Monthly Three: Of remakes and remasters

The difference between remakes and remasters to some is cosmetic or about marketing terms, but when you look at the examples, there’s a bit more to them. A remake is based on a previous work, a new piece of product that recreates the original piece somehow. Another meaning of course is that something is taken and remade anew, like reconstructing a knife. Remaster on the other hand is completely tied to the original piece, like video or audio, and then improved on it somehow. For example, the recent Fight!! Iczer-1 Blu-Ray release was a good one, containing a properly digitally remastered version of the original.

NES remaster

Unlike what the package says, Ducktales Remastered is a remake. Nothing really is taking from the original game outside the overall stage designs. The musics have been remade, the graphics are remade and so on. If WayForward had remastered Ducktales, the two screenshots would look the same, except the resolution of the remaster would be higher. Digital things are pretty neat in that way that in principle as long as you have the source code and assets, it should be relatively easy to adapt those to a new machine. This is essentially doing a higher resolution ports, but I’m leaving HD “remakes” for next week.

Remasters on the other hand would look something like this.

dvd_28_09.57.35] screenshot016

The first one is from the Anime Works DVD, the second being the recent BD release. The difference is rather staggering, with higher definition bringing the line work out much more and showing more detail in form of dust specks and the like. For more colour, check the examples for these two stitches, first being from the DVD, the second being from the BD.

A remaster can bring new life and vibrant dimensions to a product that didn’t really have it before. An original master may have all the elements in there, but for whatever reason it could not be put into use. The LP-records  could not contain as much data as the compact cassette could, just as the compact cassette couldn’t hold as much data as the CD could. A CD on the other hand lost its place to digital sound formats that can, in principle, be as large as one wants them to be, even to obscene amounts.

While having as pristine version of something is desirable, the fact is that at some point there is no point of trying get any higher version of that piece. It could be even argued that the screenshots of Iczer-1 above is too highly defined, as it was never intended to be seen at that resolution. That goes for anything in audio and visual department, as in case of Star Trek, sixty years of development in television technology show every bit of those sets, costumes, double actors and the like, which were never visible before thanks to the lower standard definitions. This can have a largely negative effect on the piece from some, as they will point out and laugh at how cheap some of the things look nowadays. Can’t really fault them for using the best technology they had available at the time, which would be a good thing to keep in mind.

Another thing that pops up from this is that now that we can see absolutely everything, we can enjoy and even research the way some of those sets Trek used were made and so on. In animation we can admire all the fine lines and colours that were put in there by the animators and painters, things that we didn’t see before because of the lower definitions.

The necessity of remakes can be questioned, as in film their quality has been largely dubious. From making remakes cult flicks like Nightmare on Elm Street to remaking television series like Charlie’s Angels and Kamen Rider (The First is an atrocious movie with great suits), none of these really all the well received. The idea is solid; take an existing franchise and update it to a modern audience with modern techniques and technologies. However, rarely these remakes are made for the benefit of product and aim for pure nostalgia grabs instead. Very few remakes stand against the originals because of this, like the 1982 The Thing against 1951’s Who Goes There?, and 1986’s The Fly against its 1958 counterpart.

It’s often argued that remakes miss the point of the originals, and that the excess use of CGI elements do not stand up to the originals’ practical effects when it comes to films. Simply put it, it can’t hold the candle in direct comparison. This can be up to opinion to some extent, but it is true that CGI ages faster than practical, so take that as you will.

Maybe the most pressing argument against remakes is that they do not add anything new to table. While everything we produce nowadays is more or less a remade variation of pre-existing myths, stories and legends, exact remakes in and out of entertainment media don’t even try to create a basis for something new or expand into region less explored. An example of starting with a similar core idea and making it its own piece could be made in comparison between Star Trek and seaQuest DSV. On the surface, the both shows have similarities with their missions and overall idea of a top of the line ship send to the unknown for exploration and research. Yet, both shows stand apart from each other because of their themes and how they were handled, adding something to the cultural view in ways that a simple film remake never could.

I would wager that the bottom line is that some expect a remake to simply remake an original piece for the modern era, while some expect a remake to stand on its own two legs and be something more. There is a golden middle way, but not many seem to be willing to take it.

Why the hell would you want to spoil your own game?

Invisible walls you say? It’s not like anyone wanted to find that out while playing the game, thus having a fulfilling game experience, right? Good job at spoiling the stage you dumbasses. Why would you go and tell the players that hey this stage has secrets and this is how you access them? It’s like Citizen Kane having a trailer that explains what Rosebud means, or Planet of the Apes telling you that it was Earth all along.

