Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Exclusive! A Letter to Cave Story Designer Daisuke Amaya (From Another Universe)

By now chances are you've heard of the freeware indie game Cave Story. If you haven't you're a terrible person. Go to your kitchen, get a knife, and slit your wrists. As for the rest of you, you've doubtless heard the story. Daisuke "Pixel" Amaya created an awesome game called Cave Story. It became a hit and an updated version is scheduled to be released with Nintendo's WiiWare this year. This was a small-time programmer who made this game, released it as a free download, it became a hit, and it's now being adapted for the Nintendo. For an indie game designer that's like winning the lottery three times in a row and then an error in the lottery office's computer network causes you to accidentally be awarded double prize money which will be taken directly from the bank account of everyone who ever picked on you in high school.

And if it turned out that awesome as a project basically built completely by one guy, could you imagine how it would have come out if it had an entire studio behind it? Well now you don't have to! Using the exciting power of high technology, ancient magic, and staying in our house while it was being fumigated we managed to find an alternate dimension where Cave Story was, in fact, created by a major studio! What follows is the studio's response to the original proposal of the game, as picked up by our scouting kleptoprobes.




Daisuke,

First off, we're really liking what you sent us. I've shown it to everyone in marketing and they think that with some work we can totally come up with something worth making from this. There are a few kinks to work out but, hey, you know how these things work. I'd like to just run some stuff by you, throw around some new ideas, point out a few errors you made.

First, characters. I love the main character, she's great, but it seems that in your writeup you've accidentally switched the description of the sexy female main character Quote (needs a name change, how do you feel about Rena Gunstar?) with the description of her sidekick Curly Brace. No big deal, just get it fixed. Once we've changed that we can work on changing her outfit to something more presentable, making her pants tighter (and leather) pulling up the straps on her thong, that sort of thing. Also, let's get her a katana in addition to the guns.

Let's see here. Oh, I love Balrog, the giant killer robot. Bill thinks, and I agree, that if you took away his flight power and instead gave him a sports car transformation (flying sports car?) in addition to his normal giant robot form he'd be much more marketable. Ted suggested having Balrog kill Quote's (Rena Gunstar's) family near the beginning of the game. It would help explain her quest for revenge and help to show that Balrog is, indeed, a killer robot. (Incidentally, why did you doodle a picture of a lunchbox with eyes next to his description?)

Also, fix The Doctor's hat. It looks like a cyclops microwave is eating his brain. Seriously, Daisuke.

Now, on to the story. I'm sorry but you really kind of dropped the ball here. I notice that you've done little to explain why Quote (Rena Gunstar) is on her bloody quest for revenge. Think about my suggestion above for this. The way you have it Quote (Rena Gunstar) just sort of wakes up and stumbles upon all this stuff accidentally while trying to escape the cave. Okay, look. Escaping is for pansies, and Quote (Rena Gunstar) is no pansy. The only time trying to escape is okay is in a horror story, but this is an action story.

The thing with the red flowers was just confusing. Flowers aren't scary. Make it a virus instead. In fact, you could easily work the red flower virus side-arc into the main story and turn this into a decent action-horror game. Oh, I'm getting an inspiration here. Have Curly Brace catch the red flower virus at the beginning of the game causing him to become the giant killer robot Balrog, then have him kill Quote's (Rena Gunstar's) family while under the effect of the virus. This explains why she's on her quest for revenge and why she would come to the cave despite all the red flower virus zombies. It's the only way to stop/save her beloved boyfriend Curly Brace.

Lastly, about the mimigas. These are obviously the mascot race, like pikachus or moogles. But it seems like you've tried to do some strange thing where you make the useless but adorable mascot race basically like people. I'm not sure why. We all like the idea of this society of intelligent cats, but you just made it weird. I know you get off on that sort of thing in China or wherever you're from, but we're not trying to market our game to furries here.

Think about it and get back to me. I'm looking forward to hearing what you think of our improvements and remember, we're hoping for release within two months.

With respect,
Pixel Entertainment of America Inc

Friday, September 11, 2009

Broken Destiny And An Epiphany: Why Soul Calibur Sucks (And Always Has)

You may recall yesterday I wrote a review of Final Fantasy Dissidia, the game that shits all over the once good Final Fantasy series (even more than all the other recent Final Fantasy games shit on the series, I mean). That got me to wondering what other great series have been shat on by their developers, which led me to the PSP's Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny, the newest installment in the series. While planning a review of Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny I suddenly had an epiphany. I was mad at Dissidia because I had hoped it could get me interested in the Final Fantasy series again. I wanted to get Dissidia. I didn't really want to get Broken Destiny, I just did. The fact is...

