A So Called Legacy

With Capcom’s announcement of the Mega Man: Legacy Collection for next-gen consoles, I feel a bit torn. On the one hand, we have at least some kind of confirmation that Capcom actually cares about the blue bomber. On the other hand, they don’t care enough to make an entire compendium.

In an effort to not rant like a maniac for the next few paragraphs, I’ve decided to break this into a Top 5 list. I will go over 5 different ways that Capcom could improve the Legacy Collection that won’t ruin the idea they are shooting for.

5. Bonus Features

While not everything is known about the downloadable collection, one thing that should be included are bonus, DVD style features. When going back to the past, it’s nice to get a viewpoint from developers on what their creative process was.

More importantly, adding bonus features gives old fans a reason to actually pay attention to what is possibly the 5th time these games have been re-released. Nothing is cooler than beating a game and immediately re-starting it with director’s commentary.

The interactive museum feature is a start and I won’t dismiss photo galleries, but I will state that I don’t believe they are enough. Concept art always looks better on paper, so just throwing a bunch of images into the collection won’t really matter.

4. Extra Modes

Capcom has at least confirmed there will be a challenge mode for each game in the collection, but I’d like to see them take this further. Mega Man 9 and 10 had bonus characters as DLC that would be perfect to include in the older games.

Along with that, why not go ahead and make a Master Quest style version of each game? Fans have beaten these games an innumerable amount of times over the years, so giving them what might be the closest thing to a new Mega Man as possible wouldn’t be bad.

3. Updated Graphics

Graphics may not be the most important part of a game, but charging an umpteenth time for a 28 year old game is a little crazy. Instead of just wholesale porting a ROM over, why not go the distance and re-create the sprites in HD?

Capcom hired Udon to do such a thing for Super Street Fighter II: Turbo, so why not Mega Man? Many people consider the blue bomber to be a defining character of their childhoods, so they would appreciate updated art assets that pay homage to the original style.

For the sake of purists, though, do not make updated graphics the only option. I cannot stand when HD remakes update the past, but fail to respect it. LucasArts did great with their re-releases of the Monkey Island games, so give us something along the lines of that.

2. Release on “Legacy” Consoles

While the new generation of consoles is underway, there are people who have no interest in leaving their past consoles. For some, the PS3 and Xbox 360 are all they will ever need. Then there are the Nintendo faithful who have a Wii U and no possible way to experience this collection.

Instead of snuffing those customers, why not port the game to last-generation consoles? You can’t tell me that the collection wouldn’t run on previous gen hardware. Both PS3 and 360 have Mega Man 9 and 10, not to mention the Wii has a majority of the older Mega Man games on the eShop.

Wii U also has that, but when you’re charging $5 a pop, why are you going to leave Wii U owners out in the cold on this “Legacy” collection? Just having the games isn’t the only point of this re-release.

Sony has the perfect feature of “cross-buy” that would be great for their console family. Having Mega Man on PS3, PS4 and Vita would be enough to convince prospective players into dipping their toes.

1. Include Every Mega Man Game

This is probably the biggest concern of mine when it comes to the so called “Legacy” collection. You can’t claim something is a legacy if it doesn’t have every available game. Even though Konami has their heads firmly up their asses, their legacy collection of Metal Gear included every title (and the VR Missions!).

Capcom should take this chance to provide Mega Man 7, 8, 9 and 10 on next-gen hardware. Forget that some of those titles aren’t the best of Capcom’s classics (I actually think 9 is the best Mega Man game), but they are a crucial part of the blue bomber’s history.

The biggest disaster is that Mega Man 8 isn’t readily available on most consoles. While Sony recently released it as a PS1 classic, there isn’t a reason why this collection should be missing such a game.

Couple that with the fact that the previous Mega Man collection actually included 7 and 8, and I really don’t understand the reasoning to leave out the last four games in the Mega Man series. Hell, that same collection even had both arcade fighting games, so why not throw those in?

Even if it would move the relatively low price up a bit, I’d be willing to pay more for a collection that is complete. The NES era might be the best of our old friend, but he did have other ventures that most likely created some die-hard fans.

With this list, I really hope Capcom takes the time to notice some of my concerns. I do love Mega Man, but access to the back catalog of games isn’t the easiest thing to come by. You either have to own more than one console or be lucky and find the old Anniversary collection.

Capcom could even go out of their way and make a physical release that includes a Mega Man statue. That may be asking too much, but fans truly want some kind of acknowledgement that the blue bomber is worth a damn.

Either way, I probably will still end up with the Legacy collection. I love the little blue guy too much to withhold myself.

Forsaken Age

I don’t know quite how to feel about Broken Age. I want to scream and yell and claim it is a terrible experience, but I don’t overtly hate the game. I had a partial bit of responsibility for bringing it to life (funding it way back when on Kickstater). As much as I want to say that I helped make this, I’m mostly ashamed that I got sucked into the marketing that Double Fine did.

When Tim Schafer had claimed he was going to make an adventure game in the vein of his classic titles, I didn’t quite expect him to literally do that. I figured we would have years of advancement in technology and storytelling play a bigger role with the finished product. I expected this new adventure title to do away with some of the more frustrating aspects of the genre’s origins.

Instead, Broken Age is a mess of a second half that fails to capitalize on the potential set forth in it’s first act. The setup to this game is brilliant; two teenagers coming to terms with the way their lives are playing out. You have Shay, a boy who has only ever lived on a spaceship, breaking free and looking for adventure. You also have Vella, a young girl in a town that believes sacrificing “maidens” to some monster is the only way to protect their village. Vella is obviously a maiden and has to deal with the fact that she will die.

This plays a lot like most people’s adolescent years; the game deals with how one can make their stake in the world. Instead of accepting that nothing will get better and the world is all gloom and doom, these characters venture beyond their comfort zones and explore the world outside.

The puzzles may not have been the most mind-bending things around, but that was excusable for the beginning of a game. You never want to throw the hardest thing at a player right off the bat; using a gradual curve to teach the player how the game works and makes their mind adapt to your particular puzzle schemes is a great way to ensure the gamer is left satisfied.

Instead, Act 2 brings about some creatively bankrupt scenarios. The game essentially goes on auto-pilot and solutions take no longer than 5 minutes to pop in your mind. Maybe this has more to do with me being a veteran of the genre, but Broken Age does away with a lot of needless items that used to plague the inventory of it’s predecessors.

In doing that, though, the game’s puzzles focus purely on logic. With logic at your side, you simply need to look at the problem, check your limited supply and have at it. Eventually you get to the solution and your brain doesn’t feel any smarter. At worse, you feel cheated out of a quality experience.

This also happens to the story. Each character, before some insanely convoluted twist, felt like a person with no understanding of their situation. They knew they wanted change, but they weren’t sure from what. Come Act 2, we’re now supposed to accept that these characters know each other and have some emotional tie (thankfully not romantic).

Couple that with some other revelations about Shay’s life and you’re left with a portrait of a boy who looks selfish. That feeling of complacency he wanted to break from feels more like it was self-imposed instead of happening out of bad luck. Vella’s family also deals exceptionally well with the knowledge of their old tradition being a farce.

The final puzzles of the game are also some of the worst I’ve ever had to play. You better like wiring robots and depending on omnipresent knowledge to get through; Broken Age features that in spades. Just quite how Shay should know a pattern that Vella is only able to see is beyond me.

My personal favorite shot of the game. You decide if this is an error or not.

I get that the idea was to have players make the characters interact with each other in an asymmetrical fashion, but the execution feels haphazard. A better approach would be if Vella touched something on the ship and then Shay’s world changed a bit. Other games have done this and it works great in making the player feel like their actions matter.

For that matter, why do we only get a few limited areas? Vella goes through the area Shay explored in Act 1 and vice versa. I know this is supposed to make players get acquainted with their environment, but it feels exceptionally cheap. It harkens back to the classic days of adventure gaming where memory was limited and hardware limitations needed to be worked around.

I can only think of Monkey Island and how that game had 4 Acts that all took place in wholly unique environments. The sequels managed to make their worlds bigger, too. Broken Age just feels like the developers started off with ambition and rushed to make their promises half-true. There is no limitation, so why not go crazy?

How about the voice acting? While the cast is assembled of some great actors and their performance in the first act is quite good, the revelations we get in Act 2 should elicit more of an emotional response. Instead, basically everyone reads their lines in a deadpan manner. I think I’d be screaming bloody murder if I got locked in a ship I previously thought was a monster.

You can tell most of the budget was spent on the visual style, because the graphics are beautiful. Everything animates smoothly and transitions feel natural. I’m a bit torn on the slow camera, but it does give you a great look into the detail of each scene. It’s like looking at a living water color book; it’s whimsical and jovial.

Even right up to the bitter end…which just happens.

