Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mass Effect 3 - Extended Cuts & Harada Speaks!  


Games: So, the Mass Effect 3 “extended cut” DLC amending the old endings came out today.

It's a free add-on and I'm pretty sure it provides an auto-save right near the end of the game for those who may not have a file at the appropriate point -- I was positive that I didn't, but when I booted the game up, there it was. It could be my imagination, but I'm guessing the developers included this save as part of the DLC to avoid further outcry.


Back when the game first came out, I was one of the apparent minority who felt like the original endings were satisfactory. They were rushed and could have been polished up a bit, but the overall content and direction of what we got was just fine in my book.

(For the record, I'm looking at the "synthesis" ending as the likely canon, and that was the ending I chose.)

After watching this new ending content, I think it adds pretty much everything that the people complaining wanted (except the goddamn unicorns and rainbows) yet still stays true to the original concepts. Exposition is expanded, a few new scenes are inserted in places to help clarify the storytelling, and there is an additional wrapup at the end which leaves absolutely no doubt as to the status of each character. There's also a new, fourth ending for people who weren't satisfied with the original three.

I do think these new endings are better than the originals, and I’ve got no problem with them. I was also quite gratified to see that many of the theories I floated in the Gamecritics After Dark podcast theorizing what BioWare omitted turned out to be entirely correct… not to toot to get my own horn or anything, but I nailed this one.  ; D

Props to Bio for doing their best to make their fans happy even if some of the hue and cry around the ending was a little INSANELY/RIDICULOUSLY/ABSURDLY over the top.

So even though they're still not forgiven for Dragon Age 2, can we all just get along now?


Speaking of fans making noise, the following Tweet from Tekken director Katsuhiro Harada  (@Harada_Tekken) made the rounds today, and I felt like it was a perfect fit to go along with this stuff about Mass Effect 3. I think it speaks for itself, so I will simply repost the text here:

I have something I want to say to the people who spam me with requests to "switch back (or Bring back) to the voice actors used previously".

I believe that, before whining and complaining about everything, you need practice at taking a step back and analyzing things objectively. And also at being an adult.

First, the voice you were listening to was 16 years ago, during the PlayStation period. The current generation of consoles are totally different in how they play back sound; both software-wise, and the internal circuitry

It's my original data!!

The playback program is different, as well as the sound effects added; reverb and 5.1 are examples of this. The comrpression rate, as well as the sound rate, is different today. Are you playing games on the same TV you used 16 years ago? What about your speakers? Headphones? They are all the same as 16 years ago? I wonder if it will sound like the same voice as 16 years ago, even with that data..

Also, you are assuming the voice actors themselves can reproduce the voice the recorded 16 years ago? Many voice actors decline work because their voice has changed since the original role, some have even retired. Sometimes they won't accept, even if we ask.The recording studio and the equipment they use is also different. With all of this in mind, you still thing it is possible to recreate these voices?

Some might say "just pay them to reuse the voice data". But, often the voice actors decline this, or their agency declines.

For example, Brian's laugh is the actual data from Tekken 3. As fans have requested, we've kept using the original, adapting the data recorded 16 years ago to be used on the PS2, and then PS3.
Even so, some people said it is a different voice in Tekken 6 than the original.

It can't be helped they might think that. As explained above, even though the master data is the same, all of the equipment used in adapting it has completely changed. That said, it isn't a good idea to try to reccreate the older recording environment because then the data sounds heavily compressed, with noise. More than that, it would sound out of place next to the voice data of the newer characters.

WHAT? You say some of the voices sound like they haven't changed at all?

It's not my original data!!

I guess you didn't notice that the development team has re-recorded them, but made efforts for it to sound as close as possible to the original. And you probably didn't even notice.

Do you know that all of the voice work for a character is not always done by just one voice actor? Using Brian as an example, the laugh you guys love so much uses the original data from Tekken 3, but the short kiai voice uses a different voice actor, and the "come on!" voice also uses a different voice actor. A lot of other characters also use different voice actors for the spoken lines and for the shouts.

I did the voice work for Marshal and Forest for 15 years.However, I can no longer produce that voice after Tekken 5, so we had a different voice actor for Tekken 6.

The Tekken series has continued for 17 years. The development environment, as well as the environment in which you all play games, has changed.

There are so many characters, and we can't keep using the same voice actors every time, for a variety of reasons.

I have even complied to the requests of you all spamming me to "bring back characters" from previous installments. You often say, "let's show the dev team how sincere we are by buying 2 copies if they bring back character X", but did you really go through with it? Expecting you to at least pre-order the game, I was met with more spam, after you apparently didn't notice that Jun and Michelle actually return.

I still have some characters left to be revealed that comply with some of your requests, even "bringing back" several others. Even so, none of them are paid DLC. I will continue to sincerely comply with fan requests. However, I can't continue to engage the negative ones that, without knowing what you are talking about, or even thinking about what you are saying, blindly repeat "bring back, bring back, bring back..."

After this lengthy explanation, I will be quite surprised if there are still people who still don't get it.

Thanks for understanding or not understanding. Whatever.

You, Mr. Harada, are my hero.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

ESRB Double-M, Starhawk, Chairlift, and Geek Artifacts  


Podcast: If you haven't already heard it, the most recent GameCritics Podcast is now available for download RIGHT HERE. Episode 75 is our post-E3 discussion covering the conferences and various games, and we also work our way around to discussing the new Tomb Raider trailer and violence in games.

Click on over if you're so inclined!


Games: I don't often think about the ESRB rating system (apart from the fact that I generally support it) but my oldest son asked me a question today about the difference between ratings, and I had to pause a moment before answering.

The situation was this: he's been expressing a great deal of interest in RPGs lately (which is a new thing for him -- he's usually Mr. Driving Game) so we were trying out various things and he settled on Skyrim. My own feelings on the game aside, I was happy to get him started in a genre that I enjoy myself, so we popped it in and off we went.

Upon beginning, he made careful note of the fact that the game was rated M, and asked if I was sure that it was appropriate for him to play. I told him that it was since I didn't consider the content to be especially objectionable for a mature little guy like him who's also got his dad sitting next to him during play. After a moment, he asked why it was alright that he was playing Skyrim but that I didn't let him watch The Darkness 2 that the wife was on the night before. 

He said "but they're both rated M, so what’s the difference?

That's a pretty good question.

My guess is that anyone who's played both titles would say that the two are radically different in tone, and not at all alike. Skyrim has goofy-looking combat, wimpy dragons and a little salty language here and there. Darkness 2 features men being impaled, ripped in half, and a small imp urinating on dead bodies.  And yet, both have the same rating despite the fact that (in my mind, at least) there's a world of difference in the content and intensity.

I explained to him that the level of graphic violence was much more severe in The Darkness 2 which was why I did not allow him to watch it, and he accepted that, but it really made me question whether the current ESRB system is really working as well as it could. I'm not sure whether or not something like V should exist as a higher restriction above M, but having these two games in the same category doesn't sit quite right with me.


Games: I’m between review games right now (submitted my final on Lollipop Chainsaw recently) so I decided to try Starhawk on PS3 before my next assignment arrives. Although it wasn't exactly what I hoped it would have been, I ended up thinking it was still pretty good.

As a big Firefly fan, Starhawk’s mix of Sci-Fi and Western was a welcome combination, and I thought the developers did a good job on the main character. Although the story was told in a rapid shorthand fashion, the writers got their points across and I got a good sense for who the protagonist was meant to be. Also, bonus points awarded for making him a black cyborg cowboy. That's not a combination I've seen too often in games, and the variety was very much appreciated.

Gameplay-wise, the single-player campaign is pretty short (six hours or so, maybe?) and essentially serves as an extended tutorial for the hefty multiplayer section of the game, but even so, I felt like the developers didn't cop out and really put a good effort into it. That said, I saw plenty of opportunities for the game to expand the campaign mode and I would be very interested in seeing a sequel that emphasized the single-player experience more than it did this time around.

As someone who doesn't give a rip about online multiplayer in a general sense, I thought the campaign was interesting and fun, and perfect as a weekend rental. Plenty of interesting ideas on display, and much room to grow for the future. Recommended.


