Batman: Arkham Origins

Spoilers abound! Precede only if you’ve finished Batman: Arkham Origins.

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I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ XP

I often felt like I needed to do the side missions in Arkham Asylum and Arkham City because I needed the XP. I need to unlock more gadgets or abilities to get the job done effectively. In Arkham Origins, I never felt that way. In fact, the only side missions I completed while doing the main story the first time through were the Riddler’s radio towers. They were fun to complete, as I imagine a lot of the other side missions will be when I get around to them, but at least the Riddler’s radio towers were necessary, for the most part. Sure, you could glide around the city freely, but the chance to open up the whole of Gotham to fast travel is appealing. Aside from this though, I didn’t feel the need to accrue extra XP to do anymore upgrading than the XP I gained along the way while completing the main story afforded me.

Assassin Appearances Unbalanced

You know, for having eight assassin’s after Batman, you’d never really know it. It seems like only four of them ever really got the message. Electrocutioner kinda shows up, Copperhead makes a valiant effort, Firefly pops up as filler towards the end, and Bane is in the game way more than he needs to be. The boss encounters in Origins are really unbalanced.

Electrocutioner

Electrocutioner may be the worst “boss” fight I’ve ever played. Oh! Hit square! Fight over. No, seriously. But he gets away because Batman didn’t tie him up, like I was telling the TV that he should do! Then, Joker kills him and you raid his corpse for the win button (I mean, Shock Gloves). He only exists in this game to let you get your Shock Gloves.

Deathstroke

I enjoyed the Deathstroke fight. It felt like a classic Arkham boss fight and was mildly challenging. It was a little prompt heavy at times though, and the reason I had to replay it a bunch of times was because I was being a bit too proactive with my countering and while the game wanted me to have a really cinematic counter with Deathstroke, I was trying to play it like a regular fight, which led me to countering earlier than the game wanted me to and then dying five times.

Copperhead

Copperhead’s fight was also fun. She poison’s you and while you’re walking out of the building to pick up an antidote drop, you’re caught in a hallucinogenic scrap with ten Copperheads all at once. It’s a shame more boss fights weren’t like this.

Firefly

Hey mom! I’m a QTE sequence.

Bane

What’s the deal with Bane getting three fights? Had the developers watched Dark Knight Rises so many times that they had Bane on the brain? You first encounter Bane with at the hotel should’ve been the last. It’s the hardest of all the encounters and I felt like “what was the point?” after artificially losing after getting him down to a sliver of health. You put a tracker on him, but he uses it to lure you away so he can kinda, but not really, destroy the Batcave. Then, he kinda, but not really, kills Alfred. Good thing Plot Device’s (I mean Electrocutioner’s) Shock Gloves are around to save the day (again). Then, you see him again back at Blackgate Prison, and after you kick his ass, Batman’s dumb rule about not killing anyone brings him back and you get to fight him a third time, and this time it’s one of those “use the environment” fights. I never really like those.

Anarky, Shiva, And Deadshot Only Show Up As Side Missions

Remember how there were eight assassins? Remember only fighting four of them? (Electrocutioner doesn’t count!) Well, the other three are still out there, but as side missions! I didn’t do any side missions yet, so I’ll not pass judgement on their quality, only that what’s the point of saying you have eight assassins after you when only five ever come after you?

Story

I know they want everyone to know think that this Batman game is the just the same and as good as the last two, but they’ve gone overboard with the “Arkham” naming scheme. This game never goes anywhere near Arkham Asylum, and Arkham City hasn’t been thought up yet. In fact, the only mention of Arkham Asylum is at the end, during a radio sequence during the credits where they talk about Arkham being reopened.

I was a little disappointed at the length of Arkham Origimns as well. Playing just the main story clocked in around eight hours, and while there was a lot of filler like Firefly’s oddly timed appearance and Bane’s way too much camera time, the ending of Arkham Origins wound up feeling rushed somehow. The first encounter with Joker was really great and you get to see how Joker feels about Batman. The final encounter goes by way too fast and you’re barely in control of the game during the final sequence. It’s little more than a QTE at the end.

