Thursday, August 17, 2017

Game Review: Sonic Mania

Sonic Mania
Available now on: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
PC: 8/29/2017
Developers: Headcannon / Pagoda Games West / Christian Whitehead, supervised by Sonic Team & SEGA
Music by: Hyper Potions & Nitro Fun (intro and ending music), Tee Lopes (level bgm)

An intro from a classic Sonic fan:
I grew up with the classic consoles, NES, and Genesis. When a blug hedgehog whizzed by, and dashed across a colorful, and exhilarating level. There was nothing like it, and never would be. And the music was something unexpected. This series would go on to evolve, from 2D, to 3D. But what if it were to go back in time to explore one more time?

And by golly they are rings! (* phew, I feel better)

Late last year, Sega teased something special during the annual Sonic Celebration. The last time something astonishing knocked everyone's jaw to the ground was Generations. Hard to believe its been seven years already. Flash forward to now, a then hidden surprise teased classic Sonic & pals (Tails & Knuckles) the excitement hit the roof. Like the trailer teased "going back, to what made the series fun".

Little Blue Planet
8/15/2017 release day, worldwide. Fans waited, and it was worth it. The most astonishing part about the game: it was fun again, and tough as nails. Old school difficulty, with new ways to explore, but also challenges that would test those old school reflexes.  (guess what, I love it!) This is the game we have wanted for years, and by golly it kicks our butts.

Right in the Feels
The intro screen, picks up where the teaser trailers left off. (online the crossover dev team along with Sonic's social media teased hints of what the in-game story was about)
Sonic, Tails & Knuckles banding together, on a strange elevator with 1, 2, 3 & M buttons. Sonic hits one, and off they go.

From there, the doors open, the gang embarks on another adventure. Sprawled across various worlds, they cross time and space exploring all sorts of levels (from the past, and the unknown). We're introduced to the new baddies called "the Hard Boild Heavies" a new armada of Eggman bots that have a grudge against our pals.

There's hints of the worlds we get to explore, but the trio never lets up. The pathways they cross, together to find out what connects it all together.

Green Hill Zone
Classic start up level, but with a twist. So many options lay before you. Take any route you want, even destroy obstacles along the way (What the!?) Yes, you can, and its totally worth exploring these vast levels, which are in fact massive. The details within the first stage, and the next is so diverse, colorful, expansive, an expressive. Every level feels alive (but wait a time aspect?) **will come back to this later.

As you clear each area, the music interchanges with the enviornment, giving a whole different energy to the in-game atmosphere.

Every stage is divided into seperate areas, and that old school design fits the flow of Mania. From classic adventures, to a slew of new levels (and some based on lost levels that never made it to the classic series). With challenges across the universe, some will test all you have to make it through from start to finish.

Boss: Every baddie has a theme, however there are various kinds sprawled throughout the game. A mix of old and new, and fun surprises along the way. No two are alike, and will keep you on your toes

Bonus stages: Grab enough rings (50), and find a super sized ring to rush down an Emerald. Or to go for another challenge, clear a checkpoint and hit the stars above it. See what happens if you can beat the tough blur sphere run. (careful may get dizzy)

Time is not on your side:  this is a spiritual sequel to the classic Sonic series. Sonic CD set a precedent that changed games forever. Mania in fact is its sequel, transitioning the connection from Generations (which would be.. let's say original Sonic's other crossover before this game) and connected to another chapter very soon.

Blast Processing:
Mania is a beautiful game, displaying what the past could deliver but on current generation hardware. Showing a vast array of colors, level design, enviornments, and  flow from a to b,
From Green HIll and beyond, the levels are insanely huge. The most intimidating thing is the timer (which has been our enemy since day one)

The most unique aspect about Mania, is the usage of 3D in the bonus stages. Its a great nod to the past, but also gives it that feeling we are crossing time and spaces with Classic Sonic and friends.

How to describe the visuals: Amazing, it feels like we've taken a step back in time, and the wait was worth it. And every level has incredible landscapes, traversing low and high, multi-tiered challenges that await at every turn. There is nothing quite like Mania.