Music: My apologies to whoever originally tweeted this link to a neat-o interactive music video for ‘Met Before’ from Chairlift. (Was it you, @JasonKill?)

Anyway, I don't know whether this is a brand-new idea or if I've just never seen it previously, but you begin the video and then choose a path with the arrow keys on your keyboard. Cool stuff, and even better since I absolutely love love love the band.

Seriously, I love them so hard. Buy their album right now. Buy it twice. So damned Recommended.


Misc: I went to visit the EMP’s horror and sci-fi exhibit here in Seattle the other day, and I ended up posting a bunch of the pictures I took on Twitter. In case you missed them, here are some of my favorites, and if you're in the Seattle area, seeing the display in real life might not be a bad idea. 

It's a Critter. I know you recognized the other three, but you had no idea with this guy. Amirite?
The total number of exhibits is a little smaller than I was expecting, but they have some pretty primo stuff. Hicks’ helmet from Aliens, an original McQuarrie Vader sketch from Star Wars, Captain Kirk’s chair from Star Trek, Jason’s hockey mask from Friday the 13th, Freddy’s blade glove from Nightmare on Elm Street, and a whole lot of other things that make you go OMFG I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M LOOKING AT THIS….

In terms of geek artifacts, this stuff was the cream of the crop. If you're within driving distance, I'd say it's Recommended.

(P.S. - The number of people who thought that Dalek was R2-D2 was utterly ridiculous. Just sayin'.)


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Street Fighter x Tekken, Lollipop Chainsaw, Mommy's Best and Snow White  


Games: I've spent a lot of time with Street Fighter x Tekken lately, and although I never would have guessed it, I’ve been enjoying it a great deal.

If you pressed me on the matter, I’d say that the game can’t stand up to the rigorous requirements of players at the top of the field in competition-type settings, but that's okay by me. Although I think I'm decent enough at fighters, I've never been in the top-tier skill level, and don't really want to be.

These days, I’m way more interested in having fun and enjoying myself, and this is a great game to jump into for someone (like me) whose skills have gotten rusty. It's also newbie-friendly, and my son, who has never played a fighting game before, was able to jump right in and start mashing with some good results.

Some may scoff, but the genre needs titles which are simpler and approachable for people who aren’t pros – there’s nothing to be gained by going ever-more hardcore, and doing so only brings with it a danger of excluding any future fans who can't make it over steep difficulty curves. I’m not saying that competition-class fighters shouldn't exist, I just think fighting game developers have been leaning a little too far to one side lately, so it's a breath of fresh air to see one that isn't so esoteric and technical.

I had the chance to play both PS3 and 360 versions of the game, and I must say that the 360 version looked a lot nicer to my eye. Maybe it's my particular setup or the way the PS3 handles anti-aliasing, but the difference was pretty shocking. That said, I went with the PS3 version since the Dualshock is far superior to the 360’s pad for fisticuffs.

At this point I'm not considering doing a second opinion to the review by @TheMirai that's currently up at GameCritics, but I do recommend it to those of you out there who may want to get into a fighter but don't want to spend months trying to achieve a decent level of mastery.

…Plus, it's got the world's greatest tag team of Poison and Lili, so you should buy it for them on principle alone.

In other games news, I completed Lollipop Chainsaw last night and my review is nearly complete.

This was a fairly easy writeup for me since I didn't find much to praise... I'm certainly aware that Suda51 has his fans out there, but he’s one of the most overrated creators in the games industry these days if you ask me, and this title just reinforces my opinion.

Looks WAY more fun than it is...
Look for my full evaluation soon, but at the moment, I'm comfortable saying that it's crudely produced, not very much fun to play, and quite offensive to a wide variety of people. Although some may try to make a case that it has meaning or commentary content below the surface, I would say anyone trying to make that case is reaching pretty far for something that's barely there.

I don't recommend this game.

One final bit of games discussion here -- one of my mostest favoritest studios, Mommy’s Best Games, needs your help! 

The fine people behind Weapon of Choice, Serious Sam DD and Explosionade are working towards getting a $250,000 grant from Chase Bank and Livingsocial, but in order to be considered, they need at least 250 votes of support.

