Thursday, 27 June 2013

First Impressions! Persona 4 Golden

So last Friday I picked up a Playstation Vita due to the fact that I got Playstation Plus and had a bunch of free Vita games I could play. The one game I actually picked up in-store was Persona 4 Golden, because I'd heard a lot of good things - a LOT of good things - and I love me a good RPG. I had only very passing knowledge of the game, but knew it had to do with being a high schooler who also fought monsters in some alternate reality.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Game Review! Remember Me

Remember Me
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Publisher: Capcom
Platforms: PC - Played, Xbox 360, Playstation 3
ESRB: M for Mature
What I played: Finished the game (9 Hours)

Remember Me is set in Neo-Paris, 2084. A company known as Memorize has invented a device called "Sensen", which nearly the entire world population uses to share memories as if they were a currency. You play as Nilin, a memory hunter working with the rebel group called "Errorists", dedicated to taking down Memorize. The problem is, you've been recently captured and your memory wiped...


Remember Me's gameplay has three forms: combat, platforming and remixing. Combat is similar to the style used by the Batman Arkham games, although has a twist with its combo system and special abilities. Platforming is standard fare, along the lines of Uncharted and Tomb Raider, including a bit of puzzle solving. Remixing is the game's true shining point, although only occurs four times throughout the game.

Combat consists of mainly three actions: Punch, Kick and Dodge. These three actions will be your main weapons in taking down the Enforcers and Leapers and all their variants. Dodging is pretty straight-forward, you push the button, you make a dodge move, avoid damage. Punch and Kick alone won't get you too far, but that's what the Combo Lab is for.
The Combo Lab
Inside the Combo Lab you have access to up to 5 unlockable combos, which combine the Punch and Kick actions into various patterns. Each attack - a Punch or Kick- action in a combo can be slotted with a "Pressen", which can either deal more damage, heal Nilin, shorten the cooldown of an S-Pressen - a special attack - or multiply the effect of the previous Pressen. The Combo Lab is a fascinating idea, but it needs some tweaking to work better. It's pretty decent for the first half or so of the game, where new enemy types are introduced and new combos and more Pressens are being unlocked, but after that you probably won't use it much. Eventually, once you have all the combos unlocked, you have each combo set up for a specific purpose - damage, healing, cooldown, a bit of each - and you don't ever have another reason to enter the Combo Lab again. That's too bad, because the idea is really neat. Using the combos has some flaws too. Starting with the third combo, you can start earning extra PMP, which is basically their word for Experience Points. PMP is what's used to unlock new Pressens, and you earn it through regular combat as well. The problem is finishing these longer action combos. A lot of enemies, especially the Leapers, die with only two or three hits, even from attacks that aren't a Power Pressen. And if you're fighting more than two, maybe three enemies, it can be difficult to land more than two or three attacks in a combo because an enemy will either hit you to break the combo, or you dodge away from an enemy instead of over them, which also breaks the combo. They needed to tweak the combo system a bit so that you could keep up a combo a little easier. Nilin also has access to "S-Pressens". S-Pressens are special attacks or abilities that work best under specific circumstances and against certain enemies such as revealing stealthed enemies or corrupting mechanical ones. You also gain access to the "Spammer" early on. This is the closest you get to a "gun" in the game, and is mostly used for puzzle-solving purposes than combat, although it's default light and upgraded heavy attacks come in useful - or are required - against some enemies. Figuring out which enemy to attack first, what Pressens you need in what combos, what combos you need to use when, and what S-Pressens you need to use are the keystones to surviving a combat encounter. This works fairly well - except when targeting with the Spammer gets a little wonky - but didn't quite reach a level of really fascinating. Overall, combat is kind of weak, especially compared to the games it's trying to emulate. It's not horrible, but could definitely see some improvements.

