Godzilla [PlayStation 4] – Review

Godzilla

The last week or so of my video game time was devoted mostly to Godzilla on the PlayStation 4. The dozen or so hours I spent playing it were enjoyable despite the lackluster quality of the game. I thought it was feature-rich and a solid compendium of Godzilla related information but found it to be highly repetitious and devoid of much inspiration. Instead, my enjoyment stemmed from unlocking the game’s trophies. Some look at achievements and trophies with disinterest and even disdain, but for me they can be compelling motivators and a source of satisfaction akin to completing a checklist. While I’d like to think I’m past the point of playing a game solely because of these competitive barometers, this period consumed by Godzilla makes me wonder, am I?

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Pokemon Dream Radar [3DS eShop] – Review

Pokemon Dream Radar

After spending three hours with Pokémon Dream Radar, I can thoroughly report that it more closely resembles a tech demo than a video game. And if spending that much time with a glorified tech demo doesn’t sound appealing, hopefully the prospect of receiving a handful of legendary Pokémon does, because that’s the true purpose of this product. It plays almost entirely with the Nintendo 3DS’ augmented reality functions, tasking players with collecting orbs and catching Pokémon using the forward-facing camera of the handheld. It’s a novel prospect for the first few rounds but it quickly becomes clear that’s all it is: a novelty. Regardless of my Pokémon fandom, the hours I spent playing this purchasable object resulted in little more than a dreadfully boring grind… and legendary Pokémon. Continue reading Pokemon Dream Radar [3DS eShop] – Review

Platinum Demo: Final Fantasy XV – Demo Impressions

Platinum Demo Final Fantasy XV

This past Thursday, Square Enix hosted a one-off fan event to “uncover” information regarding Final Fantasy XV, the developmentally challenged flagship title of the company’s premier series. Previously announced as Final Fantasy Versus XIII at E3 2006, fans have long pinned their hopes for the series on this title since Final Fantasy XIII so thoroughly disappointed them. Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV, the event held in Los Angeles on Thursday, was a bombastic opportunity for the company to generate press coverage and curry goodwill with fans. One of the cooler modern trends coming from events like this is the immediate release of playable content, in this case Platinum Demo: Final Fantasy XV.

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3D Dot Game Heroes [PlayStation 3] – Review

3D Dot Game Heroes

Outside of obtaining the branding, there’s little else Silicon Studio could’ve done to make 3D Dot Game Heroes more of a Zelda game. This is a classic 2D Zelda game through and through, although I’m hesitant to call it a clone as that implies a derisive reaction and I truly dig this game. The developer’s love for Japanese RPGs from the 1980s/1990s exudes in the innumerable references and qualities this game shares with the genre. The polish applied is evident on all fronts, from the gameplay and side quests to the visuals and audio. It’s easy to tell this was a passion project for the studio and they delivered a quality video game in turn.
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Pokemon Y and My Frustration with Roaming Pokemon

Pokemon Y

Roaming Pokémon are the worst. I’ve been nearing the end of my Pokémon Y playthrough and just gained access to one of the few available legendary Pokémon. Unlike the few others that are located in caves, this particular one roams the region. It’s such a pain in the ass to catch though I don’t know that I’ll even put in the time to obtain it. This isn’t a new concept for the series but it is one rarely utilized. I’m generally not one to play armchair quarterback but as my frustration grew Sunday morning, I thought about what I’d do to improve upon the concept. It’s one I theoretically like, especially applied to the Pokémon games, I just wish it was implemented differently in this instance.

Pokemon Y - Map
If actively pursuing a roaming Pokemon, this screen will be seen often. 

In the Pokémon games, beating the Elite Four and champion is one of the core goals; doing so signals that you’re the strongest trainer in the region. Afterwards, there’s additional content that becomes available. It’s generally not much but in Pokémon X and Y, it seems especially barren. Regarding X and Y, every player’s first encounter with a wild Pokémon in the post-game will always be with one of the legendary birds. It’s different based on which starter Pokémon was picked at the beginning of the game. Since I picked Froakie, the legendary Pokémon available to me was Moltres.