All the money that went to make this game could’ve been used to make completely new game, Ducktales or not. Imagine if they would have made Ducktales 3 instead. New stages, new music, new stages, new bosses, new everything but still the same awesome core.  But no, we can’t have nice things.

Ducktales; old Vs new stone

The first minutes in each stage seems to be blah blah blah rather than playing games. The reason the video cuts so fast to the Remastered version is not to focus on it, rather it’s to show the plot! it has going for while pausing the NES game. The worst offender here is the new coin bits, where the game just halts until the dialogue has been delivered. There is no reason for these bits to be in there. These same coin descriptions should be at the end of each stage, or perhaps in the item description screen somewhere between the stages. Halting your action for things like this is not good game design. The inclusion of mode hidden treasure is neat, but I also wish that all the stages have been expanded accordingly at least 30%. If not, the only reason this game is longer than the original is because there’s more talking and less action.

Well, setting the completely unnecessary blabbering in the stages, this video gives a bit more insight on how the stages have been remastered, and the jungle looks a bit boring. First, the lush forest looks decent, good even, but the brown stones that come soon enough into the scene is just off. It doesn’t look good. It’s drab boring brown that doesn’t work for the lush forest. Why not go for the extra mile and make it looks like proper bedrock stone. Or even better, if it’s Incan treasure they’re looking for, the stone colour they could have there could look like your generic stone looks like in Peru. And you know what, even if the stone is very brownish in Peru, you could use a sort of patter for it, like what the Stonewalls of Cuzco looks like. You have those Incan stone tablets laying in the jungle, so why not go the extra mile rather than use huge, almost empty blocks of colours with slight cracks?  The NES version, while using (arguably) duller grey, the stones look far more interesting and natural due to the design of them. That, and the entrance to underground has that nice green hue to indicate that there’s something of interest in there. In both versions the entrance is clearly visible, but Remastered doesn’t invite you in, not even with the added pylons.

Speaking of the underground, it looks neat. The NES had it’s limitations, but I’m glad to see that the Remastered manages to pull of large cavern look well enough. However, the stone colours still bug me, as does the spiked plants design. In the NES version you see that it’s dangerous, that you do not want to touch it. Because how the visuals have been designed in Remastered, the ground doesn’t look any less dangerous than the rest of the plants that are not man-eating.

Good question is whether or not the stone is natural in the wine-climbing spot. In the NES version is can be accepted as natural mostly due to its colour and design, but in the Remastered it looks like it was cut and just put there. Did the Incans cut a whole mountain like that just for that one temple? Well, not entirely impossible I guess, but that’s would be stupid even for Ducktales. The colours change slightly in the later level, and the spike vines now look actually dangerous. However, the stone now looks sterile. It has been looking sterile the whole time.

The reason why I’m harping at the stone this much is mostly because I love to work with stone and I’ve visited handful of different stone quarries. Only cut stone looks so sterile. Very rarely natural stone is so blocky, unless it’s few specific varying types. However, here inside the temple this kind of cut stone works like a wonder amidst other stone crafts like statues. Now it looks like a natural thing when it’s clearly inside an unnatural construct overall. Before that the cut stone design doesn’t work because you’re clearly inside a natural environment as depicted by the caverns. So, what would’ve been better? you ask. Advancing from natural stone to cut stone temple, of course. Imagine the effect the game could’ve had if the starts from the jungle with natural stone and with each “area” of sorts it shows more and more cut stone elements, until finally the player reaches the temple where the rough, raw natural stone is morphed into sleek cut stone. This is sadly a visual design that would demand the designer to look at every area of the visuals from location to history and so on to actually bring in a proper design. Perhaps I’m harping on the whole stone design a bit too much, but it’s just a symptom for me. There’s something wrong with this game at the moment, and partially it’s in the visuals. While it looks decent and is highly defined, a lot of things just don’t mess with each other properly. The stone is just one thing I notice the most at the moment, and the weird mishmash of Disney’s influence within the last 30 years, eg. the spiders certainly look something Disney wouldn’t do nowadays while the Incas do look something what you could find in the Ducktales cartoon. Gorillas on the other hand look just weird, a bit too modern against the other two.

