tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

Music to kick ass to

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, so here it is!

Sometimes when you play a particularly well-put-together game, there are moments when everything just comes together – you enter an awesome looking area ready to engage in an epic battle…and then the incredible background music kicks in. More often than not the music helps set the tone and the atmosphere for the upcoming part of the game, and there are some games that just knock it out of the park in this respect.

This has happened to way more times than I can count, so I thought I should chronicle some of the tracks I’ve encountered in video games that make me feel like going forth and laying waste to my enemies (in the video game, of course). I’ve also provided links to go buy these awesome soundtracks wherever possible because you should support the creative people who compose these tracks, and not be a filthy pirate.

So, in no particular order!

Rules of Nature – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

brb SLICING A METAL GEAR IN HALF

MGR:R was my personal Game of the Year for 2013, and it starts on one hell of a high note. Really, the entire soundtrack from that game could conceivably show up on this list but I’m going to put Rules of Nature here because it hits you hard from the get go with an awesome boss fight against a Metal Gear, and the game makes full use of dynamic mixing to play the best parts of the track at crucial moments in the fight.

Buy it here: Amazon.com

Storm – Serious Sam 3: BFE

WAAAARR

This is the BGM for a boss fight that pretty much comes out of nowhere. You’ve spent the last thirty minutes or so fighting hordes of aliens in the ruins of Cairo when you emerge into a somewhat more open area with harpies everywhere. You take potshots at them for a while, wondering what’s coming next – and then a giant warship teleports into the sky above you, and an angry man screams “WAAAR!”

If that’s not a perfect setup to an ass-kicking, I don’t know what is.

Buy it here: Steam (you get it as a bonus with the game, which you should play anyway because it’s brilliant)

The Time Has Come – Devil May Cry 4

Party’s gettin’ crazy

DMC4 is a game I feel rather conflicted about, since it has strong points but it does a lot of things I find irritating as well. That said, Nero’s battle theme is definitely one of the strong points. Somehow it never really gets old even after playing the game for hours on end, and considering how much fighting you do in that game that’s a huge deal.

Buy it here: Amazon

Give Me a Break – Guilty Gear Xrd

GURLFRIEND

This game isn’t even out yet (although I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy, based on what I played at Evo), but Sol’s new theme kind of rocks. The opening chords really just set the tone really well for running in and Dust Looping the crap out of your opponent.

Buy it here: You can’t actually buy the OST yet, but here’s the opening theme which is pretty awesome too

KDD-0075 – The King of Fighters XI

I love this track, but Kula is annoying

I think this was the first track from KOF XI that I heard in a match video, and it’s probably my favourite track on the whole OST. The aggressive backbeat and bass suit K’s team perfectly, which is nice because you got to hear this track a lot while playing KOF XI because of how many people picked Kula as their leader (did she really need an invincible DP, SNKP?)

Buy it here: I actually can’t find this for sale anywhere, and it doesn’t seem to be available on any digital music sites either.

This list is by no means exhaustive and there are probably a ton of tracks I missed, but here are the few that popped into my head most readily.

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Dante Must Cry

I’m sure everyone who follows gaming news is familiar by now with this atrocity:

Ebony and Ivory have never looked so 'meh'

Yes, Capcom has thrown in the towel and has handed over the reins of its next Devil May Cry game to the English studio Ninja Theory, complete with crappy new Dante design and what looks like Dante being tortured in Abu Ghraib. I know, I know, it’s all about the game mechanics, right? Except that I have no confidence that Ninja Theory will be able to make a game that lives up to the DMC name; heck, even a game that’s as good as the somewhat iffy DMC4.

To see what Ninja Theory was capable of, I played the demo for Ninja Theory’s upcoming game Enslaved (due out in about a week, I think), and while the game looks and plays ok, it in no way compares to DMC’s fast-paced action. It feels more like God of War with its simple two-button combat and half-hearted platforming, to be honest, which will please a lot of God of War fans but annoy the hell out of DMC fans who are used to being able to move around quicker, and to much faster-paced combat. From what it looks like it even features regenerating health, which no quality action game has ever done.

Maybe Capcom just saw Bayonetta and decided that they couldn’t compete, lol.

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The list of doom, August edition

Here’s last month’s edition.

Games that have been knocked off the list due to completion:

  • Devil May Cry 4 – Beat it on Devil Hunter, although honestly I don’t think I’m really done with it yet. I can’t say that I’ve really mastered any aspect of the game (except maybe Nero’s Devil Buster but it’s LOL EZ anyway).
  • NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams – I’ve gotten all my C ranks and unlocked the true ending to the game, so it’s leaving the list. I’ll still keep trying for A ranks and better scores from time to time, though (it’s a freaking score attack game – who wouldn’t). Maybe I’ll put some footage up here when I try it out.
  • Zack & Wiki – I’ve beaten the main story quest, but I haven’t found any of the hidden treasures yet. Still, that’s good enough for me for now.
  • Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition – Beat it shortly after my last list of doom post. I’ve fiddled around a bit with the other modes (the Ada side missions and the Mercenaries minigame) but I haven’t gone back to the game yet.

