Sunday, December 2, 2012

DMC Retrospective

Dante May Kleenex – Past, Present, and Rock n’ Roll

Divinity pt 1 – the introduction
Somehow by divine intervention; I stumbled upon this crazy series. It was during the early days of the PS2, when a friend happened to procure one during that years’ Xmas insanity. Plus I followed coverage via Electronic Gaming Monthly (when it was in its magazine form, now an online only publication). At the time, DMC was being helmed as the second coming of the toughest games around. Ghouls n’ Ghosts was by far the most proclaimed game that would punish any player, even the first level took challengers down in a heartbeat.

DMC 1 was released in 2001, before the insanity hit the fan. And censorship was in high gear with many things going on. That aside, its biggest opposition was that the PS2 was barely a few years old. At the time the system was hitting its stride, offering crisp visuals, and surround sound (an option very few consoles actually had) plus the ability of reading disc media in less time. Most consoles read at certain speeds, however its limitation was in its memory. To get down to business, most PS2 owners had to have a memory card (yup those were the days) on the bright side, some retailers included them with a console purchase.

Upon playing the first few missions in DMC, I realized just how tough this game truly was. Even getting past the first mission without taking damage wasn’t a piece of cake. Included that the game was using the Resident Evil engine, at the time it was cutting edge yet offered a bit of a challenge to those who dared it. By far the toughest part about the game altogether was its offensive CPU enemies and bosses. A players’ best bet is to leave an area, head back and obtain more gems. This gem system consisted of a variety, red (money), blue (magic), yellow (life). Given Dante’s status, the more options you buy via the lion statues, there are various abilities granted.

DMC1 opened many doors for its dev team, besides kicking lots of butt. They actually brought back a dying art form in game design. A title that would push players to its limits. This would eventually become a tradition throughout the series.

DMC2 – Pandora’s Box
A few years later DMC returned with a second chapter. However the original team that worked on it was sent to other projects. And a whole different game was made, but it wasn’t admired by fans. Some called the game “too easy” than the first entry. I actually kept up with this one, via our old pals from G4tv. At the time they had an ongoing contest with Capcom regarding various titles. I found myself a bit on the positive end when something arrived. Sadly I never did get a PS2, I told myself I would. So I sat on the backburner for someday. But I did get a chance to play it on a friends’ system. It felt right, but something was a bit different.

(I write this in past tense, as I now own the DMC HD collection. So I actually will add more to these notes regarding the game. It feels weird to play it many years later. Although it’s on another console, something many DMC fans literally thought wasn’t possible because of Sony’s grip on Capcom titles on their system. It took some years of patience, and faith for things to pan out. And gladly I feel humbled to still keep up with this series, even after all these years.)

DMC3 – Awakening
Oddly enough I actually missed playing this chapter. I did check out the boxart, and read the details on what was held within. Like the above note, its part of the collection so more to come here.

DMC4 – Nero May Cry
So onto this fun tale.. along with a fellow DMC fan we composed some notes that garnered a bit of attention. Included with the fact that this entry was different. For one, players took on the mantle of Nero, another Devil Hunter / Holy Knight. Unlike Dante, he garnered his powers from untapped latent abilities. Players are introduced to his fight style from the get go. In the meantime, said contest, and well things panned out. My friend and I were lucky enough to gain some kudos hidden in the game (plus credits) Its hidden, but on a tougher difficulty level. So there’s an easter egg!

While this was the fourth game, it actually branched out from what most were used to. Best part about it was, that the difficulty levels were amped up. No longer was Easy considered a piece of pie, but each next level up would really push buttons. It was regarded as the comeback some thought weren’t possible.

Just Cause – Enter the Dragon
Without this crew, there would be no DMC. Mostly known from independent films that contained action, drama, and a bit of comedy. Okay scratch that, badass action that no one else can master! (hey they were taught by the best, Jackie Chan!) Hence the JC part. The crew within comes from diverse backgrounds and tons of marital arts training all around the world. Each DMC game contains some bonus goodies throughout the credits, so there’s a bit of easter eggs to be found by die hard fans.

DMC Team – Origin
Hideki Kamiya and his crew (now known as Platinum Games) formed a unique team unlike any other. Comprised of veterans within the gaming industry, crossing the globe and taking an insight from their fans. Originally they were part of Capcom’s nextgen division. But everything fell apart when DMC2 changed team members, thus they went indie, became Clover (Viewtiful Joe, Okami, God Hand) and were let go again. As PG, they can produce their own projects and avenues without a beef with a publisher. As of late, they’ve had to outsource more titles with various publishers. Perhaps there is a time when the PG crew can return to DMC. But for now that’s another story.

DmC – Ninja Theory
This nextgen take on the series is being done by a completely different team altogether. Their first title was called Heavenly Sword (minus the S, since they actually had to drop a weapon). It was an action oriented title, revolving around a heroine who fought for her people using a sacred sword with untapped powers. At the time it was being called Sony’s next big thing. But it was redeemed by its design, and music. Sadly the game was so short, replay wasn’t really forgiving. Given how much advertising Sony pushed the PS3, the game delivered enough to garner an audience. But the NT team decided to part ways and sought another company. Capcom was looking for new talent, and voila there’s the story. But wait.. next year DmC hits stores and maybe a few new fans. However the DMC fanbase is up in arms over the rebooting of the series, plus character designs. All negative stuff aside, it looks like it will live up to some of the insane hype that the first game held.

Adios, Kids.


Devil May Cry HD Collection
Pipeworks + DMC Dev Team 2012

Many years ago, a crew from the Biohazard developers team designed a new concept. Mixing up horror with science fiction, and action all rolled into one. Players would delve into dark worlds playing a hunter named Dante (named after the lead character within Dante’s Devine Comedy) *which for literature readers or historians is by far not an actual comedy, just the title is misleading. During the turning point of Dante’s adventures, he comes to realize he’s not alone, with others like him in the world, venturing to find out their identity. With one exception, his father is the one who put all of the monsters away.

DMC Chapter 1 -
Back in 2001, DMC was first brought to live as part of the Resident Evil series. In fact, using the same engine: (enclosed spaces, and limited range of whereabouts, until finding lock and key). Oh, and the game was notoriously difficult (unless you decided to play easy mode).  Overall it’s a challenging title, but with many expectations from people who loved something difficult.  Another most loved aspect of the first entry in this captivating series, is just being to let loose.

