Mega Man X54Q2014 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of http://www.GamesPress.com

Duo team attack finish

MMX5 takes place sev­eral months after the events in Mega Man X4, dur­ing which the giant space colony Eura­sia has been taken over by an unknown reploid known as Dynamo as it was under­go­ing exten­sive repairs. As a result, a com­puter virus infected Eurasia’s grav­ity con­trol sys­tems, send­ing it on a col­li­sion course with Earth. At the same time, Sigma and his new band of Mav­er­icks have taken con­trol of var­i­ous areas that have equip­ment capa­ble of pre­vent­ing Eurasia’s fall, and he has also launched his own virus across the globe. X and Zero, under orders from their new leader Sig­nas, must go to those areas to acquire the equip­ment needed to stop Eura­sia, and send Sigma back to the scrap heap once more where he belongs.

MMX5’s game­play remains the same as any reg­u­lar action-adventure game. You can chose between using X and Zero, who each have unique abil­i­ties. I chose Zero because of the option to use his Z-Saber and Z-Buster as more effec­tive com­bat tools, and also because of his stronger jump­ing abil­i­ties. MMX5 allows both char­ac­ters to be swapped out dur­ing the stage select screen, pro­vided you choose before time runs out. This adds fresh­ness to the game­play, keep­ing the game from being too mun­dane or too com­fort­able for a cho­sen character.

I liked the fact that there are new armors in the game that X can start off with. The Gaia armor from MMX 4 is less pow­er­ful but still gets the job done. You can find other armor sets that will give you an advan­tage, with good old Dr. Light pro­vid­ing insight about them. He has also made a spe­cial armor for Zero that you will find later on. I also want to note that if play­ers pay close atten­tion, there will be some back­ground scenes in MMX pay­ing trib­ute to clas­sic Mega Man and Mega Man X games.

The plot of the game, while a good sto­ry­line point with stop­ping Eura­sia, may frus­trate you because you would have to defeat the first four Mav­er­icks and later be told that two were devel­oped simul­ta­ne­ously with­out pre­vi­ous knowl­edge of both plans. I also ques­tioned the developer’s method of stage plan­ning when they placed Dynamo in nearly every mid bat­tle to delay either X or Zero with­out any strong chal­lenge, and I ques­tioned why, dur­ing Duff McWhalen’s stage, it takes a huge amount of game time to fight off a sub-boss that required run­ning and fir­ing just to keep it at bay.

Despite some frus­trat­ing issues, MMX5 is a great game to kill time with and shows how — with proper care and fresh ideas — a gam­ing fran­chise can still be rel­e­vant. Get the pic­ture, Capcom?

Mega music

Cap­com always had a cre­ative knack for nam­ing Mega Man adver­saries. Mav­er­icks in X5 are based off of the orig­i­nal band mem­bers of the rock group Guns N’ Roses.

Griz­zly Slash — Slash
Squid Adler — Steven Adler
Izzy Glow — Izzy Stradlin
Duff McWhalen — Duff McK­a­gan
The Skiver — Michael Mon­roe
Axle the Red — Axl Rose
Dark Dizzy — Dizzy Reed
Mat­trex — Matt Sorum

Harvest Moon: Back to Nature — 4Q2014 issue

A life that’s sec­ond nature

A life of farm­ing is never sim­ple. Ask any farmer and they’ll tell you: It’s a tough, tough job that requires before-dawn ris­ing and at-dusk retir­ing that repeats itself over the course of many a day. There’s also the fear of Mother Nature wreck­ing your liveli­hood and out­side forces such as other humans steal­ing from you and run­ning you into ruin. But, thank­fully, you can avoid all of that and expe­ri­ence the joy of liv­ing off the land at its finest, dig­i­tally if you so choose, thanks to Natsume’s Har­vest Moon: Back to Nature. And, if you play your cards right and take time to pull your­self away from dig­ging up your ground, you can find your­self a cer­tain Mrs. to share the farm­ing duties with as well.

Back to Nature is the best game in the long-running series. I say this with con­fi­dence because it’s one of the only titles in the series to have been remade mul­ti­ple times with the same setup, just dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters. Every mod­ern Har­vest Moon title takes its cue from Back to Nature, as well. The main goal, which stays the same through­out the series, is to take a farm that’s fallen into dis­re­pair and make it into a prof­itable bas­tion of hard work and suc­cess. Your char­ac­ter works to accom­plish this by pulling up his boot­straps and putting in a lit­tle elbow grease with lit­tle to no help from any­one else, aside from the gnomes he meets tucked away in the crease of the town.

Speak­ing of the town, you’re tasked with meet­ing folks and forg­ing some type of rela­tion­ship with them so that you are con­sid­ered neigh­borly. The town’s set sched­ule makes for inter­est­ing inter­ac­tions and a type of sched­ule plan­ning not unlike Ani­mal Cross­ing. While you’re work­ing to save your farm and chat­ting up the towns­folk, you’re given a third task of find­ing a suit­able lass in town to wife up. If you can man­age to put a ring on it by woo­ing your intended (there are five lovely ladies that you can choose from to pur­sue with vary­ing likes and dis­likes), you’re all but guar­an­teed to earn your place in the town and be allowed to stay.

