Thursday, 7 April 2016

Senran Kagura: Estival Versus review - Bodacious bouncing boobies!

 Senran Kagura: Estival Versus is the latest in Marvelous' musou style brawler series by legendary boob lover Kenichiro Takaki and serves as the seventh game in the series as well as a sequel to Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus.
To say that I was excited for this game is a little bit of an understatement, I've no doubt Spooky probably got bored of me constantly gushing over how gorgeous the game looked in trailers and probably despaired at my single minded determination to get this game the moment it came out.
My love for this game comes not only from the deliciously soft looking characters (although that certainly does help) it is also stems from the personality of the developers and of the artist Yaegashi, whenever I read an interview or even look at the illustrations in my art book or in the game itself I can feel the passion these people put into their work, a rare thing to feel in a gaming landscape where most protagonists and game worlds seem to all look the same.
My favorite thing though has to be how unapologetic they are with the things they create, I get a real feeling from them that they design characters and create games that they themselves would love to play and they strive to pass that experience onto their worldwide audience with as few changes as possible.

The story of the game is fairly straightforward, the girls are beckoned by halos of light into another world where they are told they have to take part in a midsummer festival in order to lay to rest the souls of their deceased loved ones. It's a simple enough premise that sets the stage for conflict between the characters who are established as friends by the end of SV so the conflict between them never seems forced.
While the story premise is simple it's with the characters that Senran Kagura shines, each girl has their own huge and bombastic personality, each girl can easily stand on their own but when they come together they form one of the most charming casts you can imagine without really pushing over the edge into moeblob territory, at least in my opinion.
The story itself jumps back and forth between the four academies and the new faction that is introduced - the Mikaruga sisters, these characters are good but in my opinion they are definitely the weakest of the cast with Renka being the only one of the sisters I truly felt myself drawn to, although all their designs are solid and convey their personalities well whether it's Hanabi's cow eyed expressions or Renka's solid frame and determined gaze.
The canon that the game itself goes for seems to not take from any single route in SV instead choosing to take aspects from all four academy routes to form a single thread which I surprisingly quite like, it seems like a good compromise to make so as not to totally dismiss any one route from being 'pointless', the fact that the story opts for a more focused canon this time around by simply flitting between girls instead of going for different stories for each faction eliminates this problem going forward in the series in the most logical way possible.
If you feel like your favorite girl does not get enough time to shine then the Shinobi girls hearts missions make a return where they get their own focused story and as with SV they range from hilarious to adorable to everything in between and more often than not a mixture of the two.

The visual presentation of the game is gorgeous, the girls look better than ever on the PS4 and considering the range of costumes you can dress them in that's definitely a good thing as you'll be spending a lot of time staring at those beautiful character models in all their jiggly glory.
The game really makes good use of the PS4's power rendering both the beautiful character models and very colourful backgrounds smoothly even when there is intense action on screen, I have yet to experience any freezes or lags while playing even when I've been in the middle of an enemy swarm with particle effects and bomb explosions going off all around me.
The only issue I really have with with regards to the visuals is the fact that some pieces of equipment can clip through the character models which sometimes led to a girl having a scarf morph through their face on my play through but in the grand scheme of things this a very small niggle for a visually stunning game.

The visuals of a game mean very little if the sound design is off but fortunately Estival Versus does not disappoint in that regard, the background music for the various stages is upbeat and enjoyable and the girl's individual themes are fantastic and do wonders to convey the energy of the girl they were written for, my personal favorites are Homura and Ikaruga's themes which I bought as soon as I finished their Girls hearts routes.
The attack sounds in Estival Versus seem to be an improvement over Shinovi Versus and seem to convey more weight with their impact, especially with some of the slower characters such as Daidoji or Katsuragi.
At this point the voice acting in this series barely needs a mention as it is easily one of the strongest areas of the whole game, all the women involved in this game are immensely talented and they really own the characters they play, it's what makes me happy that the games come with original Japanese audio only as I don't believe that American voice actors could even hope to do these girls justice in a dub and I think that more companies need to consider having sub only releases and if not that at least having dual audio on games to avoid players needing to cringe themselves into oblivion.
The only voice I have issue with is the voice of Ayame the shopkeeper and that's only really because I tend to save up Zeni and buy a large number of items in a single go meaning I have to listen to the same line of dialogue repeated again and again by her which gets grating very quickly.

