Top 3 Most Wanted-Spin Offs

September 20, 2010

Some days ago I talked to a friend on IRC and he started talking about cool ideas for spin offs. He later even started a whole topic on a popular gaming-board about it, which got lots of replies from people with more or less great ideas. Of course, you cannot start such a theme without getting my left side of the brain running wild, so here are the Flying Fisch´ Top 3 Most Wanted-Spin Offs.

3.) Mass Effect: Quarian Mission

The Quarians, an alien race in the world of Mass Effect, are the most interesting inhabitants of that universe to me. Wearing neat-looking suits, never showing their face, and being masterful technicians as well as capable tacticians in battle. What I´d imagine for this spin off would be a game that focuses on action-missions, leaving out all the non-linear exploration of the main series, but still keeping several crucial decisions that result in different following missions and different game endings. Even though the game-controls wouldn´t be too different from what we know, there´d be more focus on stealth and long-range combat, since typical Quarians aren´t strong close combat fighters. A sniper rifle would be your main weapon. Missions would vary from big groups, to smaller groups, to missions that you´d have to do all on your own. The story for this spin off could be anything from dealing a blow to enemy Geths to even doing a stealth-attack against Cerberus and finding out what they´re doing with the acquired human reaper (assuming that´s the canon ending of ME2). The game would give a lot of insight into Quarian behavior and be more straight forward, while still keeping an element of choice that is integral to the Mass Effect-franchise.

2.) Metroid: Galactic Federation vs Space Pirates

This is a dream of mine ever since that cutscene in the beginning of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. The game would let you play as either a Federation Trooper or Space Pirate, meaning the game would feature two campaigns. On the Federation-side, you´d experience a more typical shooter-experience than when playing as Samus Aran. Your armor would be weaker, no charge beam shot and no space boots. But you´d have machine rifles shooting rapid energy blasts and be fighting alongside comrades. You could give commands to your team members, which could consist of different kinds of troopers, such as PED troopers or demolition troopers. You yourself would be carrying a PED, a Phazon Enhancement Device that would grant more power for a limited amount of time. Without all of Samus´ super powers, it´d be a much more down-to-earth experience, featuring more of the horror that are the space pirates and unknown planets. Missions would vary from exploration, to rescuing someone to blow up pirate bases, or defend a colony against a pirate attack. All that while environmental dangers would pose a threat, too. And then there´d be the Space Pirate-campaign that´d be completely different. Here, you´d be controlling a single Space Pirate, equipped with some energy blaster, missiles and, most importantly, a jet pak and invisibility device. Gameplay would be totally different in that you could now reach whole new places and do missions stealthy or not so stealthy. Mission goals could range from stealing important items/information to killing higher up persons and readying the approach of a larger pirate-attack. To make this a really fun, long-lasting game, there´d be coop- and multiplayer-modes, off- and online. I can´t imagine a more fun multiplayer-shooter than Federation troopers against Space pirates, each with their own tactics and combat options. And meanwhile, you´d learn more about the world of Metroid without everything relating to Samus Aran.

1.) The Legend of Zelda: Shad´s Journey

My favorite NPC in Twilight Princess by far. Shad is one of the guys of the resistance group that you meet in Telma´s pub. He´s that guy that later helps Link to get to the sky temple by deciphering ancient texts and even using a spell to active Link´s Dominion Rod. When playing Twilight Princess, I always felt that the resistance group could have been given more show time, better fleshing out – especially Shad. His design is too awesome for such a hardly seen side-character. When I wish for a spin off featuring him, I imagine an action-adventure that is less about killing enemies and more about exploration. That´s not to say that Shad shouldn´t be able to fight monsters when needed, but the game should never force the player to go into battle without other options. After all, Shad is more of a bookworm than a heroic fighter. Controlling Shad would feature in-depth climbing options, necessary for the emphasis on exploring environments, be it steep stone walls to get to an ancient temple or the inner walls of a temple itself. Or just a high bookshelf. The story would be about Shad trying to find a way to reach the Ooccas´ sky temple himself, since he couldn´t follow Link at the time of Twilight Princess. Afterall, he continued his deceased father´s studies and still has to fulfill them, at any costs. It´s what he dedicated his life to. Shad´s adventure would give more insight into the world of The Legend of Zelda and offer a different gameplay experience that is based more on exploration and magic than combat and saving the world. And maybe Shad could become a more fleshed-out character himself – his great design cannot go to waste, after all.

