Darkstalkers Resurrection Review ~ The Halloween Fighting Game

Quick update on the site: I’ve been working on a review compilation of a complete series of videogames, so that’s the explanation as to why no review has been up for a while. (Playing through 5 games takes longer than 1, it turns out) That review will be up by next week and the reviews will return to a more steady stream of output. (1 article per week) That is all.

Halloween, much like the creepy men behind the bushes waiting for that one kid without their parents, is just around the corner. Literally, tomorrow. Which means it’s the time to visit haunted houses, carve up pumpkins, decorate your place in chintzy plastic gubbins, and of course, do exactly what parents have always told you not to do and accept candy from strangers! And if there were ever a game that captured that cheesy-yet-alluring seasonal flair, it’d be Darkstalkers. The HD revamp of the old, arcade classics comes in the form of Resurrection, which features the original Night Warriors title, as well as Darkstalkers 3 bundled in one place. These Capcom fighters were the sister series of the more popular, Street Fighter games, and contained similar ideals and controls, but had a vastly sillier tone. Focusing less on martial artists, Darkstalkers holds nothing back with its cast of characters. From the nunchaku-wielding Wolfman, John Talbain, to the Frankenstein’s monster, Victor, who can grab opponents with his butt cheeks and slam them around with his gluteous grip, the roster and setting oozes creative personality from every seam. Chances are good that you may have seen the more recognizable characters, Morrigan or Felicia, in Marvel vs Capcom or just on Deviantart…(so much deviantart)

but it should be noted that the lesser known characters are very well realized in terms of animation and creativity. This leads to the first problem with Darkstalkers – balance. Some fighters are just, plain-and-simple, leagues better than others at fighting. The mummy Anakaris, for example, is just way too slow and unwieldy and doesn’t have enough other qualities to stand a good chance amongst the relatively fast assortment like Lord Raptor (the rock-and-roll zombie) or even medium speed ones like Pyron (the living flame demon, who may be one of the coolest characters ever designed). On the plus side though, is the fact that if you’re playing this, you’re kind of limited in terms of mode of play. The online aspect of the game is actually really smooth if you can find an opponent. But that’s the key word, “if”. The fact that the game is a digital-only release, means that the audience for such a niche fighter is already small, made worse by the fact that the game’s been out for a while now. The best way to play it though, regardless, is going to be with another person actually in the room. It is immensely fun to dig into this game with a friend. You’ll be getting constantly surprised by  what the insane move set has to offer and will have more “that was so cool!” moments than most fighting games can offer newbie players. This is a fighting game that is instantly fun to play, regardless of skill level.

The single player offering is roughly what you would expect from older titles. Both games have their own ladder modes, complete with unique, often hilariously bad, endings for each character. The story is so hard to understand due to the lack of context provided to the player that one can’t help but burst out laughing at the fact that Felicia is a nun in one of her endings. But, i digress, the ladders are a good way of getting a feel for your character, and to test your ability against some of the most frustrating AI in existence. Blocking protects from almost all damage, and the computer opponents will be able to execute nano-second timing, before unleashing a combo on you in return. The cheapness can be dulled fortunately, by going to the difficulty setting and dropping it. Even on the lowest settings, though, opponents in Night Warriors can still give you a run for your money, if you’re trying to get the trophy/achievement for no-deaths in each game’s ladder modes. It’s not the worst example of super-cheap AI from an arcade fighter, but it’s definitely up there.

Speaking of uber-difficult trophies, the game has some of the worst, most obtuse achievements ever. Trophies are almost entirely comprised of Night Warriors’ Challenges mode. Which is basically where the fun of Darkstalkers gets turned into soul-crushing tedium before sapping your interest in trying to collect the trophies at all. Why? Because the challenges require the player to do a series of complex combos for each character. The frame-by-frame specificity that the game asks of you is laughably ridiculous, as most of the challenges will leave you feeling angry and confused as you attempt to perform inhuman inputs that the computer manages to make look easy. I personally enjoy when games provide challenges for the player, but these literally ruin the game. The fact that their only worth Bronzes (or 10g, for Xbox) makes them completely unrewarding torture. Stay away from these. If you’re a trophy hunter, give it a shot. But you’ll soon find yourself with the feeling that you’re really just wasting your time trying to complete the game’s asinine requests. 