Platforming and puzzle-solving was sadly a bit lacking as well. What was there was pretty good, it just needed more. A lot of the platforming was really straightforward, which was helped a lot by the fact that an orange arrow would always point you to the next ledge - or nearby ledges - so you always knew where to go. This is both handy and annoying, and you'll lean one way or the other depending on how much you like platforming. I kinda liked it, because it's usually pretty obvious anyway, but would also help you pick out that ledge or ladder you thought wasn't actually climbable.
The platforming arrow
Which is useful because there's a lot you can't climb or explore in Remember Me, which is sad, because the setting is beautiful. I've heard complaints about Nilin's jumping ability - or lack-there-of - unless attempting to climb something. After jumping a few times just to see it for myself, I came to the conclusion I actually really like it. What I had a problem with was making smaller movements or turning around, which more than once caused me to wander right off an edge to my death. A lot of video game characters can leap into the air doing their best Mario impression, and can jump a lot higher than I'm sure most human beings can. Nilin looks and feels like she can't jump that high because she can't - most people can't, I'm sure. It actually makes the platforming seem pretty realistic compared to most games, such as Uncharted. Also unlike Uncharted, the platforming isn't very exciting. It's just there to make moving around the areas more interesting that just walking... which is about all it manages. The puzzle-solving is pretty good when actually used, but otherwise is a non-entity. Most puzzles are solved throughout the game with an upgrade for the Spammer that lets you tether to objects to move them around. One particularly interesting puzzle had you shoot hubs of rails that rotated out and around, and you had to shoot them all until they formed a path leading up the wall. It was cool, but also pretty simple. I'd have liked to see more variations of that puzzle, with harder versions further in the game. Platforming also had I believe only two directly platforming-related puzzles, with flipping billboards. You had to time your traversal across the billboard just right so that the rotating panels wouldn't knock you down. Sadly, as mentioned, they only did it twice, and it was the only really interesting time I had with the platforming. Another puzzle-solving mechanic used later in the game is the ability to pull power from one console and shoot it to another. You can pull and shoot this power through windows, of which there are many in Remember Me, and you have to figure out where to pull and where to shoot the power. This also wasn't utilized quite as well as it could have been, having only really one good puzzle, which was right after you got it.

Before we talk about Remixing, I want to talk about the "side-quest" stuff. They take the part of collectibles, like many games of the genre do. Mnesis Memories are probably the most common pickup, and adds entries to your Journal. Information about people, events and landmarks are all examples of things that get unlocked by these pickups. You also have Scaramechs, which have a barely noticeable sound that's supposed to alert you to their presence. But you have to pretty much be right next to one to hear it, and even then you might just chalk it up to one of the many environmental background sounds. When shot with the Spammer, they grant you bonus PMP. Finally, we have SAT and Focus Packs. Upon collecting 5 of each, they grant you either another Health or Focus pack, accordingly. These are the coolest pickups in the game, as each one is hinted at by what I'd describe as a "memory screen". Lore states they're a memory clue of the location of the Pack, left by other Errorists.
The location of a SAT Pack
The idea is you find some landmarks in the picture and try to find them in the game world and get to the location captured in the memory. It's really cool, and the Packs are actually useful, so you don't feel ripped off at all. Although the message saying what the Packs do every time you pick one up is a bit annoying.

Okay, so we finally come to Remixing. Remixing is Remember Me's key gameplay feature, but is only featured 4 times throughout the entire game. Unfortunately, it's also not that great. How it works is, you view the original memory from start to finish. Once it's done, you can rewind and fast forward the memory, watching for glitches. Once you find one, you pause the memory and manipulate the glitched object. This causes a subtle change in the memory, but will - hopefully - cause drastically different outcomes. The goal is to change the memory so that something else happens, but without causing the person who's memory you're manipulating to believe they've died because... well, you can't remember you've died. That kind of doesn't work. They're all pretty easy though, since the glitches are laid out for you. All you have to do is figure out which ones you need to activate, because if you rewind past a glitch you've activated, it turns it off. It's completely trial and error. That's not to say it's horrible, it's really interesting and fascinating to play. But - like pretty much every other part of the gameplay - it could have been so much better. The closest comparison in this gameplay I can think of is the DS (and ported to iOS) game Ghost Trick. Dontnod should have looked at that game a lot more to figure out how to make Remixing even better than it already is. Things like allowing glitches to be activated at any point, and knowing which ones to activate when and in what order would have made Remixing way better.

Gameplay: 6.5/10

Story and Setting

The story of Remember Me begins with Nilin having her memory ripped out. Despite this, she seems to have held on to a few scraps, and is guided down a set of corridors to a machine that will finish the job. Somehow, someone by the name of Edge contacts Nilin, and tells her how to escape. She does so, and Edge says he's the leader of a freedom fighter group called "Errorists". Missing her memory, Nilin has little choice but to follow his orders, and learns that she's what's called a Memory Hunter. Memory Hunters are people who track down people to steal their memories. Nilin was a special Hunter, due to the fact that she can Remix memories, instead of just steal them, causing them to remember something differently than how it actually happened. The rest of the game follows Nilin as she takes down Memorize, the company behind the memory device Sensen. She does this by breaking into special prisons, stealing memories and Remixing a few. The story is pretty good, and even has a couple of nice twists that you don't see coming. The idea behind a lot of what you're doing is pretty terrifying too. Most of the memories you steal, you steal without the person knowing at all. They have no idea that a memory - a piece of their personal history - was taken from them. And yet you do it in the game as if it's nothing. That's kind of scary. There's not a lot of side characters, and most of them don't stick around for too long. They're usually just there a couple times to help Nilin along. They still come off as having distinct personalities, they're just not that fleshed out. I would have liked to see a bit more of them, but it's not much of a complaint.