Soul Calibur is not a great video game series and it never has been.

No, really. Let's be totally honest here, the Soul series trudged in obscurity for six years from the time Soul Blade was released in 1996 to the time Soul Calibur 2 was released in 2002. Sure there were people who knew about it, but it wasn't until SC2 that the series really gained any fame and even then it was only thanks to a gimmick: the inclusion of guest fighters Link, Heihachi Mishima, and Spawn.

But the game that really put Soul on the map was Soul Calibur 3 and this was almost entirely because of one thing: character creation. Up to this point the video game industry as a whole had never really taken the concept of character creation seriously. It was there, sure. Sometimes it took the form of Final Fantasy's system of picking from pre-made characters and giving them names. Sometimes it was more like Dynasty Warrior's system of creating a character by combining a weapon and a character model with about 5 different options in each. More often it was along the lines of Champions of Norrath where you pick a class and a hair color. The only video games that really took character creation seriously were wrestling games. Here, for the first time, was a game that people would actually care about, that wasn't just a wrestling game, that had a character creation system that actually worked and wasn't just a shitty afterthought.

It's easy to say that Soul Calibur 4 and Broken Destiny squelched the good will that Soul Calibur 2 and 3 brought but the truth of the matter is those games should never have garnered that much fame to begin with. The series got attention thanks to gimmicks, there was never a decent game to go along with them. Don't get me wrong, I do like the storyline, but the Soul Calibur games lack gripping gameplay. I loved Soul Calibur 3 for the character creation and the story, but I never really enjoyed playing it. I didn't like the game, I just tolerated it because I liked the character creation system.

I'm sorry, Namco Bandai, it looks like the honeymoon is over. You really had something with the character creation system and the guest characters. It's too bad you only used them as a pathetic attempt to vitalize a shitty series instead of pairing them up with gameplay that was as innovative and fun as they were. I'm well aware that this isn't the end for you. You'll keep on making Soul Calibur games, just like Square keeps on making Final Fantasy games and just like Square you'll probably be successful, but your popularity will only go downhill from here. As for me, I think I'm going to jump ship now and say adieu, just as I did to Final Fantasy.

KR Rating: HORRIBLE

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dissidia

It's time for another review and this time it's for the PSP fighting game Dissida: Final Fantasy. First off, let me just say what I liked about the game. The graphics are good, and I found the bravery system interesting. That's about it.

"But wait," you scream, your monocle and top hat sent flying dramatically from your head. "Are you saying you didn't like Dissidia?!"

Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. Allow me to explain by way of example. When Final Fantasy 3 was first released for the NES the main character was the Onion Knight, who happens to look like this. When they re-released the game recently for the Nintendo DS they gave the main character a name and a new look and made him Luneth. So when they made Dissidia they had Onion Knight represent Final Fantasy 3, and made the alternate costume...Luneth?

He has the hair, yeah, but why stop there, Square-Enix? Luneth has an established look, Square and you know what it is so why not use it? (Answer: Because Luneth is the gayest boy ever.) And it's not like you can't make a new character model for a character's alternate costume. Cloud, Squall, and Sephiroth have new character models.

But this is just symptomatic of the larger problem that Dissidia has. When I said Cloud, Squall, and Sephiroth have new models for their alternate looks I meant that Cloud, Squall, and Sephiroth are the only ones. Warrior of Light's alternate costume is colored red instead of blue. Cecil's alternate costume has red trim. Exdeath's alternate costume has the bright blue color on his armor set two points lighter. There are even rumors that they colored Jecht's skirt red in his alternate costume (as opposed to orange) because that was their way of adding Auron to the game. If that's not the saddest damn thing you've heard all day then thank you for reading this review, citizen of Ethiopia.

Look, I'm not so naive that I don't get how it works, okay? I understand Final Fantasy 7 is the money maker. People bought this game for Cloud and Sephiroth, not for anyone else, so it's natural that Square would spend more time on them. But that only works when they actually spend...well, any time on the rest of the game. If the game itelf was good but the FF7 part was better I could forgive that, but that's not what happened. The Final Fantasy 7 parts of the game are passable and the rest is practically non-existant.

