Archive for April 2013

DOA5 NEW Project: Disc or DLC?

April 30, 2013

It’s no secret that I love DOA5. In retrospect, I’d even consider it Game of the Year for 2012. Yes, I love it that much. Easily my favorite fighter of the generation. It took Dead or Alive, a game I played just for fun in the past, and fixed nearly all my issues with it resulting in the first fighter I am seriously trying to play competitively.

However, things weren’t looking good for the game. After the release of DOA5+ on the Vita, Team Ninja was split in half and renamed. Some thought this was the end of Team Ninja and that DOA5 may not be supported anymore. There seemed to be some credence to this news as DOA5+’s cross-buy DLC feature was not functioning properly (still not sure if it is).

However, news just broke about “DOA5 NEW Project” in the form of a brief clip featuring Ninja Gaiden’s Momiji in a new stage based on the game.

Of course the immediate assumption is that this is going to be “Ultimate DOA5”, sold on a disc containing all the DLC. That is how these things work, right? Considering the high price of DOA5’s DLC, this is causing some significant outrage.

However, “NEW Project” and “New Version” don’t really mean anything. Remember, this already happened once before with DOA5: DOA5+ on Vita, which was an update but did not contain any of the DLC outfits. It instead allowed users to take outfits from the PS3 and put them on their Vita (even if the feature is kinda broken at the moment) and vice versa. What’s more, a massive patch for DOA5 was released to catch it up to the Vita version, adding a new stage, new moves, and boatloads of tweaks. This updated the game to a “new version”: 1.03.

So it is actually plausible that this could be a downloadable update. Whether it is a paid update or a free one, we aren’t sure though Team Ninja said they would never make people pay for a DLC character so a paid update would be somewhat weird. The solution, of course, is selling bikinis for Momiji.

If it is a disc-based release though, then there is still a chance it will be backwards compatible with the existing DLC. Not only did DOA5+ do this, but Koei did this with their Dynasty Warriors games. Dynasty Warriors 7 XL and Empires allow players to use DLC from the previous version.

Of course, people will say that I am being too optimistic. This is true, however, DOA5 has yet to make me feel completely screwed over like other fighters have. Koei seems to have a pretty good grasp on DLC these days too.

All I’m saying is not to jump to conclusions about greedy companies screwing you out of your money just yet. Oh yes, they want to make money, but there’s an art to it.

I mean, let’s be real here: DOA5’s profits come entirely from the rather pricey costume DLC. If they include those costumes in this new version, that would make the existing DOA users feel screwed and make them wary about purchasing any future costume. “I’ll just wait for the next version” they’ll say. It’s only logical. Remembering that DOA5 was not really successful with anyone but its own fans…it is important to keep them happy and buying expensive bikinis to fight in.

However, if this new version still requires players to purchase that existing DLC? Then it will cause some of the people who are “just waiting for the Complete Edition with all the DLC” to realize this isn’t happening, crack, and purchase the swimsuits.

Of course, there is an awful third route of requiring players to re-purchase all existing DLC, but I would like to think only The Idolm@ster is that scammy. Such an action will most likely turn even more people away from the game.

So, which one do you think would make the most money in the long run? Do you have any faith in Koei Tecmo as a company to think this far ahead? Can they truly become the masters of the art of selling overpriced swimsuit DLC?

 

EDIT:

Best solution: Give away Momiji and the stage, but she only gets two outfits (same one pallet swapped). Sell the rest of her costumes as DLC to cover the cost of making the character and stage and then some.

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The Evil Within: The Worst Trailer Ever?

April 29, 2013

So chances are you have already seen the trailer for The Evil Within, or at least links to it. The thing is plastered all over YouTube, XBox Live, and gaming websites.

So what is this game? The heck if I know! Because the trailer tells you jack squat!

Now from other sources I hear this is Shinji Mikami’s (creator of Resident Evil) new survival horror game. That’s…wonderful. Sure would like it if the trailer you’re cramming down my throat told me anything about the game! But no, just random “scary” clips thrown around.

