6th-Gen, gaming

Tokyochuchu on: Batman – Arkham City

Batman 3

Batman: Arkham City might well be the best video-game sequel ever made. It retains the core elements that made it’s prequel Arkham Asylum such a revelation, while expanding the series’ ambition exponentially. The open world works excellently in Arkham City. Better yet, the way the limitations of the it are actually written into the story is a stroke of genius. The world feels real and integral to the plot, rather than just a sandbox to swing around in. Likewise, the story’s flow works brilliantly, with each villain having their own reasons to exist within it. Nothing feels shoehorned in and everything just seems natural. Just like Arkham Asylum, this really feels like a genuine Batman adventure. The pacing also deserves a mention; the game peaks at all the right moments and ends in a suitably climatic fashion.

Batman takes a good, loooong look.

Batman considers bringing his ‘moterboat’ tactic into play.

Technically, the game looks beautiful and is (outside of Uncharted or The Last of Us) one of the best looking titles on PS3. The world drips with bleak, Gothic atmosphere and drops the jaw at many intervals. Snowy Gotham vistas and a romp through Penguin’s twisted, fortress-like museum are both phenomenal highlights. The game’s controls and level design are universally tight, rarely offering up problems, bugs or glitches (which is no mean feat in an open world game). The open world traversal is fun (who doesn’t like divebombing?) and the famous, fast paced combat is still top of it’s class (who doesn’t like kicking people in the nuts?).

Batman always did love a good game of 'peanuts".

Batman always did love a good game of ‘peanuts”.

Arkham City is pretty much a perfect sequel. Such a perfect sequel, in fact, that it’s hard to see how the series can maintain it’s momentum. How do you ever make a Batman game that can again move the goalposts so spectacularly? How do you ever make a Batman game where an open world would make as much sense? It’s going to take a magician to pull that one off, I think. So… Batman: Arkham City is a true, authentic Batman adventure, a masterclass on how to do a videogame sequel right and a really fun to game to boot.

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6th-Gen, gaming

Tokyochuchu on: Sonic – Lost World (3DS)

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I love Sonic and I always have. I remember staring google eyed at the first game in my local game store when I was eleven years old. And so the love affair began. Sonic 1,2,3, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Adventure, Sonic Advance… All great classic titles that fill me with joy and nostalgia.Of course, there have been some truly hideous Sonic titles sent out there too. Although it’s beloved by a certain contingent, I felt the rot got semi-started by Sonic Adventure 2 which was buggy and poorly made. And then it got worse; Sonic Heroes, the Sonic Rush series, the Sonic Advance sequels, Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic Unleashed and… Possibly the worst game OF ALL TIME, take a bow Sonic ’06. But the blue blur has bounced back in recent years. Sonic Colors pulled Sonic out of the crapper and games like Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing, Sonic 4: Episode II and the sublime Sonic Generations re-cemented his position as king of the mascots.

This looks fun and it IS fun. Great demo... SHIT game.

This looks fun and it IS fun. Great demo… SHIT game.

And now we have Sonic: Lost World on 3DS. Which is… Unbelievably bad. The unfortunate (and recurring) trait of forcing in mechanics that don’t work or belong has been pushed into overdrive with this game. Sega has thrown everything and anything at the wall to see what sticks. Here’s a hint, Sega; NONE OF IT DOES! Infuriating design choices, limited actual ‘platforming’ levels (the kind that are unhindered by awful gimmicks), a crazy amount of trial and error… It’s just bad heaped upon bad. And it’s really unforgiving to boot. That’s such a shame because the demo was tons of fun. It was colorful with tight controls and interesting wall-hoping mechanics. Why can’t they just make a game like that without messing it up with all kinds of annoying shit? I sincerely hope that the WiiU version is better because this awful title represents a real stumbling block for the franchise. Basically; avoid this terrible 3DS ‘game’ at all costs!

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6th-Gen, gaming

Tokyochuchu on: Beyond Two Souls

Beyond Two Souls is an exceptional videogame. From a narrative standpoint, it really truly delivers upon David Cage’s storytelling ambition. Past games like Heavy Rain have always had good intentions but have never been able to sustain coherence or quality throughout their playtimes. Beyond Two Souls, whilst definitely having the odd rocky moment (an occasional blip of stupidity here, a meaningless interlude there), finally manages to convince and hold interest.

What is it with Cage and shower scenes? Fucking pervert!

What is it with Cage and shower scenes? Perv alert!

