Monthly Archives: September 2013

State of Smash 9-30-2013

I haven’t put forth as many Smash Brothers posts as I initially thought I would, so I figure now’s as good a time as any to get caught up on the announcements since E3.

Olimar and Pikmin

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I wasn’t terribly surprised by this one.  While Pikmin 3 does introduce new protagonists to the franchise, I doubted they would work them into a playable character very quickly.  Olimar had a pretty big tournament run once Meta-Knight was banned, so again, no real surprise he’s back.  Overall, while I don’t particular like playing as Olimar, he’s unique and interesting enough to keep his place on the roster, so no problems here.

Peach

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Again, not really surprised.  Peach is one of the few female characters Nintendo has to go with right now, so allowing her to be cut, particularly in this day in age would be a travesty.  From the screens we have so far, there don’t appear to be any major changes to her character — which is fine, as she was a pretty well rounded fighter to begin with.

Toon Link

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Okay so Toon Link is back.  I guess because of the HD rerelease he gets a pass this time.  I’m rather disappointed by this decision — not because Toon Link is a bad character (he’s one of the better ones in Brawl), but rather because it looks like it’s the clone wars again in these installments.  Despite my previous posts about characters who are unlikely to appear, I really would like Nintendo to prove me wrong and break out of the norm for once.  Toon Link is evidence that we’re in for more of the same again.  I would welcome Toon Link coming in with a new moveset using abilities from Wind Waker, but his picture with the bow makes me think that won’t be happening.

So things aren’t looking great for the Big N’s big fighting title at this point.  The next announcements will have to blow my socks off to keep my attention.

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Double Musou: Wang Yi versus Masamune Date

Please vote in our tie-breaking poll to see a full breakdown of one of our competitors!

Full breakdown will include normal, charge, special, and musou attacks, as well as weapon load-out and team recommendations!

Poll closes midnight October 30th, so cast votes now!

Liebster Award

Confessions of a Nerf Herder was kind enough to nominate me for a Liebster Award.  I appreciate his consideration.

For those who are as unaware as I was, a Liebster Award is a blog promotional award, operating similar to a chain letter.  Once you’re nominated you are “obligated” to return the favor to other unsuspecting bloggers.  Much like a chain letter though, you don’t really have to do it, but there’s little reason not to in this setting.  You can read more about it at Lorraine Reguly’s Life.

So, while I don’t entirely see the point per say, I’ll humor the concept anyway.

Ruley bits:

1. Post eleven facts about yourself.

2. Answer the questions the tagger has set for you and create eleven questions for people you’ve nominated.

3. Choose eleven people to give this award to and link them in your post.

4. Go to their page and tell them.

5. Remember, no tag backs.

My 11 Facts:

1) I have two degrees.  A Bachelor’s in Graphic Design, and an Associate’s in Computer Networking.  I have gotten more work with the Networking degree than the Design degree.

2) As a teenager, I would have movies running in the background while I did other things.  I would effectively watch them over and over in a loop — save for rewinding them (this was before the advent of DVDs).  Highlights included: Scrooged, That Thing You Do, and Road to El Dorado.

3) I am a mutant.  I have five cusps (or points) on one of my back molars.  I have the mutant power of not being able to brush my back teeth very well.  Despite this, I have had almost no dental incidents.

4)  I have never visited anywhere North of the Mason-Dixon line or further West than the Mississippi River valley.  The closest was changing planes in Pennsylvania once, and a school field trip to Louisiana. (As of this writing)

5) I have two games framed on my bedroom wall:  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Super Nintendo, and Crazy Taxi for the Sega Dreamcast.

6) My favorite book of the Bible is Judges, likely due to the same reason I like Romance of the Three Kingdoms and the Dynasty Warriors series.  Why is there no Bible Warriors game Koei?

7) The first anime series I set out to collect the entirety of was Yu Yu Hakusho.  The collection is complete, though not all of it is unedited.  They have subsequently released the collection in larger sets, which I have not bothered to get.

