Archive for March, 2012


Like a bad Monday

Asura’s Wrath is an exciting game. Mythological adaptations fighting each other while screaming at the top of their lungs plus space ships? How can you go wrong? To be honest, I loved the game. On a basic level, the game works really well. The melee combat and Quick Time Events (QTE) work great, the voice-acting is… enthusiastic, the art style is really emotive, the core aspects of the game are great. It’s the extraneous stuff that really screws up the game.

The shooter segments are little more than you mashing buttons until a QTE occurs. Everything in these segments is a barrier between you and the next fight. While I can understand the placement of some random bosses to break up the story, these just seem odd to me. Similarly, story events between “episodes” are still pictures (drawn by different artists each time) with voiced dialogue. It’s little better than telling the story through random text files. Considering how great some of the cutscenes in this game are, it seems odd for them to resort to this.

When you’re in the melee combat segments, the game is great. Brutal and dynamic. Why the game couldn’t be just this is beyond my understanding of game design I suppose. It starts off relatively easy, seeming to skip from QTE to QTE, but the battles get harder and harder (if not bigger in scope), with more on the line. It reminds me more of Enslaved than Devil May Cry, however the controls are responsive and I encountered no glitches. Asura has a huge amount of unique animations for different enemy types, and Liam O’Brien’s yelling really brings out the brutality. Considering how short his effective range is I was surprised how smooth the combat was. The character animations remind me of Street Fighter IV, and you really see it when getting a close-up of character’s faces. Speaking of faces, what is Ganondorf doing in a Capcom game?

And from the darkest depths I heard a voice.... "Tingle Tingle Kooloo-limpah!"

Speaking of storytelling, why in the name of all that is anime are there episodes? Why not just continue to tell the story? If they wanted an anime, why not make an anime? It interrupts the action at the worst time, every time. Not only that, but they show a “next episode” preview literally seconds before the next segment is about to start. It makes me want to go to a restaurant and punch it so hard it turns into a TGI Mondays.

Every anime needs a hot-spring episode!

There is also a fundamental flaw in the presentation of the game’s story as a whole. They present a prologue telling you who the character is, what he’s fighting for, and what happens to set him on this path of revenge. Immediately afterward, there is a tutorial segment establishing that Asura has amnesia. Throughout the game he learns of his past. This is redundant and stupid. It’s poor storytelling, and ruins any attachments to the reveals later on in the story. Without the prologue, we would be learning about Asura’s past and the world at the same time as him. Instead, we already know, and so the reveals are negligible.

It's as if they were planning this all along...

That’s not to say the story isn’t good however. The tale of revenge, religious idiocy and awkward parenting is awesome while it lasts, and while short, combines some of the best elements from not only God of War and CyberConnect’s Ninja Storm series, but Kingdom Hearts, Resident Evil 4 and Zelda as well. I’ll let you find those references for yourself.

Still, the real meat of the game is in the melee combat. The game has been described as an “eastern god of war” in some publications. While that certainly seems to be what CyberConnect went for (with a touch of shonen anime), it doesn’t measure up as a game. In fact there’s almost no “levels” in this game. You’re either in an arena combating enemies with melee or running through a rail-shooter segment. QTEs placed between cutscenes round out the levels. I swear to god the next time someone complains about Final Fantasy XIII I’ll simply reply that “at least it wasn’t as bad as Asura’s Wrath.” Only… XIII-2 seems to be doing the same thing as seen here. Oi…

In the end, this game tried to get me emotionally involved, but the episodic bullshit coupled with the sporadic storytelling quality kept it from being as good as it could have been. In the end, as badass as some of the characters are and as interesting as the story ended up, all I really wanted to do was punch things. Thankfully, this game delivers that in spades. Then again, maybe I should expect this from Capcom. Goofy storytelling that you shouldn’t take seriously coupled with typically good gameplay.

I think I’ll just draw from the wisdom of Augus: “Relax my son. Enjoy every moment: You fight, then eat good food. You fight, then drink fine wine. You fight, then sleep with beautiful women. Hell, fight with beautiful women! That’s what it truly means to live.”