Aside from the afore-mentioned bravery system which I won't go into detail on here there's very little to enjoy about this game. There's no real AI in the game, it's a Soul Calibur system where it auto-blocks and you only win because it occasionally decides not to. The fighting style is cool in concept but horrendously executed, mostly because of the poor AI. The storyline (singular because every character's story is the same) was clearly written by a bored stoner. I've already gone over the lack of effort put into character designs.

I guess what I'm saying is fuck you, Square-Enix and while I'm at it fuck you too, Sony. Yeah, this piece of shit game was definitely worth making a commemorative PSP.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bing vs. Google, The Showdown

So I've been seeing these ads lately for Bing.com. If you haven't seen these ads they're about how search overload -getting tons of search results that are only peripherally related to your search- is ruining us and this new Bing, the decision engine is here to save us. As you may expect, they are every bit as relatable as a punch in the face.

So it's easy to dismiss Bing. I'll admit I don't have high hopes for this thing, but I can't stop at that. If I stopped here I'd be just like every other lame opinion blog delivering half the story. No, that's not what this blog is about. This blog is about video games, Vladimir Putin shirtless, and large black men screaming obscenities at children. So I made up my mind to test out Bing and more importantly, I would make a side-by-side comparison with Google. Here goes.

Getting Started
I may have slept through most of seventh grade science, but I stayed awake just long enough to know you're supposed to begin any experiment by stating your expectations going in. So let me start by saying I've never had much trouble with Google, and I don't think a lot of other people have either. Yes any search will likely net you 200,000 irrelevant matches, but the top ten, twenty, or even five hundred are usually worthwhile.

Honestly, I expect Bing to be nothing new. The idea is to stop irrelevant search results, so it's probably going to be exactly like Google, only cutting off about 90% of the results. Let's find out.

Test 1
In the commercial the first victim of search overload is a young woman who tells her friend she needs a new place to eat breakfast, only to have her friend shoot back "The Breakfast Club!" So that seems as good a place to start as any. I went to both Google and Bing and typed in "where can I find a good place to eat breakfast?"

Google
Results: 33,200,000
Google's number one result was "Yahoo! Answers - Where's a good place to eat breakfast?" This is a question and answer page where a man from San Jose, California asks where to go instead of Denny's or IHOP and is given a list of pancake restaurants in San Jose. Okay, not so useful if you're not from San Jose. Second was a best place to eat breakfast top ten list, then the next few were the best places to eat breakfast in Bristol, Johnston City, New Orleans, and a town in Oregon called Eugene. I decided to see how long it took me to find "The Breakfast Club" but gave up on page 11. I did, however, pass by "Help - 1 Year Old Won't Eat Breakfast or Lunch!?" and "Eat a good breakfast to start a good day - Science Update." So there's some irrelevant results.

Bing
Results: 12,500,000
Okay, the list of results definitely got slimmed down, by 20,700,000 to be exact. Let's see if that left us with more relevant information. The number one result is "Hong Kong - Where to Eat?" followed by a list of restaurants in various cities, just like the Google results. I did get an irrelevant entry - "Tips on Eating a Quick and Healthy Lunch" - on page one. Page three has "5 Ways to Easily Improve Your Breakfast."

Test 2
I don't believe I can really call this one for either side. I put in a lot of words that could have easily been picked out and given me irrelevant nonsense. The fact that I got mostly breakfast restaurants says a lot for our search engine technology, even if it was all useless to me since none of it was in my town. Still, this was my fault. I was too vague. Let's go simple. I decided to type in "dinosaurs." We'll pretend it's for a project or something.

Google
Results: 16,300,000
After a handful of awesome pictures of dinosaurs roaring I got the Wikipedia page on Dinosaurs as my first result, followed by "Zoom Dinosaurs" at a website called "Enchanted Learning." It gave me a bunch more pages on dinosaurs, some videos, and a list of related search topics. I got my first irrelevant result -qwantz.com's Dinosaur Comics (irrelevant, but awesome, by the way)- on page two.

Bing
Results: 8,850,000
Believe it or not the first two results were exactly the same on Bing. From there it was mostly the same results, but in a different order. It also gave me an irrelevant result on page one: the Wikipedia page on the Dinosaurs TV show. I got my second irrelevant result on page 5, but to be fair that's only because I consider anything from Conservapedia to be irrelevant.

