Tag Archives: vanquish

Tempo [Sega 32X] – Review

Tempo

Regarded as one of the better or more desirable games for the Sega 32X, Tempo is a solid 2D platformer with great audio/visual qualities. It was developed by Red Entertainment and published by Sega in 1995 and having completed it myself, I’d put it on top of the list of 32X games. That wasn’t the case when I first started it as I was off put by the animation priority the player character had. But, with time to acclimate to the gameplay I wound up having an enjoyable time.

Tempo was visually interesting. I'd often spend a minute admiring the background before moving on.
Tempo was visually interesting. I’d often spend a minute admiring the background before moving on.

Almost immediately, the stellar audio/visual qualities of Tempo are on display. The game opens with a period, Saturday morning cartoon-style hip-hop song about the eponymous Tempo and it ushered in a wave of nostalgia for that time in my life – childhood. The game has strong musical overtones and accordingly each stage features, at the very least, a rocking accompaniment. One stage in particular appears to take place in a boom box and features many of the mechanisms one would suspect to see; only now they operate as platforming obstacles.

Visually, the stages are a wonder to behold. The level design isn’t particularly noteworthy other than the fact that the stages aren’t simply “scroll to the right” affairs. The paths are generally linear, but they’re winding. For me, this was something fresh and sometimes confusing. To someone who’s played the likes of The Lion King or other period Disney platformers, this might be old hat. Again though, visually, the stages are a wonder to behold. The foregrounds are detailed and well rendered but the backgrounds are something else. Featuring pseudo 3D objects and oscillating sprites, many are right on the edge of being a music visualizer!

Tempo had a dance partner in Katy. Her moves were lethal.
Tempo had a dance partner in Katy. Her moves were lethal.

Like the stage design, the game design isn’t too astounding either. The overall objective of each stage is to navigate the numerous obstacles and enemies that make up the two or three sub-stages, confront a boss, and hopefully, succeed. Tempo’s main offensive maneuver is to jump on his enemies. He can throw musical notes at his foes to stun them, making that attack a little easier. Easier more so if the player stumbles upon one of the myriad power ups which could summon his dance partner or increase the projectile count of his musical notes. If Katy, his dance partner, is tagging along, she’ll attack stunned enemies for him.

Katy and the musical note power ups come in handy when it’s boss time. Although I was a little perplexed by the level design, it was the first boss that really dampened my opinion of Tempo. I thought it to be very hard with little time to learn my opponent’s formula. After a few attempts, I figured it out though and really began enjoying the game. The stages themselves were often quaint to get through with the bosses almost always providing the brunt of the challenge. This mostly resulted in spending lives to learn their formula, but towards the end, I also had to be very strategic and play defensively as the bosses were more likely to be aggressive.

One last comment regarding the gameplay: Tempo himself is given animation priority. What I mean by this (and I’m probably not attributing this concept perfectly to this game) is Tempo animates very, very well but moves very, very methodically; quite slowly in fact. This game is more Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine than Vanquish, if you know what I mean. I generally always prefer a faster, more responsive game but can appreciate what the developers were going for regardless of personal taste. In fact, it’s something I quickly got over and it wasn’t an issue beyond the first stage or two.

Some of the bosses appeared rendered in Donkey Kong Country fashion.
Some of the bosses appeared rendered in Donkey Kong Country fashion.

Tempo saw a turnaround of opinion from me. I was a little down on it after the first stage. The tough boss and animation priority weren’t selling me on the game. However, I was able to clearly tell that this game was a labor of love for the developers and they put a lot of effort into it. There were many redeeming qualities that helped me persevere and continue coming back to it stage after stage. At this point, I definitely put it at the top of the list of Sega 32X games. Not the hardest list to ascend, especially considering I’ve played half-dozen titles, but the word-of-mouth praise I’ve always heard for Tempo holds true; it’s definitely worth seeking out for 32X collectors.

Also, here’s one final plug for the let’s play I recorded of Tempo:

Random Game #41 – P.N. 03 [GameCube]

P.N. 03

When I think of Sam’s Club, I tend to look back fondly on my middle school/high school gaming habits. With the plethora of $13 games I added to my collection, I experienced some of the best low sellers of that period. One of those titles was P.N. 03 – a futuristic character-action game from Shinji Mikami. It was set in a clean science-fiction environment, looked stunning, but played tepidly. Much of the game is lost to me now, but I do remember it being poorly received. In fact, I remember not being that big of a fan, although I played through the entirety of it, and played more to unlock additional costumes for Vanessa Z. Schneider. I’m willing to pop it in again, but I’m afraid I’ll be greeted with stilted combat that hasn’t aged well.

