Impressions: Metroid Prime 3 – Corruption

May 27, 2010

Metroid Prime and I had a very unusual relationship. I bought Metroid Prime Trilogy because I figured it was probably some sort of modern interactive crime to have never played any representative from that series, but I wasn’t sure if I would actually enjoy playing it. To tell the truth I’m still not sure. It was, almost literally, Super Metroid in the third dimension from a unique perspective. I enjoyed Super Metroid quite a bit, and should have been theoretically delighted with that sort of design applied to current (well, then current) technology. Objectively, there was nothing wrong with it.

But, like I said, I’m not sure if I technically “enjoyed” playing it. I play nearly every game I start until it’s completed. Sometimes it’s effortless because I feel consistently rewarded by my actions, and other times I try and develop a reward from the satisfaction of completing a game. The latter is usually typical games of I don’t enjoy, as it clearly isn’t doing enough to keep my attention. It’s easy to interpret that as bad game design (and it often is), but occasionally it just doesn’t click with me. Such was the case with Metroid Prime. It wasn’t objectively a bad game, but its tedious backtracking, cumbersome interface, and the overwhelming feeling of being consistently lost was too much for me. I finished it, but then I decided that was as far as I was going to go with the trilogy.

Yet, months later, I inexplicably began to crave more Metroid Prime. I turned on my Wii (with trilogy still in it, har har) last winter and decided to give Echoes a shot. That started out fine, but the light/dark world, finite ammo, and idiosyncratic distress created by reacquiring the exact same power ups from the last game left a sour taste in my mouth. The mechanics were still incredibly solid, Prime games demonstrate a remarkable amount of movement-control (excluding the few areas where the Wiimote clearly was at fault for my failings), but it was all wrapped around a terribly obtuse interface. I didn’t want to be forced into doing a majority of Echoes’ activities with that toolset, it seemed like a waste. Still, I managed to finish it (with 97% completion to boot).

Corruption, unlike the previous two entries, made a great first impression. Motion control concessions, like ripping shields off or circuit welding, were a given, but the control scheme feels the most benefit from a world that was actually designed for it, rather than on top of it. Additionally, despite the Wii’s lack of technical prowess, Corruption looked dramatically better than its prequels. The particle effects and draw distance are particularly impressive, and it stands with Dead Space: Extraction in making the best of its limited tool set. Additionally, the color pallet, which emphasized bright pastels over Prime’s typically organic and dreary landscapes, were a huge step up from the bold blues and purples of Echoes. I would never, ever mistake Corruption for a current generation title, but it looks just fine, and if other Wii software featured a similar level of execution consistent with inspired art direction, I wouldn’t be one to complain.

I was also really into the reworked interface. Though it could always be broken down into bunch of interconnected sections, the massive worlds of Prime 1 and 2 felt intimidating, and made going from A to B a laborious journey rather than a simple transition. Part of that is Metroid’s charm, but at a certain point terms of endearment are replaced with tedium. Hoping from set points with my ship in Corruption was a fantastic way to expedite the entire process, and the mental blockade of a “giant world” was completely removed by the new planet-hopping system. Given it’s basically the exact same traversal in a slightly different package, but it granted me me the illusion of difference I had been looking for.

Isolation is Metroid’s atmospheric calling card, but I was delighted to see that mood eschewed in favor of something different. Landing on a populated spaceship and walking around talking to people was the last thing I expected, at least until I met up with the other Hunters. Criticism at the time judged an increased focus on interaction as wandering too far off the series’ path, but said path has been carefully trotted enough. I like having known antagonists, and the mystery and intrigue of the ghastly unknown still permeates every fiber of every world. In the case of Corruption, you really can have your opposition both ways, and the game emerged better because of it.

Who the hell knows what Retro is up to nearly three years after Corruption was completed, but you can bet I’ll be amongst the first in line for Other M at E3 next month.


Impressions: Mega Man 10

May 21, 2010

Mega Man 9 provided a rush of nostalgia unrivaled by much else in the current gaming spectrum. Retro reboots or remakes are great, especially when they’re as close to the source material as a game like Bionic Commando: Rearmed, but nothing else crafted by modern design could reach out and touch my childhood like Capcom’s 2008 reissue of their Blue Bomber. Waxing nostalgia about Mega Man is hardly unique, but it’s still special.