Scary clips that, to me, are just silly.

…I mean really? A safe?!

Dragon’s Crown May Contain Multi-Sorceress Action!

April 27, 2013

No doubt we’re all familiar with the Dragon’s Crown fiasco I wrote about earlier. Well George Kamitani wrote a professional response to Kotaku as you can see here (though Jason Schrier still insists on being immature about it).

There is a lot that can be said and discussed about this post, but there is one line that may be slipping under people’s radar amidst this controversy that brings us a delightful bit of news:

“We receive many requests from companies to create publicity illustrations for the game, but we never received any requests for the Dwarf. […]

So, I decided to unofficially draw a sweaty Dwarf in a bathing suit, with a bit of cynicism towards those retailer requests. I drew 3 of them to show that there are character color variations available.

Yes, that’s right: Dragon’s Crown contains color variations! Why is this important? Well aside from the fact that I appreciate any character customization options no matter how miniscule, why else would you have multiple color variations in a multiplayer game?

The answer is, of course, so that you can have multiples of the same character! This is fantastic news! Lets be real here: Everyone is gonna wanna play the Sorceress and if you could only have one Sorceress per game? Well we’d see a lot of people joining and leaving games when they found the Sorceress was already picked.

Trust me, I played (and loved) Sacred: Citadel. That game had this exact problem.

But with the ability to have multiple of the same character, it will make online matchmaking much more plausible. To say nothing of the eyebrow raising spectacle that will be an all Sorceress playthrough.

Mind you this isn’t 100% confirmed. They could still have color variations for customization but still only allow one of each class per game. But I have a good feeling about this.

Personally, I hope this means I can put the Sorceress in a red dress with purple gloves and shoes and name her Jessica.

JessicaSorceress

I’m not sure why, but that seems like the best idea ever!

Dragon’s Crown Fiasco: Kotaku Really Needs To Stop Letting Teenage Boys Write Their Articles

April 26, 2013

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you have no doubt noticed the sudden escalation in discussion about sexism in videogames, the industry, and the community. In fact, according to Gamasutra, 2012 was “The year the discussion about equality in games began”.

No doubt you are also aware of Dragon’s Crown, the jawdroppingly gorgeous high definition, hand painted 2D brawler from Vanillaware most infamous for its chesty sorceress. Indeed it was only a matter of time before the two collided.

See, back when Dragon’s Crown was first announced, it was considered okay. We saw the over-the-top character designs and said “Wow those sure are over-the-top!” but continued to drool over the amazing game. It was the kind of thing that we always wanted but never thought could exist. Because, back in the 90s the beat ’em up genre vanished right as it was hitting it’s stride, stunting the growth of the genre. Shortly thereafter, 2D visuals in general were considered “outdated” and their growth too was stunted. So seeing such gorgeous 2D visuals coupled with evolved brawler gameplay is like a dream come true to many gamers. Especially the game’s own creator: George Kamitani. Dragon’s Crown was originally planned for the SEGA Dreamcast but the project was put on hold for more than a decade.

But now, “things have changed”. The pressure is on regarding sexualized female character design. It is apparently no longer “okay” to have such characters in your game, like it was back when it first entered development.

This leads to the embarrassing incident involving Kotaku. With the release of the Sorceress gameplay trailer, Kotaku writer Jason Schreier posted it with a short article titled “Game Developers Really Need To Stop Letting Teenage Boys Design Their Characters” The exact text of the article reads “As you can see, the sorceress was designed by a 14-year-old boy. Perhaps game development studios should stop hiring teenagers? At least they’re cheap, I guess.”

Upon hearing this, George Kamitani responded on Facebook with a post reading “It seems that Mr. Jason Schreier of Kotaku is pleased also with neither sorceress nor amazon. The art of the direction which he likes was prepared.” alongside a picture of three muscular bearded men giving each other noogies.

