Metal Gear SurVives!

Metal Gear Survive, what a weird thing to happen. If this is the way Konami intends to get into fans’ graces, they’re way out of touch. A Metal Gear like zombie survival game could have done well with people, thou at this point the whole theme of the game is late to the party. Of course the game got a hatestorm against it, but I’m betting most of it has to do with Konami rather than the game itself.

Zombies in Metal Gear is really nothing special. We already had magic, cyborgs, burning space Soviets, magic AI from the 1970’s that sang and weird ass parasites that gave superpowers and gave humanity language. One could say that the puppets in Metal Gear Solid V were essentially zombies as well, so this whole this has a precedence in the series.

The whole thing really is par for the course at this point, really.

I doubt any fan of the franchise expected this sort of motion from Konami. Looking at the comments and reactions, most seem to have expected some sort of generic wargame where you would play as a member of MSF or the like, while others were expecting a Metal Gear remake. I bet staff at Konami were on some good shit when they came up with the concept for SurviVal. Must be leftovers from Kojima’s stash.

I can’t even be mad at the rocket-propelled arrow you see in the trailer, it’s stupid and useless thing. Just par for the course. However, it is apparent that SurviVe does reuse assets from MGSV, which should be expected but still manages to feel a bit cheap. As long as they can deliver a solid product, I guess.

That begs the question Who are the intended audience? I can see Konami wanting to sell this to the core fans, but they’re more or less completely hating the company at this point and would’ve called whatever product they had cranked out  shit no matter what. Unless said product would’ve been exceptional in their view. Zombie fans have become jaded due to the amount of media about them out there. Survival games are the most mass consumed genre right now, and we can thank Minecraft for that. In that sense, this seems to be a survival game using the Metal Gear name to further lift itself to the surface.

I did say that Konami would produce more Metal Gear games in the future, but never said they’d be any good. If they have more ideas under their belt how to win over the hearts of their fans, Konami really needs to go back to the basics with each of their franchises, and release that 3Ds Bomberman Hudson Soft had finished but not published. This sort of experimenting should left for later. Then again, this is no Pachinko: Akumajou Dracula Erotic Violence. Yes, that’s a thing.

But for now, it’s better to sit back with a good cup of hot stuff and enjoy the banter that’s going on. Konami has already received the initial feedback, again up to them consider how they want to proceed with things. It might even be that the revision done to Japanese gambling laws that in preparations for the upcoming Olympics may just force Konami to try concentrating on video game development more… unless their sports simulator section providers more dough.

As a sidenote, despite I enjoy the occasional slot games, goddammit Japanese slots are loud and flashy as all hell.

Review of the Month; Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2

Few years back I kicked my review category on with Castelvania: Lords of Shadow. For better or worse, I’ve been trying to keep that up. I’ve tried to steer away from games as of late, but this has been on the backburner for some time now. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2.

To give a fair go with the game, I went with the 360 version. This way I’ve kept the sub-series on same console to notice what has been changed without resorting to wonder if possible problems are port exclusive. Another problem that I personally have with sequels and their reviews is that more often than not you can refer to the first game’s review to get the basics down. That is unless the sequel shakes things up a lot, like how Super Mario Bros. 2 stood apart from its predecessor. CLoS2, for better or worse, has the same core gameplay as with the first game.

Rather than prefacing Castlevania as a series like I did last time, I’ll try to keep this tight and compact.

Unlike the first game in the subseries, Lords of Shadow 2 tries to replicate the action adventure style gameplay Metroid, La-Mulana and Symphony of the Night are known for. Metroid Prime managed to translate that rather well into 3D, whereas CLoS2 kind of misses it just by a bit. The maps are connected to each other in more or less cohesive way, but what stands out the most is the overall visual and stage design. As the game is split between Past and Present segments, they feel very different from each other visually and tonally. For past the designs and architecture follows the same grand, overdesigned look the visual style the series is known for and it fits just fine. Dracula’s Castle is known to change itself and is a living being here, so seeing how some of the architectural choices don’t make a lick of sense can be attributed to the twisted nature of the castle itself.

The Present segments however suffer from making absolutely no sense in how they were designed. Its videogames, it doesn’t need to make sense, but when you have a bottomless chasm under your bridge that’s supposed to be a driveway, you just stop and look how none of it makes any sense. The architecture follows similar grand style most of the time, as you’d expect, but then suddenly you have almost minimalistic spots that exist simply to add an area between two main ones with a puzzle for the player to solve.

If the game was focused in either Past or Present only, it would’ve been a more cohesive piece with overall better stage design. But either of that matters very little if there’s not much to do on the maps. Designing a 3D environment to be similarly explorable to its 2D counterpart, most often camera angles and obfuscated paths are used to conceal collectibles. There’s less a wonder if finding a way towards something and more just sense that you were tricked not to notice the thing you were looking for.

The graphics are fine, nothing exceptional and do their job. There’s some glitches here and there, but nothing too notable. There’s nothing much to stand apart from what we’ve seen during the last generation of games.

The controls are as you’d expect, most of the time. Dracula moves just fine, targeting is semi-automatic and only few ugly spots here and there have their heads out. There’s no change from the first game in overall terms of controls, and that carries to the platforming. Much like previously, you only have certain spots on the walls or wherever where you can move to. It’s as restrictive as ever. This sort of platforming is tiresome, as the only challenge comes from the occasional timing obstacles. It’s not fun, just a chore you don’t mind until you’re going through the same area for the Nth time because you missed something the last times.