Mega Man 2 was a frequent rental, but receiving Mega Man 3 for my eighth birthday in the summer of 1991 probably changed my life. Everyone remembers their first true love, and while that sense of intimate adoration is typically expressed toward another human being, I gave everything I had to Mega Man 3. I played that game every day (literally, every day). Waking up and beating Mega Man 3 was a Saturday/Sunday staple for years. Mega Man 4 was a kind mistress and had the distinction of featuring my favorite music in the entire series, but it didn’t have the same sort of impact 3 had on my young mind. 4 was a game a played sometimes, rather than all the time. 5 and 6 followed into my collection, each with growing complexity but seemingly less endearing intangibles. I never picked up anything in the X series (or 7 and 8, for that matter), but “classic” Mega Man always did it for me, even into the 32-bit era.

Mega Man 9 was marvelous time paradox; a gift from the past to everyone in the future, and completely self-aware of that fact. The game was brutally difficult, even after bolt farming at Dr Light’s store, but it wasn’t enough to stifle my relentless determination to not only relive the childlike excitement of a nearly identical sequel to my favorite 8-bit series, but also to prove that I still had what it took to conquer a legitimately hard game.

Mega Man 10, in my head, was supposed to follow the same path; another chance to relive the days of being nine years old with eyes permanently fixed toward the next Mega Man on the horizon. When it  was announced I was delighted, and when saw Spike Man’s level at CES and I grinned, but then I played it and nearly destroyed everything in my living room.

Mind you, I was well aware that demolition of personal property was the intended reaction to a Mega Man game. While I will maintain that Meg’s recent consciousness toward its difficulty resulted in an overly punitive and/or bastardly experience, I won’t shy away from admitting my relative lack of patience in dealing with its prescribed bullshit.

Sometime after Sheep Man I decided to start “live blogging” my experience, which last for a grand total of three levels before I considered destroying my laptop. Originally I intended to run the whole liveblog transcript on this blog, but at some point the profanity was too outrageous for even the internet, so here’s a quick sample.

(7:40:30 PM):That wasn’t the way to go. That was a bottomless pit.

(7:43:33 PM):Did the thing where I completely missed an attempt to jump on Rush and fell in a hole. Game over.

(7:52:19 PM):Fell down a ladder, down to another screen, and the exact spot where I land is where a robot spawns. Nice.
(7:52:25 PM):bottomless pit. profanity,
(7:53:14 PM):seriously, i want to bite into a living animal. raw flesh, that would cure every problem I have right now
(7:53:28 PM):chasm

(7:53:33 PM):Beer #4


(7:54:39 PM):zero lives left, its ok, as long as I make it to Pump Man I should have a pretty decent shot

(7:56:48 PM):just mistimed a jump for the…eightH time in a row

(8:00:03 PM):alright, at the boss with zero lives and 1/10th energy. Let’s do this
(8:00:42 PM):a clean death. a soldier’s death.
(8:00:45 PM):game over


(9:03:32 PM):Nitro Man
(9:03:40 PM):Loving the city theme, hope it stays consistent through the level

Beyond that my rage jumped past adolescent whining and went straight into infantile screaming. All I wanted to do was yell and punch things. Despite my lack of composure I pressed on, defeated all of the robot masters, and made it to Wily Stage 2, where I promptly died a million times on or before the boss before deciding that, in order to beat the game, I had to quit the game. Otherwise, the game was going to continue beating me.

Could I have actually made it through? Probably, I had the patience to complete Mega Man I-IX, the skill to beat God Hand (mostly on level DIE), and the unrivaled dedication necessary to make it through Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, but I couldn’t sit there and rationalize endless failure when I have so many other games/movies/girlfriend competing for my attention. Death may only set me back a few minutes, but each time it started to feel more and more like an eternity in hell.  I liked Mega Man 10, and even when I was getting my ass kicked I was thinking about how much fun it might be to go back through as Proto Man or Bass, but my time had officially passed.

Like Jordan playing for the Wizards or Jenna Jameson regressing into girl/girl exclusivity, you have to know when the walk away from the game. Mega Man 10 was my catalyst. There is no further need to humiliate myself. I don’t belong here anymore.