Although it's annoying and a pain in the ass to log into Facebook for one of these things, please click here and give MBG 30 seconds of your day. I can't think of another studio out there who is more deserving of a cash infusion, and if all it takes is a few clicks to keep them going, then please please please please please do so!


Film: The wife and I had the rare opportunity for a child-free date night, so we went to see Snow White and the Huntsman – big mistake.

To be perfectly honest, the movie felt like it was at least fourteen hours long and it was a struggle to sit through the whole thing. There were a few points at which I felt bored enough to get out of my seat and leave before it was over, but I hung in there and you know what? It never got any better.

There's a whole lotta this look.
I'm not a fan of Kristen Stewart, and she didn't win me over here. Her acting was flat and the numerous close-ups of her face didn't communicate anything to me other than the fact that she's got bags under her eyes and a blank look that she goes to often. She can’t take all of the blame, though... nearly all of the performances were lifeless and dull, which leads me to think that the director had no idea how to pull emotions out of his actors. Rather than living, breathing characters, the film felt as though it was full of shallow sketches lacking motivation.

The story was terrible. Coming off as nothing so much as a lite version of LOTR with a lot of traditional Snow White elements thrown in, it never came together. There were suggestions of Snow’s ability to talk to animals, the poison apple popped up, there were dwarves and such, but it was more like a checklist of things rather than an elaboration of who her character was supposed to be, or why she was so important to the world.

More of her would have been great.
If I had to pick one thing that the movie did well, it was that it attempted to add some motivation and backstory to the evil queen. Although it wasn't as fleshed-out as I would have liked (and I don't think it was done chronologically correct) her character was the one I saw the most potential in… I would have loved if the film gave her more attention, or even made her the actual star. As bizarre as it may seem to have the villain take on the lead role, I think there were plenty of opportunities to do something dramatically different with the Snow White story there. Unfortunately, this bit ended up just as half-baked as the rest. Hopefully someone will fanfic it and do it justice.

I could write another thousand words on the badness of this film, but the bottom line is that it feels like an extended music video with more attention paid to scenic vistas and crazy camera angles than to the plot and relationships of the people on-screen. It's too long, it's too dry, and it was tough to sit through once... I can't imagine ever watching it again.



Friday, June 15, 2012

A Wild Update Appears!  


Hey hey. 

It feels like forever since last update, but that's the way life goes sometimes. I caught a sore throat right as the week started and I've been trying to sleep it off when I haven't been grinding away at the day job, so that ate up a lot of my regular time. Toss in a wife and kids to fill up the rest, and there you go. 

So, in the few minutes I’ve got right now while I'm still relatively awake...


Cute: My 3yo son is totally into the undead right now (don't ask me why) and he was begging to play Plants vs Zombies today.  As far as zombie games go, this is probably the least graphic and inoffensive one I can think of, so I said okay.

Gimme yo sammich!

Although he does great at action titles, he’s still a little young to get a hold on strategy and forethought. Naturally, the zombies overwhelmed him pretty quickly, and he started screaming "daddy, come help me with this problem!!”

I chuckled a bit, but there was no salvaging the pickle he had gotten into. Within a few moments, one of the zombies had broken through and entered his house. The CHOMP CHOMP sound started playing (signaling his defeat) and he turned to me to say “Daddy, the zombies are inside my house and EATING MY LUNCH!!!

I love that 3yo logic. LOVE IT!!!


Links: Here are some things to check out if your mouse finger is feeling a little itchy…

For reviews, here’s my Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition review, @GC_Danny’s take on the recent Devil May Cry HD collection, and @KayinAmoh’s words on Legend of Grimrock.

King of the Jungle
 A few other things worth checking out are this little piece on Tokyo Jungle, which is probably my most wanted game coming out of E3 right now.

Also, here’s a new single from Kirby Krackle, this time focusing on everyone’s favorite friendly neighborhood super-hero, Spider-Man.

You may recall that one of my favorite titles from the past few years was Epic Dungeon on XBLI (now re-titled Cursed Loot), and Eyehook Games has just released a trailer showing what they've been cooking up since then. Click here to take a look at Cursed Cosmos and get excite.


Games: So enough links already, what have I been playing? Good question.