DMC Chapter 2 – (the left behind child of the trilogy)
So a sequel was in order, but the producers of the original weren’t allowed to make it again. I still wonder why Capcom has such issues. So in regards, Dante returns with a new ally Lucia (who is a remnant of a lost set of hunters) their mission is to stop the end of the world. (plus this chapter is regarded as too easy). But its redeemable quality is that its actually set later in the series… Dante’s much older and ready to hang up his sword.  Oddly enough this game came out during this reviewer’s birthday, what are the odds..

DMC Chapter 3 – Dante’s Awakening
In the 3rd piece of the complete sonata, Dante’s origins are finally unlocked. But his brother Virgil is also along for the ride. Along with a new partner Lady (who aims to end her evil’s fathers powers of bringing creatures from the other side) In fact, Lady is a fallen angel’s daughter.. and that’s all that can be said. Why? Well that would give too much away.

Oh, and the difficulty level is amped up! And this is where the series hits its stride in both level, music, and character design. In fact, it doesn’t feel like a PS2 game… it was ahead of its time.

DMC4 – Dan-ero
As far as fans know, the last actual chapter was DMC4. Released on Xbox360, and PS3 (and PC) for those keeping track. Balancing out everything that made the series work. DMC4 mixes it up letting players take the helm of a Holy Knight named Nero. Oddly enough this new hero may be the lost brother to Dante.. but many fans weren’t happy with the fact that we could only play the badass a quarter of the game. That bump aside, DMC4 still dished out some sweet justice with a bevy of difficulty levels that would make a puppet blush.

But wait there’s more! So a somewhat new team is assembling a new DmC. Sad part is, its no longer with the crew that’s worked on past games. In spirit it will retain the same inertia, and energy that brought the series to life. On the bright side, the series will keep going. But time will tell if this “reboot” may actually work. From the teaser trailers, it dishes the same madness the past games retained. But with some things missing… we’ll find out more next year.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sonic And Sega All Stars Transformed

Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing – Transformed
2012 / Sega & Sumo Digital (formerly Sega R&D the Racing Game team)
UK/ US/ JP project

Start Your Engines  (intro)
Welcome to an all new racing experience! From the starting introduction video, it gives you a small sample of what this new racer is capable of. No longer just limited to the ground, but sea and air. With a new set of racers ready to take on all sorts of crazy SEGA themed worlds. Plus a bevy of surprises. So buckle up and drive!

Select your vehicle (menu)
World Tour –
Take on the new Transformed world! Featuring a variety of Sega based worlds from past and present. Anything can happen within each location, from the land changing as you cross every track obtaining new areas to challenge.

Grand Prix –
Tournament mode!  Choose from a set amount of tracks to obtain bonus points. And you might unlock all sorts of goodies.

Time Attack –
Beat the best time! Take on any track at your leisure. Or take on ghosts from the in-game demo staff to obtain your best track time + position.

Single Race –
Tackle any of the tracks you’ve unlocked, and challenge a set of AI characters. Plus during any of these set races, you can earn XP points to upgrade your character, vehicle, and skills.

Rev It Up! (bgm)
Sometime ago, a certain videogame OST changed the way we heard music altogether. Jet Set Radio paved the way for unique ideas. Giving the player a fun experience where the music came to life, and literally become a live DJ. As soon as a certain Sonic community website heard that fans could add some input in regards to this next racer.. we took on it in a heartbeat. With a ton of classic tracks, there was only one to take it another awesome level, let’s mix it up! No longer just a one set bgm tune, every stage’s theme actually shifts into different themes, so each has its own distinct sound. Making Transformed a whole new experience every time you play!

Get In Gear! (tracks)
Each track takes place in a Sega themed game. But these tracks aren’t your normal race tracks from the last game. Now even the levels transform! Depending on how much area you cover, the level will literally shift into a different perspective, altering the entire track. Even your vehicle has its own personality. And the more you race, even the car begins to evolve!  (Plus for those who joined us back In the SNES days, each track shifts into a F-Zero design, from insane curves to flying high in the sky. ) Every level has its difficulties, from easy, normal and hard. (even the levels get tougher, so its not just the competition anymore, but the in-game world!)

Tagging the Road (characters)
From the start you are given a choice between 10 characters. The rest of the cast is unlockable via the new World Tour mode. The more you play, the more you unlock. For a total of 24 characters! (and who knows who else might show up!)

XP (Got Rings?)
For those in our audience who aren’t role playing efficient. This term means experience points, giving your vehicle more abilities. From better boost, power, handling, and tons of capabilities (in all forms from flight, driving, and over water). As you progress, your character and vehicle “level up” with the points you’ve obtained from beating challenges or races. And when you bring in friends, it gets even more intense (even your opponents characters will benefit from taking track position, and winning!
There are many levels to upgrade, so just try every mode with any character to learn which suits your playing style.

Stars – (Hey Ristar buddy!)
These unique elements are collected by winning races. Although they aren’t trophies, collecting a various amount of them will give players access to a bundle of new content via World Tour mode. From races; challenges, new characters to unlock. But wait it’s not that simple, given certain difficulty levels, from easy to hard. If you play the tougher modes, the more stars you obtain. But be warned, some of the tracks and challenges are pretty tough!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Assassins Creed III Review

Assassins Creed III
Ubisoft – AC Team

In the beginning AC began as a test project of allowing players to divulge through time and space.
Within each chapter of the AC series, they touch on important events in world history. AC3 covers deeper into what becomes of the factions behind the founding of the United States. However those choices have ramifications, further in AC3 this one is based on actual history that unraveled the United States forever. Not just the past, but the present, Desmond and his team find themselves having to saving the world from the dreaded “end of 2012” predicition with the aid of past, present, and future.

Players are introduced to Desmond, the keyholder of the “Apple of Eden” device. Its energy channels through time and space, giving its users untapped knowledge. (but from the intro it displays that this might be the end of series?)

Like the past chapters in AC, players are introduced through a set of virtual reality tests. Given procession and well chosen moves they begin their journey. (Oddly enough there is no quick intro, its done in real time, so it takes some getting used to.)

Mission 1 – Snag and run – Introduced via the classic opera house where many a play be done. Finding your way in and out is not hard, it’s the balancing act of being stealthy. Once done, you move onward.
(this game does not hold your way, just like the past games. If you mess up, you restart before the error was made)

Haytham – a nobleman who travels across the world and seas (his story has yet to be revealed) However he is tied to the crusade of Assassins that protect humanity. Speaking of the said seas, the 2nd mission unfolds as your quest goes across the waters towards your next heading.

What I have found unique about this series, is that it unfolds around you. Not just throwing so many cutscenes in your direction but it flows along with your progression.

Further into the story, you eventually take on the Mantle as Connor (Haytham’s son). On his journey: setting things right, vesting on Boston and further beyond the hills. However he Is not alone, as he undergoes training to become a member of the Assassins and finds out more hidden truths. (In turn the player also learns a bit more of the unraveling history that actually happened.) While in the real world, you piece together clues on how to prevent an unfathomable pretext to happen.

AC3 is a solid title that isn’t quite a game, but a guide through history that still has more to share. If you’ve played the past entries this completes the trilogy as far as we know. But anything is possible.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tomb Raider - A Fan's Perspective

Tomb Raider – A Fan’s Perspective

  Sometime ago in the mid-nineties, I found myself in the middle of a new generation of gamers. Some of us were moving towards 3D gaming, with a 360 perspective and all sorts of new ideas. I come from the 2D classic gaming era, the usual platformer, or catchy tune that plays in every level. Little did I know, I was part of something bigger, something evolving before our very eyes.

  It was the summer of 1996, the PSX was just narrowly overtaking the Nintendo 64. I recall this pretty well because it was advertised in every toy shop from KB’s to Toys R’ US. Oddly enough everyone’s reaction was different, maybe it was just the job they had, or it was just some way to keep themselves afloat. Even with times changing I hadn’t saved up for a console in years. And just that upcoming crazy season, did a friend offer to let me hangout and play a few Playstation games with them.

  Within their gaming library was a mix of role playing, to action titles. There were a few sparse games, I think they had close to 20 at the time. They were doing a few summer jobs, which I was also keeping myself busy. But during the weekends, it was just our game time. Come the fall, then winter a bunch more games were hitting shelves. As it turns out my friend was hyped about this new platformer called Tomb Raider. I thought at first, maybe it’s because my friend is a woman its why she looks up to characters like this. Then it made me think back to Metroid, where Samus Aran turned heads…

  So with money saved, we put our cash together and voila. Except the fact that she had plans to visit family elsewhere, so it would be a little while longer till we indulged this crazy adventure. So I kept my mind off of the game for awhile, till I stumbled upon a kiosk in one of the local stores. Turns out Tower Records actually had a competition for the best time trials in the first stage demo. I tried out, and found my way around the level, even winding up getting over a bunch of pitfalls. And sadly not getting past a few key areas, without screwing up and, seeing the poor character fall many times. I phoned my friend to let her know about this contest, she got a bit jealous but wished me luck. I braved the level various times to pinpoint where the hazards were till I finally got adjusted to the unique setup. Although I didn’t win, I learned that this game would not be a cakewalk.

  Metroid, taught me a lesson of patience (it was actually this same female friend that told me about it). Then I turned things around, to find out Samus was all along a lady fighting a horde of space pirates. Still to this day, its something I can never forget, and the look on her face when we took turns going through every pitfall, and how many screams of glee or terror whenever we hit a snag.

  I have to be honest faithful reader, this is actually the first time I’m writing about my misadventures in gaming. So let’s press on shall we?

  Back to Tomb Raider, it contained tons of chills, spills, and narrow platforms that would make Mario, Sonic, and Samus blush. Even though the graphics at the time were the best they could deliver. That PSX pushed itself so much, it was crisp, and the atmosphere truly felt alive. Just getting past every obstacle was a feat of itself, and every time you missed something it was totally your fault. (and I learned the hard way along with my friend as we went through every peril together, and I got hit with pillows every time!) Each and every level contained unique levels of difficulty. The further you explored, the tougher it would get. But the main headache to overcome was the loading screens. Oh the nightmares! Just for one mis-step that made you Swiss cheese over spikes, or a pancake thanks to a boulder. Loading screens in TR were such a pain, but getting over that it was a joy to get back into spelunking.

  Looking back to those days of the first TR was a blast. And I was thankful I wasn’t alone in the journey. And now, Tomb Raider is undergoing a rebirth, thanks to the team that worked on the original game. (Along with another friends’ guiding wing) It’s going to be a fantastic chapter, every Lara Croft fan will want to play and share with others.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Resident Evil NET

I remember reading a few comments from Capcom’s staff within the forums about networking games in the possible future. Sure many companies have forums, or use social networks. But never pushing it this far, in the past Sega and Nintendo tried their own outsourcing. SegaNet was Sega’s intended brainchild to outsource their Dreamcast’s internet gaming all over the world. With Nintendo, it was branched out via arcade cabinets, and some of their classic gaming systems like the SNES (in certain countries there were internet capable consoles).

Years later, we’re back to this idea again. How do we branch out gaming in a whole new way? Turns out, it can be done. And its not just the consumers using it, but the world 24/7. It’s a scary idea at first, because there are so many people that turn on their consoles, login, and get their gaming sessions on.

After renting RE6, and watching the credits. I dug online to find out just what this project has been up to. Actually it was a fun idea back when the first RE film came out. Sure it was labeled as an Umbrella ISP for fun, but in reality it was a fully functional system that could be made. Only thing was, console gamers weren’t quite ready. PC gamers have founded networking since day one, and for console users they usually just plugin their Ethernet cord to the back and voila. I never envied friends who were PC gamers, I sometimes sat back and watched them go nuts with Red Bulls and a few Twizzlers nearby. Oh, and Counter Strike or Rainbow Six was the catch of the day.

I never quite got the jist of some gathered together. Till I realized what we console gamers actually had all along. When arcades were alive, we were gathered together watching two people insert quarters, and enjoy a good 3 set match and there was the fun. For PC gamers, it was strategy, or team work catching a flag, or tag teaming how many of the opposing team they can knock out of the match. In the beginning Resident Evil was simple, it was built on horror, suspense, and storytelling.

