Hey guys! I’d like to usher in this new wave of GeekTime articles by starting a series that helps me help you help us all. In short, I have a massive backlog of video games inching ever closer to drowning me in physical disks, cartridges, and cases as well as in digital downloads, server space, and hard drive real-estate. I want to put a sizable dent in this mountain’o’media to keep myself from paying for more games that I don’t have time to play and to help me generate some content to push out to you, our lovely hypothetical audience.
What in the world is up with Atlus and towers? If it isn’t the Karma Temple in Digital Devil Saga, Tartarus in Persona 3, or the entire premise to Catherine, it’s Naraku in Shin Megami Tensei IV, a sort of reverse tower whose spatial relationship with the player character transforms throughout the narrative. Atlus, Team Persona, and anyone else responsible for Shin Megami Tensei titles seem to have some sort of fascination with towers, towering objects, and the phallic.
Now, it has been some time since I worked on a written piece for the site, but I’ve been so deeply fascinated with Shin Megami Tensei IV for the Nintendo 3DS that I felt the need to post a review for the title. It’s something about the level of depth that the atmosphere of the game world has, and the way that the remixed soundtrack (which consists of some previous series tunes) combines with that atmosphere and the game mechanics that make for a very dreamlike experience that often gets abruptly shattered with a nightmare scenario.
Did Atlus add another layer to the tower that is their popular Shin Megami Tensei franchise, or did they finally have a catastrophic misstep by releasing a numbered entry in their flagship series exclusively on a handheld?
I’m not too sure what I was expecting out of the new Devil May Cry. It was a drastic departure from everything about the old series (short of the intense combo based combat) and really rubbed certain people the wrong way. Of course, what doesn’t anymore? In truth, DmC does a lot of things right. It was a reboot no one was expecting, but in many ways it manages to do better than its source material.
The first thing I have to give props to is the combat. Ninja Theory managed to make an incredibly exciting and fast paced combat system for this one. Over the course of the game, you’ll find yourself with so many options and combos to dispatch demons with, that you’ll constantly surprise yourself with a new combo chain out of nowhere. If you pay attention to the loading screens, you’ll notice a silhouette of Dante dispensing pain in the way of nonstop combos and you’ll begin to wonder how you’ll manage to do anything close to that. Let me tell you, I’m not exactly the most deft of hand and I was able to bust out satisfyingly gruesome combos left and right. Boss battles grant you new “attachments” (for lack of a better term) for your weapons. At first, you have Rebellion (Dante’s classic sword) that can dish out a great deal of pain. From there, however, you begin to unlock new weapons. Angelic weapons, like the scythe Osiris, are designed to be lightning fast and incredibly effective. Demonic weapons like Eryx, the super awesome flaming death fists, are meant for high damage and high impact. Then you have your three different choices of guns that offer mildly low damage, but are great for continuing combos.
If this seems like a lot to take in, it’s OK. Where DmC shines is its ease and simplicity in picking up the catalog of weapons and combining them in useful ways. With a tap of the D-Pad (up, left, or right), you can switch the weapon you’re using on any side of the equation. Holding down the left trigger lets you use your angelic weapons, holding down your right trigger lets you use demonic weapons, and holding nothing let’s you use Rebellion. As simple as that is, chaining together heavy attacks and light attacks by swapping weapons and weapon types on the fly comes second nature to you as you rack up your score. Afraid you’re going to lose your combo? Ninja Theory even threw in grappling hooks to either pull enemies towards you or pull yourself towards enemies to continue the fun. It’s fast paced, easy to learn, and incredibly satisfying. I will admit that I had to fight with the camera during several encounters, especially ones taking place in hallways and small spaces. That is usually one of my pet peeves, but sometimes you ignore pet peeves for the greater good. The combat is indeed the greatest good of this game.
The one thing to say about this, however, is that fans of the original series might lament at the drop in challenge. I will admit, for someone who got frustrated at the originals without fail, I had no problem racking up my scores and getting the various S-Rank combos. For people like me who find deep satisfaction in dominating and not having to deal with super frustrating nonsense, this is absolutely OK. For everyone else, the increasing difficulty levels you unlock as you beat the game offer sufficient challenge. Culminating in the absolutely ridiculous Hell and Hell mode (Dante dies in one hit, but enemies have their regular health), you’ll still be able to get your masochistic jollies off with this one.
