Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii, E)
I've never known Kirby games for their challenge, but at least you could die in Kirby's Dream Land. Here, getting hit by an enemy merely causes you to drop some beads which you have ample opportunity to pick right back up, and falling down a pit just means permanently losing some beads. If you have no beads, nothing happens. But let's say there actually was some penalty for getting hit or falling down a pit - the game would still be incredibly easy. Levels range from child's play to totally fucking boring, and it barely feels like a Kirby game, anyway. It's more like Paper Yoshi's Story, which I have a feeling is what the design team was making until they realized their error and shoehorned in those boss fights with King Dedede and Metaknight at the end.
Halo 3 (360, M)
I jumped right into this after Halo 2 in an attempt to get some closure, Bungie. It's more of the same Halo fare so just read those quickies, except with a plot that's even more disjointed and all over the place than ever. For example, I'm pretty sure Master Chief, in his haste to get the recording from Cortana back to base, forgot to blow up that ship to eradicate the Flood that made it to Earth. Some confusion stems from the fact this game doesn't have subtitles and I couldn't understand what, for example, was going on in the meeting with the humans and the Elites about "glassing planets", or what Gravemind said before some Flood help you infiltrate the Citadel. Also, remember the Scarab from Halo 2? That giant death mech from hell that had an entire level dedicted to watching it invincibly stomp around a city until you finally managed to get into and destroy it, and only appeared again at the end of the game as a tool to bust down a door? Well, here you're infiltrating and blowing up one or two every other level. Just doesn't have the sting, you know?
After a lame excuse for a final boss I beat on my second try and only because I accidentally sidestepped off the bridge the first time, what happens? That's right, another bloody Warthog escape! Except the Arbiter is riding with you as the gunner, so I guess that makes it different from Halo 1? While you're not driving down narrow, crap-filled halls this time, you are driving on these uneven fields of floating platforms that fall out along the way. At least twice I went uphill only to find there was a hole in the hill's apex that I couldn't see because the camera was too low, which I then fell through and died because the Warthog steers like ass. One time I slammed into a wall and part of the Warthog clipped through so I couldn't proceed, and eventually the thing blew up. I also recall driving over a Flood and having the vehicle jump into the air and roll over, but that *might* have been some other point in the game.
And finally, did Bungie get a lot of hate mail over the Hunters or something? They're total pussies in this game.
Like how La-Mulana mimics an MSX game, VVVVVV (which I understand is spoken as one "V" with the other five being silent) imitates a Commodore 64. It's an okay game imaginative enough to keep you interested for a couple hours, but the controls are just too loose. I died almost 600 times during my 2-hour play, and a lot of those deaths came from sliding off a platform and into some spikes, or into a wall of spikes, or jumping too soon to avoid those other two happening and landing in some spikes anyway. This quickly went from "hurr hurr I died" amusing to obnoxious. The soundtrack is catchy while you're playing, but I couldn't remember one song when I was done.
Samorost 2 (PC)
I'm guessing this is supposed to be one of those "it's not a game, it's an experience" things. Sure, the graphics are nice and the trip is far and away more interesting than, say, Limbo... at least for the first 2/3 of it and mind you, this game is only an hour long. But I could barely tell what I could interact with at times, and when I got to that guy in the screenshot the whole thing fell apart, and growing a plant by having the dog piss on it and the farting manatees didn't help.
Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (DS, E)
I really liked Superstar Saga and enjoyed Partners in Time, probably more than I should have, but I thought this one was a real slog. Okay, the battles are as engaging as ever although I have to ask, what the hell is Luigi doing in his idle animation? But every time, just as I was starting to think I might be enjoying the game, I'd have to play one of those tedious minigames to power Bowser up. At best they're pointless rhythm games, and at worst they're bloody irritating, especially one at the very end of the game where you have to pluck a string on the touch screen to try to move Bowser in that direction on the top screen to crash him into an enemy who in turn is trying to crash into Bowser, like the game thinks humans have eyes like a chameleon or something. And those giant Bowser battles where you have to hold the DS like a book are also terrible, especially if you're in the 75% of the population that's right-handed. Actually, just about any time the touch screen gets involved this game breaks down into a torturefest. Finally - and I assure you I am not making this up - at one point the game actually tells you to put the DS down and go do something else for a couple minutes and wait for an alarm to go off.
And if you're wondering why I have a picture of the Blitties instead of an actual screenshot, it's because they're far and away the best thing about this game and because I can, buddy, so screw you.