It also doesn’t help that the game overall is colourful and then the stones are brown. We’ve have enough of that colour for some time. Then again, it might be sandstone. Sandstone temple atop a mountain, sure…

Now the revamped boss looks first a bit silly. Why would they want to change a guardian statue that fits the overall design to a head? Oh, the they changed the whole room into a boss. If the stone would still be sandstone, Scrooge should be able to scratch it into tiny bits. Sandstones not the sturdiest substance to built your stone guardian. Some visual design choices still bug me here; why is there so much dust in the head’s trail, when the stone is clean? Why does the head jump high enough to hit the ceiling but doesn’t bump into it? I know the dust is an effect of tradition, but it looks silly and unnecessary. At least they could’ve thrown some very thin layer of dust or sand unto the ground from where the dust would rise. Then again, most likely the room as been undisturbed thousands of years. Or then not, as there’s people walking around it and the Incans are very much aware of its existence.

Perhaps I’m ripping this one level a new hole for no reason. Perhaps I just don’t want to wait and read through unnecessary dialogue to get into the game. Now that I think about this for a moment, WayForward’s Bloodrayne had very small amaount of these story scenes compared what it could’ve had.

Ducktales and Zelda

I’m sure at this point we’ve all seen the A Link to the Past 2 trailers and all. There seems to be excitement about it on the Internet that I don’t share. I can’t get myself excited on the fact that I would be able to play ALttP all over again with slight changes. This should’ve been a similar addition what Ocarina of Time’s Master Quest was.

I wonder what  were Nintendo’s thoughts when they devised this. Was it  something along the lines of Geez, people sure liked that SNES game, but how could we make it more annoying and gimmicky? or was it We want to rework one of the best games we had for our handheld in trouble! It’s shameless abuse of nostalgia, much like Ducktales Remastered is. It’s also apparent that both games suffer already from being made in the modern game era.

While the Legend of Zelda as a series is still in the minds of the core audience (to an extent,) Ducktales has been dormant and unused for long time now. Even the three companies involved in developing Ducktales Remastered agree that there has been very little buzz on Ducktales. Are they using this game to gauge the possible revival of the franchise for modern generation? If they are, Disney is stupider a company than I thought. You really don’t want to see if an animation series has potential based on a success of a video game.

While ALttP2 will be decently successful because of the raving fanbase, as shattered as it is, Ducktales has to fight against obscurity. Hipsters will buy it because of that, but that market is small. People with nostalgia for the original game are the target market here because of this. It’s weird to think that Ducktales is aimed at people from 25-years and up. Not that an adult couldn’t enjoy it, but it’s a cartoon best watched young, and were at their best when you just came from an episode and wanted some more before next episode.

So, why were kids on their focus test? In fact, why are they giving so much emphasize on the result of the focus test? While focus tests are something of worth, one focus test alone shouldn’t determine the direction you need to take. Human variable is far too big to handle, and one small group can’t really give proper results on a world wide scale. With this focus test, the kids were Disney fans and found the game hard to work with. It’s true that modern children have grown up in a completely different game environment. It makes me feel old to think that there are some fifteen year old people whose first game console was the PS2. A simple 2D platformer doesn’t sit their skill set… except that it does. 2D platformers never went away, and in recent years they’ve been coming back to the mainstream gaming. Saying that these kids found the game too hard isn’t something to be discouraged of, but something that you should be feeling proud of. Ducktales by no means wasn’t a hard game, but it wasn’t easy either. Much like with Mega Man, CAPCOM managed to balance between a good challenge and fun gameplay.

And then you go in and add a cutscene where Scrooge shows the kids that you can walk through some walls.

This is stupid. This shows that you have no trust on your focus group. Then again, wasn’t your target group people who actually recognize the characters and are able to purchase the game? There’s multiple ways you could show the kids that you can walk through certain walls outside damn video clip. Make the walls have slightly different texture, or even better; make an enemy walk through a wall in the opening stage and thus informing the player that fake walls exist. There’s absolutely no reason to bog down the gameplay any further than it already it. The whole thing just reeks. On one hand it looks likely the target audience is young children and teens, but overall the only people who really are interested in this game are old and jaded gamers. Sorry WayForward, this is one game I’m sitting out.

Why am I contrasting this to ALttP2 on any level? Well, we all know that Link can turn into painting in it, and the game has been built on the 2D/3D contrast. I want to quote the director Aonuma here;

“The world of Hyrule has been reborn in a highly realistic stereoscopic vision, which will feature a new story and new puzzles to be solved. The development for the successor of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is going smoothly, so, please look forward to it!”