Games still being played:

  • Super Mario Galaxy – Would you believe I’m still stuck on that one Luigi purple coin mission?
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin – Really haven’t touched it at all.
  • Sonic Rush Adventure – That last Sol Emerald is a bitch.
  • Mass Effect – I’ve just finished up the Noveria story quests. It seems that there really aren’t that many main story quests which is a little alarming, but I’ll see what happens. I’ve started to get a good feel for my final opinion on the game, too…and it’s a little uneven.
  • Beyond Good & Evil – Still fun – I’m right after the part where Pey’j gets kidnapped (spoiler).

Games that were started and beaten over the course of the month:

  • Metal Gear Solid – Great boss fights, great sneaking areas, terrible gun controls, WALL OF PLOT is annoying.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance – Boss fights are somewhat less great, sneaking is much more fun, gun controls are better, WALL OF PLOT is still annoying.

New entries on the list:

  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence – Not too far in. I can’t say I’ve gotten the hang of CQC yet – for some reason every time I try to grab someone from behind I end up throwing them and setting off an alarm.
  • Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword – this is surprisingly good for a handheld conversion of Ninja Gaiden. There are some cutbacks (simplified combos, only one melee weapon and two ranged weapons) but otherwise it’s fast and furious just like the console versions.
  • Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune – my first PS3 game! Think Gears of War crossed with Resident Evil 4 with a minimal bit of Tomb Raider splashed in for good measure. Very polished and slick – nothing to complain about so far.
  • Bionic Commando: Rearmed – I never played the NES version, but even so this game is pretty cool. While the levels and bosses themselves are pretty well-designed, I particularly like the Portal-style Challenge Rooms.

And that’s it for August!

It just occurred to me that my Wii backlog is basically empty now (except for Galaxy). Any Wii game recommendations? Keep in mind that I’m a lonely bastard who plays games by himself all the time.

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The list of doom, July Edition

Here’s last month’s edition.

Games that have been knocked off the list due to completion:

  • Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition – well, Dante’s route on normal anyway. I’ve started a Vergil playthrough, but it’s more like something I can do if I’m in the mood. With this I can finally claim to have beaten a DMC game!

And that’s the only game I managed to beat last month.

  • Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition – Still on Mission 5-2.
  • Zack & Wiki – No progress here either.
  • Super Mario Galaxy – Took a few stabs at clearing that Luigi coin mission, and the closest I came was 80-something coins before my reflexes failed me.
  • NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams – I set my sights a little lower and decided to go for all C-ranks first so I could unlock the true ending to the game. Unfortunately this is easier said than done because some of the side missions are really fucking stupid.
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin – Gathering dust. For some reason I simply can’t bring myself to finish that particular mission.
  • Sonic Rush Adventure – Set a few more personal records in time attack, but otherwise nothing else. I’ve noticed that the physics in this game are quite broken (at least as far as Sonic games go).
  • Mass Effect – I’ve unlocked my character’s specialised class (went for Shock Trooper) and after spending ages on sidequests I’ve finally started on the main story quests again. Still pretty good so far – the universe is interesting, and conversations with the supporting characters tend to reveal some interesting nuances over time.
  • Beyond Good & Evil – Played a bit more. This feels like a Zelda game with most of the tedium/treating the player like he’s five years old stripped out. So far, having a lot of fun with it.

The only “new” entries on the list?

  • Diablo II: Lord of Destruction – Nostalgia got to me after the Diablo III announcement. I’m rebuilding my old Zeal/Fanaticism Paladin (boring build, I know, but it was the first D2 character I ever made). In addition I’m playing a summoning Necromancer for playing online with PenPen.
  • Devil May Cry 4 – So far it’s definitely easier than both Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 3, but still rather fun. The Devil Bringer isn’t quite as interesting to me as the instant rev and other frame-specific moves like Table Hopper and the instant Exceed, which are the main source of depth in Nero’s play style.

Stay tuned for next month’s update, when I reveal pretty much the same list with no changes whatsoever!

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Devil May Cry 4 is very, very pretty

Don’t believe me? Look at this:

So far the game is rather easy compared to DMC3, though. The first boss barely put up a fight (and I even skipped “Normal” mode to go straight to “Devil Hunter”). On top of that the style meter seems to fill a lot slower, too, or maybe it’s just my being used to DMC3’s combat system.