Action gameplay in Lords of Shadow 2 follows the same lines of its predecessor to the point that most attack animations Dracula uses look like they were lifted straight up without any modifications. So sure, the core fighting mechanics are pretty much the same. You have Direct Attack, which you’ll be using most of the time as it packs more punch than Area Attacks, which feels more or less useless in this game. There’s little reason to use Area Attacks, as they do not stagger the enemies nor they function as actually controlling the fight area.

In CLoS we had Light and Shadow magic for healing and heavy damage, and CLoS2 has a similar system with Void Sword and Chaos Claws. Void Sword is weakest and quick, but replenishes Health, Chaos Claws are slower and hit close, but cause the biggest damage, and Shadow whip is just somewhere between. In previous game you could mix and match between the weapons, but the CLoS2 limits you more this time.

Previously you could get Light and Shadow magic just fine, which allowed for a more free action. In CLoS2, you have a Concentration meter that fills as you successfully combo enemies. If you defeat them while the meter is full, the enemies will yield replenishing bits for both Void and Chaos. The meter of course empties straight away if you get hit. It tries to encourage the player to play well, but more often than not it can be completely ignored. That’s a problem that CLoS didn’t have.

If you choose to ignore the system and stick mostly with the whip and only use either Void or Chaos weapons when absolutely necessary, the system falls to shambles. Perhaps this is why Dracula can replenish health from enemies as a Finisher, so that players don’t need to rely too much on the Void Sword.

There’s parry system that’s pretty weakly implemented, and it’s something that you just need to use. It’s something that’s not really that intuitive, as the action is not really fast. It looks and should feel fast, but it’s walking instead of running. One example is how the enemies sign their Unblockable attacks with a red ring. First I immediately dashed from their way, only for the enemy to home in with their attack. It takes a solid two or three seconds for the actual attack to start, as if the game is saying HEY, I’M GOING TO DO A BIG ATTACK LOOK OUT and it’s extremely jarring. You don’t really control the fighting or dictate its pace, the game controls what you’re able to do and how.

Nevertheless, when things fall into place, the fighting is enjoyable and upgrading the skills is decent fun. Personally, it’s not about really learning the game’s system, but dumbing down reaction time and trying to give a damn about how it works. It’s not like in Metal Gear Rising or Bayonetta, where you can dictate the pace of the fight and need decent reactions to play well, even when the possibility is in there.

CloS2 still fucks things up. There are sequences that serve no other purpose than to put more length between the game’s segments. There are numerous forced stealth sequences, of which one actually makes sense in-universe early on, but when you’re forced to do a stealth sequence against Pan’s brother Agreus only to reach the area you fight him, you just have to groan and ask was that sequence necessary. These forced sequences are the weakest part of the game alongside the platforming, and most if not all of them should’ve been removed. They bog down the game’s pace and overall atmosphere. The aforementioned Agreus’ stealth section is not hard by any means, it’s just annoying as hell.

The music is… well, it fits. It’s very atmospheric, but not one tune gets stuck in your head. It’s in the exact same way as its predecessors. I’m not even sure if there’s a big difference between Past and Present maps’s music, it serves so well as BGM. Like with the first one, it’s nice to listen in-game, but it’s not something I’d buy a CD for.

Storywise, Lords of Shadow 2 is a mess. It relies Mirror of Fate, an in-between game, to set most things up with the titular mirror and characters. The game’s not necessary thing to play, as CLoS2 sums it all up. It’s your usual Castlevania bullshit really, nothing spectacular and serves as a basic excuse to whip some monsters and chew down necks. However, I did notice that the story forces itself too much on top of the gameplay at times, making it more or less a chore to sit through. There were few times I simply skipped a scene because I didn’t want to sit on my ass for five minutes to see Dracula discussing some shit. The goal was marked is marked on the minimap anyway, so it’s not like this game with adventure as its main part will let you get lost.

Outside these, there are some notable nitpicks to have. First thing is the stupid pseudo-fanserivce lines that Dracula makes against the Order soldiers. Y’know, Die monster and all that. Internet memes do not make good script. In addition, all the major enemies keep spouting their lines over and over and over, which ends up being annoying as hell. It would have done good to either have them yell basic attack yells instead of talking, have far more lines they say at scripted points or just put far more time between when they talk. In fighting games the same yells over and over doesn’t become irritating as the fights are less than one minute overall time, whereas in these games the scripted fights can last fifteen minutes or more, at worst.

The length of the game is about the same as its predecessor. It can be beaten in about week or so, less so if you skip all the scenes and know what you’re doing. Then the time falls sometime between a day and thre days. The major only major differences between the two are the changes in the combat mechanics and the adventure aspect with CLoS2. Because of both of these, this sequel feels less tight, and the design lacks same sort of directional polish that CloS had.

Do you see a problem in this review? It’s that it refers a lot back to the original game. It’s pretty much the same game in new pants.

Perhaps the game needs to be faulted in playing things too safe. CLoS shook things up, which made it one of the most selling Castlevania games and most of the fans absolutely hated it, but CLoS2 seems to have lost that. Whether or not Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is better game than its predecessor is mostly up to opinion. While I have always felt a slight yearning to return to the first Lords of Shadow just to complete it again, I don’t have the same feeling with this game. Lords of Shadow 2 is kinda there, wanting to be something but never really telling what or in what way. Much like a lot of games of its era, it’s not really all that great, but it’s not bad either. It’s a mediocre game that has Castlevania slapped unto it, but still being better 3D Castlevania than those without Lords of Shadow slapped to its name.

