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Jalexbrown's E3 2012 Wishlist

By: jalexbrown May 19, 2012 | 1 Comments

What I'd like to see at E3 in 2012.

E3 is around the corner, Jimmy.  Did you know that?  Of course you did.  You're not some idiotic nuab; you're on the #1 gaming site on the Web, so I know you're smarter than that.  So with that in mind, why don't I tell you just a few games I want to see at E3 this year.


1. Persona 5

It's a Jimmy-ass logo, but then again there's nothing official to use instead.  What the $*#@ Atlus?  Anyway...if you read my Game of the Year article for 2011 (don't be a Jimmy...go peep it if you didn't), you know I said Persona 4 was the best game I played last year.  It's like playing one of the craziest animes you'll ever watch.  I also really liked the Persona 2: Innocent Sin PSP release.  If this doesn't happen, I might...well, I'm sane enough that I'll probably do nothing at all, but who knows?

2. Persona 2: Eternal Punishment PSP

This was just released in Japan a couple days ago, so it might be a cop-out, but I really want to hear that this is getting a US localization.  I will be very unhappy if Atlus forces me to sit here with only half of the Persona 2 collection on PSP.  And if neither one nor two is present at E3 2012...I won't be very happy with Atlus.

3. Titan

Another unofficial logo; hopefully whoever owns this logo doesn't sue me.  Anyway, I'm a bit of an MMO junkie (more on that a little later in the list), and while I consider World of Warcraft to be kind of lukewarm, I really want to know if Blizzard is producing a true next-generation MMO or just a rehashed version of World of Warcraft that's been rebranded.

4. Final Fantasy Versus XIII

After the poor reception towards both Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIII-2, I'm growing more and more curious rather or not Square-Enix is downright abandoning this project.  Or are they actually taking their time and making this the best game possible?  Or maybe they've just spent all this time trolling us.  In any case, hopefully they'll at least tell us this year.

5. Jade Empire 2

With Mass Effect (hopefully) done and Dragon Age safely trapped in the land of lulz, maybe Bioware will finally remember that they still have at least one more franchise ripe with options for screwing up.  Except maybe they won't screw up, and maybe they'll actually make a good sequel for Jade Empire. 

6. The Dark Tower Game

Even long-time Gouki readers probably don't know that I'm a huge fan of Stephen King's.  I've been entranced in everything the man conjures up for as long as I can remember.  I only bought Alan Wake when I heard it described as "like a Stephen king video game".  The Dark Tower is the magnum opus of Stephen King's career.  The series as a whole stands right up there with Lord of the Rings as one of the most epic epics every to be written.  With a movie adaptation slated to be released sometime in 2013, it seems like it could be altogether possible that we'll see a video game adaptation as well.

7. Anything Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

This sort of goes along with The Dark Tower.  I love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I have for as long as I can remember.  There's a new cartoon slated to launch this year and a new movie slated to be released next year.  They're going to build a hype train for this series as big as possible, and what could be bigger than an awesome video game announcement at E3?  Two more wishes relating to this one, if you don't mind: Please don't make another fighting game, and please oh please don't use this ugly-ass logo.

8. Batman: Arkham City Follow-up

I'm not sure how they plan on following up on Arkham City, but I've got a pretty strong hunch that for better or worse they will.  Hopefully they don't just continue upping the scale, because Arkham City was plenty big enough for me.  In fact I'd be fine without the sandbox elements of Arkham City.  I just want to feel like a complete badass playing Batman some more.

9. Diablo 3 Expansion

I know Diablo 3 was just released less than a full week ago (four days ago for those of you keeping count), but I'm already itching to know what Blizzard plans on doing next.  How about adding necromancers and/or druids?  How about a talent tree system?  And don't forget that you still owe us some PVP (although I hope they won't be making that a feature of the expansion pack).  Lord knows I don't want to encourage Blizzard to start milking Diablo 3 like they did with World of Warcraft, but there's definitely some room for Blizzard to create an expansion pack that isn't just milking the cash cow.

10. Ultima Online 2

While this can be filed pretty solely in the "no way, no how" folder of my mind, this is a wishlist so I might as well include a wish.  Ultima Online is an amazing MMO, and I think it might be one of the reasons why I love the genre so much.  This was an era when MMOs were more than raid-grinding.  Ultima Online was a true social experience.  You could never fight a single monster and still get ample enjoyment out of fishing, gathering, crafting, housing, and other non-combat activities.  You were a free-form character that could be anything you wanted; you weren't restricted to class choices, and no decision you made was ever permanent.  If you didn't like your swordsmanship-mage, you could dump your skills and turn your existing character into a archer-tamer one skill at a time.  If every aspect of this could be translated into a 3D MMO without becoming a mindless raid-grind, I'd never need to buy or play another MMO.