Naruto Shippuden: Gekitou Ninja Taisen! Special announced

September 15, 2010

And I will be the only to give a s*** about that :D. The Gekitou Ninja Taisen!-series is my long beloved beat’em up-series that started out with Naruto: Gekitou Ninja Taisen! on GameCube, got three successors on the same system, with GNT4 being the pinnacle of the series, and then four more entries on the Wii, though the last game was not a fighting-game. Which means fans had to wait for two whole years! Naruto Shippuden: Gekitou Ninja Taisen! Special, here we come!

While the Naruto-manga/anime has been somewhat ruined by its own author, the fighting-games for GameCube/Wii remain the best realization of the source-material. Even though the Ultimate Ninja Storm-series for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 looks much better and fancier, the Gekitou Ninja Taisen! actually succeeds in creating engaging, motivating and challenging combat-situations, accompanied by playable characters that resemble the series´ originals much better then the over-the-top fighting in the HD-games.

What we can see on this scan from Famitsu are Naruto in his Sage-form and Sasuke in his Kage summit-outfit. Naruto finally has his Fuuton Rasen Shuuriken and Sasuke seems to start his Kirin-attack. That´s all for now, but fans are already speculation which other characters developer 8ing might add. On the one hand, two years are a long time, on the other hand, 8ing is as lazy as the Pokémon- and Animal Crossing-developers. Well, not that lazy, but close to. If we assume that the Kage summit is part of the game´s story mode, then possible new appearances are:

  • Raikage
  • Killerbee
  • Yahiko-Pain
  • Konan
  • Suigetsu
  • Karin
  • Juugo
  • And a big maybe: Madara

Of course, there´s a ton of other characters that SHOULD be playable by now, but with 8ing you just don´t want to set bar too high. For now, let´s wait and see. And we might actually see new stuff and first videos tomorrow, when Tokyo Game Show starts.

The one good thing about Shadow of the Colossus

September 13, 2010

It seems that a HD-port of both ICO and Shadow of the Colossus for PlayStation 3 is in the making. Whoever hasn´t played ICO, yet, should take this chance to experience one of the finest PS2-games. It successor isn´t that much of a “must play”, but there´s one thing about Shadow of the Colossus that was great and, oddly enough, has not yet been copied by dozens and hundreds of newer games. Of course, I´m talking about its climbing mechanic.

The player´s main goal in Shadow of the Colossus was to climb up on each and every monster´s back and stab it to death. However, the way this climbing was done was creative and immersive. Where in about every other video game you see a climbing spot and then simply push the analog stick upwards, maybe combined with pressing buttons to active an interactive spot within the environment, it is a much more believable and enjoyable thing to do in that PS2-game. Basically, by pressing one of the shoulder-buttons, your character holds onto the ledge in front of or near him. However, should you release the shoulder-button, your character would also release his grip and fall down. This is combined to an on-screen stamina-graphic that indicates the weakening grip of your ingame character. All the while you yourself feel pressured by having to keep pressing the shoulder-button. The mechanic greatly simulated climbing surfaces while immersing the player into doing kind of the same thing.

Additionally, the game featured very precise and varied options to climb walls and surfaces, which made it feel all the more interactive since you didn´t feel like having to follow a certain path (even if that´s what it came down to). More modern games that are known for their climbing-style gameplay would be Assassin´s Creed and Prince of Persia, but both these games featured very automated mechanics that didn´t keep the player involved at all. It is a pitty that this gameplay-element of Shadow of the Colossus hasn´t found its way into a lot of other games as it would be a great way to give the player a more advanced level of interaction with the game. But apparently, this interaction-focused style of gaming doesn´t get along well with the Hollywood-style games of today´s. And when climbing is hardly different from a QTE-sequence as can be “experienced” in Uncharted for PS3, or all these super-linear shooters, whe climbing doesn´t even exist anymore, it´s showing where this industry is going and what kind of games we´ll see more of.