Back to Nature is deep, extremely deep. So much so that it takes quite a bit of time just get­ting the farm up and run­ning in a proper man­ner that you might make money to sus­tain it. And that’s mis­sion accom­plished for Back to Nature: Get you involved and think­ing hard about what it is you want to accom­plish in your town. That level of inter­ac­tion is sim­ple to begin with, and with decent con­trols it doesn’t get too much harder to main­tain. It’s one of the things that I love about Back to Nature. It doesn’t press too hard about mechan­ics and there’s a wealth of infor­ma­tion within the game about crops and car­ing for ani­mals that can help you main­tain a com­fort­able way of life within the game. But some­times, the level of com­fort you want isn’t always within reach.

While I praise the con­trols, the effect isn’t always ben­e­fi­cial for you. The game is hard in the begin­ning, some­times too hard for its own good. Take, for exam­ple, the fact that you arrive in town with basi­cally noth­ing but the clothes on your back. You’re expected to suc­ceed and set­tle down there but you have noth­ing tying you there very much. What’s to say that your player char­ac­ter doesn’t decide that it’s too much, packs up shop and goes home? It’s not very real­is­tic with some of the things you’re tasked with doing, and start­ing with absolutely no money and try­ing to rebuild a farm is impos­si­ble with no cash flow.

My next prob­lem comes with the cash oppor­tu­ni­ties afforded in the game. With­out cheat­ing, it is nearly impos­si­ble to become suc­cess­ful and well off. This leads into a larger prob­lem with the way time is struc­tured in the game as well. While the time aspect has to be dif­fer­ent than real time, an entire day should not pass within nearly 30 min­utes. It’s extremely hard to get much accom­plished in the early going and it demands that you must have a rou­tine in place quickly or risk being left behind. Sure, you’re given a year or two to get things together but it’s hard to make things work on the farm, court a girl and par­tic­i­pate in town activ­i­ties all at once in the short amount of time that passes as a day.

Cou­ple it with the sched­ule given to the town and there’s a time man­age­ment prob­lem just wait­ing to hap­pen. The con­trols some­times leave a lot to be desired, too. More than once I’ve had a bucket that I’ve filled with good­ies from my plot of land empty just far away enough from a bin that it went wasted. And more than once I’ve been angered by loss of income because it’s on the ground and not able to be reclaimed. But that’s a fact of life in Har­vest Moon titles, I suppose.

Oth­er­wise, Back to Nature is a great sim­u­la­tion of farm life. It’s a good way to play a dat­ing sim and life sim all at once with very lit­tle con­se­quence for poor choices. Get­ting back to nature is an idea all of us need to think of at least once, even if it is to dig­i­tally pair off and make a fast dollar.

Back to basics

Back to Nature, released in 1999 for the PlaySta­tion One, has been remade sev­eral times. The first remake was released for Game Boy Advance as Har­vest Moon: Friends of Min­eral Town in 2003. Friends of Min­eral Town was expanded with a side story, More Friends of Min­eral Town — which allows play­ing from a female farmer’s per­spec­tive — in 2005. These were later ported as Har­vest Moon: Boy & Girl for PSP in 2005.

ChuChu Rocket! — 4Q2014 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Gamefaqs.com

An epic cat and mouse game

Cats in rock­ets try­ing to kill mice. As well as being weird, the age-old con­cept of a cat–and-mouse game is sur­pris­ingly addic­tive. In the form of the Dreamcast’s ChuChu Rocket, the con­cept man­ages to jump the bar­rier of weird and branch into the realm of entertaining.

The game of cat-and-mouse is sim­ple: Lead mice to safety in your rocket with well-placed arrows while avoid­ing cats that other play­ers will send to hunt the mice. The more mice you have left alive at the end, the bet­ter. It’s not hard to get started once you have that basic under­stand­ing of the game, and it quickly becomes an addict­ing exer­cise of fran­tic fun to keep mice alive.

The fun thing about ChuChu Rocket is the sheer ran­dom­ness of every­thing hap­pen­ing on the play­ing field. There are so many fac­tors that can affect your mice total at the end of a round that it’s impos­si­ble to win by tal­ent at mov­ing rodents alone. One must con­sider the fact that only three arrows can be placed by a char­ac­ter at any given time. With level lay­out also taken into con­sid­er­a­tion, the idea that you can be in the lead for five sec­onds and that be enough to win is a real pos­si­bil­ity. Throw in the power-up aspect and con­stantly chang­ing con­di­tions of the match area and there is a real recipe here for dis­as­ter dis­guised as fun.

