Monthly Archives: October 2013

Musou Missives: A Primer, plus Cake Day!

As a celebration for this webzone’s anniversary, above I have posted a primer for the Musou Missives series.  This is to explain the terminology I use in my articles and will use in future videos.

I have trouble believing it’s been a year, in many ways it feels like it’s been much longer.  I attribute the feeling to it being a busy year.  I didn’t think the site would have made the jump to video yet, even if it has some bugs to work out still.  Not to mention the rocky debut of the next generation systems, which are due out soon.

What will another year bring?  I’m not sure, but I look forward to sharing it with everyone here at Punch, Kick, It’s All in the Mind!

If you have any feelings or ideas to share, let me know in the comments below.

I do not own Warriors Orochi, or any other TecmoKoei product included in this post.  The footage above is intended for educational purposes.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the Video Game – Part 3 – Fall of the Foot Clan

As I stated earlier, I ran into a hiccup loading up the first video of the Let’s Play due to copyrights on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles via Viacom.  It was most likely due to the entirety of the Turtles theme song and the entirety of the show opening plays starting up the first stage.  It’s possible to just edit the theme and opening out, but I preferred avoid another possible mark by not uploading it at all.

It’s at this point the curtain was being pulled back just a little bit for me.  I understood that these companies were out to make money, but I never really imagined what Activision and Nickelodeon/Viacom’s true intentions with this game ended up being, however.

Please note that I am not accusing Activision, Viacom, or anyone associated with these companies of any wrongdoing, the following is the opinion of Nyuuron, which could be entirely wrong. 

If Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows had only one flaw, it was simply over ambitious.  It was so crammed full of game variety that it simply didn’t have the resources to fully flesh out anything perfectly.  Meanwhile, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the Video Game is the exact opposite.  The later feels cheap, comes with more advertisements for other products, and can easily be beaten in a weekend, if not a single night.  These two games were released within two months of each other, so as to be easily compared.

This was intentional.

The game with better game-feel, an actual art style of it’s own, and a developer with more pedigree was released as a download-only title.  The cheap license cash-grab was given a retail release with a price more twice that of the downloadable title.

But , why?

The answer is money.

Activision sees more per dollar spent on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows than it does on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the Video Game, due to the difference in overhead expenses (i.e. Out of the Shadows having very few or almost none).  Activision prices the retail game, not at a full $60, but significantly higher price than it’s downloadable cousin, because it knows the smart shopper will choose the cheaper product.

In the meantime, Activision also plants the seeds of doubt into the retail release system gamers supported this summer.  The dichotomy of these two games leads consumers to ask, “If the downloadable title is really better than the retail release, maybe downloadable games aren’t so bad?  Maybe if all games were downloadable, we’d get more good games like this and less of that other, terrible game.”

In addition to that, it’s clear Nickelodeon and Viacom were not really looking for a big project based on their license anyway.  The prevalence of the advertisements in the box, the proliferation of the latest toys in the game, and the lack of passion behind the feel of this game is all evidence to that.  This was another product to geared to sell more toys and advertise their TV show in another venue.

This is further evidenced by the marketing of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the Video Game, or should I say ‘the lack thereof’.  The game has seen two trailers now, one of which was released far from the actual release date. The other released the day after the game launched for some unknown reason.  The title of the game is vague and unspecific, so that finding information on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the Video Game  is almost impossible given all the other Ninja Turtles material available.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the Video Game (what Amazon and the trailers refer to it as) tends to bring up other older titles in searches.  Some sources call it Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2013), which tends to bring up information on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows instead.

Everything about the game’s release, marketing, and production reeks of corporate scheming.

I’ll admit, I was duped to thinking that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the Video Game was an actual product meant for my amusement, or the amusement of any gamer.  This was a passion project for no one involved; it was just a product to cash-in on the Turtles resurgence of popularity.

