Friday, February 28, 2014

Shonen Otaku's Diary of Frank West: Overtime, Final

It’s over.  Truly, finally over, except this time I mean that in a relieved way instead of a panicked way.  Our government is ready to implode in on itself, all the zombies are being taken care of, and I scored a pimpin’ new ride with a hot chick in it.  However, I was not able to save what I truly loved.  All I can do for my beloved now is write this so that their memory lives on.

I got the stuff on Isabella’s shopping list like she asked.  The entire time I had to deal with both armed guards and little armed remote control helicopters with guns built into them.  I don’t even know how they store all the bullets those things fire, let alone keep them afloat while the recoil is hammering back at them.  I was shot up so much it got boring, so I made a little game and tried to catch bullets with my teeth.  I was only able to pull it off once.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Defending Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2

Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 has gotten quite a lot of negative criticism from game critics, to the point that former Destructoid critic Jim Sterling placed it on his list as one of the worst games of the year.  This is unsurprising, seeing as how he seemed to have hated it more than anyone else even though he loved the first game, but I feel that a second opinion is in order.

I’m sure everyone who has had interest in Ken’s Rage 2 has all heard the complaints: the graphics are weak, the story presentation is bad, and almost everything is recycled from the first game.
I don’t want people who may actually like Ken’s Rage 2 to just brush the game off though, because it’s one of my favorite games of 2013.

Get down from there Kaioh, you're not that important.
You don't need to necessarily be a fan of Fist of the North Star in order to enjoy Ken’s Rage 2, even though many other critics may tell you otherwise.  The game’s story retells the manga very well.  One of my biggest problems with the first Ken’s Rage, other than the uncomfortable combat, was the extremely downsized story.  I had seen a good 38 episodes of the anime and had the first volume of the manga when I first saw Ken’s Rage, and from what I did see, they took out everything but the absolute bare minimum.  It wasn’t even a cliffnotes retelling.  It was like cliffnotes of cliffnotes!  Entire characters, story arcs, and motivations were all gone, and the result was hardly the true Fist of the North Star story.  I would even go as far as to call it downright insulting.

Ken’s Rage 2 fixes that, as implied by its Japanese title, Shin Hokuto Musou (shin meaning “true”).  Its story mode essentially tells the entire story, including one of my favorite fights not seen in the first game: Devil Rebirth!

Damn.  If only Leon Kennedy hadn't died when the bombs dropped.

I say “essentially” because there are very minor points cut or changed here and there from the source material.  For example, in the first major manga story arc there are four elite warriors named after card suits.  In Ken’s Rage 2, you only fight Spade and Heart.  The other two, Club and Diamond, have their roles replaced with common elite soldiers, since in the source material they just come and go with no impact.  There are a few other minor adjustments like that in the game, but you’re never missing much.

Think of it this way: you could spend several hours watching the anime online and trying to discern what’s filler and what’s not, you could spend hundreds of dollars finding very rare prints of the manga, or you could just play the game.  Since it tells the whole story this time, including the rather inferior final arcs, it’s a little over 20 hours long.  Granted, the story of the source material itself is still something of a niche considering it's pretty much the big granddaddy of shonen alongside Dragon Ball, but those who like badass action stories should enjoy it, and if you're reading this blog, I'm pretty sure you do.

Taizan Tenroken Ougi!
The gameplay too is fun for action fans.  Like Sengoku Basara and Dynasty Warriors, it’s a game all about beating the fudge out of hundreds of weaker enemies alongside other one-man armies with their own awesome techniques taken straight from the series.  Kenshiro is used most often in the main story mode, but when the story calls for it, you get to play as other characters for some variety.
You can play as the other unlocked characters any time in the game’s dream mode, which gives you even more hours of gameplay trying everyone out, unlocking their signature attacks, and playing through their own story modes and challenge missions.  Ken’s Rage 2 has over a dozen characters, including the two DLC ones from the first game, so there’s a lot to work with.

Naturally I’ve chosen Shin as my fighter of choice.  The master of Nanto Koshuuken who would do anything for the people he loves!

I have a stronger spear.  It's called my hand!
You’d think the combat would get repetitive, but it’s just too satisfying.  It's tight and moves at a faster pace (without any of that unnecessary jumping from the first game), certain signature moves from the first game were removed for redundancy or repurposed for practicality, and the blood and physics are satisfying enough to make you want to cross your arms and laugh in triumph.
Few things are more fun than pulling off moves like flying high in the air, raining down a burst of razor sharp fists, landing, then waiting a moment as the dozens of enemies hit slide apart like chopped baloney before exploding into blood clouds.
It can be kind of brainless at times, but also like Sengoku Basara and Dynasty Warriors, there's still a level of challenge thanks to the enemy's numbers and variety.

As fun as it is to pick on the little guys, Ken’s Rage 2 has boss battles that can be just as fun, especially in the story mode, where the story progresses as the fights move along.  Super-powerful men beating each other to death with flashy moves while monologuing is a shonen tradition.

And the music is great too.  Most of it is taken from the first game (which already had a rocking soundtrack), but there are some new tracks added for the second.

As much as I love Ken’s Rage 2, and as much as I think people should try it, I can’t say I disagree with the critics who call the game mediocre.  I agree that Ken’s Rage 2 doesn’t have enough polish to be worth its original $50 asking price.  Corners were cut.