If you have played any musou game before you will be very familiar with the gameplay of Estival Versus as it is just musou with cute girls but this does not mean it is by any means boring and without any level of nuance.
There are several forms that your character can be in during the course of a battle, these are flash, yin and yang, flash refers to your characters default state where they are in their standard costume and are unable to use their secret arts, I tend to find this is the mode I spend most of the battle in.
Yin is the mode you're in when you trigger your shinobi transformation, in this state you fully heal any damage you received previously and you gain a small boost to all your stats as well as the bonus of being able to use ultimate ninja arts.
Yang is triggered when you activate 'frantic mode' by stripping your character down to their underwear yourself, in this mode the damage you deal is massively increased alongside your speed while your defense sharply drops and you get the added bonus of being able to chain together nearly endless combos and this increase in punch is translated to your ninja arts as well.
Each of these modes seems to have a particular advantage, for instance I tend to find that Yin works best for one on one showdowns against highly mobile and aggressive opponents as it grants you the defense you need to tank a couple of necessary hits while you get off your own combo and yang is best used when you have to face large groups of enemies as it means your combos can sweep up huge numbers of enemies and make short work of bosses who may wander into your path in exchange for exposing yourself to increased punishment.

Enemy types are not terribly varied with most of them making a return from SV with a few new additions such as large goat type enemies that morph into smaller enemies wielding hook swords when you deplete enough of their HP but other than this most of the enemies are fairly standard mobs.
Some levels of the game can get frustrating as you're swarmed by enemies that are in my opinion a little over powered, an example of this would be the wolf type enemies that were the bane of my existence in SV, they skate around your character in quite large numbers and sprint in to nick off little pieces of HP and potentially freeze your character in place allowing more enemies to swarm you and thus the cycle starts anew, turtle enemies also make a return and though they are not as defenseive as they were in the previous game their ranged attacks are powerful enough to send your character sprawling and inflict you with the burning status making any fight where you have these two enemies in tandem an exercise in frustration.
In comparison to SV it is also more difficult to strip enemies now, something I personally appreciate as rending an enemy completely nude now feels like an achievement as opposed to just a pedestrian event. The only exception to this are the creative finishers, special objects in the environment that if you finish an enemy near them will strip them of all their clothes and show you a special defeat animation which serves to spice the game up a little bit.
More variety has been woven into the combat thanks to the addition of wall attacks that allow you to strike back against enemies that have you pinned or they can be executed if you simply want to add some stylish flair to proceedings, these attacks work well in conjunction with aerial raves as if you launch an enemy towards the edge of a stage or if you yourself are launched to the edge of an area by an enemy it adds an extra dimension to the repertoire you can use to either finish the combo or launch a counter attack.

Level layouts seem a little strange, shinobi barriers block the way towards Festival platforms which you have to break in order to unlock the girls hearts missions and poses you can use in the dressing rooms, the use of magic walls seems bizarre as a method to encourage exploration to locate these items as it just seems like such an outdated concept, normally you can structure a level with much more natural seeming barriers to encourage exploration as opposed to just slapping a big purple barriers in the way. I understand that these barriers are meant to extend the time you are in each mission for but it still feels really out of place in a modern game.
Another gripe I have with the game play is the fact that some characters shinobi arts seem to have really bizarre hit boxes, for instance Mirai's level 2 shinobi art sees her surround herself with guns and charge forward hitting all enemies around her, on more than one occasion I used the move I would strike a boss character head on with the attack only to see them be pushed gently out of the way of the attack and take barely any damage as opposed to being swept up in the attack's momentum and taking the heavy damage one would expect.
I also have this issue with both the first and second levels of Kafuru's shinobi arts as I had enemies stood within range of these attacks who bizarrely took no damage, maybe I'm just unfortunate but I felt it worth mentioning.
Combat seems to flow a lot better in this installment as opposed to SV however one downside of this is it is sometimes difficult to tell when an enemy is using their own ninja art, in SV both you and your opponent would see a little cut scene indicating when a shinobi art was triggered, Estival however sometimes does not do this meaning it is very easy to approach an enemy you think is recoiling from an attack only to walk headlong into a high damage move yourself and sometimes I even triggered my own attack during one of my opponent's invulnerability frames given to them by their own move, it was frustrating to say the least.

Overall though the gameplay is satisfying, each character has enough differences that they stand on their own in comparison to the other characters, some feel heavier than others and pack more punch as a result or some are high speed sweep machines designed to dismantle groups without any problems... And then there is Daidoji who as usual is an absolute fucking beast able to annihilate anything laid out before her, safe to say I appreciate the option to use Daidoji in any mission I have previously completed just to see how little effort it takes her to take out the hordes of enemies.
The solid musou game play is supported by the fantastic variety of costumes and accessories that you can acquire with even more coming via DLC, this adds an extra dress-up element to the game which I spend far too much time having fun with.

In conclusion Estival Versus is a solid entry to the series with fun - if a little repetitive game play that has all the charm and humor you would expect from the series at this point, if this game is to be your first time with the series I would highly recommend it and I think you should get your hands on a copy as soon as possible.