Of course, the story has to be the biggest departure in this one. Taking place in Limbo City, a New York inspired metropolis under the control of Demon King Mundus, the setting and tone of this game are truly new for the series. Mundus takes the form of banker Kyle Ryder, who controls the world through media and financial debt. Spreading his own propaganda through world-wide news, operating cameras to monitor his “subjects”, and poisoning the most popular soda in order to make humans lazy and docile, Mundus has a tight grip on the world until Dante decides to take interest. The plot, I’ll save for you to experience, offers a more serious and political tone than the campy past of the series.
This isn’t to say that the game is without cheese. You’ll mostly find this in new Dante, whose nonchalant attitude make him slightly less jerk-y than old Dante and a heap more likable. His snap backs and constant use of the F-Word in random moments really make you remember you’re playing a Devil May Cry game. Unfortunately, the story sometimes falls flat and a lot of the elements introduced fall to the wayside once they stop being an immediate problem, something a bit unexpected from Ninja Theory (who made two of the best stories this generation in Heavenly Sword and Enslaved). At certain points, it seems to be trying to take itself too seriously, but then it mellows out to a comfortable level. The concept of “control” seeds itself throughout the story, however, and it’s easy to get engrossed in it while you’re playing. I even found myself laughing at some of the most basic stuff (I mean…dick jokes? Really?) It’s just that darn hindsight that gets you in the end.
(I should give credit to the voice acting, though. When I think Capcom, I don’t think great voice acting…historically, at least. But this game has some really good voice acting no matter which way you slice the story.)
The story does lend itself to the level design. The missions all take place within Limbo, a twisted version of the real world that bends itself backwards to impede your progress. It offers some really unique level design and does a lot of really creative things with its world. It’s actually one of the coolest game worlds I’ve been in. As you traverse through platforming segments, you’ll find yourself using the two different grappling hooks to pull terrain and fly through the radically altered reality. Sometimes they even make you switch grappling hooks on the fly, offering a fast fingered challenge. They do offer some nice twists to this on occasion. A level later in a game that takes place in a Limbo version of a “hot” night club makes for an interesting place to traverse. A certain level that sees you trapped in Limbo but traversing through the real world offers little in the way of things to do, but adds a flipped sense of helplessness. There’s even a level where you’re attempting to reach a boss encounter by running around avoiding a giant spotlight laser. It’s a truly unique world to go through. If you happen to fall, the game really doesn’t punish you too badly. You get a small piece of your life bar taken away and reset on the platform you were jumping from. If you altered any terrain mid-jump and fell, it even stays in place. It’s not designed to be too big of a hindrance, but more like demonic busy work as you jump between combat and story segments.
(I should also, quickly, make mention of the soundtrack. The crazy rock music and the pumping dubstep really do add to the world. It’s, essentially, a bunch of music I’d never listen to that makes sense accompanied by Limbo and the fast paced combat.)
If you’re big on collectibles, fear not. The platforming and world also lends itself to hidden collectibles in the way of keys, doors, and lost souls. You might simply stumble across a few of these as you traverse, but thinking and exploring every nook and cranny is necessary if you want to get everything. You’ll even need to go back and replay levels with new toys to get a few of them. The keys and doors, especially, work in conjunction to offer secret missions that challenge your abilities. The replayability is there, as you need to collect everything and complete levels in a competent amount of time to get an SSS rank on all of them. Between these and the ramping difficulty selections, you’ll have a lot of reason to go back to this one.
The new characters and new imaginings of old characters are good, the story is good (despite its tonal wobbliness and its blatant sequel-bait ending), the platforming is good, and the replayability is good. What really should get you excited about this are the spectacular mind-bending world and the superb combat.
As it stands now, DmC as a total package is good enough to get an 8/10 from me. Ninja Theory, bring your stunning storytelling and character development for numero dos and we’ll talk about that 10.
