Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Mario Party: The Top 100 Review

Even though I have almost nobody to play with anymore, I still love the Mario Party games.  They’re games of variety, testing skill and mild strategy with ever-changing variables due to its many colorful locales in the Mario universe.  I’ve played a lot of them, but the ones I’ve played the most and actually owned are the original Nintendo 64 trilogy, 6 and DS.

Nintendo seeks to appeal to the longstanding fans of this almost two-decades long franchise with their new compilation of its 100 best minigames from the main games: Mario Party: The Top 100.

This is hot off the heels of the previous game, Mario Party: Star Rush.  I have Mario Party: Star Rush and I really enjoy it.  It has some fun side activities and its main activities are all creative and faster-paced than the other games without losing the core elements of what makes Mario Party fun.  It did however emphasize the (non-boss) minigames a bit less than previous entries, with only a little over 50 as opposed to other games with at least 70.  Mario Party: The Top 100 seems to be trying to invert that.  Instead of prioritizing the main game part and making the minigames around it, they’re now prioritizing the minigames and building the main game parts around that.  That can be a really good idea or a disastrous one.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Top 10 Final Battles #6: Viewtiful Joe 2

Viewtiful Joe 2 is one of my favorite games of all time.  It is the only game I have ever given a perfect 10 out of 10.  It exceeds an already fantastic game in every way including in its amazing final battle.


With all the other happy ending-controlling Rainbow Oscars gathered and kept safe with Joe's dad Jet, and with the evil-spreading Black Film destroyed, the heroes Joe and Silvia need only one more Rainbow Oscar: the blue one Captain Blue was changed into before being taken by the big bad Black Emperor of Gedow.  That means smashing their way through Gedow's giant moon base full of robots and weirdness taken straight out of the Aliens franchise (as opposed to the first game's villain's Star Wars motif).

At the end of the very long, very difficult gauntlet, the emperor himself sits in wait, ready.

His plans are pretty much foiled by now, since the heroes have the Oscars and his Black Film is gone, but when Joe points this out, the Emperor pulls out his secret weapon.  Apparently it wasn't as gone as they thought.

"The Black Film is unbreakable!  It can never be destroyed completely!"

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Trump Plays Civilization 5: Day 4

With the war against the terrorist threat of Germany ongoing, I have put all our country has into military spending!  We need to be protected from all foreign threats and for that I have made every single one of our increasing number of cities focus soley on money and production.  They are the most important thing in my America!  Fuck your health care!  Fuck those ingrates that want food and water!  Fuck those ungrateful alt-leftists!  As long as I’m alive this country will be safe in my hands!  They can all die!

My approval ratings are at an all-time high after that.  I’ve gotten 15 super happy red faces!  That’s more than I’ve gotten in the whole game!  I’m good at war.  I’ve had a lot of wars of my own.  I’m really good at war.  I love war, in a certain way, but only when we win.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Trump Plays Civilization 5: Day 3

The threat of barbarians has gotten worse.  They are coming through our borders, they are raping our women and they need to be stopped!  No matter how much military I get, there seems to be no end to them.  I am almost certain these barbarians are colluding with a foreign government!  I’ve had spies stationed in almost every country to look for proof and they are very helpful.  The FBI can learn a thing or two from them!  My spies are loyal!  I demand absolute loyalty!  That is why these spies deliver, because they’re loyal.  I didn’t bother sending any to Russia though.  Russia can be trusted.  We can’t make our spies look at Russia.  That investigation must be stopped!  Russia has not done anything wrong!

Anyway, there’s been a lot of words being thrown, but ultimately friendships are being made.  Russia even made friends with England because of me.  I’m glad to be contributing to worldwide friendship.  I’ve always considered England to be bad, but if Russia trusts them I may reconsider.  I got settlers over near Russia so we can be friends.  One of them got too close to barbarians and I had to build the city next to Brazil on the coastline.  If Pedro doesn’t like it, too bad.  I am the president!  I have power and I can do whatever I want!  As Andrew Jackson once said, “when the president does it that means that it is not illegal!”