Final rating: 8/10

TL;DR version - great, fun game - hurry up and buy 

Monday, 21 March 2016

Localisation - issues and gripes

Localisation has been something I have wanted to talk/rant about for quite some time now but haven't been able to get around to doing, and then Fire Emblem Fates happened...
Now it may be flogging a dead horse at this point to mention how bad the localisation of that game is what with the removal of entire mechanics and the forceful injection of meme culture but FE: Fates is one of the biggest examples in recent years of localisation gone wrong.

Dwyer/Dia x Joker/Jakob Paralogue - 3Out of all the images I saw for the translation this has to be the most irritating for me....

Now of course FE: Fates wasn't the first game to 'screw the pooch' so to speak but it does seem to have been the straw that broke the camel's back to the extent it spawned a new hashtag in the form of #TorrentialDownpour where fans voiced their outrage and disappointment about the game (I will reserve judgement until I pick up and play the game but what I've seen so far does not fill me with hope), these events got me thinking about my own thoughts on localisation and so I thought I'd share them.

My general belief when it comes to localisation is the same as my opinion on CGI in movies, it works best when it's not noticed at all so it must add to the flow of the game and changes must only come in to bridge cultural differences that might break the game and immersion otherwise.
Now following the above guidelines it seems as though generally a straight translation would usually be the best way to go for most developers, there aren't many examples I can think of where changing cultural references add anything or enrich the experience in general (I'm looking at you Pokemon with your doughnut rice balls and sub sandwiches!).

A game I usually hold as a great example of localisation would be Persona 4 (I can't judge 1 and 2 as I haven't gotten around to playing them yet) in this game the characters seem to be demonstrated well enough and still hold their nuances whether it is Kanji's dubious sexual orientation or Naoto's conflict with her feminine nature.
However this game is not without fault, a personal gripe of mine was regarding some of the exam questions, maybe I'm an uncultured swine but my knowledge of Meji era haiku poetry isn't quite up to the level the games expected of me, nor is my knowledge of traditional Japanese housing in the third century. This was an example where I thought maybe changing the questions to encompass English literature would help the flow of the game as on these questions I did have to refer to the internet to get the correct answer, again this is a small gripe on my part as I didn't like to check online to make sure I got the best answers to help me raise my social links.
I was also a huge fan of Drakengard but after looking into it I was surprised at some of the changes they made, mostly in the relationship between Caim and Furiae where they removed a reference to incestual feelings that Furiae held for her brother, they also removed references to Leonard's paedophilic nature and Arioch's child killing.
These changes I could almost understand if it wasn't for the inclusion of one mission in particular in the game, I have very vivid memories of a mission in the forest area of the game where you have to fight wave after wave of Imperial child soldiers while every other character chastises Caim for taking too much glee in the slaughter of the young, the only character who takes equal joy in the slaughter is Arioch the mad elf.
I find this edit in the localisation to be especially strange due to the west's tolerance of darker themes in recent years with GoT and other similar media even dating back to the PS2 days with the likes of God of War where the visceral and brutal nature of it earned the game praise.
The changes made to Drakengard while not immediately noticeable did stack up overtime and even as young as I was playing Drakengard I noticed that many of the characters seemingly had to backstories and the suicide of Furiae made no sense in the context of the localised game as she is given no motivation for ending her life or for the disgust that Caim apparently feels for her, without the arc about her romantic feelings for Caim that scene and even her entire arc loses meaning, in my opinion she fell for Caim as he was the only relaible male figure in her life. Furiae was locked away from the world because of her role as goddess and so the only men she had contact with were the old Verderlet, the well meaning but relatively weak Inuart and Caim, the man who would always defend her and do whatever it took to crush the enemies that would harm her.
With the mention of her feelings removed her only conflict is struggling with the fatigue brought on by bearing the weight of the seals and she loses a lot of her depth as a character, this is an example of very poor localisation holding back the potential of a great game in my opinion.

While I was looking up cases of botched localisation one of the biggest issues I found was with companies botching spelling and grammar when it came to subtitles and dialogue boxes, this is certainly a huge issue as people who are being paid to deliver a product certainly shouldn't make such rudimentary mistakes, whether it is the awful translation in SAO: Hollow Fragment or the numerous spelling and grammar mistakes in the original Final Fantasy 7 it breaks immersion and gives the impression that the localisation team didn't give a shit about what they were doing.
In the vein of these errors also comes something that bugged me in the Dragon Quest games I have played and that is the obnoxiously awful accents they decided to give some of the characters, now I know they were aiming on keeping the mood light in keeping with the game's more colourful and charming aesthetic granted to it by Akira Toriyama's artwork but I still found I had to play with the voices either lowered or muted altogether as it got grating way too quickly, adding in a regional accent doesn't really make all that much difference to the character and if it is done poorly it can even make them an intensely unlikable character.

