tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

Archive for the 'Gaming' Category

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


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


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


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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E3 2014 roundup

Basically what I think this year’s E3 sealed for me was the fact that I’m going to end up owning all three consoles again this generation. As it probably should be.

As it stands these are the main things that piqued my interest:

  • Scalebound
    No in-game footage shown but it’s being made by Platinum Games and it’s being directed by Hideki Kamiya. So yeah, I have to play this no matter what. Also dragons are cool.
  • Phantom Dust
    Never played the Xbox original but I heard good things about it. Might as well jump in with the remake!
  • Assassin’s Creed Unity
    I was really intrigued by both the single-player and the co-op they showed and the setting (18th-century Paris) is probably the most interesting one they’ve used since Assassin’s Creed II.
  • Far Cry 4
    Again, great setting, looks great and open-ended, and the villain seems to be a real basket case who should be fun to take down. Also co-op!
  • Bloodborne
    Hidetaka Miyazaki’s new game seems to eschew the medieval setting for something slightly more modern (as in the 19th century) but I will be playing it since I liked Dark Souls a lot.
  • Uncharted 4
    These games have always been good so yeah, more please!

There were other things too of course – The Division continues to look stunning, Battlefield Hardline looks like a way more fun take on cops vs robbers than Payday 2 and I’m kind of torn between The Crew and Forza Horizon 2 in terms of figuring out what my next racing game fix should be.

On a random note, I do think it’s hilarious that Platinum Games is now three for three in getting me to buy consoles that I don’t own. I bought an Xbox 360 to play Bayonetta (because the PS3 version was sketchy), I’m buying a Wii U to play Bayonetta 2 (and The Wonderful 101) and now I’m going to be buying an Xbox One to play Scalebound (there were other things I wanted to play on it, but this just pushed me over the edge).

As for Nintendo, well, I don’t think anyone will disagree when I say that this was probably the best thing shown in all of E3:

Masterfully remixed

I will say the new Zelda looks nice at least, and that the new Smash Bros seems to be coming along quite nicely. Devil’s Third being on Wii U is also a bit of a surprise but it’s a nice additional incentive to get one.

But yeah, I’ll probably end up owning all three consoles again. I don’t know when I’ll buy what (will probably get a Wii U soon, a PS4 once Guilty Gear Xrd drops and an Xbox One once…Forza Horizon 2 or that Halo collection drops, but that’s just an estimate right now).

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Not quite Mach 1

I had some trepidation when I heard the next Sonic game was going to be outsourced to a Western studio with some Naughty Dog alumni, complete with new character designs and a Knuckles who looked like he had been drinking nothing but protein shakes for the last ten years. But hey, it might not turn out so bad, right?

Well some in-game footage apparently leaked ahead of E3 and it really hasn’t inspired any confidence in me:

Oh god shut up already

The main three takeaways I had were:

  1. The last time we had an ‘in-depth’ (by which I mean incredibly shallow) combat system in a Sonic game it didn’t turn out so well.
  2. I thought one of the key takeaways from Sonic Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog was that the characters really need to keep quiet. That seems to have been tossed in the bin for this iteration and I don’t know that the quality of the banter on show here justifies that decision.
  3. The platforming/speed sections look…serviceable, I suppose. I’m not seeing anything amazing that would necessitate a purchase at this point (especially compared to the daytime stages in Unleashed or Generations as a whole), but it doesn’t look bad, at least.

Overall, unless they show something else that blows me away at E3 I’m probably still going to be in ‘wait and see’ mode. I’m not going to quibble about it not being 100% like the older 3D Sonics but it appears to be rather…vanilla.

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Unlockable difficulties need to die in a fire

I spent a good thirty minutes or so trying to think of a witty title for the piece I’m about to write, at which point a phrase I had used to describe my position on the subject to a friend popped into my head. “That’ll do,” I thought.

Enough foreplay – let’s get down to business.

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A (Fighting) Game of Thrones

Some, if not all of you are probably watching HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy magnum opus A Song of Ice and Fire (aka Game of Thrones). I, being the poser/purist that I am, have been reading the books instead, mainly so that I can read the original story and then complain about how the TV adaptation screwed everything up. I’m enjoying it so far, and I’m about 25% of the way through the last book that has been published (A Dance with Dragons).

And then, I came across this little image on DeviantART:


Which got me thinking about whether Game of Thrones would make good fodder for a fighting game or not.

