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, 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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8-Bit, gaming, NES

Tokyochuchu on: Kickle Cubicle

kick1

Does anyone remember the NES title Kickle Cubicle? Yes, that’s right; “Kickle Cubicle”. Sadly, it’s not a game about kicking people in the testicles. Nor is it about eating urinal cakes or busting up someone’s office space. Mores the shame. I’d definitely play that game! Imagine; you enter the busy corporate office, power up by eating filthy urinal cakes and then tear shit up like you were playing Rampage on crack whilst your turncoat co-workers fall to their knees and beg forgiveness for telling the boss about you called in sick last Friday to go to a barbeque at your mate’s house. YOU COMPLETE BASTARDS! Um… Let’s move on.

The simple graphics work splendidly in this game.

The simple graphics work splendidly in this game.

So what exactly is Kickle Cubicle, then? It is, in fact, a really great grid based, action-puzzle game. The title follows the titular Kickle as he tries to save the Magical Kingdom from eternal winter. He does this by solving (mostly) single-screen puzzles, collecting coin bags and defeating each world’s boss monster. Kickle’s arsenal is comprised of two elements; freezing enemies into blocks which can then be kicked and the ability to lay an ice stump that can halt said sliding blocks. The key is to freeze enemies and then kick their frozen asses into open water to create new land, thus expanding the grid and opening up new paths to the level-ending coin bags.

The game starts simple, with basic enemies and situations. Soon enough however, you must contend with foes that can kick your blocks back at you, invincible swines that you can only run away from as well as environmental obstacles such as springs, bumpers and windmills. In conjunction with a slowly tightening time limit, these quickly turn Kickle Cubicle into an intense head-scratcher where you have to put both your lateral thinking and reflexes into turbo mode.

Flinger lickin' good! Fry that chicken fuck!

This game is finger lickin’ good!

Another feather in Kickle Cubicle’s well-doffed cap is it’s simplicity. The game’s graphics are crisp, clean and uncluttered. It’s controls are extremely tight, easy to use and easy to understand. The difficulty is judged well; you never have anyone to blame for a death other than yourself. These factors combine to make it a game that has totally retained it’s charm. Kickle Cubicle is just as much fun to play now as it was when it was released. And there aren’t too many NES games that you can say that about these days… Oh alright, I lied. Yes there are. But hey, Kickle Cubicle belongs right up there among the best of them!

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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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32-Bit, gaming, Sega Saturn

Tokyochuchu on: Dragon Force

 

Does anyone remember Dragon Force on the Sega Saturn? If you’re lucky enough to do so, you’ll be remembering one of the best strategy RPG titles of it’s generation.

At the beginning of the game you get to pick one of seven nations to play as (after you finish the game, you can play as the bad-guys too). Each nation has it’s own storyline and it’s a lot of fun to see a bunch of different takes on the same plot. Speaking of plot, the main thrust of the story centers around the reawakening of a long dormant dark god and an antagonistic nation stirring the pot and starting wars on purpose. Despite it’s ‘rent-a-fantasy-plot’ lack of originality, it’s decently scripted and is told via amazing anime-style artwork.

The game starts you off with a couple of castles in your home nation and a core staff of loyal generals to do your bidding. Your task is to conquer the entire continent thus bringing peace by unification. The player sends their armies (each led by a general) to the surrounding castles on the map and does battle with it’s inhabitants. If you win, you get control of said castle and have a chance to convert the enemy leaders to your cause, lending another army to your overall force in the process.

The armies you send out can contain up to five generals. Each general can have up to 100 troops under his command (you start with only 10 troops but 10 more get awarded every time you win a battle with that general). This means that a full scale battle could have 1000 units duking it out, with a maximum of 202 sprites sharing the screen at the same time! That’s some impressive shit, let me tell you. The battles are relatively simple. You choose a formation and tactic (march, defend, flank…etc) and then just watch the resulting scuffle. There’s little interaction after the initial menus except to fire off your general’s special attack move (tornadoes / fireballs / insert generic JRPG move here) or to issue simple orders like retreat, separate or melee. If all 200 troops are killed before either general is defeated, the two generals then enter into a one-on-one sword duel to settle matters.

Dragon Force was and is a great game. Aside from the beginning (lack of troops) and the ending (dragons!) the game has very little in the way of challenge. Even the battles, as busy as they look, are extremely simple and not particularly exciting (in the best possible way).