My love for Chie from Persona 4 aside, I’d like to introduce you all to a little revitalization of my old Game Corner articles called Better Late Than Never, where I’ll be reviewing games quite differently than other published reviews and often times a bit later than other reviews. This week we’ll be looking at Persona 4 Golden for the Playstation Vita.
Persona 4 Golden for the Playstation Vita is an updated re-release of Persona 4, which saw initial release in the U.S. on the Playstation 2 on December 9th, 2008. Persona 4 saw much more popularity than its predecessor, Persona 3, and really any other Persona title or Shin Megami Tensei title, as the Persona games are loosely tied to and even subtitled as here in the United States. Persona 4 saw a canonical sequel recently for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 in the form of the fighting game Persona 4 Arena and even took the form of an anime that summarized the events of Persona 4 called Persona 4: The Animation.
Persona 4 Golden isn’t simply a re-release for the Playstation Vita of a classic Playstation 2 title, however, as the game adds over 30 hours of new dialogue, whole new story sequences, new parts of the region to explore, new Personas to summon, a new character, new animated sequences, altered battle mechanics, a loss of the Shin Megami Tensei title, updated visuals, and a pseudo-multiplayer mode. Many other reviews for the title that I’ve read seem to focus on the wholly new content and completely exclude the tweaked battle mechanics, completely different post-battle screen, the additions to the main menu, and really getting into the multiplayer mode.
Persona 4 Golden‘s battle system seems to flow far more quickly than the original title or the previous Persona titles, allowing for battles to feel much more fluid. There are new combo moves, namely one that I saw over and over again involved Yukiko and Chie combining Personas for a fusion attack, and an aesthetic costume system has been put in place so that you can dress your team up however you choose without losing the better armor or weapons. Again, like the original Persona 4 release, however, the tactics for your teammates defaults to the AI controlling their turns, with the player having to manually change the tactics in order to assign their own orders each turn.
The post-battle result screen has been completely gutted and revamped with this re-release. Fans of the series, specifically the last two entries, know that after completing battle the player has the chance to take part in a sort of “follow the card you want with your eyes and reap the rewards” type carnival game in order to earn new Personas, doubled and tripled experience points, and additional rewards in the form of money and weapons, however Golden shakes this up a bit. No longer do you have a second or two to few the cards before they’re hidden and you have to “pick a card, any card!”, now all of the reward cards are visible at all times and the focus is on maximizing how many reward cards you will pick up at once. If you can manage to collect all of the possible reward cards in one sitting, by tactfully choosing the correct cards, you will receive a “Sweep Bonus” which will guarantee you get a shuffle bonus at the end of the next encounter, give you more card pulling chances during the next shuffle bonus, and even add additional and greater cards to your next shuffle bonus.
In my opinion, this completely changes the pacing of the game. I suddenly wasn’t grinding battles for Persona collecting like I had before, I was chaining ten and twenty sweep bonuses in a row and cleaning house on each floor until the boss fight, and this was on normal difficulty. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the game does get harder as things progress, but it’s very different.
The main menu for Persona 4 is far more robust this time around. The typical “New Game” and “Continue” options exist, as well as a configuration menu, but most interesting is the new “TV Listing” menu. Through this special channel the player has the option to listen to BGM arrangements from the main game, remixes, and special tracks that unlock as the game progresses, as well as the option to watch special lecture series videos from the teachers from the game’s school. Animated cutscenes and special tip videos exist to be unlocked as well. Overall, this is a nice new feature, and while it doesn’t add much to the experience that I was anticipating, it’s a nice new addition that helps make the game feel more robust than it already did.
And finally, one of the areas where I saw most reviewers breeze their way through was with the new “multiplayer” component. I put multiplayer in quotations because Golden doesn’t feature a traditional multiplayer, but instead one that seems heavily influenced by systems like that of Demon’s Souls, which I am referencing instead of its sequel because Atlus actually published Demon’s Souls here in the United States.
