June 30, 2011
Kasumi Goto is an interesting character. She’s a thief, not the most famous, but the best, as she says it, and like the rest of Shepard’s squad in Mass Effect 2, she is interesting and a little different from everyone else. As Kasumi’s Stolen Memory unfolds I learned about her past and why we needed each other’s help; Shepard could obviously use all the help he can get and she needed use of his talents.
Kasumi’s Stolen Memory is basically her loyalty mission. It’s a fun mission and for the most part different from what I’d experienced in Mass Effect 2. Gunplay didn’t play a large part until the latter half, at which point it became a rather tedious shootout. The beginning had me undercover at a party and looking for clues to help her break into the vault of a dubious man, who had something very dear to her. Of course, they get discovered and it’s a series of shootouts to freedom. The ending was a little difficult, but it was a welcome change, up until then, it was monotonous filling guards with lead, or whatever Mass Effect guns use for ammo, until they keeled over.
Besides Kasumi, there is a small amount of loot and a new submachine gun. Kasumi was talkative back on the Normandy, but as was the case with Zaeed, she lacks a conversation wheel so she just spouts info when prompted. She has a unique ability that is both effective and fun to use, but I can’t see her being more useful than anyone of the current squad.
Kasumi’s Stolen Memory was a short play through, but an interesting one, and I not only got a new character from it, but a decent amount of loot. I think seven dollars was a little too much to charge, but I still enjoyed what I played.
June 28, 2011
When Clover Studio shut down, I was sad. I loved the games the studio developed for Capcom. Nearly everything they did was critically successful, but not always commercially successful. A little while after they shut down, many of the former employees went on to form Platinum Games, who have made a name for themselves in the past couple of years. Heck, one of the first games I wrote about here (MadWorld) was developed by them. With Vanquish, released in 2010 and published by Sega, they created a spectacular action game. Packed with an unraveling plot, fast gameplay, and variations on the genre, Vanquish is a game I highly recommend.
There’s a lot going on with the plot of Vanquish. On the surface, I was just playing as Sam Gideon, DARPA researcher ordered to rescue a kidnapped scientist. But the deeper I got into Vanquish, the more I learned about the true intentions of everyone and their interconnectedness.
Set in the future, Vanquish takes place on a massive space station, the United States’ 51st state. Seeing it’s cityscape in the background of missions was remarkable. It was fantastic to look at and did a great job of giving scale to my surroundings. The Order of the Russian Star has invaded the space station and taken over. After gaining control they attacked San Francisco with a laser and stated that unless the United States surrenders, New York City is next. Not wanting to do that, the President sends in the Marines to quell the threat, along with Sam Gideon.
Sam is a researcher at DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Interestingly enough, DARPA is a real agency in the United States’ Department of Defense that has made many notable developments, such as the foundations of the Internet. DARPA sees this as the perfect opportunity to test out their Augmented Reaction Suit, or ARS. This suit is quite awesome, less so is the Battlefield Logic Adaptable Electronic Weapons System, or BLADE; I‘ll talk about those acronyms and their features shortly.
I really liked Sam. He had a very casual attitude; even with the multitude of near death experiences he had he usually remained calm. He also showed signs of altruism, frequently rescuing his ally Marines when they needed rescued. Contrasting him was Robert Burns, the leader of the Marines. He was more concerned on finishing the mission he was assigned, no matter the cost. Throughout the game the two had much back and forth banter and it was fun listening to them.
So Vanquish is a third-person cover-based shooter. But because Sam is equipped with the ARS, the game is fast-paced, something most of the games in this genre can’t cop to. You might think I’m a little masochistic when I say I liked the game the most when the odds were stacked against me, but the gameplay really excelled in these situations. In battles I was either facing a lot of normal enemies, or a few really big ones. Using the features of the ARS made these shootouts challenging and entertaining.
The first cool feature of the ARS is the boosters attached to it. At the push of a button I had Sam boosting around the battlefield at a fast clip. I could quickly flank enemies or boost into cover when need be. I was limited on how much I could do this however; overdoing it would overheat the ARS. Boosting was easy to do and thrilling in the heat of battle.