Pushing buttons:
Like the past games, its setup in a simple way. Using the d-pad, up, down, left, and right. And Attack. That's it. But the best part, is that its reaction time is spot on. Every movement is fluid, for example:
Press up, and you'll see Sonic looking in that direction (the attention to detail, and expression is amazing)
Press down, and of course he will duck
Dash: In later games, Sonic Team utilized the ability for the hedgehog to charge his attack. Gaining enough momentum, release and he will go zipping across the level.
In Mania, it feels natural, almost second nature and comes in handy in various aspects. Once you find a rhythm, there is no stopping that flow (except for the occasional spikes, or out of bound areas.. and the dreaded losing a life

Music to my ears:
When the teaser debuted during the Anniversary celebration, the audience was floored. The bgm set up a new energy, with that old school spark. Including later videos with the in-game beats, they utilize that classic sound with timeless beats. That funky feeling is back, and it is so good. The music created for Mania is insane, from the intro screen (let it play, there are two songs). In-game, every level pays tribute to the past, with some new sounds blended in. Creating a fun vast atmosphere worth exploring more than once. Not listing zones, but the attention to detail will bring a smile to your face (even when you die on occasion)

Thanks for Playing:
How to sum up in a few words.. this is the Sonic game we waited for. Even when the series went 3D. The trip back to the classic rush, is superb. That feeling you get when you hear any song from the series, can bring back many emotions. (or want to dance). Sonic is a part of us, the energy, the sound, the attitude. Mania is a love letter, that even with new technology, revisiting the past can be a new adventure all over again.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

#MGSV Re-Examine Key Scene "Shabani's Necklace"

MSGV Re-Examine
Key Scene "Shabani's Necklace"

*This scene is unlocked once you've passed Mission #30 at any time during a Side Op, this cinema will play through a pivotal moment in-game. And it might even make some rethink their theories about who Quiet really is as a human being.

A) Why is Kaz bitter about? He is a man of will, not liking to be interrupted when things are happening. But why the chemicals? For one, they are being used for something else later. But it requires a large amount of sustainable power, and circulation to keep it at a core temperature. Which is why you hunt down so many elements to sustain this mother base.

On the other side of things, he's never been happy being looked down upon. Some see him as a leader, other's are unsure. His dislike of Quiet and others leaves the team uneasy at times. Even this key scene is unsettling because we don't fully understand the man, until he talks to himself thinking it over "why"

I wasn't sure how to objectify Kaz's conscience at first. Because he rarely has a moment to actually show that he cares about anyone period. Or does he? In this scene alone, he actually shows emotion towards the kids, and Quiet. Just listen to the dialog carefully and you will understand the tone of his voice and why it goes to different levels.

B) What is Ocelot here for really? As a supervisor, aid, and backup if need be. Although Kaz won't admit it, Ocelot is his left hand, and Venom is his right. Acting as a watchful eye, keeping things in control. By this time in the story, Ocelot has already founded enough of a bond with the base, that many hold him in high regard, in fact over Kaz.

C) Quiet
How to simply put.. she cares about this new team that she's become a part of. Although they might not see eye to eye. In a blink of an eye she knows that no one else can get close to that chemical bath beneath the base. However, she feels for the kids, seeing their hearts breakin in front of her.

That's the hidden thing about Quiet, is compassion. Out of all the characters in this group, she is one of the few that has a big heart. Venom only learns at the last minute that she makes a daring move to save an object that those kids hold dear. Once she takes the dive, it feels like the world just ended on everyone's face.

(note: I read some mgsv players are wondering if she's a hallucination.. um really? you have watched cinematics like this right?)

Even the bgm takes a low to high point, as it shifts around the moment she recovers the necklace. It is a rewarded effort, but at the same time she is badly injured. Once helped, they get to sickbay to recover. (and eventually she will rejoin you after a set amount of time)

When writing this sequence, i wanted to make it clear that although there was chaos, a moment of positive energy is held dear. Even for a brief second, a moment of heroism is rewarded, but the pain that can be healed.