Evolving a franchise like this is risky, even the films based off the series have detoured into popcorn action flicks. And the odd thing about it, is that people love it no matter the format. Sure critics may bitch and moan, but that’s what makes an underdog stand up to prove that it has something to deliver. Its entertaining, and won’t back away from being unique. Same goes with each recent chapter of Resident Evil. As I’ve read reviews about RE5, it mended various fences yet upped the level of action, and it still carried some moments to give players the chills.

RE5 however broke the mold, no longer did the game move clunky or slow. It was sped up just like the films based upon its foundations. Players actually had to use more or their environment, cover, defense, offense, and using enemies as shields given bad circumstances. And the heroes in the story were familiar faces from the series past pushed into some newer challenges that players weren’t quite ready for.

RE6 on its own feels like a remixed chapter of the series combined. Its something I didn’t quite expect at first. Because I remember playing the series on a friend’s PSX some years ago. I never was a fan of the clunky movement, or the fact that anything could take down your character in a second. Most games I remember had a hero that leaped and dashed all obstacles (a plumber or a hedgehog). But to actually play as a human being stuck in the middle of the worst situation, it gave it more ground that anyone could come up with. So the same formula that made the series work from the start is back in full force. But the best part is that you’re not alone (RE 0, was another chapter that was lead by a team of two characters. One an ex STARS member, and the other a former military officer. Just those two alone, and against some crazy odds find themselves running into a few more friends that gets the ball rolling.

Move several years forward, RE6 is built on a network that relies on the gaming community that plays it. Its not just a simple update, or extra, its founded on the fact that its people actually use the system. I give the team credit for going all out on a project that wasn’t possible years ago. It makes me humble that the team that comprised such a series, actually thinks up ways on how to include the people that are connected to a part of who they are.

I really look forward to what its capable of, and that is so many things. Not just a community website, but people actually communicating, sharing, and forming teams with other players. And the points system seems to deliver some neat rewards when certain conditions are met. Aside from the fact that Capcom has been known to push too much downloadable content on consumers. Its fresh for a change, that they want to get out of such a rut, and allow users to actually obtain stuff via its social network within the very game itself. I can’t wait to see what they’ll do with this system next.

Btw it still has a few kinks that are being worked out. But check it out if you're interested.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

RE 6 Backup Doc File

RE6 Backup Doc

This is a file I personally want to share about how Capcom wants to change the way they’ve been given bad press. Most of us known for years they have had a bad wrap about PR stunts. With a majority of their titles being re-released with too many revisions. RE6 I believe finally breaks the mold. Looking the data over, it says they saved game data is worth 7.7 GB (RE5 I read somewhere only scraped 6GB) Normally DVD or GD types contain up to 7 if maxed out. Could be a sign that the developers for this entry want to push a game disc to its limits (which makes me wonder if the Blu-Ray version may actually have met its match in storage).

Second, this game for once isn’t focused on online play. The campaign is the main event (thank goodness, because I am not a fan of a skimmed story just for the sake of online gameplay). According to the achievements given so far, there are a few secret hidden awards. However, DLC could be added later pushing a few more to the list. But these awards only forward to the in-game campaign, which are pretty challenging the further you play in other modes.

**Actually there are in-game rewards, depending on accomplishments delivers more goodies. So there is a significant amount of extra content. Haha! Take that MVC3!

Btw for those that have kept up with RE since the beginning. I cannot say enough about how many rewards are in this game. Even a few you might not expect…

Closed quarters, there are several moments where you ar e boxed in. It may feel like you have plenty of room, try in normal and above. (see what happens)

Herbal remedy – As I played normal, I learned the hard way that the herbs come across very rarely. In fact there is a hidden skill you can obtain, and upgrade to snag more goodies not matter what mode you play. Definitely add this to your skill play list.

Mad Skillz – This achievement is not kidding, there are in fact tons of skills to obtain and use. Don’t let that skill list fool you, it can be opened to a various amounts of options. From what I gather, there are over 10+ skill list setups. A majority of the obtainable skills can be bought through game play. But some are limited to what level of difficulty. (and some via online modes, it’s a bit unfair, but it could be worse)

Options – Although I didn’t get the chance to play as Helena in Leon’s campaign. I get the feeling that her story takes place sometime before they meet while trying to rescue a specific person at the beginning of the game. Given how much depth her story was to begin with (be sure to read her bio via the collectibles option in Special Features)  I am sure that follows for Sherry, and the newcomer in Chris’s campaign.

What bugs me is that the loading screens given some specific details. But they seem to fly by, including some of the helpful standbys. I remember most of us old school fans never were fans of loading screens with our past consoles.  But it did give us some time to take a breath, or drink some water. Now blink and you might miss something important.

Resident Evil 6 review

Resident Evil 6
Capcom R&D Production with BioHazard Studios

Leon – The game begins with Leon & Helena (who turns out to be a secret service agent). As they try to escape the madness of the city being pulled apart by a mysterious force causing all sorts of chaos. In the short run, the player is introduced to the game via QTE (quick time events) that test a player’s reaction time. Once you’re in motion, the running begins.

Game thus far –
At the start you are able to select three levels of play. Amateur (easy) / Professional (normal) / Veteran (hard) . Plus Mercenaries is back in play, and you’re able to take on it in multiplayer online. And you’re able to obtain skills the more you play offline or online. And your points converge from game play in campaign or Mercs.

Leon: Working along Helena, its more of an escape and survive mission.
Chris: Recovery and reconnaissance
Jake: Run and Gun with Sherry (and pick up a few pieces)

Extras menu: Collections and Cutscenes. Collections consist of bonus goodies obtained by shooting out of play discs that consist of snakes wrapped around one another. If they don’t belong there, shoot em!

RE6 feels like a title that wants to push the series a bit more closer to an action / suspense thriller. In the past it relied on being a bit slower in the action scene, and more built into the suspense direction. Now this entry feels like a Hollywood blockbuster (hmm, a lot like the RE films, who would have thought it could go there).

I honestly don’t mind the push to make the game move faster. It actually feels a bit more oriented around the player, and keeping them in the moment. Some RE fans may not like the change, but RE4 and RE5 also had the same energy, it wasn’t the same high octane level. Yet the past two titles delivered some fun chills on a level vastly different from one another.

On the plus side, the game gives a short tutorial on how to get going. And of course offers a nice helping of baddies to take down. In addition, you can also change the settings to what you prefer.

