickin' flamethrower! I couldn't believe it when I first saw it (it's one of the first weapons you make in the game!), but it's really in there. A flamethrower! But that's not all the game has on offer. Amongst other things, you can create a gun that shoots staples, a gun that shoots LIGHTNING, and one of the best things I've ever seen: A LIGHTSABER CREATED FROM A LASER POINTER, A PAPER CLIP AND A MARBLE. You can run around as a humanoid mushroom that's just a few inches high WITH A LIGHTSABER. That just made the game for me. The weapon-building bit of the game was a spark of genius, as all the weapons are pretty awesome in how they're put together. You only need to collect each item once to have it ready for all weapons (presumably Pax just takes weapons apart and puts new ones together whenever he switches from one to the other?), but that's good because it means you don't have to spend ages hunting for a ton of paper clips.

And it doesn't stop there. Let it be known: Pax is a mushroom Jedi. Alongside his array of weapons (including the motherfucking flamethrower and the unbelievably awesome lightsaber), Pax has the amazing power of Sporekinesis (better known as "psychokinesis for mushrooms", more commonly known as "WHAT THE HELL THIS SMALL MUSHROOM CREATURE THING JUST THREW A BOTTLE AT MY HEAD WITH ITS MIND"). Used by pointing at something covered in spores and then hitting the B button, Sporekinesis plays a big part in the game, as you'll be using it for all manner of things. You'll need it to move stuff, manipulate things related to puzzles, clear the way forward for yourself and, most importantly, you'll need it to help you fight. It helps you in two ways:

1) It's psychokinesis, man. It lets you throw stuff with your mind. Obviously you're going to throw shit at enemies. Mushroom Men is helpful in this matter by making it so that after you start lifting/catch something out of the air with your mind, when you shake the Wiimote to fling it/throw it back, it'll automatically go straight for the nearest enemy/your target. Useful.

2) With Sporekinesis comes the attack called "Spore Finisher". Basically, you use it on enemies that are about to die (you can tell because green gooey stuff starts coming out of them), making them explode with your mind (awesome!), damaging/killing nearby enemies and dropping recovery items for you. It's incredibly useful and it's really amusing exploding dying enemies with your mind.

Early on in the game, you receive one of those little sticky sling-hand things you see kids slapping against doors and stuff. This is essentially a grappling hook, and it's pretty awesome. Point at a surface it could stick to (mostly glass and metallic stuff), hit the B button and away you go, hurtling towards to the surface. When you reach destination, Pax will cling to the surface for a moment before dropping. This is your chance to get a big jump upwards to get on top of stuff or, if you have a massive thing to scale, hit the B button again to stick to the thing again, repeating the process 'til you get on top of/over the obstacle. Yes, not only can you run around pretending to be a Jedi, you can also swing across the massive rooms in with your sticky grappling-hook, pretending to be Spiderman. Whilst also being a Jedi.

Overall, the gameplay is awesome. The levels are huge, and exploration is rewarded with unlockable music and artwork (both of excellent quality) as well as more items to make awesome weapons out of (you have to explore to finish that lightsaber, and trust me: you want the lightsaber). The platforming works really well, and plays like the old Nintendo 64 platformers. The combat could be better, and you might into camera problems, though. And I'm not done yet!

Before I wrap up, there's one thing I absolutely have to mention: the soundtrack. Put simply, the soundtrack kicks ass. Most of the music in the game is performed by all manner of sounds from your environment; water dripping from taps, the wind blowing, that sort of thing. It's absolutely wonderful, it really adds to the atmosphere of the game. The few songs that don't use onomatopeia (hey, I learned something from English Lit.!) are pretty well done too, with the same quirky, odd theme as the graphics.

All in all, Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars is a wonderful game. It's a damn shame it was so overlooked, as it could've easily been a popular game had its developer (Red Fly Studio, the people in charge of the Wii and PSP versions of the Ghostbusters game) and publisher (Gamecock Media Group, the same people who published Dementium: The Ward in Europe) been a bit more well-known, and if it had gotten at least a bit of advertising. If you're interested in it, it might be hard to find (the copy I found was the only one in the store, and it's the only copy of the game I've seen since).