8) In high school, I wrote an entire screenplay for a Crazy Taxi movie and sent it to Sega.  Shortly thereafter, there was rumor of Sega actually making a Crazy Taxi movie.  I never heard back from Sega regarding it, and I subsequently lost my file of the screenplay during a move.

9) On a similar note, I wrote all the dialog for what would have been a turn-based RPG as an ongoing collaboration with a couple of my friends.  Those friends moved away shortly after it’s completion.  I actually tried to recreate it in RPG Maker, but didn’t get very far.  That script was written on loose notebook paper, so it has subsequently been lost.

10)   Before information on Ganbare Goemon was readily available, I started drawing my own comic for the Goemon games.  I believe I still have some of those, but have refrained from publishing them in any form due to copyrights and my own ego (or lack thereof).

11) The only work I have had published at any point was ‘Los Fuegos Azules,’  which chronicled the misadventures of 3 aliens in college (just go with it).  It was a short strip that was published 4 times in the college newspaper.  It was typically over-shadowed or taken out to make room for a more popular strip by another author, however.

NerfHerder’s 11 Questions:

1) Who’s your favorite comic-book character and why?

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!  If I only get to pick one, Leonardo.  I love the family dynamic and the four coming together to tackle challenges as a team.  I choose Leonardo, at least today, because he struggles with responsibility for his family, while trying to improve himself as well.  These are struggles I currently face in my life, so I can relate to him best.  Also, I am really anxious to see how he develops following the City Fall arc the current IDW run is doing.

2) What’s your favorite Star Wars film and why?

This was a tough one.  I was going to go the safe route and say A New Hope, mostly because I never had the taste for Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi.  I decided to go with Attack of the Clones though, for two reasons — a) I love the Obi-Wan detective work going on throughout the film, and I really like how Ewan McGreggor played him in the prequels.  b) the climax, while silly, still looks fantastic, and doesn’t over-stay it’s welcome.  I often say if you took out the Anakin Sykwalker scenes, this wouldn’t be nearly as bad of a movie.  So, I choose Clones, if only as a study piece.

3) If you had to listen to one film’s soundtrack/score for the rest of your days, what would it be?

A Knight’s Tale.  For personal nostalgic reasons, and because it’s got a good variety, and songs that can get you pumping.  The soundtack for “That Thing You Do” comes in a really close second.  The Original Power Rangers Movie and Original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie soundtracks are tied for third.

4) If you could be in one band for one weekend, which band would it be?

“The Wonders,” also known as the “One-ders.”  Sure they only really had one hit, but I love the dynamic of the group in the movie “That Thing You Do.”  If we’re not talking factitious bands, Red Hot Chili Peppers just to play the baseline on their rendition of “Higher Ground.”  I would also like to be in the Police just before they broke up, just to understand why a bit more, and to play guitar on Synchronicity II.  These all assume I magically know how to play an instrument with this wish — since in real life, I can’t play anything more than chopsticks.

5) Breasts or bum fan?

If I have to choose, Breast, though I’d prefer both.

6) If you were on death row, about to be giving the chair, what would your last meal consist of?

Greek Pizza, Stomboli stuffed with Pastrami and Swiss Cheese, and every flavor of Oreos ever made, with plenty of milk to dunk them in.

7) If you had a lightsaber, what colour would it be?

Yellow.  See Plo Koon and Bastila Shan on that one.

8) Favourite Batman?

If we’re counting the animated show, I’m voting Kevin Conway hands down.  If we’re talking “acting -actor” that’s a tough one.  Most of those, I either like their Batman better than their Bruce Wayne, or vice-versa.  The exception is Christian Bale, who I think does decent at both while not excelling at either. I like Micheal Keaton’s Batman best.  I think George Clooney was an excellent choice for Bruce Wayne, but terrible for Batman.

9) Affleck as Batman? Yay or nay?

Yay?  Only cause ‘meh’ was not an option.  I side with Affleck’s supporters, only because I really can’t get worked up over Batman’s casting.  April O’Neil’s casting on the other hand…

10) Favourite death scene in a film?