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And so, speaking to anyone who happens upon this game in a bargain bin, or on a store shelf somewhere, don’t buy it.  Don’t give the publishers your money.  Even if you’re the most hardcore of hardcore Turtles fans, don’t get it because there’s nothing for you here.  If you have to buy a new Turtles’ game, buy Out of the Shadows; given my revelation on these corporate conspiracies, I feel reluctant even recommending that now.

The Ninja Turtles are a great franchise, but they deserve more than to be used in this manner.

I do not own Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Activision, or any property mentioned in this article.  I only own the opinions formed here, and the learning experience this product has granted me through this ordeal.  Opinions were formulated from the XBox360 version of this game.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the Video Game – Part 2 – Mutant Nightmare

Once we were setup and loaded up the game, things started to take a turn.  If Part 1 was anything to go by, I already was not expecting anything from this game already; I was surprised that it could not even met me halfway at mediocrity.

To be fair, the control scheme is simple and easy to understand:  X attacks, Y throws enemies, B does a super attack, A jumps, RT uses items, D-pad switches characters.  I even admitted looking at the controls, this felt familiar to the Warriors series.  However, while Dynasty Warriors games allow for more damaging and longer combos through the use of other attacks, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the Video Game does not really.  There are points where using one option over your regular attack is advantageous, but 80% of the time you’ll just be mashing X.

Unfortunately, it’s controls are one of the few things the game has going for it.  I knew going into this it was a port from the Wii and 3DS, so I didn’t expect much the graphics department.  However, the characters look incredibly blocky, more so than the Nickelodeon cartoon or any game I’ve played on the Wii in awhile yet.  The menus are brightly colored, but are otherwise forgettable.  The enemy types come with some variety, but stand in neutral poses that are just bland and have no intimidation or energy to them at all.  The backdrops are nice looking, but I attribute that more to the source material than anything the developers worked on.  Overall, the visual style of the game is very by-the-numbers, and feels sterile compared to the TV show it’s based on.

I will try to talk about the soundtrack, but aside from the theme song from the original show, there isn’t any soundtrack.  The theme song is pretty much the only song, and it is the reason I could not post the Let’s Play videos without getting flagged on Youtube.  (Viacom apparently has a habit of blocking anything that is even tangentially related to it’s material — the new Turtles’ theme included.)  There are other compositions in the game, but they’re mostly just dull hums, and not anything anyone would find particularly interesting.  One stage decided even this was too much effort, and had no environmental effects or background music at all.

The rest of the sound design is just as impressive, as in not at all.  For instance, the turtles will banter with each other, but unlike Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows where the banter is witty and clever, banter in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the Video Game is repetitive, unintelligent, and/or drool.  The game uses the talking heads format popular with many anime-based games, during which the sound gets worse.  The actors portraying the characters lines are frequently too loud, creating a popping noise coming from my speakers when they spoke their lines (this was on the 360, so I can’t imagine the issues the 3DS may have).  Only occasionally were we caught off guard with the dialog, and most of the time we were laughing at the horrible script rather than the actual joke.

All of these are water under the bridge, however.  I could ignore any of these problems, but there are two things that really made this the worst slog to get through.

Of all the things to get wrong in a side-scrolling beat ’em up, the camera is the one thing you really shouldn’t mess with.  The best comparison point is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Konami for the Playstation 2/Xbox/Gamecube.  In both that and the new Activision game, the camera angle changes to make stages look a little more dynamic and to take advantage of the 3D rendering of the characters.  Both these cameras had to be scripted and on rails.  While Konami’s calmly slide down the track, or swapped angles on a dime, Activision’s jerks and chuggs from one point to the other.  This makes it difficult to see exactly what is going on.  If a turtle gets caught on geometry off-screen, it especially becomes a nuisance.

Almost in response to this, they implemented a system where if a turtle was stuck too far off screen, or moves out of range of the camera, they would be teleported to the camera’s field of vision instantly. This happens most often in obvious 3DS pandering sequences where the camera actually goes behind the turtles, usually as they move through a tunnel or alley.  This wouldn’t be a serious issue, except that it tends to enforce certain angles at inconvenient times.  During a fight with a giant mouser, katsa and I lost nearly all our lives because the camera kept pulling us back to the spot where giant rocks were falling on our heads.  Only after we were able to coordinate our movement away from the rocks did the camera allow us to escape the death trap.  Seemingly as an apology, we found an extra life behind the boss area after the mouser was defeated.