All in all I believe that if society is ever to take video games seriously we can't harm the integrity of a creator's original vision by removing whatever we believe might be 'problematic' or even seeking to simplify characters as you think the character's true nature wouldn't be well received, companies that handle localisation also need to realise that memes do not offer a good substitute for genuine humor and character quirks, until they learn this and until they are able to release a game with as few or no changes to content video games will not be taken seriously as an art form.

Some hope has been given to me what with Capcom's recent mention of avoiding memes altogether in localisation of their games, however with this said they are far from perfect as seen with their recent issues with censorship regarding R Mika in Street Fighter V but hopefully this means that more companies will wake up and see that gamers in the west don't want their games to be butchered in the way they have been for a while now or maybe companies will simply look at how well FE: Fates has sold and figure they can deal with the outrage as long as the sales figures are good, only time will tell I'm afraid.

Thanks for reading you magnificent bastards!

(If you like what you've read of me follow me on Twitter @rydennin as my ego could always use a good rub)



Wednesday, 15 April 2015

#BoobsNotBlood the bizzare state of censorship

I recently watched a video by the one and only GaijinGoombah on the subject of Senran Kagura's ban and then re-acceptance on twitch due to its 'sexual content' and it got me thinking about the state of censorship in the gaming world today.
Before I get into the crux of the rant I'm going to show you two images and I would like you to think about which one makes you more uncomfortable, ready?


Now take a good hard look at both of those and think about it, personally neither make me uncomfortable (spoiler alert: they're just pixels) but if I had to pick one that I think would be worse to show to a kid, I'd have to go with the top picture. This is where I seem to differ from many people I know, many of them are fine with letting their children play or watch horrifically violent TV shows or games but get outraged the moment a sideboob is shown or a risque joke is uttered, this attitude really perplexes me, it really makes me wonder when human sexuality became more dangerous than ultra violence.

                                           Short of death by suffocation, boobs can't hurt you

I grew up with two much older brothers (about 7 years older to be precise) so I was exposed to sexual imagery very early and new about the mechanics of sex before we covered sexual education in school, and I have not grown into a misogynist or a rapist. An exposure to women whether naked or clad in wonderful form fitting clothes (see image above for reference) is not as harmful as the Helen Lovejoys of the world would have you believe.
I have always been a fan of fan service and Japanese games can usually deliver that to me in spades which is a small part as to why I love them so much, the method of story telling and the unique cultural influences are another part admittedly, but I do love some fan service.

To try and frame the differences between the two cultures I would like to talk about a personal favorite game of mine - No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise, now this version was released with all the bloody effects they would not put into the Wii release for the game as well as the inclusion of 'Very Sweet Mode' which placed some of the female cast into slightly more racy costumes.
A few people I spoke to and some reviews I read praised the inclusion of all the blood but stated the inclusion of 'Very Sweet  Mode' made them uncomfortable and said it ruined their experience of the game, keep in mind 'Very Sweet Mode' was entirely optional, the only reason to play it was if you wanted to see the costumes or if you wanted the trophy. So I hardly think something that is entirely optional should affect your overall experience as much as it did with some reviewers.
                                                 A few of the costumes shown in 'Very Sweet Mode'

A similar controversy came about 'Killer Is Dead' and it's 'Gigolo Mode' which from what I can see what slammed as 'creepy' or 'weird' across the board (I personally found it quite funny and the cutscenes were  equally entertaining) and while this mode was more important to the game (you obtain the four subweapons from the dates with the women) it wasn't really prevalent enough to warrant the level of complaints it generated. I replayed the dates mostly just to earn easy items, I remember reading one set of complaints where they said the dates were 'problematic' as you give a girl gifts and ogle them until you get them into bed. Suda himself indicating that inspiration for the game came from Ian Fleming's James Bond, a man who merely has to smile at women in order to get them into bed. Couple that with the over exaggerated gifting gesture and you get the sense that maybe these sections weren't meant to be taken seriously (shock horror!).
                                                                     A gift for you                                                                    

Finally we reach an observation that myself as well as a large number of people over on the Niche gamer forums have made, sexuality only seems to be condemned when it is in a Japanese video game.
God of war which features sex minigames is never really called out for this content and is streamed with no issue on twitch as it GTA5 despite the fact some people do streams exclusively about the strip clubs, I also have to point out games like 'The Darkness II' where you spend some time in a brothel, not to mention Dragon Age and Mass Effect which all feature sex scenes.
Some of the outrage seems to come down to not just a fear of sexuality but specifically Japanese sexuality which the media seems to paint as deviant or dangerous, and while I can understand certain areas being confusing to someone not familiar with the ins and outs of Japanese culture on the whole it is a sadly very ignorant view of a country rich in a culture that greatly admires beauty of any form, and for a group who claim to be progressive these SJW's who are so appalled by Japanese games come across as awfully racist and entitled with their attitude of 'this is bad, stop making it!' 