The most notable feature of the ARS however is the AR Mode, aka Augmented Reaction Mode. With a simple button combo I entered this slow motion mode, allowing me greater control of my actions and more precision. Like boosting, I was limited by the same overheating gauge on the ARS. Regulating the AR Mode and boost was necessary to overcoming the enemy threat. By the end, I had become very accustomed to triggering the AR Mode, popping off headshots, and getting back into cover without overheating the ARS.
The last acronym at Sam’s disposal was BLADE, but it’s not that great actually. I basically had one weapon, but by scanning weapons I’d find on the battlefield, Sam’s BLADE would replicate them. He can only hold three weapons at a time (plus grenades) so it’s not like I could scan everything willy-nilly and have a stacked arsenal. Personally, I preferred sticking with a machine gun and the heavy machine gun, rotating my third spot out to experiment with the other weapons. The usual suspects were present but there were plenty of weapons that had interesting effects.
An interesting mechanic involving the weapons was the ability to upgrade them. Every now and then an enemy would drop an upgrade that I could pick up. But the most frequent way I leveled up my weapons was picking up ammunition. If a specific weapon had full ammo, and I picked up ammo for that weapon, a bar would appear next to that weapon. After doing this a few times the weapon would increase a level, eventually maxing out at ten. This had an interesting effect on my strategy. I really liked the machine gun, but I would refrain from using, hoping to find ammo to level it up. As weapons leveled up, they could hold more ammo and did more damage.
I was hooked on Vanquish from the start. Watching the plot unravel kept me motivated to play. As did the chemistry between Sam and Burns; they always bickered, but worked together; it was like a buddy film. Boosting around the battlefield was a blast and differentiated the game from its peers. The AR Mode was vital to success, as was managing the ARS’ temperature, which became second nature. Weapons felt good and upgrading them also set Vanquish apart from other games. Vanquish feels like a complete package; it’s well designed and a blast that I’m going to replay as soon as I’m done writing.
June 27, 2011
I completed Vanquish last week. I wrote a review for it and that’ll go up tomorrow morning. I really liked the game. It took me about seven hours to complete. Some might say that is short, but I’m perfectly okay with it’s length. I didn’t play anything else last week, in fact I started a second play through of Vanquish. It shouldn’t take me that long. At the moment I’m undecided about what I’ll play next.
After purchasing the stack of Nintendo Power magazines, I’ve had the urge to resume work on my video game magazine database. I decided to trash what I had worked on and start anew. I wanted to do it in Microsoft Access, but I couldn’t get it setup just the way I wanted it. Instead, I’m doing it in Microsoft Excel, which isn’t the prettiest, but it will serve my purpose.
Vanquish review tomorrow!
June 21, 2011
Okay. So I have been to the Oklahoma Video Game Expo before, but that was a couple of years ago. The OVGE 2011 was held on June 18, 2011 (last Saturday) and I attended it with a pal. It ran from 9 AM to 5 PM, but I had to work at 11 AM so I didn’t get to stay long, but I experienced a lot that was there. The thing I enjoyed most about the expo was the atmosphere. The passion for video games had brought us all there, and the few conversations I did have, were just great.
Admission was five dollars and the first table we checked out was a retailer from St. Louis. He had some harder to find games for an array of consoles. Vendors were in the majority at the OVGE 2011, and vendors specializing in older, harder to find games more specifically. The next table was a vendor as well. But after that was a table run by a very enthusiastic gentleman. He was hosting the “Bad Game Beatdown”, displaying his collection of notoriously bad video games.
Proceeding along we walked along a wall filled with about twenty arcade and pinball machines. My friend and I played game of Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, I lost. We checked out a table with many old computers and I played a little bit of Zork I. We checked out some more vendors, among them some local favorites, Vintage Stock and GameXChange.
In between that however, we had a good chat with the dudes who run Nintendo Okie. They were asking trivia questions to anyone who wanted a shot at winning a free game. We both attempted and lost. We definitely enjoyed it though.
And the most important conversation for me was getting to talk to Brett Weiss, basically asking him many questions. He has written a couple of books dedicated to describing every North American video game release for specific consoles. For instance his book Classic Home Video Games: 1985-1988 covers every North American release for the Atari 7800, Nintendo Entertainment System, and the Sega Master System, all released within that time frame. The books in this series are basically reference guides, and they’re right up my alley. I really enjoyed talking with him.
