Thursday, July 31, 2014

The King's Field - Demon/Dark Souls Connection

If you have played any of the "Souls" games (Demon Souls, Dark Souls), you know they are one of the cool surprises of the previous generation and one of the few gaming franchises that made the old school style of gaming new again with all its challenge and deep game play elements. Now, you know that these games are very good, but did you know that they are not a completely new thing? By "not new" I don't exactly mean that their style has been used before because that is pretty obvious. What I mean is that the "Souls" games are a spiritual sequel to a gaming franchise of the past in the same way that Bio Shock is a spiritual sequel to System Shock.

Kings Field Cover Box Art

That franchise from the past is called King's Field. It was one of those rare RPG games that appeared on the 32 and 128 bit eras and was one of those games that you used to find on game stores and asked yourself "what the hell is this about?" as you held the jewel case in your hands and saw that it was something different to what you were used to see at the time, a 3D first person RPG on a time where the Elder Scrolls saga was not as popular as it is now. The curious thing about this is that some of the creative minds behind the "Souls" franchise are also the ones that worked on King's Field back in the day and they managed to keep their "high difficulty - great reward" mindset even to this day. This series spawned 4 games, the first 3 of them releasing on the PS ONE and the fourth one on the PlayStation 2 with the name of King's Field: The Ancient City.

Kings Field Battle Mummies
One mistake and our hero ends up joining the mummy club.
As stated before, King's Field was a first person RPG that focused its game play on exploration and puzzle solving with a really steep learning curve and hardcore difficulty. The games had a back story, but most of the time you were alone, exploring various dungeons and towns with certain death just looking at you from around the corner and NPC characters that talked to you in cryptic ways. The King's Field games were really hard and building up your character was even harder at least through the first 10 levels or so, mostly because attacking was so slow that most of the enemies could pretty easily hit you more times that you could hit them unless you used magic or ranged weapons and that just made it a little easier. All these things made up for a game that was so challenging, that gamers were divided into those who loved it and those who hated it, without any middle ground at all.

Kings Field The Ancient City
King's Field: The Ancient City addressed some of the issues of the previous games.
All of these hardcore game play elements may seem may seem familiar to you and this is because King's Field was the predecessor to the "Souls" (Bloodborne in a near future) line of games. All of the elements are there from the very beginning: a dark story line developing on a desolated and twisted world, enemies that can instantly kill you if you stray too far, lots of secrets and treasures to find, cryptic NPC characters that you can kill and lose for the rest of the playthrough, lots of mini stories within the main story, a defensive style of battle (which is going to change to an offensive one in Bloodborne) and even the classic bonfires appear on both franchises although they are not that useful in King's Field. In fact the game atmospheres on these two franchises are so similar, that you could just take any of the "Souls" games, put it on a first person perspective and there you go, King's Field V.

King's Field - Dark Souls Bonfire
Two rpg game franchises united by bonfires.
Wrapping it up

There you go people, if you are a "Souls" fan, now you know the deep roots of the game you like so much. If you feel a little adventurous and you can't wait for Bloodborne to come out, you can give the King's Field games a try. Of course they are not as comfortable and good looking as the "Souls" series, but if you manage to get the hang of them, they can become very good experiences as their emphasis on exploration is something pretty rare nowadays that only survived on the "Souls" series.  

Kings Field Sword of Moonlight

Bonus stage!

If you like to make mods or would like to make your own hardcore first person RPG, you can try King's Field: Sword of the Moonlight, which is a design tool that lets you create your own stand alone King's Field style games while also including the complete remake of the first title in the franchise. This was only released in Japan, but there is an unofficial English patch you could use.

If you like to try it, you can get Sword of Moonlight HERE with all the tools you need including the English patch. This sparks my curiosity so I will try it too, maybe later on we can compare some of our Moonlight sword made games.

VG-24/7: From King's Field to Bloodborne
Sword of Moonlight Community

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

5 reasons why at this point, game remastered versions are alright.

After getting The Last of Us Remastered version today, I realized that even when many gamers bash the idea of an updated version of a game, for the first time in gaming history a second release for a game has become a good thing. Don't get me wrong, a half-baked rehash is still an awful thing to do, but when done right it turns from a "cheap cash in" to an opportunity for gamers and developers alike. Now in order to prove this point of view let's see the arguments that support it:

going too fast

1) The market has become too fast paced.

There used to be a time where a game that became a smash hit, lasted at least a year in the top along with a runner up that always followed close behind, but that thing doesn't happen that often anymore as gaming companies are always trying to keep on each other toes almost making it a race for the gaming community. Competition can get fierce and sometimes that becomes a flurry of games coming in a very tight time span. Take for example the next coming months from September to the holidays, there will be a lot of game releases on different platforms. This is not only a wallet slayer, but also a very time consuming thing as most of these games have online modes that require a lot of play time in order to fully enjoy them. When this happens, some of the games fall through the cracks and are not picked by all the potential buyers they should, (especially when it is a type of gamer that is always keeping up with novelty) so a remastered version of a game becomes a second chance to catch those that didn't bought the game when it was released for the first time and a chance for some gamers to get a little extra for their money as a reward for still having interest in the game even thought is is not new anymore.

Eat Sleep Play

2) Busier gamers get a break.

Gaming is for life, but let's face it. A lot of gamers right now are part of the working class, have a family and/or personal projects to attend to, so they don't have the same amount of time as they used to before getting these responsabilities. Sometimes when a wave of games come by, they can at most play 1 or 2 titles at a time so in this case a lot of new releases are just left hanging. Some of you may be thinking "So what? They just have to buy the games they missed at a later time", but it isn't that easy when we consider that new games keep coming all the time and these people gaming interests often get divided and conflicted (online oriented games vs single player experiences) when time is scarce. This is the reason why remastered games nowadays seem to be a very appealing option for gamers who have that kind of time limitation, especially when the remastered version includes past DLC and/or gameplay extras.