Test 3
It looks like Google won that round, waiting until page two to go irrelevant. Also, that list of related search suggestions -which I found only on Google, not Bing- could possibly be a real help to my imaginary science fair project. I don't want to make this too long, so let's end on something pretty much everyone is going to search for. My search entry into Google and Bing: "hot asian lesbians."

Google
Results: 2,720,000
I got porn right off the start and right on Google with two thumbnail pictures of cute asian girls kissing, actually still shots from a clip on Video Google. This is followed by a website called YouPorn, which I am going to go ahead and assume is the porno version of YouTube. (Fun related fact: Firefox's spell check does apparently not recognize YouTube as a word. Suck it, YouTube!) This is followed immediately by porn on Youtube. Seriously, YouPorn, you made a version of YouTube that has porn? Hey, maybe next you can make your own version of the XBox 360, only have it play video games!

Bing
Results: 203,000,000
Bing gave me pretty much the same results as Google, only without pushing Video Google on me first. It started me off with YouPorn, then gave me YouTube a few entries down. Pretty much standard. Oddly enough, even though I got way less results on Bing then I got on Google for every other search, I actually ended up getting way, way, WAY more results from Bing on this search. Given that I made sure to turn off Google's SafeSearch feature prior to making this search, I can not explain these results and am forced to assume that Bing simply digs asians.

Conclusion
Bing is a search engine. No, really, it is. It's not really any better or worse than Google, though it does lack a few features that Google has. As for being a "decision engine" that will help to defeat "search overload," I came across a fairly equal amount of irrelevant results on both engines so yeah, that's BS. Furthermore, does it even matter? Even if you suffer from crippling ADD I still sincerely doubt the few irrelevant results I got would be anything more than...no, they wouldn't even be a minor inconvenience. They're pure, undiluted, meaningless.

Still, I know there are people out there who are going to like Bing simply because it's not Google. Google started out awesome, it was simply the best search engine, but now it's gotten bloated, full of itself. It's time to take on the man! Time to switch to--oh, wait. Bing is owned and operated by Microsoft. Nevermind. The revolution is off.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

1 Reason Guilty Gear Overture Blew (and 2 Reasons It Rocked)

1 Reason Guilty Gear Overture Blew

1. Sega
Sega proved once and for all that Square is not the only cannibal game corporation out there when they merged with Sammy and decided killing Guilty Gear would be a fun way to celebrate. Don't get me wrong, Guilty Gear Overture wasn't a bad game, but it also wasn't a good game. It was mediocre and most of all it was just disappointing, in much the same way every Sonic game post-Genesis was disappointing.

Guilty Gear Overture was Sega's way of telling fans that the series under their control would have nothing to do with the X series that people loved or the characters we'd grown so attached to. Arc System Works, the group that created Guilty Gear, was just as pissed as the rest of us, which leads us to...

2 Reasons Guilty Gear Overture Rocked

2. Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus
On the other hand, maybe it's for the best. Guilty Gear's creators have been stuck in a bit of a loop lately, with pretty much every new edition of the game being little more than a revised version of Guilty Gear XX: The Midnight Carnival. Even Guilty Gear Isuka, the game that was supposed to change Guilty Gear forever, was pretty much the same thing. Sega may have stolen a beloved franchise, but at least we're moving on.

Accent Core Plus is a bittersweet game. It's bitter because it marks the end of Guilty Gear and, yes, it's also just a revised Guilty Gear XX. On the other hand, it's sweet because it ends the series on a high note by not only making what's likely the best of the Guilty Gear saga but also by finally wrapping up the storylines we've all been so involved with. Eddie, Robo-Ky...we finally get to see how these stories end. Just like Square and Capcom, the creators of Guilty Gear are more than capable of making a good game when they choose to (ie. Guilty Gear Judgment), and Accent Core Plus proves it.

1. BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger
Overture is also not the end of Arc System Works. When Sega refused to return Guilty Gear to its owners Arc System Works and Aksys Games left to create a new fighting game series. From the looks of it BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger takes everything that was sweet about Guilty Gear, concentrates it into its purest form, and injects it into a shiny new body. Oh hell, just see for yourself.

Yes, Overture marks the end of something great, but it also marks the beginning of something even better. Just like how a forest fire kills off the stagnant and dying in order to make room for new growth, so too has Sega's shameless self-service made way for the new hotness that is BlazBlue.