Well that's my rant done for today, have fun you magnificent bastards!

TL;DR version - Boobies good, racism bad 

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Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Toukiden Kiwami - Ornery Oni Orgy

So Toukiden is a Monster Hunter style game set in a fictional alternate timeline of Japan where Oni have warped the fabric of space time and are stealing people's souls to strengthen their monstrous army, in short Oni appear and the shit hits the fan.
You take on the role of a new Slayer who arrives in the village only to be thrown straight into the fray when Oni attack the village, it's then that you find out your Slayer has the power to communicate with the souls of dead warriors and harness them in the form of 'Mitama' which can be used to compliment your abilities.
So far so straightforward, the character creation menu is fairly simple but effective, I created quite the beautiful young woman fairly quickly (I sometimes lack the patience for all the sliders and numbers associated with crafting a face in other games) and because I'm a total weeb I went for the sword as my weapon.
If the story outline above seems simple that's because it is, it feels like the story is straight out of a shonen anime and this is by no means a bad thing, the characters themselves are all fairly standard for the genre, you have the stoic young woman who trains hard to protect those she loves, the laid back womanizer, the battle-mad muscleman seeking revenge, the girl who is not quite what she seems and the stoic mysterious man with a softer side to name just a few.
Normally I don't like the use of such obvious character types but they work in the context of this game, as there are not too many cut scenes to push development between characters it pays to have easily identifiable character personalities as nuance can easily be lost in a game lacking in exposition, so the simple traits these characters possess actually help you identify with them a little more easily.

                                                                                     Best girl by far                                                                                          

Now in your quest to save the world from the threat the Oni pose you embark on a number of replayable missions with varying objectives such as 'kill x number of x oni', 'secure x number of areas' or to hunt a specific Oni, so in short most the missions come down to the same thing with slight variations but the missions generally don't last long enough to become too tedious. The only time I found myself getting bored with the game was during one side quest where I had to slay 20 of an Oni where only one or two of them appeared at a time in a specific area which led to me having to replay the same mission over and over again, however that is one of the only time I have really felt like I had to grind.
You generally take materials you gain from slaying Oni and use them to craft new weapons and armour and I found I can usually make a whole new set of  armour from slaying one or two giant Oni.
The armour sets themselves all look good, in fact the game on the whole looks great on the PS4 and plays relatively smoothly.
When it comes to the material gathering you get help in the form of an adorable little creature called a tenko that you can feed and send out into mission areas to fetch materials for you, if you happen to be in the same area you can even meet your tenko and it can save you in combat (this has yet to happen to me thankfully), this is a real time saver in the game as it means you don't have to constantly revisit areas for resources you can work on progressing through the story while the tenko does the legwork you need for materials. Another thing I personally love about the tenko is the fact you can change their fur colour and their voice through the use of special treats, it's a small thing but I can't help but smile when I see my pink tinted tenko greet me when I return to the village.
                                                                                                                                    I want one, I want one right now                                                                            

Now the fighting is one of the most important aspects of the game and all I have to say about it is... Eh it's not awful, you have three buttons dedicated to attacks, square is a light attack, triangle is heavy and circle is a special attack unique to each weapon, the sword for example has a gouge attack which inflicts cumulative wounds that do heavy damage when you either press circle again or run out of 'focus' (this game's version of stamina).
You also have the 'destroyer' and 'united destroyer' which are triggered with the triangle and circle buttons which are attacks that kill lesser Oni immediately and sever limbs off of larger Oni (a pastime I am far too fond of), you also have an ability called 'the eye of truth' which allows you to see hidden items in the world and also perceive the the health of Oni and the status of the larger Oni's limbs.
The biggest game changer though is what mitama you take into combat, each mitama gives you different abilities that can be accessed using R1 and they have a variety of effects, my personal favorites are the ones that focus either on healing or the severing of limbs as they can really make the battles against large Oni fairly easy and straightforward.
You can also give mitama to your tenko and use them to grant effects when you bathe at the pool of purity, the pool seems to mainly be used to help build up relationships between characters and yield you special effects similar to the prayers you can make at the shrine in the mission hub.
You can also gain special effects from mitama if you have a weapon with more than one mitama slot, combine the right ones together (usually ones with a historical relationship as they are all based on historical or mythological Japanese figures) and you will gain a special link effect to further strengthen your character.