Overall Verdict

I enjoyed Arkham Origins. The more I think about the game though, the more I find that I dislike about it. I still have a lot to do: Anarky, Deadshot and Shiva’s side missions for starters. Also, Mad Hatter and Riddler’s bits. I didn’t do more than two of the challenges in the Batcave and none of the Predator challenges. There is also supposed to be new story DLC in the upcoming season pass, which while I haven’t purchased yet, I would gladly pay another $20 for more Batman story content.

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood Review

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I’m not keen on starting any long RPGs right now. I just finished up a complete play through of Mass Effect 2 and starting up on another big one with Mass Effect 3 coming up in less than two months. So I’m trying to burn though shorter games; games that only run 10-15 hours. I’m playing through Gears of War 3 on co-op with my buddy Joseph. Since we live on different sides of the planet, our schedules don’t match up so well, so when he’s not available, I’m working through my backlog of games that I bought over the last couple years.

The first game from my backlog that I played was Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood (Juarez, from here on). I bought it in 2010 when I was on my Western kick. I got Red Dead Redemption at the same time, and I played the Hell out of it. Unfortunately for Juarez, it can’t not be compared to Red Dead. Juarez is a competent FPS. The difficulty is not to bad. I’m usually terrible at FPSes and I made it through without too much trouble. The most difficult part of the game isn’t even the first-person shooting, it’s the showdown quick draws.

The Good

The feel of Juarez is good. It looks like a decent Western and the story ain’t half bad. It’s a revenge story and there are trips to Mexico and various Indian territories. They even through in stuff with the Confederacy for good measure.

The Bad

In Red Dead, you could flip the right stick to pull your pistol, but Juarez has this more involved system where you circle your opponent and when you hear the bell, you move your hand with the right stick to pull. You have to keep your hand close to your holster while circling, but not so close that you trigger the “fuck you, you’re too early” animation. Most of my failures were not deaths caused by enemies, but my character’s inability to pull his pistol.

The Ugly

The voice acting in Juarez is terrible. The brothers you play as do most of the talking and they have a lot of dumb jokes between each other. Ray sounds like a non-Southerner trying to do a Southern accent. Thomas sounds like Alan Jackson phoning in VO work. Their other (non-playable) brother is a Bible thumper and he sounds like a whiny bitch. Nobody wants him there, and more than once he gets in your way. The bad guys are the only ones who sound authentic.

I had a good time with Juarez when I wasn’t fighting the showdown mechanic. My total playtime was 9:49 and I’d say at least eight hours of it was enjoyable. The early parts as Confederate soldiers didn’t match up with my expectations and I fought with showdowns a lot. If you like Westerns and have 10 hours to kill, Juarez is worth playing. You should be able to pick it up pretty cheap.

Game Diary for December 9, 2011

Outland

While I was fighting with PSN yesterday to get a PSN card redeemed so that I could buy the Arkham City skin pack, I fired up Outland on 360 which I bought the other day when it was on sale for 400 points. Outland kinda reminds me of Ikaruga. During the demo, they show you how you’ll be able to flip back and forth between blue and red spirits and being blue will let you pass through blue projectiles without taking damage and you’ll be able to inflict damage against red enemies. Switching to the red spirit does the inverse. While I initially was taking in by the beautiful graphics of Outland, I’m also a fan of it’s controls, in that the jumping is not Mario precise but not as loose as Little Big Planet. It’s a pretty natural middle ground that feels very good.

The combat is pretty simple so far. There have only been three kinds of enemies and there’s just one attack button. The platforming in the bite-sized levels is fun enough that I don’t care how easy the combat is, and there’s really not that much fighting going on anyway. The size of each area is just the right size for finishing in a couple minutes. There’s nothing frustrating going on, and the checkpoints make sure you never lose too much ground if you die.

Assassin’s Creed: Revalations

I hadn’t had any time to play ACR in the past week so I was excited to get back into it yesterday. I also realized that I needed to strengthen Ezio up a little bit. I needed to increase my funds, get the crossbow, train my one existing assassin and recruit some new ones. While I didn’t recruit anyone new, I got one guy up to Level 5, I got my crossbow, and I renovated a bunch of shops. I did one of the thief missions, an Altair flashback and finally progressed enough in the story that the first assassin I sent out on a mission finally came back.

