BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend — 3Q2018 issue

Guilty Gear suc­ces­sor cleans up nice­ly in fight­ing game arena

Fight­ing game con­nois­seurs have a robust buf­fet to choose from these days. There’s Mar­vel, Street Fight­er, Tekken and Mor­tal Kom­bat for tour­na­ment purists, a new Soul Cal­ibur has been announced, and a new Smash is on the hori­zon and the old­er games in the series are still played in some cir­cles. Guilty Gear, which has always been qui­et­ly in the back of the lunch­room, was a mix of tour­na­ment and casu­al, so it stands to rea­son that its spir­i­tu­al suc­ces­sor — BlazBlue — would mim­ic that notion.

BlazBlue arrived in the fight­ing game scene as a new entry in the port­fo­lio of Guilty Gear devel­op­er Arc­Sys­tem. Tak­ing what they learned from that series, Arc­Sys­tem improved upon the for­mu­la they’d cre­at­ed with gor­geous visu­als, a rock­ing sound­track and impres­sive game­play options that ensure you’ll have plen­ty to do.

BlazBlue CSE starts off rather intim­i­dat­ing­ly. From the begin­ning, there are quite a few modes to choose from. If you’re not informed, you might be a lit­tle lost try­ing to under­stand just where you should start. With a var­ied plate to choose from, at the very least the modes are inter­est­ing­ly designed and add val­ue to an already-packed game. 
The stand­out fea­tures, how­ev­er, are the graph­ics and sto­ry. As with Guilty Gear, you’re get­ting a treat visu­al­ly. The lev­el of detail in each char­ac­ter and the back­grounds make the game worth sit­ting down and study­ing. If you’re into ani­me, the aes­thet­ics were designed with you in mind.

The sto­ry is also wor­thy of com­par­i­son to most mod­ern ani­me. It’s con­vo­lut­ed and com­plex and has twists and turns involv­ing a mul­ti-lay­ered cast. There’s a lot about the search­ing for a sav­ior and mag­ic — which isn’t out of place for an Arc­Sys­tem game. It feels famil­iar but it doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s lay­ered and deep.

Learn­ing the mechan­ics for most fight­ing games is a mixed bag. Some games expect you to be able to jump in and mas­ter the basics as if you’ve done noth­ing but play fight­ing games all of your gam­ing life. Oth­ers like to give you a tuto­r­i­al so that you’re not lost and quick­ly putting the game down, nev­er to return. BlazBlue CSE is in the lat­ter cat­e­go­ry: So con­cerned is the game about you learn­ing to play and mas­ter all that it has to offer that it throws a sur­pris­ing­ly deep tuto­r­i­al mode at you. It slow­ly increas­es the lev­el of com­plex­i­ty and the mechan­ics are spot on and easy to grasp. All fight­ing games need the type of learn­ing tool that’s offered here.

If you love Guilty Gear or if you just want a deep­er sto­ry­line than what’s cur­rent­ly offered by the larg­er more well-known titles on the mar­ket in fight­ing games, BlazBlue promis­es to deliv­er a rich expe­ri­ence. It deliv­ers on that promise with a com­mit­ment to extend­ing beyond just the reg­u­lar fight­ing game expectations.

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.