Be aware of the practices

How often you make a purchase decision based on politics? Or rather, are you aware of events and practices surrounding the product you are buying, and thus taking these into consideration when purchasing a product?

For example, back in 2010 H&M (Yes, the clothes retail chain) had a factory fire in Bangladeshi, where 21 workers died and 50 were hurt. The reason for this fire, like many other fire in clothing factories in Bangladeshi, is the poor safety standards. All the clothing companies, including H&M, are well aware of the problems in these factories but simply don’t care, and their auditions usually pass just fine. What do they care if a factory burns down? For them it’s easier and cheaper to set up a new one and workers are aplenty around. But that’s not the worst thing about this factory fire. It’s been reported that the fire exists were blocked and fire extinguishing equipment were inefficient. Then you have H&M essentially using child labour in Uzbekistan for cotton collecting.

As a consumer you can make a political decision to either ignore these points, or take them into consideration when purchasing clothes. Companies care for data and sales above all else, and hitting them with decision of no-purchase hits them the hardest. In reality, one person deciding not to support them means jack shit. There is power in the crowd, and actions of a crowd are heavier and more meaningful than actions of one. That said, one person can inspire a crowd for an action, but it’s still the crowd that validates that one person in the end.

How many were aware of Konami’s treatment of their employees and still bought Metal Gear Solid V? Hardcore fans of the franchise were most likely more than well aware of all the stuff that has been going behind the scenes, and with Kojima leaving many have said that the franchise is dead to them. I am sure there are those who chose not support Konami’s practices and refused to purchase it, but I’m sure the game has made tons of money at this point.

In the middle of the summer reports came through that a Nintendo employee was bullied and harassed one of their deaf employees to the point of her attempting a suicide by consuming sleeping pills in a car. An ambulance was never called to the scene, because Nintendo was afraid of the press they might get. After this, the employee was forced to quit her job, and her boss never got any sort of punishment for the harassments. The reason you may not have heard of this is because Nintendo effectively silenced the media and tried cover things up on the Internet by censorship and paid individuals who knew how to convert discussion elsewhere.

The question is not really if you want to support these practices, but rather how you can make your agenda work the best. With Konami and Nintedo, the agenda could be to stop them treating their employees like shit, and the enforcing method would be not to purchase any of their products. Similarly, refusing to purchase H&M clothes would loudly state that their production practices don’t fly.

On the other hand, if you decide to concentrate only on the product, the background information doesn’t really matter. After all, in a perfect world the product itself is what should matter, as its producer would produce it with the most ethical methods possible. An aware customer would naturally know these already and balance his purchases accordingly.

A customer should not have a need to peek behind the curtains. All the production, all the decision making and everything that happens between inception of the product and when it’s delivered to the shelve should not be the costumer’s concern. However, I can’t argue against open policy all companies should have, as corporations tend to act highly stereotypically when it comes to achieving profits. For example, some hamburger joints may have the cheapest buns, meat and veggies and sell them at a premium price. That’s not exactly fair.

Being too close to a product production may hamper your will to purchase a product as well. When you see how things may be handled haphazardly or in a way that disrespects both the customer and the workers, there is a need to stop for a moment and ponder whether or not you want to support this company. There may be other reasons that trump over that, like localisation of a product. Still, being too close to it may burn and wear you out too fast, especially if you’re the producer yourself. The product itself is never at fault, its an non-sentient and non-living object most of the time. Discussion about cattle is a whole different thing.

Each product has its merit despite its production. Well, at least most products. In case of games, you should be able to balance out the background you know about the companies with the game itself. Often that not, the product itself speaks loud on its quality and whether or not you want to put your money into it. We all have our own standards, even if we are willing to compromise with them on a regular basis.

Are we honest to ourselves and to others when it comes to brand loyalty?

First things first, I’m retconning myself a little bit and awarding last week’s post about Metal Gear designs a Review of the Month status. The name has been changed to reflect this. The reason for this change was that I need to do some additional work.

Then, to the actual post at hand. The now just released trailer for Metal Gear Solid V by Hideo Kojima confirms that the Metal Gear we see in the book photo is indeed in the game. Kojima even makes sure to emphasize that it is also the definitive, ultimate Metal Gear to the point of referencing 2001; Space Odyssey when it whips its sword out.

Absolutely stupid
Absolutely stupid in the context of the overall series

Whatever the author’s intent Kojima had for the series is rather blatant in the trailer; only Solid series and the entries he worked on matter and are canon in his eyes. Let’s emphasize that; in Kojima’s eyes. Currently, he is no longer associated with Konami or the Metal Gear franchise. Whatever he states and thinks is no longer relevant to the franchise, much like whatever Inafune had through for Mega Man.

For both Mega Man and Metal Gear franchises, the person most famous for them has never been the only person working on them. This is not like with literature, where you often have one author writing these works with the help of the editor, or like with more popular and successful authors, without any editor. There’s a good reason why Tom Clancy’s books became so bloated and fell in quality.

Inafune had less control over Mega Man than Kojima had over Metal Gear. This is mostly because of two things. First, CAPCOM recognized Inafune’s skills when partnering him with people who could fill in whatever Inafune lacked. Look at Mighty Number 9 to see how the game ended up being much less than initially promised when he was all on his own. Minakuchi Engineering did a lot to the franchise, and most fans don’t even realize this.