Nevertheless, we would still get caught on geometry or invisible walls even while still on the screen (the most memorable being in the first stage).  To combat this you have the ability to switch to other Turtles and escape so long as the other turtles aren’t in the hands of a player.  This brings me to the other major issue the game has.

All four turtles are on screen at all times in this game.  Even with a single player or two players, you will have all four turtles on screen.  Unlike it’s precursor Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, this is not a beneficial feature, but a detriment to the game design.  In Out of the Shadows, your AI controlled brothers may not make for the best allies, but they move around attacking powerful enemies and using combos; they at least try.  In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the Video Game, the turtles that are not being controlled stand around doing nothing.  They’ll move to the next area when you do, but they won’t move otherwise.  In addition, the enemy AI is just as incompetent, as they will continue to attack the turtles you aren’t directing.  Now, these ‘dummy’ turtles will throw out attacks if an enemy attacks them, but they’re not really doing damage.  This is counter-balanced by the fact that they can’t actually take damage either — one of the few upsides to this whole game.

Stay tuned for closing remarks and final recommendations for this game.

I do not own Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Activision, or any property mentioned in this article.  I only own the opinions formed here, and the learning experience this product has granted me through this ordeal.  Opinions were formulated from the XBox360 version of this game.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the Video Game – Part 1 – The Next Mutation

My original intent was to do an impressions article on the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game by Activision; however, I had to change that when I realized I had a few too many projects going on.  Since I’ve found Let’s Plays require a little less work on the back-end than other videos I’ve produced so far, I decided we’d just do a blind Let’s Play of it instead.  Between then and now, I’ve been reduced to talking about it in written form.

What happened?  Prepare yourself for the strange and unusual journey that Katsa and myself embarked on during the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the Video Game.

To begin, I will admit that I should have known better when I saw the trailer for this game.  It’s almost as though someone saw my 4 issues with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadow‘s first trailer and answered some of those concerns with the new game’s trailer.  They were obviously using the Nickelodeon license and art style.  They also showed gameplay. Of course, the gameplay didn’t look terribly great, but that could be just an early build.  It did not answer the other two problems I had with Out of the Shadow‘s first trailer though — time table for release and developer choice — and in fact, I didn’t see the developer listed on the trailer initially.

I found only after receiving the game that the French developer Magic Pockets was behind this one.  After some brief research, I found that Magic Pockets were best known for mobile/portable games.  The only big series that they continuously produced was the My Petz series for the Nintendo DS — which I’ve never played because it looks like a Nintendogs rip-off.  I would know them for only one of their products, Harry Potter’s Quidditch World Cup for the Playstation 2.

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Quidditch World Cup, as the name implies, tried to recreate the sporting event in the popular Harry Potter book and movie series.  For the uninitiated, it’s like lacrosse or rugby on broomsticks.  I remember liking the game at first, but as it drug on, it became more of a chore than an exhilarating experience.  The fact that so much of the game was just recycled didn’t help either. This was a game I completely forgot I even played until I saw it on Magic Pockets’ wikipedia page.  I apparently didn’t think twice about trading that game out either, as it’s nowhere to be found in my collection now.

I had complaints at first about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows‘s pedigree also, but looking back, I realize those were mostly unfounded.  If ‘A’ string developers are teams like Blizzard, Bioware, Infinity Ward, or Valve, RedFly Studios sits comfortably on the ‘B’ string.  They have a few hits and misses, but aren’t a terrible developer choice overall.  Magic Pockets is not known for good games; they’re not known for laughably terrible games.  They’re not really known at all.  If they’re on a string at all, we’re talking the ‘D’ or ‘E’ at best.