What the game DOES have is a deep sense of relaxation. It’s one of those games that you can put on after work or before bed and totally unwind in. The graphics are beautiful, the soundtrack is phenomenal and the gameplay is so atmospheric and serene that you’ll be lucky not to fall asleep just glancing at it. And it’s somewhere in that relinquishing of stress that Dragon Force’s true beauty becomes apparent; it has sleepy catharsis stitched into every pixel.

So there you are; Dragon Force, the video game equivalent of popping sleeping pills (non suicide style).

 

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6th-Gen, Franchise features, gaming

Tokyochuchu on: Overrated games of this generation

The Last of Us on PS3 got rave reviews. People are falling over themselves to lavish praise upon it. Hmmm… The story and characterizations are top notch for sure, but… No, no. I must reserve judgement fully as I haven’t finished the game yet. Although the endless ‘arenas’ and unbelievable surplus of ‘random’ ladders / chain-pulled garage doors aren’t really compelling me to do so. ANYWAY, here are the top five games of this last generation that everybody loved but me.

#5: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Kicking off with a double helping of Naughty Dog bashing (that sounds like masturbating to me), Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a very solid adventure game with stunning graphics. Lots of people seem to think that this is one of the best games of all time. I’m not one of them. Uncharted 2 was fun, but I did not think it to be exceptional. There were times in the game when I became frustrated. This frustration wasn’t born from the game’s difficulty but from it’s design. The seemingly endless hoards of enemies that frequently attack you feels quite like, well, a ‘hoard’ mode. It feels basic and tacky. The climbing also seems fairly rudimentary and limited when compared to something like Assassin’s Creed. I don’t mean to savage the game too much, though, as it does have some very strong elements. The script is decent and the acting is very strong. It makes for a compelling reason to finish the game, even when the gameplay isn’t pulling it’s weight. The graphics can sometimes dazzle and create truly special moments, such as climbing up high and catching the sight of a spectacular vista. In the end, I felt Uncharted was a solid game that was worth playing… But it didn’t meet my expectations for “The Best Game Ever”.

Can anyone say "uninspired combat"

Can anyone say “uninspired combat”

#4: The Unfinished Swan

The Unfinished swan had plenty of potential and after Journey, big things were expected of it. Unfortunately, The Unfinished swan is too pompous. It’s like a videogame art snob waving it’s arms around and crying “Look at me! I’m an artistic masterwork! I was made by trendy fucking beatniks that live in a new age condo in New York and drink nothing but wheatgrass shakes! ” Whilst it does get kudos for presenting an interesting idea and a nice visual aesthetic, it ultimately fails because it’s paint throwing gameplay is duller than dishwater. Do not be fooled. This is not a worthy successor to Journey.

Boring screenshot. Boring game.

Boring screenshot. Boring game.

#3: Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 is a very disappointing game. I was looking forward to it because, despite the circle strafing helicopter BS, I really enjoyed Battlefield: Bad Company 2. The campaign mode in BF3 is pretty much worthless. It’s overly difficult and boring to play. The co-op features are also poor. It’s just a disguised version of a ‘hoard mode’, where waves of enemies relentlessly come at you… Very disappointing. The multiplayer is the main meat, though, and always has been with the Battlefield franchise. Basically speaking, I don’t like that either. The matches generally consist of players camping prone in bushes or hiding in shipping containers, but they can’t really be blamed for that… Nature of the beast, I suppose. Another annoyance is that a lot of the maps are very tight and don’t give you any breathing space (Metro / Seine Crossing). It’s a case of; spawn, die, spawn, die, spawn, die… Not so much ‘Battlefield’ as ‘Battleroom’ or ‘Battletunnel’ or ‘Battleshippingcrate’! Ultimately I find Battlefield 3 very frustrating to play. Occasionally a team will pull together or I’ll get on a hot streak and I’ll have a great, fun match. But that only happens about once every ten games. The rest of the time it becomes a tiresome slog and just isn’t fun. And why play a game if it isn’t fun?

How fucking generic can you get?!

How fucking generic can you get?!