I don’t have a problem with how the story mode is told like a freeze frame motion comic like some critics did (though the constant re-use of character models for the villagers and punks is distracting).  The main story mode makes them dynamic enough to keep them interesting, and it has fully animated cutscenes for the most memorable parts of the story (character introductions and deaths in particular).

There are noticeable shadow gaffes and texture pop-in in some areas of the comic cutscenes though.  They’re few and far between, but it's baffling nobody caught them before the game was released.

My real problem is in the legend mode stories, where the “show don’t tell” rule is not in effect and cutscenes look like little more than statues of the characters facing each other being dubbed over.  That’s just half-assed.  It would have been more effective to just use still images of characters conversing like in Blazblue.

The in-game graphics aren’t that impressive either, but as with the main story cutscenes, I don’t think it looks bad.  It doesn’t look as good as the first game technically speaking, but personally I found the excess of lighting and bloom effects in Ken’s Rage to be distracting.  Ken’s Rage 2 isn’t going to win the best graphics of the year award from anyone, but I can safely say it couldn’t be done on the Wii.


The lack of map variety in legend mode doesn't help either.  The missions will often have minor differences in the objectives, but you'll find yourself playing the same handful of maps several times, though playing them with such varying characters alleviates that a bit.

Those shortcomings and the lack of an English language track are all valid points of contention.  Having no English voices is not that big of an issue to me, as I didn’t like the English voice acting in the first Ken’s Rage and the Japanese acting is great, but not having one at all instead of doing it right is lazy.  Usually when a game doesn’t have an English dub, it’s sold at a discounted price to make up for it.  This one was, but not at one low enough.

If it were released at $40, Ken’s Rage 2 may have gotten slightly more favorable critical response, but I agree that $50 was too much to ask for a game lacking polish in so many areas.  Ken’s Rage 2 isn’t a triple-A title so much as it is a single-A title, but now that you can find it for $20, it shouldn’t feel like a rip-off.  If you can look past the cut corners and want a classic shonen story in game form, I recommend giving Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 a try.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Shonen Otaku's Diary of Frank West: Overtime, Part 1

I thought I could get away from this mess, but it was all for nothing.  All my struggles and all my violence have amounted to absolutely nothing, and for all I know, Otis changed his name and fled the country.

It’s all because of that stupid asshole Kakashi!  He came back at exactly the right time, and at first I appreciated his uncanny punctuality.  We were waving at each other giving our best cheers of joy that we succeeded and were making it out alive.  But Kakashi didn’t follow rule 31 of Zombieland!  Did he think this was just a brony riot or something?!

"What?  Something behind me?  Just the media oppression of the modern-day government dude!"

And how the hell did that thing sneak into the back seat without Kakashi knowing?  That zombie is a better ninja than he is!

With my ride a firey pile of scrap, I was ready to just sit down and die.  After all, with no helicopter, how was I going to get back my Twinkies?  The mall didn’t sell them, and the UBCS probably already shot them up for funsies.  I sat there on the helipad and contemplated my life.  The zombies (finally) found their way up and I could practically feel their rank halitosis.  I was ready and had no regrets other than never being able to enjoy the sweet cream filling of my Twinkies.

But then Isabella came in and ruined everything!  She came out of nowhere and shot all the zombies that were about to relieve me of my suffering!  That stupid bitch!  I was ready to cap her right between the eyes, but before I could whip out my liberated pistol, everything went black.  I must’ve caught that disease that makes you fall asleep at random.  Necrophilia, I believe it’s called.  I had no idea that was infectious!

Nothing!  F*$%# off!
When I woke up, we were both back in Carlito’s base.  She must've dragged me all the way back there.  She may also have violated me, but I was more concerned with how she was able to drag me all the way across the damn mall when I had to escort and carry her for the last two days!  She seriously meant to tell me that she could have just given me a piggyback all this time!  And the icing on the cake is she took everything I had in my pockets!

I backhanded her for wasting my time earlier, but for her pocket emptying I got creative and just gave her a scolding  It’s a good thing Isabela’s so submissive or she may not be helping me right now.

Apparently I’ve been infected.  After three days of practically showering myself in undead blood, I have now caught the zombie flu.

But there is hope, however small.  There is an itty bitty chance I can make it out of here and save my Twinkies.
At the risk of being eaten like her brother, Isabella has offered to make me a drug to make the flu retarded, or something like that.  With the flu too stupid to know what to do, I won’t turn into a zombie for a while and she will stay out of my stomach.

We’re going to need some really weird stuff from around the mall to make this thing work:
  • A first aid kit for the bullet wounds I’ll get from the UBCS while getting everything else.
  • A magnifying glass to burn a hole in my rock-hard muscles for the needle to enter.
  • A perfume bottle to get rid of that zombie smell.
  • Developing solution to inject the power of cameras into my bloodstream to make me a better photographer.
  • A camp stove to cauterize the injection hole.
  • Cold spray to put out any fires the stove makes.
  • Coffee filters because I don’t like my coffee raw.
  • A blender to recycle everything when we’re done using them to make a delicious shake.

And several of those wasps I’ve seen flying around the mall.  They should be easy enough to catch if I just slather myself in honey and get them to stick to me like fly paper, and that’s conspicuous enough to sneak past the UBCS.

I have 24 surprisingly specific hours to get all this stuff and bring it back.  The mall’s full of armed forces, and I’m going to be making trips up and down the whole place.  I guess I should just get to it instead of spending precious time writing this.

Cue montage music!