Buy Assassin’s Creed: Revalations

Use a VPN to Circumvent Region Lockouts Online

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There are plenty of reasons why you might want to have a VPN connection. The biggest one for people outside the US is to access US-only media like Hulu, Netflix and gaming services. As an American with an American credit card who wants to purchase American content even though I live overseas, the policies of the companies I want to give money to can be extremely frustrating at times. My first such experience was with Playstation Network. For the first couple years of its existence, PSN played nice. By logging into my American account and using my American credit card, PSN allowed me to buy and download content just like anyone else back in America. Then about 18 months ago, Sony changed its system to disallow credit cards being used outside their area. Thus, my American credit card couldn’t be used from Japan. The best way to get around this was to buy PSN point cards on Amazon and redeem the code. Once redeemed, PSN would allow me to purchase whatever I wanted. It wasn’t the content that was restricted, but the payment method. I never tried using a Japanese credit card with it, so I don’t know if they would’ve accepted an overseas card from the overseas region either. I ran into the same problem with Steam as well on the Mac, but the US Steam store works with foreign credit cards, as long as you’re in the region that card is from.

Then I got an Xbox 360. The first thing I wanted to do was buy Mass Effect from Games on Demand. Xbox Live wouldn’t allow it. But it let me buy Shadow Complex, so I assumed Games on Demand was off limits overseas. Then one day, I happened to attempt buying Splinter Cell: Conviction from Games on Demand, and it worked! I thought Microsoft had loosened up. Then over the summer I bought the Gears of War Triple Pack and tried to redeem the DLC code inside the box. Didn’t work. Turns out that Microsoft published games and the DLC (free and paid) attached to them are region locked. It’s why Mass Effect couldn’t be purchased, but Mass Effect 2’s DLC downloaded just fine. (Because EA published Mass Effect 2, and thankfully Mass Effect 3.)

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The only way to circumvent Microsoft’s roadblocks is to access Xbox Live through a VPN. I’ve known a lot of people who went about this by trying to log into a service like Hotspot Shield and then use OS X’s Internet Sharing feature through a wired Ethernet connection to their Xbox 360. It works to share your Internet connection, just not the one you want to share. This will not work. No matter how long you bang your head against, thinking you can make it work, you will not make this work. I spent hours and people I know have spent hours trying to share a VPN connection through this method. It won’t get you anywhere.

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So how do you share a VPN? You need to dial in over PPTP. I haven’t found a free VPN that will let you connect through PPTP, so be prepared to open your wallet (or purse) a little bit. The VPN service I settled on was Hide My Ass. It’s got a silly name, but they have the ability to connect to their service through PPTP and OpenVPN. I didn’t have any luck with OpenVPN, but PPTP worked like a charm. Once you have set up a PPTP connection, you then share not your usual connection but the virtual connection you just created out to your Xbox 360 over Ethernet. Your Xbox 360 will not connect to Xbox Live through a connection that Live thinks is in the US. There are plenty of places you can choose to have your connection come out of, so choose whichever has the lightest load.

While HMA works, the speed isn’t great. It’s probably about 1Mbps. I’m quite used to 100Mbps here in Japan, and while 1Mbps was screaming fast when I was in high school, it’s painfully slow now. Downloading Gears of War map packs took way longer than it would have normally. There’s a quirk to Xbox Live that may be beneficial in your use of VPNs though. Xbox Live only checks region at the beginning and end of downloads. The fastest solution to downloading content is to:

  1. Purchase locked content through Xbox.com and then let it download from your queue.
  2. Keep an eye on it and switch over to the PPTP connection at about 97% completion.

This should allow you to download almost all of the content at your fastest speed, and then bypass the region check at the end.

Review: L.A. Noire

Repost from Pixelsnatch


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The most important thing about L.A. Noire is its story. It’s the best attempt I’ve played so far at recreating a movie-quality narrative and experience in a game. I liked Heavy Rain a lot for its attempt to be cinematic in not just its graphical presentation but in its storytelling as well, but it fell flat for a few reasons. Where Heavy Rain failed, L.A. Noire succeeds, mostly.