#2: Fallout 3

For most people, Fallout 3 will be a wonderful experience. For me it was a title riddled with annoyances. The glitches and dreary post-apocalyptic world were not good openers for sure but… I mostly just couldn’t get my head around shooting at something like an FPS but never being able to hit it because of level stats. If you’re not supposed to use the FPS aiming system, why put it in the game? If physically aiming at a guy’s head with a sniper rifle counts for nothing, why bother giving us a scope? I know it’s an RPG and you’re supposed to use the VATS system, but the hybrid aspects of the game just totally killed it for me. Take my fucking head-shot candy away from me Bathesda?! Bastards!

NOOOOO! Don't tease me with this. It's a myth!!

NOOOOO! Don’t tease me with this. It’s a myth!!

#1: God of War III

Everyone loves God of War III. Everyone but me. Sure, the game looks beautiful and has a fairly interesting tale to tell, so I can partially understand why people rave about it. Unfortunately, the simplistic button mashing gameplay, ultra-linear environments and truly awful jumping mechanics are harder to lend praise to. Seriously… Those jumping mechanics. What. The. Fuck. I have done more effective jumping maneuvers while being pissed up on twelve pints of ale and dealing with a case of the shits from a rancid kebab. God of War III was a game that I just couldn’t muster much passion for and ultimately had no fun with. Despite an entire decade separating the two titles, I would still much rather play the original Soul Reaver than this inexplicably popular turd.

Kratos looks hard as nails. But he jumps like a poof.

Kratos looks hard as nails. But he jumps like a poof.

So… Now I have doubtless insulted your favorite game, why not come back at me and tell me what’s what. FLAMEBAIT AHOY!!

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6th-Gen

Tokyochuchu on: Warhammer 40’000 – Space Marine

marine4

Does anyone remember the current-gen multiplatform title Space Marine? Space Marine was a highly derivative but ultimately excellent third-person-shooter.When I first thought about getting this game, I was really unsure about it. Reviews were good but not overly enthusiastic. It was almost a begrudging type of praise; “Well, we thought it was going to be shit but actually it’s not bad”. Damn the faint praise, I think the critics were just pissed that they had to put their knives away.

want some ketchup with that?

want some ketchup with that?

As I mentioned, Space Marine was a third person shooter but it was one without a cover mechanic, so it didn’t follow the Uncharted / Gears of War staple of staying in one place and popping off shots from safety. In fact, there was no real safety in the world of Space Marine. Progression on a battlefield took a lot of strategy and a lot of careful maneuvering. You needed to view the enemies, quickly decide priority targets and take them out as fast as possible. This usually involved switching up your arsenal, as the combat has a rock-paper-scissors element with it’s weapon effectiveness. This was really fun as the weapons were super-intuitive and had great, meaty feedback. Taking out rocket launching orcs with a sniper weapon before switching up to a plasma pistol for foes on the middle distance while fending off close quarters threats with a chainsaw while rolling out the way of enemy explosives… Take a breath now… was AWESOME! You also had to balance that with leaving a few minions alive so that you could regenerate health via an execution kill (no health packs, you see). It’s a lot of balls to juggle at the same time and it made every single battle intense and thrilling. There just wasn’t any filler in Space Marine because the combat was so satisfying and fun.

"But I am finished with YOU, orc." - Cpt. Titus

“But I am finished with you, Orc.” – Cpt. Titus

The story in Space Marine was fairly basic (a by-the-numbers mission gradually spinning out of control), but it was acted with such vim by the game’s cast (led by Mark ‘rent-a-cockney-villain’ Strong) that it genuinely entertained and made you want to know how it ended. The art design was on a different level, however… Warhammer 40’000 – Space Marine contained perhaps the greatest sci-fi world ever created in a video game. Big praise indeed, but the game’s every pour reeked with attention to detail and a deep sense of love, care and passion for the subject material. I’m not a Warhammer fan. To be honest, I never understood people’s fascination with the Games Workshop and all that miniature painting and shit. Space Marine was so fucking cool, however, that it actually compelled me to read a couple of Ultra Marine novels (which I enjoyed in a guilty otaku kind of way). More importantly, it was the only game of this current generation to make me immediately restart another playthrough after finishing it… Not including Journey, of course.

No helmets, boys? Brains don't like bullets, y'know!

No helmets, boys? Brains don’t like bullets, y’know!

So yeah… Mad, mad love to Space Marine. Whatever else THQ did in their lifetime, they will always have a clean slate in my eyes because they gave me this game. It’s a title I will remember forever and one I could never leave out of a discussion surrounding the PS3 / Xbox 360 console generation.

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