Zelda: Skyward Sword – A discerning look at what we saw

September 11, 2010

It´s been some time since E3, and cologne´s gamescom also took place already. At both of these events, Nintendo showcased the same first playable demo of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the new Zelda-game for Wii that is supposedly released some time next year. My first impression of this whole new series entry was rather a negative one, but not long after stating that I warmed up on the overall presentation. However, some of the parts of the E3-demo cannot remain the way they are – at least not if Nintendo wants me to fall in love with this game. Thus, I will now point out just these elements that I hope are occurrences of early development. I am not naming stuff that I wish for on a non-rational base – I did that at other occasions. This is stuff that should and can be changed.

1.) The visuals

Neither do I dislike the chosen art style nor the decision to go for a painting-like look. Actually, I really like that as it makes the game feel more unique, gives it its very own nature, as opposed to re-using either the realistic style of Twilight Princess or the toon-shading style of The Wind Waker. In one video, Bill Trinen himself shows off the game and explains how Skyward Sword has this completely new look. However, what I´m actually shown are low-resolution textures and low-polygon objects that show lots of unattractive, sharp edges. Just take a look at that overview-picture that shows the demo-forest from above. What is supposed to look like a painting just looks like a technical mess. The same goes for the trees while standing in front of them.  They consist of a featureless log with, again, boring low-resolution textures. And then these so-called flowers on the ground that look as if they´re from a Mario-game. The only part of the demo that actually looks good is Link´s model. You can see the painting-like effect especially good on his green hat. But other than that the game lacks technical perfection, or, not to use such overblown phrases, doesn´t look round, yet.

Beautiful? Take a closer look and you´ll see ugly edges and textures all over the place

2.) Blocky environments

This could be complained about as part of the visuals, too, but it is more crucial to the gameplay, so I´d like to point it out like that.  The whole forest-area of the demo of Skyward Sword is surrounded by these terrible even walls. And not only is it this area-limiter, it´s also what natural hills look like. And then you have these typical lianas that Link uses to climb these even walls. It just destroys any sense of nature when you see these completely artificially looking parts of the landscape. In my perfect vision, all these walls would feature options to climb them just like that, but that´s not even necessary. What is necessary, though, is that the environment at least looks believable, even if not interactive. As is, Skyward Sword looks more like a puzzle-collection with themes instead of a plausible fantasy world.

3.) Clunky animations

Probably my most urgent complaint about what we´ve seen so far: Link´s animations. Of course, there´s MotionPlus, which means the player controls Link´s right arm while having unsheathed the sword, but that doesn´t mean that you can dismiss the rest of his animations. The way he normally runs looks so…stupid and goofy. He looks like a model-runner, with perfect stepping. All that while his upper body hardly moves at all. It´s even worse when he jumps, which seems to be the exact same animation from Twilight Princess. You know, that jump-“animation” where he´s uprightly falling down, no bowing forward, no ducking, and no movement while falling at all. Someone would expect Link to wave his hands and feet, but nothing. The animation for fast running is fine, though. But that´s but one part of all the different animations needed. Link has to react more naturally to what he´s doing. And just one other animation that simply sucked: The rope´s animation when Link uses it to swing to another platform. It doesn´t look like a rope but a stiff, long stick.

4.) Fighting enemies

Just let me say that I like the increased difficulty due to enemies blocking your attacks from varying directions. However, when watching that Stalfos-boss encounter I can´t help but feel that fighting this guy felt way too much like solving a puzzle than actually fighting a dangerous monster. You know, watching in what way he´s holding his two swords, then attacking the open side, rinse and repeat. One of my favorite fights was against a couple of Stalfos knights in Ocarina of Time´s forest temple. These guys were a real threat and attacking them was a challenge, as they would  leave themselves open to attack for only a very short time. So instead of this explicit directional guarding, have enemies move their swords naturally and have the player time his attack on-the-fly. That´s what´d make fights feel like fights.

Enemy or puzzle? Ideally both, but not that obvious please.

And that´s it. There´s other stuff that I´m not too fond of, like most of the shown enemy-design, but I don´t have much hope that this kind of stuff is going to change in the final game. However, the four topics I elaborated above have a realistic chance to change and I whole-heartedly hope they will. Of course, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword does a lot of things right, too. But that shouldn´t be necessary to be mentioned, it is a Zelda-game after all. So let me finish this text by saying that I love the fast running and the flying beetle, and that I´m pretty confident that a gorgeous game is awaiting us.