  1. Heavy Rain’s voice acting was done by French-Canadians and was very unnatural. L.A. Noire has lots of Hollywood talent; lending a polish that Heavy Rain sorely lacked.

  2. L.A. Noire’s not limited to Quick Time Events. The best Heavy Rain could do for action scenes were let you tap buttons quickly or wave your Move controller around.

  3. There’s more to do in L.A. Noire’s world. You can drive cars, go anywhere you like, search out collectibles and it still preserves the focused storytelling.

The Hollywood talent I mentioned comes mostly from the show, Mad Men. The main character, Cole Phelps, is a regular on the show. As I went through the game, I kept coming across Mad Men actors and actresses at a pretty regular clip. Most of them are front loaded. You’ll find most of them at the first couple desks you work. By the time you get to the vice and arson desks, the game has exhausted most of the talent pool. It may seem like overkill (or typecasting), but the Mad Men folks really do a great job. They’re well-known, but not super famous, and they feel right in their parts.

The main gameplay mechanic for L.A. Noire is the detective parts. You get a case to work from the department head, you drive out to the crime scene, you search for clues, and then question the witness. You are then tasked with deciding if the witness is telling the truth, whether you doubt him or her, or if they’re lying to you. If they are lying, you of course have to be able to prove it with a clue you’ve found. The problem is, however, that the line between truth and doubt is awfully thin, and sometimes, proving a lie can be hard because you might have two clues that could both be plausible as proof of lying. You can look up at witnesses from your notebook as you question them, and sometimes you can see them shifting in their seat or grinning after an apparent lie, but when you say you doubt them, they blow you off and the game tells you that you’ve chosen wrongly. In these instances, it was probably a lie, and you weren’t pressing them hard enough. I got the hang of the doubt/lie system later in the game, but there were a few cases here and there that would’ve gotten tied up differently had I been tougher on a few suspects.

The driving bits in L.A. Noire aren’t as bad as GTA 4’s. I hated the driving in GTA 4 so much that I quit playing the game after just a few hours into it. The cars handle a little more tightly, and your less likely to get all the fishtails that you do in GTA. It also helps that most of the time you can hold down Y or Triangle to have your partner drive to a predetermined destination. By utilizing that, you can skip 75% of the driving in the game. There are plenty of chase sequences that youmust drive during, but the traffic isn’t as heavy during these times, and driving around Los Angeles is much more fun.

In the first half of the game, combat is pretty limited. The second half of L.A. Noire does have its fair share of shooting bad guys though. The game is a fairly competent cover-based shooter in these instances. The game’s strong point isn’t combat, and the game compensates for this by not making the enemies too aggressive. They tend to hang out in their cover spots, and pop their heads out long enough after firing off a few rounds so you can take them down. They almost never fire in tandem either. So just wait till their clip is empty, watch them stand there, and mow them down. Gears of War it ain’t, but it’s a fun little divergence from all the sleuthing around.

The star of the show graphicly in L.A. Noire is the facial animation. The characters in the game really look like themselves. Watching Cole Phelps in the game is almost like watching Ken Cosgrove in Mad Men. If you’re familiar with the show, you’ll notice how realistic all the facial movements and twitches are. The environments look great too, and the non-facial animations in the game are smooth as well. The one thing that bugged me throughout the game were hand animations. Watching Cole open letters and envelopes over and over reminded me of Ryo Hazuki in Shenmue. In the 11 years since Shenmue on the Dreamcast, it doesn’t seem like much progress has been made in hand animation. Instead of a flip of the thumb to open letters, there’s this long deliberate hand motion; like Cole’s pinching a corner and moving his whole arm to lift the paper up. They put so much effort into getting the faces right, but didn’t get hand animations down naturally. And since Cole is constantly handling notebooks, ledgers, and various paper products, this stuck out a lot.