Secondly, Konami recognised Kojima’s superstar status after Metal Gear Solid. He had been a relative hit after the first Metal Gear and with games that followed, but nothing could really beat the original Metal Gear for whatever reason. This applies to the NES port, especially in the West where absolutely nobody had a MSX. I won’t deny that Kojima’s games have been popular, and that MGSV will most likely be a huge success despite many fans swearing by their mothers’ graves never to touch Konami game after all the drama that has been going down behind the scenes.

There’s basically three different ways to approach any product out there; ignore everything surrounding it and concentrate on the product itself, concentrate on the provider and follow his products ignoring their overall quality, and concentrate on the owner of the product and whatever they may be doing.

The first is most beneficial to the consumer. After all, the product is what the consumer enjoys and it needs to deliver without any excuses. If it doesn’t, it’s not the individual who is responsible but provider as a whole. A problem with this approach may be that it ignores whatever the company does to produce the products. For example, the question of child labour and inadequate working environments with H&M’s factories may turn people to go alternatives.

The second approach is the classic rockstar approach. Whatever they do is like the word of God, they can do no harm to you. This idolising is extremely harmful, because the product doesn’t really matter, just the person bringing it.

More often than not, these two are more or less combined when it comes to general consumers. However, the third one enters here with companies that do not have a face as their representatives. Coca-Cola is one, and another could be car companies. Of course, if you’re really deep into the car design scene, you may know the teams and individual designers who have headed some of the most popular cars or the most expensive ones. Then again, it wasn’t too uncommon to see people rooting for a game company simply because they deemed their products the best things out there.

Company and brand loyalties play a big part in all these, thou rockstar loyalty is a thing. An informed consumer usually is aware of all three and wages if the product is worth their money and time based on these matters. However, human subjectivity is a bitch and we all knowingly practice double thinking. While we preach to others about proper treatment of animals or people, we are willingly ignoring or downplaying the negative effects they have.

I’m not saying that we are awful people. I’m saying that we act human. We wilfully ignore certain things, but if we can be honest to ourselves, even if it comes into such things as buying things, we could find certain kind of peace. Accepting that, perhaps we all could more informed on multiple views and arguments, and then base our decisions on those while still giving chances for those things we don’t agree on.

But that would require effort, and you know how hard effort is.

Different take on customers; People love clowns

Every hundred posts we take a different stance on customers and industry. Except something different from the usual.

One thing that is absolutely stupid with customers is their inability to realize who owns rights nowadays. It is the person who pays for them. In the creative industries, more often than not the company owns what the people produce. This is largely a standard in the creative industries. Movie companies own the rights to the movies they produce as they pay for the writers and directors to make them these products. This applies especially to video game companies, where they employ people to create these games. It’s their damn job. It has always been about money and it will always be about the money. You own what you pay for. Except Steam users.

People are saying Konami is taking Kojima’s baby away. That is nothing short of horse shit. Kojima may have been the creator behind Metal Gear and yet you need to remember that it has been a job for him. He did it because he was employed by a company to make games for them to sell to the customer, not for himself. If you want to own what you do, you make it yourself. Now Kojima has all the possibilities to exercise his freedom to put  a new company and have free hands to do whatever he ever wishes. Of course, it may end up being absolute shit, as any and every creative person needs to be reined in to cut the excess far and rot off from the product and fry it to perfection.

The whole recent thing about Konami’s and Hideo Kojima’s downfall is an example where there is an idol worshipping cult following one man and his wish to make money on the expense of these cultists. These people have been sucking Kojima’s dick to the extent that Kojima has been waging a power struggle with Konami, that much is evident from the recent events. It’s easy to see how Metal Gear games have been eating most of the budget Konami has been able to sustain, and seeing how Konami almost became Kojima the Company, it’s no wonder either one would’ve fallen.

Do Kojima’s fans even know what he does? He has been mainly the idea guy behind the products that carry his name, the guy who directs and writes them. He has been in the role that is essentially a project leader and less the person who sits down and makes the game, i.e. programmer most of his life. Don’t be mistaken, his contribution is important and vital, but he would never had the products without the people who actually got their hands dirty with the games. Then of course you can question his writing, as it is cliché as hell and extremely derivative from Hollywood movies. Of course, you can even question if the Solid series is even all that good when you have hours upon hours of FMV, a prime example being Metal Gear Solid 4 with its laughably small gameplay time compared to the insanely long movies. It’s no wonder his ego has grown across the years with the fanboys backing him up every time, while other projects have been killed in order to save money for Kojima’s next brain art. Konami could release that ready Bomberman game and make good money, but it seems that at the time they didn’t care about that franchise.

What is even more stupid is that the fans seem to think nobody else could do a Metal Gear game, which is absolutely laughable idea. There are four examples of Metal Gear games that have little to none to do with Kojima and all have been taken in with great acceptance. Snake’s Revenge was first sequel to the MSX Metal Gear and was met with high praise. Fans have done pretty good job by rewriting history with the Internet, but they don’t stand a chance against people with memory, much like how Zelda fans want to rewrite Zelda II as some sort of awful game and a black sheep of the series, despite it being a huge success. It’s only the younger fans in both series who are pushing this kind propaganda, because that doesn’t fit their world view. The AC!D games had nothing to do with Kojima, and despite their different gameplay nature they sold relatively well considering they were on PSP. Portable OPS was the first Metal Gear game that was met with incredible hatred from the fans because Kojima’s name wasn’t attached to it, showing that they are easily swayed if one person isn’t associated with it. The game tried to shove home console Metal Gear on handheld and suffered from it, and its follow-up Peace Walker is actually less a Metal Gear game than its own thing. This brings is to Rising and how the series has changed with the time. Every game series, outside certain exceptions, have changed significantly throughout the years and will continue to change. There are times when new franchises are made under the same overall brand name, much like how Solid is different from base Metal Gear, so is Rising from Solid.