3) It breathes some life into a generation that had a slow start.

This time around, compared to previous console generations, we are seen a much slower pace in early game releases as too many third party companies are still clinging to the previous generation. This had kept the new consoles on some sort of gaming drought that has been hitting for almost a year, with most of the anticipated heavy hitters still on the 2015 list. On this case, remastered versions (done right) serve to inject some interest when they manage to give a clear contrast between the previous and current generations. That contrast is one of the things the begins knocking on people's heads like a drop of water on a rock, until it breaks it and get them to support the platform because they actually see a tangible difference. An example of the complete opposite is the Wii U launch fiasco, where people thought that the new machine was just another Wii and did not ran to the stores to get it as they did with the Wii itself.

Metro Redux

4) Keeps interest in the franchise.

We know that sequels on some famous franchises are almost a given, but these things take time. In order to keep the interest in the franchise going strong until that new game arrives, companies often use remastered versions and that is alright if they do it without the product been a cheap rehash of the same game and if the new version doesn't come a very long time after the original, like Zone of the Enders HD which was one that came too late to have any effect on a good franchise that was just lost in time due to several years of neglect. At this time, remastered versions of games that have been released in the last 2-3 years are good for their corresponding franchises as long as they make it count and don't try to low ball the gaming community or pretend that rehash from a 5+ year old game will sell the same as it did when it first came out. It is also worth pointing out that the success or failure of a game rehash SHOULD NOT be used as a barometer to measure the franchises worth (Konami, I'm looking at you).

Battle Programmer Shirase

5) Serves as exercise for game developers.

Right now, as many companies are still working with previous generation projects, it is a good thing for them to flex their developing muscle a little and warm up in the developing process of the new consoles. While they work with the new SDK (system development kit) tools that each console has to offer, they can get new ideas and test the implementation of various new things while working on a remastered version of their game. This makes it easier for them to explore their own concepts a bit and discover what new things can be implemented in the next game on the franchise. Of course, most of us don't see this happening as we don't have insider access to big game development studios, but in any developing environment (gaming and not) it is very common to make new ideas out of revisiting the old ones, spawning a lot of nice surprises and "aha" moments.

Last of Us Remastered

Wrapping it up

Based on how the videogame market is moving right now, remastered versions of games are not the dreaded money grubber scheme that they used to be. This is because we as a community have become smarter and by materializing our opinions with our wallets, we have forced companies into putting a little more effort into their game rehashes. It may be a temporary thing, but for now they seem to work and deserve a chance. Remember that if you support the franchise now, you are giving a clear message to publishers, saying that you will also support the new games that are to come in the future.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Destiny - Changing How Online Gameplay Feels Like

If there is one game title that many gamers around the world have roaming in their heads since a couple weeks ago or so, is Destiny. Bungie has just showed us the tip of the iceberg in terms of game content and the gaming community is loving it. I had been playing the beta for a while now and I must say that my overall impression is that the game is not only excellent, but very comfortable to play because the people at Bungie went out of their way to fix many annoyances that have been common in PVE (player vs environment) online games since the very first one was made. This game breaks away with the classic "robotic" gameplay style that had for a long time been a staple of playing online games and give us something different that favors exploration and having fun over routine and doing the same thing countless times.

Destiny Characters

One of the first things I noticed is that this game was not designed for "rushers" and that is a relief. The worlds in this game are so huge in size (for a first person shooter) that there is almost no room for those "picturesque" players that go through a mission as if they had rockets on their feet unless they want to miss 2/3 of the good stuff featured in the missions. Obviously you will always have the option of playing only with friends, but if they are not online at the moment and you enter with a group of strangers, there is still some degree of exploration going on even if they seem to be in a hurry. Is as if people are been suggested to go around and search for stuff, instead of just rushing through all the objectives.

Destiny Golden Chest

Another thing is the auto-generated looting. I find it very fun to enter a mission I already played and find some neat loot that I wasn't expecting to find. Nowadays this is very rare, even on MMORPG standards as loot has changed into various different systems that seem to award the items instead of them been something you have to search for. It is also good that at least through the beta phase, nobody have seemed to decipher the drop rates or treasure tiers and I hope this stays like that because otherwise the game world will have a lot of "play once then forget" places with a few heavily crowded ones.

Destiny Skills Gunslinger

On the other side, the skill progression in this game goes back to the "growth per use" style, meaning that you will get new skills and stuff by using those you already have. It is good to have such a dynamic system back because it has been sometime since any game developer wanted to use it. This was all based on fears that such a system could be exploited, but now Bungie brings it back and I am hopeful that they had devised someway to balance the game in order to prevent exploitation of such a nice growth system.

Destiny The Moon

I also enjoyed very much how exploring limitations while going on a mission are so thin that it they are almost invisible. The best example I can give is the session I had with a couple of buddies on the moon event mission last Saturday. At first we passed the mission as everybody would normally do, but then decided to give it another run so one of us could play though the whole mission as he arrived half way though our first run. This time we kind of got side tracked and ended going through some strange entrance that lead us to a very awesome looking place with lots of enemies and places to explore. It looked like sort of a descent to hell, because the way always seemed to be going down and down through narrow caves and some rooms that were were full of bones, chains, hooks and that kind of stuff. We kept at it and we were really enjoying ourselves, looking for hidden stuff and extra pathways to go through. In the end, we found a chest and in it was an emblem that looked like this:

Destiny Bunny Emblem

We even found some level 12 enemies that we managed to defeat, but found that way to be a dead end.On the last cave entrance we found, we got all the way to the Temple of Crota from a different side than we were supposed to which also lead to a dead end, but not before fighting some more waves of enemies that included ogres and wizards. After that, we got out of the place and finished the mission and finally realized that a short half an hour mission turned into a 2 hour exploration trip. For me, these kind of things are what makes Destiny to be such a great game with tons of potential.