Darkstalkers Resurrection is a refreshing facelift for the older games. It’s a genuinely fun couple of  fighters that don’t take themselves too seriously and doesn’t mind being full of colorful oddities. It’s got its flaws, but the couch competition is where the player-versus-player shines. The online is relatively dormant, sadly, and the ladder mode isn’t the most engrossing thing ever, but that doesn’t make it a game not worth experiencing. Playing what is essentially the Monster Mash videogame, complete with the swamp monster, abominable snowman, and vampires galore, makes this one of the most creative, as well as stylish, fighting series Capcom has ever released. The gameplay is approachable, the animation is amazing, and the Vault is full of character art to ogle at. Handicapped by inactivity online and a truly awful bunch of trophies, Darkstalkers Resurrection’s pros still manage to outweigh its cons. The one other point of contention however, is the pricing. I actually snagged this title while it was on sale on PSN for half-off, but the game is normally priced at $15, which can be enough to make some of the more frugal among us lose interest immediately. However, if you can look past that somewhat high cost of entry, or if you just have 15 bucks burning a hole in your PS store wallet, then this title will not disappoint. Darkstalkers Resurrection is an imaginative take on those classic horror-movie staples, and a perfect game for Halloween (or whenever you and some friends want some goofy entertainment).

Obligatory Number at the End: 7/10

Privacy ~ JMC Blog Post 3

If you’re anything like me, then you probably would feel more than a little uncomfortable with the idea of someone sitting right outside your window right now, looking into your home, and watching every move you make. It’s like that song by The Police, except it’s not Sting who’s got his eye on you, and it isn’t over in two and a half minutes. Rather, it’s large, privately-owned corporations who are doing the snooping. And they don’t do it by stalking you around in a completely blacked-out Cadillac Escalade. Using the internet, companies have begun the practice of virtually tracking users, as a way of gathering data on persons generally without their consent or knowing of the situation. This data collection doesn’t come in the way of surveys or  questionnaires, just straight-forward, blunt, peeping into the lives of the population. This calls into question dubious legal issues and the ever leering balance of morality that seems to always be in a state of suspicious motivation. (Though usually it’s a safe bet to go ahead and assume that the motive is usually money over anything else) The most concerning aspect of this sort of manipulation of the law, is the Orwellian way in which a government power could abuse these tactics of intrusion.

When discussing this topic in the Intro to Mass Communications class, I was really kind of appalled by how much of a wash the topic was. It seemed as though either very few cared, or the majority of my peers were just ambivalent and accepting of this development. I recall, in fact, that one of my fellow students actually agreed to the notion that we as citizens are not to feel secure in their own digital lives, inferring that privacy in the modern age is something more akin to a privilege than a right. And though it is technically true to that there is no constitutional backing to internet protection. I would assume that is because the INTERNET DID NOT EXIST WHEN THE CONSTITUTION WAS WRITTEN. I honestly feel that some people have begun to just give up when it comes to corporate takeover. What can be done? Money is god, and the companies have all the money – using it to advance their own agendas in Congress (lobbying) to benefit only themselves. This is a train wreck waiting to happen. And though this is becoming to sound somewhat tangential to the argument concerning privacy in their lives, it really is a big part of it. Because clearly some sort of reform needs to made to protect the people’s interests, not those of the white men in suits.

The most ironic aspect of this happening is the fact that even in our textbook, (Media and Culture, pg. 557) is that there is a section concerning the journalistic code to uphold a person’s right to privacy, when addressing the media’s usage of “unauthorized tape recording, photographing, wiretapping…” This clearly shows a level of hypocrisy and a lack of understanding amongst people concerning what rights they do have. Te Electronics Communicatons Privacy Act of 1986 is also addressed, which clearly states how people should not be intruded on, even virtually, but thanks to he PATRIOT Act of 2001, the government gets to  decide with more malleability what that can translate to.