The music in L.A. Noire was great. It fit the time and style of storytelling wonderfully. But the background chatter at the police stations will wear on you after a few cases. Every time you go to a police station, any police station, there will be a cop there talking about how he wants to move up to a .45 so he can “put em’ down in one round.” Is Team Bondi trying to say there’s one murderous cop in every station? And if you’re out on the street there are civilians constantly saying stupid stuff like, “Isn’t that the cop you solved the big case and got promoted?” Maybe it’s a joke that I just don’t think is funny, but it’s repetitive and annoying.

Overall, I had a good time with L.A. Noire. If you like the gritty storytelling telling of Rockstar games but get fed up with the wonkiness of GTA due to it being a little too open, L.A. Noire could be right up your alley. Just don’t make the same mistake I did. Buy the DLC and install it before starting the game. I bought it all afterwards, and it all takes place within the main storyline. If you have it installed already, the cases just show up naturally in the timeline. Also, get the Rockstar Pass for L.A. Noire. You get four extra cases for the price of three.


You can help out the site by purchasing the game from Amazon.

TGS 2011 in Review

This is a repost from Pixelsnatch


TGS is a monster. It’s open to the public and the mass of people (growing larger over the last few years) has made it impossible to move around without bumping into someone every ten seconds. I’m not even sure why everyone is going there. The Japanese game industry is going down the toilet, right? The show this year had over 200,000 people attend between the two days. I’m sure some of those (including me) were there on both public days, but that’s still a lot of people. The lines for the PS Vita were so congested that by the time I made it inside the building (11am, after waiting in line outside for two hours just to get in), the lines had been shut down and they weren’t letting anyone else even queue up for it. When it was still like this on the second morning, I decided to forget about getting to play with a Vita and focused on trying out games I could realistically get to play.

PS3


Assassin’s Creed Revelations

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Because Sony’s booth was such a nightmare, I only actually played one game with a PS3 controller. Sure, I played a lot of games that are multi-platform, but I wound up playing almost all of them at Microsoft’s not so crowded booth. (It’s easy to see which is the preferred platform amongst Japanese gamers.) That solitary PS3 game was Assassin’s Creed Revelations. I didn’t know what to expect for the ACR demo, since the video they were showing in line was just a CG trailer, but I was surprised the demo was multiplayer. They had us playing the basic assassination mode that existed in Brotherhood. No teams, just a free-for-all. Unlike the multiplayer in Brotherhood, there’s no little arrow guiding you to the location of your target. You get a picture of your target, and then it’s up to you to suss out which of the lookalikes is the real target. The area you had to work in was far smaller than in Brotherhood. There were a lot of invisible walls preventing you from getting too far from other players. I imagine, though I can’t be sure, that these barriers will be removed from the full game. Although, with areas as big as those in Brotherhood, not having that little arrow to guide you in the general direction of your target may lead to lower scoring matches and many more mis-assassinations.

Xbox 360


Mass Effect 3

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I don’t know if you know this, but I love me some Mass Effect. But I almost missed the game entirely. EA’s booth was hidden away behind Sega’s and I didn’t spot it until 15 minutes before the end of the first day. I caught a glimpse of the ME 3 signage and begged the staff to let me play it. They had already closed the line for the day, but after pleading with them, they gave me 5 minutes of play time. I went back the next morning and played the demo straight away. And then again for a third time in the afternoon. I really wanted to get as much time with the game as possible. Mass Effect 3 feels a lot like Mass Effect 2. If you wanna know how it feels to be in combat in Mass Effect 3, just imagine ME2, but now you can tap A while in cover to jump to another cover point. That’s pretty much the only change. The bigger and more important change is in the skill tree. The skill tree in ME1 was much deeper than the one in ME2 (if you can even call ME2’s skill tree a tree), but overall, it was more fun being in combat in ME2. For Mass Effect 3, Bioware added a branching skill tree where after the first three skills for your class, the upgrade path splits into two. One path is a more aggressive one and the second is more about finesse. It’s like the final upgrade in ME2 where you had two similar choices for an upgrade, but each had tradeoffs. Mass Effect 3 has these kind of tradeoffs, but they appear to be a little more stark. The demo was pretty limited. It’s the same demo that’s been trotted out for E3 and Gamescom. You fight off several waves of indoctrinated Cerberus soldiers, and at the end you take on a Cerberus mech. The battles weren’t difficult, but there was a 15 minute time limit imposed on you so not knowing where to go in the environment to flip all the right switches wasted a lot of time. Luckily, on the second full play-through, I managed to take down the mech. It got my Mass Effect appetite going again and led to lots of great Mass Effect conversation at the bar on Saturday night.

