Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Retro Rewind - Viewtiful Joe

2002 -
T'was many years ago, originally part of the Capcom V, until things seem to fall apart. It was meant to bring out a new exciting era in gaming at the time, being a cross multiplatform launch on all consoles (including PC). VJ was one of the proud, the tough, and the many that did not falter. But the amazing thing was, the team that developed this title turned out to be one of the most amazing crews around!

Thus is their little baby that grew into an awesome superhero.
Welcome to Retro Rewind - Viewtiful Joe

To introduce this game, all you need to know is that an everyday Joe was on a date with his girl Sylvia. Till all was well, and then during a film, the baddie kidnaps his girlfriend thus forcing him a date with destiny. Joe becomes... well he isn't a hero quite yet. Until players take this new hero on his journey, propelling him through his origin story! Until he meets Captain Blue (Joe's fav hero), a classic being of the silver screen.
Once gaining the powers of the V-Watch, the dazzling array of powers become a part of his psyche enhancing his strength, agility, and power.

During your quest, Joe will obtain unique powers, manipulating time, slow down, speed, and enhanced smack down powers. Mixing all of these techniques up in battle offers a variety of gameplay styles. But be forewarned Joe's powers have limits! Once your XP bar runs out (in the form of film reels) its back to "Normal Joe" until it recharges.

One major note about this game, is its difficulty curve. From the start you can choose between "Kids" (normal) or "Adults" (hard) mode. Progression is key when playing this fun super hero title. Some parts may frustrate you to no end, and others may surprise how well you've learned its play style. Or what I would call the "Ghosts n' Ghouls" formula.

**For those of you youngsters, this game was notoriously tough but would reward players with unique upgrades! King Arthur vanquishing monsters left and right, all the while staying alive. Only limitation was 3 lives, and armor that could take a few hits. www.hardcoregaming101.net/gng/gng2.htm‎
**Coin-OP TV made a special video (including commentary with gameplay)

What also made this series (Viewtiful Joe) unique was its art style + character design. Mixing it up with graffiti  + comic book inspired imagery, both go hand in hand in making it come to life. And the soundtrack is all around excellent, from edm to rock, and sometimes a call for orchestral. It is literally all over the place in sound design, and that is a sweet thing.

Alternate editions: VJ was released on gamecube, and ps2 ( including a version featuring Dante and Trish from DMC) *playable including special ex moves using the VFX system! Sadly this edition was only on the PS2, but fans that did get a chance to play it had a great time.

The Development team:
Clover Studio: A dream project team, from unique backgrounds in storytelling, music, and character design. For a few years, they created some unique adventures. *Okami is a prime example, as their last game (as the title company) *which is now known as Platinum Games.

*Last game:
*Okami is the tale of a wolf spirit, guided by a mission to bring color back into the world. With a paint brush, the lost colors and expressions return to the environment shaping her destiny. www.okami-game.com/‎

Until next time, stay Viewtiful!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Interactive storytelling - What we've missed (part 1)

*Note: I understand I am writing on a simple blog about my hobbies. Yes its out there, and I can take criticism. At least we get to share what we love and dislike about certain subjects in a responsible manner.
This entry I am going to share what I think have been letdowns in storytelling thus far.

Metroid Other M:
By the title you already know its an epic adventure, with drama, action, and suspense.
What did it miss?
For one, the music as a whole was a let down. Yes, there is a mix of orchestral and action oriented tracks. But they don't involve or engage the audience, it feels empty and abstract. Even some of the music cues don't even kick in unless its a cutscene. And we've known since day one there is always music surrounding Samus and her adventures. When has it been totally silent with atmospheric sound fx!? Metroid Prime emphasized that dynamic with their first person design.

Castlevania - Lords of Shadows (Part I)
Hits: Epic story, music, and characters
Music? It is all orchestral, there is mix of tension or suspense but that's it. There has always been an emphasis on all sorts of music with this series. In the past, Konami released several orchestral editions of game soundtracks in that format. But there was something there that was capable of capturing what made the series work. I honestly don't know why it feels so empty to me.

Misconnect on extending the tale:
I give the developers kudos for expanding this unique "prolouge" chapter for the series. But I find it a bit unfair not to include the rest of the game playable. In fact, it was in two parts, so those indulged with the adventure would have to buy both extra chapters separately, not a fair idea. On the positive side, Konami is planning to re-release a directors cut of the game (complete edition) and box set.
Upside, a finished game, downside, price gap.

Resident Evil 5 & 6
Awhile back it was about survival and horror, now its become a full on action/adventure game. Sadly not all of its fan following community loves the new direction. However, the games are expanding on the idea concept, but they are becoming a bit shorter. On the spin side, the alternative difficulty levels in each game push fans to their limits. But the main campaign needs more to expand on.

Oddly enough, both V and VI are broken up into chapters like a novel. Where each can be explored at your own leisure. Adapting with the times of random in-game saves, to avoid frustration. Awhile back, a save was a much needed checkpoint in case you had to drop playing and quit. For some its a helpful tool, and others would love to keep the ability to save on their own.

Metroid also shares this same concept design shift in gears. For years it has kept the save state open, giving players the choice to save at various save stations. Other M presented an issue, a massive bug would freeze the game. Metroid Prime 3 actually had real time saves (a big shift in gears).

Devil May Cry (alt punk rock Dante) or new DmC:
For longtime fans getting to see the series redone is both startling and an adventure. The downside?
This so called new DmC tosses away every conventional design the older series retained. Becoming a platformer, hack n' slash mess that it wanted to avoid being in the first place. Although not everyone is a fan of the change, at least it keeps the series going.

Capcom was in such a rush to release the game, the usual unlockables were made downloadable content instead. *Bloody Palace, Xtra missions with Virgil (etc)

To be honest, I wasn't a fan of the game for a few reasons:
1) The design: From the get go, the in-game world is constantly in flux. When the shadows creep in, the world gets darker. (*For one, Silent Hill had the right formula, it doesn't work so well here.)
2) Characters: Dante and Virgil are the main key guards of the series, with Mundus (yeah that baddie from DMC1) Everyone else are new fresh faces, although they retain key compromises of the series. Something about this new cast of characters keeps the series alive but its not the same story anymore.
3) Music: In past games the music was involved in pushing a player to keep going. Here its taken on a more aggressive sound (to match Dante's angst). It may not be for everyone, but its a fresh start. If the music was more involved, and didn't sound like it was stuck I repeat I would have liked it more.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Gaming Treasures - Castlevania = Circle of the Moon

CV-COTM (GBA 2001)
KCET team production

Go go Vampire Killa!
So the premise of this outside entry is set sometime after Symphony. There is a time of rest for humanity, with no resurrection of Dracula in sight. Until a Succubus, along with Death take it upon themselves to bring back the monster from whence he came. The catch? There are no more Belmonts... or is there?

Taking the helm are two hunters, along with their instructor. Like all classic tales, their leader is sent away with the two fledgling students donning a rivalry to claim the title of "Vampire Hunter". Both are equally powerful, except they must pass the test by surviving many perils and the Castle itself.

DSS system - a dual card system of elemental's with Greek Gods implemented. These will give their wielder unstoppable powers unless they are used simultaneously with one another. Once used, they can defend, or unleash massive offensive techniques. (Sadly this is the only game in the series to use this technique.)

Retaining a more tougher difficulty level, this game will push you to many limits. From bracing versus challenging monsters, and dealing with very limited supply of healing items (unless you overclock your experience points!!) What makes it worthwhile to replay is a multitude of unlockable modes, from gaining more XP by attacking, healing recovery, or being able to shapeshift into other creatures. Or a hidden "God Mode"! **which is unheard of in the CV series.

As of late, there have been no other titles quite like this one. Although the recent 3D titles have tried to use elemental powers, it doesn't work the same as the card system. It becomes more of an attachment then an actual skill to equip and become useful. It is highly possible that the system could return in some format. But as far as the series overall, it is a fun yet lost adventure not all gamers might have had a chance to play in the past.

For more into, visit my friends @ the Castlevania Dungeon website: