Katamari Forever — 3Q2015 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Gamespot.com

Retread re-roll

The sit­u­a­tion may have changed slightly, but the premise is still the same in Kata­mari For­ever, the fifth game in the quirky series. Whether or not you’re into the “if it’s not broke then don’t fix it” method of gam­ing will deter­mine if you can stand another trip to the cos­mos with a kata­mari.
Just in case you haven’t played a game in the series, let’s get a refresher. Kata­mari titles involve rolling up a sticky ball with every­day objects to increase the ball’s size. The larger the ball, the more pleased some­one is — usu­ally the King of All Cos­mos. That’s because the king is an idiot and rou­tinely destroys some­thing related to his job of pro­tect­ing the cos­mos. His lack of com­mon sense and coor­di­na­tion usu­ally means the Prince of All Cos­mos — that’d be you, the player — has to cre­ate new stars and recon­struct the cos­mos. This premise has worked for the past four games, and it’s really no dif­fer­ent sto­ry­wise except for the addi­tion of the cousins to help in appear­ance only (added in We Love Kata­mari) and the fact that the king has been replaced tem­porar­ily by the Robot King of All Cos­mos. Absur­dity thy name is Kata­mari.
Noth­ing has really changed, mechanics-wise, either. There are a few addi­tions to the reper­toire of the Prince, such as the Prince Hop and the King Shock, but oth­er­wise you’re still rolling along to pick up items to make your kata­mari grow. The series isn’t known for its growth and this is a major rea­son why. While it’s easy to con­trol the Prince and maneu­ver the Kata­mari, there still should be some inno­va­tion at this point, five games in.
The sound­track also suf­fers from stag­na­tion. Kata­mari Damacy, the first game in the series, was known for hav­ing a great sound­track. As a mat­ter of fact, we’ve lauded the sound­track relent­lessly through­out our lifes­pan at GI. But try as we might, we’re still try­ing to under­stand why there isn’t as much cre­ativ­ity used in the musi­cal por­tion of a game that con­jures so many dif­fer­ent cre­ative thoughts. The music of the first game inspired so much, yet by the time of For­ever, it seems that well has grown dry. It’s still a good sound­track, but I was expect­ing more from this.
Over­all, if you still love pick­ing up a con­troller to save the cos­mos and cre­ate kata­mari, you’ll prob­a­bly be work­ing to stop the Robot King of All Cos­mos. Oth­er­wise, you’re not really miss­ing any­thing you haven’t already seen. Keep rolling by this one if you want a fresh experience.

LittleBigPlanet — 3Q2015 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Gamespot.com

A class in mas­ter crafting

There are always games that come with a cer­tain amount of hype. These are the titles that every­one raves about but wind up on your never-ending pile of shame. You’ll prob­a­bly buy it but never actu­ally get around to play­ing it or play­ing it long enough to see what all the fuss is about. Lit­tleBig­Planet is one of those such games.
Quirky is the first adjec­tive I’d use to describe the plat­form­ing game fea­tur­ing Sack­boy, an anthro­po­mor­phic crea­ture that’s fea­tured front and cen­ter at the heart of the game. Sack­boy can be Sack­girl as well, and that’s part of the charm of the game. It can be what­ever you want it to be and do just about any­thing you want it to do, in the name of get­ting from point A to point B. The quirk­i­ness comes in the fact that the envi­ron­ment in which it does so is all about Play-Share-Create. The lev­els of Lit­tleBig­Planet are meant to be user-created and shared for online play among the LBP com­mu­nity, so the depth of the game is imme­di­ately obvi­ous and worth the price of admis­sion alone.
Con­trol­ling Sackboy/girl is sim­ple, yet not with­out its prob­lems. It’s much like play­ing any plat­former of the past 20 years and the con­trol scheme is sim­ple and intu­itive in let­ting you fig­ure out what to do and how to apply it later. Where it fal­ters is the jump­ing mechan­ics. While obvi­ous and sim­ple, the jump­ing does feel slightly off and floaty, which is a prob­lem in a game that relies on that mechanic to carry it. It’s annoy­ing to have to re-do sec­tions of a level solely because of a missed jump, and that detracts from the core expe­ri­ence.
While the mechan­ics could use tweak­ing, not much else needs work. The sound­track is fan­tas­tic and fits the game per­fectly. It’s a good mix­ture of indie folk and pop, and it imme­di­ately reminds of the bril­liance that is Kata­mari Damacy. The graph­ics are also in the realm of per­fect and evoke a cer­tain sort of charm that begs more playthroughs just to see what devel­oper Media Mol­e­cule could come up with next. It’s breath­tak­ing and sim­plis­tic, like a child’s world come to life, and begs to be admired.
Lit­tleBig­Planet is one of the few games of the past few years that demands to be played and war­rants pur­chase of sys­tem just to play it. If you haven’t both­ered to play it by now, you need to stop what you’re doing and get on it. It has its minor prob­lems but they’re noth­ing to keep you from enjoy­ing what’s con­sid­ered a mas­ter­piece. It’s worth every moment of its Play-Share-Create moniker.