Land Before Time.  *Spoilers*  The scene of the mother’s death is handled in such an impactful way, but it comes so early.  It drills in the notion that life has to go on afterward.  I think it’s important to learn as a kid that death isn’t the end.  Close second is Artax’s death in Neverending Story.  It comes close, but loses points for magic reset button at the end.

11) When are cord flares going to be deemed fashionable again? Seriously, the looks I get…

I don’t know.  When was the last time disco was in style?  I’m still waiting for some more Disco Duck!

11 Questions from Me:

1) What was the first video game you remember playing?

2) What is your favorite video game character (originating from a video game)?

3) If you were stranded for the rest of your life on a desert island with Jar Jar Binks and one other item, what would that other item be?

4) Who would you cast for April O’ Neil in the upcoming Ninja Turtles movie instead of Meagan Fox?

5) If you won the lottery but had to spend it all in one place, how would you spend the money?

6) Who is your favorite villain (any medium), and why?

7) Have you ever participated in a project you felt you did not get enough credit or recognition for, and if so what? 

8) What is your favorite book you had to read for school, or were otherwise obligated to read?

9) Which of Ramona Flowers’ 7 ex’es would you be?

10) If you could trade places with any historical, non-contemporary figure, who would it be?

11) What is the most obscure game/movie you have ever seen/played?

My 11 Nominees: (in alphabectical order)

Drakulus

Leo’s Life

Little Sister Gaming

Refined Geekery

Rory’s Retrospectives

That Gamer Chick

The Arcade Philosopher

The Saltmine

The Red Rings of Redemption

Thinking Gamers

You Found a Secret Area!

Congrats to the nominees, and Good Luck!

Quick Impressions: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

I found myself in a bit of a conundrum with today’s game. As a turtle fan, I went into it hoping it was good.  However, having just come from the Ubisoft era of turtle games, I was a bit skeptical, as evidenced in a previous article.  So, is Out of the Shadows worthy of the Turtles’ pedigree, or does it languish much like their games have since the 2000’s?

Perhaps a little of both.

We’ll get the obvious out of the way first, the art design. The turtles new look seems odd at first, but I’ll admit, it grew on me after awhile.  It seems to try and blend the Nickelodeon look with the style of the Jim Henson creature shop from the original movie.

This doesn’t fully carry over to the supporting characters though — April looks older and more realistic than her cartoon counterpart, but only so much. Karai hasn’t changed much except for wearing a mask, and I don’t think anything was done to Shredder at all.

The story is still based on the Nickelodeon show, though where exactly I couldn’t tell.  The story takes the player through battles with most of the major enemies of the show, however, so even unfamiliar players won’t find the story too hard to follow.

The exposition is told mostly through comic style vignettes, which are both stylistically appropriate, and jarring at the same time.  They tend to pop up just when you’re getting into the vibrant setting they’ve placed you in, or just when you’ve started to lose yourself in the action — and you occasionally will.

Despite the set pieces lacking polish at times, and texture pop-in causing some issues here an there, the setting is very colorful and lively.  From a soaring construction tower, to the dank and dingy sewers, to the ramshackle junk yard you find Baxter Stockman hiding out in; the setting is as inviting as it’s cartoon counterpart.  This makes one want to break away and explore the brilliant labyrinth of the Turtles’ New York City.

Disappointingly, the player is kept in rather contained areas that have less life to them than the backgrounds do. The game play is mostly going from point A to B and beating up Foot Ninja and other varieties of grunts along the way. It’s hard to fault it for this, but the restrictiveness is nevertheless very noticeable.

One might expect then, the developers’ would be sure to keep the player’s attention with gameplay.  To be fair, the RedFly team definitely know their Turtles history, as many of the systems in the game are reminiscent of titles from the Turtles past.  For instance, in Story mode, there is no game over until all four turtles are down for the count, much like the original Ninja Turtles for the NES.  Also, each turtle can carry secondary and expendable weapons, such as grenades and shuriken, much like the NES game.  Similar to Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare from the Playstation 2 era, Turtles not directly under your control are controlled by the game’s AI.  And then of course there is arcade mode, made to simulate the original Ninja Turtles arcade game, and Turtles in Time.  In addition, RedFly also took inspiration from Batman Arkham Asylum, by introducing a combo and counter system very reminiscent of it.  Also, the ability to switch Turtles on the fly, and coordinate them is similar to the system present in the Dragon Age series.