New Famitsu-scans of Earth Seeker

September 9, 2010

Wow, this game looks like a winner. As you can see in the scans below, Earth Seeker for Wii seems to go for a rich atmosphere, set in a uniquely designed alien world. The screenshots show some combat-action as well as strange locations. What´s kind of saddening is that this is yet another great-looking RPG for Wii that we have to put on the “ugh, hopefully it´ll be released over here“-list, next to Xenoblade and The Last Story.

Dead or Alive: Dimension – New screenshots of the 3DS-game

September 8, 2010

Yay, finally I have an excuse to write about the Nintendo 3DS again! The newly announced Dead or Alive-game for 3DS got a subtitle now. Dead or Alive: Dimension is its name, and judging from some Famitsu-screens, it looks absolutely gorgeous. Easily XBox-level visuals, and that for a launch window-title. I guess getting my 3DS will leave me speechless two times at the same time: First, when I see the 3D-effect. Secondly, when I see visuals at least between Xbox- and Wii-level. September 29th can´t come soon enough. Oh, and have a look for yourself.

Hard to Master – A Monster Hunter Tri-Report

September 7, 2010

I didn´t have to play the chance to play Monster Hunter Tri that much, so it´s only now that I can finally deliver on another “status-update”. Remember when in my last report I said I played the game for 120 hours? Well, make that well over 160 hours now. Personally, it´s hard to imagine that there´ll ever be another game that I´m going to play as much. Well, maybe another Monster Hunter-game, haha. 160 hours…if I take the previous longest game I´ve played, that is more than three complete runs of Skies of Arcadia Legends, which took me about 53 hours on my first attempt. And to make sure: 160 fun hours, no boring grinding or whatever one would like to imagine when seeing that big number. A number that´s nothing compared to real master hunters.

My next prey was supposed to be the devilish, nasty monster Deviljho, and I have to admit that I haven´t beaten him, yet. Only got to try him once as part of an event-quest, and just when my group was close to getting him, another group member died and thus auto-aborted the mission. But that wasn´t anything to be angry about, since I actually didn´t think we´d do that well on my first ever Deviljho. Will get him next time.

Due to annoying connection problems (error code 11669, sometimes it works, sometimes not), I was forced to focus on the offline-part of the game. And yeah, I finally beat every monster by myself. Finally got to see one of the last two remaining new monsters, Ceadeus, which was surprisingly easy. I ran out of time the first time, because I didn´t find out fast enough what to do in the final area, but the game lets you start your next try in this final area, no need to replay the first part again. And neither does Ceadeus attack much, nor do his attacks a lot of damage. Made him flee after several hits with the installed weapons – next time I´ll go kill him.

As for the online part, I´m Hunter Rank 44 now. That means I´m close to getting access to the final batch of missions, which also means, closer to a real “Kill Deviljho”-mission. Moreover, it means I´ll be seeing Alatreon soon, the final unknown monster. I know its name from other players´ armor-names, but haven´t seen it, yet. Really excited to get to see this final boss-monster. However, playing the high level-missions made me realize that I still have a long way to go. Just yesterday I fought a Diablos together with other hunters, and just then did I figure that I would have to learn how and when to use my shield. Neither is it always wise to use it, nor is it wise to run from an attack that most likely will hit me. So it is the shield that I will try and learn more about. In terms of weapons, I love my Almighty Dahaka, which is great for paralyzing enemies. What kind of sucks is my current armor, which has to be built from the ground once you reach “+”-levels. But except for the super annoying Diablos, I´m doing fine with my weak armor. I´m a hit and run-fighter after all. Which might change, should I be successful to learn the usage of my shield.

So what am I going to do from here on out? I might have the title of an Elite Hunter, but I don´t feel like calling me that. There´s still la long way to go before I can do that rightfully. Reaching higher HRs, slowly improving my armor and finally slashing Deviljho, that is what I will have done before writing another Monster Hunter Tri-report. And maybe I´ll have seen Alatreon at that point, but who knows. The hunt is still in process…