Let's discuss Avengers: Infinity War -- a movie BOUND to make you feel so good!

September 15, 2012

Let’s discuss some more video games.

Because…hey, why not?  (And that mentality’s never brought harm to anyone before.)

Once again, I find myself in a position where there are a handful of games I want to talk about, but don’t feel like going into any of them in the extreme depth I would with Skyward Sword or Kingdom Hearts.  But in the interest of keeping the content flowing -- and keeping the blog from becoming wall-to-wall posts of I Hraet You (which you should probably read if you love wrestling southern belles, bug-obsessed misanthropes, and improbably buxom schoolgirl commandoes) -- I’m going to do a bit more talking about some of the games that have been on my mind recently.  I’m pretty sure there’s no more than an 83% chance of injury for potential readers.  So sayeth Barney Stinson.  And if you can’t trust a man who’s willing to stage elaborate hoaxes just to get a friend to watch a YouTube video of a dog pooping on a baby, who can you trust?

Click on the jump, and let’s discuss some games.  It’s going to be -- wait for it…a decidedly pleasant experience.

Tekken Tag Torunament 2!
(Or: They Call Me Mr. Juggles)

I should probably note two things before I go any further.  One: Tekken is my favorite fighting game franchise, period…and it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I played Tekken 5 until I reached the Deity rank with Jin Kazama.  And two: as I type this, I’m listening to the latest video Level Up Your Game’s tutorial series.

Tekken makes more “sense” to me than, say, Street Fighter or Marvel vs. Capcom.  Even though Tekken is ostensibly crazier than Capcom games (in the sense that there’s a boxing kangaroo and boxing dinosaur), I feel like the mechanics are a lot easier to grasp and execute than Street Fighter.  Make no mistake, there’s still some timing and practice required -- and the requisite understanding of fighting fundamentals -- but compared to Street Fighter which requires split-second button presses (with no indication as to what the timing is for your attacks, or that they’re even in the game) or MvC which demands you create WTF-setups (and general cheapness), Tekken is more straightforward.  Even though any given character has about a hundred moves, you can pick and choose the ones you think are important -- particularly, those with special properties -- and use them to your advantage as well as part of your strategy.  Of course, the key part of that strategy may likely be focused on juggling, AKA bopping your opponent over and over to keep them floating defenselessly in the air.

I can’t say I’ve played a LOT of Tekken Tag 2 -- my brother has had some serious “alone time” with it -- but from what I’ve played, it’s more than a worthy addition to the series.  My only gripe is that for some reason, when you play out of the box you can’t use the left stick if you’re playing on a pad.  This led to a rather frustrating session of play, because I thought it meant I’d have to play with the Xbox 360’s D-pad.  I don’t think I can stress enough how awful that D-pad is for anything besides selecting your gun.

Double Dragon Neon!
(Or: Brotherly Guitar Solos)

From what I gather -- that is, professional opinion -- Double Dragon Neon isn’t a very good game.  Serviceable, yes, but nothing worth getting excited about.

Mmmmmmmmmmmyeah, I’m gonna have to disagree on that one.

Okay, to be fair, I can see why not everybody thinks Neon is good.  I can’t help but feel like it’s got some mechanical issues; even for a beat-em-up it’s kind of button-mashy, grabbing people isn’t as easy as it should be, and moving up and down is a lot more sluggish than moving left to right (and in spite of having a dodge roll, you can only go forward or back).  But as I’ve said in the past, I can forgive a game’s mechanical shortcomings if it compensates with style -- and man oh man is this game stylish.

All the stuff from the 80s and 90s are here in full force.  Taken out of context or in any other product, they’d be so cringe-worthy your face would crumple into a tiny, fleshy cube.  But every element comes together to create a product so cheesy, so garish, and so over-the-top that it becomes utterly amazing.  The lingo is hilariously dated.  The enemies are goons you’d expect from any number of 2D-brawlers, from street punks to whip-snapping ladies of the evening…and then there are space-geishas, mecha-bikers, and a villain called Skullmageddon who sounds like he has yet to hit puberty.  You go into space in the second level (thanks to a ship disguised as some sort of bad guy dojo), and can get sucked out of an airlock.  You revive your partner by rewinding a cassette tape with a pencil, and the level complete jingle has the Lee brothers doing air guitar solos.  And the music?  Do yourself a favor, and download it right now.  Like, right friggin’ now.

The most altruistic thing I can do right now is recommend a download -- if not the game, then at least a demo.  You’ll thank me later.

Darksiders 2!
(Or: Great, Now He Looks Like Nobody BUT Casey James…)

I know I try to be fair and unbiased when it comes to opinions, but for the life of me I can’t get into the Darksiders games; hell, I’m kind of peeved that Darksiders did well enough to merit a franchise.  You would think that I’d like it because it’s a mish-mash of several other games wrapped into a cohesive and largely-airtight package -- part-Zelda, part-Devil May Cry, part-Portal…but here’s the issue I have.  If I want to play a game that has those elements, then I’ll play those games instead of one that crumples them together.  Why would I want to play a Zelda clone with a significantly less-rewarding and awe-inspiring world when I can play Zelda?  Why would I want to play a Devil May Cry clone with a surly, unlikable, bland, and ridiculously-dressed protagonist when I can play Devil May Cry?  Why would I want to play a Portal clone (and I use that term lightly) that has none of the humor, style, horrific implications, or GlaDOS when I can play Portal?  I know that the phrase “substance over style” is one with merit, but even the most substantive game doesn’t mean much if it’s so antagonizing.

