Let's have a go at SuperC - NES

My first YouTube upload in quite some time, I hope you enjoy this let's play of SuperC by Konami for the NES. It's roughly 30 minutes long and can show you a few tricks to beating this game without having need of the Konami code (which doesn't work on this game [as the code is a different one for some reason] ). I highly encourage any of you to fire this game up and give it a try, as it is one of the more challenging yet winnable games on the console. Enjoy.


Super Smash Bros 3DS Impressions

After having spent some time on the new Super Smash Bros 3DS Demo it's safe to say that I'm as excited as anyone to get their hands on this game after its released. I did notice a few things that jumped out at me after logging in some time with the game that I hope are indicative of this being a demo. 

The first was that I can totally understand how people in Japan are already breaking off the thumbstick on the 3DS, because once you get accustomed to the controls the game can take a pace that is strikingly familiar to the console version. Which is to say shit gets pretty crazy! And the game is tight enough with its controls that you most certainly have an extreme level of precision control over your character. After seeing the increasing number of screenshots appearing online of players who have broken their controllers, I found myself purposefully reeling back the intensity with which I played the game just in case. 


Another thing I noticed was that the bots were not that difficult, and somehow when raised to max level 9 they somehow became almost inept. They would seemingly spend more time blocking than attacking, jump dodging while I stood perfectly still, and worst of all I found that the A.I. would over-correct itself and end up jumping headfirst into the bottom of the stage platform, thus eliminating itself. This happened with such frequency that it couldn't just be a coincidence. I concluded that the best challenge came against a level 8 bot instead, for whatever sense that makes, as they seemed more apt at handling attacking you with self preservation. 

Like most video game demo's the difficulty has probably been scaled down in order to let more people have a greater chance at completing it, and a part of me is willing to wager that when the full retail version of the game comes out this won't be an issue. The breaking thumbsticks however will be a huge problem I imagine, but time will tell on that one. Concerns aside, the game is as crisp as it has ever been and feels right at home on the handheld. 

Playing as Mario I felt his F.L.U.D.D. was far more powerful and gave a much stronger push at a greater range which may add a great deal to its utility. Link's arsenal seemed largely unchanged, however his dashing attack has been changed from a quick sword slash, to a leaping downward slash. The big windup will certainly change the way he approaches opponents from a distance, changing his gap closing strategies a bit. I haven't spent much time with Pikachu or the Animal Crossing Villager, but Mega Man on the other hand I've grown quite comfortable with.

Playing as the legendary blue bomber was certainly a change of pace at first, with his regular attack button shooting out "lemons" that do a single percent of damage each and no stun or knock back whatsoever. However they are easy enough to always be shooting out that I imagine players will be happy enough to ignore them, all the while having the damage add up over time being quite a factor. The smash attack, his Mega Buster, can be charged quite a bit to devastating effect, but as Mario's cape and the Villager's pocket have shown me, the massive energy blast you unleash can be just as dangerous towards you as it is to your enemy. Mega Man uses all the abilities from the various Robot Masters to make up the rest of his arsenal and they all feel perfectly suited for the character. 

It's very exciting to feel such a unique fighting style for the character, and with all the other new characters I have yet to try, I'm truly looking forward to the complete experience.

Why the Wii U will be my next gaming console

With post E3 trailers trickling in from Nintendo for both Hyrule Warriors and Super Smash Bros, my excitement for these games is starting to escalate. Over the last console generation I've been subject to bland color palettes, militaristic overtones, first person saturation, and AAA sequel fatigue. I've been ruminating on my time with Nintendo recently and am fairly certain that this holiday season, once those brack friday bunduru's start rolling out, I will definitely have a WiiU bundle on my radar. I'll get into why in a moment, but the trailers that have been coming out have been giving me an excitement that I haven't really felt in awhile. And in terms of video games that's something I haven't felt in awhile, excitement.




The last game I honestly felt excited about being released was South Park the Stick of Truth, and that's because I'm both a huge fan of Bioware and South Park. After that was released I quickly noticed there was nothing on the gaming horizon that was truly getting me excited, and with E3 approaching, a sense of ennui kicked in as it usually does. The circus was coming into town to sell smoke and mirrors and the snake oil salesmen would be at their booths in full effect. Tuning out for the month was inevitable, especially after deciding to not purchase a next-generation console after my disaster of an experience with the PS3 at launch. 