I do not like Aonuma Zelda, nor the direction this game has gone. First, how does he think stereoscopic Zelda will be more realistic when everything’s in those crayon cartoon graphics and all enemies are still in super deformed style? If he tries to say that seeing it in 3D will make more realistic, I want to slap his glasses off. Then he mentions story, which I hope will not be any more prominent than in original ALttP, but then he mentions the puzzles. Aonuma likes to cut grass and solve puzzles, and Zelda games have become one of the most perfect Grass Cutting simulators with a dash of ouzzles because of this. I’ll be honest with you; in the last three Zelda releases that I’ve played through I’ve been using guides to breeze them through. At some point I realized that the games were so puzzle ridden, that I needed to have a guide at hand almost all the time. There’s so many puzzles in-between grass cutting, that it’s almost funny in a very sad way.

This is why the Painted Link exist; to create new puzzles. I’ve heard people call it a cave painting, but it’s more like the middle-aged mural painting. Nevertheless, it’s inclusion is needless. Why couldn’t they concentrate on making the dungeons more interesting to look at and use the power modern era offers to make this game stand out? At this point it’s not really a good thing to proclaim that this game will be the sequel to one of the best games ever. It’s like saying that a Volvo will be your next car after you’ve driven a Jaguar for multiple years.

Because the Painting Link exist only to appease the developers’ wish to create puzzles, do not expect interesting gameplay. I would joke that the next Zelda games will remove almost all of Zelda-like elements and concentrate on dungeon puzzle solving alone, but Skyward Sword already did that.

Aonuma will be the death of Zelda franchise. Thus far 2D Zeldas have been able to have their own identity form the their 3D brothers, but now Aonuma hinted that 2D Zelda will be changed into 3D for all time. Well, Zelda had a good run. It’ll be a painting on a canvas of video game history from now on.

When will plot be substituted with gameplay?

While you could say that I’ve been vehemently against storylines in games, that would be misnomer. I do enjoy a good story in a game when it has its place in there. For example, I do love the plot in Ultima and Fallout, both of which are computer games. What about Muv-Luv? Visual Novels still aren’t games. I do recommend you to give a look at Sisters if you’re into heartwrenching stories that are largely pornographic. I know you are, so give it a hoot.

Arcade games and console games are different things thou, and arcade games do not need plot to be good games. Nobody is going to put in quarters into Yie Ar Kung-Fu to be swept by a epic story about the arts of Kung-Fu and Chinese mysticism. For that I recommend you to watch Big Trouble in Little China.

Y'know, by changing few things here and there, this movie could be a sequel to he Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. I wonder why....
Y’know, by changing few things here and there, this movie could be a sequel to he Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. I wonder why….

Console games are a bit different. As they are the best of arcade and computer games in harmony (a lost art nowadays) and certain games can balance between story and gameplay. Ducktales is one of those games that doesn’t need to balance with this, because the game was pure gameplay. We know that Scrooge was on a mission to make money and that’s that. The Remastered version seems to add a lot of unnecessary things.

For example, the developers seem to be baffled by why there would be rat on the Moon. Well, Moon is made of cheese, isn’t it? Rats and mice eat cheese. It’s not hard to put the blocks together. I need to quote the next one, because it’s unbelievably stupid.

“In the original NES version, you go in the UFO to find the remote control to open the area to get to the boss. You don’t really know why. The game doesn’t explain it well,” Jimenez stated.

The game doesn’t need to explain it. We know what the remote does. We weren’t idiots back in the day, were not idiots now… thou the Internet and few selected people try to prove otherwise. I doubt that there’s anyone who didn’t have enough imagination and/or intelligence to deduce why you needed to collect the remote first; to access the boss room. There’s nothing more to that and better yet; there’s no need to be more than that.

There’s also a point where they explain who GizmoDuck is and it seems to have a far larger part than previously and I need to ask why? To make it more like the cartoon? Then why isn’t the game looking more like the cartoon? It’s because they want to shove more story in there, and we don’t need no story in these neighbourhoods.

But to be serious, the main reason why this game will have longer completion time isn’t mainly because of the new stages, but because the cut scenes. A game that’s so rooted on accurate and tight controls can stand on its own two feet without having a story. If I wanted to see a Ducktales cartoon, I’d watch an episode. If I wanted to play a Ducktales games, I’d just pop it in. But what if I wanted to play a cartoon that is like a video game?