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Trump Plays Civilization 5: Day 2

I have met the other nations: France, China and Russia.  I don’t know who those other guys are, but I like RussiaRussia is the best.  They know how to run a country.  They already made a big telescope in space and they have uranium.  You know what uranium is, right?  It’s this thing called nuclear weapons, and other things, like lots of things are done with uranium, including bad things.  But Russia is good and they will not be bad.

[Images such as these are from Twitter account @PresVillain.]
We hit it off.  We exchanged embassies and they asked for some sugar and we helped each other out.  I think we’re going to be best friends.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Trump Plays Civilization 5: Day 1

[Disclaimer: This series of articles is satirical and is not written by nor represents Donald Trump nor anyone who represents him or any other political party.]

Hello my fellow Americans.  My name is Donald Trump.  For several months now I have been one of the best presidents this nation has ever had.  The people love me and we’ve had a smooth transfer to a better age.  I bet you didn’t know that I also play games.

I like a lot of the games you probably do, like Call of Juarez: The Cartel and Army of Two, but in between signing papers I’ve been playing a lot of Civilization 5, a game made for the best leaders like me.  I like sharing my thoughts because they’re the ones that matter most so I made a game and will be sharing what happens.

I have the mind of the world’s best leaders

and the skills of its best game players.

Let’s get this started and make America great!

Monday, August 21, 2017

The King of Fighters 14 Review

After several years, several app games and a number of betrayals resulting in said app games being taken down, SNK has finally come out with the successor to The King of Fighters 13, a tough act to follow since 13 is possibly the greatest fighting game ever made.

Originally released on a system that charges its users for a basic function after they already paid for the fucking game system and game itself, The King of Fighters 14 has been released on the PC with a Steam edition just like 13 did.  After playing it since its open beta and after a number of updates and fixes, I’m ready to tackle this new KOF.

I can’t really call it a retrospective since it very recently came out and I’m still playing it, so consider this a review in the style of my previous retrospective posts.  There’s quite a lot to cover here and right out the gate KOF 14 breaks a tradition by having a vocal opening that intensifies the hype like you wouldn’t believe.

It's a new story with a new KOF, a while after that one KOF tournament where no one seems to know what happened.  A big burly badass Russian billionaire named Antonov buys the rights to The King of Fighters tournament and declares himself the King of Fighters champion by default.  I guess when the previous winners aren’t clear you have to start somewhere.  Like a wrestling federation, Antonov has made a lavish gold championship belt with the new KOF logo for the champion and challenges all fighters to enter the tournament and win it.

KOF Finales: 14

After defeating 8 teams in the tournament, yours is brought to the final challenge with the self-appointed champion, Antonov.  Antonov makes a grand entrance in a big fancy stadium, using pyrotechnics, smoke effects and a jumbo-tron as he rises out of the ground and the crowd goes wild.

It’s an entrance that brings to mind the flashy entrances for WWE wrestlers and I’ve seen people compare Antonov to Triple H.  I can’t confirm anything, but with Raiden being based on Big Van Vader, Gai being based on Kazushi Sakuraba and Ramon being inspired by Tiger Mask, it’s well within the realm of possibility a designer had Triple H or another pro wrestler in mind.

Antonov congratulates the your team on making it this far, but that you have to defeat him and he’s not going to hold back.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Senran Kagura 2 Story Analysis: Chapter 5, Part 2

I hope you like bosses because the second half of chapter 5 really lets the players have it.

The ultimate confrontations are built up with one of Kitajima’s visual novel scenes depicting two characters that have never shared a scene together.
Hanzo is running through the forest after a suspicious individual.  He throws a kunai dead on into the back of their neck, but they used the classic substitution jutsu to escape.  Hanzo turns around and the person he’s chasing is revealed to be none other than Dougen.  Yes, Haruka was not mistaken.  Dougen lived through his youma dying on top of him in chapter 2.  I like to think him being part youma now had a part in that.  I assume Hibari and Haruka warned everyone about Dougen and everyone shared their information offscreen because Hanzo knows who Dougen is.  Being the head of one of the most prestigious good shinobi academies probably entitles him to enemy information as well, I suppose.