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The Secret World Beta Impressions

By: jalexbrown May 13, 2012 | 3 Comments | Updated: May 13, 2012

Is The Secret World so great when it isn't secret anymore?

I just got done playing The Secret World (if the title of this article didn't give that away).  If you're not aware, it's a modern-day MMO about conspiracy theories and...that's really about all I know.  Basically every conspiracy theory you've ever heard is true.  There are three secret organizations of people - the Illuminati, the Templars, and the Dragons - that are in a constant state of contest.  It's actually an interesting idea for an MMO.  And to be honest, it doesn't completely fall apart in translation.

That said, once the veil of mystique is pulled some aspects of The Secret World starts to feel less impressive.  Combat isn't too terribly different from what you've seen in other MMOs.  Other than the fact that you can - and should - move while fighting (and casting), you're still basically building and spamming a rotation of abilities until the enemy or enemies drop dead.  There's no real sense of impact in the combat; there aren't even real animations of the enemy responding to the hit, so the only way to even know you've landed a blow is to watch the numbers and text over the enemy's head.  It's a forgettable combat system that, when book-ended by Tera and Guild Wars 2, feels more than a bit archaic.

Character development is one of the game's strongest points.  There are no classes in The Secret World; instead, you'll spend your time acquiring and spending AP (ability points) and SP (skill points) to develop your character.  In order to spend your AP, you have an ability wheel.  The wheel is broken into melee, ranged, and magic.  Melee is further broken down to blades, hammers, and fists; ranged is further broken into shotguns, pistols, and machine guns; magic is further broken into elemental magic, blood magic, and chaos magic.  Within each of these categories you have nodes, and each node contains a list of abilities (both active and passive) that increase in cost, each node ending with an elite ability.  The skill points are broken up in similar fashion but not in a wheel format.  It all sounds very confusing (and it is at first), but you'll quickly pick up on how it works and have no problems making the build you want.  And, in theory, you can grind to max AP and SP so you can have every single ability and skill maxed.  Of course you wont have to do so in order to be able to engage in the game's end-game content, but it's good to know your development isn't really capped.

Once you acquire the abilities, there's still a caveat: You can only have seven active and seven passive abilities available to you at one time.  Picking and choosing the right combination of active and passive abilities becomes something akin to a trading card game and can be incredibly addicting.  The developers have also offered some handy pre-designed templates (called decks) that you can use assuming you have all the necessary skills available to you.

The story and atmosphere are, to me, the game's best points though.  The first and only zone available during this beta weekend (Kingsmouth) is overrun with a zombie plague.  The small New England town has a realistic feel and vibe to it.  Just walking around in the thick fog with cars crashed and flaming or bellowing smoke, you actually feel like you're in a horror movie.  At times I actually found myself so caught up in the atmosphere that I jumped a little when something started attacking me.

The questing helps with keeping you immersed in the world.  There are very few of your traditional MMO-style quests where you go kill a certain number of something to loot a certain item.  Some quests are a twist on the common quests of fantasy MMOs, but they always have a little flavor that feels logical and consistent with the modern-day setting.  One quest, for instance, had me going around town grabbing security cameras from businesses so that I could place them in areas around town for the police sheriff.  The fact that there was a real logic to what I was doing and why I was doing it made the quest so much more enjoyable.

Instead of using a traditional gear system, The Secret World uses a talisman system for stat-modifying items.  You have seven specific talisman slots to equip, and these work like gear in other MMOs except that they're not visible on your character.  Your outfit is separate altogether and strictly cosmetic in nature.  Not only does this fit the flavor of the setting, but it allows every player to create their own style without being bound to a particular look based on their class or build.

Overall I had a lot of fun with the Secret World beta, although it's important to remember that it is a beta.  Things can and will go wrong.  There are bugs that need fixed.  There are design issues that should be addressed.  Much of what we saw animation-wise (if Funcom is to be believed) was placeholder art.  But from what I've seen so far, most of the gameplay is engaging and immersive and interesting.  So while I don't expect the final product to be a radically different game (and wouldn't honestly want it to be one), I do expect to see many more improvements made in the coming month leading up to the game's release on June 19th.

If you want to check out The Secret World for yourself, you can pre-order it from Funcom's site, Amazon, or your local Gamestop and enjoy the beta weekends that will occur every weekend until the game's launch.

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Tera Beta Impressions

By: jalexbrown Apr 25, 2012 | 1 Comments

I've been playing Tera through the open beta and the last couple closed beta tests. Read my impressions and find out if I regret my pre-order.

Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Tera.  The Secret World.  Guild Wars 2.  Right now is thee best time to be an MMO player, with 2012 (and late, late 2011 thanks to Bioware) being the best year since...ever, really, for the genre.  But this isn't about MMOs; it's about Tera in particular, which I was playing pretty religiously every time I was given the chance.  So what do I think about Tera?  Frankly I'd rather play with dog poo on a hot summer day than endure too much more of Tera.

Let me start recording my impressions where I started playing the game: character creation.  The races aren't your standard fantasy variety, but they manage to feel just as uninteresting - but really, I could care less about that.  It was the class selection that first bothered me.  Tera has eight classes, and of the eight classes a whopping four of them are entirely melee-based; of those four, three are melee DPS (damage-per-second for those of you not in the know) and one is a tank.  Of the remaining four classes two are healers and two are ranged DPS (one caster, one archer).  Tera's class selection is skewed very heavily in favor of those that want to play melee DPS, which made me feel kind of alienated since I prefer to play caster classes.  Okay, whatever...maybe melee is really fun and I won't mind.  So I roll my melee DPS character and get going.

The basic idea behind Tera seems to be to take everything you'd expect from an MMO and wrap it up in a farly decent graphics engine (Unreal 3) and throw in some "action" combat.  If you play MMOs and hate tab-targetting and spamming a rotation, Tera might sound like a refreshing change of pace.  And it is...for a while.  I spent my first 10 hours or so really enjoying Tera.  I was engaged in the combat, the questing was fairly quick and painless, and I'd found a pretty nice guild to chat with.  The game was living up to my expectations.  And then something happened.

I don't know what happened, really; I can't pinpoint it.  At some point a simple fact just dawned on me: I was bored out of my mind.  I was no longer having any sort of fun at all.  The whole game, at least from my perception, had come to a grinding halt.  The combat, which was inititally intriguing and enjoying, was monotonous and (perhaps even more damning) void of any real challenge.  The questing was uninspired and quite painfully repetitive.  Gear progression was boring since everything looked very similar and none of it looked very cool.  Grouping was annoying since I was spending more time looking for groups than playing with them.  I was quite literally at the end of my rope with the game.  I wasn't having fun anymore.

I felt like I'd given the game as much of a fair shake as I could, and it fell flat.  I played to level 25, I ran the first available dungeon a few times, ganked a few player-killers and got ganked by a few player-kills (I was on a PVP server).  There was nothing left to keep me playing, and I was less than halfway to what will be the release date level cap (60).  When I exited the game there was still over 24 hours left in the open beta, and I didn't touch it again before it ended.

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Jalexbrown's Game of the Year Awards

By: jalexbrown Dec 13, 2011 | 3 Comments

Jalexbrown gives his picks for the best games that he played in 2011.

(Author's Note: My "Game of the Year" awards are different than most.  Instead of evaluating all games that came out in the current calendar year, I evaluate all games that I played this year.  Other than my PS2 category and the Game of the Year category - which can consist of any game that I've played in 2011 - all categories are restricted to current-gen games only.  That just makes sense.  I wanted to get that out of the way before the inevitable "That game wasn't released in 2011!!!!" comments.  It's worth noting that I can't give out awards for genres or systems I didn't play any of or enough of for there to be any real competition - that's why no sports games or Wii games, for instance.)

ACTION-ADVENTURE

Nominees: Battlefield 3, Batman: Arkham City, Resident Evil 5, Uncharted 2

And the winner is...

Batman: Arkham City

While all of these games are good in their own way, Batman: Arkham City just stands above the competition.  The story is intriguing, the combat is amazingly fluid, it feels like an improved sequel, and the feeling of actually being Batman is just something that no other game can match.

MULTIPLAYER SHOOTER

Nominees: Battlefield 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Crysis 2, Uncharted 2

And the winner is...

Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 is an example of a game that just plain rises head-and-shoulders above its competition.  Sure all of these games can be a lot of fun to play, but Battlefield 3 is just so freaking polished that it's hard to go back to any of these other games after playing it.  Perhaps the most note-worthy aspect of the game's mutliplayer is that teamwork actually matters; running around like a vigilante rogue won't get much accomplished.  The vehicles should also be mentioned, because they're awesome and a whole lot of fun to use.  A shining example of multiplayer goodness?  I think so.

ROLE-PLAYING GAME

Nominees: 3D Dot Game Heroes, Demon's Souls, Fallout: New Vegas, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey

And the winner is...

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey

This is one of my favorite game series of all time, and Strange Journey is definitely deserving of the title.  The story is a bit weak compared to other Shin Megami Tensei games, but Strange Journey more than makes up for it with awesome gameplay.  Combat is a lot of fun, and the negotiations - while a staple of the series - never fails to feel extremely cool to me.  If you like RPGs, you should definitely consider this game.