I'd say "definitely buy it", but I must point out that this game, like Deadly Creatures, is rather short (a bit longer than Deadly Creatures should you choose to explore as much as possible, but still short). It'll take a while before you'll get 100% in the game, to be sure, but the main story can be beaten in a number of hours (a recurring problem for a few legitimately good games this generation). Rent it, and if you really like it, buy it to support the developer.

On another note; there is a DS Mushroom Men game (subtitled Rise of The Fungi), but I haven't been able to find it anywhere. I don't know much about it other than it does star Pax and is probably a prequel to the Wii game.   read

3:46 PM on 10.14.2009

A game that deserved better: Deadly Creatures (Wii)

(Fair warning: Deadly Creatures features (haha) a lot of close-ups of creepy-crawlies, particularly those of the arachnid kind. If spiders and arachnids in general scare the piss out of you, you might want to skip this blog over. They also tend to gore each other a lot and I'm hardly passing up the chance to post an image (or three) of a scorpion performing Fatality-esque killing moves on various creatures. You have been warned, though I doubt it's necessary, as you Dtoiders tend to be made of stern stuff. The third image in this post might feature regularly in some of your nightmares, depending on how squeamish you are, though.)

(Second warning, thar be some spoilers.)

I still wonder how this game got off with the 12+ rating, sometimes. Most 12-year-olds I know would be scared out of their minds playing this, just because of all the beasties running about.

Like so many (oh so many) good Wii games, Deadly Creatures is pretty damn underrated. It's a 3D action platformer in which you play as either a scorpion (who shall be referred to as Steve) or a tarantula (who shall be referred to as Tim), alternating between the two each chapter. It wasn't a particularly long game (you'll likely get through the Normal difficulty in a couple of hours), but it was still pretty good. I got it for half-price alongside Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars (my pick for best Wii game of 2009 and, currently, best Wii game in general. Look forward to that game's blog entry at some point in the future), which was pretty good as I got more than I paid for. It didn't sell at all well in the States or Europe and Austrailia (to my knowledge, anyway), which sucks as it really deserves more love than what it got. I'm somewhat enraged that the likes of this gets passed over by the major portion of the Wii's audience. It's understandable (small children, mums and old grannies would be terrified beyond belief by the protagonists, never mind the enemies and bosses. By this point you're probably wondering how it plays (if you haven't fucked off to read a review or a FAQ or are doing something else), so let's get on with it.

As mentioned, Deadly Creatures is a 3D action platformer game in which you play as Steve the scorpion and Tim the tarantula. The game has a lot going for it. The graphics are pretty well done (for the Wii, mind), all the animals and creatures move more or less exactly as their real life counterparts do. Gameplay differs a bit between Steve and Tim, which is something I'll get to in a bit. Combat comes down to smacking buttons to attack enemies or guard, with some Wiimote-swinging thrown in for good measure. As you progress, new abilties become open to you, with more powerful moves requiring a fighting game-esque button combos (combos that I can't pull off because I am horrible at that sort of thing) to pull off, with satisfying results. Combat is fairly good, if tough if you are for some reason incapable of pulling off the better moves (I blame RPGs). The game will put up a fight, too, especially on harder difficulties. Just like in God Of War, if you get killed at a certain segment a few times, the game will offer to boot the difficulty down a level to let you progress.

In fact, that's probably one of the better ways to describe Deadly Creatures: A toned-down God Of War with Kratos replaced by Steve, and occasionally Tim. It's nowhere near as tough and epic as God Of War, but the gameplay similarities are there. Quick Time Events are a part of gameplay (but then what action game nowadays doesn't feature them?), with finishing moves starting them up with gory results if you succeed. Well, there are finishing moves if you're playing as Steve, as Tim doesn't have the sheer power (or the appendages) to match him. It's satisfying killing your enemies this way, as you know that when Steve murders the shit out of a creature by ramming his stinger through its head or tearing its wings off and slamming his stinger right through its chest that the thing on the receiving end is well and truly dead.