This passive multiplayer involves players “cheering on” those who find themselves in danger, using new on-screen buttons that are touch sensitive, which provide the vulnerable players with health and SP bonuses to assist in battle. This feature seems like it would break the core game, but the bonuses offered by assisting players are very marginal and only through the assistance of a massive number of players could someone truly regain enough health to even make a big difference. More intriguing to me was the use of a system first introduced in Persona Team‘s very own current-gen title Catherine. When players take control of the protagonist and have the option to choose what to do with the rest of their in-game day they can hit a small on-screen button, much like the dungeon assist multiplay, and this button will display the decisions that other players made on that day. I found this particularly helpful in making a quick decision if several activities piqued my interest. How this information fares compared to 100% social link guide decisions and accomplishing everything the game has to offer has yet to really take a hold on my playthrough, but it is a very nice feature to see what other players have decided.
You’re probably asking yourself why this article didn’t really seem to be anything like an actual review, well, that’s because with Better Late Than Never I want to take the time to fully explore a title and talk about those things that didn’t make it into the more mainstream reviews. And, honestly, if you’d rather have a straightforward Persona 4 Golden review, you’d probably be better off just reading a review on Persona 4 for the Playstation 2. It’s a great title, and with all of the added content it really is the best title for the Playstation Vita thus far, but if Japanese roleplaying games aren’t your thing, you may need to look elsewhere, as this title is fantastically Japanese from the culture depicted to the names and creatures. And to answer the question here and now: THIS is the weirdest Persona in the game.
Since I have had ample time to play through it, I am going to look at Assassin’s Creed 3, but I am going to try something a little different. You see, I am slightly bored with the old way of laying out a review of a game: plot points, goods, bads, and give it a score, picture here and there. Boring. So I am going to lay this one out a little differently than the norm and see how everyone likes it. I am going to give different opinions and thoughts on it starting with something good about it, and then follow that up with something that is bad, or something the game needs to work on. Think of it more like a job review than a game review! I will have six points going back and forth then give my final verdict of whether the game should be fired or not.
Good – Graphics
Assassin’s Creed 3 is pretty. Good thing this is not a real job review cause a lawsuit would be on my hands. Because this game is hot! But in all serious the graphics in Assassins Creed 3 are really impressive. From the character design to the sprawling mountains and forests, to the towns of Boston and New York the detail is astounding. This is not new to Assassin’s Creed games. Like the others, you might find yourself getting off track and just exploring every nook and cranny just to see everything.
Assassin’s Creed III is really, really, and I mean really glitchy. It’s a shame that a game with such a long development cycle is so unpolished. Graphically this game is a wonder, but look closely and you will see the evil underbelly of crunch time. And we are talking about stuff that is so unmistakable in the middle of the main story missions. Such as guards getting stuck on the wall and dancing around, pop in npc’s, and voice/mouth syncing that just does not fit together. These are only a few things that Ubisoft needs to check out in their next patches if they aren’t already taken care of.
Good- Story Arc
If there is one thing I look forward to in the Assassin’s Creed games it’s the story arc of Desmond Miles. Our Assassin in white is merely the cover on top of a much more intricate and outlandish story based in todays world. Assassin’s Creed III is no exception and continues this trend without fail or disappointment. We are brought back from the Animus (machine to let people live out ancestors lives) intermittently to check in on Desmond and his little group of Assassin’s trying to foil the evil Templar order. This is also where some of the biggest twists in gaming happen. Not to mention some frustrating cliff hangers at the end of games.
Bad- Unlikable Main Character
Ok, so Connor Kenway is not COMPLETELY unlikable. But he is no Ezio Auditore. For 3 games we got to step into the shoes the suave, driven, and capable Italian Assassin. In my opinion Ezio is one of the most likable characters in video games. Its hard not to fall in love with him and really WANT him to succeed in everything he did. Connor is anything but. He is depressive, brooding and rough around the edges, and makes decisions without thinking of the outcomes. Sure he is new to being an Assassin and is learning on the fly but he just does not seem to have the whole thing down at all, even after he grows up. What really drove me to his cause was his situation. I wanted him to succeed because of his mission, but not because of him.