The "new" console I've added to my collection for this year has been the Nintendo 3DS and I have to say I am thoroughly enjoying it. I haven't had a proper handheld console since the PSP, and the best games for that console were PS1 remakes in my opinion. But my 3DS has been getting some serious mileage, but given my change in schedule and the handheld's games being designed for short bursts of play, it seems to be a perfect fit for me. Not to mention the library of games for both the DS and 3DS, which I've never experienced, suddenly giving me the opportunity to try out many new games I've only peripherally been aware of. 




But the games aside (not something I will say often) there was something else I noticed about my time with the 3DS, and that's how warm it felt. Not literally of course, but emotionally. Something about the rounded edges and smiley faces on everything, how buttons on the interface moved and bounced as if they were breathing, how the gentle music playing in the background during menus was fun and catchy. It all made me feel welcome and more cheerful, the sensation it gave me from just navigating menus was notable! It made me think to my PS3 and the cold, futuristic sterility of it. The barrage of options and multi-faceted approach made it feel less like a gaming platform and more like the "multi media device" they wanted it to be. My launch day purchase of a PS3 left me with hardly any games to play and the ones I did buy tended to be far worse than their PS2 counterparts somehow, and after two years of barely using my letdown of a console, the disc drive broke and I sunk another fortune into replacing it because I didn't know better. Then I groan to think of my abysmal experience with the Xbox 360 several years later, and how little of the screen is used for practical things. Things like which game I put in the console because 80% of my screen is cluttered with advertisements. No, Xbox 360, I don't care about the new album by pop-artist-of-the-month. Not to mention the restricting of players to see the cover art to the games they paid for on their own console unless they are connected to the internet. Their underhanded business practices are enough to make me swear off getting an Xbox One, no matter how cool Sunset Overdrive looks. 


Then I think back to Nintendo, with their absurd pricing of virtual console games, sequel farm stable of iconic mascots, and mishandled multiplayer connectivity, and it doesn't seem to bother me as much as the heavy handed business ethics of the other big 2. Seeing the sense of humor Nintendo has, their willingness to be more direct about what you are getting (even if that works against them [Tomadich Life]), and their willingness to at least try and innovate, makes them feel like one of the last gaming consoles on the market. 

With Smash Bros including characters from Fire Emblem: Awakening, which has quickly become one of my favourite games, as well as the legendary Pac-Man, my excitement for this title could not be underestimated. And with all the time I've spent on the Dynasty Warriors franchise, as well as other non Koei beat 'em ups, that genre mixing with the Legend of Zelda in Hyrule Warriors is immensely enticing to me. Something about that style of gameplay puts me in such a good cathartic place that I rarely play other games in lieu of spending more time mashing that attack button. My friends and I have often discussed what other games we thought could mesh well with that style of gameplay, and to know that both Koei and Team Ninja is working on this kind of mashup makes me damn near giddy. 


But those are not my true reasons for wanting to get a WiiU, for that honour must go to Bayonetta 2, which will be bundled with a special "Nintendo Edition" of the first Bayonetta. After seeing the trailer for this game I knew my mind was made, and once this game is released it will have to stand the test of seeing if whether my expectations of Platinum Games and Nintendo were correct. This trio of titles is what will get me to purchase a new console. And since my Sony Trinity of Uncharted, God of War, and Ratchet and Clank isn't out on the PS4, nor will be for quite some time, I won't be concerned about it until the next few years. Until then, make mine Nintendo.

Post E3 Hypocrisy - SONY - Admitting I like stuff

So now that I got my initial explosive rage at E3 out of my system, it's time to take a moment to address hypocrisy. For as much as I fume about the event I still have to admit that I do wait for websites to have their master list of new trailers and videos at the end of it all. Once bereft of their press conference bollocks, I can sift through the media onslaught of cinematics and try and find things I might be excited for. 

In all fairness my AAA exhaustion has more than settled in and because I know I'm not going to purchase a PS4 or XBONE. Having not really concerned myself with too much of the news regarding new releases for them both. Although I am a huge fan of the Uncharted series, I don't expect for the fourth installment to be anything drastically different outside of the impressive rise in graphical representation. The writing will still be sharp, the characters will still be well realized, the adventure will still be grand and exciting, and it will still be a quality entry in the franchise. No one expects NaughtyDog to produce a rushed out product that will disappoint. My issue with it is that, at the end of the day, it's going to be what it has always been, a third person cover based shooter. A damn fine one, that I will truly enjoy and like the other three I will absolutely adore. But it isn't so radically different that I NEED to spend an exorbitant amount of money to get my hands on right away. I can wait for the whole experience to reduce in price, and more importantly, and wait for the hype train to come to a complete stop.

If they announced Uncharted 4 to be an open world treasure hunting island adventure bigger than Skyrim and with live multiplayer co-op both on and offline, I would be far more enticed to consider it. But a single teaser cinematic trailer tells me nothing outside of upgraded graphics which is going to be wildly different to make it an unmissable gameplay experience. Don't get me wrong I'm not knocking Uncharted 4, I'm just saying I'm not rabid with anticipation to the point where I'm going to shovel my money at Sony... not yet anyway. It's going to take a whole lot more than that to sway my wanting to accrue the financial burden of what is essentially just a toy. 

To cut a long story a bit longer, if I happened to have a large amount of disposable income I would absolutely be getting a PS4, but not right out of the gate. I made that mistake before with the PS3, but that's a tale for another time. The exclusives that I care most about are all in the Playstation stable, but those games haven't been released yet, so why rush?

The previously mentioned Uncharted series ranks chief among my reasons for choosing a Playstation4, as well as God of war, and most of all Ratchet &  Clank. I consider that the trio of Playstation titles that make me know that I am a fan, because I certainly can't think of an exclusive trilogy for the competition that makes me feel the same way. However if any news comes out for those games it will be a cinematic teaser first, not a gameplay demo. And what's worse, there is still time for these to become Xbox One exclusives! Strange as it may sound, in the gaming industry at least, stranger things have most definitely happened.



My thoughts on E3 - Why I think it's a load of Bollocks

     Another E3 has come and loads of new announcements and game reveals are underway, as the hype machine finishes refueling and departs the station at light speed. I always seem to get a chip on my shoulder every year when this event rolls around, and within my circle of video gaming enthusiasts it seem I am in the minority in terms of how I view the event. Some of my friends like to watch the press conference for the gaffs and live mess-ups that are entertaining, some like seeing trailers or gameplay footage, and others watch to feel like they are a part of the frontlines of the gaming press. But I see the whole event as something far more sinister.



     E3 to me is not an event that boasts consumer advocacy to protect the costly investments of people who spend more then they should on quickly dated technology. E3 isn't a place where gamers are shown thanks for their dedication to franchises with stagnating quality by getting the requests they've been making for years. What E3 is, and last years focus on new consoles really cemented this idea for me, is a press event for shareholders. It is their open-to-the-public board room meeting where the biggest investors are shown the tricks to having people give them money for the next few years. It is carefully constructed and precisely calculated in order to give the illusion of "this is all for you because we love you,' while actually being just an elaborate slideshow of false promises and half-truths.




     Year after year these major gaming corporations bring out celebrities that have nothing to do with video games, and musical acts that are woefully out of place. That's because they are trying to appeal to as many non-gamers as possible. On the one hand, it's a good thing that there are more people playing video games than ever before. On the other more heavy handed hand, the one we are actually being presented with annually, they aren't bringing in more people with the merits of the medium that lifelong gamers have cherished/developed over years. But rather the pomp and circumstance that you would find in a magician's stage show. And that's what E3 is, an act.


     An act to make you, the consumer, feel like you are heard and cared for. But if you stop remember the empty promises of the last several E3's, a pattern emerges. False value placed on the expectations they push onto you, which you are supposed to applaud them for, and also forgive them when they under deliver. If there wasn't such fervor for something as simple as a new trailer or sneak peeks, then game publishers might not be as rushed as they are to get games out to market on time. Instead, they have to compete for the same holiday window and E3-style press events, forcing developers to push out ideas they know they aren't going to have time to complete. And that's the key word, completion.


     E3 boasts a ton of what-if's and potential to get you excited from something that will almost always be the same thing that you got on the previous generation of gaming console. A franchise like Dynasty Warriors doesn't pretend to be something it's not. It's an old school battleground hack-and-slash and it always will be. But for each Assassin's Creed or Call of Duty that comes out every single year, people treat these in such a "nothing will ever be the same" way that it forces hype to be the most important factor of a trailer. And when marketers are the most important part of your video game, then what you get is just an advertisement and an over-saturated market that ultimately hurts gamers. 

     If E3 was about fan appreciation, than there would have been a Final Fantasy 7 HD remake. If it was about catering to fans, then over priced map packs would have been $0.99 each and go towards charity. If it was about keeping their promises that they made the year before, then half of each major presentation would be apologizing for being unable to meet the very same expectations that they set up for everyone. But all these things is what E3 isn't. Because what E3 most certainly is, is hype. Because when people buy into hype they become rabid. And a rabid consumer will waste more of their money than an informed consumer will.