I learned all this before even opening the box; my concern only mounted upon prying open the shell case.  I opened it up before we were fully setup to peek at the instruction booklet, just to see if there was any indication of what we were getting into.  Inside was a small insert advertising the IDW comics on one side, and the DVDs of the TV show on the other.  In addition, there was a small fold out, which was essentially a checklist of the various Ninja Turtles products you could buy.  In other words, besides the disc, there was nothing but advertisements inside.  No sign of an instruction manual at all.  On the inside of the box cover insert, it said you could download the instructions off of Activision’s manuals webpage — which turned out to be a lie, as there were no Ninja Turtles games listed.  So, it looked like our blind let’s play was going to be very blind indeed.

I had no idea what we were in for.

Stay tuned, as our adventure continues when we actually start playing the game.

I do not own Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Activision, or any property mentioned in this article.  I only own the opinions formed here, and the learning experience this product has granted me through this ordeal.  Opinions were formulated from the XBox360 version of this game.

Dynasty Warriors 4 Dueling and Han Era Tactics

One of the arguments that gets weighed against the Dynasty Warriors series is that it’s premise is silly.  These high ranking generals would not be out in the center fighting off hoards of enemies so effortlessly.  In fact, in our modern age, it seems strange to think any of them would be anywhere near the battlefield.

While it is certainly romanticized for gameplay purposes, the idea that Later Han era generals would not be in the thick of the battle is a misconception.  Later Han era politics were tied to military rank, so an officer or general who was not skilled in martial combat was practically unheard of in this period.  This is evidenced most obviously by Liu Bei and his sworn brothers.  The three joined the fight against the Yellow Turbans and later against Dong Zhuo forces with as a volunteer and guest force respectively.  Liu Bei and company only rose through the ranks due to their prowess on the battlefield and Liu Bei’s family distant family ties to the Han emperor.

Therefore, Dynasty Warriors isn’t being as ridiculous as maybe if first seems.  So what other gameplay elements are actually based in Later Han / Three Kingdoms era military tactics.  One obvious one comes from Dynasty Warriors 4 — the duel system.

Dueling in the Later Han Era

Duels was one of the ways many of these generals would use their trained skills on the battlefield in this era.  Generally, when two armies met on the battlefield, an enemy officer would challenge the another to single combat.  This was typically mounted combat with spears or swords.  The two competitors would ride toward each other, exchange a few attacks, before riding back out, similar to jousting in someways.  It was a way to test each other’s skill as well as their mettle.  The idea was to boost the army’s morale by showing their commander’s strength in battle.  Afterward, the armies would either fully engage, or stand off if no winner was clearly determined.

There was one problem with duels, which became more and more apparent as the Han period began to wane, and it also explains why it fails as a game mechanic as well.  If your officer died in a duel one of two things would happen — a) the army becomes so frightened by the officer’s death that other officers cannot hold against the emboldened forces, leading to a route, or b) the army is left without a leader at all, resulting in confusion and an inevitable route.  The duel, while honorable, becomes a high stakes gamble depending on who you’re up against.

This is how Lu Bu became such a well known warrior in this age, as he could not be bested in single combat, in so much as dueling him was practically suicide.  It took Liu Bei, Zhang Fei, and Guan Yu fighting him together to put him at a disadvantage.  Lu Bu’s rise in rank and stature had everything to do with his strength and skill, and little to do with tactics or leadership, which will was evidenced as the chaos continued and as dueling became less and less the norm.

Dueling Dies

While dueling is heavily prevalent in the early pages of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, it slowly begins to subside as the new era wears on.  This is a result of three major changes, which would effect Chinese military tactics and appointments until the formation of the Qin dynasty.

1) Battle at Guan Du

The battle at Guan Du is the first major battle where strategy and tactics wins out over a significantly larger force.  Granted Guan Yu’s prowess is a significant boon in this battle for Cao Cao.  However, he would likely still have been overrun by Yuan Shao’s forces had Guo Jia’s strategy to destroy Yuan Shao’s supply lines failed.  Guo Jia’s strategies continued to prove useful as Cao Cao continued to decimate the Yuan family’s territory, despite their numerical advantage.