As there were previously no pictures of Augus in this review, I was forced to rectify that.

Asura’s Wrath was developed by CyberConnect2 and published by Capcom.

If this review seems to have mixed opinions, it’s because Capcom.

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Press my nose to hear a sound!

Journey is a game that puts you into the role of a walking, beeping carpet. No I’m not kidding. You find yourself in the middle of a desert with nothing around you except a vague mountain-shape in the distance emitting light. You quickly move toward it! Or not. You could just sit there if you want (hit select).

Journey is advertised as an exploration game with no prompts except the mountain in the distance. I was intrigued by how thatgamecompany could make such a concept interesting, and unfortunately my fears were somewhat founded, though the experience was still mildly enjoyable while it lasted. If you ever wanted to explore unpleasant survival situations, this is the game. Hot desert, cold stormy mountaintops, and of course dark caverns with evil beasties.

Along the way, provided you’re hooked up to PSN, you will meet random people and help each other succeed at… stuff, such as jumping farther. There’s really no rhyme or reason for or against co-op in this game. While a partner can speed up your progress through the levels, the game is so short that having a partner could be counted as a detriment to the overall experience. You can’t team up with friends and can only partner with random people, though you at least discover their identities in the end-game screen. There is no dedicated co-op function beyond meeting passerby throughout the game. This makes staying together with particular co-op partners a chore, since they can be easily lost if you mess up on a platforming section. Add on that you can only meet one person at a time, removing any chance of hilarious amounts of identical walking carpets, and the loneliness really starts to set in. Having removed the chance for ridiculous human spontaneity, the game is forced to a near-identical progression of events in each playthrough. Unfortunate, and probably an intentional part of the design.

The only slightly competitive part of this game is comparing scarf sizes.... You might have reach, but I have flexibility...

The protagonist’s scarf lets you jump when it glows- allowing you to flap about like a bird, which is more exciting than it should be. It doesn’t usually last long however. You’re only given the ability to jump when you need it.

Sliding down sand-dunes is the best part of the game. The almost-sandboarding easily picks up the pace from the quiet traversal during other parts and provides a fun change in gameplay. It seems like an odd decision, in a relatively open “exploration” game like this, to give you limited ammunation for your jump function.

No dialogue, no directive. You can spend as long as you want screwing around, though it gets boring quick since it’s mostly just desert. While the game certainly is pretty, it’s still just a pretty desert/cave/mountain, and there’s really not much there beyond one or two secrets. In fact, the game is a lot more linear than advertised. While you might think you’re free to explore, it’s actually just very wide areas with invisible walls, holding next to nothing in them.

Considering how short and linear it is, it’s not quite worth the price of admission. They try to tell a story, but it’s simply too complex (something about a destroyed civilization and the main character being the avatar of their rebirth) without dialogue or exposition. Thatgamecompany has always been known for simple, expressive games, but this time they seem to have abandoned some of the experience for narrative, which is unfortunate. In my opinion I don’t think every subsequent game they make has to be bigger than their last, but they felt the need to do so here. I mean, Groundhog Day? Don’t they know time loops never end well? Or end for that matter…

I came into this expecting a profound experience, like what I experienced with Flower. While I did discover a flower in the desert (yay cameos), the experience wasn’t nearly as memorable for me as Flower was. But hey, maybe I’m just partial to flight sims.

Wait, didn't I already play Uncharted?

Journey was developed by Thatgamecompany.

 

Because this kind of game is more believable if everything is smaller and remote-controlled. Actually, that might not be too far off...

In my endless aggravation at being unable to play Mass Effect 3 or Journey, I downloaded this, since the series always gives me a laugh or two.

A tutorial level introduces you to the odd driving controls and the strangely fascinating experience of driving a virtual RC car. Not as intense as their full-size counterparts, but engaging nonetheless.

There is also an racing event that I took part in called “Night Club” that was easier to control than the tutorial, or perhaps it was merely my imagination. Regardless it was a fun game, and should prove entertaining for any racing fans, though I don’t see this selling that many copies. Motorstorm has always been a rental franchise to me.