Review: Zeno Clash – Ultimate Edition

May 9, 2010

Zeno Clash is on par with a night of heavy drinking at Jabba’s palace. The next day you’re not exactly sure who you are, what just happened, or how much of what you think transpired actually occurred, but you’re fairly certain everyone there actually did want to kill you, and your attempts to kick everyone else’s ass first was completely justified. It’s a pretty crazy, but peel off any of Zeno Clash’s layers and you’ll always arrive at the same conclusion: “Well, I’ve never done that before.”

Read my full review over at Digital Chumps!

Review: Nier

May 5, 2010

Nier is a fantastic game beset by the highest sin of the current generation; it looks marginally worse than a launch title. One can’t fault Cavia for spending their time and money crafting an experience that, while rough around the edges, executes more risks than most other games even dare to take. Time will never be kind to graphics, but enduring gameplay is rarely forgotten, and in that regard Nier’s going to wind up as one of those “hidden gems” you always wish you would have played. Do yourself a favor and snag it early.

Read my full review over at Digital Chumps!

Review: Fat Princess – Fistful of Cake

April 23, 2010

Fat Princess was a ballsy choice to pack into Sony’s handheld, but Fistful of Cake doesn’t disappoint in its attempt to emulate big brother. Single player is serviceable, but its longevity and success will be determined by the strength of its user community, which arrives hindered with a lack of voice chat and wifi-necessity. Infrastructure isn’t ideal, but it all the necessary pieces are in play for multiplayer to evolve into an endearing experience.

Read my full review over at Digital Chumps!

Mario Galaxy 2: The End of the World

April 20, 2010

Super Mario Galaxy 2 is going to cause the universe to explode. I don’t mean that in terms of the game’s (science?) fiction, I’m actually talking about the physical solar system in which both you and I are sitting here staring at a computer monitor. The cause for this cataclysm is obvious; Nintendo, a corporation and game developer with the most loyal fan base post-Segapocaylpse, is actually giving its fans what they want. It seems like a no brainer business model that countless other publishers embrace (if X game sells well, make a sequel as fast as you possibly can. see also: Activision), but Nintendo, at least from a first party perspective, has almost always defined its consoles with a single incarnation from their landmark stable of franchises. Hell, sometimes those franchises completely skip console generations. The only possible exceptions I can think of were Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and Majora’s Mask, though each could easily be asterisk’d with suspicion of being divergent enough to be labled a “spin off.”

This certainly won’t be the case with Mario Galaxy 2. Typical first party Nintendo games evenly empty their entire bag of tricks throughout the course of a game, but the original Galaxy was a rare exception. Rather than fully exploit its mechanics and force players to repeat slightly reworked versions of those same mechanics, Galaxy just kept throwing new shit at you. Arguments could be made for a few too many prankster comet challenges, but the specifics of what you were actually doing were in constant fluctuation. There could have easily been more manta races, bee suit challenges, or tear-your-hair-out sections like Luigi’s Purple Coins. Worlds could have easily been further mined for more or less challenging stars – but they weren’t. Nintendo just kept adding new stuff and cut the rest.

The rest, apparently, is what we’re getting with Mario Galaxy 2. The Big N, of course never goes on the record with any of this, but chatter from enough credible sources indicates that Galaxy’s sequel is largely comprised of leftover levels or concepts. And that’s actually fine with me, as I imagine it would be for anyone who enjoyed Galaxy. I 100% completed the game as Mario and Luigi during its first week of release, and, with the exception of Portal, it was probably my defining experience of 2007 gaming. Sure, early media broadcasts the return of Yoshi* and a new drill suit, but no one ever said the game was entirely composed of leftover ideas. A little new and a lot of old should make for an experience that closely mirrors the original. It’s a gamble, especially considering New Super Mario Brothers Wii’s sales eclipsed Galaxy’s fairly quickly, but Nintendo has been red hot this console generation and, who knows, maybe the small amount of R&D didn’t require a significant budget.

Nintendo is finally giving us what we want, but why? You’d think they’d be saving their big guns for the holiday season, unless, of course, there is something more deserving of the spotlight (note: the author places 2:1 odds at new Zelda, 20:1 at Wii HD, and 40:1 at new Zelda on Wii HD).

Unless, you know, oblivion occurs beforehand.