If you want to talk about game series that have sucked after the original creator has left them, consider the following; game industry sees constant staff changes. A creator may be programmer early on, but later kicked up to become a producer, thus having less to do with the actual production of the games than their overall visage. Miyamoto is a prime example of this. We know of his interviews that he made some coding in Super Mario Bros., but after the he most likely never has touched a line of cone, but has been directing them. Nevertheless, Mario games without Miyamoto’s involvement have been more or less big successes, especially the Game Boy Mario games.

Metroid is a series where you had the original creator killed by a car accident and was given to a whole different company to produce a 3D Metroid. We can argue whether or not the Metroid Prime series is better or worse, but we can’t dispute that at least the first game managed to deliver top notch 3D Metroid experience.

Then you have Mega Man, a series that had its original creator not even being involved after the initial design phase. Inafune has stated that Mega Man as a concept and design was ready before he was brought in to take it to the end. Inafune has been the person working longest with the series, and yet the most important changes to the series and its success should go to those who have worked under him. Then you of course have Minakuchi Engineering and Inti-Creates, completely different companies from CAPCOM, making excellent Mega Man games with Inafune in the producer’s seat. Minakuchi Engineering did better job with Mega Man IV and V on the GameBoy than CAPCOM’s own staff with Mega Man 5-8, or Inti-Creates with 9&10. Of course, people love Inafune and were willing to give thousands for his totally original piece of work that would have been produced anyway, and it ends up looking like crap.

Devil May Cry is an example, where the high staff changed after the first game, and then proceeded to make the best games in the franchise. DmC by Ninja Theory is the exact opposite, where people who didn’t give two cents about the customers or about the franchise got free hands to butcher it. You can mostly put that on Inafune and his wanting to have Western developers to make CAPCOM games. Thank God that Irregular Hunter X FPS game never came to be.

But of course, consumers want to idolise those people and think they are their friends. Of course they act like they’re the customers’ best buddies, because that’s good PR. They don’t care about you, they never had. They only care that they can keep their work and get your money. It’s business, it’s work. You have to make a living. It’s easier to become superstar developer with immense amount of fans looking up to you, as this give you leverage over the company you work for. A cleaver customer would be able to see through all this and look at the product itself rather than the clown marketing it to you. Fan boys are willing to dish their money into anything these clowns slab their name on, even if the product is laughably poor and that’s just sad. Of course, you are completely free to enjoy poorly made products, nobody is taking that away from you.

It’s a common kind of psychological phenomena, where the customer thinks a company or an individual is their friend because they make speeches or advertisement that promote a product in a way that hits the spot with them. It’s a well planned show, a rehearsed one. The words are chosen carefully as are the expressions and movements. It’s a show. All they care is to make a product good enough to make that living.

But of course, the customer rarely can even make a difference between a designer and a designer. Ask them what design is, and the chances are they’re either making shit up or call it art. Of course you can ask them to define something more specific, like what is product design, visual design, production design, service design and so on. Design is a mess, so it’s no wonder only those who work in the industries can get what design in itself encompasses. This of course has the trouble of customers and companies making shit up like responsible design, which is more or less a mindset that should be included in any design than its own field.

Outside graphic and visual designers, it’s more or less uncommon to see the designer to do the actual work himself. In production, like with games or movies, you have loads of people working on the product and you should never underestimate the amount of work these people do. It’s a collaborative effort through and through, and it is a travesty to see one person getting all the credit. But hey, why should the customer care? All they want their product and to have nice clown to love.

I’ll be honest; it feels a bit weird to “celebrate” 500th post like this, but it’s already a tradition. Next time; Nintendo NX and how Nintendo is doing on the rights tracks again.

Collection reviews

I was looking into the Metal Gear Solid The Legacy Collection recently out interest, and noticed how this title has a review section at various sites. Generally speaking, the collection has gained positive reviews, which we can openly put under question due to the current unfolding event with the game press.

Nevertheless, most of the positive reviews seem to come from the idea It has Metal Gears, so it’s automatically good. This rather horrible way to review anything, and in a collection it should be asked how such a product should be reviewed.

Collections are peculiar things as they’re a composite entity. Collections like Mega Man Anniversary collection combine games from different consoles and generations, and seeing these games have already been reviewed, often many times over, there’s very little reason to give the collected games any sort of larger review.

Thus, perhaps collections should be reviewed based on how well the games have been managed to be ported to a system and how faithfully they function in contrast to the originals. I have to say that Mega Man Home Page seems to be an excellent reflection of this idea, where individual games have already been reviewed. Rather, the more technical aspects and additions are taken into notice. In contrast, Game Trend’s review on the aforementioned MGC Legacy Collection is lacking; it does not go into the function of the games or how well they are represented. It’s evident that the reviewer (or the editor) takes it as a clarity that everything works just like they should. There’s a mention how the Legacy Collection is largely redundant to those who own the HD collection, but no actual comparison between the original releases and the HD versions is made. No wonder the gaming press is in distraught when reviews become marketing speeches. The cons in the Legacy Collection given by the Game Trend are measly; lack of certain portable games, the added books and such are not enough reason to buy the collection if you already had the pre-existing HD collection and MGS and its VR Missions are digital download only. Only the last bit is truly a con, whereas the rest are nitpicks; a better con would be that it even exists when there’s the MGS HD collection. Perhaps it would’ve been better to reprint those and add something else to the mix for the new customers, but Konami knows how devoted the Metal Gear Solid fanbase is. They’ve offered game ports on a tin platter and asked gold as its price, and the fans have willingly shoved money on they faces to own these games third time over.

There’s also a question whether or not there is even a reason to review collections. Collections are seemingly for people who missed out the games originally, especially in the case of long running franchises. However, it seems that often than not it’s the hardcore fans that buy the collections. Oh the days we live in. Back in the day when I was young, the fans were purists who wanted to play the games as they were originally intended on their original hardware with genuine physical diskettes/cartridges. Now it seems they are content to buy every and all releases the producers put out.

Collections and rereleases make sense in that they’re comparatively cheap to produce than full fledged new products and you always have your fans purchasing the same game over and over again. There are people who bought Metal Gear Solid 3’s every version, from the two PS2 releases and both HD releases to the damn 3DS version. I won’t ask why, because hardcore fans will gobble up all and everything that’s pushed out. There are times when a developer decides to go all out and actually ports the game to modern consoles properly. Sometimes they just slap the base rom on a disc and let the console run it through emulation, a thing Nintendo basically did with Super Mario All-Stars on the Wii. It still sold stupid amounts of units, enough to be completely sell out and warrant a reprint later on.

With modern day console stores allowing the consumers to purchase almost any game from past to present for relatively cheap price. Sometimes far too expensive, when you take notice the age and quality of certain games. Are collected games slowly becoming irrelevant when you can put all the games in a series to a digital store for fifty cents each? No, there will always be a place for cheap collections for the larger market and special collectors’ editions with bells and whistles attached.

Review; Metal Gear Rising; REVENGEANCE

I’m not particularly a huge Metal Gear fan. I started with the NES games, and when I was a kid I really liked the concept and the overall mechanics of Snake’s Revenge. It’s really a better game than either NES or MSX Metal Gear, and introduces a few mechanics that became stable in the series, mainly the different phases of Alert. I never really beat any of Metal Gears back then, because I was always more into action games like Mega Man and Battletoads.

Much like for all western Metal Gear fans at the time, Solid was a sort of surprise. We had never heard of Zanzibar land or anything like that. ‘lo and behold, we got something different that we never expected; a sequel to a game we never knew existed. Solid series as a whole is a decent experience, but plagued by the fact that Hideo Kojima really wants to direct movies. Metal Gear Solid games have always been an example of story before gameplay, and that suits a lot of people. Luckily, Metal Gear games don’t suffer as much as Policenauts does from this. In all honesty, I really dislike how MGS games work until 3 and 4, where they ditch the old camera alongside a few new gameplay additions that really should’ve been a part of the first game to begin with.

Cutting down the excess
Now, with Revengeance, the series gets some fresh air from the sneaking it’s known for. It’s a clean slate to begin with. Whatever you think of Metal Gear or Solid series can be left aside. The schema you have about the name Metal Gear won’t apply here. As such, I have hard time grasping why a load of reviewers are putting emphasize on the story or on the lack of boss introduction. Metal Gear games rarely introduced any boss characters prior to the encounter, that was mostly what Solid did. Rising, having more common ground with Final Fight, doesn’t need a complex plot to be good. We get to know what kind of people the boss characters are and where their core motives lie. Actually, it would’ve been interesting to see all of these plot elements removed and the only thing we learn from them is that they’re Desperado operatives and they’re there to kill Raiden, so slice them up. I never expected long-winded speeches about the nature of life or some other philosophical bullshit Solid series is known for. I just wanted to slice these bastards up. Because of this, the story is good and does what it needs to do; sets a frame where it is justified to cut a massive number of bodies into tiny bits. I never gave two cents about MGS games’ plots no matter how hard they tried to push through, and Platinum Games realized that a plot resembling that convoluted mess MGS games have would have gone against the lighting bolt action MGR is.

So, what’s the point then?
The action in Revengeance is what matters, there’s no debating that. I’d lie to you if I said that I didn’t enjoy the gameplay. The controls are responsive, thou some of the mechanics are wonky. For example, the in-game menus are horribly designed and follow little to no logical path outside making it resemble Solid titles. I would have liked to see a more streamlined experience with this, as it makes changing your secondary weapon a pain. It doesn’t help at all that Raiden needs to stand completely still in order to access the weapons menu. I’m sure this was made to avoid players from using recovery item in the middle of a fight, but that could’ve been realized much better.

Anyway, a dedicated button for the weapon change would’ve been in place. As it stands now, the system discourages from using different weapons a bit. I really do like how the secondary weapons have their functions and uses, but you really don’t feel like exploring them over the standard Heavy attack all that much. Sure, the pole weapon is an excellent crowd control tool, the tactical sai basically stuns all UGs and the pincer swords can dish out some incredibly crushing damage, but when you can’t change the weapons on the fly in an action situation, tending to go with one of them or none of them becomes a habit. However, all the three weapons become increasingly useful when you realize that you haven’t upgraded the main sword at all and all enemies are more or less a huge threat in the later levels. I noticed that you can upgrade the weapons on my second playthrough, so secondary weapons became a necessity when dealing with any specialized troops. On top of that, my fight against the Metal Gear Excelsus became an interesting survival story, as everything from that on took 0.1% damage unless I used the pincer swords. I thought that the game was actually hard on Hard, and forced me to rethink my approach for every new enemy and level I was thrown in, but I was just breezing through the game too fast to notice how to access the weapons upgrade menu. To be honest, I enjoyed the game a lot more that way.