This is partially due to the way in which the tension is ratcheted up spectacularly during the final third. Oh yes, the climaxes in Beyond Two Souls are of the truly unforgettable style. But even before you get to the total awesome-sauce of kicking some serious ethereal ass or crying your eyes out in the emotional roller-coaster ride of a finale, the game gives you definite indicators of how fucking great it will become. Whether it’s letting your frustrations out on a hapless S.W.A.T team, stealthing through covert C.I.A ops or terrifying yourself with trips through eerie, blood spattered laboratories, Beyond Two Souls’ early highlights come thick and fast.

Ah, Ryan. Hated him at first. Loved him by the end. Great storytelling!

Ah, Ryan… Hated him at first. Loved him by the end. Now that’s great storytelling!

It would, of course, be a gross disservice to not point out the excellent vocal performances of Ellen Paige and Willem Dafoe; they really sell their characters with expertise. But the supporting cast, most notably the unsung souls that portray Cole and Ryan also do a fantastic job. Their supporting characters are sold just right and their arcs lead to some really moving and spectacular moments. I got genuinely attached to them and every time they were in peril I was a nervous, emotional bag of bones.

Somebody left the condenser open!! oh wait...

God help us all! Somebody left the condenser open!! oh wait…

The graphical output of the game is generally impressive but not in a “these are the best graphics I’ve ever seen on PS3!” sort of way. It looks mostly great but there are certainly a few rough patches scattered about. There are undoubtedly a whole slew of PS3 games that look better (The Last of Us, for example). The art design is really terrific at times. There’s obviously a deep seated love of Sci-Fi at the root of the title and you can catch many visual cues from the likes of Alien, The Abyss, The Thing and many more. The game also has a really neat line in horror-house scares and atmospherics. That feeling of heading off into the inexplicable¬† unknown has been well crafted here; you feel isolated, vulnerable and without any understanding of what lurks around the next corner.

The montage scene was Brilliant! A brilliant waste of time, that is.

The montage scene was Brilliant! Just kidding. Oh my god it was SO shit.

Gameplay and control wise, It has to be said that Beyond Two Souls can be a bit hit-or-miss. Earlier sequences in the game (particularly the montage and stealth training sequence) can border on the awful… or plunge strait past it, depending on your tolerance of doddery mechanics. Likewise, the general way that Jodie controls like a tank in a confined space doesn’t help immersion much. Unexpectedly, however, later QTE fights prove to be excellent and exciting and the one section where you properly implement your stealth training is also surprisingly fun. Overall, I came away from Beyond Two Souls with my mouth agape, my eyes brimming with tears and my body eager for another playthrough. Well done Quantic Dream! Excellent stuff indeed.

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6th-Gen, gaming

Tokyochuchu on: Yakuza 4

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Yukuza 4 is an excellent game from an excellent franchise. For those of you that don’t know, the Yakuza franchise picked up where the legendary Shenmue left off. Instead of a pussy shy schoolboy (Nozomi wants it, Ryo!), the series revolves around Kiryu Kazuma (a.k.a the Dragon of Dojiima). Kazuma is a total badass of the highest order, who’s always happy to squeeze in a quick round of breaking faces between a few holes of golf and an erotic massage. But this particular protagonist has a heart of gold. He fosters a young girl, runs an orphanage, helps to find lost cats and will even help strangers buy ornaments for their homes. What a diamond geezer… But for the love of sweet baby Jesus just don’t make him angry!

Tanimura here will SHIT himself when he sees the bill

Tanimura here will SHIT himself when he sees the bill. And what’s with the total skanks?

In Yakuza 4, the familiar free roaming RPG mechanics and real world locations return, as does the brutal / hilarious combat (smash peoples heads on the curb / brain them with a bicycle tire / take a full-on home run swing at their heads with a baseball bat). In fact… Not much at all has changed since the prior Yakuza 3. It is a bit disappointing to only have the old Kamarochou (the area is called Kabukichou in real life) as your only explorable location because Yakuza 3 also had a tasty, tropical Okinawan sprawl to cause mayhem in. That said, Yakuza 4 IS a better game than it’s predecessor. This is not so much due to the now re-instated hostess clubs (which were annoyingly edited out of the western translation of part 3), but due to the fantastic plot, which for the first time in the franchise’s history, weaves together the stories of four different playable characters (each with a unique fighting style).

The better you play ping pong, the more her robe falls open. Perverts rejoice!

The better you play ping pong, the more her robe falls open. Perverts rejoice!