Cool holographic store signs
The setting of Remember Me is what truly sets it apart from other games. The game is set in 2084, in the recently war-ravaged and now recovering version of Paris known as Neo-Paris. A lot of the city is actually doing just fine, and shows off all the technology that humanity comes up with in the 70 years between now and 2084. One of the coolest small things I saw was holographic store signs that pop up, even over worn-down shacks in the slums of Neo-Paris. The place feels like a futuristic city, but without being one that's totally inhuman - like the corridors of the Citadel or even the Normandy from Mass Effect. The place looks like it was built by human hands. It's an amazingly well-crafted world. It's just too bad we get to see so little of it. Remember Me is pretty much just a long corridor with a couple of niches set in the walls here and there with a collectible inside. Neo-Paris would be amazing to explore if it had been opened up a bit more, but even with what we do get, it's pretty great. You can even learn a lot about the lore surrounding the game's setting through the Journal entries unlocked by picking up Mnesis Memories. I hope the game does well enough to warrant a sequel, as the setting is even more well-crafted than my beloved Mirror's Edge, and I want to see more.

Story: 8/10
Setting: 10/10

Visuals and Sound

Your first vista view in Remember Me
Remember Me is a beautiful game. Neon signs, dark corners, flashy shopping hubs, it all feels real and well designed. The graphics are pretty well done, there's little to complain about visually. Facial movements feel a bit stiff, but they don't get used often enough to be much of a big deal. I always like seeing characters react to getting wet, and Remember Me does this well. Nilin doesn't walk out of a rainstorm perfectly dry, she looks soaked, as most would be. It doesn't fade away like magic over a minute or so either, it sticks around for awhile. One very cool thing is use of style with the Sensen device. Every person you see in the game has a little spinning disk-like thing hovering over the back of their neck, this is the Sensen device. The game uses it's base design on nearly everything holographic or virtual reality. From your stolen Spammer to entire areas rendered to surround a memory you've entered, and even the first boss fight's whole arena, this design is used. It's a really cool look, and although its base colour is white, they sprinkle in different colours, and it really works.

The game's soundtrack is really neat, it has a classical feel that fits its French setting, but also has lot of strange sounds mixed in that remind you that it's set in the future. It's an odd mix, but boy does it work. Music isn't used where it isn't needed, but if something's going on - from combat to scripted scenes to cutscenes - the soundtrack will be playing, and you'll notice it. One thing I would have liked to see is something of a main theme for the game using this style of music, but that's a personal problem, and nothing at fault with the game itself. The voice acting is also well done overall, and the pronunciations and accents all remind you that this isn't the US, or even a setting that has a lot of North American people in it like most games. It's never annoying, and a welcome change of pace. In fact, Nilin has the most notable accent, so you're always reminded of it.

Visuals: 9.5/10
Sound: 9/10

Family Friendly Rating

Remember Me is rated M for Mature, and although it's not anywhere near as bad as Gears of War, it still earns it's rating. Combat isn't at all gory, as none of Nilin's attacks draw blood. During Remixing however, there is at least one scene where someone gets shot. The most "offensive" thing in the game is the language, which isn't exactly common, but still around enough and strong enough to warrant the M rating.
ESRB Rating Information

FF Rating: 5/10 (10 being highly offensive)


Remember Me is a game that was really well designed, but sadly not well executed. The world, sound and visual design were all amazing. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the gameplay. It had a lot of interesting ideas that were all so close to being something that would make the game truly special, but none quite made it. It doesn't feel rushed or flawed, the game is mostly pretty solid. What it needs is a second chance, a chance for Dontnod to take what they learned with this game and make a killer sequel, because I can see the next game becoming something everyone should play. If you really support new games with good ideas and great settings, buy Remember Me. If you like all this, but don't feel like paying $60 for a game with only okay gameplay, wait until it goes on sale or drops in price (or both). I preordered the game and paid my $60, and I can't say I regret it, so take that as you will. I really hope Remember Me gets it's second chance, and isn't forgotten.

Final Score: 7/10
Notre Dame in Remember Me's Neo-Paris
The Eiffel Tower in Remember Me's Neo-Paris

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Random Pondering! What Happened To Super Mario Bros.?

Today I'm going to talk about one of the saddest things I've seen in gaming, and it all has to do with everyone's favourite plumber, Mario. To start off, let me give you some of my background with the ol' guy. My first real video games were Ikari Warriors, Duck Hunt, and Super Mario Bros. You can guess which one got played the most. Duck Hunt, probably. But Super Mario Bros. was right there with it, since it was all on the same cartridge (yeah, bundle packs that far back!). I played it more than any other game at the time, and had a number of older relatives that pointed out a myriad of secrets. Today, I like to think there's almost no secrets I don't know about in the original SMB. I'm just gonna skip over SMB2, I didn't really play it, it's likely most people didn't, it wasn't really SMB anyway. SMB3 however I played a fair bit when I had the chance, although didn't own it until a handful of years ago - actually found an original NES cartridge, but also had it for the GBA. It was a worthy and quite impressive successor to the original game, and one I also still like to play to this day. Super Mario World was one I played, but never really got into. If I'd ever gotten it on GBA like I had SMB3, I probably would have played it to completion as well. I know a couple of times I got pretty far, and finished once because a friend of mine took us through the Star Worlds or whatever they're called. Also a wonderful game, just not one I've played as much. I'm also not going to really mention Super Mario World 2, because that was a lot different (more comparable to the Yoshi series of games, for obvious reasons) and I didn't play it like, at all. But basically, you could pick any of the 2D Marios from the NES/SNES eras and have a good time (although the All-Stars version of SMB1 I really didn't like, I might bring that up more later).

Monday, 27 May 2013

New Video! Let's Play Dark Forces Episode III (Part 1)

Dark Forces continues with some dirty, stinky, and completely disgusting sewers. Ugh. (Embedding still not working...)

Thursday, 16 May 2013

New Video! Bioshock Episode 8, Tomb Raider Part 6, Sister Plays Mega Man X!

Got me a new set of videos out too, if you haven't already seen them! First up, I continue to release Bioshock with Episode 8!

(Embedding is seemingly broken, so links it is!)

Secondly, I finally continue Tomb Raider with Part 6!

And to mix things up some, I had my sister (well, one of them) play Mega Man X, with zero instruction from myself. See the results!

That's all I've got for today (and possibly this week, although I'll try to upload another Dark Forces video on Friday/Saturday). Next week may be sketchy on video uploads, but then I'll have a weekend that I can actually do stuff on, so I can hopefully build up some kind of buffer so if I have a busy weekend I can keep uploading.

Personal Log, Earthdate 15-05-2013

Hello blog followers! I apologize for the lack of posts, especially after throwing two out there so fast. Speaking of those, I'd like to thank ArenaNet for retweeting my blog post about Guild Wars 2's Living Story updates. I've got just under 1000 views for that post, which is mind blowing for me. For anyone who decided to stick around, special thanks to you! Now, what's up with my silence?

Well, the biggest one is I'm working now. Started the job on Monday, although I had expected to just be doing paperwork and then go home... so that was a bit of a shock. I'm only just recovering from sudden-job shock, and should be getting back into things soon. I'd be pumping out content this weekend, except my friend's having a birthday campout thing, so I'm gone all weekend. I might have some time to work out some posts offline so I can upload them when I get home.

As for what posts I've been thinking about, I've got a post about the current state of Super Mario games and what I think of them as well as a very excitable post (which I want to put some real effort into) about Ace Attorney 5, having just recently been confirmed for a North American release with it's English trailer and release window of Fall 2013. You can't even believe how excited I am for that, I just... ugh, I HAVE to write that post. Stupid work taking up all my time. Anyway, keep an eye out for those, and hey, for anyone who's reading this, feel free to suggest topics in the comments below. I'll think about 'em and see if I can come up with something post-worthy.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

I'm So Excited! Guild Wars 2's Living Story Progression

Guys, I'm super excited, and I gotta share. I finally got around to finishing Guild Wars 2's Frost and Flame Living Story updates (the latest of which was Retribution, the final update for the series). It's not crazy heavy on story, but I realized I really enjoyed what they were doing as I finished Rox's story mission from The Razing.

Before I go any further, here's the links to the update pages for these...