Despite all the mentioned, the combat itself is very entertaining, very satisfying and flows just right. Attacks are easy to string to each other, locking unto enemies helps when needed, parrying/blocking is readily available and asks some degree of skill. It just feels right to run through an enemy crowd, slow everything down with the Blade Mode and cut the whole crowd down. It’s even better when you’ve been fighting against an annoying enemy, and you manage to bring it down, engage Blade Mode, cut the energy intestine out, and then proceed to chop the enemy into hundred of itty bitty slices. It’s hard to say much about the combat other than that it works well and it’s fluid. Part of it can be attributed to the Devil May Cry experience the staff has, as most Platinum Games workers worked on CAPCOM titles like Viewtiful Joe and Okami. I do find some of the moves rather unintuitive to do on a Control Stick, so the use of controller’s face buttons for the moves would’ve been preferred.

When you really get down to it, the action has some flaws, but at the final boss battle, the system shines. When you’ve learned the controls and how the game functions, parrying and evading becomes a second nature and you’re able to breeze through it like a wind. That is, if you have learned the controls and are able to anticipate the moves properly.

But it’s a four hour game!
Yet I’ve put some twenty hours into it already. As Revengeance has more common grounds with Streets of Rage, expecting some twenty four hour is misjudging the game. It never overstays its welcome and lasts about the right amount of time to leave you craving just a bit more, just a bit more refinement. The game is repetitious, there’s no denying that, but it never really feels like it due to the most situations being more or less unique until on few later levels. Enemy distribution and locations are just as well thought as you’d expect from a Metal Gear, except here you’re just cutting them down instead of prancing around them. Collectables and such do extend the playtime and add some replayability. That’s not really much, but at least it encourages the player to wander little off from the main road.

The reason this review comes out relatively late is because its frustrating to balance between MGR being good and mediocre. This is because the game itself is like a raw diamond; everything valuable is there, but it’s not properly cut and polished yet. As it is its still valuable, but it would be even more valuable after some work. That said, the mechanics are brilliant and can sell the game by itself, but the rest of the game that surrounding the mechanics is lacking. The shortness of the game stems from this mostly, as levels are short but ever so sweet. It’s the first game in the (hopeful) series, and as such I’d compare it to Super Mario Bros., where the foundation how everything should work was made, but the game didn’t have much other content around it, until SMB2 and SMB3 stepped in, and used the same mechanics to a whole new degree with far more content. I’d imagine that the second MGR will blow this one out of the water. If not, then the devs are seriously lacking in skill.

Contrasting this to the Mega Man X FPS that we were just informed of, MGR is a damn good example of how to use an existing setting and characters without messing with the already established series. It doesn’t demean what Metal Gear Solid is, just like Metal Gear Solid didn’t demean Metal Gear.  I’d say that it’s best to wait the game to drop into 40€ region, if you haven’t bought it already. Nevertheless of all the shortcomings I keep returning to the game time after time just to beat the final boss, simply because on the harder difficulties it’s really fun boss to play against, especially when you fully understand how to dodge, block and parry. Revengeance might be a flawed and short game, but it’s still above the all mediocre stuff that gets churned nowadays. I’m more eager to see what the sequel is like rather what DLC will be released. The word that would describe the game the best would be Fast. Fast action, fast stages, fast game that’s over a bit too early. It’s like this review; it could have a lot more things in it, and ultimately even after long period of making it falls short.

Quantity vs Quality with current games

The ration of quantity and quality is really messed up in the video game industry if you stop to think about it. The quality of games we have now is so disproportional as we’re getting less games each games and their quality is nothing to brag about at all. Pretty much all the games we’ve had this year were nothing but the same song sang three times around. None of them broke the status quo. Not even the Project Rainfall games had any impact, and while the audience got their RPGs, they impacted very little on the later days of the Wii. I admit that I was somewhat swayed by the hype, but I do enjoy Xenoblade a lot and I still recommend long-time players to give them a good look, unlike Kirby’s Epic Yarn, which is a completely awful game through and through.

Let’s look at the NES era. Companies had to agree to release a maximum of six games a year. Nowadays that might sound like madness as developing games takes anywhere between two years to six years. Personally I’ve always been aghast of these developing cycles. Back in the day companies like Konami had to open sub-companies like ULTRA GAMES in order to release more games. As a wee lad I never associated Konami with Turtles because of this.

ULTRA also released such small games like Metal Gear and Mission Impossible

During the NES era the developers had more limitations overall, so of course we assume that they can make greater, better and faster games. The crude truth is that the very same reason actually is actuallykilling the quality.

Nintendo’s tight hold on the released games in North America and Europe was a direct result of the Second Video Game Crash. Companies could’vepushed out a game in a week or two if needed, which would’ve oversaturrated of the market just like in the Atari era . Nintendo’s grip and the seal of quality meant something at that time, as it guaranteed that the industry wouldn’t face asimilar downfall again. It was necessary and it was for the better. These games needed to be good enough to get through. Exceptions always exist, but a lot of games changed the status quo in some way. Super Mario Bros., Metal Gear, Contra, Mega Man 2, Gradius, The Legend of Zelda, Battletoads, Ghost n’ Goblins, Golf, Super Mario Bros. 3, Castlevania… a lot of these games broke the mould in some form and went against the overall winds of the industry. People loved them. As a console the NES was against how past machines had conducted their business and wanted to offer something different. The same can be said of GameBoy, which kept itself very simple and straightforward throughout its iterations up to the GameBoy Colour. As such, in comparison we had a lot of games that were high quality and yet there was a high possibility to develope more, if Nintendo had allowed it. Nowadays nobody truly controls what gets released, and none of the games are even trying or aiming to break to thestatus quo. New Super Mario Bros. managed to do that on the DS, but it won’t happen again with the Wii U as none of the Mario games are trying to change anything; they’re the same bleep bloop sounds with the same candy graphics and same floaty controls. There’s no new content, no evolution and no refinement. The same applies to practically every game within the last fifteen years.