Scarier than a puppeted government, however, is the ramifications that the U.S. government can have if the whole debacle concerning Yahoo and its refusal to hand over the data of its users. The NRA as an institution is an utter joke. Basically serving the role of a second, more-disorganized, overwhelmed (due to the sheer amounts of data it collects) CIA, the NRA brings little to the table in terms of any sort of national security, and comes off more like a probing finger in a crowd of people. It’s there, and it’s annoying. And more rules need to be set in place to determine what is and isn’t okay to do on the internet. If I personally went through your computer files, sifting through all your history to serve my own mysterious purposes, you would consider me a hacker. Why are large corporations (yet again) and the government being let off the hook for otherwise illegal activities and not being held up to a higher standard.

4 Things God of War Ascension got right that Destiny didn’t

So it’s been a little more than a month now since the overwhelmingly anticipated release of this game, and by now, everyone’s either acknowledged that they’ve wrung the game dry of every damn drop of launch-day content, or is still in the process of desperately attempting to grind out some more “fun” from the game whilst holding back tears of disappointment and gently rocking back-and-forth, silently murmuring to themselves, “No no. It’s got great gameplay. It’s so good. Honest. Bungie can do no wrong. Nuh-uh. Everything… Everything’s fine. It’s supposed to last ten years, guys. It’ll get better. …It’s supposed to last. TEN. YEARS!” *complete breakdown.* And though I find it morbidly hilarious that the videogame hyped equivalently to the second coming of Jesus is actually NOT the “next-gen experience” everyone and they’re retarded, fat cohorts were getting wet dreams over, I do still sympathize. It sucks when things aren’t what you hoped they’d be. It happens a lot in this industry. But, nevertheless, the game did come out, and despite what level of denial you may be in, the game is as meh as meh gets. And since I’m going to review all the God of War games, I figured I oughta mix up how those are reviewed. Thanks to the dwindling attention spans of readers, I’m going to be able to knock out two paraplegics with one stone with this piece, as I look to see how four simple things from a last-gen game are done better than in Destiny. An unfair comparison you say? Perhaps, but I’m a madman and no one is  stopping me.

1. So What The Hell Is Going On?

The most apparent failure of Destiny is it’s disappointing lack of a cogent story. The narrative has an intriguing enough premise: Earth life and humanity is almost extinguished by extraterrestrial beings, except for one bastion of safety located underneath a gargantuan ovum in the sky. And the player character, whom can be customized to be one of three races and one of three class types, is brought back to life inexplicably one fine day by a robotic Tyrion Lanister to fend off… “the darkness.” Okay, so kind of a cliche, but perhaps it develops into something better? Nope. Turns out the story remains carboard flat, confusingly unexplained, and lacks any sort of worthwhile motivation to continue other than, “hey, guardian,  keep doing what you’re doing. Bad guys need to be stopped.” There’s nothing to care about, and the faceless characters are so shallow, they might as well just be text blurbs in the loading screens. Comparatively, God of War Ascension maintains a clear-cut goal from beginning to end, shows (not tells) exactly why the player should venture on and destroy the 3 Furies. Though not the strongest of the series due to the flashbacking confusion and the fact that the plot is, by its very nature as a prequel, auxiliary to the main God of War timeline, it’s a satisfying ride seeing Kratos do what he does best: overcome Herculean odds and destroy epic beings of Greek mythology. Bungie seemed pretty content with just telling confused players to access the “grimoire,” which is pretty much a wiki site online. Nice going, guys.