Destiny Fire Team

Wrapping it up

A game design that doesn't favor "rushers", good looting that stimulates exploration, a growth per use skill system and an expansive world to explore with very limited boundaries. This was only the beta phase, but I already can imagine how interesting things will get when the final version is released on September 9. As you people read this entry, some of you may be going like "what's this guy talking about?" and if you are one of those, I suggest you play the game with a single player game mindset so you can see the great things that Destiny has to offer and how it changes the atmosphere that we are used to have on online games.

Friday, July 25, 2014

5 JRPG Franchises We May Never See on Consoles Again

Although it is a niche market, role playing videogames (rpg) have always captivated the minds of many gamers around the world. Be it, because of their epic stories, likable characters, secrets to unlock or a deep sense of strategy, this genre is one that may never die. Still, not everything is peachy as Japanese rpg games are still having problems getting into the home console market. This side of the genre has not experienced any type of console boom since the beginning of the previous generation when Microsoft got a lot of j-rpg exclusives for the Xbox 360. Nowadays big scale console j-rpg games can be counted with one hand mostly because most of the fan favorite franchises that rpg gamers would love to see in the current generation have been abandoned, changed completely or downsized to a handheld or casual mobile game. These are 5 of those sagas that we may never see again unless some kind of miracle happens.

Note: This list focuses on the games that are very unlikely to make it to a home console. I know that some handheld titles are superb, but the focus here will be big scale console experiences like Nino Kuni, Tales of Xillia or the Persona series. 

Final Fantasy IX Battle
Some will say that turn based battles are slow, but I think that the ATB system makes them fun.
1) Final Fantasy Games (Turn based - Classic Style)

Final Fantasy can basically be called the banner flag of the entire genre. The problem is that the franchise has changed in such a drastic way that many fans won't even recognize it as the saga they knew and loved. Evidence of this change came with the creation of Final Fantasy XIII. That was a time when the creators themselves admitted that they had been influenced by games like Call of Duty a, thing that is still daunting to many players out there. Another thing been that infamous moment in 2008 when the president of Square Enix gave a warning to all employees about the company focusing on mainstream experiences or "facing the consequences". All of this became a wave of change that basically washed off an entire saga away. Up to this day even though Square Enix has pledged to go back to their roots, it is very unlikely to see a full scale turn based FF game ever again on consoles as we did on previous generations.

Shadow Hearts
The Koudelka/Shadow Hearts franchise sort of gave a new face to the genre at the time.
2) Shadow Hearts

Shadow Hearts is an j-rpg series that started with Koudelka which was an horror styled rpg (PS1) then, the game got its name changed to Shadow Hearts and spawned 3 games (keeping the dark undertones that identified it) and making it a series. This is another one of those j-rpg franchises that died off with the PS2 and basically disappeared. Reasons why don't see it nowadays are that its main publisher Midway, went bankrupt and was bought by Warner Bros. Also to put a little more salt in the wound, Shadow Hearts developer, a company called Sacnoth (later known as Nautilus) doesn't exist anymore as it was dissolved by its owner Azure (a pachinko machine company).

Grandia 2
Grandia 2 was one of the games that helped the Dreamcast have the initial success it did.
3) Grandia

Grandia was one of those j-rpg games with great visuals, an intuitive and fun battle system and stylish game play. The first Grandia game was made in order to compete to the rpg giant Final Fantasy VII (appearing on both the Sega Saturn and the PS1) and later on, it became one of the most cherished franchises on the genre. The first two Grandia games are considered classics, but many fans believe that from that point on the series went into a downward spiral that killed the franchise popularity as gamers felt that Game Arts was stepping away from the original formula that made the game so popular. Another heavy blow was that the series original creator died in 2011 so the basic essence of the game may had died with him. Up until now there have been no announcements or even comments regarding the revival of this great series. It is important to mention that even though the first 2 Grandia games were the ones that people see as classics, the third one was not bad and it was just a casualty of the decrease in popularity that the series was suffering.

Breath of Fire IV
This was one of those with tightly packed towns where you had to play with the camera at all times.
4) Breath of Fire

Breath of Fire was Capcom's contender to the crown back in the j-rpg days, having its own best titles through the 16 to 32 bit eras. It had good anime styled graphics, an excellent story and well developed characters that made us feel like they had a very deep sense of purpose, all in an environment that had a kind of Celtic mystical mood. The series took a dive in Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter (which was praised in Japan, but shunned in America because it went too far from the original formula) and after that, gamers never heard of a new classic Breath of Fire game again. Capcom announced that they would be releasing Breath of Fire 6 in 2014, but the game looks nothing like the original and many fans fear that it will just be a casual mobile game with the Breath of Fire name on it. Right now, as half of Capcom is at sale, there is a slight possibility that an rpg-focused studio could get the rights to the game and make it right again, but it is still a very long shot.

Legend of the Dragoon Gameplay
A game that looked beautiful back in the days where pre-rendered backgrounds were still the rage.
5) Legend of the Dragoon

Legend of the Dragoon was one of the most acclaimed j-rpg games on the PS One. It had very advanced visuals for its time (exploiting the pre-rendered background trend), a long and interesting storyline and quality aspects that rivaled those of the Final Fantasy games of the time. The game was supposed to turn into a series and get a sequel, but for undisclosed reasons, Sony broke up the group and just cancelled the project in order to relocate resources. Now at our present day and after almost 15 years since it was first released, Sony hasn't shown any interest in reviving the franchise other than a PSN re-hash of the original game. Even Shuhei Yoshida has expressed that the game is one of his best memories in the time he has been working at Sony as he was part of the original team, but not even Yoshida seems to be able to bring this great j-rpg back from the grave.