(WARNING – There will be some minor spoilers for those who haven’t read the books, or for anyone who’s only been watching the HBO series. So be forewarned)

It goes without saying that combat figures heavily in the story, although it tends to be of the army vs. army variety rather than one-on-one. In addition, while there are a few characters who use signature weapons, there really aren’t anything in the way of ‘signature moves’ like you might expect in your average shounen manga. There are also plenty of characters who wouldn’t wield a weapon for any reason (like perhaps 90% of the female cast), so clearly some improvisation will be necessary.

That said, I do think of some characters that might work in a fighting game setting, although with how those characters might end up playing. Here are a few of my ideas so far:

  • Robb Stark – a straightforward character who uses ice-based attacks (I know he doesn’t use Ice, shut up) and can summon his direwolf Grey Wind to do some attacks for him.
  • Jon Snow – Seemingly cut from the same mould as Robb with a direwolf (Ghost) to match, but tilted a bit more to the defensive side of things. Might help to think of Robb and Jon as the Ryu and Ken of the game, maybe?
  • Brienne of Tarth – a close range character who relies heavily on speed and mixups due to her speed.
  • Hodor – One of the servants of House Stark who carries Bran Stark on his back and somehow manages to be the game’s only grappler. Bran can use his skinchanging ability to take control of Hodor for some of his attacks. (Seriously, I can’t think of anyone else who could fit as a grappler, and even Hodor uses a sword a bunch of times in the books)
  • Gregor Clegane – aka The Mountain. The game’s resident ‘big guy’ who relies on powerful normals and hard-hitting special attacks to dish out damage. His power is of course offset by his speed.
  • Tyrion Lannister – now before you start laughing, I don’t intend for Tyrion to be fighting on his own – cast your mind back to Chang and Choi in CvS2, or even Carl Clover in BlazBlue. The idea here is that Tyrion and his sellsword Bronn are playable as a unit, with each character being able to move independently through special button inputs.
  • Jaime Lannister – couldn’t go without him, obviously, although having him in the game post-hand removal might make for a more interesting play style. Alternatively (or additionally), put in Loras Tyrell so you can go nuts with the flower effects.
  • Melisandre – Fire. Lots of it. The game’s zoning character.
  • Thoros of Myr – More fire. Except this time on a sword. Since Thoros’ gimmick in the books is that he lights his sword on fire to strike fear into his enemies, he might work well as a character with a ‘powerup’ mode where his sword bursts into flames. He might even be able to call on the members of his Brotherhood without Banners like Anguy and Tom Sevenstrings for some of his moves.
  • Either Oberyn Martell or Areo Hotah – the former is seen using a spear in the books, the latter a poleaxe. Either would be well suited to the role of a ranged/poking character a la Billy Kane from Fatal Fury/KOF.

There are some wrinkles – for instance some characters are dead before they would normally have had the chance to meet some of the others on my above roster, and some factions aren’t really that well-represented (Pretty much no-one east of Westeros, for instance). But if anyone has any other ideas, do post them in the comments! Not that I’ll be able to do anything with them…but it might make for some interesting discussion.

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Pot, Kettle, etc

One of the big pieces of news coming out of GDC last week was this comment from Fez developer Phil Fish:

But when he asked what the panel thought of modern Japanese video games, Phil Fish (pictured) immediately replied “your games just suck” – a comment that sparked an audible reaction from the crowd, though some were cheering.

Others looked on awkwardly as the Japanese developer was then subjected to a string criticisms about game design flaws in his native country. The developer nevertheless thanked the panel for their response and returned to his seat.

As rude as that was to the man who asked the question, that’s not really what irritated me about that particular outburst. Let’s keep in mind that Phil Fish is a guy who’s somehow managed to spend five years working on a 2D platformer. Even if you take into account the fact that only two people are working on it, that seems like a really inordinate amount of time to have spent working on a relatively simple game.

Given, then, that he has yet to release anything, it seems incredibly hypocritical for Fish to turn around and relegate all modern Japanese games to the rubbish bin. Especially when such a relegation is thoroughly unjustified – in the last few years I’ve played BlazBlue, King of Fighters XIII, Trouble Witches Neo, Valkyria Chronicles, Yakuza 3, Vanquish, Bayonetta, Metal Slug XX and Hard Corps: Uprising – all high-quality games, and all made by Japanese developers. And there are even more titles worthy of attention that I haven’t gotten around to playing yet, like Demon’s Souls and its sequel Dark Souls, Deadly Premonition, Yakuza 4. not to mention countless arcade games.