It also ties into the theme "the phantom pain" even though we are seperate at times, one thing can bring others together. A moment to refrain from hostility to one another, and look at something positive. Hope. Which is what Quiet is honestly about. And I find that quality about her something heartfelt and worthwhile that everyone should have in their heart as well. A positive to strive for, to have, and to share with others. It is what she is truly all about.

Monday, October 26, 2015

MGSV More Lost Notes

Greetings friends, sorry I haven't been writing here in awhile. But I thought I'd share a few notes about MGSV. And how something small, evolved.

MGSV - Silent Hills "The Other Side" the real story

Awhile back, on forums (back in its heyday) several gamers / writers penned "what if" scenarios. Some where vast, dark, and notched around characters of the long running supernatural tale. I thought on how to take it in a different direction. I penned an idea about a squad unit sent in to report about this "shadow world" that only came up in dark whispers.
The darkest part of the tale, is the encounter with the "dark" alternate world. It swallows up everyhing that is dark within the hearts of those dwelling that don't belong.
I didn't give the team a name per se, but their call signs related to earth elements or emotions. "Quiet' was a member of this team, but was not one of the "dark hearted" members that were enveloped by this madness. But at the same time, a parasite from the other side took over the rest, turning them into monstrosities of their former selves. No longer human, but supernatural entities.

The expedition team consisted of monitors "Dr. Clark" and "Code Talker". They were unable to get their team back the way they were sent in. A re-con team assists, but they don't return either, but as puppets wandering without souls. This unit is given the nickname "The Mist Unit" because they were formed within the "other side" of Silent Hill.

I find myself wondering why did I save "Quiet" when I wrote that tale. Something about the character was different. Pure of heart, noble, there for those who have her trust, and willing to do the right thing for a noble cause. How did she resist the outbreak? Hmm I never considered the thought, maybe its her humanity that saved her in the long run. Or its by chance her heart was not in the same place as the others within the team that investigated.

The term "Wolbacchia" referred to as the parasite codename was from an old book I remember reading. It was part of the bible times, during the "tower of babel" where all tongues were once one, until a certain man thought if they could "touch the heavens" it would change mankind for the better. But alas it did, it brought calamity and great change. As we were once one, we were no more. Split apart from our distant relatives, seeking asylum within our own background, but never feeling whole.

It does exist in our history, as we face the same thing every day. No matter our differences there are always issues because of something minor that breaks us down.

With that said, the cause and effect are also nightmarish. Given a certain language that can engulf an entire land or base. The consequences would be dire, in a sense bringing something back thought long dead for many generations. In that sense, the "dark world" from Silent Hill has spread across the world. And the only cure is to find the carriers of the disease.

I wrote in several storyline beats that Quiet would be a compass to find those "afflicted". Herein the scene that unfolds when various members within Diamond Dogs become carriers under the teams eyes. It is because of an infected tongue that causes the outbreak (thanks in part to Skull Face's project to unlock the human condition of language as a weapon) *the weapon to surpass Metal Gear, so to speak (not Eli btw).

End part I of II

Part II of II

"Truth and Consequences"
Code Talker as many know as of now is a very old man. Seen and experienced many things. However his involvement with this said "parasite" goes farther back. "The End" was another character inflicted with this parasite, however his symptoms kept him alive for a millenia, in turn it did the same for Code Talker. The passing of its cultures and dna can be copied and given to another, but under different circumstances it prevents the new host from transforming.

So the question is left open - Did Code Talker's DNA encode the parasite passed onto Quiet?
As it is hinted at that it enveloped her DNA, able to self-heal, adapt to sound, light, and all types of atmosphere. Literally making her a part of the earth. Weakness? To be defined. However water, she can not be submerged (so it is believed) but her body absorbs nourishing enzymes from various elements her body comes into contact with. To be honest, Quiet is "Mother Earth" in human form, an existence that cannot be darkened, but delivers light wherever it may go.