Tales of Vesperia
My hat is of to Namco, because they have never given up on their Tales saga.
Wrapping it up:

Even though this list looks very pessimistic, I have to tell you people that this list was much larger. This article began with 10 j-rpg games that we may never see on consoles, but was later on reduced to 5 because half of them got at least mentioned or referenced meaning they could still come back, like Wild Arms for example. The j-rpg side of the genre is slowly gaining its strength back and it may be just a matter of time before we see it blooming again. Let's just make sure that we put our money where our mouths are and support the games when they come out.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

5 Fan Based Videogame Related Works Shot Down by Companies

If there is a definitive truth in the core of the gaming community it would sure be that there are some things that are definitely "bigger than the game". A great game is often defined by the number of units sold, but if we take the time to look a little further into the effect that a game can have on gamers, we see that there are other things that sometimes are even more valuable than spreadsheet with money signs on it. We are talking about things like loyalty to a franchise and the kind of appreciation that can basically last for a lifetime. These kinds of things while embedded in the mind of a talented fan can result in some impressive pieces of work that can delight the fans in the case of an abandoned franchises or just give us a little extra material that the game company is not willing to make. Sadly, very few of these works survive all the way to a release and today we are going to see some of those that were close, but were shot down before we could fully enjoy them.

Final Fantasy VII The Web Series
Square Enix went the way of Shinra on this one.

1) A Final Fantasy VII fan made web series.

This project began as an initiative in Kickstarter on July 22, 2013. It was supposed to be a 6 episode series based the popular JRPG and it had a goal of $400,000. The campaign for this project caused quite a stir when production photos began to appear on the net, mostly the ones showing Aeris working with her flowers on the church or her standing on an entrance where a "wanted" poster for the members of a "terrorist" group called Avalanche. The curious thing about this case is that the project producers even got the rights to use the game soundtrack, but the project got shot down anyway as Square Enix moved a team of evil black mages, I mean lawyers to make a cease and desist order that killed the project before it even had a chance. The people behind the project tried to plead that their work was entirely fan based and therefore was not to be seen as a threat, but Square Enix didn't back down and so the series ended lost in the lifestream.

Castlevania Prelude to War
You can say anything about the film quality, but at least this one was finished and fans liked it.

2) Castlevania: Prelude to War

It was 2004 when independent film maker Ben Isaac began promoting what for a short time was the first full feature Castlevania film. The quality of this 40 minute movie was not even close to Hollywood standards, but taking into account that high definition wasn't there yet and also that the project was made on a very small budget, we can say that the fan service that Isaac provided with Prelude to War was very good and loyal to the story of the game. The film's plot goes around Simon Belmont some time before the first game (NES) giving some background insights of the iconic character up to the point where the first Castlevania game starts. The film had decent costumes and some neat visual effects for the time like Simon Belmont using the classic flaming whip. This film was completed and even released on DVD for a while until Konami stepped up and stopped further distribution of the product, meaning that if you didn't get it back then when you had the chance, it is very unlikely to be able to find it now.

As an added fact, a real Hollywood style Castlevania movie has been "in the works" since 2005, directed by James Wan (Saw, Insidious: Chapter 2, The Conjuring) and written by Paul W.S Anderson (Event Horizon, Solaris, Resident Evil). The production of this movie has been quite long, going into several periods of silence with small announcements that had kept the film project barely noticeable and shrouded in mystery.  

Chrono Trigger Fan Based Games
Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes  and Chrono Resurrection

3) Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes / Chrono Resurrection

These are two of the saddest loses for any fan of the franchise since they were not movies, but full fledged games based on the famous JRPG that had its debut on the Super Nintendo in 1995. For Crimson Echoes, the game was supposed to become a sequel to the original with its game developers spending five years working on the project with the clever use of the graphics featured in the original game. By doing this they managed to create a new adventure with new places to explore and a completely fresh storyline featuring all the elements that gave the original one a legendary status in the gaming community.

In the case of Chrono Resurrection, a programmer called Nathan Lazur, began working on a 2D-3D rendered remake of the original game, filled with good stuff like new places and even different endings. The project at first was supposed to be released as a Nintendo 64 game, but later on became an interactive demo for Windows which once again began to capture the attention of the fans who wondered if the game was ever going to become the product they were waiting for.

Sadly, both games suffered the same fate as the other productions mentioned before. First, Square Enix struck down Chrono Resurrection in 2004 and later on stopped Crimson Echoes in 2009 when it was 98% complete. In both cases the game developers faced the risk of been sued with heavy fines so they had to kill their respective projects before they could be released.

Legend of Zelda The Hero of Time Movie
With all the hype that LOZ is causing, it would be awesome to have this film now.

4) The Hero of Time - A Legend of Zelda fan made movie: 

This isn't about that heartbreaking prank that IGN played to us on April fools day in 2008, much less the tons of LOZ videos you can find on YouTube. This is all about a full featured fan made Legend of Zelda movie that we are not going to see anymore. The movie was released in Atlanta by an independent film making studio called BMB FINISHED. The film was shown in a few theaters in 2009 and was shown online for a little while before Nintendo dropped the cease and desist hammer on them and the movie had to be pulled out and canned, which happened on Janurary 1, 2010 as the studio settled with Nintendo.

