Arcade Games at the Movie Theater – Cinemark Tulsa and IMAX

My girlfriend and I went and saw The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 yesterday and like we did when we saw J. Edgar, we played some arcade games afterwards. Considering we see movies fairly frequently, these articles will probably turn into a routine feature. We went to a different theater this time, specifically Cinemark Tulsa and IMAX which is very large, and yet their arcade selection was about the same as the other, smaller theater we went to previously.

The arcade games were in a separate room by the entrance and a smattering of people also entered after Breaking Dawn was over. I took a quick look around and from right to left I noticed Ferrari F355 Challenge, Ms. Pac-Man, Sunset Riders, The Fast and the Furious: Super Bikes, DDRMAX 2 Dance Dance Revolution 7thMix, Silent Scope, Terminator Salvation, Time Crisis II, Virtua Cop 3, The Fast and the Furious, as well as a few pinball tables, UFO machines, and of course, a change machine. The room was packed; Cinemark had a bunch of options.

I initially gravitated towards the Ferrari 355 Challenge machine because it had a cockpit and three TV screens providing a cool first-person view from the cockpit, but it was occupied. Second in line was Sunset Riders.

The three monitor cockpit version of Ferrari F355 Challenge. Image taken by Flickr user gggames.se.

I’ve heard positive things about Sunset Riders but have never played it. It’s a side-scrolling shoot ’em up set in the old west and as bounty hunters my girlfriend and I walked to the right and destroyed anyone who came between us and the wanted person at the end of the stage. The characters were really big and they were responsive, but jumping up to a higher level (balcony of a building) was hard to pull off. A few stampedes happened and we had to run on top of cattle to survive. The first one caught us off guard, but these were fun to survive. We could pick our character and depending on who we picked we used either a revolver or a shotgun; I preferred the shotgun because of the bullet spread.

Facing off against the first boss of Sunset Riders solo.

Next up was DDRMAX 2 Dance Dance Revolution 7th Mix. We played three songs on easy and had a blast, although we both agreed that next time we play DDR, we’ll play on a tougher difficulty. The songs were crazy, like a group of Japanese girls picked European dance songs and sped them up, I liked it. I found myself not only hitting the pads when I was required to but dancing along to the beat to keep up with the song. We tried to play Virtua Cop 3 next but it didn’t work. Unfortunately I found this out after I inserted money.

I liked the selection of games Cinemark Tulsa and IMAX had. There was a good selection of games to play (light gun games, racing games, DDR) and a few alternatives like the pinball machines. I’d like to return with a friend and play through Sunset Riders to say I’ve played through an arcade game, but that probably won’t happen for a while.

In Between Posts, November 27, 2011

Basically a lot of Skyward Sword for me this past week. I’ve made it to the third temple and I think a lot of stuff is about to go down. Link is chasing after Zelda who is performing some sort of ritual that I’m not totally privy to. The temples aren’t the only challenge, getting there is too. There’s a lot of enemies and puzzles that stand in Link’s way, and they’ve done a good job of keeping me occupied and entertained.

My friend and I also made progress in Juggernaut, but we still have a few more hours until we’ve completed it. Juggernaut features some of the dullest gameplay, but what’s kept my friend and I going is the fun of working together and figuring stuff out. That and some of the most surreal storylines outside of a Suda51 game.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – First Impressions

As is tradition, Skyward Sword features gold on it's box.

The Legend of Zelda is probably my favorite video game series. Nearly every game in the series has a blend of exploration, combat, and puzzles that I find fulfilling. I’ve played nearly every game bearing the name so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when the newest, Skyward Sword, was released this Sunday, I was at my local GameStop as soon as they opened. I’ve played it for nearly eight hours and wanted to write about what I’ve done so far.

This time around Link is a knight in training at an academy. Rather than a princess, Zelda is a fellow student who admires Link. They live in Skyloft, which happens to rest on a floating island, in the sky. Skyloft is home to many people and there is a bazaar with a handful of shops. There are other floating islands as well and traveling to them on Link’s bird reminds me of sailing in The Wind Waker.

For the first hour and a half I learned about the world around Link and took part in the Wing Ceremony, a contest proving one’s ability as a knight. Soon after this, Link learns that he and Zelda are destined for great things. While celebrating Link’s victory, Zelda was wrapped up in a tornado and fell to the surface. I heard many rumors of the surface as no one seemed to know what was down there. With some aid from an ancient goddess that everyone worships, Link headed to the surface.

Judging by this enemy's mouth, a horizontal slice should take him out.

I’ve completed one temple so far and I’m at the entrance to the second. To get to the first temple I had to navigate Link through some woods which were full of enemies, and a few helpful creatures called Kikwis. There’s one aspect of the art style that really shines in colorful locations like the woods and it’s the way scenery looks from a distance. The game looks cartoony, although it’s not cel-shaded. I’ve heard others describe it as painterly and I agree. When looking at something that’s far away, objects begin to blend together and look like a blotchy watercolor painting; it’s really cool to see.

The first puzzle in the first temple stumped me for a good while. It revolved around using Link’s sword in a specific way that’s only possible with motion controls, which play a large part in the game. Skyward Sword utilizes Wii MotionPlus which makes the motion controls more accurate than would be with a normal Wiimote. Nearly every enemy I’ve run into has required me to attack them in a specific way. The combat is a lot tougher than it’s ever been before, but it’s also more fun because each enemy is a puzzle and requires me to act as though I’m swinging a sword.

What I’ve had the most fun doing so far is completing side quests and exploring. As soon as the opportunity arose, I began flying to other islands and meeting new people. I’ve met many other people besides those on Skyloft and opened up a minigame and some sidequests so far. After completing the first temple, I was able to complete some sidequests back on Skyloft and received some rewards. I’ve been finding treasures like crazy and I’ve bought a lot of upgrades, aiding me greatly.

There are some... colorful characters in the game.

One thing that bugs me about Skyward Sword so far is the controls for falling. I’ve had to fall for long distances many times now and I can’t quite get the hang of the controls. Other than that minor complaint I’m enjoying Skyward Sword. I really like the less realistic art style, I’m having fun fighting enemies and solving puzzles with the motion controls, I’m digging the exploration and rewards, and I’m just glad to play another Zelda game.

In Between Posts, November 20, 2011

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword came out today and I’ve sunk a couple hours into that. It’s been all setup so far, but I’m  heading to my first dungeon in my next session. There’s much more of a human element so far, but there generally is in the first settlement. The setting of a floating island reminds me of The Wind Waker, hopefully there is similar exploration. I like the art style, other have described it as painterly. One thing I’m struck by is the way things look from afar; the objects and colors meld together and create a splotchy look, like a watercolor painting.

The coasting I did leading up to Skyward Sword’s release resulted in me finding all 440 of the Riddler trophies, challenges, etc. in Batman: Arkham City. I’ll be taking a break from that now. I also played Gears of War 3’s versus mode a little bit.

I’ll be focusing on Skyward Sword for a week or two so I probably won’t have much to talk about, plus I’m coming into finals week in school so I need to focus on that too, but I will write a first impressions article about Skyward Sword once I’ve sunk more time into it and hopefully another article or two as well. Oh! My friend and I made great progress in Juggernaut last week and it’s so fucking weird. Can’t wait to play more of that.

Arcade Games at the Movie Theater

Yesterday my girlfriend and I went to the movies and watched J. Edgar. As we were walking out I spotted a small, dark room containing about a dozen arcade games. The first thing I noticed when we walked in was two teenagers making out in a cockpit. Once I was done staring at them, we walked around and I told my girlfriend about the games. We stuck to one wall avoiding the other couple and after getting change we played a few games.

I'd love to have the double cockpit version of this game.

The first game we played was Cyber Troopers Virtual-On. It was developed by Sega AM3, published by Sega, and released around 1995. We picked two anime inspired mecha and fought each other until someone won two rounds. I liked that we had to sit down in a cockpit and pilot out mecha with two joysticks. In practice though we didn’t have time to figure out what the buttons did. By the time we were starting to grasp the controls, she had won. Next up was X-Men.

X-Men was developed and published by Konami in 1992. It’s a side-scrolling beat ‘em up and what I thought X-Men for the Sega Genesis was going to be. I played as Storm while she picked Wolverine; it was much easier to understand than Virtual-On. The graphics seem very detailed for when X-Men came out; our characters in particular were very large, good looking sprites. I think my joystick might’ve been messed up because I had a difficult time getting Storm to walk down. We didn’t last long but I enjoyed the minute or two we played it.

Storm using her special.

Lastly my girlfriend played Maximum Force, alone because one of the coin slots wasn’t working and it stole my change. Maximum Force is a light gun shooter developed by Mesa Logic and published by Atari Games in 1997. I didn’t find this game very attractive. The environments were poor 3D while the characters were 2D sprites. The enemies (monsters or aliens?) jumped into screen quickly and popped up all over the area, making it easy to get flustered. She lasted a while, but Maximum Force didn’t look very fun. You know what? I don’t think Maximum Force is the game she played because the descriptions of it on the internet differ from what I’ve just said.