2. What Are We Doing?

Gameplay is undeniably the most critical aspect to any videogame. Interactivity is the defining aspect of the medium, so it’s important to make players feel that, in one way or another, that what input they have matters. For both God of War and Destiny, the central component is as simple as it gets: kill dudes. The key difference here, however, is that killing dudes is literally ALL Destiny has to offer. The AAA videogame market is absolutely sopping-wet with first person shooter titles trying to give players roller coaster-like experiences or any number of gameplay gimmicks to set themselves apart, and yet, Destiny still manages to be as dry as a box of Saltines. Bungie offers a handful of pretty, albeit small, hubs that have enemies scattered about for the player to shoot. …and that’s it. Literally that is all Destiny is. You get a couple guns, a magic power and a grenade, and then you go from corridor to room to corridor to room shooting guys. Some weapons are genuinely cool, but these are the same machine guns, shotguns, and rocket launchers we’re all used to. And it never evolves past that. Literally, what the game expects the player to do is to wash, rinse, and repeat the same thing over and over again. There is nothing, literally nothing, else to it. It’s the fps equivalent of playing solitaire. When looking at Ascension, it’s easy to just say, “well that’s the same thing throughout,” and then you would be pelted with stones for having said that. All games are roughly “doing the same thing” from beginning to end, but evolution of gameplay matters. God of War’s combat changes as continually more powerful weapons and abilities are made available to the player, changing the number of tricks Kratos can have up his sleeve (like being able to freeze enemies in time, bring in a clone Kratos to fight alongside you, various elemental magic abilities, and a Rage meter that rewards players for maintaining large combos). Also, the game breaks up the action with head-scratching puzzles, light platforming, and some really epic set pieces peppered throughout. Guess somewhere along the way, Bungie forgot that videogames that are only interesting for a couple hours belong on Kongregate, not on retail shelves.

3. What Are We Up Against?

Plain and simple, the enemies you face in Destiny follow this template: Draw some clusters of dots on a piece of paper. Make some dots bigger than the others. Now go about adding a slash through each dot. Make sure to take longer with the bigger dots. Got them all? Now wait 5-10 minutes while doing miscellaneous tasks. And now turn the paper over and do it again.  ^This is what Destiny is without any of the window dressing. It is the definition of tedium. The enemies are just Dude, Bigger Dude, and Biggerer Dude, and then you shoot them. Ascension utilizes a variety of mythic monstrosities to fill up its roster, and uses the opportunity to give each of them unique traits that will make the player approach situations differently. A bunch of flying harpies and a centaur are not going to come at you the same way a cyclops and a group of satyrs will. Bungie might need to take a refresher course in videogames 101 because even the Halo series did a better job of mixing things up for the Master Chief. And Destiny could not have lazier boss fights. Honestly, the term “boss fight” shouldn’t even apply. There is no more interaction than simply holding a button down while a health bar slowly (snails look like Usain Bolt, by comparison) drains. God of War, known for it’s epic boss fights, puts on some of the best in its series with Ascension. The bosses don’t even have health bars to distract the player with, and there are so many twists and turns within them, changing the gameplay on the fly, that the player is left no choice but to be completely engrossed with what’s going on on the screen. Seriously, I can’t say enough about how much Destiny’s bosses feel like you’re just wasting your time. And that feeling, is a feeling no good videogame will give a player.

4. It’s not delivery, it’s Digiorno.

Looking at these two games, it’s easy to notice that what players were expecting from them were very different. At the end of its series’ life, God of War players understood almost exactly what they would be getting out of it. Being the sixth entry means there’s already been five other outings which have established what the game will entail. Delivering on promises built on corporate hype and advertisements like Destiny attempted to do, was not going to be easy. When Sony is touting new console designs, Beta and even Alpha access to the game, and just a ton of hyperbole around “next generation experiences” and “Bungie’s magnum opus,” you’d better make damn sure your game is actually doing something new! Literally, the gameplay is something that was already done fine in the PS2 and Xbox era. What about corridor shooting, having a jet pack, and picking up loot is new? “Nothing” is the correct answer. And even at these rudimentary levels, Destiny flounders to have an identity or come off at all entertaining. Super-punching an alien until he ragdolls is fun. But that can’t be all you do. Destiny is that little kid who says one funny joke that makes the grown-ups laugh, and then continues to say it over and fucking over again thinking it will be just as good as the first time. Surprise! Turns out repetitive ad nauseam gets tiresome. So maybe, Bungie, before you release the inevitable Destiny 2, how about you make sure you don’t back yourself into a corner with a bunch of fancy words and false promises.