But for as much charm the visuals have, the rest of the game just cannot hold up. I may be taking this especially hard as I have wanted this game for nearly 3 years, but I just get the feeling that Tim Schafer and Double Fine got in way over their heads. Their initial budget was a mere $400k dollars. For them to gross around $3 million before the game even came out is obscene.

Then again, I guess we gamers are partially to blame for the lack of quality. We all funded this with nostalgia on our brains. We loved Schafer’s previous work and just wanted him to return to a genre he had long left behind. Broken Age doesn’t make me believe that adventure games are dead, just that Tim Schafer should probably turn his prospects on to something else.

We can never get back the past; this is a harsh truth we all learn in life. Broken Age could have been about just that. The premise starts off with a similar idea and then abandons it for familiar territory. If only Double Fine had listened to their own preaching and learned to grow over the course of this games development.

GTA V: Why Go On?

Grand Theft Auto was a series that blew my mind back in middle school. It was so edgy and violent. It felt almost wrong to be fantasizing about the game, but I wanted to pull back the curtains and look inside at the scandalous nature of the game.

It also felt like something that needed to be played. This was mostly peer pressure rearing its ugly head, but when I was 13, I couldn’t be caught dead having not played Grand Theft Auto III. This was helped by the fact that the game was highly original in its approach to building a game world.

Gamers had never really seen a game set up a city that mimicked real life. You could forget the actual mission structure of the campaign and just go for a walk. Taking a slow, leisurely drive through the streets of Liberty City was a distinct possibility. Tackling objectives in whatever manner you saw fit was unprecedented.

Skip ahead to 2013, 12 years after Rockstar Games revolutionized the games industry, and I’m left feeling hollow. Having played Grand Theft Auto V to 100% completion, I have no idea why I was even really excited for the game. I was overcome with a sense of peer pressure from peers I don’t even possess.

Worse still, I’ve been tackling therapy to get a better grip on my own mental state and GTA V revels in the idea of, “Once a criminal, always a criminal.” There is no conceivable way to change the fates of the protagonists in GTA V. They have committed unspeakable acts against their fellow man and have to just continue the process. It makes me feel hopeless.

Other than a few mean spirited advertisements, nothing about GTA V is comical. The script is angry and unwilling to view things from a new angle. Missions appear steadily, but lack any variety. Some of the tasks are simply, “Steal this car.” There is nothing else to the mission and you can even kill the person whom the car belongs to with no consequence from the police.

There is no real challenge other than battling the awkward controls. The driving is markedly improved over its predecessor, Grand Theft Auto IV, but the cover system and gunplay feel clunky and outdated. Adopting a Call of Duty style lock-on system doesn’t mitigate the fact that I can’t aim at the guy to the left if I’m presently stuck on the person to the right.

Even the open world feels devoid of pieces. Random events are a neat way to provide pseudo-procedurally generated missions, but even these fail to mix up their objectives. GTA V does nothing that television and film hasn’t tackled better.

One should not compare this game to other mediums, but when hit TV show “Breaking Bad” has characters growing from their actions and even coming up with new situations to throw their leads into every week, why has Rockstar failed to provide new set pieces for their flagship series?

The overlooked Max Payne 3 took the titular hero to new horizons. It swapped the dark, dreary and slick streets of New York for settings in bustling Sao Paulo and drug cartel offices. Max was out of his league and skimming by the skin of his teeth. His anguish felt intense, visceral and utterly hopeless. Conquering a challenge made the player feel like a god.

In GTA V, all one needs to do is simply sit behind cover for a few seconds and wait for the AI to kill itself. Police have a terrible habit of flying their helicopters into wind turbines or driving their squad cars straight into explosive gas stations. You can even mask yourself from them in bushes, dismantling the otherwise clever mechanic of staying in the dark to escape police.

Worse, though, is that no character grows for their troubles. Franklin is the only character that begins the game in a classic GTA style. He is a gangbanger from the hood who is going nowhere and doesn’t have much to his name.

By the end, apart from the $70 million dollars, Franklin still has no one. He’s learned nothing from his adventure and will probably fall into obscurity for the rest of his life. His game stats barely even improve, though that feature of the game does virtually nothing.

Michael’s story has him bickering with old friend, Trevor, until the two are told to “Shut the fuck up,” by Franklin. After that, the plot kind of drops the setup to the game and tasks the player with just finishing their last heist. The “best” ending of the three possible even wraps everything up like the three characters are all best buddies, despite nearly killing each other a few times.

All of this and I haven’t even mentioned how polished the game is and how many extra side missions there are. For something so vapid and shallow, Rockstar definitely included a tremendous amount of meaningless bonus content.