Kirby Super Star Ultra (DS, E)
The base game is still there and fully working except for the smaller screen and thus a smaller field of vision, it's just the stuff they added that wrecks this port. There's some really forgettable graphic changes like turning the background of the Dynablade fight red and an extra frame or two of animation on Marx, and the cutscenes are all replaced with blurry pre-rendered movies with Playstation quality models, but that's not what I'm here to complain about.
The DS version adds four new games, but they're all pointless rehashes of the originals. Two of them are just altered versions of The Arena. Revenge of the King is a sort of Hard mode for Spring Breeze, but it's still pretty easy. Meta Knightmare is a colossal waste of time. You play through five of the six original games as Metaknight, which causes unintended hilarity when you go through Metaknight's Revenge and no explanation is ever given as to why Metaknight is blowing up his own damn ship. The gimmick is that when you defeat enemies a meter fills up, and at any time you can spend some power from it to do four things. The most useful are to fully recharge your and your helper's life meters, or to knock off anywhere from 3/4 to all of a boss's health meter, and believe it or not, those two do no use up the whole meter. Metaknight's Revenge ends after you destroy the reactor, and there's no treasure hunting in Great Cave Offensive, and while I'm not saying I wanted to do it all over again, that was kinda the whole point of that game and it only draws attention to how you can go through it in eight minutes if you were to ignore the treasure. Then at the end of Milky Way Wishes, instead of the inside of Nova and Marx you fight Angel Wing Metaknight (Oh, you wish I was kidding). I beat it in just under and hour, and never died once during the whole thing.
Stick with the SNES version.
Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii, E)
I appreciate that it's harder than a lot of Nintendo's recent mascot platformers *cough*EpicYarn*cough* but it's not for the reasons I would have liked. I was having the same problem with this game as New Super Mario Bros., where the camera would zoom out so far that all the action would would become a jumbled mess. This particularly sucked in the Cliff levels where everything was brown, so it was especially hard to pick out the little brown gorilla and the little brown barrels from all the other brown crap. And what would normally happen is I'd totally breeze through the standard platforming levels then burn about twenty lives on a gimmick level, usually those horrible barrel rocket levels but some of the mine cart rides and the second to last level with the rising lava shaft also made me want to kill someone. As with the previous DKC games you can gain extra height by jumping as you land on an enemy, but Returns is incredibly picky about when you press the Jump button. Most of the time this will just screw you out of a KONG letter, but it's required to finish that lava shaft level. Wanna guess how many times I died because it didn't respond? A lot.
At least the final boss is a decent fight, although it was a bit of a crapshoot as to whether or not I could dodge his clap attack.
Rocket Knight (PC, E)
The Rocket Knight Adventure games have a reputation of being played by few, but overrated by those who have. Actually, I don't know if that applies to this one since it only has a 63 on Metacritic which is "kinda crap" for most people, but whatever. Rocket Knight is short and, well, thoroughly unchallenging. I suppose the final boss puts up a decent fight, but it's harder than the entire rest of the game combined and actually kinda irritating, what with your ability to damage him being determined more by luck than anything.
NyxQuest (PC, E)
Way back when I played God of War, a question kept going through my head - why am I going through deserts and sewers in ancient Greece? NyxQuest raises that same question (minus the sewers), and while the justification is better (though not by much. Octum, excuse me, Helios is nuking the world because he thinks it's imperfect and wants a fresh start on it), it's still kinda weaksauce to look at practically the same desert for three hours when there's so much more you can do with Greek mythology. Okay, the colors change in the last level, and one level has a giant eye in a gong in the background. That's not good enough.
The game itself is alright, I guess. It's a fairly standard platformer with limited flight and a couple of mouse-based magic powers, although it seems the only point of the lightning spell is that fireballs wouldn't work on the absolute bore of a final boss. It's only three hours long and on the easy side, although the game was originally made for the Wii and I can imagine it being harder on that if only because the controls would be clunkier. Is that good or bad?
Cthulhu Saves the World (PC, E)
Cthulhu Saves the World seems to be a turn-based RPG for people who either really love JRPGs or really hate them, if that makes any sense. Fans of JRPGs are going to love the in-jokes and classic JRPG gameplay. People who hate them might like the cracks the game takes at the genre, limited random encounters, relatively low party maintenance, and other tweaks to the battle system. I also appreciate that you only have to have a passing familiarity with Lovecraft to enjoy this game. Maybe there's some stuff that slips over all but the most hardcore fans, but I wouldn't know - I actually tried reading Lovecraft once and was nearly bored stiff by his wordiness. But as long as you know names like "Dagon" and "Shoggoth" you'll be fine.
So, the game itself. It's a pretty simplistic turn-based RPG (I'd just say JRPG because that's certainly the game style, but it's not actually Japanese) and actually reminded me more of Phantasy Star IV than any NES or SNES RPG. You got Magic and Techs, and the manga-style cutscenes have got to be an intentional homage to it (also, one of the available party members is a cat, but that's from the first game, not the fourth). I'm not sure how effective the gameplay tweaks are at reinventing the genre, though. I'm not sure what difference the choices at each level up make unless you're incredibly stupid about them, like choosing Sharpe's 700-power attack-one-enemy Holy Magic attack over his 3,000-power attack-one-enemy Holy Strike attack, but even those choices are few and far between. Because enemies get stronger the longer the fight goes on you're practically going to be using Techs in place of Attack to do a lot of damage quickly, and I made very little use of the Combo meter my entire playthrough. But hey, it's only three bucks with another game on Steam and if nothing else, it's currently in the lead for Best Soundtrack of 2011.
The Legendary Starfy (DS, E)
This game started out so boring it actually made me angry, but as the game went on it improved into just plain boring. What with the incredible lack of challenge, the characters all looking like stuffed animals, and morality straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon show, I guess this game was meant for small children. Instead of reiterating the problem with pandering to small children I'll just direct you to my Daniel X review. Scroll down to the image of the cat with the rats.
The Critic (TV DVD)
Going into this set there was exactly one thing I remembered from when I originally saw this show on FOX years ago; a parody of Dennis the Menace where Dennis rides his tricycle up to Mr. Wilson's house, then whips out a gun and blasts the place down (although when I got to that episode here, the scene where Jay walks down a hallway and with every step a potted plant falls on his head rung some really loud bells). And since this is a show about a film critic I half expected it to be a bunch of movie references trying to pass for jokes, but surprise! The Critic actually shows quite a bit of restraint in that area! And when there are movie references they're actually done with the some creativity like Schwarzenegger in a Mrs. Doubtfire-type movie with grenades for his fake breasts, or the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation having a hoedown on Hee-Haw, instead of Family Guy's "Hurr hurr, pop culture reference" mentality.
The meat of the show is following the sad, lonely life of Jay Sherman, the Critic himself. Although since this is from the producers of The Simpsons, said sad life is sugar coated in dadaism and the occasional meta moment of Jon Lovitz kissing up to himself. Then in the second season they attempted to make Jay less of a loser by making him less ugly and hooking him up with a Southern woman whom I totally expected to only last one episode, but surprisingly she hung around the rest of the show. And in what I guess was an attempt to recreate the comedy gold mine of Homer talking to his own brain, they introduced Jay to talking with his own stomach.
You can argue whether the pop culture references date this show or not, but I thought this bit of dialogue from the first episode was still pretty relevent:
Duke: Why the hell do you have to be so critical?
Jay: I'm a critic.
Duke: No, your job is to rate movies on a scale from "Good" to "Excellent".
Jay: What if I don't like them?
Duke: That's what Good's for.
The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition (PC, E10+)
It's hard to rate a replay of this based on puzzles since you can go through it in a few hours if you already know the solution (although the insult collecting is still a drawn out pain in the ass), so I guess I'll talk about the "Special Edition" part. Man oh man it was so tempting to switch to classic mode, but I forced myself to play through the remake. The voice acting was unnecessary at best and annoying at worst (friggin' A, what were they thinking with the ghost at the chapel? At least he only has two or three lines, even if they seem to take FOREVER for him to speak) and the new interface is considerably more cumbersome than the old, but worst of all is the graphics. Okay, the backgrounds are alright and some of the characters got off fine like the Sword Master, but others are terrifying, particularly Guybrush and particularly when he turns to face the player. And it's hard to ignore the job on him because you kinda have to look at him the whole game, since you're playing as him, y'know? I also noticed Lucasarts took the opportunity to update their game references, like turning the Sam and Max idols into a Tentacle (although it's still Sam and Max when you switch to Classic) and hiding Manny Calavera in the stonework under Monkey Island.
Also, nobody asked but "Guybrush Threepwood" sounds almost as pornographic to me as "Solid Snake".
