Monday, August 26, 2013

Saints Row IV Pop-Culture References

     
My full review of Saints Row IV is being worked on, but I thought it might be interesting to list the references to pop-culture that I found.

Note: Some of these references are spoilers for both Saints Row IV and the media it is referencing.  I have put the name of the referenced media first, to help try to avoid unwanted spoilers.

-From Mass Effect- Your presidential advisor Keith David is voiced by Keith David, who was also the voice of Colonel David Anderson in Mass Effect.  I guess that’s not so much a reference as a fun fact, but I digress.  The setup of the ship in SRIV is very similar to the Normandy. Also,  each ally in both games has a “loyalty mission” that can be completed to power them up.  Finally, the scene at the end of Mass Effect 2 where Shepard leaps to the ship is very reminiscent of the leap of the Protagonist in SRIV when he escapes.

-From Star Fox 64- an ally recommends you “Do a Barrel Roll”

-From Harry Potter - The unnamed protagonist asks if catching a glowing yellow ball gives him points.

-From multiple stories of Edgar Allen Poe - A text adventure game has a section meant to depict "terror as personified by [Earth's] literary culture" containing a raven, a pendulum, a heart in the floor, and a walled off skeleton. 

-From Metal Gear Solid- There is a stealth mission where the protagonist wears an outfit very similar to Solid Snake.  Also, during the mission cardboard boxes are used to hide from guards. Finally, during the mission one guard says “This snake is 100% solid!”, except in this instance he is referring to his junk.

-From Dragon Ball Z – When Genki goes Super-Genki, he starts glowing yellow in a Super Saiyan-esque matter.  There is also a Super Saiyan hair option.

-From Mortal Kombat – Once ally Pierce’s super powers are unlocked, he is outfitted with gear that looks similar to Kung Lao's.

-From The Matrix – Once ally Ben King gets his super powers, he is outfitted in Morpheus’ outfit from The Matrix

Gamefront made a video of another 50 references to pop-culture found in Saints Row IV. I'm sure between us we have still missed a bunch of references though. Have you noticed any references we missed? Leave a comment.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Stupid Poem Saturday

A Man with a book gave a quick look
at the people about who just wouldn't pout,
and they looked back at him, with a delirious grin.
He started to wonder what spell they were under
while they started pondering why the book kept on blockening
the thoughts of a selected few crooks.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Phrasing

                It’s all about phrasing.  The sentence, “Why the hell didn’t you attack?” and, “I think you should have attacked, what happened?” mean the same thing, but have vastly different tones.  Being a dick doesn't make people listen to you, it makes them ignore you. 
Competition between gamers seems to drive them to anger. And not just anger towards opponents, but anger towards teammates as well.   Competition even makes its viewers rage towards each other at times, but I think this is more common among fans of physical sports games then video games.

                Competition should be fun, especially for the viewers.  If anger is your reaction to a game, then maybe that game isn’t for you.  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Quick Look at Jet Set Radio

Release Date: October 30, 2000 (Dreamcast)September 18, 2012 (PSN)
Developed: Sega
Platforms: Dreamcast, PSN, PC, XBLA 
   

      Imagine the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater; a great game with addictive gameplay driven by trying to one up your friends score.  Now, imagine everything in Tony Hawk was covered in ice, and your character slid appropriately.  Then remove the ability to input tricks and replace it with a system where tricks are done based on how you jump, with no indication of how to do different tricks.  Then put invisible walls and edges on buildings to catch your character when trying to jump over or get around something.  Then make the collision detection a bit worse.  Then replace the soundtrack with monotonous electronic dance music. Next, add graffiti for some reason that either sprays with one button press, or with a quick time event for larger tags.  And that is Jet Set Radio.

      Cars can knock you out of a zone, undoing all the progress you have made and forcing a restart.  Almost every second is spent fighting with the camera.        
 
      I hated it, but maybe I am playing it 10 years too late. It might have been better in its heyday, but it does not hold up well.