That said, fuck Sega.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Yotsuba Out of Context : Part 2 : The Sequel : Reloaded


"Remember, Yotsuba! Once Asagi becomes a vampire and tries to summon Satan the only way to defeat her will be with a headbutt!"

"In all my years as a crime scene investigator I've never seen anything quite like this. Somehow, the body has fallen several feet away from the blood spatter."


On her first day working for Halliburton, Yotsuba discovers the Iraqi oil fields are less productive than first thought...and have been taking marketing advice from Chinese milk producers.


Included solely because holy shit did Yanda just name drop the Yotsubato hentai doujinshi?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Top 5 Indie Game Concepts That Need To Die

Everyone loves a good indie game. They're free, they're sometimes fun, and they give you something to do in the massive amounts of free time provided by your lackadaisical schedule of not having a job or a girlfriend. But there are some times when independent games just cross the line. These are the top 5 indie game concepts that need to god damn die.

5. Blood-Soaked Point And Click Adventures
People like point and click adventure games like Myst, right? And people like blood and gore, right? So clearly, people would absolutely love a bloody PnC adventure where the entire point is to kill random people and animals in the most disgusting way possible. Right? Right?

So as to not offend the kiddies I've chosen a non-gory picture. It's a celebration!


It's like an interactive horror movie where you play as the villain, meaning there's no suspense. So basically, it's like any other point and click adventure game, but without a reason to play it. If you desperately need blood and guts there's better places to find that too. Like, you know, a real game.

4. Ragdoll Games
Do you know what's more fun than putting together Flash objects so they look kind of like a disgustingly limp person with no bones, then throwing that person around? As it turns out, a video game.

Look, ragdoll physics are cool when they're used in an actual game. Who doesn't like blasting an enemy and watching his body flip through the air and land in an undignified position? Then we stand over their faces and squat repeatedly and good times are had by all. But when you take the ragdoll out of the game I think all you're really left with is horror

What the hell am I playing and why do I feel the urge to add myself to the sex offender registry for playing it?


Leave the ragdolls where they belong: in underprivileged little girls' toy boxes and between our legs in a Halo deathmatch.

3. Physics Puzzles
In short, a physics game is a game where stuff falls in a realistic fashion, IE precarious structures will topple over rather than just moving downward until they hit something.

Like Sudoku, which offers simplistic puzzles but makes you feel like a genius for completing them by including numbers, physics puzzles make you feel like a genius just by including the word "physics" in the title. Let's face it, isn't wanting to feel smart the entire reason we play puzzle games?

Physics and ancient history? Nobel Prize, please!


So what's the problem? As it turns out physics is unpredictable and difficult to control, even for a scientist. Play a physics puzzle and even if you get everything right you can still fail if your timing is off by one millionth of a second or even for no discernible reason at all. The result is a puzzle that relies just as much on luck as it does on skill and intellect which, if you think about it, isn't really a puzzle at all.

2. Games That Want To Be Portal
This was going to be popular mainstream games in Flash version but as it turns out no one ever makes Quake or Bioshock in Flash. No, it's pretty much just Portal or puzzle/platformers that desperately wish they were Portal.

Not Portal.


The problem here is that they're all missing the point. Yes, I agree that Portal was awesome. Do you know why Portal was awesome? Because it was made by people with vision. The makers of Portal set out from the beginning with the intention of doing something that had never been done before. Then, they succeeded.

Also not Portal.


You took an idea you saw work for somebody else and did the same thing, only not as well. That doesn't make you great, that makes you a copycat. No one likes a copycat. I'm not saying the idea can't work again and I'm certainly not going to say that only Valve has the right to make a Portal-esque game. What I'm saying is, as with Monty Python, these are masters of the surreal and the unique. Their strength is in their individuality. Do you really think the best way to show your admiration for them is by mimicking their every move like a damn trained monkey?

1. AdventureQuest, MechQuest, AdventureQuest Worlds, Dragonfable, ArchKnight, et cetera
No, really. Please, Artix Entertainment, for the love of all that is holy, STOP. Stop remaking AdventureQuest ad infinitum, stop flooding every damn page you can find with spam about your stupid game like it was a penis enlargement pill, and for all our sake stop pretending a silly game that's a fun time waster at best rocks our socks off.