This first encounter is just a tease as the Pokémon immediately flees. Now however, the Pokémon’s entry has been somewhat completed in the Pokédex, at least enough to track it and see where it’s currently located. At this point, there’s primarily two ways to tackle this capture: passively try to catch it as the post-game content is naturally completed or while focusing on other objectives, or actively try to pursue it. Since there’s not a ton of post-game content and I’m merely “passing through” this game on my way to Omega Ruby, I actively tried catching it.

The method of actively pursuing a roaming Pokémon I’m most familiar with entails going back and forth between two routes or a route and a town in the hopes that it will appear in the desired route. This becomes a tedious task quickly as the player buttons through layers of menus to get to the Pokédex to locate if the Pokémon is nearby. If it isn’t, cross that border and back into the desired route and check again. Luck is a factor in the sense that it’s rarely on the player’s side when tracking roaming Pokémon. And, something as simple as flying to where the roaming Pokémon is won’t work as it will be somewhere else by the time the player touches down.

If that Pokémon is on the current route, the player can still mess up their opportunity to encounter it. For instance, if the first Pokémon of the player’s party is of a higher level, the roaming Pokémon won’t appear. In fact, if you encounter another Pokémon, say a wild Flabébé 70 levels the junior to the first Pokémon in the player’s party, that roaming Pokémon is now somewhere else. The so-called legendary is afraid to fight something a piddly wild Pokémon will gladly step up to. WHAT!? Even if a weak Pokémon is in the first spot of the party and the roaming Pokémon is in the current route, there’s still no guarantee that it’ll be encountered. And if a wild Pokémon is encountered instead, that roaming Pokémon is likely somewhere else.

It can be frustrating and at the very least, time consuming. The roaming Pokémon in X and Y eventually settles down in a cave after ten encounters. But still, that’s ten encounters when I’ve had trouble getting a second! So, what would I do differently? One implementation stuck out to me immediately and it’s primarily what I’ll posit. There’s plenty of ways to alter this concept too but it’s only now that I’m shifting gears towards constructive criticism that I realize I really just wanted to rant. Still, I’ll elaborate on a different method of including roaming Pokémon that may be less frustrating than the current one.

First off, instead of introducing the roaming Pokémon after the game’s been beaten, I’d instead introduce it during the lead up. I’m of two minds on how to: randomly or through a predetermined encounter. Introducing it through a random encounter would mean a different experience for every player. For some, it may be the first wild Pokémon they encounter; others may not see it at all during their playthrough. This randomness would make the encounter more impactful, like running across a shiny Pokémon, although I’d want the chance of seeing it much higher than seeing a shiny Pokémon (roughly 1/4096 for the current generation). Perhaps the best method would be through a predetermined encounter, with future appearances requiring the hunt; basically just changing the timing of the Pokémon’s initial availability.

The legendary Pokémon almost always appear at a preset level which could break the game’s difficulty if one was encountered early on and somehow caught. They could instead have a scalable level based on when they’re encountered. I’d scale it such that it can still wallop the player’s party but a skilled player may be able to inflict a status condition or throw a Poké Ball. That would entail allowing the player to get a move off whereas currently, the Pokémon flees before the menus on the touch screen even appear. I’ve caught legendary Pokémon by throwing a Poké Ball out as my first move and let me tell you, it’s pretty satisfying!

Pokemon Y - Moltres
How I longed to have this happen.

As I thought, I wound up wanting to rant more than to offer constructive advice. At least, offering detailed constructive advice because really, simply introducing the roaming Pokémon sooner would alleviate a lot of my grief. With my current chase, I feel like actively pursuing Moltres is the only option since there’s so little post-game content. If I was sticking with this game longer, this whole topic would be a moot point. I’ve already got Omega Ruby queued up and if I’m going to spend dozens of hours with a game to complete the Pokédex, it’ll likely be that one since it’s the most recent release. As it stands, tracking this Pokémon down and attempting to catch it is a pain in my ass and likely one I won’t continue to endure.

Eggomania [Atari 2600] – Review

Eggomania

As is often the case with video games released before the mass use of the internet, hard information on Eggomania is scarce. Best I can tell, it was developed by James Wickstead Design Associates and published by US Games for the Atari 2600 in 1982. Essentially, it’s a clone of Atari’s Avalanche or Activision’s more popular Kaboom! While I’ve only played the latter, this is a style of game that I found to be enjoyable and with additional players, can easily turn into a heated score-chasing competition.