Instead of just badass Kiryu Kazuma, part four also follows the prison escaping Saijiima, with his burly pro-wrestling style, bent copper Tannimura (as in corrupt, not gay) with his counter-attack heavy combos and the strangely generous money lender Akiyama with his machine-gun kick stylings. It’s a real pleasure to see the plot’s mysteries slowly unravel and the character’s disparate thread’s inevitably come together. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but jeez, I’ll just say: BEST END BOSS FIGHT EVER! With a great story, hilarious mini-games and deep fighting mechanics, Yakuza 4 is at turns funny, touching and totally bonkers. But it is always very, very entertaining. Now, for the love of god Sega… TRANSLATE YAKUZA 5 and KENZAN into English or the Chuchu will come to your house and shit in your mop bucket!

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6th-Gen, gaming, NES

Tokyochuchu on: Duck Tales Remastered

Duck3

Duck Tales on the NES was one of my favorite platform games of all time. It’s still a game that I go back to and play periodically. Thus, the remastered version was a huge deal for me and one of my most anticipated titles of 2013. That said, my love of the original is so fierce that I was also worried that it would soil my memories. After all, we all witnessed the dreadful mess that was the Turtles in Time: Reshelled game. However, my fears were quickly sidelined because Duck Tales Remastered is awesome! The graphics are unbelievably charming, the soundtrack is one of the best ever written (but then it always was) and the controls are tighter than the draw strings on Scrooge McDuck’s money purse.

Those fucking goats! They just don't quit!

Those fucking goats! They just don’t quit!

There are a lot of great new additions to the game, too. First up, there is the new story component. This is a lot of fun, especially as it’s voiced by the animation’s original cast. It’s just great to hear the likes of Scrooge McDuck, Launchpad McQuack and Gyro back in their full glory again! Then there are the reworked boss battles. The original game’s encounters were fun but incredibly simple. This time around, they all have more than one attack routine and come at you much harder. And they’re a lot more fun as a result. There are one or two minor problems that prevent this game from being perfect, however.

Boingboingboingboingboingboing... Love that sound.

Boingboingboingboingboingboing… Love that sound. Reminds me of being 10 years old!

First up is the new system of having to collect items that are strewn around the maps before you can proceed to the boss. I can see that it’s done to lengthen the overall playtime, but it also limits exploration. In the original, finding secrets and little hidden nooks and crannies was a real pleasure. But in this version, the game forces you to go to all of those places anyway and it’s not really exploring if you’re directly sent there on an errand, is it? Then there is the huge difficulty spike that represents the last section of the game. The final escape sequence really feels unbalanced compared to the rest of the game (expect to drop some serious lives on that sum’bitch).

Overall, however, Duck Tales Remastered is a gorgeous, funny and nostalgic old-school plaformer with high playability and charm galore. So… Justice has been done to a true classic, I would say. And bless me bagpipes for that!

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6th-Gen, gaming

Tokyochuchu on: New Super Mario Bros. Wii

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How fantastic is Mario? Really, really, really fantastic is the answer. If you think about all the stone cold classic games that Mario and his chums have been a part of; Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island, Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Mario Golf… The list could go on. Mario was a defining element of my youth. It’s strange to think of it now, but back then I actually liked Mario over Sonic. But then my father hit me with a claw hammer and I saw sense. But I digress…

With Mario 64 came an obvious shift into 3D. The Mario of my youth was left behind in favor of the fancy-pants likes of Mario Sunshine, Luigi’s Mansion and Mario Galaxy. The relentless march of technology is all well and good but I longed for the simplicity of the old-school 2D Mario games. That’s why I’d always go back and replay Super Mario World in favor of Mario Galaxy. With the event of the DS and Wii, however, Nintendo finally relented and gave us what we wanted.

I like this level. It's probably the most memorable in the game.

I like this level. It’s probably the most memorable in the game.

“Rejoice!” we sang “The good times are back again and they are never going away!”

Well, we were half right. ‘New’ Super Mario Bros certainly isn’t going away anytime soon, as it is a humungous fucking cash cow. But it’s also the most blatant manifestation of Nintendo’s stagnation. Not to mention a shit game to boot. Nintendo are obviously unassailable legends within gaming. Where would we be without the likes of Mario, Zelda or Metroid? Still stuck in the great videogame crash of the 80’s, most likely. But the fact is that Nintendo hasn’t moved with the times. What was the last major new Nintendo IP? Pikmin on the Gamecube, maybe? Sure, Mario has made some incremental steps since the release of Mario 64 (although Galaxy is not exactly a million miles away, is it) but Zelda has been truly trapped Groundhog Day style in the same mechanics since Ocarina of Time. And as for Metroid, who knows what the fuck is happening with that franchise.