RE-RELEASE

Nominees: Chrono Trigger, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Metal Slug 2, Persona 2 PSP

And the winner is...

Chrono Trigger

While Chrono Trigger definitely isn't the most changed from its original entity (in fact none of them are groundbreakingly different), I think Chrono Trigger was the best in the first place.  The story is amazing, the soundtrack is gold, and the gameplay is a great example of why the 16-bit era was hailed as the generation with some of the best Japanese RPGs ever.

GAME THAT WASN'T RELEASED

Nominees: Final Fantasy Versus XIII, Guild Wars 2, Max Payne 3, Torchlight 2

And the winner is...

Guild Wars 2

I would've loved to have seen all these games released in 2011; hell, I would've loved to have seen any of these games released in 2011.  But none of them have me itching for a release more than Guild Wars 2.  Now, I wasn't honestly a fan of the first Guild Wars, but I'm definitely buying into the hype that ArenaNet is selling for Guild Wars 2.  The Old Republic is the cinematic and story evolution of the genre, and I believe Guild Wars 2 will end up being the gameplay evolution of the genre.  Now if only it would get released...

HANDHELD GAME

Nominees: Chrono Trigger, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Persona 2 PSP, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey

And the winner is...

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey

Not only was it my favorite role-playing game of 2011, but it was also my favorite handheld game of 2011.  There's not much I can say here without rehashing, so I'll just congratulate the game and move on.

PLAYSTATION 2 GAME

Nominees: Final Fantasy XII, Indigo Prophecy, Okami, Persona 4

And the winner is...

Persona 4

This game rocked my life when I started playing it.  I played Persona 3 to death and knew it was awesome, but after playing Persona 4, I realized that a game just has no right being this great.  I don't mean to sound like I'm writing a love letter to this game, but I can't help it.  Story, soundtrack, gameplay...it's all here, and the game rarely seems to faulter at all.  This game will be the reason I keep my Playstation 2 hooked up for a long, long time to come.

PLAYSTATION 3 GAME

Nominees: Battlefield 3, Demon's Souls, Marvel vs Capcom 3, Uncharted 2

And the winner is...

Battlefield 3

This was a tough one, because in truth Battlefield 3 might not be the most well-rounded of the nominees; the single-player campaign is pretty average in my opinion.  But I can't help it...this game shines for me.  To be fair all these games are great and every one of them could be argued as deserving of the award, but when I turn on my Playstation 3, I keep going back to Battlefield 3.

XBOX 360 GAME

Nominees: Alan Wake, Batman: Arkham City, Eternal Sonata, Resident Evil 5

And the winner is...

Batman: Arkham City

Much like with the Playstation 3 nominees, arguments could be made for all of these games.  But Batman: Arkham city definitely feels like the most polished and complete game of the bunch.  Rocksteady games was on spot with Arkham City, creating a follow-up to Arkham Asylum that definitely deserves its namesake.  Now...Arkham State?  Arkham World?  Arkham Universe?  I don't care, Rocksteady; just make it happen.  But there will always be a spot in my Xbox 360 for Arkham City.

GAME OF THE YEAR

Nominees: Batman: Arkham City, Battlefield 3, Chrono Trigger, Persona 4

And the winner is...


Persona 4

This was the hardest choice of the bunch; it's supposed to be by definition, I suppose.  And to be perfectly fair, every nominee is, in its own way, the best of the best.  These are the games that give us a reason to be gamers.  And if any one game that I've played this year gave me that spark, that exhilerating feeling that made me say This is why I'm a gamer...it had to be Persona 4.  Everything about this game reeks of excellence.  The amount of time that you can spend playing this game will make you laugh at even the most exciting multiplayer game.  If I could've only picked up one game all year, rest assured it would be Persona 4.

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THQ and Obsidian Entertainment to Develop South Park Game

By: jalexbrown Dec 9, 2011 | 4 Comments

THQ announces that, in conjunction with Obsidian Entertainment, they'll be bringing South Park to video game format in the back half of 2012.

So be honest; when you think of properties that absolutely don't need games, a few come to mind, right?  And I'm guessing South Park is pretty high on that list.  There were a few amazingly bad South Park games during the PS1/N64 days, and if you didn't have the misfortune of playing them then just believe me when I say that they were terrible.  So who, you must ask yourself, came up with the idea of making another South Park game?

THQ announced that they're going to be publishing the Obsidian Entertainment-developed South Park: The Game, which is going to be a role-playing game of all things.  You'll take control of the new kid in South Park, whose goal will be to make friends with all the kids of South Park and, no doubt, fight some really bizarre things along the way.

