Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Majin Drags, Monster Hunter Blues, and The Walking Dead Concludes  


Games: I scored a copy of Majin & the Forsaken Kingdom for cheap during Black Friday, and I've been putting time into it since then, albeit haphazardly.

While it's true that my work schedule has been kind of erratic and disruptive to my game schedule (which clearly, is far more important) the truth of the matter in this case is that I'm having a hard time finding the motivation to push forward. The game is cute and I'm always interested in how developers implement team/partner mechanics in singleplayer titles, but Majin just isn't doing much for me.

The biggest thing I've noticed so far is that the tone of the game has been pretty flat. I'm about halfway through the adventure after logging about five hours, but it feels more like fifty.

Most of the game is made up of getting through a series of rooms where each one has a puzzle of some sort to figure out. Suss out what you're supposed to do, open a door and move on. There haven't been any dramatic events to break up the monotony of this work (unless you want to count the two bosses I’ve seen up to this point) and the infrequent cutscenes are pretty banal. There's just no spark here... No fire.

Honestly, it's so lukewarm and toothless that it seems as though Majin is aimed more at kids than that adults -- and in that context it makes a little more sense, except that I would imagine some of the puzzles to be a little too vague and the bosses a little too frustrating for most kids to get through without some skilled parental guidance.

I'm going to keep forging ahead, although I guess I don't really know why… hopefully the game will end before my patience does. Although I was quite glad to see Majin developer Game Republic back in action, I have to admit that the fun factor has been dreadfully low so far.


Games: In the portable realm, I'm still logging some time with Monster Hunter Freedom Unite on PSP. At this point I think I’ve spent something like 70 hours on it, but in stark contrast to Majin, it feels as though I've only been playing for a small fraction of that time.

Not Tigrex
I got hung up on a particularly nasty boss for a while (that Tigrex is no joke) but finally found a workable strategy and I've been knocking out missions pretty regularly since then. I don't want to speak too soon, but it's starting to feel like the end of the game is within sight.

The deeper I get into it, the more impressed I become with the breadth and depth of the content. It's really a fantastic, rich experience for the sort of gamer who doesn't mind the basic structure being split 50/50 between Really Hard Bosses and Grinding For Items. In fact, I'm enjoying it so much that it seems like a real injustice that the game makes its home on the PSP where the camera is so problematic that I can completely understand why many people would write it off as being unplayable.

I read a news blurb earlier today stating that the newest Monster Hunter on PSP (Portable 3rd) has already sold over two million copies in Japan. That's some pretty impressive sales, and I sincerely hope that Capcom is planning on bringing it stateside.

That said, people in America just don't get together for multiplayer portable parties the same way that they do in Japan. More significantly, this game demands better camera controls. Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii proved that the game is infinitely more playable with a decent controller, and as much as I enjoy the series, I can't say that I'm looking forward to more hand cramping with the PSP.

Of course, the optimal answer is that Capcom should do something with the Monster Hunter Frontier branch of the series and put the game on Xbox Live. Better controller, immediate online and group capabilities, and a much more powerful piece of hardware to run it on. Sadly, the last time I checked, Capcom said there were absolutely no plans to bring Frontier to the West, so there’s that... as much as it pains me to say, it seems as though Monster Hunter is squarely on the path of “successful in Japan and nowhere else.”


TV: After doing my best to avoid Twitter spoilers, I finally sat down with the final episode of The Walking Dead tonight.

I had high hopes for the show before it began, and despite the issues that might be raised about it, I think it was incredibly entertaining viewing. Honestly, it was a much better caliber of program than the vast majority of television shows out there.

I have to say though, that I was more than a little surprised at the amount of grousing from fans. I generally caught each episode the day after it ran, so prior to viewing I would often hear several negative comments or people declaring exasperation with nearly every episode. I braced myself for the worst each time, yet found myself consistently enjoying the show and wondering what the problem was.

I'm not going to get into every little thing I heard, but here's my brief take on it:

1> The TV show is not the comic book. After the first episode I accepted that they were going to be different animals with a common inspiration, and made peace with the fact that the comic book storyline was not going to be directly translated to the screen.

2> The production team had no idea whether the series would be picked up after this first micro-season, so it makes sense that what viewers got was fairly limited and wrapped up in such a way so that if no further episodes were ever shot, there was a close approximation of something that could be called closure.