Good- So Much to Do
Assassin’s Creed III is as good of a sandbox game as they get. It is really easy to get lost in all of the side missions and games that it offers. It reminds me so much of Red Dead Redemption. Hanging out in the wilderness lets you go hunting, which you can do in many different ways (trapping, shooting, etc.) along with fighting dangerous animals like bears and cougars. You can hang out with Daniel Boon and hear all types of fun stories (including finding out about the real Sasquatch.) You can help people in the wilderness and hire them to live and help on your home stand, and so many more things while you are traversing the mountains and trees. In the cities you can chase down almanac sheets, help liberate the cities by doing different assassin missions, and bring on new trainees to train up to master assassins, and more. Oh yeah I almost forgot the ship missions are AWESOME! You can do different missions on your ship and upgrade it (cannons, speed, crew) it is really intuitive, unique and a whole lot of fun.
Bad- Free running/ Chase missions
I put these two together because they intertwine so much. First off the free running is broken in so many ways. Not so bad as to make it unplayable but it is very annoying. So many times I am chasing or being chased and all of a sudden Connor will go running up a wall, or a fence, or a tree, or anything that I don’t want him too. It is all done with the right trigger/R2 versus the right trigger + A/X which in my opinion already gives the right trigger too much to do. Which brings me to chase missions. Free running makes chase missions hard. Whether you are being chased or you are chasing someone, it is almost inevitable to restart a chase mission X amount of times because of getting stuck on something. It makes life really frustrating. On another note, I feel as a “Master Assassin” there should be much more stealth to kill important enemies instead of MANDATORY chasing. Which was a big change from old to new Assassins Creed. I feel if I screw something up, and a chase scene happens, so be it, my failure. Please do not force me to chase someone down. It is just no fun, and I don’t feel like an Assassin.
Assassin’s Creed 3 is a fine game. It’s always on time and will stay late. It is always dressed well, but sometimes it seems like it may have forgotten to shower in the morning and sometimes doesn’t have it’s desk very well organized. So Assassin’s Creed 3 will not be fired today. But its shortcomings are going to keep it from getting that promotion it has been after. Maybe once all of that little stuff is fixed or it proves itself with its DLC will it truly show it can blow everyone away. That being said, with all of its hiccups and flaws, Assassin’s Creed 3 is not a game you should pass on. The story alone is a reason for everyone to give a play through once. Even after the story, all of the side missions and quests, all of the exploring, and people to talk to is a reason to keep coming back to it for hours on in. It even has a really robust multiplayer mode which I have decided to leave out of this review (barring this sentence) because I haven’t had a chance to really dive into it yet. So go play Assassin’s Creed 3, you won’t be disappointed.
On May 15th of this year it had been exactly 8 years, 7 months, and 1 day since gamers, Rockstar Games fans, and Remedy fans had gotten a chance to see Max Payne in an all new adventure. A lot can happen in almost a decade of development time, especially when the original developers aren’t attached to the project, and a lot of skepticism starts to build within the fan base. So, did Max come out guns blazing? Did the Remedy writers hang onto Max’s soul when Rockstar took the mantle to write and produce the third entry in Max’s troubled life?
In short: Max Payne 3 is the best action/adventure/shooter I’ve played in at least a year. Rockstar really rolled up everything that they’ve learned while working with the Euphoria engine, Grand Theft Auto IV, and Red Dead Redemption into one slick, cynical, and occasionally suicidal package.
The single player portion of the game takes you through a roughly twelve hour South American romp with Remedy’s wrecking ball of a leading man. Rockstar made his presence on the other side of the equator both genuine-feeling and off-putting for players as much as it felt off-putting for Max himself to finally be off of the East Coast. To all of the folks that worried that Max Payne’s soul and realistic grit would be absent in the third installment, all I have to say is this: it’s hard to miss the mark with such a strong character persona, such as Max’s. Rockstar kept the noir sentiments perfectly intact, making Max Payne 3 feel like 1 part Max Payne, 1 part Grand Theft Auto “crawl to the top” style plot development, and 1 part Red Dead Redemption “strong, political, and American” writing. All in all, the narrative structure and flow of Max Payne 3 is really something to experience. There are very few other games that offer such an immersive story.