This is an interesting confrontation, not just because of their alignment with different shinobi factions, but because of their skills.  Dougen has been shown to use trickery and mind control, but now he’s being confronted by Hanzo, who has been well-established as a legend.  Even retired he is feared by evil shinobi and earning his respect is considered a high honor for good shinobi.  As such, you can probably tell where this is going.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Senren Kagoora 2 Story Analisis, Chapter Last

Asuka's friends fight the youma guys and they win and Asuka fights Cookie Monster and she wins and Cookie Monster makes bugs and monsters and they're scary and they fight Naraku, but then Bebe-tan comes in and makes them stop fighting

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Senran Kagura 2 Story Analysis: Chapter 5, Part 1

We now arrive at the final chapter.  After a rollercoaster of character development and vague hints at the bigger picture, everything starts to come together and work toward the conclusion.  Nowhere is that more prominent than the opening.  Chapter 3 opened by introducing us to Kagura, chapter 4 opened with some insight into her character and chapter 5 starts with the full story from an unlikely source: Kiriya.  After harshly telling his students that he can’t tell them more than necessary, this opening shows a change of heart from his perspective.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Senran Kagura 2 Story Analysis: Chapter 4

In a parallel to the previous chapter, chapter 4 opens with another glimpse to the origins of Kagura.  Since by this point we have a better idea of who she is, there’s no need for a cryptic scroll to tell us.  The game lets us see for ourselves as Kagura looks into a river and vague memories from her past go through her head.

For over 900 years Kagura has been reincarnated several times and has known many people that have traveled with her on her youma-slaying quest, but she only vaguely remembers them in bits and pieces.  She can’t even remember their names.  She has had to say goodbye to many people she’s cared for and can only grasp fleeting memories of them, a fate that will apparently happen with Naraku as well.

The only particularly consistent memory she has is of someone smiling at her in total darkness, but she doesn’t let any of it get to her and interfere with her mission.  She knows what she was born into the world to do.  Supposedly, at least.  Without even knowing, Kagura sheds a tear as she thinks about her friends, showing that no matter how dedicated to her cause or how detached she looks, she’s still a person and can feel lonely.  Her immortality is ultimately a curse, accelerated further for her because of this mission she must do.  It is a very well-done visual novel segment that establishes the kind of life this tragic figure has had to live.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Senran Kagura 2 Story Analysis: Chapter 3

This is it people.  The true beginning.  After two chapters to set things up, chapter 3 is where the primary plot of Senran Kagura 2 begins, and the game lets you know it.  Just like the first chapter, chapter 3 opens with a poetic scroll reading, except this time it’s not about the shinobi, but rather some sort of powerful entity known only as Kagura.



That is very clearly Ikaruga!

What Kagura is in exact terms isn’t fully explained, but the scroll does give some of the basic ideas.  Kagura is the the bane of all youma and all shinobi look up to her power, which I assume is the game’s way of implying the Kagura rank in the versus games without going into technicalities.  She is “a flower with a fleeting lifespan and with the blood of youma it will bloom.”  I think the flower they’re supposed to be referring to and the one the game keeps showing is the red “tsubaki” flower, also known as the camellia flower. In Japan the tsubaki represents divinity as well as perishing with grace, both of which play into Kagura’s character.
And, if you’re actually paying attention, the scroll also says that Kagura is a “Senran Kagura.”

The word “Senran” isn’t a real word.  It’s a combination of the kanji for “brandish” and “war”.  Kagura is of course a type of traditional Japanese dance.  In this instance, XSEED translated Senran Kagura as “Shining Revolution”, which works because she is a “moment of light that flashes in battle”, much like how shinobi shine their brightest before their lives come to an end in battle.