                                                   Nobunyaga is my personal favorite mitama

Missions against small Oni are no real problem, you can handle them solo with no problem, it's when the game starts throwing the large Oni at you that you need your team and considering this game is all about working as a team with the AI (as I do not play well with others) obviously you would hope the AI would work well, and for the most part I think it does. With the exception of the character of Ibuki (who seemed compelled to run face first into an Oni's claw) the party members are able to look after themselves and provide good support without me really needing to issue orders which is a nice change from having to micromanage the entire fight.
 Battles with large Oni revolve around you dismembering and then purifying their body parts to gain rare materials and also dismembering to weaken the Oni's attacking and defensive capabilities, sever the limbs to cause huge damage and then go in for the kill, it's a very satisfying feeling seeing one of the huge Oni fall and it actually feels like an achievement.

                                                 The 'Manhunter' the first large Oni you fight

Now we reach a bit more of a personal ramble, I have never played Monster Hunter before but this game has convinced me to pick it up for the Wii U at some point, I found the gameplay while simple highly addictive and it is good to play just to kill some time as the missions barely take any time.
The main thing I love though is the richness of the lore regarding the mitama, I spend a while just reading the historical outlines of each one and giving the ones I personally don't like to my tenko as punishment (I'm looking at you Taira No Kiyomori) the village itself is also beautiful and though simple I feel a need to look after the people there. I suppose it's one of the reasons I love Japanese games so much, while Toukiden has a story with the same level as peril as many Western RPGs it does not seem to take itself as seriously and never feels over angsty or edgy, the game world feels like a group of people trying to get by and make it day by day by focusing on the good and not the bad.
All in all I find Toukiden to be a very charming game that is able to keep my attention for a surprising amount of time despite its flaws, if you haven't picked it up already I would highly recommend some Oni slaying action.  

Until next time, happy hunting you magnificent bastards 

Rating:  8/10

TL;DR version: Would r8 m8

(Please note that Toukiden Kiwami was bought through my own means, no shilling here)

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Saturday, 28 March 2015

What #Gamergate means to me

I probably should have done this sooner but whenever I tried to write it down before I couldn't find the words, so I just decided 'fuck it let's see how it goes'.

I've been aware of the movement since day one, I was first introduced to it through IA's Quinnspiracy videos and the movement as a whole really helped me see how fucked up the media's view of gamers is. I've seen myself and people like myself get demonised as psychopaths and rapists one moment and then be told I'm a loser lacking the social skills to leave my home the next. I suppose part of me always assumed people didn't necessarily take that view seriously, how wrong I turned out to be and seeing the opposition put forward to a group that is about better ethical standards in journalism demonstrates how little people care about gamers, I suppose everyone needs their whipping boy.

I suppose my joining twitter and wanting to get more involved in GG is the culmination of not just the many months the movement has been around, but years of feeling pissed off at people saying video games don't matter in one breath and then blaming them for society's ills in the next.
As a multibillion pound industry I suppose I believe that games deserve better, gamers deserve better and that's why I was so happy to find sites like Niche Gamer that's run by people who seem to really love video games, it's sad to say that it seems to be a rarity to find a reviewer who actually enjoys games.

Now as I said back in my introductory post I have no sad back story of how games helped me through a dark time, my life up to this point has been relatively happy (aside from the usual dramas and frustrations), however before being exposed to the wide variety of people and views in GG I did always carry a certain amount of shame for liking certain games and franchises.
This mostly stems from when I first picked up DOA2 many years ago, I was talking about it with my friends when they all started looking at me as though I'd just dropped trow in front of them and waved my dick in their faces, they started asking me why I picked up that game that pervs played.
Now I'll be honest the designs in DOA appeal to me massively but the way fighting flows and feels in it is a much bigger source of joy for me. From that point on I was always slightly conscious of what games I picked and played, and felt like I was strange for liking games with fan service, thankfully that part of my life is behind me and I embrace my perverted impulses fully which has allowed me to play some games which I would now rank amongst my top 10.

I also have to say that seeing just how full of shit the industry is has helped me get the courage to start writing, yet another thing to thank the good people of GG for, I'm shocked at how friendly everyone has been on twitter so far and I have to thank everyone for making me feel welcome.

I suppose what I want to see is not only diversity in the industry in terms of people (not forced diversity via quotas or any of that bs) but also of ideas and types of games, I've grown tired of seeing grey and brown FPS games as well as generic RPGs with cookie cutter plots, I think that gaming has great potential as an artistic medium but it can't forget it's roots. It needs to be fun.

Well thanks for reading this, and best of luck in everything you glorious bastards. 

Friday, 27 March 2015

Bloodborne, worth the hype?

Let me just say I have been excited for this game since the announcement, and I did something I never thought I'd do with it, I pre-ordered the Nightmare edition. So was did it live up to my expectations? Well read on and I'll let you know, I'll also avoid posting any spoilers (boss names don't count do they?) I have found in the name of not being a dick.