Binary Domain

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Binary Domain is the Yakuza team’s attempt at a third-person shooter. They tried doing a zombie shooter in OF THE END and it was awful. It had all the trappings of a zombie shooter from 2004 and felt way behind the times in 2011. Binary Domain eschews OF THE END’s control scheme for a standard two-stick shooter setup and controlling my character in the demo felt fine. A special addition to the control scheme is that pulling LB (on 360) will let you talk to your squad. Depending on which members you choose for your squad, you will be asked different questions. I chose a sniper and an engineer and was asked if I like to drink. Someone else I talked to picked the tank-looking member and got asked about if he liked sexy women (or something to that effect). When that guys asked me what I thought about Binary Domain I said, “It isn’t terrible,” and his response was “That’s the best thing you can say about that game.” It feels like a Japanese team trying to build a Western game after being told what Gears of War was like, but they didn’t actually play the game. The robots you’re shooting at feel just dropped in to the environment as opposed to being really in the environment. Japanese developers also usually shy away from blood and the amount you’d be required to spill in a 25 hour shooter would be more than they are willing to shed. If it’s not zombies or monsters, robots are your next best option.

Asura’s Wrath

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Everybody seems to think Asura’s Wrath is bat-shit insane. And they’d be right. It is a pretty nutzoid game; but in a very good way. It’s being developed for Capcom by CyberConnect2, the developers of the PS2 Naruto games. Those games reveled in their ability to go crazy and Asura’s Wrath is carrying on that tradition. There are two demos out there for Asura. The one I played involved fighting a giant Buddha while an airship behind him shot at me. After you defeat him in that stage, he grows so large that Earth can’t contain him any longer and he fights you from space by pointing at you to death. He sticks his index finger down on you from space and drills you into the dirt. Through a very satisfying QTE, you uppercut his fingertip so hard that it creates a crack that runs all the way back up to space and destroys his whole body. It sounds nuts and is nuts. I had a great time with it, and with boss battles like this, I hope the random running around and beating up henchmen is kept to a minimum so that I can enjoy more set-piece boss battles.

Dragon’s Dogma

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Dragon’s Dogma is another Capcom game. It’s a PS3/360 game but the line was so long at the Capcom booth, I wound up just playing it at Microsoft’s. From the trailer I saw at Capcom’s Premium Theater, the game’s story has a bit of a Game of Thrones vibe. I won’t spoil Game’s story like I did for Billy Berghammer. (Sorry, Billy!) The combat plays a bit like Monster Hunter. You are in a party of four, and you come across enemies in the field, but you’ll also come across bigger monsters. I played the strider demo which gave me dual blades and a bow. In my demo, my party was fighting off some orcs when a griffin came swooping in. I shot the griffin down with flaming arrows and then my party slashed it when it fell to the ground. I saw one of my party members jump on top of the great bird but I wasn’t able to figure out how to do that myself or if I even could. The Monster Hunter style gameplay would lend itself well to co-op.

3DS


Shinobi 3D

Shinobi 3D was the least interesting game I played/saw at TGS this year. It looks pretty but it’s a pretty bland side-scroller with swords, shurikens, and a grappling hook. Attacking requires you to stop moving, so combat is pretty jerky. If you stop short of an enemy you’re coming up on, and your sword slash is just out of range, expect to take damage. I doubt anyone but longtime Shinobi fans and Japanophiles itching for something Japanesey will get much enjoyment out of it.

Bravely Default

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Bravely Default: Flying Fairy is a weird one. While there was a trailer showing some gameplay, the game wasn’t playable at the show. Instead, they had an AR movie that you could watch through the use of an AR image on the floor and a 3DS. They gave me a card to take home and if you download the Bravely Default app from the 3DS e-Shop, you can watch the movie again at your leisure. I watched it once more at home because the show floor was so loud I could barely hear what was being said in the movie. The game looks an awful like Final Fantasy: 4 Warriors of Light. It’s a beautiful game, and I loved the music in the trailer. Unfortunately, there was no game to be played, so I’ll leave it at that.