So now that we know what Senran is supposed to mean, let’s stop misusing the word like it refers to the characters.

The poetic dialogue explains what Kagura is without actually explaining what Kagura is.  The real explanation doesn’t happen until later.  It’s not so much for some kind of twist, but for a replay bonus.  Once you know what Kagura is (or at least have a general guess as the game goes on), the opening scroll makes more sense.  Not knowing is also part of the player engagement, as we’ll see later.

To start off with some suspense, the scroll is followed-up by a cutscene in which a girl named Naraku is carrying a little girl in her arms, running from a pack of armored figures known only as the youma generals.  If Naraku knew what to call them, she must’ve been running from them for some time.

Right away the cutscene shows there’s something unique about the youma generals.  All of them attack Naraku in formation with ninja speed, even visibly injuring her and drawing the only bit on onscreen blood ever in the entire franchise.  Youma are supposed to be mindless, raging monsters, so seeing them synchronize like that tells us that they’re not ordinary youma.  It also shows that Naraku is one hell of a protector.  There are 10 of them and she has been fending them all off with her hands full!

 But that’s only a glimpse.  Before that plot can begin, the rest of the characters need to meet her.  It’s road trip time!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Senran Kagura 2 Story Analysis: Chapter 2

Before it really begins, chapter 2 ties up some loose ends with its opening mission specifically titled “Hebijo’s Loose Ends.”  Asuka sneaks into the Hebijo training ground to find Homura.  Remember the Super Hidden Ninpo scroll?

That is hilarious in a meta sense because I don’t think anyone remembered.  This is the first time in the entire franchise the scrolls are mentioned after the big battle with Hebijo.  Players and perhaps even Kitajima got so invested in the characters, epic battles and curveballs that the plot device that made it happen became nearly irrelevant.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Senran Kagura 2 Story Analysis: Chapter 1

In my review of Senran Kagura 2 back in 2015, I praised its story, but I don’t think I detailed just how good it is.  Every Senran Kagura game has at least a decent story, but as much as I might nitpick, I would go as far as to say Senran Kagura 2 is Yukinori Kitajima’s magnum opus.  It is a How To guide on writing a good story and I refer to it a lot when it comes to character development, atmosphere, genuine cuteness, drama, consistent themes and character dichotomy, among other things.  The same can be said about the original game too, but Senran Kagura 2 has the addition of being a sequel and thus has an even more extensive list to refer to, like how to build on series establishments, how to please longtime fans without pandering and how to address previous shortcomings.  It takes everything that has made Senran Kagura so good and polished it into one of my favorite stories of all time and my 2015 game of the year.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way.  Some people brush off the story entirely or call it decent at best.  Some people play it before Senran Kagura Burst as if the big 2 on the box isn’t there.  Others simply say that it is written around a mundane part of the human anatomy.

I think the story deserves a closer look than that.  As a story buff, I have a lot to sing praises about.  I've played a lot of games with different stories and settings, but few have satisfied me quite as much as the Senran Kagura games.  Instead of simply summarizing what makes Senran Kagura 2’s story so good, I think it's best to analyze each individual story element of the game’s five chapters and why they all come together so well.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

King of Fighters Retrospective Bonus Round: KOF: Maximum Impact

We’ve gone over the main King of Fighters titles in my long retrospective, but there is still some ground to cover.  The King of Fighters has had some spin-offs, the most prominent being The King of Fighters: Maximum Impact and its sequel, Maximum Impact 2 (bafflingly renamed KOF 2006 in America).  These were the first King of Fighters games to be made specifically for the PS2 and utilized full 3D characters and environments long before KOF 14.  I remember seeing advertisements in magazines and was skeptical.  It isn’t in the series colorful 2D style, the story is completely unrelated to the main games, there were no teams and there was Mortal Kombat’s not-that-well-received transition to 3D around that time.  For years I would forget the Maximum Impact games existed, but after getting my hands on them, I think they’re worth giving a fair shake.