In raw numbers and disregarding any comparisons, games are more developed and released nowadays than previously. There’s a higher number of sales and more people are buying games, and yet the industry is imploding. The quality of modern games across the board, while selling more in numbers, is far lower. If we do take everything in notion, the macro economics are completely different. SONY can’t afford to spend tens of thousands on console development, Microsoft is aiming for video and music services more than games with their next “console” and Nintendo is making loss with every console sold that is not a Wii.

You might be asking Why is the quality so low if we have more money, more development time and more games released every year? The answer is that nearly all games stick to the same mould and don’t even try to add something new and change the scene. This is because the developers create games they want to play, or what the hardcore gamers would like to play. That’s three mistakes there right off the bat. The audience they’re aiming for is extremely small at best. Imagine the current game industry as an inbred family, that has advanced some six generations or more now. By now there’s so many genetic faults, that the family desperately needs some new genetic material to the gene pool. At one point all genes clicked and managed to produce two healthy looking babies that grew up to be a fine pair of teens named DS and Wii, but after some time due to the parents’ lack of care and hatred later on caused these exceptions to become dysfunctional and give birth to two malformed children; the 3DS and Wii U.

The general audience loved the Wii, and they loved the DS as soon as Nintendo managed to realize that they need to make it into a portable SNES and not a portable N64. Both DS and Wii competed in a region where SONY and Microsoft had not touched and developed games that were different from the inbred hardcore games, namely Wii Sports. Because of this they managed to developgood games for the first time since Donkey Kong Country. Fun fact; Super Nintendo was in a pickle when Super Mario World didn’t give it the boost to overcome Mega Drive’s sales. It took Donkey Kong Country to really turn the tables around. Another fun fact; Miyamoto hated and still hates Donkey Kong Country.

The reason the most selling console gets themost shovelware is really a sign that it’s also getting the highest quality games nowadays, but only in a very limited fashion. The other consoles might get games that sell to the hardcore audience, but they won’t sell to anyone else. I’ve yet to meet a person who owns a NES and a Wii who would’ve played Metal Gear Solid. They might know the memes of it, but as a whole those games don’t interest the general populace, the place where the real money is. If the developers would stop jacking off each other and begin to develop to the Blue Ocean market, we’d see an explosion in the industry. A good kind of explosion no less, like in the NES and Atari era.

Let’s finish this with some Twilight Express

I always liked the MegaDrive sound chip more than SNES anyway. It’s much more clearer and less muffled

Music of the Month; the Blue Bird flies away

Zone of the Enders never really caught on the masses for good reason. At the time the developers’ aim was to make high speed japanimation robot action game. That they did, and thus hit well into certain crowd. Z.O.E series has got a lot of attention after their release, and never really god bad reviews or anything. Both games were cult hits, and being a cult hit isn’t a bad thing, but you need to take advantage of your cult status to make the jump to the masses’ living rooms. KONAMI never did this, and while Z.O.E did get a GBA prequel and two animations, one direct-to-video, and another as a TV series, it wasn’t big enough to greenlight the third game.

Do we need a third game? Fans think so, and Hideo Kojima wants to make one, so I’m in. The story of the first two games has been finished, so the third game will most likely have nothing to do with them. That, and they have said that they’ll create another theme with it. The fans want fast paced robot anime action, and they’re only going for the fast paced action. We’ll just have to see what comes.

In the meantime, we can always kill time with the original two games, with or without HD.

Review; Castlevania Lords of Shadow DLC packs

You might want to read the review of the main game before entering this one. All there said applies here.

The DLC packs come in two sets; Reverie and Resurrection. These two packs are pretty short and cost 800 MS Points, thou I have no idea or desire to check what the price is on PSN. The reason is quite simple; both of the DLC packs are pretty bad.
Let’s talk about Reverie first. Reverie consist mostly of re-used castle designs from the main game for battle areas, but then has few new areas with puzzles in it. Nothing more. No really, the first DLC is just there to further the plot and waste of money.
The second DLC is a series of timed platforming at its worst and two boss battles, that are meant to be hard, but are just frustrating because the boss is designed to take advantage of the controls’ shortcomings. The fight against the Forgotten One could’ve been a good optional high difficulty end boss, but it’s so counterintuitive that it hurts my head just thinking about it.

The two packs, in all essence, are waste of money and time. You can watch the story scenes from Youtube and receive better experience that way. All that the weaknesses are present in the DLC more than any of the strenghts. The DLC for CLoS is half-assed at best. At best they were like a bad ripoff of Crash Bandicoot, but that’s not saying much when the game’s called Castlevania.
The thing is, these packs are essential for continuity obsessive people; the DLC storyline sets between the final battle of the main game and the ending cinema after the credits.

Does the DLC packs ruin the game? No, but they do bring down the overall quality. After finishing them there’s no value in them, no replay value or similar. Personally, I feel that I could play CLoS through again in the upacoming season, but not the DLC. It would have been decent in price whether they had put the packs together, but 1400 MS Points for this carbage is way too much. No wonder they never released these packs in Japan.