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*crosses one more off the backlog*

Finally beat Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition today. Great game overall, with a few things that could be improved (like the repeated boss fight issue I mentioned a while back). It’s off the backlog for now, but I’m definitely going to re-play it with Vergil and on harder difficulties when I get the chance. I stuck mainly to Swordmaster and Gunslinger, too, so I’d like to try out some of the other styles (and weapons) as well.

And at some point I’ll get off my ass and beat the original game as well. For some reason that final Nightmare fight kept kicking my ass.

And of course, I beat the game just in time for my copy of the PC version of Devil May Cry 4 to arrive tomorrow. Woo.

On an unrelated note, I was having some connectivity issues with my desktop last night when I got home from work. I could ping websites just fine, but all other outgoing requests were being blocked. I knew it wasn’t my modem or my router because my laptop (which runs Kubuntu) was able to connect without any problems.

I eventually found out that ZoneAlarm Firewall was blocking all outgoing packets. I shrugged, chalked it up to lousy developers and uninstalled it, restoring connectivity. Nod32 comes with a firewall too, after all.

And then today I read about this, and the fact that I had installed some Microsoft security updates right before leaving for work came to mind.

This line in particular made me laugh:

Mr Rogers said installing it and re-booting his machines fixed all the problems.

He said he could understand Microsoft being reticent with details about the patch given its sensitivity.

“But,” he added “it would seem reasonable for [Microsoft] to test their patch against what is probably the most popular software firewall.”

Of course it’s reasonable. Which is why they probably didn’t do it. :P

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I don’t know why game designers keep doing this

I’ve been putting time into Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition as part of my attempt to clear my backlog (so I can get some new games). I’m near the end of the game on Normal mode, and one thing has cropped up that has me a little confused. Namely, why the developer is making me re-fight old boss battles.

Mission 18 has you wander through a maze worthy of Escher, fighting bosses that you fought previously in the game. You don’t have to fight all of them (although you do get a blue orb fragment if you do). However all of these bosses aren’t any more challenging than the first time you fought them, and indeed don’t exhibit any new attack patterns or moves that you need to deal with.

It’s far from the only game that does this, though – the original Devil May Cry does this as well, in spite of already making you fight the Phantom, the Griffon and Nero Angelo multiple times each (although to be fair, they do have new attacks with every successive encounter). Okami does this too, making you fight all the major bosses before you can proceed to the endgame (and since your character has obviously gotten a lot stronger since you last fought them, they roll over and die pretty easily). And of course, one of the main complaints about Devil May Cry 4 is how it makes you backtrack as Dante to fight the same bosses again, and then has you fight them all again as Nero at the end of the game.

If anything this smacks of laziness in game development. It’s not a Capcom-exclusive thing, either – Dimps made you fight every single boss again at the end of Sonic Advance 2. Are game developers just too lazy to think of new ways to challenge the player near the end of the game?

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The list of doom, June Edition

Here’s the original list.

Games that have been knocked off the list due to completion:

  • Psychonauts – I didn’t get all the scavenger hunt items, etc, but I was level 50 by the time I hit the final boss, and he didn’t give me much trouble.
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – Excellent game, but that final boss was far less challenging than the platforming area that led up to him.

Updated progress for the remaining items:

  • Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition – No progress made. Haven’t touched my PS2 in a while, actually.
  • Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition – Mission 5-2. @#%@ Regenerators.
  • Zack & Wiki – No progress made. I don’t expect any will be made for a while, actually…
  • Super Mario Galaxy – No progress made. That Luigi purple coin mission is really hard if you just bumrush it without any planning (like I tend to do)
  • NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams – Finished the main story on both sides (not that it was hard, there being only 3 levels on each side and a common final level + boss fight). But I always try to play platformers to completion, so my next target is A-ranking everything. Yes, that includes that music mission in Memory Forest, a mission whose designer really needs to be shot.
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin – I, uh, played a few more turns of mission 13. Still haven’t beaten it.
  • Sonic Rush Adventure – I’ve been doing more time attack runs than Sol Emerald hunting, if you get my drift.

New entries on the list:

  • Mass Effect – Level 20, just picked up Liara T’Soni. I’m playing as a Soldier, and will be going for a Paragon rating, like the goody-two-shoes that I am.
  • Beyond Good & Evil – I actually haven’t gotten very far in this game because of a weird bug that causes my framerate to drop like a stone when I’m in the overworld. Just to remind you all, this is a 2003 game having problems running on a 2006 video card.
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An Interview with the Devil

In this case, the PC version of Devil May Cry 4. Capcom has bestowed upon us a demo and a benchmark test, so I took it upon myself to download them and give them a shot.

This isn’t Devil May Cry‘s first outing on the PC, although arguably the PC version of Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition is best left forgotten. So how does this new instalment fare on the PC? Actually, it’s looking a lot better than I had hoped.