(Something I never thought I'd see on a Game Informer cover.)

Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the show's creators and the two guys that still make the show so freaking funny, are going to be involved in the game.  That alone should mean that even if the game ends up being terrible, at least it'll be super-funny-terrible.  And for that, I'll buy it regardless of anything else.

South Park: The Game will be released on the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC in the latter half of 2012.

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First Impressions: Everquest 2: Age of Discovery Beta

By: jalexbrown Dec 7, 2011 | 3 Comments

Jalexbrown looks at the beta for the upcoming expansion for Everquest 2.

It should be noted up front that Age of Discovery is not a content expansion; it's a feature expansion.  There are no new zones, no new raids or dungeons, and perhaps a scant few new quests associated with the new Freeport Reborn patch that is technically a separate entity altogether from the expansion pack.  Destiny of Velious, the last major expansion pack for the game, is going to be coming with content well into 2013 according to Sony Online Entertainment.  So what's coming with Age of Discovery?  A fair enough of a question, I suppose.  Fortunately I was able to play the beta for a few days over the weekend, so allow me to fill you in.

Firstly, and perhaps of most interest, there's the new class: Beastlord.  The Beastlord class is a scout class, so it's a melee dps class - specifically a pet dps class.  The main aspect of the Beastlord class is the ability to tame enemies found across the game's continents so that they'll fight at your side.  I was unfortunately limited in my ability to try the new class out, but from my experience it looks to be a pretty viable dps class.  If it's anything like the Beastlord class from the original Everquest, it'll also have a fair amount of buffs and HP/MP regen spells.  In the original it was relatively possible to use a Beastlord as an off-tank or an off-healer, but I can't personally vouche for how viable this will be with Everquest 2's Beastlord class.

(My awesome Beastlord...and, unfortunately, the armor is all appearance only.)

(And its awesome pet.)

Another new feature being added is the ability to hire mercenaries to help you in combat.  if you're familiar with the original Everquest post-Seeds (Seeds of Destruction), then the whole mercenary system will be pretty familiar to you.  Mercenaries are NPCs that the player can hire to help them in combat as either a tank, melee dps, ranged dps, or healer.  These mercenaries will be found around the world for recruitment, and Sony Online Entertainment has even included a few rare mercenaries that I'm guessing will work on random spawn timers and possibly in random locations.  There will be ten different mercenaries available for hire, and I believe you'll be able to hire only one at a time.

Another noteworthy inclusion to the new Age of Discovery is the Dungeon Maker.  The premise of the Dungeon Maker is similar to the player housing of Everquest 2.  Essentially you'll unlock themed layouts as you play the game, and you'll be able to use them to create your own dungeons.  You'll be able to set your mobs, set your bosses, set your decor, player spawn and end points, all that good stuff.  Once you're done getting your dungeon to your liking, you'll be able to publish it for others to play through and rate.  The players won't get to run their own characters, but will instead be able to select from different level 50 template characters; this allows the developers to dynamically scale the difficulty of the mobs so each and every dungeon can be completed by anything from a solo player to a full party of players.  There won't be any sort of loot rewarded to players for playing through the player-made content, but the players' real in-game characters will gain experience for what they do in the dungeons.

The last two things worth mentioning aren't really tied to the Age of Discovery expansion, but they are tied to the Age of Discovery's release.  The first is that Freeport, one of the game's capital cities, is getting a complete redesign.  This will include, amongst other things, new quests and less zoning across different areas of the city.

The other thing worth mentioning is that the game is going with a freemium model.  Sony Online Entertainment experimented with this on a relatively small scale with Everquest 2 Extended, and now they're rolling out the full thing.  This means that free-to-play players will be able to participate on the same servers as silver and gold players.  A detailed list of what's included with each plan can be found here.  It's worth noting that, to get a silver membership (which I highly recommend if you like the game, even if you don't want to pay the full subscription rate), you only have to pay $5 once.  This means that if you buy 500 Station Cash, you'll automatically be upgraded forever to a silver membership.

So what say you, Gouki?  Do any of you care about MMOs?  Will any of you be trying this when the free-to-play is available?  The Age of Discovery expansion, which also presumably includes the Freeport Reborn patch and the free-to-play option, is launching sometime on December 6th.

(Click pictures included to see full-sized versions.)

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King of Fighters '96 PSN Review

By: jalexbrown Nov 30, 2011 | 2 Comments

Jalexbrown reviews King of Fighters '96, now available on PSN.