Well, there’s Laserdisc games for that

A good example of a cartoon game would be the likes of Earthworm Jim, and somewhat ironically, the original Ducktales. It’s mostly how they feel and play, how the visuals blend with the cartoony design. Not how they tell a story. What’s with game developers not trying to develop a way to tell a story within the games’ context rather than having cutscenes?

It’s an alarming example when developers are adding things to a game that it doesn’t need. Who the hell cares if the remote control or the rat is explained? We just want to find the damn remote and beat the boss. Why make it more dull and have us taken away from the game?

Review; Double Dragon: NEON

WayForward, I apologise for doubting your skill to treat us a good Double Dragon game. Still, I believe most of you can understand my initial stand. Double Dragon was a big part of my own childhood to the extent that it was probably the first game I ever played on an Atari 520ST. Having a completely new game of Double Dragon doesn’t just have games to stand up against, but immense amount of nostalgia as well.  Now that’s out of the way, let’s move to the review proper.

Double Dragon is a well established franchise that has been dead for some time now. I say dead because it really never got a completely new game since the 90’s and the GameBoy Advance game was just another remake, thou its tweaked fighting mechanics makes it one of the best DD gamesout there. The franchise has good games, and games that should just be forgottenaltogether. Just like that horrible cartoon that I never saw for better or worse. I kinda liked the movie, thou it had nothing to do with the games and was only good for the same reason ascertain Korean cartoons; a reason to chug down whiskeywith certain apple lemonade to forget what you’ve just seen. Granted, I really liked how the film began with the village burned down, but everything just went downwards from there. Not enough down to get things up thou.

So yeah, there’s twenty five years of history behind Double Dragon series, so WayForward had a pressure on their neck. It’s far too early to see whether or not DD NEON has sold enough to warrant a sequel, but the other fans I’ve already talked to have found this game extremely enjoyable on many levels.

Making this game asks for something special. It’s not enough to take the core template and shove it into a new code. You need to watch at the core idea, the spirit of the game if you will, and recreate it with care. If you go too far from the idea and try to implement something that’s not true to the original core, then you’ll lose something vital and bury that under everything else. DD NEON walks on a very finely sharpened edge, and does slightly waver to the other side of the two.

Double Dragon NEON starts in the way it’s always supposed to; Marian getting punched in the baby maker and taken away. From now on it’s Billy’s and Jimmy’ job to save her from whoever snatched her. The first impression is very good, and the pace game kicks in is very good. I originally showed high concerns on the pace of the game, but I can now say that they were completely unnecessary. The gameplay speed is pretty spot-on. Because of the more lax speed it runs on everything can be observed with haste. However, because none of the moves are canceleable like in fighting games, the player needs to take care when to attack and when to avoid attacks. Some of the enemy attacks can’t be distracted, so it’s not uncommon to find yourself getting knocked back in the middle of your combo. Then again, all attacks are indicated pretty clearly and there’s quite a lot of time to react to them, if you pay enough attention. The pace as a whole might not seem fast, but actually it’s rather hectic in its own lax way.

In your use there’s the normal punch, kick and jump buttons. Grabbing has now itsown buttons, as does ducking/evading, Special Moves and Running. This is where DD NEON falters the most; there’s just too many damn buttons for this kind of simple game. Running could be accomplished with double tapping forward, and grabbing should have been combined with the punch button. Y’know, the traditional way of doing things. Special moves could’ve been done with both punch and kick at the same time. I guess ducking/evading is the only one that is needed… no, not really. Evading can be combined with he jump button; pressing jump and any side at the same time would make the character evade. You’d lose the ability to duck, but that wouldn’t change the game at all. Then there’s the High Five function in the Right Stick. Yes, you can high five in bro-cop mode and that’s awesome. Press all three together near your bro, with combination of directions and hey presto, you have a three button system that has an immense amount of use. Actually, we need to discuss how many buttons are needed in a game at a later date.

Combining the pace and the buttons creates pretty damn satisfying experience. While the enemies are reused, they’re always in something different. There’s Elite Williams, who wear commando gear whereas normal Williams are just your normal 80’s street punks. There’s multiple colour variations of Linda, who’s smoking hot in this game. I mean, her new look knocks socks off. There are also female ninjas, and few different types of Abobos. They never really get old, because there’s always something new in them. Punching these bad guys is immensely satisfying as you practically feel the weight of your attacks being delivered. However, there’s certain levels of floatiness in the jumps and the controls are rather rigid. They’re not really tight because you can’t cancel the attacks as previously mentioned. Having evasion canceling your attacks would’ve been a welcome addition, but it works well without that as well.