Mystery Science Theater 3000 XXI: MST3K vs. Gamera (TV DVD)
As you may have guessed from the title, Volume 21 is a special MST3K set that has all Gamera movies and let me tell you, there was no way I could have stood to watch these movies without the commentary. Godzilla vs. Megalon was campy enough that I probably would have laughed at it with or without Joel and the bots, but these movies were dull as dirt and had continuity and editing problems up the ass. The first three are just humans trying to stop a monster, failing, trying another plan, and repeating for ninety minutes until the movie ends. Also, Gamera vs. Barugon struck me as having been originally made as a seperate movie, then Daiei shoehorned Gamera in when they realized they didn't have an ending, because Gamera's only in it for a combined total of three minutes. When they realized the monster horror wasn't working they changed the formula in Gamera vs. Guiron which was more cartoonish than the first three (okay, another creature like Gaos gets sliced up like a ham which I guess was intended to be disturbing, but that the whole thing is made of green meat without things like bones and entrails makes it pretty goofy instead), but it's still terrible and I could barely tell what the hell was going on in Gamera vs. Zigra.
So thank Baast for the Satellite of Love. Their hilarious commentary was the only thing that made these movies even remotely watchable.
Super Mario Galaxy (Wii, E)
Let me start this quickie by saying I only got enough stars to kick Bowser's ass and see the ending and credits. Maybe in the future I'll go collect all the main three stars from each galaxy, but I'm not bothering with all 120 of them for the same reason I didn't bother with getting all the shines in Mario Sunshine - partly because a lot of them are just speedruns or mirror matches of previous stars, but mostly because I don't care enough about this game to get 100% completion. It had some genuinely inspired moments, but at other times the game could be a real slog.
Mario Galaxy has the worst camera I've seen in a game since... well, Mario Sunshine, actually. Mario Galaxy's camera is not only a selfish bastard like Sunshine's, where it either goes into in awkward cinematic positions or on the other side of a tree from Mario and then disables the controls, or allows the player to move it to a comfortable position only to snap right back to where it was as soon as you release the controls and take a step, the whole "Galaxy" part introduces a whole new batch of problems - at least Sunshine never had you trying to control Mario while he was friggin' upside down. Although I dunno, other angles might be even worse since on more than one occasion I pushed the control stick in a way that I thought would make Mario go in the direction I wanted and Mario either started running in the opposite direction or in a circle because of the camera movement. Swimming is also a bitch in this game, and finally, while Galaxy never makes you play dentist to an eel or fight a giant boo with a slot machine, it comes very close to replicating that stupid mother bleeping retarded islander hucking crap from Sunshine, only with sticky balls instead of island natives. It's not as bad because the star isn't actually mandatory, and you can make a guideline of star bits appear to make it easier, but whoever designed it still needs a backhand across the face. And finally, fuck those Super Monkey Ball and manta ray surfing levels. I only ran into one of each, but I say fuck 'em anyway.
A Bunch of Miscellaneous Manga
I noticed I'd stockpiled a small collection of manga during my manga class last semester. Since they're quick reads, I figured I should start actually reading this stuff, and sort out the keepers from what I should really look into reselling. Many of them went in one ear and out the other (a lot of these were the first volumes of their respective series), but here's some extra-quick quickies for the ones I actually feel like commenting on:
Psychic Academy, Volumes 1 and 2
I went into this expecting a story about kids going to school to learn how to use their psychic abilities, Hogwarts style. What I got was another fetish manga like Ral-Grad.
Animal Academy, Volume 1
So we go from a school for psychics to a school for shape-shifting animals. But a human girl is accidentally brought in because her name is "Neko" and hilarity ens... actually, not much happens. Also, I thought said "human girl" was a boy at first.
Fairy Tail, Volume 1
It was nice to finally find a manga series where they didn't spend the whole first volume on introductions and vague foreshadowing. A wizard in training meets a fire-breathing boy raised by a dragon with a flying cat who saves her from a pimp pirate and burns down half a city while he's at it, takes her to his magician's guild where a mass-scale bar fight breaks out, then they they fight a giant monkey together. Not many introductions are this eventful, I'll say that.
Dragon Wars: The Tale of Lufiak Duell
The story is rather generic, but it actually has some fun twists; energetic, stubborn boy has to prove himself to his village by setting out on his own to retrieve a dragon scale, then ends up having to save the world from an ancient evil and mentally grow up in the process. Except when he gets cut or pounded, scales grow over the wounded area then flake off while he rapidly heals, because he's descended from a dragon's bioweapon. It suffers a bit from being confined to one volume; I mean, it's nice to get all the story at once, but said story moves very quick, so plot elements get brought up very suddenly and don't have time to develop much. I mean, what exactly was the point of the fairy, or the attack on the trolls?