So yeah. There is nothing new about ‘New’ Super Mario Bros. Nintendo should be shaking off the rust and sprinting toward the future, not leaning on their laurels. Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t room for new 2D Mario games, certainly not. But let’s have something other than a bunch of rehashed ideas thrown to together in the shape of a cash-grab. Change up the visual aesthetic. Give us some some funny banter on the over-world screen. Or how about new characters or bosses other than Bowser? Surely something interesting can be done with Wario? There are a million ways that the company could spruce up the 2D Mario market but they don’t, either through lack of direction or laziness.

Is it a coincidence that Mario is always after money?

Is it a coincidence that Mario is always after money?

“This is all very well” I hear you say “But you mentioned that New Super Mario Bros was a shit game!”

So I did and so it is. there just isn’t anything special about New Super Mario Bros. It’s like Nintendo took the most cookie-cutter, bland elements from the previous titles and jumbled them together. But they totally left out that essential pinch of magic dust that the old games had. Almost all the stages are uniformly standard. I struggle to remember a single individual stage from the game, yet I can remember a great many from the likes of Super Mario Bros 3 or Super Mario World. The multiplayer has also been bastardized. The simple, clean turn-based mechanic of old has been replaced by a hectic, near-unplayable 4 man muddle, with no options to revert back to the original format! Then there is the movement. Mario runs like he’s moving through treacle! He’s… just… so… slow. I know he’s a fat bastard and all, but come on… And the game is way too difficult. Since when did the Mario games want to totally beast your ass like New Super Mario Bros Wii does?! Parents buying this game for their young children are going to get fucked in the butt. Literally.

So yeah. New Super Mario Bros Wii; lazy, slapdash, money-grubbing, nostalgia-soiling, overly difficult and extremely boring. Who ever thought that Mario would turn out to be such a lazy git?

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6th-Gen, Franchise features, gaming

Tokyochuchu on: Underrated games of this generation

So… Recently I wrote a blog about overrated games of this past generation. But in order to not be a total negative nelly (everything is shit / no reason to live… My family moto!), let’s redress the balance and look at the flipside of that coin (“What if you do got me boxed in?”). Here are five games that I feel are woefully underrated. Some of them were well reviewed but ultimately never got their dues and are now largely written out of gaming history, while others were just written off strait out of the gate. This much is certain, though; I had fun with each one of them!

#5: SONIC GENERATIONS

Kicking off with a relatively well received offering, Sonic Generations garnered a smattering of applause upon release but then was promptly forgotten about. NOOOO! People should shout of this game from the rooftops and speak of it in reverent, hushed tones. Sonic Generations perfectly captures the spirit of the older Sonic games, but infuses that spirit with a refined sprinkling of successful elements taken from later periods. In my opinion, Sonic Generations is the very best Sonic game to date and probably my favorite platform game of all time. The reason for this is that the action stages are designed perfectly… No… That doesn’t quite cut it. Every stage is absolutely fucking exceptional! They all feel very different from each other and each has it’s own little unique hooks to dig into you. I’ve played all the stages in the game over and over and over. They never get old! The challenge gates, whilst seeming like tacky time fillers at first glance, actually turn out to be a great addition for those who want to get really deep into game. Usually, I’m not the guy who plays every nook and cranny of this type of game, but I just couldn’t help myself with Sonic Generations. Getting all the red coins, achieving S rank on all stages and bosses, beating all the challenge gates… I was well and truly addicted. Basically speaking; I have nothing but love for this game! And the stereoscopic 3D mode is beyond phenomenal.

This in 3D is AWESOME!

This in 3D is AWESOME!

#4: ASSASSIN’S CREED REVELATIONS

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations always gets the short end of the stick. People often feel that this game was the point where the yearly cycle and over-familiar mechanics really corrupted the series. Two words; DEAD WRONG. Assassin’s Creed revelations is by far the best AC game available as of yet (ACIII isn’t fit to lick it’s boots). It refined the gameplay elements to near perfection, finally hitting the right notes in the main story missions by not pushing you down ultra-linear paths (unlike the previous games). Better still, the campaign was shorter than before, which negated over-repetition and brought more focus to the story. The story itself was much tighter, more coherent and better scripted than the prior games with far more impressive action sequences and set pieces. The only things that didn’t make the grade were the two new additions. The first person platforming levels were tedious to play and came off like a poor mans Portal whilst the tower defense mechanics seemed laughably simplistic. The great caveat to those was the fact that aside from the one tutorial mission where the tower defense was introduced, you didn’t have to play them ever again. They were very much off to the side and out of the way. That small bit of nonsense notwithstanding, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations was a brilliant game, crammed to the rafters with great gameplay and eye-popping graphics.