2) Execution of Lu Bu

This may be the most obvious of the three to be sure.  After Lu Bu captured Xia Pi from Zhang Fei while Liu Bei was away, Liu Bei had to beseech Cao Cao to take the city back.  While Lu Bu is a fearsome warrior, he was simply overwhelmed by Cao Cao’s army’s size and tactics.

Once captured, however, Cao Cao chose to end Lu Bu’s life rather than induct him into his own force.  There are multiple reasons for this, Lu Bu’s penchant for treachery amoung them.  However, at this point in time, being a strong and skilled warrior was starting to become less desirable.  Intelligence and fealty were deemed far more admirable qualities.  This is evidenced by Zhang Liao’s induction to Cao Cao’s force, despite his willingness to be executed alongside his master.

3) Liu Bei recruits Zhuge Liang

Zhuge Liang, despite his presence in Dynasty Warriors, was not a military hero or a renown warrior at the time Liu Bei came to him.  He was a scholar and man of learning.  He lived on his family farm, and was prone to wander off on his own for days — one of the reasons Liu Bei had to visit him multiple times.  At a time when Liu Bei’s force was little more than an itch Cao Cao would eventually have to scratch, Liu Bei spent a great amount of time trying to recruit a hermit.

Nevertheless, this proved to be the single greatest decision Liu Bei ever made.  Zhuge Liang’s guidance gave Liu Bei the edge he would need to face the far more powerful forces he was faced with in the Three Kingdom’s era.  Zhuge Liang’s position was critical despite never specifically engaging in battle himself.  His tactics would send Cao Cao’s large fleet fleeing from Chi Bi, snag the Jing province from under Zhou Yu’s nose, and bewilder Lu Xun’s forces while in hot pursuit of Liu Bei following defeat at Yi Ling.

The True Purpose of Duels

Dueling wasn’t completely done away with, but in the Three Kingdoms era proper, battles won solely from a series of duels was uncommon.  Dueling was intended to be an honorable way to engage in one-on-one combat in order to gauge one’s strength in battle.  It was used appropriately at Tian Shui, as Jiang Wei proved to be a match for Zhao Yun’s spear.  He would prove later to be comparable to Zhuge Liang in terms of strategy as well.

In a game like Dynasty Warriors 4, however, the dueling system has no particular place.  The player is not testing his skill by choosing to duel, as the player will already know if they are of high enough level or skill to take on the challenge or not.  Going into a duel a player cannot win does not effect his honor, and allied morale plays little role when one can wade through enemy forces on one’s own regardless.

I applaud Koei’s attempts to bring elements of the story and atmosphere of the era into the games, but they have to make sense from a design standpoint too.

I do not own Dynasty Warriors or any Koei properties mentioned here.  I am also not an expert on Chinese history or military strategy.  All research for this topic was taken from my own experience reading the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and related material.

Let’s Play Injustice: Gods Among Us Rematch and Site Update

Above is our rematch video of Injustice:Gods Among Us.  I thought I would use the opportunity to update status of the site as well.

First the blog’s anniversary is coming up on the 28th, so I thought I would do something special on that day, but it may take some time to get done.  I’ll try to finish it up before then.

I planned on doing an impressions and comparison video for the upcoming Ninja Turtles game, but with the anniversary and Musou Missives coming up, I’m going to be pretty tied up.  We’re thinking of just doing a blind Let’s Play on that so we can give our impressions more genuinely.

The first installment is coming.  I have the top 10 picked out, but haven’t fully decided on the order.  I also hope to do it in video format now, which will take some time.

In the meantime, I will be posting a Dynasty Warriors article next week to fill some time.  Hope you enjoy.  If you have any suggestions on the video production, blog status, or anything else, be sure to let me know.

Let’s Play – Injustice: Gods Amoung Us

Nyuuron challenges Katsa to Injustice: Gods Amoung Us with some variant rules.