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Suddenly the thing exploded. People were shocked and aghast that George Kamitani would kinda sorta make a gay joke and thus engage in “Casual Homophobia”.

Meanwhile, Jason Schrier posted another article titled “The Real Problem With That Controversial, Sexy Video Game Sorceress” the article takes back the 14-year-old boy crack but then proceeds to try and take a “serious” stance with phrases like “For now, I’d like to elaborate on my criticism, because this subject deserves more thought and consideration than a few snarky lines below a trailer.” and “I’m not saying this particular piece of art should not exist, but I have no qualms about saying I think it can hurt this game and gaming as a whole.” with Jason trying to take the high ground and leave Kamitani with egg on his face, dragging his name through the mud.

First of all, the opening comments were both equally childish. Yes, Kamitani’s had a slight air of casual homophobia to it but I feel it is no worse than what he got from Kotaku. Jason Schrier made a childish inflammatory comment, like Kotaku writers tend to, and he got a childish inflammatory response. This is pretty common as the tone for this “discussion” was set.

This isn’t the first time Kotaku has pulled bullcrap like this. How about that time they wrote the article “The Guy Who Made Bayonetta Is Clueless about Valve and PC Gaming” which they then retitled and altered when Kamiya told them to shove it. What about that time they whipped gamers into a frenzy over a Dad being unsure about purchasing a Wii for his sons and then acted aghast and morally outraged when they lashed out at him. Again, taking the moral highground.

This is what drives me perhaps the most insane about Kotaku. They’re the tabloid rag of game journalism. They post the most useless crap and the most inflammatory article titles to drive up hits. Then they decide to take the moral highground and wag their fingers at everyone and tell us how ashamed we should all be.

Perhaps most egregious is how Jason brings up completely unrelated and far more serious issues like “One Reason Why”, in turn watering them down and using them as a smoke screen to make himself seem like some righteous crusader.

No, fuck you Kotaku.

Luke Plunkett tried to iron over this with the article “Beyond The Bosoms, This Art Is Some Of The Best In The Business” writing “In some ways it’s a little sad that the first time many people are hearing the name ‘George Kamitani’ this week is because of the issues some are having with Dragon’s Crown’s characters, because the man is also responsible for some of the finest artwork the medium of video games has ever seen.” As one commentor wrote “You mean the issue your coworker had with said characters? The same coworker who then proceeded to highlight that solitary aspect of George’s work while at the same time calling him a child? Is that what you’re referring to?”

Indeed, it is going to take more than a post of a bunch of random George Kamitani art to iron this one over.

Penny Arcade’s The PA Report also weighed in with another article. Titled “You don’t like breasts? You must like men: The disappointing conversation and art of Dragon’s Crown” the second half of the article reitterates this statement with the line “You don’t like my art? What are you, gay?” in large bold text as though to claim these were George Kamitani’s exact words and continues to flog the point about the harm of “Casual Homophobia” casting the blame on him for a few misused (and awkwardly written) words. “If he had simply engaged with the discussion and talked about his work, it would have been great. The whole thing would have ended as soon as it began. Instead, he decided to double-down on homophobia, and only apologized when the story blew up.” Because, you see, calm rational discussion is the first thing people do when called a 14-year-old boy who works on the cheap while working on your decades long dream game. Honestly, I’m surprised Kamitani was as civil as he was!

But it is here that we get to the more important crux of the issue. We have all these people taking the moral highground and saying “This is a discussion we need to be having” without really discussing anything. They are essentially sitting around and yelling “Someone should do something!” at each other.

But at least Penny Arcade gets to the point and answers the big question: What is wrong with the hyper sexualized Sorceress character? “What’s worth criticizing is how few people are doing anything else.” Ah yes, the real issue isn’t the Sorceress herself but that  she is just one of many hyper sexualized videogame women that dominate the gaming landscape! It’s a darn shame no one is doing anything else!