Picking your path – From what I gather, after getting past a checkpoint it is possible to select other character storylines. And you can choose to play a variety of two familiar names. Leon (from RE2 and 4), Chris (from RE1 and 5) but this newcomer.. doesn’t ring a bell. (*What I gather from teaser trailers is that Jake is actually Wesker’s legitimate son.) Anyway, these are branching storylines, and each has a part to play in this chapter of the long running series.

Working together – Another feature they brought back was the co-op playability. It comes in handy to know that you’re not alone in this mission. Plus you’re given the ability to also help your knocked down partner. Just be careful it does throw the character you’re currently playing in defense mode. It gets a bit tricky when it comes to a horde of enemies all at once. But with enough patience, anyone can juggle multi-tasking a dozen baddies.

In addition, healing items are brought back. Plus you’re able to create mixtures on the fly, an enable them via your equipment inventory. But be resourceful, once you’ve mixed those herbs, they are gone. Plus they can be hard to find if you’re in a pinch. And if need be, your ally will give you a shot of adrenaline.

Keep your eyes on me – On the flipside, your health bar also contains an adrenaline gauge. If you lose energy, take an herb to get a bit of a push. Or you might find yourself totally drained, and unable to fight. Which I admit is pretty daunting; especially with some of the enemies seem to find that one weak point to knock you down.

So here are the pros and cons about the game
Pros =
Excellent action, chills and thrills
Having the ability to run n’ gun actually works great here! (nay sayers may cry)
Keeps players motivated to see what’s around the corner. Or watch it get obliterated, and make a stand.
Catching up with familiar faces (and some enemies)
New enemies assemble Neo-Umbrella (and it’s not what some may think)
Plus you’re able to see different points of view from various playable characters

QTE makes a compromise in some segments, sometimes reliable and others  a coin flip
“You Are Dead” may haunt you in your dreams again
Some chapters in each campaign are on the short side, depending on difficulty level.
(Only take on Professional and Veteran if you’ve obtained adequate skills!)
The price tag for the full version of the game $60.00 (and DLC content = madness!)

Afterthoughts: I humbly recommend RE6 to any action / horror fan. For the newbies, the game does hone its memories back to Raccoon City quite a bit, but this new chapter is still engaging enough for everyone. For the long runners, you won’t be disappointed. Sure the QTE’s may get in the way, but it still keeps you on the edge of your seat. Even more fun is the ability to take on Co-Op (which is becoming more of the norm with games lately, but be advised with more features comes DLC).

(Oh, and there’s plenty of easter eggs to be found, (example: with the voice acting and dialog just listen to conversations between characters carefully during certain moments in the game) And there is a ton of stuff to unlock! (boo-yah!)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

ASM - Ends of the Earth

Covering issues 682-687

EOTE 682 + 683
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Stefano Caselli

Part 1 – My World on Fire #682

From the start NYC seems to be dealing with normal issues. A normal day where nothing can go wrong, but our old friend Peter begins to get that feeling something is going to happen. Elsewhere off world, a humble set of six familiar faces are gathered to take on the world, with Ock at the helm. Peter, on Earth is beginning to notice that his accomplishments with the Horizon Labs are a positive one. Plus some have helped him take down villains for quite awhile, but he never could patent them on his own. Until today, that old Doc Ock magic rears his ugly tentacle again.

Let me begin here with the writing, its beginning to feel like the most epic adventure is waiting to happen. It builds slow, yet its progressive, like a familiar song on the radio where a listener is waiting to hear their favorite part. Plus the art connects every scene and dialog like a heartbeat. There is hidden detail in each scene, so its best to keep an eye out during every part of this tale. Part 1 is only the beginning folks.

Part 2 – Earth’s Mightiest #683
With his fellow Avengers by his side, Spidey takes on lead point (in the past, that rarely happens). But with Doc Ock’s recent plan in motion, Cap sets up the Webhead as lead captain. With some help, they work together to put a few more pieces together. The same can be said for the Sinister Six, arranging a power play with some old items from old friends hidden headquarters. The stage is set, now its for the biggest brawl to hit the planet!

Honestly I can’t say enough about the art thus far. Its engaging, dark, and light all at the same time. Plus every segment in part 2 seems to carry more shadows. Even from the heroes point of view, nothing is quite clear anymore. Plus its humbling to see the Cap let Spidey take lead, Stefano actually delivers a perspective very few get to see. A leader. There are no wisecracks, Spidey actually feels a lot like Captain America this time around. In addition, the change up in members of the main Avengers team is refreshing. While the old Sinister Six gang seems to scream “I am mad with power” and Stefano’s art clearly delivers that message.

Part 3 – Sand Trap #684
Story by Dan Slott
Art by Humberto Ramos

With the Avengers down, the 5 of the 6 continue to challenge the world powers. Thankfully Spidey has some help, by the same of Silver Sable and Black Widow. Their mission: take down Sandman. Easy huh?
Within this issue, Ramos is taking a few pages from Caselli’s artwork, its bold, and just edgy enough to keep the story going. Plus what type of Spider-man tale isn’t fun with Sable and Widow?

Part 4 – Global Menace #685

The Amazing Trio race against time, and a very angry Rhino only to find themselves stuck in the middle. With no one else offering team support, the work together trying to put the pieces back towards what they’re fighting against. **Sable notices that Spidey has changed since they last worked as a team. But is that a positive or negative sign? When a signal is sent from Ock’s alliance squad, Spidey and his fearless team send a signal through worldwide channels to gather other heroes. Who will win?!

Taking a deeper look into this series, one thing is for sure Dan Slott didn’t want to just write a simple 6 part saga. This is a special treat for any longtime Spidey fans. Its not just about the heroes, but what they face everyday, either standing alone, or with others. But Widow, and Sable? First, Peter does have history with both women, whom he’s saved, and they’ve done the same. Both in deeds, and in life (might even say it’s a bit more..) But then we’d have to hit the rewind button. Plus the alliances that all three of them have made over the years, this mini-series changes everything and what they’ve fought for. I say excellent writing here Dan!

