ReLocked & ReLoaded: Contra ReBirth Retrospective

While Konami isn’t the same company these days they’re still responsible for me being a fan of run and gun style games. Their series “Contra” ,while popular suffers from a fluctuation in quality, which in my opinion is a result from the transition from 2D to 3D. During this time I felt games like Contra, Castlevania, and Mega Man were starting to be seen as obsolete. While developers did make attempts (both failed and successful) to adapt these games to the changing landscape the industry was experiencing, it seemed like classic games that once propelled the industry were considered too “old-fashioned” and “out of date” to be released on a home console. Konami’s answer to this was the “ReBirth” series; a release of three games each using a Konami IP that embrace their classic roots, one of which is Contra ReBirth.

Contra ReBirth while not similar enough to it’s predecessors to be considered a rehash it doesn’t shake the foundation enough to be considered a reboot either. The game falls within a perfect medium; a remix that’s familiar, but also branched off enough to make me feel like I wasn’t walking the same trial of older entries. Contra Rebirth doesn’t try to replicate previous games, but instead takes inspiration from them. While playing through the games stages I saw enemies, mini-bosses, and stage layouts that drew from the original Contra to Contra 3. The stages are also accompanied by well composed remixes of tracks from older games, including Contra: Hard Corp’s intense “Last Springsteen” Which serves as the music for Rebirth’s final boss.

Gameplay wise Contra ReBirth comes collect. Controls are tight and precise, which is necessary for surviving the game’s challenging levels(especially on the higher difficulties). The game’s only shortcoming to me was the sparse amount of power ups. Contra ReBirth only has a total of three: the laser, homing, and scatter shot. The Game also seems short( mainly the length of the stages) compared to other entries I’ve played. However this could be due to ReBirth being more of a budget title.

Contra ReBirth still proves that retro is not outdated. There was a reason why these games were leading the industry back in the day and that’s because they were just plain fun. In these times when we rely on check points and auto saves Contra ReBirth forces players to learn and adapt. Once you lose your lives you start over and while it was frustrating the game was such a thrill to play that I still came back to try again.

-Off Course Comet

Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme Versus Maxi Boost ON Impressions

I was lucky enough to be accepted in the closed network test for Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS Maxi Boost On this past weekend. Admittedly I had lower expectations due to how Bandai Namco handled the release of Gundam Versus three years ago. However Bandai Namco fixed all of the problems I had with Gundam Versus in Maxi Boost ON.

Firstly, my experience online was more enjoyable with Maxi Boost ON compared to Gundam Versus. While I’m aware that Connections vary from player to player. I personally had terrible Connectivity Issues with Gundam Versus. I’ve been playing  on a wired connection ever since the last gaming generation and came across little to no issues with online multiplayer. The only games that gave me frequent problems were Tekken and Gundam Versus, and ironically both are properties of Bandai Namco. Thankfully in Maxi Boost ON I only had two instances where a match wouldn’t even start and I witnessed little to no stutter or slow down during the rest of my matches. 

Maxi Boost ON also addresses Gundam Versus roster. Gundam Versus relied heavily on DLC and didn’t even have any representation from G-Gundam at launch. Some series had no representation at all such as Gundam X and Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz. However I do feel like Gundam Versus does give more love to lesser known suits and grunt units such as the Rick Dias and the Methuss two of my favorites suits from the Zeta series. Overall I feel like Maxi Boost does a better job at representing the Gundam series as a whole having a total 183 playable suits during the beta, while Gundam versus stands at 121 playable suits all of which weren’t available at during its beta or even at launch.

Bandai Namco really won me over with this network test. There’s still features I haven’t covered due to them not being available in the network test. I will cover all of them as well the games mechanics a week after Maxi Boost ON releases. Maxi Boost ON will be the first review I’ll write of a recently released game.

-Off Course Comet

 

 

The Finest Treasure: Sin & Punishment 2 Retrospective.

Can’t believe I can finally say this, but I successfully beat Sin and Punishment: Star Successor on the hardest difficulty.  It’s a feat that most players wouldn’t be able to achieve according to Masato Maegawa who is the game’s producer. To be honest Maegawa’s claim isn’t very far off the mark. Star Successor is hard, so hard that i believed his bold statement. However my stubbornness wouldn’t let me yield and my completion of Star Successor became one of my great accomplishments in gaming, probably even my greatest.

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is the sequel to Nintendo 64 cult classic “Sin & Punishment”. For the most part Star Successor surpasses it’s predecessor in terms of gameplay and design. The aspect of Star Successor that’s weaker than the first game is it’s story. While the villains are well designed and sport their own unique and attractable personalities the games two protagonist: Isa and Kachi, aren’t as fleshed out as Saki and Airan who are the protagonists of the first game, as well as Isa’s parents.

In the first game I’d seen Saki and Airan’s relationship evolve from friends to love interests, which seemed natural and organic due to the two fighting side by side as combat partners in first game’s apocalyptic world.  Isa and Kachi’s relationship feels rushed and forced by comparison. From the start of the game Isa chooses to spare Kachi after being sent by the game’s antagonists(known as the “Creators” and Isa’s former comrades) to eliminate her. Isa knows very little about Kachi due to her state of amnesia, yet he defiantly ignores claims that Kachi isn’t what she seems to be without any question, doubt, or inner conflict. The only justification he gives for sparing her is that he “changed his mind”. For me this made Isa come of as naive given that he was willing to turn on his old partners so suddenly.

The two’s connection comes of as awkward and cute at best compared to the genuine and intimate one that Saki and Airan shared. The only moment Isa and Kachi shared was a awkward and weird discussion about humanity after Kachi wonders if something is wrong with her due to not being human herself. What could’ve been a really deep moment is turned into a comedic one when Kachi joking asks if humans have tails. Saki and Airan on the other hand had profound and deep exchanges. Discussions about what they were going to do after the war with the ruffians ended, leaving Japan to go to America for a better life, and preparing for the birth of their unborn child.

The connection between Saki and Airan not only made me care about them more, but it also made the stakes higher when they were threatened. I was invested in not just them ,but story of the first game overall. I did not feel the same attachment to the protagonist of Star Successor, nor was i invested in their relationship. Which is a bit of a let down considering that the connection is a crucial part of the series lore in general.

Star Successor’s story also has very bumpy pacing compared to it’s predecessor, which might be why the protagonist don’t form much of a bond. Once Star Successor puts its foot on the gas it doesn’t let up.  Even in cut-scenes its rare when something isn’t blowing up or the Isa and Kachi aren’t getting shot at.  The game also suffers from a massive time jump which leaves a lot blank spaces left from the first game. The war with the Ruffians, Isa’s parents, his relationship with them; these are questions i asked after completing the first game that go unanswered in Star Successor.

Isa doesn’t even mention his parents, so whatever relationship he had with them is unknown. The two don’t even show up aside from a random flashback, which you briefly see Saki and hear Airan’s voice. I really hoped that the two would show up and at the very least that I’d get a definitive answer about what happened to them. Whether they are dead or alive remains a mystery.

The gameplay is the main focus for the game and it’s where Star Successor completely surpasses the first game. The game’s developer “Treasure” is well experienced in making challenging titles. I cannot deny that Star Successor is a difficult game that truly lives up to the “Bullet Hell” genre. Imagine fighting a boss from Mega-Man while trying to dodge bullets with a count as high as Contra, and you’ll have a accurate idea of what playing Star Successor is like.

Bullets filled the screen, Missiles were constantly tracking me, and enemies lunged at me to carry out physical attacks. When I managed to make it to the boss they’d throw their own attacks and projectiles in to the mix. With all of that combined it felt like there was no safe place for me on the screen. If took my eye of the boss the grunts or the projectiles would get me. If i took my eyes of of them then the boss would get me. The amount of challenge Star Successor threw at me seemed obnoxious at times.

Thankfully the game offers four control schemes: two of which i used. When i started out I used the Wii Classic Controller and while its not bad it gave me nowhere near the amount of accuracy the Wii remote and Nunchuk did. Star Successor also provides much more range of movement compared to its predecessor. In the first game the player was restricted to just moving on the ground, from side to side, while only being able to jump. In Star Successor the player has the ability to leave the ground and hover around the whole screen; opening up more offensive play and evasive maneuvers.

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor brought me a lot of frustration during my play-through. There were times when i had to turn my console off and try again the next day. Even though the game is about a decade old now, it still sports a old school type of challenge that is rarely seen in game design anymore. The game certainly isn’t for everyone and that’s understandable. There were many times that i said i’d never touch the game again once i had finished it, and yet i started up a new game right after i had completed it. Star Successor while hard is one of the most rewarding gaming experiences I’ve ever had.

-Off Course Comet

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Game Pitch: F-Zero

 

I wrote this article three years ago on my old blog on Wix and was so proud of it that I wanted to share it on my new blog here. This is the first entry in a series I call “A Game Pitch”. In this series I will write articles discussing game series that have not had installments in years or game series that have lost their way in the eyes of most fans. However most of us fans are quick to hop on the problems we see in games, but never attempt to offer a solution and that’s where “A Game Pitch” comes in. Here I offer solutions and ideas that I think can bring something new to the table and today I’ll start with F-Zero a series that I miss dearly.

To get straight to the point F-Zero has been dormant for way too long now. The last game released was F-Zero Climax released back in 2004 exclusively in Japan, but for us in North America and Europe the last title we would see was F-Zero: GP Legend for the Gameboy advance which was a vanilla version of climax and based off of a sorry anime localization that aired on 4kids TV when I was younger.

However my experience with F-Zero mostly was on home consoles and was one of the very first games I played. I was only three and a half when I would play F-Zero on the SNES at my daycare center with my friends in the morning before we went off to preschool. I didn’t even know it was called F-Zero since I couldn’t even read at the time, but regardless I would own every console installment of F-Zero as I got older. I bought F-Zero X for Nintendo 64 and F-Zero GX for the Nintendo GameCube; the last home console title released in the summer of 2003 while I was still in elementary school( which shows how long its been).

I view the absence of F-Zero as a symbol for Nintendo’s loss of diversity in my eyes. While the big N still has the most diverse library in the industry, its a far cry from what it used to be. Even the GameCube; a console which was loved by me but didn’t seem to capture of most gamer’s back then is a testament of this. Loved platforming? Mario was right up you’re ally. Craved Adventure? you couldn’t go wrong with Zelda or Metroid. Wanted some mindless looney toon mayhem? Mario kart and Mario Party could scratch the itch. And if you wanted are serious racer focused on technique the games like Wave Race and F-Zero are for you. I’m sure you get the picture at this point. Nintendo had a game series to cater to certain demographics. While one game might not have been for you there was almost certainly another out there for your taste. Nintendo definitely had a game for everyone back then.

Fast forward to Wii/DS era there wasn’t a F-Zero title to be seen on either platform. Granted it was rough for a lot of Nintendo’s more niche franchises at the time, but none where in the situation F-Zero was in. Star Fox might not have had a Wii installment, but we did get Star Fox: Command on the DS. Same goes for Custom Robo, no Wii installment, but we did get Custom Robo Arena on the DS which even supported online play just like Star Fox: Command. Even Chibi-Robo got a game that generation for the DS, While F-Zero got nothing on the Wii or the DS.

I honestly couldn’t grasp why F-Zero had been left out on either Console. Both of these Consoles where pushing online-multiplayer through the Nintendo-Wifi Connection at the time, and the DS showed it was more than capable of handling a F-Zero game after Mario Kart DS. It seemed like a simple concept and the series would have no installment on the next generation platforms either. While Nintendo has certainly calmed down a bit, I felt like the niche titles from their library were getting very little love while Mario was getting games left and right and leaving everyone else in the dust. However Miyamoto would later provide answers in interviews later on.

33f9e5_b24088d9e6ea41d2a062c4aa4961a97f~mv2
The first interview was back in 2012 on the french site called Gamekult, which was translated into English on Nintendolife. Miyamoto was shocked by a short survey on twitter which showed that one of the games french gamers missed the most was F-Zero.

His response is as follows: “I am really pleased to hear Twitter’s opinion, because since the first episode on SNES many games have been made but the series has evolved very little. I thought people had grown weary of it. I’d like to say: Thank you very much and try to wait by playing Nintendo Land’s F-Zero mini-game. I am also very curious and I’d like to ask those people: Why F-Zero? What do you want that we haven’t done before?”.

Like I said before this series is not only just talking about the problems, but providing solutions as well. Miyamoto states that the series has evolved very little. F-Zero is a racing game and most games in the genre evolve very little and instead expanded on each entry similar to the fighting game genre. Most people who fell in love with the series did so because of the racing. My answer to him is that F-Zero is not game driven by a story or plot so keep improving on the series like every installment in the series has. Add more tracks, add more pilots, improve on the track design, and push the hardware to its limits to make it the best looking F-Zero game released. F-Zero GX offered a cart creator which was one of its best features. You could build your own machine and even design a logo for it, but you could only choose pilots from the game to drive your vehicle. So take it a step further and let us create our own avatar in the next game to make in our own image to make it seem like we personally are at the wheel.

As for what do we want and you haven’t done before the answer is simple and that is online multiplayer. To this day we have never had a F-Zero Game with online-multiplayer and the world has been ready for it. I’m no game developer but getting an HD F-Zero Game to run with twenty players online at a constant 60fps sounds like a worthy challenge alone. Nintendo has heard this complaint time and time again, but part of your fanbase are adults now. Nearly all of my friends that I would race back in the good old days have moved on. Sure we would play local multiplayer if we had the luxury but online is how we game with each other now. Even look at it from the competitive side of things. The F-Zero community has never had the chance to test their skills against the world to see who’s the best out there aside from comparing time trials.

We also have never had a track editor for fans that live outside japan. During last generation with the WiiU Miyamoto has always stated that he was seeking ways to utilize the gamepad and he missed a big opportunity at that time, but he has a chance to follow up on it with the Nintendo Switch. The touchscreen is the perfect and most effective way for course creation. Look at Mario Maker, sure its subtle but its a match made in heaven.

The last quote I will bring up is from Miyamoto during a interview in 2015 which I found on Gamespot.
Miyamoto states that the struggle lies due to the fact that he doesn’t have a good and new idea that he could bring to F-Zero to make it a great game again and he goes on to state that the answer might lie in a new controller interface.

The first thing ill address is the control issue. I respect Miyamoto and he has done a lot for the industry but I have to respectfully disagree with him on this issue. Why does it seem like the niche and less popular titles have to have a “new” control scheme to be relevant in his eyes. Even during the Wii era arguably when motion controls were at a all time high, he never forced these things onto Mario or Zelda. Sure Games like Mario Galaxy and Twilight Princess had motion controls but they were subtle and natural instead of being forced. With Mario Galaxy you would flick the remote to make Mario spin and With Twilight Princess you would swing the remote to swing Link’s sword or aim at the screen to aim his bow. These games added motion controls but did not jeopardize the core game play. If you must look at something to work on look at Mario kart Wii. This game provided a handful of controller options including the Wii-Wheel which was challenging to use but not too outlandish either. If you want motion controls in F-Zero then put in Joy Con support with it for the switch.

61tX1-pxkxL._AC_SX425_

As for F-Zero needing a good “new” idea to be a great game again i’ll answer that with a belief of mine. If a game is truly good it will stay good and not rely on gimmicks to be relevant. A good game will stand the test of time and bring entertainment to the player reguardless of the player’s age, or era its played in. F-Zero, F-Zero X, and F-Zero GX were great games back then and they are still great games to this day and seeing that gamers younger than me who have purchased these games and are enjoy them as much as I did shows this.

-Off Course Comet

STATE OF YOUTUBE ADDRESS AND FUTURE PLAN

 

Ever since I was introduced to the James Rolfe aka AVGN years ago, I wanted to start a gaming channel. I was impressed how he used the platform to discuss video games and geek culture as a whole. Before YouTube I only found discussion about video games through magazines, X-play, and my own circle of friends.

Due to Rolfe’s success alot of people migrated to the platform to share their passion for video games, and overtime this lead to a oversaturation of gaming channels. With that oversaturation came a loss of sincerity. Rolfe and other early content creators state they started off uploading videos as a hobby. Rolfe had already made videos since he was a child and YouTube was just the vehicle to share his ideas with the world.

Compare the content back then to whats being put out now and the difference is night and day. The platform has become about quantity instead of quality. The amount of work YouTubers put in back then was astounding the scripts, the skits, the editing; so much thought and care would go into a single video. Some YouTubers still continue to work hard and put out thought provoking content: Arlo, The Geek Critique, and Avalanche reviews to name a few.

Nowadays the most popular channels seem to recite news articles, make misleading titles, and discuss drama/controversy. This lead to me not fully engaging YouTube not only as a viewer, but also rethinking my plans of using YouTube as platform to find community while sharing my passion for video games.

I would see the birth and rise of one of these channels personally. At first this YouTuber attempted to make a “network” similar to Machmina or Screwattack while using YouTube to engage in drama/debates with bigger channels, as well as to drive traffic to his website. The website to me was interesting more so the psychology of the creator and the userbase. To put it bluntly the site was bias, it favored a certain company heavily.

It was to an unhealthy level; since the company wasn’t doing to well at the time it was faced with both unfair and fair criticism. Even fair didn’t matter in the case of this site any criticism made was met with vitriol, downvoted, and would get people banned if it crossed with the site owner’s aarogance.

This isn’t a problem as the owner can do as he wishes. The problem was that the owner claimed to be a “professional journalist” which he boastfully labels himself as. I digress the claim of being professional as I’ve seen him act the complete opposite. A professional journalist would just report not engage petty arguments( using statements like “U MAD” or “THE SALT”) or insult their viewers. As for being a journalist I’d say that anyone who can write and report can technically be one by definition. However the label would over inflate his ego and go to his head which is something I notice happen to a lot of Youtubers who “Make it big”.

He would(and still does from what I hear) talks down to his users; especially those who disagree with him in a condescending tone. I would see him first hand display this rude behavior to one of his users who politely disagreed with him. His arrogance was astounding and he disregarded everything the person said saying that he “clearly doesn’t understand the gaming industry” and just went in circles mocking him.
When I left my own comment politely stating that he missed what the person was trying to say he got even more defensive and challenged the person to debate him live childishly referring to it as “talking man to man”.

He stated that if the challenged wasn’t accepted that the conversation was over and even to my surprise the person didn’t feed into his ego and agreed with his statement and even after that he still had to have the last word and continued to talk down to him. When the argument was over I sent the person a message of encouragement telling him to not let this YouTuber’s rude and arrogant behavior effect him, which he stated wouldn’t happen and even thanked me for reaching out.

When I went back to video to read the comments again in order to write this post I was glad to figure out that this person changed his named and started to make videos and had gained a healthy following of 13.7k subscribers. He goes by the name of BKG and makes very well informed and thought out Smash Bros videos explaining Combos, Setups, and etc. Goes to show that well thought out content can still go a long way. Even though the YouTuber who was rude to him has a larger subscriber count of 55.1k, he also has 4,393 uploads. BKG has managed to reach a quarter of the subscribers with only 14 uploads, which says it all about the quality of his content.

Going forward I want to do something similar to BKG. I want to make quality content, discussing the culture I love while also contributing, and giving back to it.  Using YouTube is up in the air and if I do use the platform it will be strictly gaming in its purist form such as gameplay videos, walkthroughs, and possibly reviews. All the click baiting, Fanboy wars, and drama might bring in the money, but are detrimental, and have no place in gaming whatsoever. Its time to show and represent the positivity and potential that gaming can bring.

-Off Course Comet.