P.N. 03 was developed by Capcom Production Studio 4, and naturally, published by Capcom. It was spearheaded by Shinji Mikami and was one of the “Capcom Five.” In fact, this was the sole game of the lot that remained exclusive to the GameCube. Thankfully, this game turned out to be more of a testing ground for Mikami’s ideas; ideas that went on to create the brilliant Vanquish. P.N. 03 was originally released in Japan on March 27, 2003 and was released in North America on September 9, 2003.

Bayonetta [Wii U] – Review

Bayonetta
Looking back, this game made reference to many Nintendo, Sega, Platinum, and Clover games.

Bayonetta 2 looks nuts. I’m dying to play it, especially after reading Kotaku’s month-long coverage of it in the period between its Japanese and North American launches. Before jumping into it though, I had to familiarize myself with its predecessor. Thankfully Nintendo, Sega, and Platinum Games thought ahead and bundled the 2010 original with the sequel. I’m woeful to admit that I didn’t play Bayonetta when it originally released. Or even years later, when I’d see copies at GameStop for less than ten dollars. That’s not to say I wasn’t a fan of it from the moment it was announced. It was developed by Platinum Games after all.

The studio has been one of my favorite game developers since their 2006 inception. I feel this way because the studio’s spiritual predecessor (Clover Studio) was also on that list. Together they’ve created so many stellar games, including, Vanquish – easily one of my favorite action games of all time. It’s easy to laud the work the studio and its creators have architected. Well, maybe The Legend of Korra excluded, but that’s a budget licensed title… So, of course I was ready to play Bayonetta when I purchased it two Fridays ago, and the game was quick to set the hook.

Bayonetta is crazy. She wields four guns - two of them on her feet!
Bayonetta is crazy. She wields four guns – two of them on her feet!

Opening in a graveyard, the camera weaves around tombstones engraved with the introductory credits. Eventually, director Hideki Kamiya’s is reached, and it’s unfortunately being urinated on by Bayonetta’s stubby Joe Pesci-like partner, Enzo. She’s performing burial rites for a colleague, in the process summoning a group of atrocious angels. As they descend to Earth, her tough man acquaintance Rodin is resurrected and she begins wailing on the monsters while an extremely candy-coated, techno-infused version of a 1950s jazz standard plays in the background. In the process, Enzo flails around and Rodin tosses her ludicrous amounts of handguns which she burns through in a comical sequence.

I knew to expect this type of zaniness and there was a lot of it, but the game didn’t maintain this spirit 24/7. There was a long stretch where I wasn’t fully compelled to continue on. I was partially turned off by lackluster rising action and a dearth of interesting set pieces. For what seemed like hours after the mind-boggling introduction, there was little narrative development. As she suffered from amnesia, the game was mostly about Bayonetta searching for who she was. Three more characters were introduced during this middle period (Jeanna, Luka, and Cereza), but the storytelling focus turned heavily towards textbooks that illustrated the background history on the setting and characters. This wasn’t always pertinent information to her quest.

On top of that, I was struggling with the combat system. I wasn’t to the point where I was going to rage quit, but I definitely had the rage. There were many reasons for this. Firstly, dodging just before being attacked triggered Witch Time. This slowed down the enemies and was absolutely crucial. When I battled groups of enemies, my focus couldn’t remain on a single enemy and as a result, I couldn’t activate Witch Time consistently. I’d get a beating for being unable to do so. Secondly, I couldn’t jell with the combo system. I played this game for hours and relied almost entirely on mashing the punch button. In this regard, I damned myself by not experimenting more, but the game seemed so harsh, as if it was punishing me for doing so. I went so far as to purchase a Wii U Pro Controller, thinking it may alleviate some of my issues.

Performing specific combos resulted in massive hair attacks. Yes. I said hair attacks.
Performing specific combos resulted in massive hair attacks. Yes. I said hair attacks.

Eventually though, I began to figure it out. That process began by learning to use healing items. My perception of the game’s difficulty was lessened because of this. It proved to be a huge boon too, as dying over and over had become incredibly demoralizing and rage inducing. Likewise, I saved up enough money to buy a few accessories from Rodin. Two in particular were very helpful. The first activated Witch Time whenever Bayonetta was struck, allowing me the opportunity to retaliate in a big way. The second was a great defensive item. If I pushed the analog stick in the direction of an enemy as it attacked Bayonetta, she would counter. This helped prevent enemies from breaking combos and allowed me to set the pace of fights – not the enemies.