ASM – Ends of the Earth #1 (parts 1&2)
Written by Rob Williams (part 1), Brian Clevinger (part 2)
Art team: Pencils: Thony Silas, Inks: Victor Olazaba, Colors: Wil Quintana

EOTE is a two part mini that covers the globe, as the other heroes work together to stop Doc Ock’s worldwide takeover. It’s fast paced, and completes the mini-series like a fine pizza. Part one focuses more towards Union Jack (when the others fall during the mission). In some ways he’s a lot like Spider-man, with his focus on saving his home. But with a twist, he’s like the Punisher, saving face only when he needs to. This time around he’s not alone, and wants to help. Part 2 focuses on Big Hero 6, a team made up in Japan. They are a lot like the Asian version of the Avengers, which enough crazy tech to make Spidey’s head spin. (actually I’m kinda lost on Big Hero team 6, its just bizarre to see this in a Marvel comic)

EOTE Part 5: From Ashes to Defeat #686
Words – Dan Slott / Artworks: Stefano Caselli

Where we last left our heroes, Symkaira was in ruins, a hell on earth. Now the trio may be down to two, but there’s something else going on behind the scenes. If you thought Mysterio was bad enough, Doc Ock catches on to the “curtain” and things go awry @ Sinister HQ. **Chameleon and Widow share a moment that actually clears up the smoke for years (who is he really?) And for the first time, the fishbowl aligns with the Spider. (no I’m not kidding) And the last two page attack.. mind blown.
(*Stefano’s art in this ish.. mind blown)

EOTE Part 6: Everyone Dies
words – Slott / Art: Caselli
Spidey’s team vs (ulp) The Avengers. So all of Peter’s inventions have become a part of Ock’s evil plan. Every hero that Spidey worked with as a team, now is against him. Are they real or bots? Okay real, this last entry in EOTE is insane (wish this was a movie already) Ock bots = Avenger zombies. Ock’s final move goes into play, heroes unite and fight the biggest bout ever.

Avenging Spidey #8
Words – Ty Templeton & Dan Slott
Pencil – Matthew Clark / Ink – Sean Parsons / Colors – Wil Quintana

Still recovering after Doc Ock’s worldwide chaos mission, Peter and friends search the wreckage to find Sable, sadly they couldn’t find her body, or anywhere. During his chat with Cap, they wrap up that things will mend, and he can take leave. While on patrol, Peter thinks back to a time when he worked Sable, not by choice and did the right thing.

Afterthoughts: Overall EOTE is an expansive series that is a nod to classic tales of ASM. Plus through all of Marvel’s insane adventures which crosses paths with many heroes and villains. This is a tale many fans have waited to see, and it was well worth it. In my opinion, seeing Stefano’s art I was already sold on the fact that this would be a treat. It didn’t feel like a regular Spidey tale at all. Every story is epic, but lately this one pushes even more boundaries than any other ASM series before. And Dan’s writing has topped out anything he’s done in the past, its solid, bold, and gets to the point of the reader. I can only imagine what the meeting’s had to be like, and how to expand the idea of making a comprehensive story like this one. It is so engaging, you might have to read it several times. A solid read, “Nuff Said” (*TM).

Thundercats - Season One - Book One

WB Animation + Studio 4C

From the 80’s comes the return of a classic tale, a brotherhood of heroes that take on evil. Thundara was once a peaceful place, until the return of Mumm-Ra. Years ago, this evil was put into a deep sleep never to awaken again, until an alliance was made from two sides to vanquish Thundara’s peaceful rule amongst the other lands.

Actually this series doesn’t just retell the original mythos, this is how it started. Just with a bigger budget, and an insane amount of talent giving life to the classic characters. It may be new to some, but this is coming from a classic fan. Although the series was a bit out there, like other 80’s cartoons, this new tale is way different than what we grew up with. And honestly I love it even more.

Within the first collection of this nextgen series is 8 episodes, with the new intro tale of Omens (a two parter). We’re introduced to Lion-O & his buddy Snarf just wandering about town waiting for trouble. Until they find help from a familiar Cheetara (who is a lead Cleric of the guild), Tigra on the otherhand is the lady’s man and a bit of a tough guy. Wit & Wily Cat are the always unforgettable treasure hunters.

What’s most awesome about this new take on a classic is the art direction. In the past, many remember the choppy animation and overall it was pretty fun back then. But compared to now.. this new version of Thundercats is ten times better than the original. It no longer feels like a simple show, its like a movie that should have been made a lot sooner.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Batman - The Court of Owls (Vol 1) Review

Batman – The Court of Owls (vol 1 )

Writer – Scott Snyder
Artist – Greg Capulo
Inker – Jonathan Glapion

New Beginnings – The Court of Owls storyline began branching in the classic Detective Comics. It was one of the hidden nursery rhymes that haunted Bruce Wayne for decades. There were various mythos hidden within Gotham, including its past, present and future. However being part of DC’s “New 52” it actually keeps Batman’s roster of allies (especially after the recent dealings with Hush, and Bruce’s “death and rebirth” at the hands of Darkseid during Final Crisis, and the Black Ring incident that also brought the dead back to life.

So you’re probably wondering, how do these events connect to one another? First, Hush, Thomas Elliot was Bruce’s old friend during their childhood, who went through a traumatic experience that changed both of their lives. With one exception, Elliot is in fact a well-known surgeon who lost his mind during an operation one time and took apart his own face. (Actually he owed money to someone, and made it on their list) Oddly enough Elliot garnered a second personality, or was crazy to begin with.

During Batman RIP, Elliot as Hush barked out the nursery rhyme containing the riddle of the Owls. And eventually unveiling that everyone that Bruce knew was a lie. (Including his parents, that in fact were killed that horrible night, all planned by the “Court of Owls”) And during Bruce’s disappearance, Hush took Bruce’s face and identity trying to fool Batman’s allies and villains to see what buttons he could truly push.

Not long after RIP, Darkseid took a fatal shot towards Batman, eventually sending him into a time warp that was actually meant to take his life. Through this bizarre quest, Bruce found out origins behind his family’s dark history, and what type of society these Owls are a part of, and how possibly to fight back.

Finally, the Black Ring incident, long foretold across the stars an entity that could bring back the dead. However during this time, it in fact brought back Bruce’s parents as walking, living people. (Including a certain poser garnering the identity of Jason Todd) When all was said and done, Bruce found out more dark truths about his identity as a detective, and as a human being.

New 52 – The Court of Owls

Gotham – present. Batman dishes out a few words with some of Gotham’s infamous characters that have been locked up in the “happiest” place on Earth, Arkham Asylum. Entrepreneur Bruce Wayne solidifies Gotham’s restructure for a better future and community. Various crimes have been taking place during both day and night across the city. As it turns out, The Court of Owls has been leaving hidden markers that they wish an audience with Batman, even placing breadcrumbs to make sure it’s getting his attention. However, they also known his civilian identity Bruce Wayne, and will take any means necessary to take him down.