Rocket Slime 3

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I had never played any of the Rocket Slime games, but after being urged by my friend on Saturday night, I made sure I played the game on Sunday. Rocket Slime 3 doesn’t look a lot better than a regular DS game, but it’s not ugly. It’s filled with Dragon Quest characters and music, so that goes a long way to up the appeal of its presentation. The mechanics of the game involve you holding and pulling the bodies of slimes so you can catapult them into items so they can pick those items up, or catapult themselves into canons and launch their bodies at enemy ships. While not making up the whole of the game, the demo I played had you in a ship battle. Both ships had life bars, and the goal was to shoot projectiles at each other until the other was at 0 and then fling yourself across so you could dismantle the weaponry of the other ship. I wasn’t all that good at the game since I had never played the series before, so I didn’t win the battle. I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had though. I had previously avoided Dragon Quest spin-offs like Dragon Quest Monsters because I saw the spin-offs as being lesser quality. While Rocket Slime is no true Dragon Quest adventure, I really liked it and want to play it when it’s released.

Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D

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I waited a lot for this game. I waited in the sense that I’ve been wanting to play it since the 3DS’s launch. I waited for Konami to open the lines after closing them due to congestion. And then after getting in line, I waited another two hours. Snake Eater 3D is exactly what I expected it to be: MGS 3 in 3D. It looks almost as good as the PS2 original. All the Subsistence upgrades are there. It’s got the new camo system where you can take pictures of stuff and then turn the color into camo for Naked Snake. But after that, there’s not much more. And the game is severely handicapped by its controls. It suffers from the same problems that all games with 3D cameras have on PSP and 3DS: camera management is a pain in the ass. The shoulder buttons let you interact with the world, item management and item use have been shifted to the touch screen, and the A, B, X and Y face buttons are controlling the camera. It’s not a good system. I’ve never liked the idea in any other game, and I don’t like it here. It’s not that it doesn’t work, cause it does. It’s functional. You can play the game with this control setup. It’s just that it’s not as good as it once was. And with MGS3 coming out in HD this fall, I can’t see why you’d really want to play the gimped version on 3DS.

PSP


Kurohyo 2

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I love the Yakuza series. Er, I loved the series. The first Kurohyo game and OF THE END put me off of the series in the past year. Kurohyo’s problems were great. The main character changed, and wasn’t nearly as likable. Instead of being a well-meaning somewhat older gangster, Kurohyo’s main character is a snot-nosed punk. (There Kurohyo TV show just made him look even worse.) The biggest problem with Kurohyo is who it’s made for. This game isn’t made for grown-up gamers. It’s made for junior high and high school boys. Tatsuya, the main character, looks like he stepped out of a bad rendition of The Outsiders and he’s mad at the world. They took out the boozing and really open nature of the PS2 and PS3 Yakuza games and made the game much more linear. The world doesn’t flow as well as before. The PSP can’t handle Kamuro-cho. There’s constant loading as you run around, the graphics are dark and muddy, and all the cutscenes have been turned into manga-style interludes. The cutscene change was probably for the best, seeing as trying to do a real Yakuza-caliber cutscene would be nearly impossible on the PSP, or would at the very least eat up a ton of the UMD’s storage capacity. Since the first PSP Yakuza wasn’t released outside of Japan, you probably haven’t played it, or even heard of its existence. I never got into the game and I don’t think I’m going to be picking up the new one either. It’s more of the same and I didn’t enjoy the first one. I do find it interesting though that for the second Kurohyo game, the title has changed so that Kurohyo now comes first instead of Yakuza. Also, no new Yakuza game was shown this year. Team Ryu Ga Gotoku, the dev team behind the Yakuza series is putting all its effort into Binary Domain. While I don’t know if Binary Domain will be that great when it does come out, I’m glad that the Yakuza series is getting a little bit of a rest. One every year was going to kill the franchise.