I wrote various notes in my concept with the "Silent Hill" dark world tie-in. But it also gained a life of its own through Quiet. I intended to adapt so much of the opposite through her abilities. Not a being of dark, but light, establishing a new entity that would forge a path with another equal to her powers.

"Enemy of my Enemy, is My Friend" Awakening's true title
In the opening scene fans are clamored to see a brutal moment where this lady donned in swat gear nearly kills us. Until a moment breaks where something stops her. Is it PTSD? Has she encountered this person before? Why is there so much hatred?

Rewind - Kaz's true identity.
I knew my script containing Kaz as the villain was eschewed somewhere within the exchange. However there are notes of it remaining. If you take notice of Quiet's reactions to either Kaz or Ocelot, she's seen these men before, but in a different lifetime. I built on the concept of Kaz having an eschema dual personality conflict. Where one voice, becomes two fighting within. Due to his demons, Kaz is having a mental breakdown on whom to trust, and where to place all the cards on the table.

(Note: for those who have played Prince of Persia: Two Thrones, you will understand the two voices battling within even more. This is where I teased the idea of Kaz's light / dark side conflicting with one another because of Robin Atkins Downes performance in that series)

We may not see Kaz's turning point at first, but it comes in moments. When it comes to core moments such as:
VS Quiet = Kaz and Ocelot duke it out over what you should, or should not do with the enemy character. If you choose to save her, and not take her life. In a sense Kaz dislikes having an old ally turned against his plans of what he intended to happen. Quiet is your eyes and ears about Kaz, and it does not settle with him well.

Huey = Kaz thinks ahead on catching up on old times, only to find out Huey's project has been active and against his back.

Parasite scenario = Kaz goes silent during the moment, but only erupts when your actions counteract his own within reason

These are just small examples, but I am more sure most MGS fans get the idea. But there is a much more alterered perspective on the "heads or tails" dynamic that resonates with V.

Ciper this, Ciper that
I really am not a fan of that part of the tale. Because it shows how much darker the intentions are within Diamond Dogs agenda. Its a nod to the "King & I" so to speak, a man with power, seeking to rule all, but finds humility when its too late. The other V writers wanted to expand on that dark chapter of Kaz's involvement with the rogue group.

True, it is about revenge, but who is he really pointing the finger towards? Is everyone against him or is it all in his mind? And to make matters worse, the loss of his arm and leg change his perception of everyone around him. A man on a mission that will only end in bloodshed.

Ocelot's tale takes many turns in V. Once in a great while, he and Kaz duel over words. Eventually coming to a standstill. Offering aid to Venom when needed. It is one the rarest times we work alongside this mystery man since Snake Eater. We know some of his tale, but what he's really involved with will turn the tide of Outer Heaven. (see no spoilers)

When i worked Quiet into the story, it does entail that she had history with both Kaz and Ocelot in the past. They crossed each others paths, although on different sides, and sometimes the same one. As she wasn't always with team XOF. At the time she found herself having to trust others, but couldn't because they were never honest with her. Being manipulated to do different things she did not always agree with. Which is why her want to find an equal within Venom, gives her room to breathe.

(neat how that carried into her theme song)

"The Angel and the Devil"
This little facet into the story script becomes a huge part of that draw and connection between the two characters. Although they are from two seperate worlds, maybe its not the case. But they are a reflection of one another.

Who would think a simple concept considered a fanfic would become something more? I really dug deep into working out something special from a dark place. It just humbles me how many parts echo in the same way, no matter the belief or language, there is something to admire about a character like "Quiet" who is not defined by what she looks like, but what is in inside, a beating heart.

Out of all that darkness, something positive can be radiant and carry so much more meaning.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Final Fantasy XIIILR - Retry

Fabula Nova Crystallis Team
Square Enix

Several years ago, the FF development team brought its fans a new chapter in the long running rpg series. Some were satisfied, others demanded more, thus they did their best to deliver more roller coasters. But as a community are we beginning to take things for granted?