Special moves are a nice addition, and the way they’re integrated works with the core of the gameplay without messing with it. There’s two kind of skills; Stances and So.. Sosetsu… Moves. You gain Mixtapes from enemies, from where you gain levels. Every move can be levelled up to level ten, and every move has its own theme in the selection window. After all, the player learns them from Mixtapes. And yes, they looks like actual tapes (C-cassettes to be exact), and that’s just pretty damn nifty.

Speaking of how things look, this game is pretty damn gorgeous. I’m not talking about the graphics, as they’re pretty standard forwhat we’re excepting for modern downloadable titles. What I’m talking about is the design of the world. It’s so over the top 80’s that it makes me laugh. Every enemy has a good flavour of anarchetypical goon in there, and then some. The final boss Skullmageddon is nothing short of Chinese Skeletor, and that’s just awesome as hell. I’m not going to lie; I was still sceptical of this game until I saw a YouTube: video of the final battle and the end credits. The neon colours, the landscapes, everything just clicks properly and works. It’s a cohesive world, of which like we really don’t see much any more. It’s also a damn fun world.

While the game is a parody in many ways, especially when it comes to the tropes of the genre, its really earnest in how it does it all and embraces everything. It’s honest and extremely awesome. It’s honestly awesome. There’s no way around it. There’s some few design choices they could’ve done in the visual department, like the player energy bars; they could have mirrored them to have an even HUD, and the 2nd player bar shouldn’t be there during single player game. Without it you could relocate the flashing PRESS START higher up. There’s also a missed chance to have 1ups as arcade tokens/coins that are inserted in a small animation next to player energy meter. There’s truckloads of references and jokes thrown all around, and…. Well, if I was the bad guy, I WOULD complain in the loudspeaker if the good guys were destroying my helluva expensive plasma TVs on my damn space station.

Yes, this game has a space station level. It’s the second unique area you enter, and it’s pretty damn awesome as well.

I understand if people are complaining because of the selected style, but rather than just wanting yet another serious DD game, this is a welcome change. We need more colourful games midst all these green/brown/grey games we’ve had for some time now. It all complements its parody-like nature very well, even if the game isn’t a parody at all. It’s all rather meta in a weird way, and I hate using the word meta.

I also have to condemn the Game Over screen for being awesome. Just wait ’til you see it.

But what about the sound design?Sounds works very well, voices are awesome and spot on, especially with Skullmageddon (who also sings you the end credits song) and the music is just 11/10. No really, the soundtrack is spot on with everything else in the game. It complements the stages, the designs, and the core. I was so afraid to hear the Double Dragon theme getting a bad version, but we get three different versions of it and they’re all from pretty damn awesome to fuck yeah awesome. Then few songs (no, actual songs) that are so 80’s that I thought I started regressing back into my childhood while hammering a pot stand in the metalworkshop earlier today. You can imagine how my co-workers looked at me when I started laughing like a maniac by myself while having a gas torch next to me and a red hot steel in my right hand and an anvil hammer in my left. For some reason they stayed away from me for the whole day. Their loss, because the soundtrack is just… awesome. You can pick it up from bandcamp for the price you wish, but for this kind of work I’m willing to give some money to the composer.

The version I played was on the 360 because PSN didn’t have it yet and I couldn’t wait enough. Also, I’ve got more controllers in the 360 whereas I just have one proper PS3 controller (and one arcade and the six button one) and I really want to do the High Fives. I’ve yet to see any difference between the platforms.

So, is the game any good?

Yeah, it’s good. I can see why a lot of people really wouldn’t like it, as everything previously said can also be used against the game. It’s Double Dragon alright, and it doesn’t need to be anything more. If it was anything more than it already is, they might as well make a completely different game with different set of ideas and core. NEON is a love letter to the 80’s and to the Double Dragon franchise a whole. It’s well worth the price, especially in this day and age where you pay 60 bucks for a five hour game. NEON is a good change of pace from pretty much every game that has been recently released, and anyone even with slightest of interest on the game should download the demo and give it a go. I doubt you’ll be left emotionless.