Shiritsu Justice Gakuen: Nekketsu Seisyun Nikki 2 — 2Q2015 issue

Rival Schools 1.5 is still fun

We here at GI are strong pro­po­nents of any­thing Japan­ese, fight­ing games and edu­ca­tion. So, you can imag­ine the delight that is a gen­er­ous mix of all three. To that end, it should be obvi­ous by now that we love Rival Schools and its over­all series Project Jus­tice. Despite the fact that it comes from the brain trust known as Cap­com, we’re still entranced by the con­cept of Japan­ese high school stu­dents fight­ing to save themselves.

The mid­dle game in the series, Rival Schools 2, is an inter­est­ing addi­tion to the fam­ily of fight­ing games. It’s nei­ther a true sequel nor a spin-off of the orig­i­nal game. It’s an adden­dum, which Cap­com is noto­ri­ous for push­ing on the gen­eral buy­ing pub­lic. It’s more of the orig­i­nal game — which we love — with some upgrades thrown in to make it worth import­ing. This ver­sion was never released in Amer­ica, thus there are modes that you will never see. That makes import­ing the game worth the time and trouble.

RS2 is your stan­dard fight­ing game, which doesn’t make it unique. How­ever, the inclu­sion of the board game mode and the char­ac­ter cre­ation mode that plays out like an eroge sim­u­la­tion are some of the good­ies that we’re miss­ing out on in the U.S. There’s also the addi­tion of three new char­ac­ters: Ran, a pho­to­jour­nal­ist who uses her cam­era to attack; Nagare, a swim­mer; and, Chairperson/Iinciyo, who leads the charge for Taiyo High School stu­dents to defend them­selves. Other than these gifts, there’s not much dif­fer­ent here than the first game. You’re still fight­ing to defend your cho­sen school, and there’s still fun to be had in a slightly deep fight­ing game sys­tem. There’s not too much dif­fer­ent aesthetics-wise, in that there are a few new stages and new stage themes. The older stages are still here and it’s fun to play against the new­com­ers with older char­ac­ters or a cre­ated character.

I have two caveats with rec­om­mend­ing the game to oth­ers. The first is the fact that it’s in Japan­ese mostly and read­ing is a must to get through the char­ac­ter cre­ation and board game modes. That’s a bit much if you’re not into the lan­guage or know enough to nav­i­gate through menus. The other issue is the fact that, as usual, Cap­com has seen fit to deny Amer­i­can gamers the best of a series, short­chang­ing loyal money-spending fans who would pay a high price for the good­ies of the char­ac­ter cre­ation mode and the board game mode. The dirty truth of it all is Cap­com has never thought highly of its Amer­i­can audi­ence. We’re not going to see some­thing awe­some like either mode because “we just wouldn’t get it any­way.” A fun fact is that both modes were to be included in the first game but were left out in Amer­ica because it would have been too much trou­ble to include them for Amer­i­cans, accord­ing to Cap­com of Japan. But we’re smart enough to make cash grabs off of for mul­ti­ple ver­sion of Street Fighter, though, right?

The moral of this story is that Rival Schools and its fur­ther sequels all deserve to be played by a wider audi­ence. Although it’s a slight rehash of the first game, RS2 was deserv­ing of respect and a proper intro­duc­tion to the Amer­i­can audi­ence. Thank­fully, we were allowed to see the next sequel, Project Jus­tice. Here’s hop­ing for a class reunion.

Samurai Shodown Anthology — 2Q2015 issue

A com­plete clas­sic collection

The fight­ing game indus­try has always thrived on the very con­cept that makes a title in the genre: com­pe­ti­tion. There have been fabled rivals through­out the entire lifes­pan of the genre, with quite a few pre­tenders to throne. How­ever, SNK Play­more was one of the orig­i­na­tors and the pack­age of games within Samu­rai Shodown Anthol­ogy shows they weren’t play­ing around in the ‘90s in the slightest.

It’s pretty safe to say that Samu­rai Shodown was never a pre­tender. It’s got all the mark­ings of a mar­quee series, some­thing that could carry a com­pany far in the worst of times and keep eyes on the prod­uct. At its core, it’s a game about samu­rai and other war­riors fight­ing to the death. What sets it apart from the com­pe­ti­tion — even from within its own sta­ble with brethren King of Fight­ers — is its pro­duc­tion val­ues. The games have always been gor­geous and there’s a level of detail that hasn’t been seen in other series except for the likes of Tekken. Within the col­lec­tion of that is Anthol­ogy, all of the nat­u­rally gor­geous art­work and level of detail is on dis­play. It’s impor­tant that this be empha­sized because that’s what Samu­rai Shodown is about at the end of the day: Samu­rai fight­ing to the death while look­ing fantastic.

The level of detail extends to the sound­track as well. In all games in the pack­age, the sound­track is an excel­lent con­certo of Japan­ese bam­boo flute and shamisen. This may not float your boat, but for a pack­age that focuses on samu­rai, this is an excel­lent choice to make up the back­ing soundtrack.