 

Let’s start with a little history lesson.  SNK released their first fighting game, Fatal Fury: King of Fighters, in 1991.  The following year they released Art of Fighting.  After that they released Samurai Shodown in 1993.  Then, in 1994, they released what would begin their most popular fighting game series: King of Fighters.  It was named after the subtitle of the first Fatal Fury game, rotating around the same tournament featured in SNK’s inaugrial fighter.  The series would get an annual release every year until its mysterious absence in 2004, ten years after its initial release.  Because they were releasing a new game every year, they simply titled each with the year of its release.  So here we have King of Fighters ’96, originally in arcades and on the Neo Geo, now available on PSN.  Has this game survived the test of time?  Read on to find out.

The gameplay in King of Fighters ’96 will be pretty familiar to fighting game fans.  The objective is to beat the hell out of the other guy or the other team of guys depending on which mode you’re playing.  You can do this with regular moves in you’re not too good at the game, but if you want to be a top-tier player then you’ll have to know the ins and outs of the game’s many special moves and techniques.  The special moves are pretty balanced, although I felt that projectile attacks were a bit more useless than in other fighting games.  If you’re a more defensive player, you can master the roll-in/roll-out technique to evade attacks and set yourself up for awesome counter moves.  On the whole it feels pretty fair; it definitely seems more skill-based than luck-based, and mindless button-mashing won’t get you far even against a CPU opponent.

There are 29 characters in King of Fighters ’96 (including hidden characters), and amazingly there are no palette swaps.  This was an amazing lineup for the time, and even by today’s standards it’s a pretty fair number of fighters.  The characters also feel unique from each other.  Some are big, bulky guys that move slow and hit hard; others move faster but don’t strike so hard; and all of them have their own special moves.  If you’re a fighting game fanatic, you’ll get hooked trying to find the best strategy for each fighter.  There’s a pretty amazing variety here for a game from 1996.

 

(A very good selection of characters.)

 

There are two ways to play King of Fighters ’96: one-on-one or three-on-three.  One-on-one fights work exactly how you’d expect – beat your opponent a number of rounds to win.  Three-on-three is a bit more awesome, though.  Each side will have three characters; when one side beats a character, a new character will be brought out for the next round.  The goal is to defeat the entire opposing party before they can beat your party.  There is no tagging in or out, though.  It still feels a bit like a one-on-one fight except with different fighters every round.  It should also be noted that, if you're the winning fighter, you'll start the next round with only a little bit more life than you had at the end of the last round.  It's an interesting touch that means you can't rely on just being able to play well with your first character.

Each character has a special move that can be performed when their special bar fills up, and there’s a super special move that can be performed in the special bar fills up and their health falls too low.  These are the moves that turn the tides in the midst of battle, so learning to use them can become quite important on higher difficulty levels and especially against a live player.

The controls in King of Fighters ’96 are surprisingly smooth.  I was able to do special moves with minimal effort, and I didn’t notice any sort of input delay.  I will admit that it took a while to get used to the fact that square is the select button on menus, but it’s a minor issue and you’ll quickly get used to it.  I personally took preferance to the d-pad over the PS3’s analog stick, but if you have a fighting stick that would definitely be ideal.

Unfortunately King of Fighters ’96 just doesn’t look as good as Metal Slug 2 on a high-def television.  It’s incredibly pixelated, and while it does manage to remain some of the same charm that Metal Slug 2 does, it’s simply less excusable when games like Street Fighter 2 were looking so good before this game’s release.  There is a smoothing option that you can turn on, and I did think that it helped slightly with the pixelated fuzziness in some areas.  Performance, on the other hand, is exceptional.  There was no noticable framerate dipping and the game constantly felt smooth.

 

(It really isn't very pretty, is it?)

 

The sound is a mixed bag.  The music is perfectly acceptable and the sound effcts are adequate for this era, but the voice-overs are beyond annoying.  The annoying digitalized Asian voice when the round ends or begins is just laughably bad.  Half the time I’m not even sure if the names were being pronounced correctly because it sounds like it’s been ran through so many sound filters.

Much as with Metal Slug 2, I wasn’t able to find a single match in King of Fighters ’96.  It’s a shame, because this is the kind of game that needs online for longevity.  Nevertheless I did have a good time playing with friends, and the computer offers 10 different levels of difficulty to keep you busy.  The difficulty levels do become noticably better at higher levels, and you’ll have to be a top-tier player to not at least sweat during a computer match with the highest difficulty level.  The AI does add a little bit of longevity, but hopefully by the time you’ve mastered the AI you’ll actually be able to find an online match.

If you’re a fighting game fan that’s never tried a King of Fighters game (like I was), this is a great way to see the series in its root days.  And if you’re a fighting game fan that, for some reason, missed this even though you did play other King of Fighters games…well, shame on you, and you should definitely add this game to your PSN collection.  Either way you win, because King of Fighters ’96 is quite simply a great fighting game.