3> Turnover of the writing staff: I see that as being a positive. While I don't have an episode-by-episode breakdown, it seems to me that the best moments of the show were most likely when director Frank Darabont and series creator Robert Kirkman stepped in as more than just consultants or producers. There were a few off-key parts sprinkled throughout that raised a few minor red flags, but the series remained must-see TV for me from start to finish, and hopefully the new writing staff will be more in line with the creators’ vision.

Overall, I remain quite happy with how it turned out and I'm definitely looking forward to the next season.


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5 comments: to “ Majin Drags, Monster Hunter Blues, and The Walking Dead Concludes

  • Mike


    I'm a big Walking Dead fan, and for the most part, I loved the TV series and its finale. Of course there were gripes, like Merle apparently watching too much SAW when the handcuffs were clearly attached to rusty piping or how the "20 something girls shacking up with a 50-60 yr old man" issue was tip toed around more often than a Metal Gear level.

    But for every single iffy part, there were about 10 I loved or could get into. The show expanded and added scenes to characters we didn't get to spend much time with in the books. They didn't get "independently creative" like zombies with super powers, coming up with an answer to the infestation or characters behaving way beyond their established profiles. There's a great deal of respect shown for the books and so I'm willing to bear through some choices in hopes it pays off in Season 2. Andrea, I'm looking at you.


    The show doesn't have to be like the comic, but what it replaces the comic with should be of comparable quality, clarity, vision, and daring... and the show, to me, feels uneven and generally marred by Hollywood-i-ness. Kirkman's comic is gritty and edgy, and there are times when the AMC show feels like it takes place in The Movie World, not The Real World.

    The real judge of The Walking Dead isn't how it compares to the comic but how it compares to the best zombie fiction of the past several years. 28 Days Later, REC, Shaun of the Dead, World War Z, and Kirkman's original comic are all pretty great, and I don't really see what AMC's show is bringing to the table beyond feeling like a watered-down, for-the-masses version of better work. I mean, it's okay--even good at times--but considering its competition it's got to do a lot more to impress me.


    I could understand Majin being a good kids game, but then why is it rated T? I'm not saying they should have censored it or anything like that, but I was consistently getting the feeling it didn't know who it was trying to appeal to. Or more accurately, I think it was trying to be The Iron Giant and appeal to everyone, but missed the mark.


    Mike> thanks for your comments. Sounds like we are pretty much on the same page. ; )

    Matt> I don't necessarily disagree with you, but I think you're being a little harsh.

    In all fairness, Kirkman’s book isn't pure gold all the way through. Besides that, I think you're making a bit of an unfair comparison… films don't have the same content restrictions, nor do they need to support multiple hours of viewing.

    Similarly, books and comics have many more opportunities to cover certain things which television finds difficult. Each medium has its strengths and weaknesses, and holding up a television series and saying it's not as good as X,Y,Z in a different medium is a bit of apples and oranges.

    While I'm not saying that the television series we got is perfect by any means, I think a better way of gauging it would be by comparing it to other television series, past or present. How do you think it stacks up in that respect?

    Jeffrey> I think you are right on the money.

    I constantly get the sense that the game is trying to be all things to all people, so of course it fails at everything. The section I played through tonight would have been extremely difficult for my nine-year-old son, and he's really good at games. Every time I hit a part like that, I start to think that the game is less and less appropriate for younger players.

    On the other hand, it's so straightforward and formulaic and the story/characters are so cutesy and shallow, that I have a very hard time imagining any adult player being satisfied with what's offered here.

    Like you said, this game is straddling too many fences and it would've been a much better experience if the developers had focused entirely towards kids OR adults.


    I don't think it's completely unfair to compare different media. Good writing is good writing. Sure, good television writing might be different from good movie writing, but you can still compare them in terms of overall quality.

    That said, I think The Walking Dead is strictly 'okay' by television standards (though the first episode was legitimately 'great')... but I do confess my television knowledge is rather patchy. Sherlock (even with the weak second episode) is superior in just about every way to The Walking Dead--in terms of writing, photography, acting, editing, plot constructions, sound design, music, etc.

    In terms of other recent shows I've only watched the latest season of Dr. Who and Lost... and they both weren't bad, but not what I consider great.

    Most of the "new" television I watch is older stuff on DVD. I've been watching the X-Files for the first time recently and find it to be extremely uneven--when it's good it's good, but when it's bad it's embarrassing. I thought Firefly was quite good, in spite of finding Joss Whedon generally overrated.

    My idea of truly great television would be The Prisoner, Cowboy Bebop, The Office (BBC version), SPACED, and the first season of Twin Peaks. But that's just me.