That pretty much sums up my experience with the OVGE 2011. There was of course much more going on throughout the day, but I wasn’t fortunate enough to stay. There were also many more vendors and exhibitors that I didn’t mention. I refrained from making any purchases, although I was tempted by many items. I’m looking forward to attending next year’s expo, hopefully staying much longer, getting to experience many classic video games and have plenty of conversations.
June 20, 2011
I completed the third and fourth acts in Vanquish this past week. I didn’t have a lot of time to play video games this week but yesterday I was able to knock out the third and fourth acts, which means I might be able to complete Vanquish this week.
And that’s all I played, but there are two other things of note I did last week.
I attended the Oklahoma Video Game Expo on Saturday (June 18, 2011). It was held in Bixby, Oklahoma at the SpiritBank Event Center. I went with a friend and couldn’t stay that long as I also had to work that day, but for the short amount of time I was there I could tell the atmosphere was very friendly. It wasn’t that large but there was enough there to merit a post about. I will talk about it more in-depth this week.
I also purchased a stack of thirty-four Nintendo Power magazines from the late eighties and early nineties, so yeah. I picked them up at an estate sale and was ecstatic to see the first issue of Nintendo Power was there.
Anyways I’ll keep trucking in Vanquish, post my thoughts about the OVGE this week, maybe along with another article.
June 9, 2011
Acclaim’s Double Player System is a unique set of controllers for the Nintendo Entertainment System. I wouldn’t consider myself the most versed in the accessories released for the NES, but I know the Double Player System is one of the few options for wireless controllers for NES gamers. Include the turbo and slow motion functionalities and the set seems like a no-brainer, but I did run into some issues.
The Double Player System utilizes infrared technology, the same concept implemented in television remotes. To work, the controllers must point at a receiver plugged into the NES. I initially tested them out by turning on Star Soldier, holding a button, and moving the controller around to see when they lost contact. My radius was very limited and playing with them required a steady hand at all times. While in the thick of Star Soldier however, I noticed that I didn’t move around that much. I remained focused and only lost the signal on a few occasions.
The controllers were quite useful for playing Star Soldier as they had added functionality compared to a standard NES controller. Besides being wireless, the controllers also had turbo and slow motion functionality.
I was not impressed with the slow motion as I couldn’t get it to work. I tried it with both controllers but to no avail. Whenever I’d press the button enabling slow motion, the game would rapidly pause and unpause. I tried it with multiple games as well. Perhaps it was my controllers malfunctioning, I mean these are twenty year old controllers (released in 1988) and who knows how well they were taken care of.
The turbo functionality on the other hand was stupendous. To be fair, these are the only controllers for the NES that I own having turbo functionality so I don’t have anything else to compare them to, but unlike the slow motion, turbo actually worked. The turbo functionality was perfect for Star Soldier where I just mashed the fire button to shoot. To enable turbo I clicked in the turbo button above either the A or B button and that button was now rapid-fire. Instead of mashing on the fire button, all I had to do now was hold the fire button to blow fools away.
While Star Soldier was my primary test subject for the controllers, I did play Guerrilla War with a friend to test both controllers at once. We didn’t encounter any interference between the two controllers, but my friend and I had a bit of trouble figuring out who was player one and player two, even after making the selection on our controllers.
With The Double Player System I had little leeway; if I moved slightly and the controller and receiver lost each other, it could turn out terribly. Terribly, like the slow motion functionality. Maybe it’s the games I chose or maybe my controllers were busted, but the slow motion just didn’t work for me. The turbo functionality however worked like a charm and I can foresee myself picking the Double Player System over a standard controller depending on the game I’m playing, a shoot ‘em up for instance. Multiplayer brought about a slight problem, but one that could be overcome. Playing without wires is nice, but the only reason I’d choose the Acclaim Double Player System over a standard controller is for the turbo functionality.
June 2, 2011
Set twenty years after the events of Mansion of Hidden Souls, The Mansion of Hidden Souls sees a return to the ominous mansion that houses humans turned into butterflies. As I did with the Sega CD game, I played through The Mansion of Hidden Souls with a friend.
Released in 1995 for the Sega Saturn, The Mansion of Hidden Souls was developed by System Sacom and published by Sega. While Mansion of Hidden Souls on the Sega CD was published by a different company (Vic Tokai) I can’t believe Sega basically chose the same name for the sequel. Because of this, there is a lot of misinformation about the two games on the internet. While this pains me, perhaps my two reviews can provide a clearer image for anyone who wants to know about the games.