Many gamers and film enthusiasts alike still argue and see the movie as a fan made production that instead of "stealing" from Nintendo was in fact promoting the franchise with a good dose of fan service. Unfortunately for us, Nintendo didn't saw it that way.

Mortal Kombat HD
This remake just looked gorgeous, it is too bad that Warner Brothers just came and crashed the party.

5) Mortal Kombat HD

Mortal Kombat HD was going to be an enhanced version of the first game with improved HD graphics. This remake was going to become possible thanks to a team assembled by a Mortal Kombat fan known as Gabriel "Bleed" Melendez. The complete name of the game was going to be Mortal Kombat HD: Kommunity Edition and it would had featured everything the original game had, but 10 times better with a great improvement on visuals along with more fluid animations all made with the help of Melendez himself as he is a graphic artist. The project itself started in 2011 and the motivation behind it was to fill the empty space left by the promised, but cancelled official Mortal Kombat HD remakes which were going to be Mortal Kombat I, II and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3.

Not long after the remake began getting some attention, Warner Brothers stepped in and knocked down the project before it could be completed and up until now all that we have been getting are demonstration videos and pictures of what could had been. Up until know Melendez has permission to keep distributing any models, music, pictures or video that he makes, but he can never release a full game even if he plans to give for free.

Wrapping it up

There is still much debate about if big fan made productions are just stealing content from big companies or if the companies are just been too paranoid. There have been other fan made projects that were not shot down with copyright claims and we all saw how they helped the game franchise instead of hurting it. Take for example the MUGEN Project where fans began creating projects with many characters that are owned by Capcom. This would had seemed to be a sure cease and desist case, but Capcom did not stopped them because they acknowledged their actions as fan based work and not an attempt to steal from them. The same has been happening with the fan made Resident Evil 2 Remake that has been in development for some time now. Bottom line, if the companies will never do it then why prevent the fans from making possible an otherwise impossible thing?

Bonus Stage: 
If you people were curious about the dead projects mentioned in the list, here are some trailers just so you can see how these initiatives looked like:

Final Fantasy VII Web Series Trailer

Castlevania: Prelude to War (Trailer 2)

Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes (Early Trailer)

Chrono Resurrection Trailer

The Hero of Time Trailer

For gameplay footage of Mortal Kombat HD please click HERE, as the blogger system could not find the video as it did with the others.

Square Enix Shuts Down Final Fantasy VII Web Series
VGMuseum: Castlevania: Prelude to War Review
ComingSoon.Com - Castlevania Movie
Castlevania Wiki - Castlevania: The Movie
Square Enix Kills Near Complete Chrono Trigger Fan Project
Nintendo Shuts Down Fan Made Zelda Movie
The Hero of Time - Legend of Zelda Movie Site
Mortal Kombat HD on Mortal Kombat Online forums

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Anime Talk Weekly - Knights of Sidonia

Going once again into mecha styled anime series, today we will talk a little about Knights of Sidonia. This series was released on April and the first season went up to June with a total of 12 episodes. Right now the localized version of the series (by Polygon Pictures) is been shown exclusively on Netflix and available in all its territories and regions. Right now the people behind this series are working on a second season, but first, before it is ready for release let's see what this series is all about.

Knights Of Sidonia Garde
Gotta love the Garde design, it looks powerful, yet vulnerable at the same time.
Knights of Sidonia
Genre: Science Fiction
Themes: Aliens, Mecha, Military, Real Robots, Space Opera
Objectionable content: Intense

Knights Of Sidonia Pilot
Pilots look like they don't have it easy do they?
The Story

Knights of Sidonia is a sci-fi anime series in which the story goes around the whole human race having to leave the earth and live on giant spaceships made from the parts that were spared. The reason for leaving the planet was a terrible invasion by an alien species called Gauna. This alien species came with their gigantic size and shape shifting abilities and basically destroyed the planet, forcing mankind to escape to the stars.

Knights Of Sidonia GaunaThe Gauna are not only enormous in size and able to shape shift at will, but they also have an almost indestructible material protecting their core or "heart". This material is called the "Placenta" or "Ena" (which is basically a reference to the placenta in humans). Nobody knows why the Gauna decided to invade the earth, but what the humans do know if that the placenta is removed from the Gauna then the core can be damaged and that will kill the creature, so there is a fighting chance.

Most of the plot in this series happens in the biggest of all the giant space ships where humanity escaped into. This ship is called Sidonia and it is protected by mecha soldiers called "Gardes" which are powered by "Heiges Particles" and are made with a material strong enough to damage the Gauna's placenta and core. our main character is called Nagate Tanikase who is a young man who lives in the underground section of Sidonia. He wants to become one of the Gardes so he trains and trains on an old Garde Simulator (with the help of his grandfather) until he masters it and after his grandfather dies, he goes to the upper sections of Sidonia and succeeds in becoming a Garde, in order to defend humanity against the Gauna. After that it is all a matter of battles, intense moments and drama.

Knights Of Sidonia Garde Interior
A game based on this series would probably look like this.
The Mood

The mood in this series goes a little off the known atmosphere that mecha anime series are known to have. Knights of Sidonia goes more into the serious side of things. Reflecting on how humanity would react in such a scenario with all the social, political and survival issues that are apparently than what we live right now on the planet. Thie reflection comes with a good emphasis on the setting and humanity itself rather than focusing on the main characters only. The Garde thing is also treated quite seriously and even if it is not as flashy as other mecha anime series, it has its own charm sort of like the old Gundam series (before Wing).