Still, there’s things that will bug anyone. For one, you can’t use an arcade controller with it properly. This is an arcade game at its heart, so it shouldn’t be a no-brainer to add support to the controller. You can even remap every button, except the High Five one as its tied to the Right stick. Honestly, the controls are the biggest gripe, but how they work, but they are designed to use majority of the buttons on a controller pad. The controls should’ve been designed with a simpler approach. WayForward always has things like this that hold their games back from being truly amazing. They’re little things, but God lives in he details. It’s not about fine tuning the game, but rather giving attention to certain aspects and not overlooking simplicity. It’s a very Americanized game, if you will. This kind of take on any franchise is welcome breeze, but only once in a while. I wish the next game will be more down to earth and would draw from the original concept art rather than taking its own spin on the whole deal.

Still, because of games like this WayForward happens to be my favourite developer at the moment. They make original games quite a lot, and they all meet the minimum quality quota. Then we have games like Bloodrayne Betrayal and this, which stem from existing franchise, but with a new twist or two while still keeping the heart of the original.

This is one of those games that I’d love to play with my brothers. We haven’t played games together since we were… damn, almost fifteen years ago. Still, I’d believe they’d enjoy this game as well.

Twice as much dragons from the 80’s in neon colours

After few weeks of deadlines and working my ass off on few projects I was met with a bunch of good news. First of all, The Avengers film are coming to town, the new Super Robot Wars game is pretty good and Shunjou Shuusuke does good art.

Oh and WayForward is developing a Double Dragon game. HOTDAMN I screamed as I clicked the Play button.


What is this? WayForward, what is this? This isn’t like you.

Jeremy Perish’s article at 1UP pretty much sums up my reaction and explains why all of this are the way they are. It seems that the game has been in development for some weeks now, and that mostly just tells how good the guys at WayForward are at this. 3D isn’t their forte at all, but it looks like they’re giving good amount of effort to pull the game off.

However, let’s take a look at the trailer as it is now and let’s forget everything else.

First of all, the style is pretty damn nice, even if I’m not going to be a big fan. Visuals are filled with neon colours, even if they’re washed out and lack details. I hope both of these will be rectified later on. You got your basic peons; the afroguy, the hot chick with a whip, and so on. The car in the garage as they steal your woman is still awesome thou. Overall, the visuals hit the 80’s so well that it’s almost shameful, as Jimmy and Billy are palette swaps as are bulk of the enemies you’re going to mow down. WayForward, I know things were like this in the 80’s, but please add more enemies and make Billy and Jimmy their own characters with different models. It just looks cheap when you’ve got dozens of palette swapped hi-res 3D models doing the exact same things on the screen.

There’s also the thing that the visuals do not meet with the setting of the game. Originally, Double Dragon is set into a post-apocalyptic world, where twin brothers were sweeping the streets with their martial arts skills thought by their master. Basically, Hokuto no Ken with two Kenshiro’s, and it’s awesome. You don’t see any of this in the game and you wouldn’t know about the story behind if you didn’t read the manual… or watch the intro of Double Dragon Advance. The neon colours going on, and the overall clean 80’s doesn’t really scream post-apocalypse, but perhaps this time New York has fared much better than originally. Still, while overall visuals do their intended job, I need to ask as a fan if these are the visuals I want from my Double Dragon.

The music, while it really is the Double Dragon theme for all intents and purposes, feels rather lacking in the oomph department. Vertexguy’s take on the music is still one of the best versions out there. He has this nice striking electric guitar there, while everything seems to subdued and silent in Neon’s case. It’s not a bad piece and would be perhaps the best rearrange if it didn’t have competition. I hope DDNEon’s track will get at least same level of treatment, if not even better, as DD’s music score is up there in video game music. Before you come in and start spouting how Final Fantasy has better music I want to cram this fist into your mouth and tell you to shut up. We’ve been over this before.

The gameplay is slow, downright muddy. The original Double Dragon isn’t the most speediest game we know, but there’s no reason to speed things up here; all the later Double Dragons are faster than the original. Or it might be that I’m imagining things as PAL region does run on 50Hz as opposed to NTCS’ 60Hz. Nevertheless, the slow gameplay we have here is next to unacceptable. While in the trailers it seems that the player characters can jump, according to Parish they couldn’t in the test version. This begs the question why to showcase DDNeon at this early age at all? The game’s clearly in an early alpha build… hopefully.

I wouldn’t put my money into this game, even if I’m big on DD. However, if I know WayForward even the tiniest amount, they’ll listen to the critic given by their audience and make the game play much better. If not, then the industry’s really screwed.