However, all of this together doesn’t seem blend very well.  The combo system works great, and I would venture is even better than Arkam’s, as Turtle Power KO’s can only be performed upon reaching certain points in the combo — giving a strong reason to keep combos going.  The countering system, however, leaves something to be desired.  I can perform a counter just fine, if I concentrate solely on that, but trying to counter in the middle of combo seems practically impossible, if not extremely difficult.

Meanwhile, even though you can control your reptilian brethren, you cannot give them specific orders.  They will not use items or aid fallen allies of their own accord either.  The best you can do is taunt enemies toward your turtle and hope the enemy doesn’t focus fire a brother down first.

Also, since each turtle has their own independent inventory, the system will actively punish you for switching turtles too often.  Should you do so, and spread too many items about your turtles, chance are good that the turtle carrying the grenades you need to take down the Cerberus Mouser will be the first to get knocked out.

The punishment doesn’t stop there, but continues in the leveling system they have implemented as well.  Again taking pointers from Rocksteady’s Arkham games, the turtles can be upgraded with various moves, techniques, and weapons.  While ability points are given in sets of four, allowing every turtle to partake, weapon upgrades are given one at a time, forcing the player to choose to focus on one turtle early on.

Overall, this makes the fighting experience feel awkward and at times very clunky, the occasional bug not helping matters.

But most of what I’ve described applies to the single player experience.  How about multiplayer?  While Story mode does allow for two players to run it together, the main multi-player mode is arcade mode.  This mode sets a fixed camera, and runs the turtles through environments already cleared in the story in a kind of throwback to the classic Konami arcades.  This mode suffers from similar issues, however.  Because the camera is fixed, the turtles can get a pretty far distance from it, obscuring your vision of the characters at times.  Also, dark corners can be too dark in this mode, keeping you from seeing that important mouser bomb that’s about to explode behind you.  Arcade mode’s difficulty is scaled to have all four turtles on screen, so it becomes rather challenging to run solo.  Although, this means the experience becomes more rewarding, and more manageable, with a few friends.

Despite it’s flaws, it’s hard to come down on the game too harshly, as love for franchise is evident throughout.  From the Turtles hanging out in their HQ on the menu, to the Mirage Comics homage on the title screen, to the use of ‘Turtle Power’ by Partners in Kryme, to the witty banter between the turtles mid-fight and in-between fights; while RedFly didn’t fully flesh out the details, RedFly definitely nailed what a modern Turtles’ game should be like.

That is why I have a hard time judging this one.  There’s a great Turtles’ game in this, but it’s muddied up with too many complex systems.  Perhaps if it was given more time or a bigger budget, the experience could have been smoothed out to offer the best the franchise has to offer.  That being said, there have been games far worse than this in the Turtles history.

Fans would do well to pick this one up, if only to support an incredibly ambitious Ninja Turtles title.  For everyone else, this may end up as a pass.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is published by Activision, and developed by RedFly Studios.  Xbox Live arcade version was used for this review, which was played for about 6 hours.  I own nothing but the opinions expressed in this article.

Blog Update 9-3-2013

Thought I would give a quick update on the status of the blog.  Since I have some new equipment, I plan to change the type of content produced on this site somewhat.  I still plan to run our current series, but I will be updating it to include video content as well, which I think will help significantly.

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The Musou Missives poll is now closed, but unfortunately we have a tie between Wang Yi and Masamune Date!  I have an idea of how to remedy this, though it may result in some delays.  I still want to get this out in October however.

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The Top 10 Warriors project will be delayed, due to a heavier load on Musou Missives and other personal reasons.  On the plus side, I will likely be able to do video content for it now.  A new date on that project will be determined soon.

I will be doing a Quick Impressions on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, and plan to add a short video supplement to try out a new style.  You can expect that in the next week or so.

 

In the meantime be sure to check out my Let’s Play of TMNT: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled, and let me know if you would like to see more Let’s Play content on this channel as well.