(I'd like to thank Goukijones and Gouki.com for giving me my copy of King of Fighters '96 for review.)

Community Review

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Metal Slug 2 PSN Review

By: jalexbrown Nov 29, 2011 | 6 Comments

Jalexbrown reviews Metal Slug 2, available on PSN.

I sort of remember Metal Slug from my childhood.  I used to go to the arcade and play it, but it was notoriously difficult and I could never get passed the first level.  Even with a friend, the game was still pretty brutal.  So now here we are.  SNK has released Metal Slug 2 on PSN, so I decided to try it out.  So was it a trip down memory lane?  Read on to find out.

The concept of Metal Slug 2 is fairly simple: You choose one of four characters and run through six missions; your objective is to shoot everything that moves and save everything that doesn’t.  This was an arcade game, you must remember, so complexity was naturally not its strong suit.  The good news is that fun is its strong suit, because Metal Slug 2 is still a blast to play.  Maybe it’s just because I’ve grown older, but I feel that Metal Slug 2 is slightly easier than its predecessor.  That’s not to say it isn’t difficult, however, because you get two lives per credit and four credits to complete the game.  It’s worth noting that contact with an enemy isn’t immediate damage; only melee attacks and projectiles actually hurt you.  But trust me when I say there are plenty of projectiles, so don’t let that make you feel too safe.

(Keep shooting until there's nothing left.)

As you progress through the game you can pick up different guns that will last the duration of your current life.  These will start to feel crucial after a while, and you’ll find yourself frantically trying to make sure you don’t miss a single power-up item.   There are also vehicles you can ride from time to time, and they’re the most useful things of all.  Hopping into a vehicle usually means quick to instant death for all things around you.  They might be a little overpowered in my opinion, but they’re sure as hell a lot of fun to use.

The controls in Metal Gear 2 feel responsive and smooth.  You can shoot in any direction (although you have to be jumping to shoot downward) including diagonals, so the shooting feels a lot less restrictive than in a game like Contra or most shoot-‘em-up games of the time.  I didn’t notice any input delay either, which is pretty nice since I’ve gotten used to a slight amount of delay any time I’m playing something that’s emulated.

One thing worth noting is that this is a port of Metal Slug 2 and not Metal Slug X, so it suffers from horrible slowdown even when it doesn’t seem like there’s any reason for it.  It’s not at all uncommon to see the frame rates drop down into single digits for fairly long stretches of time.  Metal Slug X has long since eliminated this issue, so it makes me wonder why SNK decided to port the inferior version of the game.  Nevertheless I did discover an option in the menu (not the game menu, but the first SNK menu) that would speed up the CPU emulation; this made the game run a little bit faster than what might feel standard, but it’s much better than having to deal with the incredible slowdown with it turned off.

The graphics in Metal Slug 2 are surprisingly pleasing to the eye in a retro sort of way.  They’re definitely pixilated, but it’s all sort of charming and nostalgic if you have fond memories of these kinds of games from days gone by.  There are options to smooth and enhance them slightly if you’d like, but I kept them off and enjoyed the charm.

(Pixilated goodness.)

The music and sound is what you’d expect from an arcade game of the era.  The music fits the mood of the game pretty well even if it does end up feeling a bit repetitive in later levels, guns sound satisfying in a staticy sort of way, and it never gets old hearing enemies wail their death screams.

Playing with another person is going to add a lot to this game.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a single online game; I’m not sure if it’s because of poor matchmaking or a lack of players.  In lieu of an online match I decided to call a buddy over to join me.  It was a blast getting together and mindlessly gunning down soldiers until our thumbs cramped.  It really solidified the arcade-esque experience of the original, and I’d highly recommend you find at least one person to sit down on your couch with you and go through the game.  You’ll have a lot of laughs at each others’ stupid moments and enjoy friendly trash-talk when your buddy steals the power-up you were after.

Overall I found Metal Slug 2 to be quite enjoyable.  Sure it has its flaws, but they’re all covered up in a fabulous layer of arcade goodness that’s hard to resist.  It’s good alone, better online (if I could find a game), and pretty much a gem with a buddy.  If you can afford the $8.99 price tag, pick up Metal Slug 2 and take a pleasant trip back to the old-day arcades – no dingy smell included.

(I'd like to thank Goukijones and Gouki.com for giving me my copy of Metal Slug 2 for review.)   

Community Blog

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Editorial: Giving Nintendo a Second Chance (Plus 3DS Unboxing)

By: jalexbrown Nov 24, 2011 | 3 Comments

Jalexbrown discusses his giving Nintendo a second chance with the 3DS.