Knights Of Sidonia Protagonists
As in any anime series (or anything like it) romance is never out of the equation.
Wrapping it up

Knights of Sidonia seems to be an anime series mostly made for people who have been watching anime for a long time. Don't get me wrong, newcomers can also be very entertained by it, but still the maturity shown in this series is a big hook for those who were looking for something a little more serious, sort of like the anime of old times. Either way, if you have a Netflix account or just like to watch anime online, you can't miss it.

Knights of Sidonia promo video (English)

Source: Anime News Network

Friday, July 18, 2014

Doom is back! An awesome mix of the old and new.

Doom old and new

It has been a very long time since we last had a Doom game. This was because the popular first person shooter franchise took a really long hiatus after they made it a trilogy. From a player's stand point, the first two Doom games were classics and the 3rd one kind of divided the community between the fans that loved it and the fans that hated it. Nevertheless, the big bad granddaddy of first person shooters is back as a reboot that was just called "Doom" and so far so good, as it looks like an exciting mix of the old and new. Based on the descriptions given by the ones who were lucky enough to be in this year's QuakeCon, this is what how the game appears to be:

Doom old school
The classic style game is back with a modern twist to it.
The old

In the visual department, it seems that this Doom title carries along a visual style that is very similar to its antecessors.  With its setting been in a research facility on Mars, it features all the post-apocalyptic settings, the concrete and metal walls surrounding everything and also the gory effects of the third game. The big "F" heavy looking guns are back, complementing the assortment of normal weapons. The speed of combat on this one went away from the survival horror style of Doom 3 and more into the classic feeling of the earlier titles, with several enemies coming at once and not much room for error. The game's fast paced action game play also has an emphasis on going swift and deadly so no duck and cover mechanics this time. All while also giving you the old school hazard of enemies that can teleport and surprise you very easily, just like the classic Doom many of us know.

Up until now, weapons seem to have taken the old school treatment as there is no reloading and no bullet limits on your clip. Finally to top it off, they decided Not to include regenerating health, so like in Wolfestein: The New Order, if you want to stay alive you will have to look for health and ammo items or die trying.

Doom 2014 cyberdemon
Yep, hes back.
The New

There is quite a few "new school" elements in this game so newcomers shouldn't feel cast out. For instance the game will run at a smooth 1080p/60fps on all platforms it will be released in. The game also features execution mechanics where you damage an enemy as you normally would, then kick the hell out of them and finish it off with a gruesome execution (take note that the same thing can happen to you if you are killed and the type of execution will vary depending on which type of enemy fragged you). You will get weapons with alternate firing modes, enemies that can use jet packs and attack from the air and of course the movement mechanics you have known from modern first person shooters for like sprinting, mantling and if you like to go a little on the arcade style, double jumping.

Doom 2014 logo

Wrapping it up

This new Doom reboot looks like it will be the best of the past with the best of the present. It is that sort of mix that many of us have been waiting for years and that is more than enough reason to be hyped about it. Remember that if you bought Wolfestein: The New Order, you already have a pass to the Doom beta phase, so stay alert. No details where given about when this beta phase would start, but it could happen at any time now and we are ready for it.

Doom trailer prior to the Quake Con 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fatal Frame 4 - The one that got away

Fatal Frame is often considered one of the best survival horror franchises of all time, mostly because it is one of the few that dared to stay true to its roots and not succumb to the practice of change for the sake of change. The first game began as a "based on true events" kind of thing that ended spawning its own story. The second one expanded the horror atmosphere with bigger places to explore and a deeper sense of horror and the third one had a story that connected the happenings of the first two games. After that, it was obvious to expect a fourth installment in the series and with the PS3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii already there, it was just a matter of how good it would be, either with advanced graphics (for the time) or with motion controls.

Two years after that generation was up and running, the game was made. it was Zero: Tsukihami No Kamen, Project Zero 4 in Europe or just Fatal Frame 4 (informal name in America). The game was developed by Tecmo LTD/Grasshopper Manufacture and Published by Nintendo and all seemed good and dandy except for the fact that the game never made it to our shores.

fatal frame 4
The art for this game was so hype inducing, but in the end we got nothing.
Why wasn't the game released in America?

There has never been a clear answer about the reasons why this game was only released on Japan and Europe. Most probably it was a weird business decision coming from Nintendo that even caused frustration on Tecmo because they did not expected "the big N" to do that. Curiously enough, the game became the best selling Fatal Frame in the franchise with 75,000 copies sold in Japan alone (I know this doesn't seem much, but for a genre that was starting to become niche, it is a good number).

fatal frame 4 characters

What was the story of the game about?

The story on this Fatal Frame title is about a group of five girls that were kidnapped by a apparent serial killer called Yu Haibara. The girls were taken hostage in an abandoned sanatorium located in Rougetsu Island, located south of Honshu and went through an unexplained ordeal, but were rescued by a clever detective who had been following Haibara for some time. Even though all of the girls survived, they all lost their memories and could not remember anything about the time in which they were held hostage, so they just continued their lives as if nothing ever happened.

Ten years later, 2 of the girls die in mysterious circumstances and the three remaining ones (which are 17 years old by now) decide to go back to the island not only because they were afraid of ending up like the other two, but to find the truth by recovering their lost memories of the events that transpired on that island ten years ago.

fatal frame 4 flashlight
Some would accuse this  "powerful flashlight" mechanic of making the game easier on purpose.

Is the game play identical to the other titles?

Yes and no. The original survival horror atmosphere is there, but some reviewers have stated that the development of the story and game lore was a little slower, taking the player a longer time to really understand what was really happening. As far as game mechanics go, it seems that the game developers did not used the wiimote at a horizontal position for the Camera Oscura, but used a wiimote + nunchuck combination that still had motion control, but was not even near to what some of us had expected. There is also the implementation of "waggle" controls for mundane things like turning a door knob or some other simple tasks.