The trouble with Robocop


2014 saw the remake of Robocop hit the big screen. The original was a brilliant action sci-fi film from 1987 that was in no way asking to be remade. Being such a big fan of the original film I was pretty excited for the release of this movie. My enthusiasm waned with every screenshot that was released during its production, but I was reserving any judgement until after I had seen the movie from start to finish. Soon enough the time came, and despite my utter willingness to let many issues slide in the hope of a fun and competent movie, I left the cinema utterly dissapointed and somewhat heart broken. This could have been a great movie. And now with its release on DVD and Blu-Ray, I figure it's as good a time as any to air some of my personal grievances with the movie.

Let's get a few things out of the way first. The acting in this movie was pretty good. Gary Oldman, Jackie Earle Haley, and Samuel L. Jackson stand out far among the rest, and the titular Robocop being played by Joel Kinnaman wasn't all that bad either. They just didn't give him much to work with. Factoring in the poor performances of Michael Keaton and Abbie Cornish would probably average the acting in this movie to just above okay. My major gripes with the film have very little to do with the acting performances, but more so with the story and direction of the film.

The visuals are nice at the outset and I'm especially impressed with the actual Robocop suit itself, as it looked appropriately modernized and, before the all-black paint job, looked amazing. The CGI wasn't bad either at the start of the movie, when automated bipedal drones and ED-209 units patrol a neighborhood. It looked like something out of Elysium (a far better movie). Things seemed to be off to a good start when the movie first starts up, but soon after it all begins to crumble at an exponential rate.




It's when the action finally starts (and there isn't much to speak of in this movie unfortunately) that things get pretty dismal. They decided to use mostly CGI for everything, which makes Robocop dive into the uncanny valley and everyone else like they are straight out of a Playstation 2 video game cut scene. Compounded by the incredibly short cuts that don't let you focus on anything, the complete lack of choreography, and worst of all the shaky-cam, the action sequences in this will induce nausea in even the most stalwart of viewers. The director of this movie should be slapped across the eyes for not making use of the technology available in an interesting or unique way. The climactic battle where Robocop faces off against numerous ED-209 units is borderline hilarious. Robocop dances underneath one of the giant walking mechs while taking cover behind their legs and firing pot shots at the other ED-209 units. Somehow he winds up on top of one and tears out its circuitry, but the poor CGI makes it look like a deleted scene from the first God of War game. I kept half expecting quick time event inputs to flash on the screen as if I were holding a game controller.

How could this have been rectified? My first instinct is to go back to what made the first movie so memorable. The use of practical effects has helped the original Robocop to still look real. Despite their understanding of future technology looking silly by today's standards, it still comes off as being more human (pardon the pun) and easier to believe. Why not actually have actors engage in a shootout with some well thought out blocking to showcase how effective Robocop's new targeting system can be? With trick shots being emphasized to take out someone holding a hostage perhaps like in Robocop 2? But instead one of the big set pieces takes place completely in the dark. With only muzzle flashes from gunfire to light up the room for microseconds at a time. It's like something out of a Paul W.S. Anderson movie for goodness sake! When Equilibrium did this for an opening gun fight at the start of their movie, it was to set the tone and show off some weird (albeit dated looking) special effects that both represent what sets the main characters apart, while providing popcorn action for audiences who came to see an action movie. But in this film it happens towards the end of the story and you're already bored to tears at that point.

Another major, and in my opinion more tragic, loss from the original Robocop was the TV commercials. In the first movie, acts were broken up by brief news clips that were always followed by hilarious ads that did something very important. Each advertisement went a long way towards world-building for the near-future Detroit setting that was essential to making the movie as fun as it was. And although on the surface they may seem like funny diversions to break up the serious tone of the movie, they gave you a very grounded understanding of the world the movie took place in. They have been replaced by a very enthusiastic Samuel L. Jackson, portraying a very Fox News-esque talk show program that has an obvious agenda bias. But somehow, they seem to not really have an agenda, if that makes sense. The program doesn't necessarily come off as having a specific opinion about drones, one way or the other, despite that being the main focus of the shows accusations. It might lean in one direction, but doesn't make the bold assertive claims that those types of shows are known for! 

Those two major components of the remake are woefully missing or serve only to disconnect the audience to what's happening on screen. Add into that the terrible side plot of Robocop's family and his wife (who is crying in every scene she is in) and their son (played by a child actor who looks like he is on valium) and you get even more superfluous, boring footage that doesn't need to be there. The waste of a partner, who had such a strong presence in the original film, is now a character that serves only to be sidelined in an injury in order to spur the titular "hero" into action, it makes the whole experience frustrating for those who appreciate the real Robocop film. 