My guess is that Fish thinks that the Japanese only make Zelda and Mario games, or something, or is completely ignorant of what they’ve actually been up to in the last few years. Either way, all he does is come off as an asshole and a colossal moron at the same time.

In other stupid-shit-developers-said-at-GDC-news, here’s an interview Jonathan Blow (the developer of Braid) did with Gamespot:

Ignoring for a second the ludicrousness of his statement that fun and challenge are mutually exclusive, Blow seems to be under the impression that all Japanese games are like Zelda, in that they handhold you every step of the way without letting you discover anything. Much like Fish, it seems Blow has yet to play any Japanese games not made by Nintendo. I wonder if he’ll ever get around to trying Bayonetta or Vanquish…my money’s on ‘No.’

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Send in the clones

There’s a bit of a stink being raised by some mobile/social developers about other developers cloning their games. Some are even going so far as to launch lawsuits against the accused. The first one I was aware of was NimbleBit accusing Zynga of ripping off their tower building game Tiny Tower, but other studios have since come out and made similar accusations against other developers.

I’ve been thinking a bit about this issue. The underlying assumption seems to be that cloning of games is bad…but this is something I can’t bring myself to agree with. For without cloning, we would never have gotten  all the quality fighting games that came out in the wake of Street Fighter II. Hell, Capcom fought and lost a lawsuit that established the legal basis for its original concept to be cloned by developers like Data East, SNK and others.

On top of that, cloning is pretty much how a concept is improved upon and refined. Capcom made Street Fighter II, and every fighting game that has come out since then (well, every good fighting game, anyway) has been a refinement and an improvement over the mechanics established in that first game. Not to mention that a lot of these games started out as pure clones, but as time passed the developers began to add mechanics and tweaks that added depth and differentiated them from the original (for instance Ryuuko no Ken’s power meter for doing special and super moves…heck, the entire concept of a super move, KOF’94’s 3-on-3 battles and so on).

If I do have a problem with this particular issue, it’s that the games being cloned…well, aren’t that good. I played Tiny Tower for a bit on my iPhone, and between the need to pay real money for things to get done in any reasonable time frame and the fact that the game itself had no real interesting goals, and felt like a poor ripoff of SimTower (a game I enjoyed a good deal when I was a kid), I didn’t really feel too bad about wiping it off my phone after a couple of days.

I guess you could argue that it’s about the principle of the matter, that big studios like Zynga shouldn’t be stealing concepts from smaller studios. The fact is, though, that this sort of thing has been going on for ages in the games industry and it’s not about to stop happening, so I suspect these studios would be better served by iterating on their own concept and making it better rather than crying foul at other people’s attempts to cash in.

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Comparison Theatre: Doing your Source Material Justice

My last comparison theatre entry (and indeed, my last blog entry) was quite some time ago, for which I apologise to the three people who read this blog. And now, to business.

One of my favourite things in the world is Hokuto no Ken, a shounen manga about a powerful martial artist using his skills to bring peace to a post-apocalyptic world. There have been several Hokuto no Ken video games, but the ones I’d like to bring into focus are the following two.


Yes, that would be Arc System Works’ Hokuto no Ken: Shinpan no Sousousei Kengou Retsuden for the Atomiswave and PS2 versus Koei Tecmo’s Hokuto Musou for the Xbox 360 and PS3. In my view, the stark contrast between these two games really drives home how developers need to think about the qualities inherent in the source material before adapting it into a video game. Specifically, the former is a great example of playing to the strengths of a theme, while the latter is an example of how to inherit all the weaknesses instead.

As I mentioned, Hokuto no Ken is about the travails of a powerful martial artist (called Kenshiro) in a post-apocalyptic world. Throughout his travels, Kenshiro meets several other powerful warriors of other martial arts styles, and comes to blows with several of them. These confrontations are often pretty epic and span several episodes, if not entire story arcs, culminating in a one-on-one face-off between Kenshiro and his rival. Along the way, of course, Kenshiro has to deal with his rivals’ various assortment of minions, mostly in a comically effortless manner, as demonstrated by almost every single Hokuto no Ken clip ever uploaded to Youtube.

Like this, pretty much

So how does this tie into game design? Arc System Works’ Hokuto no Ken game is based off the confrontations between Kenshiro and his rivals – a strictly 1-on-1 fighting game that has subsystems designed to match the various themes of the manga and anime as well (for instance, the Fatal K.O. moves). It is, in other words, based on what to Kenshiro must be his most challenging and epic confrontations ever, and it manages to bring that feeling across brilliantly, with fights between skilled players often resembling epic battles from the anime series. It is, therefore, based on the best parts of the source material.