Each chapter dealt with obstacles, (pt1 Uprising), (pt2 Turn Left), (pt3 The End?). There is no "happy ending, quest over", there are tons of consequences these heroes overcome to regain their existence.

From the start I was grabbed by FF going multiplatform, it was kept locked away on the Playstation for some time. Although VII branched out and brought in a new gen of fans, I was part of the original fanbase. And that's where I find myself now, in limbo over indulging with an FF tale again.

But I fathom over what some fans say about this trilogy. To be honest, I find myself connecting with each one, in unique ways. (For example: pt 2 surprised me by how dynamic Serah becomes a heroine, in a way more over her warrior sister.) Some of the fanbase still fusses over how weak her character flaws are, from design, attacks, and development. (Seems like some are never satisfied unless its what they want) I don't find her lacking at all, more of a spiritual growth, given how much they overcome their humanity.

Although it is a trilogy, they are expansive yet seperate tales that expand time, and generations. Allies who were one heroes, some venture towards darker territory. While in the 3rd entry, Lightning (on a solo quest) has become the savior of mankind. Given 500 years have passed, everything she sought to change is undone tenfold.

What I also enjoy about LR is the dynamic storyline, it doesn't wait for you to do a to b, you have to save every precious moment, or battle to tackle what's ahead. The entire in-game world is counting on Light to help find its path. But not everyone wants to be saved, some choices have major consequences. (if you reach a game over, that's it, but wait you get another chance, but a total do-over) Overall the time dilation reaches its climax of 13 in-game days. (XIII being the last)

Although this entry may wrap the XIII saga, it is not the end of the FF series altogether. However it does tie into other entries that we haven't yet explored. It is rare that RPG titles can take a chance in delivering dynamic storytelling, and unique characters to connect with. And I find myself developing a love for Light's quest, of humility versus all odds in saving what life means to her. That is a positive note worth sharing over anything.

Obtain this lovely game via #SquareEnix official store!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Final Fantasy XIII - Past, Present, and Future (part 1)

Let me begin with a lengthy article from my friends @ Hardcore Gaming 101. Chrono Trigger *This covers everything you need to know about the timeline adventure. First, yes time is relative to both titles. Second, you can gain allies from various timelines, and sometimes even enemies. Third, the ending depends on every decision you make, and allies aligned with. *note: this fellow gamer/ writers thought do not influence my own however

I have always felt that "cause and effect" were the main theme from the get go. But never as deep as this. To be honest, I have played CT on the SNES, and enjoyed its illustrious storyline that expands at every turn. It does get a bit complicated keeping track of where points A and B meet eventually.

**Ex note: When it comes to Japanese based role playing games, Chrono Trigger redefined what an RPG truly was meant to be, an experience like no other. Plus its meant to be explored, and indulge players in an immerse world beyond the 2D design. This was however back in the 90's, so take it as it is.

What makes XIII (in the current console generation) work is how its motivations work through each characters distinct personality. Of course, we don't get to see Serah's perspective till XIII-2 (and finding out she did see everything through Light's eyes). Changing their fates, Light disappears, Snow goes off on a mission, everyone's left on their own devices. (er wait hit the breaks!) Not your usual FF type of ending (note: some of the CT staff also worked on this 3 part saga in the FF universe).

Is it "Back to the Future"? Hmm I have been wondering how the writing team connects the dots with alternate timelines when paradoxes are fixed. But every outcome does change the pathway of everything that you have and haven't done thus far.

XIII-pt 3 "End of Days"
It cannot be defined any other way, Light faces her rekindled destiny and challenges everything and everyone she became a part of, friend or foe. What many may not realize right away is that fans actually had a bit of influence on the concept of the last story in the 3rd (and final) part of the XIII saga.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Castlevania - Lords of Shadow II (Game Review)

Castlevania – Lords of Shadows II
MercurySteam / Konami Core

“What Was Will Be”
T’was the beginning of the end, Gabriel became a nightmare, a “Creature of the Night”. However, driven by blood to change his destiny, finds himself lost to time itself. Now awakened in the “future”, perhaps fate can be changed.