Something that may put off Max Payne fans, however, is the loss of the comic book panels used in place of cut-scenes due to graphical limitations in the first two games. Instead, elaborately constructed in-game cut-scenes act as the loading screens. There is still a strong style about them, though, and as Max drinks, pops pills to numb his wounds, and questions his line of work, the screen will pop, tear, and split-screen away into multiple views to reflect Max’s turmoil. All of the extremely well executed attention to detail that Rockstar poured into Grand Theft Auto IV makes its way into Max’s world as well, and noticing the nuances and little touches here and there can really be breath taking at times.
Even while writing this article I find it extremely difficult for me to pry myself away from the multiplayer of Max Payne 3. The game works like a fusion of Max Payne, Uncharted, and a pinch of Call of Duty unlockables/endorphin releases. The “adrenaline”/”bullet time” works spectacularly in multiplayer, only affecting those within eye sight, which can help your team or ruin your enemies depending on when you decide to use it. The unlockable items and gear are just as nuanced and detailed as the single player game’s attention to detail, allowing seemingly useless equippable items, such as a wrist watch or a ski-mask, to provide stat bonuses and sometimes even gameplay tweaks to your character or even your whole team. As you continue to play you’ll unlock more game types, gear, and avatars, and the whole ordeal can be addictive and fast paced fun. It almost makes you wonder why it took so long for Max Payne to get a multiplayer mode officially integrated into a title.
I initially started the game, setting the bar a bit low to prevent myself from being disappointed if the writing and plot just didn’t feel like Max Payne titles, but the more I played the more Max Payne 3 feels like the next logical evolution for the series. The writing, voice acting, and production values are all extremely top notch. You can tell that major care and effort was put into making the game play extremely fun while being difficult to master. The throw backs to earlier days of gaming, i.e. no recharging health, uncompromising difficulty, and punishing checkpoint spacing, makes Max Payne 3 one of the best titles I’ve played on my PS3 all year.
If you still play games for the tightly written and focused plots, fleshed out characters who you legitimately want to see through to the end of their journey, and gameplay that reflects the charm and personality of the writing to a “T”, you’d be punishing yourself by not snatching up Max Payne 3 as soon as possible. Now, whether or not the DLC will be worth the time, money, or wait, is another thing.
In the same vein as my “So…” article this issue, “Alessio Wants” is going to the movies! This issue, I’m going to drool over the Canon C300 Cinema Camcorder!
Already thought by many to be a bit more expensive than it should be, coming in at $16,000 instead of the hoped for $14,000 price tag, Canon is offering it’s alleged “first” foray into cinema quality camcorders. Sure, sure, “But Canon already manufactures the 5D Mk. II DSLR camera, and that looks great!”, BUT, Canon’s C300 offers that experience kicked up a notch, or more. Unlike Canon’s DSLR series, the C300 offers dual CF card slots, allowing for 64GB CF cards in each slot, essentially allowing you to record hours and hours of video without ever taking out a card for a footage dump mid-shoot. The C300 also comes standard with two XLR inputs, which were a pain to incorporate into a DSLR rig without having a separate rig strictly for audio gear. But where the C300 really stands apart is in visual quality.
Canon’s C300 sports a 9.84 megapixel CMOS sensor, which is essentially half of the 5D’s 21 megapixel CMOS sensor, but it allows for Super 35 format video and framerates of 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 50, and 59.94. Internally, the sensor shoots at an aspect ratio of 4:4:4. Where I’m really wowed is in the fact that the C300 can rock an ISO as high as 20,000. Talk about shooting in low light! Now, the camera still compresses the video in MPEG-2, so I’m not too sure about artifacting or noise at higher ISOs, but I’m assuming you wouldn’t want to go into the 20,000 mark unless you really had to.
Another major selling point for me is the fact that all Canon lenses should hypothetically fit this beast, which means that my accumulated 5D lenses would be “backwards compatible” with the C300. This saves me a lot of time and money. Another major selling point is the inclusion of a viewfinder and on-board level monitoring for audio levels. Really, this is Canon’s lot cast against the likes of Sony’s F3 and the RED Scarlet. If I had all of the money in the world, I’d still shoot for a Scarlet, or really ANY RED camera, but for the price and the fact that I already own a lot of Canon gear, this is right up my alley.