At the same time, the characters were developing more and the narrative was coming together. Luka, and Cereza’s contributions to Bayonetta’s story had become clearer and they became more than just a quick cutscene distraction here and there. She had also regained full understanding of who she was and how she interfaced with her doppelganger, Jeanne. The boss fights were stacked towards the end too. Boss fights were always enormous set piece affairs, one of the game’s highlights, but they were fairly infrequent during the meat of the game. With the characters and narrative coming together and having finally figured out how to enjoy the game, I did.

The game's set piece boss fights were definite highlights.
The game’s set piece boss fights were definite highlights.

Bayonetta had a stringent three act format in my experience. Not just in the narrative. I’m able to easily look back and chart my enjoyment into three sections. In the beginning, I was awestruck and intrigued. Well into Bayonetta’s quest for self, my interest had waned as the story was failing to captivate me entirely and the combat was growing frustrating. However, everything turned around as I began to take advantage of all that was available to me and as the story components were falling into place. My time wasn’t entirely enjoyable, but honestly, I made the game harder than it should’ve been. At this point though, I’ve familiarized myself with the concepts and implementations and will be able to take that knowledge with me as I begin Bayonetta 2. I think I’ve died enough to play it.

Top 10 Games I Played in 2011

In remembrance of 2011, I thought I’d compile a list of what I thought were the ten best games I played this year. Considering that I don’t play a ton of recent releases, a lot of this list will be older games. As anyone who reads this blog will note, that’s in line with what I actually play. Rather than ranking these games, I’ll simply alphabetize the list.

Animal Crossing: City Folk – This game is up there with Skyrim in the amount of time I devote to it. It’s awfully familiar to previous games in the series but I still find it as addictive as ever. I also had fun getting my friend into it and playing with him.

Batman: Arkham City – What a game! I loved Arkham Asylum and this game upped the ante in so many ways. Such a large environment with so much to do!

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Although I haven’t played a ton of this yet, I’ve already enjoyed it a great deal.

Final Fantasy XII – I can’t imagine I’ll ever like a Japanese RPG more than I like this game. Square Enix took everything to a whole other level with this game.

Gears of War 3 – The best in the series. The best playing, the most expansive content-wise, the best in every regard.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – This series holds a soft spot in my heart and this game did so many things right that made the similar format feel fresh.

Mass Effect 2 – I had so much fun discussing this game with others, more importantly though, I had so much fun playing this. The gameplay was much improved over the first game  and even though there were a lot of things taken out, the options I had were still astounding.

Mansion of Hidden Souls – An unusual pick for sure but this game turned my friend and I onto an unfamiliar genre and we’ve had a lot of fun solving puzzles in similar games since playing this.

Vanquish – Platinum Games took the usually slow moving military third-person shooter and blended it with Japanese quirks. A fantastical futuristic setting, a story with some ridiculous moments, a lot of great set pieces, and super fun and fast-paced gameplay.

You Don’t Know Jack – A stellar mulitplayer game that received a ton of rotation at my house. A great value.

In Between Posts, July 4, 2011

Actually threw a lot of posts up last week. Got my Vanquish review up along with two DLC reviews relating to Mass Effect 2. One of those DLC reviews I had written and forgotten to edit and post earlier in the year, but better late then never, eh? With those done I only have two more packs of DLC for Mass Effect 2, but I don’t anticipate playing them too soon.

After completing Vanquish (twice!) I’ve turned my attention to Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Zombie Ninja Pro-Am for the PlayStation 2. I imagine it won’t take me too long; it seems pretty short as I’m already a third of the way through it! I have also been playing Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP for iOS. It’s a point-and-click adventure game, but the developers have emphasized the art style and audio design more than the gameplay. It’s pretty cool.

I have finally checked out the contents of the Devil May Cry 4 collector’s edition fully which means… a review of both the game and the collector’s edition will be posted this week! Expect those Tuesday and Wednesday. The last productive thing I did last week was play through the demo for El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron on the PlayStation 3. It’s an action game, but like S:S&SEP, it focuses more on the art style than the gameplay. They’re both competent games, but not the best in terms of their gameplay.

So expect two posts attributed to Devil May Cry 4 and my thoughts on the demo for El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron this week for sure, and maybe something else.

Vanquish – Review

Stylish, fast, and fun, I loved Vanquish.

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.

One of the more interesting weapons was the lock-on laser.

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.

The ability to boost made Vanquish feel different from other third-person shooters.

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.

Robert Burns acts as the commanding officer of the Marines for the mission they've been assigned. Him and Sam butt heads often.

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.

In Between Posts, 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!