One new thing on this game was that you could use a flash light that had the same powers the Camera Oscura had. It was weaker than the camera, but it gave the player a little more flexibility when fighting ghosts as you could use motion controls to point to the enemy without the need of a first person view. This was probably mostly use to fend the ghost off a little in order to gain some time to position yourself and finish them off with the camera.

fatal frame 4 ghost

Any real noticeable flaws on this game?

If the game were to be released today as it was back in 2008, it would had been heavily criticized because of frame rate issues and sluggish movement (compared to the previous games). Also the waggle controls would had been seen as unnecessary, but all the other good stuff was there.

fatal frame 4 exploring

Wrapping it up

Fatal Frame 4 is not the best of the franchise (even if it is the one that sold more copies). Based on how some reviewers describe it, it was an experimental attempt to take the franchise to the Wii that was not horrible, but it wasn't ground breaking either. In summary, it was a good game made for the fans of the series and an American version would had been quite appreciated if they had taken the risk and released it. Who knows, maybe with the current trend of releasing older games on current generation consoles we may still get the chance of comfortably playing the game at last.

Fatal Frame on Wii U pad
This is just a mock up pic I made just to show how awesome a Fatal Frame on Wii U could be.

Bonus Stage!

We did not had Fatal Frame 4, but it has been recently announced that there is a new Fatal Frame game in the works for the Wii U! Once again the chances of this game been awesome are there, as the Wii U Pad fits perfectly with the camera mechanics and if they once again hold their ground and keep loyal to the franchise roots (and release the game in America) it will be one survival horror gem for Wii U in a time where the console needs these types of games the most.

 A Japanese teaser video was released and the game looks beautiful, check it out.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

5 games with strange storylines.

Every now and then certain games that enjoyed a very healthy sense of creative freedom are released. By creative freedom it means that at least the writer and designer could implement their original ideas without any corporate constraints. The cool thing is that sometimes these games come with strange storylines that go a little far from the good guy wins scenario and delve more into a "What the hell?" kind of thing. Today we are going to see 5 of them in narrative style, putting you in the shoes of the main character(s) and doing a little storytelling just to give you a sense of what the story of the game is all about.

Note: Some of the stories can contain details that could act as spoilers.

Baroque Wii
This guy is the very beginning of a twisted tale.

1) Baroque (Rpg - Wii, PS2)

You awake in front of an enormous tower with a strange archangel looking at you. You look to the sky and it is all red and your surroundings look like some apocalyptic wasteland. You talk to the archangel and he tells you that the world (as we know it) has been completely destroyed and that it is your fault. Now to atone for your sins you must take a futuristic looking riffle, enter the tower and slay "the goddess". You go into the tower and find yourself fighting grotesque monsters and after going up a couple floors you find the goddess. Instead of the horrible monster you expected, you find out that she also looks holy. You then aim your riffle at her anyway as your lack of trust gets the better of you and shoot. After making sure the problem has been dealt with, you head to the exit only to find that you are at a balcony and there's another version of you all the way down. You mutter something to yourself and jump to your death.

You awake again and find yourself in the same situation you started, with the archangel giving you the riffle and telling you what to do. You also find that there is a small town full of strange beings not far from there where you can explore a little. Now after your visit to the strange town you must do the same thing over and over in the hopes of finding any clues that can help you solve the mystery, which means dying a lot while you figure out what things you really have to do in order to get to the truth.

Rule of Rose
They seem innocent enough, but believe me these kids are cruel.

2) Rule of Rose (Survival Horror - PS2)

You are a 19 year old girl who is led by a mysterious "lost" small boy to an abandoned mansion. There you find a corpse in the mansion's courtyard and get attacked by a group of crazy children. You try to fend them off, but they pour water on you and keep hitting you until you pass out. When you wake up you realize that you are in a big airship that is been controlled by some kind of cruel hidden society entirely composed of children. You are mistreated and basically seen as a servant as you get by the air ship looking for clues. You don't only see harm done to yourself, but also between the children themselves as they show the cruel side of childhood in their little "games". After sometime trying to figure things out something happens and the airship crashes.

Now you find yourself on an old orphanage and the children are as crazy as ever resorting to killing each other while putting you through some sort of tests to see if you are worthy of joining the club (even though you are older than all of them). Now you must search for a way to end this once and for all, before it becomes even worse of a bloodbath, but not before asking yourself if you are as evil as they are.

Pandoras Tower
You play the entire length of this game feeling sorry for the poor girl.

3) Pandora's Tower (Rpg -Wii)

You are a knight of some distant kingdom, attending a ceremony on a nation that is an enemy to yours. Suddenly the main singer of the ceremony turns into a monster and chaos ensues. You help her escape with the help of an old woman who has a giant pot on her back that stores a mysterious monster that can only express himself with unintelligible moans and noises. The singer girl is half a monster now and you want to help her. The old woman tells you to slay some monsters in some nearby towers and bring their meat. You do just that only to discover that in order for the girl to be cured of the curse that have befallen her, she must eat the meat (raw). It all looks simple until you discover that she is a vegetarian (because of her religion) and isn't supposed to eat meat, let alone raw monster meat that looks as if it was rotten, so there's a lot of suffering going on from the get go.

Now, you must keep going to the towers, looking for the biggest of monsters (called masters) in order to get their special meat and basically keep feeding it to the girl until the curse is lifted. Regardless of how many times the girl eats the monster's meat it always disgusts her and there is always the doubt about if that "cure" will work because they are just taking the old woman's word for granted. It is also worth noting that she must keep eating lesser monster meat throughout the day to keep the curse from coming back in full effect. All this while the other nation's army is looking for you both as you became fugitives from the moment that the incident happened. One curious thing to notice is that those "masters" are organic weapons, made of living things (possibly human too) so what the girl is eating is sort of a mix of different kinds of flesh all lumped into one.