Rather than stumbling upon the mansion with his sister as the player’s character did in the Sega CD game, I gathered that the character my friend and I took control of, Jun, lived in the mansion, along with his mystery solving buddy, Mike. After a sweeping intro showcasing the mansion, my friend and I were introduced to the elder, who told Jun and Mike of his worries over the red color of the moon. He believes it is a bad omen and asked us to do some investigating.
My friend and I left the elder’s room and set foot in the foyer of the mansion, ready to begin reacquainting ourselves with the mansion and meeting its residents. This was an easy task however as the mansion had retained a similar, if not identical floor plan as it had in the Sega CD game. Even after playing the Sega CD game a week or two earlier, I still got a feeling of nostalgia. So, already familiar with mansion, we began meeting with its residents.
All of the mansion’s residents are butterflies. They all were human at one point, but decided to be turned into butterflies to escape the woe associated with being human. One of the residents, a young girl, explained to Jun and Mike of the arguments that her divorced parents used to have, that they hated each other so, and presumably, she ran away to get away from it. Every resident told us why they were here, through dream-like sequences. Each sequence implemented a unique art style and after I knew they were different, I anticipated watching them.
Around the time we met everyone, Mike’s room was burgled and an important book was stolen. It belonged to the elder and had everything to do with the ominous moon. My friend and I began considering suspects, but easily settled on one. Left behind in Mike’s room was a lighter with a “D” engraved on it. Surely this belonged to Danny, an older resident who had an interest in firearms. Mike was quick to accuse Danny, as was everyone else we talked to, but the elder was wary to point a finger so easily. My friend and I decided to confront Danny anyways and when he asked, we told him we thought he did it, something we couldn’t have done in the Sega CD game.
New to The Manson of Hidden Souls was the ability for my friend and me to answer yes or no questions. While they weren’t that frequent and the story eventually turned out to be quite linear, we both enjoyed having a little more control. Once we accused Danny of the crime, my friend and I received a bad ending and chose to restart from an earlier save. This gave me an interesting idea, what if the game resembled the movie Clue? The game could have multiple scenarios where the culprit was someone different each time and the story played out slightly differently. Unfortunately, this was not the case. There was a culprit, and only one.
Instead of relying on objects for puzzles, The Mansion of Hidden Souls’ puzzles were based around conversations more than anything else. Rather than finding objects and using them in certain situations, finding out who to talk to progress our adventure was our goal. There wasn’t a magical painting that showcased what to do next however and we spent a lot of time checking in every room before finding who we needed to talk to.
After more puzzle solving, or should I say conversations, my friend and I cracked the case and were treated to a lengthy, and very weird, ending cinematic. Whereas the story in the Sega CD game was the personal story of a boy rescuing his sister, the story in The Mansion of Hidden Souls, especially at the end, seemed more metaphorical. My interpretation of the final cutscene is this. Living a life with no hardships may be easy, but there is no meaning to the life. Exploring the world, aging, and going through trials and tribulations makes joyous occasions joyous; without struggles, there is nothing to celebrate.
While they had a lot in common, The Mansion of Hidden Souls was an improvement over Mansion of Hidden Souls. As it was released for a more advanced console, The Mansion of Hidden Souls looked much better compared to the Sega CD game, and I bet many other Sega Saturn games, it looked very nice for sure. I’m torn on the voice acting improvements though. There are no longer grossly stereotypical accents, but the voice acting in general is not wonderful either. I suppose its better overall but the cheeky voice acting from the Sega CD game was quite comedic.
Excluding the decreased emphasis on using objects for puzzle solving and the ability to answer yes or no questions, the two games play identically. Playing from the first-person perspective made me feel as though it was me in Jun’s shoes, but I probably could’ve done without the locked routes I could walk. That seems like a custom for the genre that they didn’t buck. My last thought? I enjoyed the narrative in The Mansion of Hidden Souls more than the Sega CD’s game. I liked that it delved into philosophical territory, even if the ending was very odd. The Mansion of Hidden Souls was a decent adventure game that was better than the first, and a good buy for a Sega Saturn owner, but not necessarily that interesting to many others.