“Belmont’s Blood”
First, the story unfolds from his awakening, to revisiting his past duels, and eventually his son’s “evolution”. Now in a battle for supremacy, over all those “holy alcolyte’s” Dracula is not alone, as his birthright, the Castle itself beckons (but due to his choices, everything changed). **Footnote, if you haven’t played LoS, the introduction will deliver enough to get you caught up in what’s happened so far.

“A Horrible Night for a Curse”
This is the first time, we fans ever get to play a full fledged Dracula. (no Soma Cruz does not count, although he does gain abilities, and depending on choices made could become the Count) However, this might be the lost “War of 99” we’ve been scratching our heads about. But the timeline in LoS2 is lost in time, bending supernatural with the dark shadows.

“What is a man, a pile of secrets?”
By design, LoS2 is more linear than its predecessor. Taking on a more darker tone, closely knit to titles like Prince of Persia – Warrior Within, and Tomb Raider Underworld. The in-game engine delivers a vast amount of detail at every turn. Even with a few touches of “Silent Hill” mixed for good measure. (**without giving too much away, the real world is actually unaware of your presence, so as you explore your new playground it too will begin to change, even with the involvement of the Castle seeking its master one more time.

“Music soothes the savage dhampeal”
Lords of Shadows I pushed a few buttons by attaining a full-fledged orchestral sound. Although there were some hints of classic tunes by various notes. In LOSII, even more songs find themselves mixed by haunting melodies, even in crashing crescendo’s in various bouts, and environments also share in this design. (But those with a listening ear will spot them, oh and btw a bat told various fans that there is some hidden involvement with more diverse sounds. So its possible even more familiar songs accompany this new chapter’s soundtrack.)

“Vampyre Killer”
For fans of the classic series, this game may be your cup of tea. Although it may not rely on the IGA asthetic, it kicks butt none the less. However, if you love CV in any form, and enjoy something new for a change. Then by golly LoSII is a breath of fresh air, mixing concepts of old and new. And by all means, make this game a must own in your collection.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Final Fantasy XIII Series

Awhile back, various media outlets, and zines predicted that the FF series might end someday. But they weren’t aware how much staying power and vitality its kept in the past generation of consoles / and PC power. Even with the grasp in international markets, Final Fantasy has captured the hearts and minds of fans young and old.

XIII however is a unique saga, covering Lightning (and friends) journey of evolution, survival, and fighting for being different. But at its core, it also touches on the reality of who is chosen as a hero or heroine. Plus the impact of; what sides are up in arms over those who take arms, or capable of greater things.

I have always enjoyed FF for its type of storytelling, even seeing how far this chapter has gone. In three tiered fractures of a vast adventure that parallels time, and consequences that everyone Lightning becomes a part of.

Even more diverse is the amount of monsters, to vast environments that push the in-game engine to unknown capabilities. To be honest, I have never seen any other type of RPG series push its engine this far. In character design, monsters, and areas of exploration (including timelines).

But what really pushed the XIII chapter is its effect on the entirety of the FF universe. (for the longest time some all fans have pondered what is this connection?) Including the fact that time shifts within the trilogy (as if connected to Chrono Trigger, including the fact the producer of that game also is a part of the XIII series).

Speaking of the bizarre number, the group named Red XIII have been a part of FF since VII. Only known as a mysterious group; that finds itself locked to fate, tied to unknown circumstances connected to various timelines. *Including Kingdom Hearts, with key members of their organization unveiling themselves. (but no knows what side they’re truly on)
(**Gifted Fal’Cie or L’Cie? We might learn someday)

On that note, whatever platform you enjoy gaming on, whether console or pc, if you loved FF in the past, or new to the series. This is a fun rollercoaster ride worth taking. And it may even parallel some of the most engaging storyline’s in years to come.