If I may overanalyze Double Dragon Neon for a bit, I’d say that it is WayForward’s way to criticize the current industry as a whole. The industry has an unhealthy obsession to make all in 3D even if doesn’t add anything or doesn’t fit the game itself. The industry’s method of reskinning old games into new ones without much thinking also shines though. As of now, WayForward has just done that. There’s also the matter of being cheap. All of industry’s worst sides are shown in the trailer… and if this really is just an early alpha, what does that say of the industry at large?

Perhaps it would work for the best if WayForward had done the game in 2D. However, it might’ve been that they were given the task to do it in 3D, a choice that I don’t feel with. In most cases 3D games have been slower than 2D games, but that’s mostly dependant on the programming and game design. Double Dragon, while even originally rather slow, had fast action. The Game Boy Advance remake is still the best version out there because of this; it balanced the gameplay’s speed for the system and it was extremely enjoyable because of that. Neon looks this slow because there’s so much empty space on the screen that doesn’t have anything there. Back in the day when you got five characters on screen you had to play well and fast to survive. Nowadays five characters on screen means that you need to walk around a lot more just to punch them. What about giving more options to the players, like a dash attack or the like to speed up the gameplay? Or simply make the characters walk and punch a little bit faster?

I agree that I’m going far too much into things just based on one very early trailer, but I want to raise questions in the readers’ mind, not just on Double Dragon Neon, but on the industry at large and the quality of games we have; is the latest new game you bought worth your time and money?

Lifting a series out of medicority; Bloodrayne Betrayal

Halloween always puts me in a mood for vampires and the like. Mostly it erupts into hours of Castlevania and other good action packed horror themed games. Some years ago I tried the Bloodrayne series, and I was more or less let down the games and their lack of actual quality. The best about the Bloodrayne games was that they were supposed to be a sequel to Terminal Reality’s Nocturne, but that seems to have evaporated out from the games themselves. This is a good thing as Nocturne is pretty nifty adventure game and Bloodrayne’s two first games are just mindless shitfest.
The games, as they were, were mostly about sex appeal, blood and gruesome fatalities. That’s something I’d except from your dime in a dozen vampire game, but Bloodrayne was hailed like something special. I wonder if it’s just that the new generation likes more of this kind of games, or just that these people are a loud minority. If all signs are to be trusted, it’s the latter one, because I’ve never heard these same people say anything good about Bloodrayne: Betrayal, or say anything about it at all.

Bloodrayne was inredeemebly stuck in gray lower medicority until WayForward got the task to make a 2D game out of it. If WayForward is an unknown name to you, the only thing you need to know that these guys know how to handle any game series they get their hands on. They’ve done such games as Shantae, Contra 4 and the new A Boy and his Blob. I don’t know why these guys haven’t hit it big yet, but they’re going there slowly.
Now, Bloodrayne: Betrayal is a complete different beast from its sisters. The action is nice, fast and rather responsive. It uses in-house art design, and WayForward’s style brings out the style that Bloodrayne in general best known of. Rayne herself is redesigned to look far more sophisticated than what she looked in the previous games, and clads herself more for less.

After playing the Trial through about few dozen times and then some, I was assured that this games was what the series needed; over the top style (rocket coffin, anyone?) stylised colourscheme of darks, shadows, reds and earthly tones with good highlights, extremely nice gameplay and very light on the story. It practically ditches everything that wasn’t worthwhile in the previous games and took the core idea and refined it further. People have voiced their concern of game not being true to the realism of original titles, an we can all laugh at them; Bloodrayne and realism are as good combination as Uwe Bolle and videogames.
The only thing that doesn’t really work in the game is the Xbox 360’s own controller. I’d recommend getting this for the PS3, but even that controller has flaws beyond saving. But you know what controller would be perfect for this game? Sega Saturn’s.

The music in Betrayal is also something that I’d call “fucking good” if I were to use those words. Rather, I’ll just say that the music is exceptional in most cases that it’s overall great in quality, is catchy, works as a background music and sets the mood. This is the exact opposite of Castlevania Lords of Shadow music, where you don’t remember the music even if it’s good, but you’ll remember this because it stands up to you well when you start to listen it.

I’ll most likely give a full blown review of this game in the future as soon as I’ve ripped a new hole to Rayne to suck from, but while you’re waiting for it you might want to purchase it by yourself or visit here and play it.

It’s always a good thing to notice how a single game can make the whole series look a bit better, and while Bloodrayne Betrayal does stand on its own two feet, it does tie to the past games a little, but it’s better if you’ve never played those before this one.

Be sure to check the official site for two short Dev diaries for fun.