On iOS, mostly Cause of Death (episode collections 2, 3 & 4) which is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorites on the iPhone. The writing is sharp and the characters feel like old friends at this point. 

Choose, Natara! CHOOSE!
If you're into text-style adventures and you haven't tried this one yet, you are missing out. Also, I've been putting a little time into Trainyard, and that one is certainly as good as people told me it was. It makes me feel dumb at times, but then again, all the best puzzle games do.

On the Vita (gasp!) GameFly sent me Unit 13, and I put an hour or two into that before sending it back. At its core, it really wasn't that bad but I've never been a fan of Zipper and this particular title missed the mark in a number of places. To start with, I was quite surprised that there was no character customization in the the singleplayer. The game is structured as a series of discrete missions without any story, so this would have been a perfect place to let the player play dress-up without any regard to how silly outfits can affect a dramatic arc.

This would be more exciting if he was wearing high heels.
The bite-sized chunks that make up each mission were a good fit for on-the-go play, but as time went on,  it was far too easy to get taken out with one or two lucky shots from enemies, and some of the checkpoints weren’t as close together as I'd like. With a little more work this could have been a hot portable title, but as-is,  there's not enough here to get excited about. Shame.

Console-wise, I spent a few days suffering through Asura’s Wrath on 360. I plan on doing a full review as soon as I get some time, but for right now I can say that it's the worst game I’ve bothered to complete in recent memory. 

Doesn't look as boring as a dog's ass, BUT IT IS.
While some of the art design is fairly attractive, I have little praise for anything else. It's loud, obnoxious, repetitive, simplistic, runs five or six hours too long and manages to do the impossible by creating a lead character who is even more single-minded and boring than Kratos at his crankiest. The story holds no surprises and goes absolutely nowhere, and this is probably the first time in my life when I can honestly say I would have rather watched a few episodes of Dragonball Z than play through this puffed-up vanity project -- my thumb would have been less sore and I could have been doing something more interesting and while I ignored it in the background.

Finally, I'm happy to say that I completed all the Achievements in Minecraft 360. I had to consult a few FAQs to do it, but I don't feel too bad about that... trying to complete some of these legitimately would have taken absurd amounts of time and more than a little luck. If you're working on the achievements as well, don't be afraid to start new maps which may be more conducive to certain requirements, and take advantage of the duplication glitches while you can.  I've heard they’re going to be patched with the next update.


Misc: Apropos of nothing, I give you... UNDERWATER DOGS!


  MonkeyPaw Games today announced the side-scrolling platforming adventure Tomba! will make its PlayStation®Network debut in the PSone® Classics section on Tuesday, June 19th for $9.99. Garnering almost universally positive reviews and high prices due to its rarity, Tomba! was the brainchild of Tokuro Fuijiwara, known for his creation of the Ghosts’n Goblins series as well as the producer of the Mega Man series. The rich, interactive atmosphere ofTomba! helped create the title’s innovative gameplay, being one of the earliest PlayStation® games to use the Dual Shock feature. Help our pink-haired protagonist trample the seven evil pigs and retrieve his grandfather’s prized bracelet when Tomba! returns on June 19th.

 A new gameplay trailer can be found here:
More Classics From MonkeyPaw Games
MonkeyPaw Games promises to bring more classic PlayStation®Network games to North American digital markets at must-buy prices. Fans of import games are encouraged to voice their suggestions on our social networks for their most-wanted retro or import titles.

Previously released titles courtesy of MonkeyPaw Games include the classic adventure RPG
 Alundra and the legendary strategy RPG series Arc the Lad. Alundra combines challenging and energetic RPG gameplay with memorable presentation. The Arc the Lad trilogy contains three strategy RPG classics that no fan should be left without. These classics are available on the PlayStation®Network PSone® Classics section at an affordable price of $5.99 each.

 ATLUS, a brand of Index Digital Media, Inc., today announced that Gungnir, an all-new strategy RPG and the latest entry in the beloved Dept Heaven series of roleplaying games from developer Sting, is now available in stores and via PlayStation®Network* in North America for PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) system.  The PSN version of the game is also expected to be compatible with PlayStation®Vita (PS Vita) handheld entertainment systems.  ATLUS also today released a new Launch Trailer for Gungnir, a new video showcasing the game's story, interface, battles, and unique features.