…except this line of thinking does not apply to George Kamitani at all.

Why? Well because literally every single game his company has ever made stars a not-particularly-sexualized female character. I would like to emphasize that again: stars. They are the lead. In Princess Crown, Gradriel was the main character and the two guys were merely unlockable extras with short side stories. There was also another girl with a sidestory as well. In Odin’s Sphere, you start as Gwendolyn and there are only two male playable to the three female playables. In Grim Grimoire you could only play as Lillet Blan. Muramasa featured a choice of male or female lead.

VanillawareGals

This right here is the problem if you ask me. We sit here demanding less sexualized female leads and that games be more welcoming to female players, and yet every time they are we completely ignore it.

It is particularly egregious in this case as here we are wagging our fingers at a man whose entire gameography up to this point has been exactly what is being demanded! In an industry where “2D doesn’t sell” and “female leads don’t sell”, George Kamitani flew in the face of tradition and delivered on both. Wether you like his games or not, he deserves a damn medal! But no, we instead shout “shame on you” and drag his name through the mud. Now the name George Kamitani is synonymous with vile sexism and homophobia.

I’m sure everyone will act shocked when they release the Elf trailer (i.e. the female character with normal body proportions and sensible clothes) and act like this is some kind of victory even though the character has been in the game for more than 3 years.

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That isn’t to say that these games don’t have sexualized elements. From Gradriel’s transformation to the kitsune ladies of Muramasa, there have always been a decent number of busty ladies in these games. However they have never been playable leads until now.

VanillawareBoobsHappen

See, that’s the other thing. One of the reasons I am so excited about Dragon’s Crown is that the art is so different! People act like these are the norm, that they’re so cliche. Characters like these are a dime a dozen, right? Maybe back in the 80s and 90s but these days you absolutely do not see characters like these and never to such an exaggerated degree!

More than that, it is a huge departure from what George Kamitani normally does. All his other games tend to feature shorter characters with small bodies and large heads. A cuter design style meant to evoke the feel of a fairytale. Fitting as the framing device for two of his games was a little girl and her storybook. Here, however, we see tall characters with large bodies and tiny heads! I’ve never seen Kamitani’s art style applied to proportions like these! Presumably this is to evoke the feeling of old school fantasy art in all its ridiculousness. It’s somewhat subtle because it’s the same artist but when you really look there is a distinct difference in design between Odin Sphere and Dragon’s Crown.

DragonSphereOdinsCrown

Speaking of unusual designs, I think I am most excited about the Amazon. You don’t see muscular women that often and never to that degree. When you do see them that beefy though, they usually aren’t meant to also be pretty. The juxtaposition of her curly blonde hair with her massive body is unique and fascinating to me. Especially that hair! You just don’t see a lot of curly haired women in games these days!

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In being cliche, the game’s design style manages to be unlike anything I have ever seen. While there are certainly offputting elements here and there, I am overall excited beyond words.

In being so unique, it is hard to criticize it as being “indicative of a bigger problem” because that argument only really works if the designs were more cliche. Yes, Ivy Valentine from Soul Calibur exists, but who else? Lulu from Final Fantasy X? Keep going and you see that characters this overtly sexualized aren’t that common. Usually one per franchise if said franchise has enough characters.

More importantly though is that singleing out George Kamitani is ridiculous as he has personally contributed more to great female leads in videogames than nearly anyone else in the industry. If you don’t believe me, go watch some cutscenes on YouTube of Odin Sphere and GrimGrimoire (especially the later).

If you wanna take the moral highground and fight for better representation of women in videogames, I would like to point something out to you: Remember what I said about how Jason Schrier set the tone for their discussion when he called Kamitani a 14-year-old boy? This applies to many situations. If you act aggressively, you’ll get aggression in return. If you act negatively you’ll get negativity in return.