Check out this video of test footage shot on a C300 if you’d like to feast your eyes on a visual treat.
My final words? Canon seems to be finally marrying prosumer DSLR pros with the pros of HDV camcorders in their latest entry to their camera line. Is this camera powerful enough for independently produced features, shorts, etc? You bet. Will film aficionados/buffs/snobs still find something wrong with it? You bet. Is it better than the Sony F3 or the RED Scarlet? I imagine that only rigorous comparison videos and hands-on articles can really get to the bottom of that, but hey, if you’re in the market for a ~$15,000-$20,000 camera body, you owe it to yourself to do a bit more research that I could cover in this article.
Next time on “Alessio Wants”, I talk about the pros and cons of a loving family!
At long last, my review for Atlus’s latest publication, Catherine, is here. This article also marks my first ever full blown game review for GeekTime, so with no further ado, let’s go!
Upon first booting up the game, I thought that I had done the research and knew exactly what I was getting into, but I couldn’t have been more incorrect. On the surface, Catherine, seemed to blend “daytime” events and “dating sim” gameplay styles with “nighttime” action oriented gameplay segments much like the Persona series as of late. Persona 3 and Catherine both feature towers that the protagonists must ascend in order to achieve their goals, and the art styles are very similar, albeit Catherine is much more fleshed out and polished since it is on a more current-gen console. But the similarities ended there. As the days went on, the game presents its plot in its entirety over a course of eight days and nine nights, I felt myself getting sucked into the nuances of the story and the intricacies of the gameplay more and more. And much like the main character, Vincent Brooks, I found myself actually growing more and more anxious. During an animated cutscene, courtesy of Studio 4°C, that occurred roughly half way into the game I found my heart racing and my palms sweating simply because of the situation Vincent found himself in.
I won’t go too far in detail, for fear of ruining pivotal points in the game’s story arc, here, but I will say that this is certainly the driving force of the game. If you aren’t very moved or driven in games to progress simply by narrative alone, this game may not be right for you. Now, that doesn’t mean that the gameplay isn’t addicting, because that it certainly is, but the way the gameplay portions are divided and the actual amount of time you spend in the “main” gameplay mode itself during the story mode is rather minuscule compared to what you might be imagining.
Vincent Brooks is a 32 year old software engineer who has been dating his girlfriend, Katherine McBride, for five years. Just as Katherine is prodding Vincent about the idea of marriage, a strange girl named Catherine appears and makes Vincent question his loyalty. On top of all of this, Vincent is tormented every night by nightmares that he must over come, in the form of block pushing puzzles to get to the top of a tower littered with traps and creatures, or else he will die in reality. In between each stage there is a sanctuary in the form of a landing. At each landing you can save, speak with other trapped men, and purchase items from a shop. Before progressing to each new stage however, the player is asked a question that determines Vincent’s reactions to events in reality. My favorite of these questions appears about mid-way through the Normal difficulty story: “If you found a ghost attractive, would you have sex with it?” (Yes, that was real, and yes the questions change for each difficulty. I know). After being asked each question the game presents a pie chart showing the popularity of each answer with other Catherine players as well. (The ghost-sex question actually had a majority of game players saying “yes”).
The game boasts nine different endings- with each set of three being related to a common moral alignment.
The gameplay can be described as a mixture of Intelligent Qube, Tetris, and The Blocks Cometh with an Atlus and Persona Team coat of paint. During the reality portions of the game you watch cutscenes and speak with denizens of the local bar, The Stray Sheep, and during Vincent’s nightmares you scale a tower that is constantly collapsing behind you along with other unlucky inhabitants and some truly eerie subconscious concoctions. I STRONGLY suggest that you play through the game on Easy mode first, make sure you speak with ALL of the bar patrons when given the opportunity, and consume as much alcohol as you can whenever you are in the bar. If you do these things you will learn quickly, be proficient enough to get through Normal mode no problem on a second go through, and will have a ton of achievements/trophies just after your first play through.
Follow me to the next page of the review where I’m going to go a bit in depth with some things that other reviews seem to have been lacking: “Babel” mode, the Co-op, and the competitive multiplayer modes.