Finding barrels of nuclear waste serves no purpose other than to give you a trophy/achievement. The extra guns and cars that used to come from finding hidden packages are just gone. Now if you collect all of the “letter scraps” and “UFO parts,” you get a pathetically simple side mission and a trophy/achievement.

Stunt jumps don’t even boost your stats or give you a shiny new car. They don’t even follow the physics of the game. My car often did backflips while attempting a few jumps or would kill me upon impact with the ground. Rockstar seems to have simply filled the game world with so much extra nonsense to make people believe their $60 wasn’t wasted.

Couple this with a soundtrack that evokes no sense of presence or indicates the quality of its era and you’re left with a rather peculiar triple A title. It’s highly polished, runs smoothly and features a vast amount of “things” to do, but feels empty.

It makes me realize that I’m probably not a true gamer. I’ve been playing all manner of games since I was 4 years old, yet now I feel like an old man screaming about the “good old days” and wishing for something new.

If you’re down with everything this game has to offer, then I could easily recommend it to you. The game may not be the finest example of an open-world game, but one will not finish this within a single sitting (or even weekend). There’s even an online component that hasn’t launched yet, which may change my attitude towards the whole affair.

As my thoughts stand right now, I think I really am finished with mainstream gaming. Gaming has changed so dramatically from the old school era that it’s silly to sit here and expect newer gamers to have the same expectations from a game that I do.

It’s also utterly pointless and insensitive to assume that games should be purely about “challenge.” The controversial “skip scene” feature of GTA V makes sense to people who purely want to witness a story unfold. It also highlights how not every minute of gameplay is actually worth seeing.

I just don’t see what else gaming can do. We’re entering a new generation which features launch titles that are also releasing on current generation hardware. The next few months sees the release of more shooters than any other time period I can remember.

I just don’t know how else to enjoy this hobby. When Rockstar Games can’t even provide me with escapism, then I truly believe that no one will ever be able to again. At least I can save myself money in the future, I suppose; silver Linings and all that jazz.

Apparently the Dreamcast Sucks…

I hate video game reviews. I truly do. With this week’s release of Jet Set Radio HD, I’m just reminded of how deep my hatred for what game reviewing has become. How can a website rightfully justify giving a classic a 4.5 when they previously rated it a 9?

Now, I understand that tastes change and people move away from the things they used to love, but how does a quintessential Dreamcast title suddenly become something broken and unpolished? For that matter, was the Dreamcast ever worth owning? All I’ve been seeing from the re-releases of its “classics” are reviews that top off at 6 out of 10.

It just boggles my mind to try and figure out how a game becomes so awful over the course of a decade. I haven’t played a single title from my youth in recent years that hasn’t held up to some degree. Sometimes awkward dialog or story progression rear their ugly heads, but level design and controls have always been a constant for me.

If I disliked the way the camera moved or the way combos were executed back in the day, I clearly remember all of that and expect it in the future. Hell, sometimes games I disliked back in the day are actually better with age, so what gives with “Jet Set Radio?”

I’m also getting really tired of reviewers claiming that titles are antiquated or feel old and that is their reason for being bad. Well, why do new games like “Castle Crashers” and “Scott Pilgrim” come out and get high marks for being old-school and retro? The contradiction doesn’t make sense to me. You can’t praise one thing for the same reason you hate another!

For that matter, old games don’t suddenly become bad over the years. I understand that the philosophy behind developing anything should be to improve on the predecessors, but I still enjoy “Super Mario World” and “Street Fighter II,” despite the fact that their sequels may have improved in certain regards.

Not that film or music can even really compare to video games, but you don’t see Roger Ebert going back and claiming “Hotel Rwanda” actually sucks. When he states that his opinion of a movie is positive, he always sticks to it. Just because things have changed in cinema or methods or production doesn’t mean that Rwanda is no longer worth it.

Sorry, I can’t control this properly anymore!

If I go and ask my friend if she still likes the older Dave Matthews albums, she’s not going to say no! I don’t dislike old Tool albums or Daft Punk, either, despite their styles changing and evolving over the years. When something is good, it is good!

My only real understanding of this situation comes with my old passion for Slipknot. I used to love their direct and dirty style of metal, but as I grew older and broadened my range of music, I drifted away from them. I no longer listen to them and I don’t really have the desire to.