There were plenty more arcade games but I only had three dollars worth of change and it went fast. I liked X-Men and could see myself wanting to stay and play through it, but overall it was kind of a poor experience. That doesn’t diminish my want to visit a proper arcade jam-packed with games or California Extreme, a large arcade convention, those would be fun with a friend or two. But until I do, my arcade action is limited to the movie theaters.

Front Mission – First Impressions

I think the US box art is very bland. They should have used Yoshitaka Amano's art.

The 2007 Nintendo DS release of Front Mission was the first time the game was available in North America. It was originally released for the Super Nintendo in 1995 and saw upgraded ports for the WonderSwan Color and PlayStation in the years before it arrived here. The game spawned a series and is undoubtedly one of the more well known tactical role-playing games.

Front Mission contains two lengthy scenarios to play through, each taking place on Huffman Island. The game has a very detailed back-story detailing the events that led up to the confrontation of two superpowers on a small Pacific island in the late 21st century.

The first scenario follows a young captain, Royd Clive who is fighting as mercenary for the Oceania Cooperative Union. When his scenario begins, I witnessed his fiancée getting killed by opposition forces, the Unified Continental States. He loses interest in fighting but is recruited by a mercenary leader and accepts. Through his conquest of the island he receives indications that his fiancée might still be alive.

The second scenario follows Kevin Greenfield, a former high ranking officer in the U.C.S. who was stripped of his rank and sent to Huffman Island. This scenario was labeled as more difficult than Royd’s and I didn’t play any of it. Heck, I didn’t even finish Royd’s scenario; I’ve played for about a dozen hours and I’m basically halfway through his scenario at mission 13.

I spent the bulk of my time with Front Mission when I spent a week away from home, away from my consoles, and I haven’t put much time into it since then. Perhaps I would’ve remained captivated by it if there was more going on plot wise. Most of the plot advancement stemmed from minor victories against Royd’s enemy, the U.C.S., allowing his squad to gain ground on them. Also going on was Royd’s quest for his possibly still alive fiancée but this plotline developed very slowly. Recruiting new squad members introduced new characters, but I rarely saw them afterwards.

The wanzers could equip many different types of weapons so having a diverse squad helped.

Personally, I really like tactical-rpgs… from afar. Leveling up and managing a fairly large squad sounds interesting, but this eventually amounts to too much work. Another thing I dislike about the genre is the sense that there is one correct way to complete a mission; it seems I get halfway through a game and all of a sudden hit a wall. This is one area where Front Mission appeals to me. I never felt like there was one way to complete a mission. Perhaps this is due to the upgradability of the wanzers.

Battles were fought in wanzers (mecha) which could be upgraded in many ways. When I wasn’t in a mission I could set up camp in a nearby town and visit the local shop. Here, I could upgrade the weapons my wanzers had equipped and change their various parts. When I ran out of money I visited the arena and easily won more by gambling. However, this turned into a rather boring cycle of mission, new town, shop, arena, shop, and so on. Recently, I’d spend upwards of thirty minutes upgrading my wanzers, and that’s too much downtime.

The actual missions in Front Mission are turned based and battles take place between individual units like most other tactical-rpgs. Some missions have unique events and enemies, but there isn’t much diversity apart from “attack all units until dead”.

I enjoyed meeting new squad members and hearing from them, but they didn't add much.

Front Mission belongs to a genre I guess I don’t particularly enjoy but I found it more approachable than other similar games; then again I still didn’t complete it, as of this writing at least. I found the gameplay solid and very rewarding when the tides of battle were in my favor. I wish there was more to the plot, either the actual confrontation between the two superpowers or Royd’s story. Just the thought of a whole other scenario is daunting, but surely a boon for any fan of the genre.

In Between Posts, November 13, 2011

Didn’t focus on anything in particular last week, just coasting until The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword comes out. My friend and I played through the co-op adventure in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and that was a mixed bag. I’m not too familiar with the series but from what my friend said, the co-op adventure was a blend of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Uncharted 3. It consisted of five levels, each taking about half an hour so it wasn’t a major time investment. It felt tacked on though. There wasn’t much of a story so besides just gaming with my friend, I didn’t feel much incentive to play it. We also put a fair amount of time into Juggernaut.

My girlfriend and I also began playing Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles; my first impressions of it are here. What took up the brunt of my time this week was Gears of War 2. I heard from someone that it was 20x experience in the multiplayer so I decided to jump into that for a bit, and I wound up going after a few achievements. I really should be playing Gears of War 3

That’s basically it. I’ll find something to write about this week but I’m just coasting until Skyward Sword comes out.