November 5, 2010

Review – Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage​

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 6:53 pm

Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage​
In many ways the Eighties were a simpler time, when a man could wander the post nuclear apocalyptic landscape secure in the knowledge that the good glowed with blue auras while the sinister shined red, and acupressure specific fist attacks created a reality where if someone screamed “WATTA!” after hitting you, well, you were probably already dead. At least that’s what Fist of the North Star taught me, my first taste coming via the anime that joined Akira and Fighting Seizure Robots in painting my earliest imaginings of what an incredibly cool place Japan must be.

While many years of studious effort to understand the culture that produced such offerings since then has yielded successful addictions, there are still many things about Japan I fail to understand.

Koei is one of those things, a company that I am aware makes videogames every year, but which I have never had much luck in grasping the sensibilities of. In many ways, Fist of the North Star strikes me as an attempt to rectify that situation, applying the Dynasty Warrior trope to a manga series rather than whatever a Dynasty Warriors game is typically about.

It all seems to revolve around the Japanese word “Musou,” which gets poorly translated here as something akin to “The Only One,” or “Without Equal.” My understanding of Koei’s use of the term is a series of games where waves upon waves of enemies come to kick your ass and in turn have their own kicked.

Given the subject matter of Fist of the North Star and Kenshiro’s lonely quest across the wasteland, this all seems like a workable arrangement. And the results are not entirely unsuccessful given the amount of fun I’ve gotten from the release, but there are limits and obligatory missteps, nagging bits of bad-habit design lingering from the past like phantoms in the code; stubborn, unbending, unchanging code.


October 25, 2010

Review – Quantum Theory

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 2:29 pm

Quantum Theory
Quantum Theory isn’t the worst game I’ve ever played.

If that line doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement toward the positive however, that’s probably because it’s not.

There’s an early sequence during the player’s rampage through an ominous tower filled with evolutionary chaos, where a cinematic break is required to introduce the largest example of greyish-blobbish indistinguishable enemy yet encountered. The creature materializes from a swirling cloud and kills several smaller enemies before kicking the player back into the game to suddenly deal with this escalation of battle, only to find 4-5 quick shots that would dispatch any normal enemy also enough to stop this beast dead in its tracks as well.

Much ado about nothing seemed to sum up the experience. Yet somewhere in that moment I found words to summarize my time with the game, the distinct feeling that the development team begrudgingly finished this title for release with the collective battlecry “MEH” heard ringing around the office.


September 7, 2010

Review – Metroid: Other M

Metroid: Other M
In 2004, the original NES release of Metroid joined several titles deemed classic enough to represent that period of gaming through revisits on the GameBoy Advanced, and yet that same year also saw a much more thorough revisit on the handheld with the release of Metroid: Zero Mission. Aside from several tweaks within the game, the release returned to the source of the series to establish cannon at ground zero, setting the tone and direction for all subsequent releases.

The most significant element of that release was the newly added Zero Mission, a mission that showed Samus Aran stripped of her armor and evading space pirates in the instantly iconic zero suit. It was the emergence of a more vulnerable, but still capable Samus, and a defining moment that opened the floodgates for a greater discussion of the role gender plays within the Metroid series, executed with clever subtlety.


February 18, 2010

Review – Fret Nice

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 9:19 pm

Fret Nice
Fret Nice’s invitation to play through familiar territory with a slightly skewed set of controls is as alluring as it is frustrating at first. Short on fancier words, I’ll suggest that there are plenty of moments in this writing about games experiment where I spend days puzzling over what to make of a title, and this is no exception.

The nagging sensation biting at my neck makes it hard to simply brush the game aside as a mediocre platformer with a hook. Even without the guitar, Fret Nice would be an interesting diversion from the everyday, though a little light on content. And so here we are, with me kinda liking the game, but entirely unsure of what to do with it – of course I realize the obvious answer is to be playing it.


February 3, 2010

The Evolution of Fret Nice

Filed under: Features — Tags: , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 2:24 pm

Fret Nice
Pieces Interactive’s Fret Nice arrives on the PlayStation Network tomorrow, with an XBLA date still to be announced. The guitar controlled platformer has had a long road toward a console release, during which time the game’s unique visual aesthetic has evolved quite a bit.

Remembering the game’s first appearance in 2007, I was hoping to find out more about how exactly this evolution took shape during the development process, and to my infinite delight Fret Nice’s Creator/Designer Mårten Brüggemann offered an extremely insightful and detailed response that follows the game from its origins through to the final release available tomorrow.

Catch it all in Mårten’s own words, after the break.


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