Nursery Rhyme – What makes this new chapter of the Batman series captivating is how dark it continues to be. It earnestly pushes limits that anyone would dare go towards. From visiting a few unfriendly faces, to grim incidents left as breadcrumbs. And this new hunter, Talon, is one of the fiercest characters yet. It actually shows what Scott Snyder is capable of, excellent storytelling. When I first saw Watchmen, it was an intense tale that actually pushed a few boundaries. In fact, I recall that the “Owls” were a hidden agenda movement within the series (including Owlman, besides his namesake) in fact as it turns out he is also a member.

Batman under Snyder’s direction will definitely go places that many fans have possibly written as fan fiction. Some have pictured Gotham being taken over, or some allies may turn out to be enemies. Anything is truly possible within the Batman series. But no one expected Snyder to take it this far, and he does an excellent job of bringing old and new fans together to see what happens next. In all honesty, its best to read any Batman story more than once, because you might have missed something.

Artistic – The team of Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion deliver excellent artwork like no other art team in the past. It feels refreshing, edgy and detailed enough to keep the reader engaged, even to turn the page to see what’s next. What surprises me most is that Bruce has become a bit younger. In the tales before “the new 52”, Bruce was in fact a bit older. It might confuse some as to how the new team wants to de-age Bruce and friends. That odd tidbit aside, from villains to old friends those readers will notice. Everything works with this art team, and they deliver a captivating story that will keep fans coming for more.

But some fans might be wondering is this a revamp? Or a continuation? Honestly I find myself asking the same question, but it does seem to connect several dots from the past. And somehow mixes everything into a delicious cocktail. As a longtime Batman fan, I realize that although it may be a revamp that doesn’t mean everything we knew of is over. In fact it feels like it keeps the ongoing story left behind from RIP, yet emerging from its cocoon reborn. It leaves the imagination of fans to wonder “where can we go from here?” Anything is possible.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Gaming Treasures - Panzer Dragoon Orta

Panzer Dragoon Orta
Sega /Team Andromeda

Prelude – During the infancy of a new found type of Sega, as a restructure and new beginnings. Going from an inside developer, to a 3rd part shareholder with others under the helm. Orta began as a new chapter from Sega’s long running rpg series about a rider and their dragon. However it was of Sega’s past that tortured its own history, actually beginning on a failed system the Saturn (and was produced as a handheld title for the Game Gear). Panzer Dragoon began as a nod to classic fantasy and fairytale lore, later it evolved into something different. It became an adventure title like no other before, or after it.

  Its early predecessor began as an arcade title, with limited continues players were challenged to keep trying until they unveiled each mission. Successful they would be the driving force of the rider, and make their destiny known and change what could be. With enough of a foundation, Dragoon shifted towards becoming an rpg, letting players evolve their dragons through rigorous play. In doing so, the dragon would actually develop more target attacks, and be able to harness berserker power that could be unleashed towards onset enemies that enveloped the hud.

  Through its journey of becoming an adventure rpg, it enveloped around a dark world. A world where dragons were put into exile and their past was forced to be ridden by humans. But some rebelled and left the old world behind, only to be attacked by unknown forces. Humans now live in a barren wasteland determined to find what was left behind, let alone a dragon lay hidden as last of its kind (or so it was thought).

Azel to Orta – With the branching of the series, Azel was the evolution. As a hunter, whom befriends a being from a lost time. They join forces to change their destiny, along with a new dragon (the birthright of the blue dragon). Things begin to unravel as the past, present and future collides. (time shifts and Azel’s story ends)

Orta’s herald – Orta’s story takes place many years later, the old Capricorn (actually a fallen star) locked itself away to be opened by a chosen being. Abadd, an android that was kept from within escaped his cell seeks a connection to the outside world. The dragon from Azel’s mission seeks its new rider, in Orta a young woman kept away in a land lost in ruins. It is here that her destiny is barely unfolding.

Flight – A unique change in design, is that of the dragon. There are three skill types: offense, defense, and charger. Each tactic gives the dragon and its rider unknown powers that aid in its quest. But in play throughs it becomes apparent that this mission is in fact the Dragon’s last stand to protect its destined protector.

By design – With a unique art style, the world through Orta’s eyes begin as immersed in darkness. From the lost caverns, to a lost land, and many more places that both dragon and rider will find themselves. Colors begin to change from dark to light, further pushing the player to continue even after they finish playing. In addition, there are several play modes that offer a unique challenge. Easy (beginner), Normal (adaptable), and Hard (explains itself). There is also an extra hidden keepsake within Orta’s world called “Pandora’s Box”. With enough play through, those who keep seeking more will find lost history, and bestiary of the past, and the present.

  Sadly its been nearly ten years since anyone heard of this series. Some in the fan community thought it could possibly end here with Orta. Turns out that there is a forthcoming addition,  to the sleeping dragon. A new chapter called Crimson Dragon (oddly dropping the 2nd O from Dragoon as its always been called for years). So far its only been revealed that it can be played on Xbox 360’s Kinect system. Plus it will feature a variety of characters from the series. In addition, PD will also be featured within Sega and Sonic All-Stars Racing – Transformed. As a tease it was shown as a test stage, enveloping players within one of the classic terrains with a familiar BGM playing across the level (and several dragons flying by!)

  Although the original team that worked on the PD series took a break. I believe this series can make a comeback that very few series ever manage to do. Panzer Dragoon is most likely the “phoenix rising from the ashes” within the gaming industry.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Save the Future

Jet Set Radio Future

- Next Generation-
The year was meant to be 2001, when the Xbox was released. Thanks to delays, the game was shipped early 2002. JSRF received the following: positive reviews, character design, and an excellent soundtrack. But its sales record missed its mark, and it ended up being a gaming treasure. Negative stuff aside, JSRF paved the way for JSR to make its mark on whole new territory. But there was to be an online multiplayer mode, sadly due to budget concerns it never made it. Plus the dev team was struggling with a pretty tough schedule at the time. It was a promising start for Microsoft’s console (even deemed as the 2nd Dreamcast, because of certain influences that SEGA left its mark behind).