As The Avenger‘s 2012 release date rapidly approaches, Marvel scrambles for a decent setup film that doesn’t make you cringe at the blatant fact that it’s a setup film. They almost made it with Thor.
Now, that having been said, Thor isn’t necessarily disappointing for a superhero action flick. In fact, it may even exceed the frail, nebulous standard you have for an early summer blockbuster and leave you with an approving frown and head-nod when the lights go up. While Thor probably won’t reach the praise of his more likable and witty comrade, Iron Man, his movie at least has enough references and allusions to raise some more hype for The Avengers. And, let’s be honest, that’s all we wanted from him anyway.
In the movie, the brave but foolhardy prince Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is banished to Earth as his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) struggles with a kingdom on the breach of war and a family in tumult. On Earth, Thor falls in love with a shy astrophysicist named Jane (Natalie Portman) who inspires him to give up his selfish ways to save his homeworld of Asgard from his brother and the wicked forces of the Frost Giants (who could’ve benefitted from a name that didn’t sound like it came from the mouth of an excitable 4th grade boy). Easily the most complex character is Thor’s brother Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston. His actions aren’t motivated purely by evil, and he makes a compelling, even relatable villain. Chris Hemsworth, who practically is Thor already, did acceptably well in his role as the god of thunder. But the on screen chemistry between himself and Jane comes off as a little forced. It’s okay, Chris. I would’ve been nervous working with Natalie Portman too. Then again, I probably wouldn’t have been able to revive myself from the catatonic state I’d be in if she came within fifty feet of me, so props for that I guess.
The visuals in Thor are very cool. Asgard looks like Flava Flav’s pipe organ in space, but it’s surprisingly awesome looking and faithful enough to the comic. 3D isn’t necessary here, but if you’re into that sort of thing, there are lots of good CG-laden action sequences to enjoy, including one with a monster that looks like Michael Bay’s version of Shoop da Whoop.
All-in-all, Thor gets the job done and may even squeeze a few laughs out of you. But if you don’t wear Spiderman pajamas and act like a preteen girl whenever Stan Lee makes an inevitable cameo, you probably should wait until Thor is available on DVD.
If you took a poll of a group of pubescent 7th grade boys who just saw Inception and asked them what would make a totally rad video game, you’d get something that looked like Sucker Punch. It’s a movie that centers around a girl named Baby Doll (Emily Browning) who, after her evil step-father gets her thrown into an insane asylum, retreats into an alternate reality where she leads a group of strippers on an epic quest through Zack Snyder’s imagination so that they can find the tools to earn their freedom. Whew. Oh and did I mention that Vanessa Hudgens is one of Baby Doll’s seductive comrades? Well she is. Insert joke about High School Musical/leaked nude photos/Zac Efron being in the closet.
Sucker Punch is fist-pumping filmmaker Zack Snyder’s first original production, and if you’ve seen his other works (300 and Watchmen) it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect. Included are dragons, hot girls with swords, samurai with rocket launchers, steampunk Nazis, jetpacks, giant robots, and slo-mo. Lots and lots of slo-mo. Surprisingly, it does lack a healthy amount of homoeroticism/awkward sex scenes.
The soundtrack includes ambient covers of the obvious song choices “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”, “Where Is My Mind?”, and “We Will Rock You”. The songs fit well with the explosions and lady-parts on the screen, but I’m not going to go out buy the soundtrack anytime soon. The script sounds like it was ripped right out of a video game and then fleshed out with monotonous drivel so it could reach the appropriate length. Easily the most impressive part of Sucker Punch is the visuals. Everything from the gothic sepia color schemes to CG animations is just plain fun to look at. The film at least has that going for it. The actors’ performances are all pretty forgettable, with the exception of Oscar Isaac’s, who plays the unbelievably creepy villain Blue. Oh, and Jon Hamm (Madmen, The Town) is in it for like two scenes.
Other than that, there’s really not much else to say about Sucker Punch. Is it the movie for you? If you have a Y chromosome, enjoy chugging Mountain Dew, and give frequent high fives, then sit back and enjoy some classic Snyderian bull****. If not, then get ready for 109 minutes of pure, unadulterated mediocrity.