First of all I have to say I didn't really pay any money for this game, I traded in a crap ton of games for in-store credit and used that to pay for the whole thing so my bank account is still happy and I'm very happy.
When I unboxed this thing and saw the concept art book, the ink and quill set as well as the bell (quite a pretty little trinket it is too) I beamed from ear to ear, the messenger skin is irrelevant to me and I'll explain why soon enough.

 So first of all after I had finished downloading the update file (which thankfully didn't take the 3 hours my PS4 initially told me) and booted up the game I noticed it wouldn't let me play in online mode. Now I've accepted that not having  PS+ membership stops me from playing PvP and to be honest I don't really care about it, but I didn't realise it would prevent me from using the messenger function as well, so that gave me a bad taste in my mouth but I suppose PSN becoming like XBL is a rant for another day.

The character creation seems standard for a Souls game only you can now create a character that doesn't look too much like a potato, and instead of choosing a class you choose a background which I liked considerably more than the usual warrior, thief, mage setup as it made my character feel a little more concrete to me.
After making my character (I opted for the troubled childhood route myself) I jumped straight into the game, and I have to say it looks bloody good, DS2 had no real tension or mood to the environments, they were all pretty boring in my opinion but Bloodborne actually impressed me with its Gothic look.
You start out in a clinic where you were having your blood transfused, the clinic itself is abandoned and it was here I noticed something else I liked, the sound of the footsteps are amazing, now I know it sounds mundane but I'm a bit of an audiophile and when I noticed how good the footsteps sounded on the wood I got far more excited than I should have.
The music is also excellent really lending itself to the moody feel of the game, the enemy voices are also of note with them cursing you as they die and screaming in horror at your approach, it almost made me feel like I was walking through a village from a classic horror novel, so I have to say the atmosphere is perfect so far.

This game was advertised to me as the spiritual successor of Demons Souls and I have to say that's an accurate description, everything from the opening of the game to the feel of the combat and the healing feels far more like Demons than Dark souls, which is perfect in my books.
 Now the combat was something I was skeptical of as you don't have shields anymore, I'm not afraid to admit that through most of DKS and DKS2 I spent a lot of time turtleing behind a shield waiting for an opportune moment to attack and usually getting slaughtered because I got my guard broken.
Bloodborne's combat is a lot faster in terms of pace and it pits your character against much larger numbers of enemies so the battles seem governed more by reflexes and flexibility as opposed to tanking your way through until your enemies are too tired to hit back, if I had to pick a game that the battle system reminded me of it would be something like a cross between Ninja Gaiden and Demons souls.
The battles are faced paced and unforgiving, more than once I allowed myself to get flanked and killed by some of the mobs, however once I figured out how to use alternate form of the Trick cane (what can I say I'm a Victorian gentleman at heart) the mobs stopped being so threatening as I was able to mow down entire groups with relatively little effort and some careful timing. The dodge function also works into the fighting incredibly well, in previous FromSoft games rolling and dodging felt very awkward and clunky (in fact combat in general felt like I was trying to attack an enemy in a pool full of treacle), the feeling of dodging and weaving amongst mobs of enemies while counterattacking with the cane and pistol is undeniably satisfying.
 A visual addition I like in the combat is the fact your clothes slowly get drenched in blood as you fight and by the time I got near the Cleric beast even my pistol was bloodstained, it's a small visual nuance but one that I find really ties in with the theme, it also gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to see my character coated in the blood of his enemies but hey that might just be me.

Now in general you won't die from lack of healing items from what I've noticed as healing items are dropped by most enemies (the basic mobs tend to drop one or two when you kill them) so generally you'll die because you got too pressured to heal or just generally because you fucked up... Although that isn't entirely true, on more than one occasion I have been killed because the camera decided to go full retard on a piece of scenery (the Cleric beast fight did this to me) but it seems to be a rare occurrence and to my experience collision detection seems better here than in previous FromSoft games (I have yet to be killed by invisible range on anything),
While I'm on the subject of dying (which I have done my fair share of so far) the only major gripe I have is with the loading screen, I might just be an impatient bastard but I found the loading time a little ridiculous all things considered.

Bloodborne seems to also relish the element of surprise as the only two bosses I have fought so far were not preceded by a fog gate, only when I tried to turn and bolt as fast as my legs could take me did I realise what a dire situation I was in, and I love it especially with Father Gascoigne as a sheer moment of panic ran through me once the boss fight started and he rushed me (I still need to get around to beating him...).

In conclusion friends and fellow hunters was Bloodborne worth the hype? Well from what I can tell so far, yes it was. I haven't finished (I got it this morning around 9:30am GMT and only played it for about 4 hours) so I can't make any judgements on the late game  and as I pointed out earlier I'm currently unable to experience PvP or even Co op play (No way in hell I can afford PS+ at the moment) but the single player experience has been everything I hoped it would be so far, it's more than making up for the disappointment of DKS 2, once I have finished the game I'll post up my final thoughts.