It occurs to me that this is the big problem with this discussion. We spend all of our time emphasizing the bad and wagging our fingers at it. We say we don’t want censorship but then go out of our way specifically to point out sexualization and shame anyone that might like it. In a way, demanding self-censorship. This approach tends to rub people the wrong way.

What we aren’t doing is recognizing the positive. We don’t look at the good. We aren’t saying “less of this, more of this” or even “at least X is better than Y”. Nope, just a lot of finger wagging and shame.

Another example of that would be the female marines in Aliens: Colonial Marines. People continually bring up the fact that female marines were supposedly a last minute feature request, citing that “female characters should not be a ‘feature’, they should be standard”. There are many lengthy articles ranting about this fact and wagging their finger at Gearbox because real Aliens fans would know the importance of female marines. What is ignored, however, is that the game shipped with female marines, there are female marines in co-op, there are female marines in story mode. The online play in and of itself was a late feature addition and perhaps the female marines barely made the cut, but they were there.

There is never any mention of the sheer amount of FPS games that do not feature female characters. Never any discussion of the other Aliens games that lacked female marines. Colonial Marines is awarded no consolation prize. No, it just gets fingers wagged at it. Not because of the lack of female marines, but because someone (who may not even be a Gearbox employee) called them a “feature”.

What we need here is less finger wagging and more promotion. Less “this is bad and you’re bad for liking it” and more “this is good and more people should buy it”. Then perhaps this discussion wouldn’t be so vicious. Then perhaps we could make progress and agree on something and have a meaningful conversation.

I mean, the problem isn’t that games with sexualized women sell better but that games with any women, sexualized or not, “don’t sell” (a complete myth but we’ll discuss that later) right? So why cast so much shame on the people who buy these games just because it happens to be what they like? We should support positive games, not declare certain things “negative” and shame them into oblivion!

But that isn’t what happens is it? Why not? Because negativity generates money. Look at what articles get the most hits, look at what YouTube celebrities are popular, look at what you enjoy reading. There is indeed something cathartic about watching a reviewer really tear into a game. As such we don’t see a lot of positivity. A list of great female leads generates far less hits than “Top 10 Most Offensive Women in Videogames”. As such, we never make any progress and the whole “conversation” that we “need to have” is stalled. Good job, team! If you need me I’ll be over here playing Rumble Roses XX and wallowing in self loathing.

Gaming with GEL – Steel Harbinger

April 26, 2013

A spontaneous first run of an obscure crap game I always wanted to play. BEHOLD the Felt Harbinger!

 

Gaming with GEL – PreCure All-Stars Zenin Shugo Let’s Dance!

April 19, 2013

QuickView: Sacred Citadel

April 18, 2013

How does this happen? One minute we are starving for a brawler with decent netcode and the next we’re flooded with them! Phantom Breaker: Battlegrounds had pretty good netcode, then Scott Pilgrim’s online patch finally hit and delivered decent netcode. Though not online, we just got our hands on Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons and its rough but challenging nature and now, Sacred: Citadel or as I like to call it: Dungeons & Dubstep (Shadow Over Mix-tara).

If you’re unfamiliar, Sacred: Citadel is a 3-player side scrolling beat ’em up spin-off of the Sacred series of Diablo clones. Not that you would be able to tell though as Citadel is brightly colored and cartoonish not just in visuals but in personality as well.

Initially I had thought the game was PSN exclusive but it is actually available on XBLA and Steam as well so it’s easy to get.

Initially the game seems to be very similar to Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara but with some Castle Crashers elements and not as good. The movelists, while bigger than most brawlers, are still sparse, the characters aren’t varied enough, and there isn’t much in the way of combo options. It isn’t until you play the Ranger that things click:

This is Castle Crashers meets King of Dragons!

It’s a very slight distinction but an important one and once you make the connection the game really clicks. The excessively fast attacks, the sparse moveset, the ranged attacks, even the odd choice of making the game 3-player instead of the more traditional four.