A mind forever voyaging
Let's just hope that we never have to do something like the PRISM project in this game's story.

4) A Mind Forever Voyaging (Text based - PC)

On this one you are a computer program who basically represents the personification of the first sentient computer which is called PRISM, developed by the (USNA) or United States of North America. On this story, the country is in very bad shape, basically becoming sort of a cyberpunk dystopia on its beginnings. Now the PRISM computer (and you as "Perry" which is the fake human used to run everything) must be part of some country "revitalization" government research project where the computer runs simulations of many alternate versions of a fictional town called Rockvil in South Dakota and see which of all the possible scenarios would really help in the country's path to recovery. On each of them you must play your role and make decisions that will alter the course of each scenario in very profound ways going from scientific, social and political aspects. At various points where you begin to see results, you will have to go back to the real world and report to the lead scientist in the project which happens to be your creator.

Your mission is to find a suitable plan before the government decides to pull the plug on the project which means that PRISM will be turned off and you will die. You are also at risk because of various people who want to destroy the computer so the government doesn't find any solution and the country can remain on the same path.The clock is ticking for North America and you will have to live many different simulated lives before you can have any chance of success.

I have no mouth and I must scream game
The game is based on the sci-fi horror short story written by Harlan Ellison.

5) I Have No Mouth but I Must Scream (Adventure - PC)

On this one, an evil AI takes control and destroys the entire human civilization except for 5 persons (each with their own story and a defect, mistake or tragedy of the past that haunts them) and after keeping them alive and torturing them for over 100 years, it makes them play a twisted game that involves solving different scenarios and escaping the places it puts them into. As a last attempt to escape they must solve each "game" and prove to the AI that humans are better than machines because humans are able to learn from their mistakes and redeem themselves. The thing is that each place and scenario has been carefully made to cater into each of the person's flaws so it becomes as hard to solve as possible.

Now here is where you enter the scene as you control any of the chosen people. You can be Gorrister who is a sad a suicidal man that lives with the guilt of wrongfully committing his own wife to a mental institution just to get rid of her, Benny who was a bad military commander that slaughtered several of his troops because they did not met his expectations, Ellen who is a rape victim which was a promising engineer, but lost it all after the incident and haven't been strong enough to recover, even developing a phobia to the anything that is yellow colored (because that is the color of the clothes that the rapist was wearing), Nimdok who is an ex Nazi physician involved in horrible and cruel experiments and Ted who was a con artist that used his "skills" to take advantage of several women. In which order or how you solve each of the scenarios is up to you, with their lives on the balance.

Rorschach blot

Wrapping it up

Here you go folks, 5 games with stories that go right into the "what the hell" category that can be quite fascinating if you like that kind of thing. Many of these involve several metaphorical and even philosophical meanings as well as the psychological aspects of human thoughts/behavior. Some are more controversial than others, but they are always worth a look if you want to play something a little out of the ordinary.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cosplay goodness - Comic Fest Aguada Con

Today we are going to give a rest to video games and go for something different, It had been a long time since I last attended a comic convention. So I joined forces with one of my buddies from GamerXpression and went to the Comic Fest Aguada Con which happened in the town of Aguada on my country Puerto Rico, on July 13. First of all I have to congratulate the people who made this event a reality, because they outdid themselves as the event was a big success (to the point that even as we left, there where still people waiting in line to enter). It was all nice with all the mini stores, the comics, the music and surprises, but now, let's see some of the video game themed cosplays that got my attention.

Cosplay Fire Emblem Chrom
Chrom from Fire Emblem Awakening just hanging around one of the mini stores. Just as a side note, this Fire Emblem game was the one that saved the franchise when it was about to be canned.

Cosplay Cyrax
You remember when this Mortal Kombat character first came out? Yep it's Cyrax. It would have been cool to have seen a Sektor too and take a picture of both of them sort of like the versus screen before the beginning of a fight.

Cosplay Ice Climbers
The Ice Climbers were there too. First thing I thought when I saw them was to look around and see if there were other characters like Link, Princess Zelda and make a Super Smash Brothers fight scene picture.

Cosplay Mewtwo
This Mewtwo sure was a big deal. The level of detail on this one makes it one of the best Pokemon cosplays I have seen so far. It also brought up a lot of memories about the times when this pokemon was new.

Cosplay Cammy
It's Cammy from Street Fighter. She made her first appearance on the Street Fighter games on Super Street Fighter II, along with Dee Jay, Fei Long and T. Hawk.

Cosplay Baby Mario and Luigi
Baby Mario and Luigi. I wasn't expecting to see this one, but it was cool. Notice on how baby Luigi is looking at the camera. First thought that came to my head was Luigi's death stare.

Cosplay Zant Mask
The Zant Mask from Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. It was amazing to see how well they did the patterns on the clothing and the detail worked into the shoulder pads and the Zant mask itself.

Cosplay Majoras Mask Skull Kid
For all of you who are fans of the game and are still eagerly awaiting its rumored remake, here's the Skull Kid from Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.

Cosplay Mega Man
Just as we were leaving, this little guy got our attention with his Mega Man costume. His parents were so kind to let us take picture of him basically out of the blue, so here you go folks, the mini blue bomber.

Wrapping it up

The convention was good and the cosplays were awesome, so this has awakened a new found interest for the world of character representations in cosplay for me. Now I'll be up to date of the next conventions to come and who knows? Maybe I'll end up making my own costume in a near future.

These were just some of the pictures, but the rest of them can be found on The Gamertologist Zone Facebook Fan Page.