Until then happy hunting you glorious bastards.

(Please note that Bloodborne: Nightmare edition was purchased through my own means, no shilling here)   

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Senran Kagura Bon Appetit!

 I have been more than a little slow in getting around to playing this, bear with me as this is the first Senran Kagura game I've ever played (and it has convinced me to play the others in fact), I bought this on a whim off of the PS store the other day and was surprised when I got around to playing it.

I initially thought that the game would be one that I dropped fairly quickly once the appeal of the fan service wore off similar to my experience with Monster Monpiece, I quickly found myself addicted to this game though.


                                                             Best girl in my humble opinion

I was fully prepared for a rhythm game experience akin to Project Diva, oh how wrong I was! 
While arguably far simpler than Project Diva as it does not have anything akin to technical zones or chance times it offers it's own challenges, least of all are the two hit bars at the bottom of the screen with alternating notes. While this is a relatively basic mechanic it actually threw me through a loop on more than one occasion and I pride myself on my skill at rhythm games.  

Another thing I loved was this game's story mode, each girl has their own unique and oftentimes funny story, Haruka and Homura's stories are my personal favorites out of all the girls. The stories themselves consist of a short exposition piece at the start which explains their reasons for entering the cook off followed by a series of battles, some of which have a cut scene proceeding them and then an epilogue at the end followed by a closing cg. All in all a very simple affair but highly entertaining and the game itself is incredibly fun.  
Playing this game also makes me very hungry

 Now onto the meat of the game, the battles themselves, as mentioned above the battles take place with two beat bars which alternate combos of button presses while sometimes asking for you to hold or mash the buttons displayed, while this is going on you see the girls cooking at the top of the screen.
With each successive hit in your combo you build up power which you can unleash as a 'ninja art' which boosts your score and stacks as you hit more notes, however this effect ends if you slip up once which led to many frustrated shouts as I lost streaks of 10+ as one of my thumbs just grazed a button instead of hitting it directly.

                                                         Second best girl with ninja arts active

The battles are divided up into three parts which consist of two smaller meals separated by judgements and then a final 'super dish' with a final judgement, with each victory in the earlier rounds leading to some of your opponent's clothing being torn off.
In the final round a heart will appear if you won both previous rounds which will lead to a closeup of your opponent in her underwear, and will also lead to her being stripped completely naked at the battle's end, on top of that you will also view a special scene where they will be placed onto a dessert once you have cleared the results screen.

The game itself is deceptively challenging, I had real difficulty clearing arcade on normal mode once I reached the final battle against Daidoji, it is really unforgiving of you making a mistake, a few missed notes can lead to the bar plummeting to your detriment very quickly, this for me is a huge tick in the plus column as I love a game to challenge me.

                                          I sometimes wake up at night screaming remembering this woman
If you're not feeling up for actually playing the game you can play around in the dressing room putting your favorite kunoichi into any of the many cute outfits you've earned and once you've cleared their story mode you can view their 'special' scenes. The game also makes use of the Vita's touch pad allowing you to move the girl's breasts and slap their bottoms to elicit a number of different reactions from the girls ranging from embarrassment to sounds of arousal, while this may cause a certain demographic to get offended and up in arms, I found it to be a nice little extra.
You can also check out the gallery of images and music you have gathered, the music itself is from the various stages in the game, only a few of which have vocals to them, these tracks seem to be reserved for the major characters of the game and not for the subordinates, however all the tracks are catchy and very 'boppable'.

Now we reach the point where I tell you my gripes with the game, which are few in number to be sure but still frustrating none the less.
By far my largest issue is with the fact that about half of the playable characters are locked out unless you buy the DLC or already have the DLC for Shinovi versus so that fact left me with a very bad taste in my mouth, especially as I couldn't play as Daidoji, the woman who caused me so much suffering in the arcade mode.
My other far smaller gripe is with the judgement scenes themselves, watching them the first time is quite funny and I enjoy it enormously, however repeat viewings can be tedious as they are quite drawn out. This however is averted as they do give you the option of skipping these scenes by pressing circle.

                                                                   Living the dream

All in all Senran Kagura Bon Appetit is a thoroughly enjoyable game and I found it to be a nice introduction to the characters and world of Senran Kagura, it's game play is solid, the character designs and personalities are distinctive, the story is fun, essentially if you don't own this game already I would recommend you give it a try.

I give it 7/10, not the best game in the world but good if you have some spare time and cash.

TL;DR version - Would r8    

(Please note that this is an impartial review of a copy of Senran Kagura Bon Appetit bought with my own funds, no shilling here. All images sourced from the Googles)