Yes, the two creature protagonists (if you can call them protagonists) aren't clones of each other in gameplay! The basic combat is more or less the same, but there are a number of differences between the two. As some of you may have guessed, Steve is the bruiser guy that just smacks shit out of his way whereas Tim is the speedy fragile guy that leaps at you from a distance. There is a noticeable difference between the two playing styles. Tim is far faster than Steve, being able to dart around most enemies and keep up with the speedier ones. Tim can also jump around like a maniac if you need to start spastically dodging for whatever reason. However, in terms of fighting all he has is his agility and his fangs, which while not necessarily weak, just aren't as strong as Steve's mighty pincers. Odds are you'll be leaping around the area when facing enemies, occasionally leaping close enough to strike with your fangs. Steve, on the other hand, is slower than Tim and cannot jump, but what he lacks in agility he makes up for in several ways. For one thing, being armed with pincers and a tail means Steve has a lot more moves at his disposal, and he can just bitchslap enemies out of the way with a shake of the Wiimote. Steve can also use his pincers to block, which is pretty helpful. It does mean you can sort of play Punch-Out!! with your enemies; only instead of dodging attacks, you just stand there blocking and then striking.

The major area where the two differ are the finishing moves. Steve, being the scorpion reincarnation of Kratos, can tear his opponents limb from limb in a gory, somewhat-over-the-top sequence of QTEs. If you succeed in pulling them off, Steve will make his opponent his little furry/scaly/insect...y bitch and murder them. Fail, and the opponent gets away. But you can still just run to them again and start the sequence again, provided you don't kill them first. Before you can perform a killing move, the enemy needs to be inches from death. It's really satisfying and it never gets old seeing Steve slam a wasp into the ground, then lift it up into the air only to tear its wings off and hammer it to the ground with his stinger. I love that one in particular.

Believe it or not, there is actually a story in Deadly Creatures! And it isn't told in the regular way, either. There are few cutscenes in this game; most of the plot info is discovered by hanging around the two humans nosing about the desert region Steve and Tim inhabit. You will see them in the distance, or hear them talking above the ground as you crawl through tunnels. It's an interesting way of delivering plot details; if you want to hear some tidbits (and foreshadowing involving scorpions and ghoulies), hang around whenever you spot or hear the humans. If you don't want to, move on. The story isn't particularly complex (two guys hear rumours about gold in the desert and go look for it), but it's interesting enough considering how Steve and Tim get involved. I won't spoil it, but let's just say that one guy gets some swift, karmic stabs to a particularly sensitive area. There's another element to the story, and that is the rivalry between Tim and Steve. The two lock...well, the two run into each other early one and let's just say that a blooming, slightly homoerotic friendship is not forged. Eventually, Steve starts following Tim in what is either a quest to off the only thing to either match him in combat or a quest to find a fuck-buddy, and this gets them involved with the other plotline about greed and treasure and stuff. Not only does Tim have to deal with Steve stalking him, he has also has several unfortunate meetings with a particularly vile, determined rattlesnake. The story won't be rivalling the epics of JRR Tolkien but it gets the job done and it did hold my interest.

Now that I've gushed for a bit, it's time to point out where the game fails. It isn't anywhere near perfection (only SMT: Digital Devil Saga (1+2, they're essentially one game) and FFIX has achieved perfection in my eyes), to be sure. One of the things you're most likely able to notice is that enemies will get stuck in all manner of things. I've had one of those thorned lizard things get stuck in both a wall and the ground, leaving only its armoured spiky back for me to hit, which is obviously a stupid thing to do. Sometimes your waggles of the Wiimote just will not register, and when this happens during one of the QTE where the consequence is death, you're fucked. The game is, as mentioned, pretty short, and if you aren't as inept as I am at inputting a sequence of commands quickly, you'll likely have little trouble with the game and will just breeze through it in a number of hours. Despite the trouble I had, I still had the game's story beaten in about six hours.

Overall, Deadly Creatures is quite underrated. The fact that it didn't do nowhere near as well as THQ wanted in order to justify a sequel saddens me, as I would certainly love to see what those smart gits that made this game would come up with next. It's a fairly original 3D platformer with decent combat and graphics, with nice voice-acting (provided by Dennis Hopper and, IIRC, Billy Bob Thorton) too. I would recommend you find it cheap like I did, because it is a rather short game. Rent it, if you must.

Good god, I went on for quite a bit, didn't I?   read

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