I still recognize their greatness, though. Nothing is wrong with the band and their music will always be a shining example of power/hard metal done right. Hell, their live album is fucking insanely good!
In fact, I went and re-beat “Super Mario Land” last night just for fun. That game is still good. I have lots of nostalgia for it (it was my second Gameboy game ever), but the title is a quick, quirky, fun little game and is well worth playing through. Hell, it’s even better now because of how similar newer Mario games are becoming.

Maybe I just hold video games closer to my heart? I really can’t make up an excuse or claim my passion is stronger, though. That’s very selfish. I’m just finding it hard to understand how “Jet Set Radio” is now considered a waste of time when it was once proclaimed to be a revelation.

I suppose my friend Corey sums it up the best, though.

“Girlfriend Mode” My Ass!

Editor’s Note: To Gearbox’s credit, President Randy Pitchford seems pretty pissed about the whole situation. He took to Twitter stating “Borderlands 2 does NOT have a girlfriend mode. Anyone that says otherwise is misinformed or trying to stir up something that isn’t there… The future DLC Mechromancer class has a skill tree that makes it easier for less skilled coop partners (any gender!) to play and be useful.” Pitchford didn’t deny Hemingway’s statement, citing it as a “personal anecdote” and following with “there is no universe where Hemmingway is a sexist – all the women at Gearbox would beat his and anyone else’s ass.” But that still doesn’t change the fact that sexism continues to be an important issue in the gaming industry and culture as a whole.

Developers and stupid comments seem to be going hand in hand these days. First we get Crystal Dynamics shooting themselves in the foot and now we have Gearbox making asshats out of themselves. It’s insane to think how grown adults can’t figure out how to properly speak to journalists about their games.

Still, the most recent instance with Gearbox’s John Hemingway just does not make sense to me. Are the developers intentionally trying to not sell their product to women? When I first read the quick blip for Eurogamer’s article, I immediately thought of a mode where the female character would bond to one character and heal them.

Instead, the gaming world is now treated to something unintentionally sexist. To say that female gamers require additional assistance in their games is ludicrous. If the main idea was to appeal to significant others who are bad at video games, why not just label the mechanic as noob mode?

Still, I’m a white male and I’m getting outraged at something that doesn’t really impact me. I’ll never know what it’s like to be a woman and have people constantly harassing me, so I took to Twitter for some quick comments.

I asked my co-worker’s girlfriend and another co-worker of mine (the now infamous Jozie). Both play games and while they may not be experts or as hardcore as I am, they certainly can hold their own in terms of ability.

As you can clearly see, both aren’t too happy about Hemingway’s comment. While he may not be a ravenous sexist, he certainly is unfounded and ignorant. Just like the controversy over Dead Island and their “Feminist Whore” skill, developers need to realize that in-jokes aren’t funny to the masses and knocks against female stereotypes are unfounded and ridiculous.

To further drive the point home, an old friend of mine was quite the gamer. She couldn’t best me in Call of Duty or Gears of War, but she certainly wasn’t a slouch either. Gaming with her on “Hard Mode” wasn’t some futile attempt to make myself look better. She honestly was up for the challenge and liked not having the game be a cakewalk.

I’ve also known quite a few female workers from local GameStop’s that are interested in some pretty awesome stuff. My best friend Jim’s old boss loved “Dark Souls,” a game that makes most grown men cry. This very lovely girl, Jen, was a huge fan of Fable and Call of Duty and she used to ask me pointers on how to get better, instead of cowering in fear of harder difficulties.

I also recall of two twins who were gigantic Pokémon fans. While that may not be the most daunting of titles to topple, just having the sheer dexterity to finish any of those titles is a pretty monumental accomplishment. I’ve only ever beaten two Pokémon games and I sink hundreds of hours into each.

My point is I don’t understand why developers are still treating women like unskilled peons. According to ESRB polls, around 40% of gamers are women. If you total up all sales of the previous “Borderlands” (as presented by VGChartz.com), you get about 4.55 million copies. Imagine if 40% did not buy the sequel. You’d sell close to 2 million copies less.

That is something that Gearbox probably doesn’t want to face. Sadly, they may see a pretty big decline come September. Borderlands didn’t have the easiest start of any new IP, but it did well on the charm of its gameplay and word of mouth from gamers.

If the new word of mouth is that Gearbox is a bunch of sexist idiots, maybe Borderlands 2 won’t sell so well. While I can’t predict what will happen, I will say that developers need to start treating their potential customers a lot better.

Enough of the bullshit where women apparently suck or that being offended is solely your fault. Start thinking about what you say and maybe I’ll give a shit about your work. Until then, you’ve lost a prospective customer.

Cate Archer isn’t pleased.