Friday, August 24, 2012

Review: Gravity Rush

Normally when I write these reviews I start off by explaining how the game came into fruition and then talk about the game itself by dissecting what makes the game so great. This review is going to be different. Speaking as a gamer who has been disillusioned from every medium of fiction (including gaming) for the past decade, absorbing information only on a technically crafted level with no regard to whether I enjoyed myself or not, Gravity Rush is the most fun I've had in a video game since Outrun 2 and I'm going to tell you why.

Mechanically, Gravity Rush isn't anything new. It's an open world sandbox adventure game where you are given a set of powers that allow you to traverse the city however you please (the creators of the game said that the Xbox 360 game Crackdown inspired them, and it helps that they chose one of the best sandbox games as their inspiration). The problem is this statement generalises Gravity Rush to where it does the game a disservice. The crux behind the game is the titular gravity mechanic that the protagonist Kat employs as her primary ability.

The gravity mechanics helps to elevate the game (no pun intended) into something special. To adequately describe how pleasing the mechanics are is something that no known metaphor can accomplish. The process starts where your body floats in mid-air as a cursor appears. After choosing where you want to go, you let go of the R button and Kat launches in a given direction (you can even do this again in mid-air which leads for more technical flight choreography). The frames that depict your character turning from spunky animé magical girl to lifeless rag doll are some of the most memorable in modern gaming history that solidifies Gravity Rush as one of the all time greats.

If you placed Kat in a featureless white room (which the game literally does at one point), it would still be an amazing game. However it is the secondary character that everything hinges on: The town of Heklesville itself. Not since Secret of Evermore has a game world been so mysterious and secretive. Almost all sandbox games aim for this kind of approach, but this succeeds more than the rest. I think the reason for this is that the multitude of games that precede this only think in a smaller number of dimensions as the characters are always hindered by gravity (nothing beyond the ground (or sewers) for example).

This whole review may seem like gushing but this is because I am. I don't really want to talk a whole lot about Gravity Rush because so much of the joy of the game is finding all of this out yourself. In fact it's rather amazing how this game feels like a breath of fresh air when sandbox games are one of the most over-saturated genres there are outside of first-person shooters. This could be just cultural preference talking but I reckon this is due to the development team's heritage. For one thing the developers most popular credentials are the first Silent Hill game and the Siren series. Perhaps Team Siren wanted to take the brooding atmosphere of their horror games and apply it to a magical girl simulator? Or perhaps they just wanted to show the creative potential of the Vita? Either way they truly succeeded in making a magnificent games and I hope they continue onto more fruitful niche endeavours.

Find Gravity Rush on ebay | Amazon

Released: 2012-06-12
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer:  SCE Studios Japan

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance - Mark of Mastery Edition Unboxing

So, I am a little late with this video, but I have been busy lately.  Also, my phone would not upload to YouTube properly (It took me a whole week, due to the YouTube app being stupid,) but here's the video for all to see what comes with the Mark of Mastery Edition of the new game, Kingdom Hearts 3D.  Enjoy the video below, as well as some of my thoughts on this bundle.


Now as to some more thoughts on the Mark of Mastery Edition.  It is rare for a portable game to ever have a special edition of anything.  Home console games such as XBox and Playstation games get these all the time, and they are usually packed with tons of goodies.  Usually, the closest thing portable games get to a special bundle is when the game is bundled with a special edition console.  (Take the upcoming Assassin's Creed 3 Vita bundle as an example, pictured below).

So, with me being a Kingdom Hearts fan, plus the fact that this is a rare thing to ever happen, I HAD to buy this bundle.  For $15 more (for a total of $55, minus sales tax) I had reserved the Mark of Mastery edition.  Considering it was for $15 more, I would say it was worth it.  You get the game which is already $40, plus you got what you saw in the video above: some artwork cards that showcased all of the cover art for every Kingdom Hearts game from the past 10 years, a pack of five rare Dream Eater AR cards (the normal version of the game only comes with three, and they are not guaranteed to be rare,) and the plastic 3DS case that features some snazzy art work.  (Even though I sounded as if I was disappointed with the 3DS case in the video, it kinda has grown on me now.)  Also, you get the large box to showcase to your friends that you have the special edition bundle for the game.  It certainly is not a special edition 3DS, but it is not something for the fans who stuck with the series for such a long time.

Why does Japan get all the good stuff?
So, this then leads me to ask the readers of this article to answer this question:  Do you think that more games should do special edition bundles for their games, and for what games would you like the see a special edition made for?  What would you like in these bundles?

 So, let us hear what you all have to say.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Review: Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles

Of all of the pre-Symphony of the Night Castlevania games that were released during the eight and sixteen bit eras, Dracula X Chronicles is the one that people look the least fondly on. It's not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination but the other games in the series include Castlevania I, III, IV & Rondo of Blood, some of the finest platformers of their time (Bloodlines was awesome as well). Dracula X was also looked down on because it was an inferior remake of the original Rondo of Blood. This lead many people to (wrongly) believe that Dracula X was the reason that Rondo of Blood was never released outside of Japan. This is similar to the dismissal of Secret of Evermore because it was also wrongly believed to be the reason that the West never got Seiken Denstesu 3. However unlike Square Enix, Konami would rectify their mistake with Castlevania Dracula X Chronicles, which has everything a Castlevania fan could ask for.

The game was billed as a remake of Dracula X, in the style of Mega Man Maverick Hunter X. On the surface level, it succeeds very well. The character models look remarkably similar to those in Maverick Hunter X with very blocky textures and a brain to the models that tried to emulate the jagged edges of the original Dracula X, and the music is also very nice. The biggest problem with this game is the gameplay.

Like the Mega Man series, Castlevania has prided itself for giving the player a set of tight controls and abilities and let the player navigate the environments. The key difference between this and Mega Man is one of exploration as while they are both linear games. Castlevania is more secretive in this regard while Mega Man is more broadly focused. The problem with this remake is that the physics of the game are, for a lack of a better word, awful.

The weirdest thing about this is that the gameplay feels exactly the same as Maverick Hunter X. The difference is that in that game the changes in the engine gave Mega Man character, replicating his anatomy to that of a robot. This applies to Castlevania but it comes off as awkward especially when more timed jumps are required. Everything feels stiff and unnatural and when the appeal of the original Castlevania games was how well they controlled, this is a big disappointment, especially when it could have improved on a weaker entry in the series like Ys: Oath in Felghana did.

The biggest draw of this collection is the unlockables. For the first time ever the original version of Rondo of Blood, one of the best Castlevania games ever, was avalaible in English. Speaking of the best Castlevania games ever, the other important extra is a version of Symphony of the Night with new voice acting, and the modes that were originally included in the subsequent Saturn version. These two games are worth buying the collection for, even if the main game is rather lackluster and even then, at least it's not Castlevania 64!

Find Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles on ebay | Amazon

Released: 2007-10-23
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami