Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Magical Space Ninja Adventures

Warframe. The game about space ninjas going round to the space houses of two races and slaughtering them because some female head told them to. It's utterly preposterous, and yet, to date, I have spent one hundred and ten hours of my life dedicated to the slaughter of millions in the name of epic loot.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Uta no Prince-sama Debut

I remember when I really looked forward to the 2nd installment of the all singing, all dancing Princes of Song. The 1st game had an over-the-top craziness, which was mainly attributed to the eccentric Principle, Shining Saotome, to an otherwise fairly regular high school romance scenario with a run of the mill cast. The music mini game was simple but quite addictive and provided hours of fun in its own right. All in all, it was a great who because it knew who the intended audience were and how to mix wacky humour with heart warming moments and gushing romance. Awesome.

So, how on Earth did Broccoli (the studio) get it so wrong with Debut? Firstly, the fun was knocked out of it with so few Shining appearances, no HAYATO and the game generally took itself too seriously. Secondly, the scripts were long and boring and had our main heroine basically doing nothing but sitting idly, watching her other half trying to solve some out of the blue problem which you don't care about. Sometimes, it feels like any character or relationship development at the end of the 1st game is just hurled somewhere and forgotten. Other times the whole character has been stripped of any personality they had and reconstructed so they can squeeze in as much implied homo-homo as they can. As a result, the romantic instances Haruka has with her boyfriend just doesn't have the same heart fluttering gush that was there in the 1st game, it was lukewarm at best.

The game also struggled to attend to an extended cast of 4 additional sempai to the original 7 princes. They crop up often just to make things difficult for Haruka and her princes, which is very annoying. They also come with all their emotional baggage and they are not dateable choices so what's the point of painstakingly going through all their dialogues and backstories?!

The music mini game was still fun but Broccoli has been really cheap and reused existing material they had such as the B side of the character songs from the CDs of the anime. The game sprites also used the same poses albeit with different outfits but even some of the backgrounds are the same as in Repeat.

The bottom line is the creators have lost sight of what made the original (and Repeat which is the remake) so popular and while trying to please the BL fangirls, they ended up pleasing nobody with such boring screen writing and cringe worthy Princely homo time. I only managed to play through Masato's and half of Tokiya's route because he's not the Tokiya who we'd known and loved.

I had to quit before the PSP went flying out the window so a Rage Quit worthy 5/5.

Soul of Lost Undead

I lit the bonfire.

  I remember having a rather profound reflective moment, shortly after I finished Dark Souls (the first). I remember telling my friend that I'd finally defeated Gwyn, and lit the bonfire and finished the game. I had fulfilled the "prophecy" of the Chosen Undead and rekindled the First Flame, the undead curse has been lifted(?) and the Age of Fire had been restored. The End.

[This post contains spoilers for Dark Souls I]

Monday, 12 May 2014


Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma is the 5th instalment of the Blazblue series, and all things considered, it's probably the best version so far. They reworked the guard break and burst mechanics, added a ton of new content, and spiced things up with the new Overdrive mode which gives characters all sorts of new tools to play with. It's an all around great fighting game and I love playing it, but at present it suffers from one humungous and glaring problem, and that's the DLC character Kokonoe.

As a character in the Blazblue universe, Kokonoe has been present since the very beginning, but it has taken 5 games for her to finally debut as a playable character. In the story she's presented as one of the world's most powerful figures, and her debut as a combatant lives up to that billing as she is by far and away the best character in the game.

In fact, I would go as far as saying that she is the most broken character that has ever been in a blazblue game, and in a series that has unleashed a number of extraordinarily broken characters (eg. CT's power trio of Rachel, Nu13 and Arakune) that's really saying something. Kokonoe is simply far too good and her presence damages what is otherwise a pleasingly well-balanced game.

It's hard to point to a single thing that makes Kokonoe broken, but her most major sin is her blatantly overpowered Black Hole super, which belongs in a game like Marvel vs. Capcom rather than Blazblue. This super is a completely unblockable attack that traps the opponent, and leaves them prone to a high damage follow-up combo. The presence of unblockables is always a contentious issue in fighting games, but what's key here is that Kokonoe has setups that enable her to land a guaranteed Black Hole after scoring a knockdown.

If you then combine this with her disproportionately high damage output, and her ability to convert stray hits into huge damage from anywhere on the screen (her 'abare' to use the Japanese parlance), then you have a character who can potentially win rounds from a single touch. I played an infuriating set of games a couple of weeks ago against a Kokonoe player who had a questionable neutral game, but he happened to know a couple of combos and a Black Hole setup, so despite perfecting him 4 times in 7 games, I was still losing rounds just because of that one single touch of death.

And even without Black Hole, Kokonoe is still unquestionably the best character in the game, possessing as she does a dominant neutral game, with huge projectiles and gravity gizmos to ruin the opponent's spacing; and an extremely strong mixup game, with long range low attacks, and two fast overheads that both lead to far too much damage. She has no unfavourable matchups, and makes a significant chunk of the cast completely irrelevant.

I have no doubt that if things had continued, Kokonoe would have seen a ban from all competitive play, but thankfully Arcsys have saved us from this inevitable doom, and have swiftly deployed a balance update to Japanese arcades to address the issue. BBCP 1.1 delivers a laundry list of nerfs to Kokonoe, directly nerfing her black hole setups, eliminating her instant overhead, removing some useful attack chains, lowering her damage output, and generally reducing the usefulness of her gravity gizmos.

Yet in spite of all this, early 1.1 tier lists still have Kokonoe firmly in 1st place, and from video footage she's still a dominant powerhouse. Just goes to show how extraordinarily good she is in 1.0 that they can bash her around with the nerfbat and she still comes out on top. Should they have done more?

Elsewhere in 1.1, the entire cast has had the customary rebalance, with weaker characters getting some love, and the traditional top tier quartet of Valkenhayn, Taokaka, Hazama and Hakumen all seeing nerfs. Hazama's changes are entirely focussed around his damage output, which was probably a bit too high in 1.0, especially for a zoning type character, but I think they went a bit far with the changes to Jayoku Houtenjin, and the j.C hitstun changes which make his air combos less reliable.

The big winners in 1.1 are Azrael, Carl and Rachel. Azrael was already super scary in 1.0, and with his changes he's now a complete a monster up close. Rachel was already secretly toptier in 1.0 and saw only buffs, ensuring she's back at the top of the field for the first time since CT.

And as for Carl, he's undoubtedly a difficult character to balance since he is by far the most complex character in the game, and possibly one of the most challenging to play in the history of fighting games. Arcsys clearly want to ensure that he's worth the effort to learn, and with the buffs to Nirvana's uptime and the more lenient combos, the Carl masters are going to see their efforts justly rewarded.

1.1 is due to hit consoles some time in May. Although I'm sad about Hazama finally getting nerfed off top tier, I'll also be glad to see the back of 1.0 Brokonoe. Get nerfed skank.