-Block Ridin-
Given the nature of being a more comprehensive title than the original. Every area could be trekked in a split-second, gaining more speed, and more flexible when it came to an open map for exploration. Another loved part of the series was the music, which was kept intact and just as addictive like the original game. But things were a bit different…

-Who’s the new guy?-
Players are introduced to the game through Yo-yo, but in the first game we were Beat. Turns out Corn (Coin – the guy who Cube and Combo tried to save) makes an entrance (er wait he’s an android). So both he, and Gum give the player a mini-tutorial on how to get started. (And find out that another robot can be an alternative guide later on) . Another shift in gears with JSRF is the character design. The entire gang, has been given a complete overhaul. Most of the gang, friend or enemies are now much older. (Especially the female characters, given a bit more curves) Literally the in-game engine could deliver even more expressions and active motions wherever you left a mark behind. (Speaking of different characters, the old lead of the police force is long retired, now a new guy named Hayashi who is a bit berserk has his eyes set on the Rudies.)

-Look at you-
By far the most innovative part about the new look is the in-game engine, it’s even sharper and can show a resolution that the Dreamcast wasn’t capable of producing. Showing off that the Xbox was capable of producing a solid game, compared to its competition Sony’s PS2. Just like the original Jet Set Radio, there were very few games like it in the market. (Compared to the present, where there are various titles using a cel-shaded based game engine.)

Rhythm of the Night -
Another huge shift in gears was the soundtrack. Hideki Naganuma takes the helm of mixing familiar tunes from the original game. And adding a few more songs, that will keep you listening for a while. However the OST was expanded this time around, over 30 tracks complete the solid soundtrack. There is a song for every mood, feeling, or expression. Some critics might even say that it rivals JSR’s tunes to a heartbeat.
**I am also very glad that they kept the “live DJ” mix setting, where a played track will overlap with another. And it keeps the momentum by surprising players wherever they go within the game. If there is a chance for another JSR title, I hope they bring back that style of music that kept us going all these years. Because music is the life stream of this series, and can’t live without it.

By far the biggest change within JSRF, is the control scheme. No longer are we dependent on moving towards a piece of graffiti, but we can get locked on towards a targeted one instead. (Think of It as Panzer Dragoon where its reticle locks-on to a nearby enemy.) Plus moving backwards is a lot simpler; just press the “Y” button. There is also a boost option, once you collect more than 10 spray cans, just hit “B” and off you go. (It comes in handy, especially when you race fellow rivals). And the addition of the right control stick, being used as a first person camera. Another new feature is the ability of using a “hand plant” maneuver when you get close to a half pipe, you can hang for a few seconds and score extra points. Plus there are hidden cassette tapes hidden in each area, find them all and score some bonus graffiti tags.

-Concept of Love-
And here we come to the end of the Jet Set Radio saga. However its not the end, there are rumors of another chapter in the works (if SEGA can battle through the current economic downturn). Jet Set Radio HD is coming to the PS3, 360 and PC, (tablets aren’t far off either). Sadly the team that created this series is now under a new title

Like DJ Professor K would say “Its not the end, but a whole new spin!”

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Jet Set Radio - Part 3 - Musical Beats

JSR Remix Part 3

Beats in my head – From lush visuals, to an open world design JSR was well known for another feature. Its sound, unlike any other game soundtrack, opened up a paradigm of music lovers to a whole new world. Given the fact that many of the artists or DJ’s were popular at the time (99/2000). One of the interesting transitions of JSR was that the US version contained tracks that the original Japanese version did not, and a whole new set of playgrounds.

Jet Set/Grind Radio
Hideki Naganuma – A well-known composer, mixing funky beats and unique sounds. Sega Retro compiled a very diverse bio regarding this “wave master”

Deavid Soul – created by two former members of the band “Hi-Speed”, the duo mixes electro-funk with dance tunes and a splash of rap.

Guitar Vader – a duo by the same of Miki Tanabe(lead vocal), and Ujuan Shozo(bass/ alternate vocal). Mixing fun lyrics, and rock plus a diverse sounds made this band popular.

B.B. Rights – tough bio to find, but is an underground nickname

Castle Logical – guess they were a one hit wonder

F-Fields – Honestly this is even more bizarre, VGDMB gives credit to two characters. But hey could be psuedonym’s. “Yellow Bream” is also known as “Hip Hop Hokkien

Idol Taxi – comprised of two sounds, one beat (Ken Katsumata & Shinichi Yatabe) or aka “Arche Type”
According to BBC UK, odd place to find that nugget of knowledge.

Reps – This UK band is still going strong, and keeping their fans going. Although they are beginning to sound like “The Rolling Stones” wonder if that’s a sign.

Richard Jacques – Another familiar name in the vgm scene, mostly known for composing Sonic CD US versions OST and a unique theme song (it’s quite catchy)

Toronto – a mysterious entity that has adorned other projects, some from classic tunes and somewhere they made it into dance and techno.

Cold (US version only) – (aka Grundig) later changed their name when meeting certain characters along the way. Their sound is dark, edgy, and a complete contrast from the rest of the game’s OST. Some years back the band took a break, and came back together in 2008.

Mixmaster Mike (US version only)- from underground DJ, to a brand name DJ MixMike is still going strong.

Professional Murder Music (US version only) – What began as a collaboration, birthed a mixture of energy and words that can only be dished out in lyrics.

Rob Zombie (US version only)- noise maker, director, producer, this character has done literally everything. And he is still busy with more horror movies.

Jurassic 5 (US version only) – formed in the early 90’s a collection of five talents delivered a message of peace and love to all that listened (in an early Dreamcast magazine, there was a bonus promo video on one of the demo discs) Sadly they fell apart after 2007

Feature Cast (EU version only) – An interesting group that wasn’t added to the US version of JSR, but their track “Recipe for the Perfect Afro” was within the EU edition. And still going strong!

O.B. One (EU version only) Another unknown (to us stateside) name, but a steady DJ keeping the beats alive. Actually an MMA fighter as well.  Er, wait there’s more than one person with the nickname.

Semi Detached (EU version only)- Make that one more unknown name to this list for JSR. A bit more beats than the other track. Might say it’s the outsider of the JSR OST. But the track featured on the OST is a bit more 60’s retro jazz/funk style. Wonder why this one didn’t make it stateside.