In short, don't buy this movie now that it's on disc to own. Wait for it to show up on HBO or Netflix and watch it there first. Even if you liked it in the theaters, I get the very distinct notion that it will not age well at all, and repeat viewings will serve only to highlight the staggering problems behind this movie. 



April Movie Roundup for 2014

So far 2014 has been a pretty good, and expectedly bad, year for movies so far, and with the Hollywood blockbuster season simmering to completion I think it's time to reflect on the movies I've seen so far this year. With every intention of going over a few of these flicks at a later date with a more refined comb, for now I'm just going to brush over some impressions that these movies have left me with (in the order that I remember them in [if at all] ).

The Grand Budapest Hotel - The latest flick by my favourite director does not fail to entertain, at least not if you are comfortable with quirky humor. And of all of his films this might be the most approachable to people unfamiliar with Wes Andersons other works. It feels appropriately irreverent and the captivating presentation is simple and charming. The framing of shots mixed with antiquated aesthetics work together so well that its easy to let it all wash over you. The long winded speeches of the suave Mr. Gustav fizzle out hilariously into vulgarity that proved hard to stop doing myself after watching the film. Despite all the snow in this movie, it still has a very warm touch that will stay with you long after viewing, and I'm debating it's place in my favourite movies of the year, and possibly all time.

Robocop - Despite being one of the most unneeded remakes in history, this has to be one of the most disappointing films to come out this year. I truly, truly, wanted for this to be a good movie. Hell I would have gladly settled on a decent film. I went into this movie prepared to let a lot of things slide, and I did, and despite that Robocop could not stand up to the lofty heights set by the original. I watched this movie understanding that this was an adaptation that was for a generation of movie goers who might have not ever seen the original, but making this a PG-13 movie seems almost sacrilegious. On repeat views the problems just keep getting bigger and more obvious until the movie becomes nearly a parody of itself, if it wasn't for Gary Oldman carrying the events on screen with everything part of him then there would be nothing to see. The actual suit looks and moves impressively well, but the shaky cam makes everything impossible to follow and action scenes devolve into horrible looking cgi shootouts that look dated even now. This is a film I have every intention of getting into at a later time, but for now let's leave it at this: This films greatest crime is not that it was a bad movie, but that it might dissuade viewers from ever considering watching the 1987 original.

300: Rise of an Empire - This was one of the most forgettable films I've ever seen, and feels wholly unnecessary. It lacked the visceral energy or visual flare of the first film and the people involved, save for Eva Green, seem to be mourning the film as it plays out. The brutal slow motion ground combat has been replaced with naval battles for some reason. These are not at all fun to watch or easy to understand in terms of whose where and what plans mean as they are being shouted out. The main character has the biggest shoes to fill in place of King Leonidas and he never comes close to stepping out of that shadow. I can't even recall his name. And Xerxes himself is hardly in the movie at all despite all the promotional material making you think the movie was about him. However the new villain is far and away the best part of the movie. Eva Green plays the antagonist (I couldn't recall her character's name either) who seems like the only one having any fun and bringing energy to the screen, but all her hard work goes to waste ultimately as the rest of the movie shambles around trying to make itself more important than it can be, to its detriment.

The Lego Movie - A complete surprise to me and some of the most fun I had all year at the cinema. I'm not entirely sure how this movie didn't get on my radar as it came out, and even then it's immense success helped it stay in theatres for long enough for me to catch it randomly over a month after its release. Something about the premise felt like it was going straight-to-Netflix but holy crap was I wrong. This was an immensely funny and charming film that any fan of animation needs to see. Although the movie is cgi you still get the impression that they could have made this with actual Legos pieces (it just would have taken another ten years). It's a grand adventure with numerous colorful characters and amazing set pieces that thankfully doesn't pander to pop-culture tropes or date itself with celebrity gossip "humor" either. The voice acting is top notch too and matches the visuals just as much as the music does. This movie feels likes its on the fast track to classic status, and if the inevitable sequels don't spoil the magic for us, then we this could be proof that everything is awesome.

Surprisingly I'm still catching up on movies from last year still, and with Netflix posting new movies and old classics all the time, there's hardly enough time to watch them all. So as we all prepare for the summer onslaught of movies on the horizon, I'll be sure to watch them. And with any luck you'll be here to read about them.