* barf

Review: Episodes From Liberty City (PS3)

April 19, 2010

Hindsight has been kind to my original thoughts on Episodes from Liberty City, which is why I’m running the most of the same text from my fall 2009 review. So, why the lower score? Simply put, time has passed and game design has improved upon the open world template established by GTA IV. The art direction along with the dialogue and interaction between characters is still top notch, but the facial animation, gunplay, and movement mechanics are beginning to show their age. Even the celebrated return of parachuting and BASE jumping has been completely outclassed by the likes of Just Cause 2. Episodes from Liberty City is still mechanically competent, incredibly fun, essential to fleshing out GTA IV’s overarching narrative, and a fantastic value for its price, but it’s missing that new car smell. Last year’s model isn’t a bad deal, it just lacks that, shall we say, Red Dead appeal.

Read my full review over at Digital Chumps!


April 18, 2010

Note: I originally wrote this last October, then emailed it to myself and forgot all about it. While playing Fat Princess: A Fistful of Cake for most of the evening, I unexpectedly rediscovered the consumerism-pangs for the PSP Go and remembered I wrote this silly little article. It’s out of place and damn late, but still valid in terms of how my brain wants something I absolutely do not need.

I have no idea why I want a PSP Go. It’s over priced by a good hundred dollars, it’s essentially gimped by a lack of complete 3rd party publisher support, and, perhaps most pertinent, I already have PSP-2000. Not only would that render all of my current collection of UMD’s useless, but I already have a device that does almost everything that device does. On top of that, I can’t remember the last time I played my PSP for fun. Sure, I’ve reviewed some real gems over the last year (Chinatown Wars and Half Minute Hero come to mind), but I haven’t voluntarily touched the thing since Crisis Core dropped in early 2008. Yet, I still endure a daily struggle to keep myself from buying one. I can’t escape the appeal of its aesthetic.

Part of this has to relate to my history with consoles; I’ve acquired just about everything from the last few console generations. I have a Virtual Boy I’ve played less than once, a 32X/Sega CD, two Saturns, a Master System, and what used to be a functioning 3DO. I don’t know why (probably American consumerism or poor decision making, which are arguably the same thing). All of us here at Digital Chumps unabashedly love videogames, but I haven’t even played half the shit I’ve bought for these consoles. Cosmic Carnage? Touring Car Championship? Ghost House? I have no idea why I have any of those games.* But, well, I have the console just in case I want to play them.

But I already have a PSP. I don’t want to Go because it has the option to send video to my TV and allow me to use a Dual Shock 3(which seems backwards on a level I am not comfortable with). I think I actually want it because I want to play Final Fantasy VII again, and playing it on the Go (lolpun) seems to be the best environment imaginable for that task. It’s ultra portable and not awkward in my pocket like the current PSP, which might encourage me to take it everywhere and actually commit to finishing it. But then what the hell am I supposed to do with it after that? I love the feel of the thing, my E3 impressions were great, but when am I practically going to use it?

It seems like a test bed for PSP 2, a giant market research device to see how the public responds to paying a premium price for digital, on-the-go content. That would be extremely cool if the thing wasn’t at a premium price, but there is no way in perfect hell than anyone with a rational amount of sense should pick up a PSP Go.

Which is precisely why I am going to buy one.

* This isn’t true. I have Cosmic Carnage because I heard there was a nude code for the characters (I was also 12), I have Touring Car because I loved Sega Rally, and I received Ghost House for my Master System because, somehow,  it was supposed to be 3D.

Review: Just Cause 2

March 29, 2010

Just Cause 2 is a coloring book for people who never cared to keep their art inside the lines. Pleasure is derived not from carefully staying within the edges, but ripping all the pages out and then replacing them with whatever twisted idea first comes to mind. Mainline content is merely serviceable, but the degree to which its mechanics allow for improvisation and experimentation within the game’s world is unrivaled by its peers. It’s like the first time you played Grand Theft Auto III; those who got the most of it spent their time testing the game’s limitations, not lamenting over the shortcomings of its prepackaged content.

Read my full review over at Digital Chumps!

Review: Lunar – Silver Star Harmony

March 23, 2010

Lunar is the videogame equivalent of a summer vacation. It’s free of complication, full of careless fun, over before you know it, and easily lends itself to nostalgia. Trading up in the presentation department and considerably down in gameplay, Silver Star Harmony does little to tread on that legacy. It’s almost effortless, which is unfortunate, but not enough to advise against another lighthearted romp with Alex and his friends.

Read my full review over at Digital Chumps!