So when my brother -- after weeks of hyping up his inevitable purchase -- brought the sequel home, I was in no rush to play it.  In all fairness, I did give it a try…but again, I can’t bring myself to get invested in it.  That’s a shame, because the world itself is a lot more interesting than I remember from Darksiders 1; it’s expansive, varied, and (get this) has colors besides brown.  But Death is just so heinously unlikable that it kills (har har) any chance I have of liking the game.  It feels like his designers wanted to make him “cool for the sake of cool” rather than allowing organic, natural coolness.  Dual-wielding is cool, right?  How about dual-wielding scythes?!  And instead of a hookshot, he’s got “deathgrip”!  And his gun is called “Redemption”!  Though why Death needs a gun is beyond us…

That actually brings up a big issue I have with the game: if Death is supposed to be one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, he sure as hell doesn’t feel like it.  If he’s got this big whompin’ Reaper form that he shifts into whenever the player falls into a pit, why doesn’t he use that all the time?  If he’s the master of the mortal coil, why does he even have to boosh-boosh-boosh sickles and juggle enemies?  Why can’t he just kill them with a thought?  Or with something cooler than a move repertoire that Dante or Kratos might have?  Why do I feel less like a harbinger of demise and more like a meaner, dirtier version of Link, gofer duties and all?

Sorry, Darksiders 2.  But no amount of loot you offer is enough to sway me.  (And given that I revile loot-fests, it’s just another strike against you.)

World of Goo -- or the demo, at least!
(Or: I am a Terrible, Terrible Person)

So I downloaded the soundtrack to World of Goo, and inadvertently discovered there’s a free demo of chapter one.  Curious, I decided to give it a shot -- since Double Dragon Neon had taught me the power of downloadable titles and prepared to install.  Except I noticed there was a certain message waiting for me.

“When left alone, processed Goo Balls appear to play, as if in a giant sandbox, building structures into the sky!  They say they discover things hiding way up there.  We may never know.”

I’ve been scared by games before, but never by a game’s installation.  And as such, I started the game with a sense of foreboding not felt since I took a bite out of a jalapeno pepper.  (It did not go well; such is why I can hardly stand spicy foods today.)

I’m a little embarrassed that it’s taken me this long to register World of Goo, or even think to look up information about it.  On one hand, I’m glad I did, because from what I gather based on the demo, it’s a fantastic game worthy of praises -- a respite against the gunmetal armada of the industry climate, and an exemplar of what video games can be with a bit of ingenuity and thought.  On the other hand, I don’t think I like what World of Goo has done to me -- that is to say, it has wrecked my emotional shit so thoroughly that I’m convinced playing the full game will necessitate many, many, many years of therapy.

I would say more her, but I don’t want to.  I feel like I want to -- need to -- talk about this game more in depth at a later date (if I can summon the courage).  And besides that, I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t tried or seen it.  So I’ll just leave a link to the demo here and say…may God be with you.  I'll be here to give you a virtual hug, if need be.

Xenoblade Chronicles!
(Or: What a Bunch o’ Jokers!)

Xenoblade Chronicles is the most metal RPG ever created.

The game opens up with two supermassive creatures slugging it out -- and when their fight ends, they become the foundation for two separate civilizations, one biological, one mechanical.  That’s right: the world you explore is essentially along the body of a warrior-god Gundam.  And you carry around a sword that opens up to turn into a super-lightsaber to destroy evil robots and slay mind-reading dino-beasts, and you help rebuild a colony, and you kill giant monsters, and there’s a samurai in your party who recites poetry when he uses his special move, and there’s another guy with a shield/gun/sword thing that can blow monsters apart, and the white mage carries around a rifle as big as she is and heals you by shooting you.

And then there’s the song.  This song is…it’s just…holy shit.  I would recommend buying Xenoblade as fast as you can if you haven’t already -- not just because it’s one of the most solid and rewarding JRPGs to come out in a while, but solely because of the song.

I’ve been playing a fair bit of Xenoblade, and if there’s one thing it does VERY well, it’s the combat.  It’s what Final Fantasy 12 should have been; it’s MMO-esque, but much more energetic and active.  There’s the typical array of special moves with unique properties, but more importantly there’s a definitive sense of team synergy -- like your party members are genuinely fighting alongside you.  Give them encouragement in the middle of a fight (via a timed button press) and you’ll receive special bonuses.  You can help them up if they get knocked down or KOed, and you can engage in team attacks that cement camaraderie as well as do damage.  And of course, whenever the song plays, you feel like a real warrior.  Dare I say it, a real man.

But to be fair, there are some niggling problems.  All the characters are really damn talkative in the midst of a fight -- so much so that they might even talk over each other.  And because the game is like an MMO, there’s no shortage of quests where you have to roam the land looking for items, or kill a certain number of enemies.  Thankfully, these quests are entirely optional, and feel more connected to the game in the sense that you’re boosting your reputation and getting to know the townsfolk.  Although there’s a backlash to that; in one village, a Nopon -- think Jigglypuff, but smaller and with a tenuous grasp of English -- asks you to kill some big ugly ogres because they mistreated him.  Fair enough…except if you think about it, it’s clear that you’re killing the indigenous species of a territory just because they made some dumbass critter sad.  This is doubly-depressing when you realize that you’re the one starting fights; the ogres can and will ignore you until you start with the slaughter.

Maybe World of Goo was right.  Maybe I am a monster.

…I’m, uh…I’m gonna go and think about some stuff.  See you guys around.

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