Gungnir is now available in stores and via PlayStation Network* in North America with an MSRP of $29.99.  For more information, please visit


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Beast Wars, Minecraft, Podcast, Plague Inc. & Super Lemonade Factory  


Well, E3 is upon us again.  

While a tsunami of new game info is pouring out of LA, I’m not sure that anyone will have time for this little old blog, but it's still business as usual for me until PAX later this year. The convention always falls on the first week of my son’s summer visit, so I haven’t gone to the last few. Family > E3, but I will be watching all the press briefings!

As for now, normal blog… Commence!


 TV: If you’ve got Netflix, I'm quite happy to announce that the first two seasons of Transformers: Beast Wars is now available for download.

Although people flipped out when Hasbro first announced that the Autobots and Decepticons were going to become Maximals and Predacons for a new animal-only line of toys back in 1996, not only did the toys turn out to be great, the television show was the finest TF-themed production ever.

Although the quality of the computer animation was a little on the butt-ugly side at the beginning of the show, the writing and characterization are fantastic. Thankfully, the visuals do improve as the series goes on, and the rest remains strong from start to finish.

…And that series ending? Pretty damned mindblowing to anyone who's even remotely familiar with the story of the Transformers. This is great, great stuff.


Games: It’s way LTTP, but here’s my Trials Evolution review. Spoiler: It’s awesome.

The new podcast is also up. Episode 74 contains chatter on Dragon's Dogma, Max Payne 3, and quite a bit of discussion about how portables are fucking it in the bin. Featuring guest voice Michael Cunningham (@finalmacstorm) from RPGamer, give a listen, won't you? 

After wrapping my Dogma review, I had a rare bit of time for a non-review play. Asura’s Wrath was on hand, so away I went. 

Dude, chill.
I didn't get very far, so not much to say on it except that I think it's probably best to approach it as an anime where you push a few buttons once in a while, rather than expecting a more traditional game. From that perspective it's been fairly enjoyable so far, although I'm having a hard time imagining where the game is going to go in terms of escalation since the first boss battle is against an opponent who turns larger than the Earth… pass the Mountain Dew, I have a feeling this is going to get pretty extreme.

In other games news, my son knew that I had Minecraft downloaded onto my Xbox hard drive and he was begging me to try it, even though I told him that it was so glitchy that I couldn't get it to run. We decided to give it a shot and see what happened, and for some reason it's been able to work for the last few days with only minimal lock-ups… Far from perfect, but nothing nearly as catastrophic as what I first encountered when I tried to review it last month.

Pretty great... WHEN IT WORKS.
No clue what the difference was that got it to run, but in any case, I decided to put it back on the docket and will turn out a review ASAP.  I wrote most of the text last night in a single sitting… it's an unusual piece and perhaps a little more personal than I usually like to go, but it seemed appropriate given my experience with the game and the unusual nature of Minecraft itself.


Games: Given the Vita’s current dearth of interesting titles and my continued lack of interest in the 3DS, my iPhone has remained my portable-of-choice since I've gotten it. I'll eventually be putting up a more comprehensive list, but for the moment I'd like to suggest...

>Plague Inc. - A disease simulator where the point is to annihilate every last human on earth. The graphics are super-clean and appealing, the interface is very user-friendly and straightforward, and it's a lot more challenging than you think to exterminate humanity if you play on Normal difficulty or higher. 

Every player starts with bacteria, but other sorts of nasty bugs are unlocked as you go. I had a great time with this one, and when I finally put an end to humanity, it was a pretty satisfying feeling... it sounds kind of wrong when I say that now, though.

>Super Lemonade Factory - I've just started this one, but it's a puzzle-platformer with two main characters; and husband and wife. The husband can break through crates and the wife can double-jump. Get them together, and she can ride on his back. Together they must get through a series of levels in order to claim rights to a profitable lemonade factory. 

Although I'm not a fan of virtual d-pads, it hasn't been too demanding so far. The graphics are incredibly charming, and the gameplay is the go meaty enough to keep me coming back, yet light enough to be played on the go. Still working my way through it, but so far it's a big thumbs-up.