It’s a good thing that the game is so fun to play because the graph­ics and the music sure aren’t going to draw you in by them­selves. The game looks like a 1999 game, which isn’t to say it’s hor­ri­ble, but it isn’t pretty, either. The graph­ics date them­selves might­ily, but that’s not really any­thing to be ashamed of, since ChuChu Rocket doesn’t exactly need to get by on the qual­ity of the scenery. The music is noth­ing to write home about, and frankly, I played with it turned off for the major­ity of the time that I’ve owned the game. It really adds noth­ing to the over­all expe­ri­ence and after a short time, it becomes rather irri­tat­ing. But, like the graph­ics, it isn’t really what you came here for.

What you’re going to take away from ChuChu Rocket depends on what you’re look­ing for. In this day and age, 15 years after its orig­i­nal release, you can take a solid party game from this that’s a highly quirky title wor­thy of many replays or you can see a weird 15-year-old game about cats chas­ing mice with ques­tion­able game con­di­tions attached. Rat infes­ta­tion issues aside, ChuChu Rocket is a great rat race into nostalgia.

Injustice: Gods Among Us — 4Q2014 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Polygon.com

Jus­tice takes a new form

There have been a few DC Comics fight­ing games that have taken advan­tage of its vari­able super­hero and metahu­man ros­ter. Jus­tice League Task Force and Mor­tal Kom­bat vs. DC Uni­verse are among those that come to mind. And because of MK vs. DC Uni­verse, brought to you pre-Midway implo­sion by the com­pany that cre­ated that step in the direc­tion of redemp­tion, DC was able to fore­see the fruits of mak­ing a decent game based on their prop­er­ties. Enter Injus­tice: Gods Among Us.

Let’s get straight to the point: Mar­vel has had the mar­ket cor­nered on fight­ing games involv­ing super­heroes for some time now, thanks to the resource­ful­ness and shady under­tones that are Cap­com. So, for Injus­tice to stand a chance in the sud­denly re-crowded fight­ing game arena, it had to be some­thing spe­cial. Thank­ing those gods among us, it is.

Injus­tice plays much like the 2011 reboot of Mor­tal Kom­bat. The com­bat sys­tem is a lot like it in tone and rhythm and the ani­ma­tion style and fram­ing is much like it as well. If you can play that incar­na­tion of MK, more than likely you’re going to be able to pick up Injus­tice and run with it in a few short hours. And much like the MK reboot, there’s much more under the pretty coat of nos­tal­gia. Injus­tice is deep, with plenty to keep the fight­ing game crowd com­ing back for more and just enough to pique the inter­est of casu­als who don’t know much about fight­ing games but want to see who would win in a Bat­man vs. Super­man battle.

That’s some­thing else that’s going to draw in even the unini­ti­ated: the name recog­ni­tion. Yes, lots of folks now know who the merry band of mutants are over at Mar­vel, but mil­lions more know the names Bat­man, Joker, Super­man, the Flash, Lex Luthor and Won­der Woman. That instant brand recog­ni­tion is what com­pels a cer­tain part of you to come back and learn more about what’s really a good game. While you might not know who Dooms­day is or why the Omega Sanc­tion is instantly fatal to most liv­ing beings, you know the names behind the main char­ac­ters for play, or at least most of them, by sight alone.

That brand recog­ni­tion plays a large part in why the game is suc­cess­ful in its mis­sion: The pack­age around it doesn’t have to be slick and beau­ti­ful, but it is. And it’s enough to make the price to play worth it. Tak­ing into account the work that Nether­Realm Stu­dios pre­vi­ously com­pleted, Injus­tice is quite the step up graph­i­cally. Every back­ground is gor­geous and lav­ish in the game that’s already beau­ti­ful from the out­set. The graph­ics step up from MK vs. DCU in a way that have to be seen to be believed. And while it doesn’t seem like the game could get any bet­ter look­ing, then there’s the char­ac­ter mod­els. Every char­ac­ter is accu­rate, down to the details from sto­ry­line arcs such as Cri­sis on Infi­nite Earths dif­fer­ences. How­ever, while the graph­ics wow, the music isn’t great. It’s not ter­ri­ble, either, but it’s not exactly turn-up-the-volume qual­ity. It’s just there, which is highly unusual for the team known for pro­duc­ing out­stand­ing sound­tracks in the MK series.

I may not be able to tell you exactly who would win in a fight between Dark­seid and Black Adam, but I can make the point that Injus­tice does the DC uni­verse quite a bit of, well, jus­tice when it comes to a qual­ity fight­ing game fea­tur­ing the Dark Knight, Boy Won­der and Man of Steel.

Which ver­sion to buy?

There are two ver­sions to choose from: reg­u­lar edi­tion and ulti­mate edi­tion. Ulti­mate edi­tion, while cost­ing con­sid­er­ably more, is the bet­ter bar­gain because it fea­tures all of the released DLC and char­ac­ter skins. It also comes with Mor­tal Kom­bat com­bat­ant and stal­wart Scor­pion as a playable character.