Samu­rai Shodown Anthol­ogy is per­fect col­lec­tion of fight­ing games, mostly because it’s good to have the entire set of games on one disc with­out hav­ing to own infe­rior ver­sions of noto­ri­ously arcade-perfect games. These are exactly what you fell in love with in the arcade and they’re all in one place, lov­ingly included at the orig­i­nal def­i­n­i­tion. If you’ve never expe­ri­enced the hype that was Samu­rai Shodown, now’s an excel­lent chance to do so. Pre­pared to be wowed.

2UP EVALUATION

Finally, a clas­sic game that started the weapon-based fight­ing genre is back on the PlaySta­tion 2. For decades, SNK Play­more con­tin­ued this series with not one but six titles, empha­siz­ing Japan’s adap­tion of duels. Uti­liz­ing var­i­ous char­ac­ters and locales, Samu­rai Shodown gives gamers a break from the Tekken/Street Fighter clones on the mar­ket, and shows a brief slice of life in medieval Japan dur­ing which samu­rai fought under the code of Bushido.

I was allowed for a brief moment to not only act out a samu­rai fan­tasy, but also to release any anger in a healthy way. While the mechan­ics take some prac­tice to become famil­iar with, the music, char­ac­ters and graph­ics are top-notch and the story is sim­ple. My only com­plaint is that there’s one cheap-shot char­ac­ter that loves to pounce. For all of the Soul­Cal­ibur clones flood­ing the mar­ket these days, I proudly say Samu­rai Shodown Anthol­ogy has great replay value, and it DEMANDS a space in any gamer’s library. I’m glad that SNK Play­more had the wis­dom to keep this series alive from the begin­ning, instead of a com­pany that relies on milk­ing their cash cow to the bone. Well done, SNK Play­more. Well done.

Devil May Cry — 1Q2015 issue

Capcom’s instant action plat­form­ing classic

In pre­vi­ous install­ments of Otaku Cor­ner, I reviewed manga based on Capcom’s Devil May Cry. Ever since DMC’s arrival in 2001, it has grown from a crit­i­cally acclaimed series to writ­ten and visual adap­ta­tions in comics, writ­ten nov­els and other var­i­ous mer­chan­dise. Orig­i­nally set in the Res­i­dent Evil uni­verse, because of tech­nol­ogy restraints and an expand­ing reverse sto­ry­line from Res­i­dent Evil, the series was ported to the PlaySta­tion 2. Hav­ing enjoyed expe­ri­enc­ing the manga’s action, I won­dered if I would feel the same when I played the first DMC game? I was about to find out.

Devil May Cry has ele­ments that are sim­i­lar to Res­i­dent Evil; the only dif­fer­ence is that you will be deal­ing with super­nat­ural ene­mies instead of those who were cre­ated by uneth­i­cal sci­en­tific exper­i­ments. You assume the role of Dante, a demon hunter/investigator who uses his skills to exer­cise demons for profit and to avenge the loss of his fam­ily from said crea­tures. One night while work­ing, Dante is hired by a mys­te­ri­ous woman named Trish, who after a brief but amaz­ing test of Dante’s skill, hires him to go to an aban­doned cas­tle where Mundus, the demon who is respon­si­ble for the death of Dante’s fam­ily, is plan­ning a return from hell. Unknown to our badass hero, he has taken on a a job that starts out as an oppor­tu­nity for vengeance, but soon will unlock an ancient birthright and his true des­tiny as mankind’s newest pro­tec­tor against demonic forces.

Game­play in DMC is a com­plete 180 from Res­i­dent Evil as the bat­tle style is more melee com­bat that run­ning and hid­ing from zom­bies. I found the con­trols pretty easy to use, thanks to the ana­log sticks that allow plenty of free move­ment to jump and take full advan­tage of Dante’s sweet com­bat moves. You will love it when Dante gets to busi­ness imme­di­ately with use of his twin hand­guns that can infict dam­age rapid-fire style and his awsomely designed sword Alas­tor that can be upgraded to unlock new attacks. He also has a BIG trump card to really make the demons howl with the use of “Devil Trig­gers” (think Goku or Veg­eta going Super Saiyan with an arse­nal of weapons and being in god mode).

The graph­ics are beau­ti­ful as Cap­com devel­oped a great game engine and made great use of the PS2’s tech­no­log­i­cal capa­bil­i­ties to bring out the action with­out using the god-awful cam­era angles found in Res­i­dent Evil. I per­son­ally liked how each cutscene brought DMC’s sto­ry­line together with­out any over-the-top drama. The enemy vari­ety is good, too, rang­ing from demon mar­i­onettes to giant owls and other demonic crea­tures. I enjoyed the voice act­ing because it was not forced, flow­ing in sync with the game’s plot. I am proud to say that I would def­i­nitely replay this game when I’m feel­ing like I want to rip some demons apart.

Devil May Cry is a stand­out orig­i­nal game that is wor­thy of its praise from gam­ing crit­ics the world over. I find this another tes­ti­mony to the fact that Cap­com can do them­selves and their cus­tomers jus­tice by being true to their craft. I was pleased with my first DMC gam­ing expe­ri­ence and await more in future install­ments of this series.