You get a choice of one of four characters: Warrior, Ranger, Shaman, and Mage. All characters are built off a similar base template: they all dual-wield the same weapons (swords, axes, and mace) and have a similar array of normal attacks. Mash X to combo, press Y and a direction mid-combo to knock the enemy in that direction, do a chain in mid-air and press Y to dive-kick, dash and press X to shoulder charge. The animations are different and the way the moves work may change slightly, but it is the same core set of attacks.

The reasoning behind this is that the different weapons have different effects. Axes can’t be blocked while maces have a chance to stun on top of whatever elemental attributes they have. In mixing and matching your two dual-wielded weapons you can personalize the effects of your basic attack string.

What separates each character is their Y button attack. This character-specific secondary weapon usually embodies their ranged capabilities. The Shaman shoots a quick magic burst, the Mage shoots a ball of magic, the Ranger unleashes a barrage of up to 5 arrows (and can move while shooting), and the Warrior just slams enemies with a giant hammer. As you progress you unlock more moves as well which further differentiate the characters. The Shaman can do a quick burst of magic that buffs nearby, the Mage can shoot an area of effect magic burst around her, the Warrior can throw his hammer, and the Ranger can juggle enemies in mid-air with his arrows. Characters also have 3 different super moves unique to them as well.

What I’m getting at here is that the characters seem really similar at first, but differentiate themselves greatly as the game progresses.

The items and inventory work identical to Castle Crashers: You only carry what you’re actually using, but there is a town where you can switch back to your collection of old weapons.

It is also worth mentioning that the game offers plenty in the way of defensive options. Blocking, double jumps, and even dodge rolls with the right analog stick are all here.

Though it does have some day 1 DLC in the form of extra levels, the packed in 20 stages are more than enough to justify the $15 pricetag.

But lets get to what you’re really wondering: How is the netcode? The answer: incredible. The game does not focus on sync too much and will instead teleport players to where they need to be should they lag. The result is that your control is never interrupted and the worst you’ll have to deal with is occasional camera hiccups from the sudden teleported player. I just played a 3-player game with someone in Japan and had no real issues.

So what are the game’s issues? Well once you get past the awkwardly fast attack speed and accept that this isn’t a super deep combo brawler, not too much. The biggest problem is that you can only have one player per class. If there is already a Shaman in your game and that is who you main? Well then you’ll either have to use a different character or find a different game. I find this to be the game’s biggest flaw.

The game also isn’t very clear on what your different supers do and once you have two meters it seems you can only do a level 2 super. This is an issue for the Shaman (guess who I main) as she uses buffs. Her level 1 heals the entire group while her level 2 is a big buff to the entire group. So sometimes you kinda want to heal everyone but you can’t because you can only buff them because you have too much meter.

Or at least I personally haven’t found a way to do a level 1 super with two bars.

Beyond that I haven’t found much to complain about. Again it’s not super deep so it can get boring if you play for too long, but I can safely say it is far from mindless.

Visually the game is interesting. It uses brightly colored cel-shaded 3D models to produce a very unique visual style.

The music is also pretty neat with some very odd style choices, such as the main menu music that can only be described as “Fantasy Dubstep”. Yes, mixing woodwinds and violins with dubstep “wubs”. It’s quite surreal.

The only thing more surreal was realizing that the entire first chapter consists of different remixes of Golden Axe’s first stage theme. Seriously, it sounds impossibly similar.

So yeah, in short a good time to be had! Not super deep and definitely more fun in multiplayer than in single, but good netcode and an awesome audio visual style make it well worth a look. It’s no Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara, Dungeon Fighter Online, or Dragon’s Crown but it will at the very least tide us over until they hit and is good fun in its own right.

Ballparked Score:

3.7~4 out of 5

Oh right! Current progress? End of chapter 2. Level 18 Shaman, level 5 Ranger, level 3 Mage, and level 1 Warrior. Played some online in random public matches. No luck roping my friends into this one yet.