My first excursion into the game was the benchmark tool, which does a real-time render test of one of the game’s areas. The first thing I noticed was that like Lost Planet, the range of resolutions the game supports is thankfully wide, with a healthy variety of 4:3, 16:9 and 16:10 aspect ratio resolutions available. MSAA is also supported, which is nice if you want to boost your framerate by running in a lower resolution yet dislike the jagged edges this causes.

I opted for 1280×800 with 2x MSAA, and managed to get a fairly smooth framerate in the demo level (for some context, I have a Core 2 Duo E6750 clocked at 2.66Ghz, 2GB of RAM and a 256MB nVidia GeForce 7900GS). The framerate never quite hit 60 fps, but it never really got choppy either, and was more than adequate, hovering in the 40-50 fps range. One oddity is that after you exit the in-game options screen, the game enters a prolonged loading phase for about 30 seconds. I have absolutely no clue what it’s loading – it does this even when you don’t change anything in the options. The strange part is that the actual level loading is really snappy (as one would expect, given that it’s not reading off a slow optical drive).

The demo itself features a time-limited run-through of one of the early levels, as well as a boss fight against Berial, the flame demon featured in the Xbox Live/PSN demo that was released earlier this year. I haven’t tried the boss fight yet, but I gave the other mode a shot.

Control-wise, the game wisely lets you use a gamepad. However, when it comes to configuring these controls, it opts to fall in line with other Japanese PC ports like Guilty Gear XX #Reload by having you map your gamepad controls to an intermediate mapping, which you can then customize from within the game. In GGXX‘ case it had you map your controls to PS2 buttons; in DMC4‘s case it’s the Xbox 360 controller. The additional layer of indirection is irritating and unnecessary, but I suppose that’s what you get when a company that normally deals in console games starts doing PC releases.

That said, there isn’t really anything wrong with the gamepad controls. I plugged in my PS2 pad using a USB adapter, and it controls just fine. There are keyboard controls too, but I was able to tolerate them for all of 5 seconds before giving up and going back to my pad. The mapping is something like WSAD for movement, I to attack, K to jump/dodge, J to shoot, L for Devil Bringer, Space for targeting mode, N for Devil Trigger, M for taunt, and the arrow keys to control the camera. You can give it a try if you have some irrational phobia for gamepads, or are a raging masochist, but count me out.

As for the game itself? It’s Devil May Cry. You should know what to expect. I don’t think commenting on the game mechanics from a demo is going to help anyone, although I will say that the Devil Bringer technique is pretty cool and satisfying to pull off. There’s nothing quite like grabbing your foe out of the air, slamming him on the ground and watching him explode into a shower of red orbs. At the same time timing seems to play a significant role in how effective your Devil Bringer attacks will be, which has me salivating at the juggle possibilities.

Configuration quirks notwithstanding, the PC port of Devil May Cry 4 looks to outdo the port of its predecessor by a significant margin. It’s probably not going to be the version of choice for most people, but for those who game primarily on their PCs and haven’t invested in either an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3 yet, it should be worth picking up.

On a side note, I hear that Capcom may be planning to release Resident Evil 5 on the PC as well. It goes without saying that this interests me a good deal (particularly if they actually add mouse aiming unlike the lousy PC port of Resident Evil 4). With that new Bionic Commando, Street Fighter 4 and now possibly Resident Evil 5 all heading to my platform of choice, it looks like Capcom is really trying to get my attention…

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The list of doom

Some of you know that I have a pretty sizeable gaming backlog. A lot of it is games that I want to play but haven’t gotten around to buying yet (Metal Gear Solid: The Essential Collection is currently #1 on that list), but there’s also a pretty big backlog of stuff that I own but I haven’t gotten around to finishing yet:

  • Psychonauts (I put some effort into beating it this past weekend, and finally reached the endgame…I had to skip a lot of optional stuff to do it though)
  • Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (I’m at about 60% completion)
  • Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition (level 15, right after beating Vergil for the second time)
  • Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition (mission 3-1…which is proving to be annoyingly long. Oh, and I have almost no ammo left)
  • Zack & Wiki (the last puzzle is so ridiculously hard)
  • Super Mario Galaxy (technically I’ve ‘beaten’ this game already, but I need to get one…last…star!)
  • NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams (2 levels in on each side)
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin (I’m on mission 13 of the campaign but for some reason I can’t bring myself to finish it)
  • Sonic Rush Adventure (Blaze’ last Sol Emerald is giving me trouble)

This is not a state of affairs that I’m particularly happy with, given that there are other high-profile releases coming up that I’d like to devote my time to…in particular Mass Effect drops at the end of the month, and the PC version of Devil May Cry 4 arrives next month.

So much gaming to do, so little time :(

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