Tagging Quick Time Event

Note: I played the PSN version of Jet Set Radio

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Diablo 3 expansion before PVP? Lame

      I know of two instances where a developer has released a game that is not complete; Diablo 3 and ARMA 3.  I am not talking about games which are shipped buggy, and seem poorly made.  I am talking about companies deciding they are ready to ship a game now, regardless of the condition of the game. 
      Blizzard said when Diablo 3 was released that full PVP would be available after launch.  One and a half years later, and Blizzard is gearing up to release an expansion for the game, with no sign of 5v5  PVP. The “brawler” system of 1v1 fights is not what was promised. 


      Cut to December 2012 and, “we are going back to the drawing board on a new replacement for Team Deathmatch.”   Because, “It's not up to the quality that Blizzard gamers expect or that we feel you deserve,and it doesn't really fit with our goals for the rest of the game”  If they were worried about putting out a quality product, why did they only release a portion of the game?  I am glad Blizzard wants to put out a quality product, don’t get me wrong, but when companies devote resources to a new expansion that costs money to purchase, rather than working on the free feature that was promised at launch, I have a problem.     
      Arma 3 is being released without its single player campaign.  The developers say the campaign will be finished within four weeks after the release of the multiplayer portion of the game.  My question is, if the single is going to be ready a month after launch, why not delay the launch by a month?  ARMA 3 has not been released yet, and I have no reason to not take Bohemian Interactive at their word, but I also have no reason to trust them.
      Maybe I am getting worried over nothing, but when companies start making statements that they don’t keep in a timely fashion, I think things can go downhill quickly.  If other developers see Blizzard, get away with it, why can’t they?


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Short Look at Knytt Underground

Release Date: December 18th,2012
Developed and Published By: Nifflas' Games
Platforms: PC, PS3, PS Vita
Knytt Underground is a 2-D platformer whose most notable feature is the beautiful
backgrounds.  The game is divided up into four chapters.  The gameplay consists of trying to get from point A to point B by climbing up walls and whatnot while completing fetch quests for npc’s blocking doors in between. The controls are loose, which takes some getting used to.

Each chapter takes place in very large underground areas.  A map records every room you enter, and it also displays where the goal or mission objective is.  Finding which rooms connect to the goal is time consuming, and at times I got annoyed when running into repeated dead-ends.   Some individual screens had beautiful backgrounds, but they served no purpose other than to run through (though it is possible they are there as placeholders to complete the underground world). 

In chapter two you are a bouncing ball whose controls feel even looser than the human girl character in chapter one. Most of the difficulty during chapter two was trying to get the ball to bounce the right way.  In chapter three you can switch between the ball and the girl. 


I did not complete Knytt Underground, so I don’t think it is fair to give it a score.  To me it felt like a generic platformer with an uninteresting story.  If platforming and exploring is your thing though, this 6-8 hour game might hold your interest throughout.





Monday, August 19, 2013

Dragon's Crown Review

 Release Date: July 25, 2013
Developed and Published By: Atlus
Platforms: PS3, PS Vita
      Dragon’s Crown from Atlus is beautiful.  The oil painting-esque art style is reminiscent of Rembrandt.  One big difference of Dragon’s Crown though is an abundance of boobs and muscles exaggerated past the point of being weird.  Combat is lifted from 2-D brawlers like Golden Axe or Final Fight.  In a seemingly  a direct nod to Golden Axe, rideable raptors and thieves carrying pouches full of your treasures even make an appearance.

      The story is told by a narrator during motion comic cutscenes.  The narrator is the only person who talks during the game, besides a few quips from the shopkeepers or main characters while they are fighting. Outside of cutscenes, the narrator repeats the same phrase every time the player zones, to the point that I eventually muted the game. The narrator did a fine enough job, but anyone repeating a phrase dozens of times will annoy me.

      Nothing very surprising happens in the fairly boring story, but I think the word epic still applies; dwarves and elves alongside faeries fighting orcs and dragons seems to fit next to Tolkien (though this tale is not nearly as entertaining).  Each of the six playable classes (Sorceress, Enchanter, Elfin-Archer, Amazon, Dwarf, and Knight) has a different ending. The endings made me feel godlike; but overall, without dialogue I never became attached enough to care about the characters, or very invested in their journey to save the world.

      The four-player combat is a few steps above button mashing; pushing the analog stick different directions while attacking yields different attacks. Jumping in and out of online games is simple, seamless, and quick. The casters and archer are more complex than the melee characters in combat, but there is nothing that a moderate gamer will have trouble mastering quickly. Enemies can be juggled in the air and against walls, but it usually isn’t necessary (the one exception are the sneaky thieves who have a lot of health, and can escape very quickly). 

      The right analog controls a cursor that can be moved without affecting the character being played.  Clicking the right stick or pressing L1 will activate runes, which grant buffs.  Gleaming spots which drop treasure when clicked appear when the cursor moves over them.  The player carries four runes,  and generally two runes appear in an area. It takes three runes together to activate a buff.  A list of runes is available in town, but there is no way to look at that list in-game during dungeons.  Generally, I would just try every combination of runes until one worked.  While playing online, most people seemed to fall into this pattern also.  This cursor system seems to be designed for a touchscreen first, which leads me to believe the PS Vita version might be more enjoyable in this regard. 

     Killing enemies and finding treasure increases the score, and at the end of dungeons the score is converted into experience points.  Leveling grants basic bonuses to agility and health and all that, as well as granting skill points which can be used to learn new abilities.  Quests are also available that grant skill points and experience upon completion.  There is a pool of shared abilities, like increased health, and each character also has their own unique abilities to choose from.

      Each character can carry a few bags holding different gear and consumables like potions. Consumables are bought in bunches, and a limited supply is available during dungeons.  In between dungeons, items are restocked from the remainder of the bunch that was bought.  Once the bunch is exhausted, new consumables must be purchased from stores.

      The Enchanter’s and Sorceress’s spells are consumables that must be equipped, but they don’t have to be purchased. Rather, they are awarded once a spell is learned.  Equipped spells work very similarly to other consumables; they have a limited number of uses during dungeons, and are only restocked between dungeons. Spells are devastating, but due to the limited stock spells can’t be spammed to walk easily through each dungeon.  The casters also have weapons that can unleash a few small spells.  These smaller spells use up the weapons energy, which can be recharged by holding circle.

All six playable characters

      The archer is also unique in that she can run out of arrows. To replenish her stock she can pick up arrows she has fired, and they also occasionally drop from chests and crates.  The melee classes have unique abilities, but they are not nearly as complicated as the casters and archer.

      Upon beating the nine dungeons in the game, the player is tasked with completing them again. This time around however a second path is made available halfway through each dungeon.  There are different bosses for each path, but I still felt too much of the game was recycled.  Adding to my repetition based disinterest, to beat all of the nine required bosses I had to grind out about 10 levels.  Grinding by repeating dungeons got tedious fairly quickly for me.  The combat is the focus, not the levels, but for me the combat wasn’t elaborate enough to warrant a drawn out game.

      After beating the game on normal, you can repeat the whole adventure on two harder difficulties with more difficult enemies, a few new boss abilities, and a higher level cap.  The higher difficulties amount to just a lot of grinding through the same nine dungeons.  I got bored of the repetition at about level 75 (which took about 25 hours), but the potential for a super long grind-fest of a game is there. 

      Completing a stream of dungeons in a row grants bonuses such as increased score rates or rarer drops. Gear bags can be swapped in between dungeons, but nothing new can be equipped, and there is no shop to replenish item bunches. Chaining dungeons together is essential to grinding out hero levels.

      On the higher difficulties, the dungeons, mobs, and bosses are repeated again. This time a few foes are powered up, mobs are higher levels, and the bosses have a few new abilities; but overall the game is largely unchanged.  The Labyrinth also unlocks when the game is beaten.  The Labyrinth is a 10 floor dungeon where every piece of scenery, every item, and every mob can spawn.  Floors cleared in this mode award a piece of gear, which is usually pretty good. 

      If a 2-D grindfest of a brawler is your kind of game, then Dragon’s Crown is for you.  For everyone else, it is still a fun and worthwhile game that can entertain for about 15-20 hours before it gets too repetitive.

Scoring Guide