I must admit something: I went into this whole thing with an extreme bias against Nintendo.  My Wii was a huge waste of money; my DS was decent, I guess, but it didn't blow me away like I expected.  But one thing surprised me, and that's that it did hurt when it decided to break.  So, I thought with a lack of enthusiasm, now's as good a time as any to check out the 3DS.  It's sort of the DS but with less games, crappier games, and a headache-inducing gimmick.  Goody.  I wasn't really convinced that I should get one until I saw a sale at Target selling them for $145; the deal was sealed, and I bought a 3DS.

Now that I have the 3DS, I struggle with being skeptically optimistic about its future - which is completely unfounded but shuddup and let me pretend my money wasn't wasted.  Snake Eater and Resident Evil Revelations should be awesome, and I can't wait to find a copy of Devil Survivor Overclocked.  I bought Ocarina of Time 3D, although at the time of this writing I haven't had any time to play it yet.  And I got Legend of Zelda: Four Swords as a free download, so that's kind of cool.

I suspect how nice retail is the 3DS this holiday season will have a huge impact on how much developer support we see over the next year in terms of AAA releases.  Right now the 3DS library is pretty slim pickins, and I suspect right now a lot of developers are putting off to see how well this price drop plays out of the holiday season before they invest too much in a 3DS game.  Really what I want to see is what Nintendo's going to do with it.  Will we get a new 3DS Zelda game?  Metroid?  Donkey Kong?  Super Smash Brothers?  How about a freaking Earthbound sequel already?  Maybe try something new like you did with Eternal Darkness and Geist?  The possibilities are endless.  Who knows...maybe the 3DS will end up being worth it after all.

Community News

jalexbrown

Jak and Daxter HD Collection Coming in February

By: jalexbrown Nov 21, 2011 | 1 Comments

Mass Media, in conjunction with Naughty Dog, will be bring Jak and Daxter to the PS3 in shiny high-definition this Febrary.

I know what you must be thinking: Another HD collection on the PS3?  And I have no rebuttal to that, so...yes, another HD collection on the PS3.  Since God of War (twice, mind you), Metal Gear Solid, Ico/Shadow of Colossus, and Silent Hill weren't enough.

So this time it's Jak and Daxter's turn to get a high-definition facelift thanks to Naughty Dog and Mass Media (whose noteworth releases include...nothing; no, I'm not kidding - look them up).

Jak and Daxter 1-3 in 720p stereoscopic 3D with trophy support?  Count me in.  I loved the Jak and Daxter games on PS2; to me it was sort of like Sony's mascot since those nuabs screwed up Spyro and Crash Bandicoot.  But in reality this only leaves me begging one simple question: Where the hell is the Ratchet and Clank HD collection?

Jak and Daxter HD Collection will be released in February.

Community News

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Max Payne 3 Limited Edition Announced, $100

By: jalexbrown Nov 21, 2011 | 1 Comments

Rockstar Games announces limited edition version of Max Payne 3 set to retail for $100.

If you're a collector of limited editions, take note...this one's for you.  Rockstar Games announced that they're going to release a limited edition version of Max Payne 3 that will retail for $100.  Unlike most "limited edition" bundles that aren't really all that limited, pre-orders for the Max Payne 3 Limited Edition will only be available through January 15th - or while supplies last.  The exact quantity available is unknown.

So what do you get for you're $100?  Good question.  You'll get all of the following:

  • A copy of Max Payne 3
  • 10" Max Payne statue
  • Original still life art prints inspired by the game
  • Bullet keychain made of copper and brass
  • Character and weapon multiplayer downloadable content (unknown if these will be available elsewhere)
  • The game's soundtrack

It's a pretty decent deal if you ask me.  Remember, if you're interested, to get your pre-order in as soon as possible so that you get it before supplies run out.

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Kojima Talks: Solid Snake Was Supposed to Die?!

By: jalexbrown Nov 20, 2011 | 3 Comments

Official Playstation Magazine UK will be printing an interview with Hideo Kojima in its next issue where he will discuss Metal Gear Solid 5 and Project Ogre.

It's coming right out of the man's mouth; Solid Snake was supposed to die.  What does that mean for the future of the franchise?  Is Solid Snake's death inevitable?  I have a feeling Hideo Kojima won't be spoiling the story - most likely the very, very verbose story - of Metal Gear Solid: Rising or Metal Gear Solid 5, but it'll still be interesting to see what he has to say on the matter.

The interview will run in Official Playstation magazine UK in its 65th issue, which will be released November 29th.  I've contacted the publisher to try and find out if the interview will be printed in the next US issue, but I've received no response thus far.  I'll keep you Jimmys informed.

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