Eggomania - Frog
Using a massive hat, the frog, er bear, catches the green eggs so it can toss them back at the attacking turkey.

Using the Atari 2600’s paddle controller, I assumed the role of a top hat wearing bear. Normally, this would be reason enough to celebrate. Unfortunately, this particular bear was being pelted with eggs by a swift turkey. The bear’s strategy to combat this was to catch the eggs in his top hat and then hurl them back at the turkey. After a wave of eggs was caught, I had the opportunity to assail the turkey with its own ammunition. But, if I missed catching enough eggs, the egg white and yolk from these would eventually fill the screen and drown the bear, resulting in game over.

Eggomania - Turkey
After hitting the turkey, it shreds its feathers and flies off before the begin of another wave.

Truthfully, Eggomania isn’t a game I played much of, maybe an hour tops. But, within the first minute, I had experienced all I was going to. From there, the premise of topping my score, or another player’s, was the sole appeal. Visually and audibly, the game is impressive, but there’s little variety in what’s displayed in either category. The responsiveness of the bear is great although the hit detection when attacking the turkey left me confused why some of my throws were damaging and others weren’t. Eggomania compares well against its contemporaries and in the right environment, can provide a fun competition.

Phoenix [Atari 2600] – Review

Phoenix

My Atari 2600 has been getting some love this week! Now that I’m done with Vanguard, I’ve returned to Phoenix, which I was playing beforehand. In fact, it’s the reason I’m playing these games at all; my recent acquisition prompted me to hook up the console and try it out. Like Vanguard, it’s a space-themed shoot ‘em up (you want me to stop there, right?) although being a fixed shooter, it has more in common with its contemporaries, such as Space Invaders and Galaxian. I enjoyed this game’s fast-pace and responsive controls, the most important factors causing my return to it.

Phoenix - Atari 2600
The Atari 2600 version.

As was the case with Vanguard, Phoenix was originally released in the arcades courtesy of Centuri. At least, in the United States; elsewhere it was published by Taito. It was introduced in 1980 and as best I can tell, was the sole output of developer Amstar Electronics. After obtaining the rights to produce a home console version, Atari outsourced development to General Computer Corporation and the final product was released in 1982. A little research reveals Michael Feinstein to be one of the port’s programmers and likely, the project lead.

Phoenix - Arcade
And the original Arcade version.

The objective of Phoenix is to destroy the adversarial mothership. To reach it, players must defeat four waves of birdlike enemies. The first two waves are host to rudimentary foes that could easily be mistaken for Space Invaders fodder. The next two waves feature enemies that move faster along less predictable paths. These foes are larger and have wings that can be destroyed, but they regrow if the core of the creature isn’t shot. Finally, the penultimate stage hosts a large alien vessel that has to be whittled away until the player can eventually strike its alien pilot. With the leader destroyed, the game recycles these stages in perpetuity.

At this point, the game becomes about setting a high score. I wasn’t drawn into playing the game for so long because of this element per se, but having a competitive nature didn’t hurt! I found this to be a challenging game and I believe I’ve only been able to make it past two full sets of stages thus far. Each time I die, I feel like it was totally on me. Because the player’s spaceship moves quickly and is so responsive to input, I’m always left feeling as though I could’ve evaded the shot that killed me. This draws me in and makes me want to continue improving in an effort to get just a little farther. So even though it’s challenging, it feels like the scales are evenly tipped between the player and computer.

Phoenix - Atari 2600 - Boss
The mothership of the enemies.

Phoenix is a stellar shoot ‘em up and as described is a challenging, fast-paced, responsive game that I wanted to continue playing in spite of the constant death. There’s more to it then my brief descriptions highlight, such as reaping more points for destroying closer enemies, but this tactical element didn’t factor into my sessions. That’s the sort of element that I foresee giving the game a longer tail once I move beyond just trying to see new waves and convert over to strictly score chasing. Until that point, I’m content to continue enjoying the game and my Atari 2600 as I have been.

The internet's source for Mansion of Hidden Souls.

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