Finally, just to address a fault both these games have, I need to talk about the multiplayer. Ascension is the first and only title in the GoW series that allows co-op and competitive multiplayer. It takes the traditional game modes we’re all used to in shooters (TDM, CTF, etc) and transposes them into an action game. THIS is actually doing something new. The execution isn’t perfect, as it suffers from some serious imbalancing due to player leveling, but it’s worth a look. The solution to fix it is in the game, (10X xp can be paid for), but it’s not really a great thing to have fun locked behind a secondary payment. Co-op is still good though, as you and another player face off against swarms of in-game beasts as opposed to the OP players who dominate the competitive parts. Looking one last time at Destiny, you just have to shake your head. Like GoW, the PvP is unbalanced, as higher level characters with access to better weapons will cream the newbies, and the PvE is hilariously handicapped by the fact that chatting into your mic is not an option unless in a group you’ve assembled. So unless you got a group of people who want to play as the same time as you, good luck coordinating an attack with randoms. (Perhaps Bungie wants you to communicate through the stupid dance moves that were included instead) Also, both of these games have crap box art. Kratos usually looks bestial and ready to tear some shit up on previous cover art, now he’s seemingly awaiting his dominatrix for punishment. And just like Destiny itself, the art is just so ridiculously bland that it makes me wonder if that was really what they thought was the best they had, or if some sort of mistake was made.

The large sales for Destiny is what happens when everyone who buys a new console realizes there isn’t much to play on it yet desperately try to find any sort of gaming nourishment following one of the worst summer gaming droughts. So yeah, save yourself the buyer’s remorse and pick up Ascension instead of Destiny. It’s more fun and you won’t feel like you’re constantly waiting for the game to get good enough to defend how much you just spent on it. It honestly boils down to: “Do you like to play boring, expensive games or fun ones?”

 

Media Convergence ~ JMC Blog Post 2

Hey there guys, do you know what time it is? That’s right, break out the tinfoil hats and lock the doors, because it’s time to talk about mass media super conglomerates! Woo!

All jokes aside, one of the most disturbing qualities of the current state of the media, that is to say, nearly everything that we consume from a reputable source, especially those on television, all derive from the same six outlets. Although jumping to the conclusion that some Illuminati-type secret society is controlling everything, a statistic that shows 90% control is disturbing, nonetheless. And it’s not so much just the fact that so much is under control of so few, but rather, the ramifications that this can have on society.

Time Warner, News Corp, Disney, Comcast, Viacom, and CBS are the current “big six,” and represent the epitome of monopoly deregulation and mergers galore. Because when a company based on a cartoon mouse has managed to amass control akin to the largest news outlets in America, something’s definitely awry. ESPN, ABC, Marvel, Lucas Arts, etc. are all in the back pocket of the Disney corporation. Billions and billions of dollars go into these companies, and in more ways than one might initially think. Though most might recognize the names and be able to match them to various television and film companies, these six conglomerates also have pathways of information through the music industry, radio, newspapers, magazines, various book publishing houses, tons of websites, and an innumerable amount of IPs(intellectual properties). Whom these belong to is often not clear to the consumer, as the respective owners of any of these various niches often will only be found in the fine print somewhere, or just not directly mentioned at all. These discrete, hush-hush manner of ownership is not only dubious in nature, but keeps the readers, listeners, and viewers of their respective content deceived. As of right now, the fact that there’s X channels, but so many of them controlled by a select few, veils the audience with an illusory sense of choice. The public ought to be made fully aware of who the real speakers are.

According to businessinsider.com, there were 50 separate companies circa 1983 in control of the 90% which is now only stemming from a number that requires less digits than your hands even have on offer. The likelihood that this will ever go back to the way things were is doubtful. Under wraps, we’ve literally allowed monopolies to form in a country where they were made illegal in the early 20th century. Not even 100 years could go by before our laws were made jokes of. But oh, how wonderful the smell of money is to those with power. Unfortunately, now we all have to just hope that there really isn’t some select few peoples brainwashing us through the subliminal messages, because boy, did we make it easy for them to do so.

[note: i do not actually believe in secret societies.]