Poor game? I call that Istanbullshit!

Poor game? I call that Istanbullshit!

#3: BULLETSTORM

Bulletstorm might well be unessential in the grand scheme of gaming, but man was it fun. It had great game-play, with the whole kill-with-skill thing not being nearly as intrusive as you might’ve thought. The game was well crafted and had great pacing. There were also some really impressive bosses, including a giant plant boss that seemed to have escaped directly out of a Metroid game (with old school weak-points! Yay!)! The foul-mouthed humor is bound to rub some people the wrong way, but I found it amusing enough. Yet… The game isn’t nearly as funny or as controversial as it thinks it is. In the end, when all it’s publicity grabbing distractions such as grotesque laughs or snicker inducing cusses have been dispensed with, Bulletstorm still stands tall because it’s core game-play is wired tighter than a virgin’s knickers… And nothing takes precedence over that.

This same thing happened to me when I went to the London Eye once.

This exact same thing happened to me when I went to the London Eye.

#2: YAKUZA – DEAD SOULS

“They keep calling me!” Dead Souls once again proves that the Yakuza series is one of the best and most underrated franchise’s in gaming. Sure, the game suffers the same niggles as it’s predecessors; generally antiquated mechanics, occasional camera issues and text boxes galore… But it also has their strengths; unique lovable characters, a hilarious sense of humor and a grand, epic plot powered by amazing cut-scenes. Yakuza: Dead Souls is a ton of fun. Killing zombies just never got old and I was always interested to see what kind of huge, crazy monster the game was going to throw at me next. For long time fans, the plot and dialogue shine excellently too. There are so many unforgettable scenes (if you don’t get a belly laugh out of Daigo’s reaction to Maijima’s blow-job request, then you must a zombie yourself!). That said, if you love Yakuza for it’s more open-world elements such as massage parlors and the like, you should know that the game pushes them further into the background. Getting in a round of karaoke is a bit more bothersome when you have to fight through an entire army of zombies to do so! All in all, Yakuza: Dead Souls is a fantastic game that will make you fall in love with the franchise all over again. Or for the first time… IF YOU GAVE THE SERIES A CHANCE YOU BASTARDS!!! *ahem*

Kill zombies than relax with a game of erotic ping-pong. Man I love Yakuza!

Kill zombies than relax with a game of erotic ping-pong. Man I love Yakuza!

#1: HARRY POTTER and THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART II

BLAM! Confringo, motherfucker! Expeliamas this, you cunt! Oh yeah, Harry Potter has come of age and is busting heads like the fuckin’ Terminator! Although it’s never going to win any awards for originality, Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows part 2 was an engaging third person shooter that kept me entertained for it’s murder-happy duration. The difficulty and game length are both just about right, and there is also a good smattering of memorable set pieces along the way. I don’t know why people are so dismissive of this game. I found it to be a lot of fun (BOOM! Where’s your head, bitch?)… Even if you do have to spend ages magically unlocking small garden gates that you could easily kick off their hinges, or merely hop over. That bit of eye-rolling stupidity aside, this was a decent game.

Burn motherfucker! Burn, burn motherfucker!

Burn motherfucker! Buuuuuurn!

Bonus round: GAME OF THRONES

This is in the bonus section because I’m currently playing it and have yet to finish. The reviews weren’t good but I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan (who isn’t?) so I couldn’t resist despite my better judgement. I’m really glad I gave in to that urge because I’m having a blast with the title. The graphics are passable but outdated and the RPG combat system is actually pretty awful. But the story is excellent. The dialogue trees and general flow of the story is very reminiscent and respectful of the TV show. The dull combat is negated somewhat by how easy it is. This is a stress-free game that I can happily stick on after a hard day of work and unwind in. I’ve even fallen asleep playing it once or twice… And that’s a good thing. So yeah, Game of Thrones seems to be yet another underrated game that I’m enjoying more than I should.

Nap time! Game of Thrones time!

For relaxing nap time, Make it Game of Thrones time.

So there you go. Don’t throw yourself off the tower just yet, some games are actually quite good! And so, dear reader, I offer the floor to you. What games would make your underrated list? Sound off in the comments if you dare.

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