Hokuto Musou, on the other hand, is a Musou game, which means you spend a large amount of time running around beating up nameless grunts. This wouldn’t be so bad, except that Koei Tecmo decided to follow the depiction of these grunts in the series, literally, and as a result they put up about as much resistance as the lore would have you believe, i.e. none. There are 1-on-1 boss fights, but being based on the same fighting engine as the rest of the game they’re hardly worth noting at all.  Hokuto Musou, then, takes something that’s mostly used for comic effect in the source material and tries to stretch it out into a full game, and the end result is rather terrible. Honestly, if you want to see what a Hokuto no Ken brawler should play like, go play God Hand. Actually, play God Hand anyway, because it’s an excellent game.

Moral of the story, then? If you’re adapting something into a game, think about what sort of mechanics would be appropriate to bring across the best parts of the source material.

And the other moral of the story is to spam Arc System Works with requests to make another Hokuto no Ken fighter. In HD, with the budget of BlazBlue, so we can have more moments like this one:


Making excuses

The ‘big’ release of last month was Duke Nukem Forever, a game that’s been about fourteen years in the making, mainly due to purported incompetence on the part of 3D Realms. At least year’s PAX, Gearbox officially announced they were taking over development after 3D Realms was shuttered and promised to finish the game. And that’s what finally launched last week.

And apparently, it’s terrible. But that’s not what I’m intent on talking about here – there are plenty of places you can go to find out about the problems with what Gearbox has just shat out (I recommend Rock Paper Shotgun’s take). No, my peeve has to do with how some people are reacting to the bad reviews – the same way a lot of people react to bad reviews of anything. One particular phrase.

“It’s good in its own right.”

Now what the hell is that supposed to mean?

To realise how silly that statement is, you have to think about what we mean when we say ‘good.’ There isn’t any universally accepted scale of ‘goodness’ – you can’t say that a cake is good because it’s a 500 on the goodness scale. On top of that coming up with a universal scale would also be very difficult because goodness is highly subjective. Therefore all judgments of quality are necessarily relative.

Given that, saying that something is ‘good in its own right’ is the same as claiming to be able to judge the quality of it without comparing it to anything else. Which is quite clearly nonsense. Even unqualified statements of quality have an implicit comparison embedded in them – for instance, when I say that the Duke Nukem Forever demo failed to convince me that the final product would be any good, I’m implicitly evaluating DNF’s mechanics against those from the best FPSes I’ve played, and realising that it falls short in several areas.

What I suspect that people who pull the above statement are trying to say instead is “I liked this game.” Which is reasonable – there’s no real accounting for taste. But to say that you like something is not the same as saying that it’s good. I mean, hell, I play games that aren’t quite as good as popular opinion would have you believe (for instance, Team Fortress 2). It’s entirely possible (and up to a point, acceptable) to say you like something while admitting that in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really hold up.

So please, by all means, go ahead and like Duke Nukem Forever, or KOF XII, or any number of games that were generally received poorly. But if you’re going to claim that they’re good by some arbitrary standard, then my inevitable follow-up question is going to be ‘compared to what?’

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And now, a public service announcement

Some of you are probably aware of the imminent launch of Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition for PC. You’re probably also aware that the PC version uses Games for Windows Live to facilitate its online features. However, what became clear yesterday that was hitherto unknown was the game’s form of DRM.

Essentially, if you’re not signed into an online GfWL profile, you lose access to all but fifteen characters on the roster and can no longer save progress in things like Challenge Mode. This is essentially Capcom doing its best Ubisoft impression, or would be if it weren’t for the fact that Ubisoft has in fact ditched its always-on DRM for its more recent PC releases like Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Needless to say, it’s completely asinine, especially considering that GfWL has offline profiles to deal with this kind of crap in the first place.

What this means is that people without Internet access (for instance, at a tournament venue with unreliable Internet access) won’t be able to use over half the characters in the game. This is just a massive deal-breaker all around, and judging by the comments on the post I linked above lots of others seem to agree. There are several legitimate use cases for needing to be offline while playing games – in fact Ars Technica covered one angle I hadn’t considered a while back with their article about deployed soldiers being unable to play their favourite games because of a constant connection requirement.

But whatever – I’m not here to pontificate about the evils of DRM, as there are plenty of places you can go to for that sort of thing. All I wanted to say is that if you were looking at buying the PC version of Arcade Edition, and this rubs you the wrong way, go leave a comment on that news post or send an email to Christian Svensson to let Capcom know how you feel about this issue.


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