Perspective woes

The age-old question: how do you make 3D when you can’t make 3D? Often it’s a matter of just making a side-scroller, which negates the problem entirely. Some other games were a bit more eager to try, and used an isometric view a la Syndicate. A Link to the Past, on the other hand, had a weird top-down perspective which has become accepted as normal over time, but it doesn’t mean it makes sense.

Some other games took the last formula and brought it to its extreme. Blood Omen takes a little while to get used to.

Much like Zelda, but the houses and trees are leaning even more. If they lean any more than this, they'll crumble.
Much like Zelda, but the houses and trees are leaning even more. If they lean any more than this, they’ll crumble.

And even that is nothing compared to Swagman, a semi-obscure Saturn/PS1 game by Core Design which will make your eyes bleed with its arcane representation of 3D space.

It almost looks normal from here (almost). Then you try moving, and...
It almost looks normal from here (almost – take a glance at that wardrobe on the right). Then you try moving, and…

To its credit, Swagman was pretty good, if brutally hard. But the really weird perspective has screwed me up more than once. It was, however, one of those nifty 32-bit 2D games that still attempted to put polygons to use for extra amazement.

The billiard sticks are actual polygons. This scene could be impressive in 3D. Not that anyone will ever port this game to the 3DS.
The billiard sticks that try to take you down are actual polygons. This scene could be impressive in 3D. Not that anyone will ever port this game to the 3DS.

Well, at least the music and character design was really good. Did I say character design? I meant in-game character design. Because I can’t get out of my head just how the kids look in cutscenes compared to the in-game sprites.

These are grade school kids, right? Right?
These are grade school kids, right? Right?

One day someone will rediscover this hidden gem. I can’t live in a world where Nintendo re-releases Urban Champion and games like this get ignored forever.

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Clichè Thief

I can see why Rhythm Thief went somewhat unnoticed back when it launched, years ago. For starters, it has that sort of Layton-style appeal to a market that the 3DS could never quite capture. The story and characters is really nothing to write home about either.

Cute, but forgettable design.
Cute, but forgettable design.

It has literally all of the tropes of the thief genre: the lovable rogue, the private detective, the workaholic inspector, etc. And unfortunately it takes the worst part of the Layton franchise as well, which is the “touch everywhere” syndrome.

Where the game scores a victory is in the minigames, which present quite a challenge and are worth playing through again and again to get a better score. However, the exploration parts are weak, so as a whole the game might not be enough to recommend. But it should be easier to find cheap today, which would make it a much easier purchase.

On the bright side, it received a port on iOS some time ago, so it still got more attention than Doctor Lautrec ever did.

Hunting monsters for the fourth time

Finished the MH4U demo just now. A decent way of tasting the full game. You start with a bunch of potions and megapotions, so it’s not overly difficult, even on Experienced. The Gore gave me some trouble the first time because you only get 25 minutes (also he’s seriously dangerous when angered), but once I knew his pattern, I made it the second time around with a good 5 minutes to spare.

The game is not exactly a looker. The textures are quite bad, the palette choice is poor, and in 3D mode there’s texture crawling everywhere. That said, the framerate is good enough, and in 2D mode you even get some antialiasing for your trouble.

The new gameplay additions are… troubling, in part. The big maps are nice, and of course the controls are familiar as always. The extra verticality would add more depth to the combat, if the grabbing weren’t simply a button mashing minigame. Its usefulness also seems somewhat questionable, at least in this demo. Maps are a lot more confusing, now that there’s something to climb everywhere. On the plus side, stamina depletion seems slower, and recovery times from jumps are a lot faster. But again on the bad side, with each map having so many small hills and other differences in terrain height, the lock-on camera doesn’t work nearly as well as in MH3U.

So yeah… it’s still Monster Hunter. Even if the new additions try to shake things up, I don’t think they wanted to change a lot of stuff.

Just like Smash, there’s no Miiverse or Browser support during the game. Also, it seems to be a battery hog: starting with a 3 out of 4 bars battery, after playing for about 60 minutes the red light had gone into blinking status. Doesn’t surprise me, seeing as it squeezes every ounce of processing power out of the console. It’s just too bad that it doesn’t quite translate into tangible graphical improvements (I fear the bigger maps are to blame).

Metroid Contrast

I’ve had my 3DS for a very long time now, enough to receive the 20 ambassador games from Nintendo (I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not, really). I didn’t notice until now though, that there’s quite some difference in how the GBA games are rendered, compared to their original counterparts. I can only try on a Gameboy Micro, which might not look quite the same as something like a GBA SP, which was obviously far more popular. But it should do.

Metroid Fusion running on the original 3DS. The contrast seems excessively garish.
Metroid Fusion running on the original 3DS. The contrast seems too garish. Who knew space was purple?
Metroid Fusion, on the GBA Micro. Looks a bit washed out, but not quite as bad as the 3DS.
Metroid Fusion on the Micro. Looks slightly washed out, but not as bad as the 3DS. Gray blue > purple.

I don’t think too many people had a Gameboy Micro anyway. The 3DS seems to render colors almost in the same way as the DS Lite, which means it might actually be the correct way! Considering the known issues with the original GBA and its lack of backlight, it’s possible that Nintendo made the game (which came out before the SP was launched) look more high-contrast than usual, to make it more visible in low-light conditions.

I prefer how it looks on the Micro, so it’s good to have that one extra option around. Considering how long it’s taking for GBA games to become available on the 3DS (will they ever?), most people probably won’t notice either way.

The last leaf of the season

Remember Loom? Probably not. It was a pretty nice adventure game by Brian Moriarty, already author of Beyond Zork, published in 1990 by Lucasfilm Games. Interesting for being devoid of dead ends, before even Monkey Island. You could still get stuck if you forgot to scribble down the various spell notes (and some are randomized for each playthrough), but that was your own fault. Not very successful at launch, it’s become something of a cult classic today.

The very first action you can take in the game is examining an autumnal leaf on a tree, which will then fall off. Also, one of the spells in the game dyes objects green. For the longest time, I’ve wondered if you could actually dye the leaf green. I was sure there would be some deeper meaning to it.

The Zork authors usually thought of everything, so... why not?
The Zork authors usually thought of everything, so… why not?
Maybe not this time. Or maybe they don't want you to ruin the game's bleak atmosphere.
Maybe not this time. Or maybe they don’t want you to ruin the game’s bleak atmosphere.

Turned out I was too optimistic.

It’s raining Elites

I need an aspirine. I spent the last two hours trying Halo 2 on Legendary, which was a very good way to remove that itch I had for buying the Master Chief Collection. Seriously, what’s up with this game.

I generally consider myself good enough, I mean, I have finished all the other games on Legendary, including Reach. It’s hard, it takes patience, perhaps I would not be able to do it again today, but I still did it. Halo 2 just feels so unfair to me though. And I’m not even talking about the Jackal snipers, I have never even seen those, because I can’t get past the Cairo hangar.

The Halo stage in DOA4 was indeed the Cairo Hangar. Knowing Itagaki, he probably enjoyed that part. (image source: http://games.gearlive.com/playfeed/article/halo-meets-dead-or-alive-4-on-360-10240441/)
The Halo stage in DOA4 was indeed the Cairo Hangar. Knowing Itagaki, he probably enjoyed that level way too much. (source: http://games.gearlive.com/playfeed/article/halo-meets-dead-or-alive-4-on-360-10240441/)

At one point, you get to a ship which drops off Elites and Grunts. Ok, fine, you kill them. Then more come out, except more dangerous. Fine, you try to kill them too. And then even more come out! I still don’t know what happens next, but chances are that more would come out. Uhm.

The biggest issue is actually dealing with your own weapons. Only the rifle and plasma pistols/rifles are of any use. Short range weapons are a good way to get you killed, So your choice is limited, and so is your ammo. I usually don’t do too badly in this part, until my ammo runs out and then I’m left with SMGs and mounted guns. And then I might as well reload.

Funnily, there’s 4 mounted guns above the platform. Ideally, Bungie wanted players to use them to keep the assaulters at bay. Good luck doing that in Legendary, where sticking your nose out for more than 1,5 seconds will bring to an untimely demise.

New graphics, same frustration
New graphics, same frustration

Of course none of this was fixed for the Anniversary re-release. Nostalgia must be king. Well, they didn’t fix the Jackals either, and a lot more people complained about those.

I’ll probably get the MCC eventually (if only for the other games), and maybe even try this part again on Legendary. Who knows, maybe the higher resolution will make it easier or something. Yeah.

Fun is where the checkpoint is

Ok, after trying Volgarr for a while and getting infuriated in roughly 20 minutes at its lack of checkpoints, here’s something I need to say: screw those old super-difficult games. Ghosts’ n’ Goblins? Battletoads? Frustrating design is not good design. Maybe I’m just growing old, but I can’t imagine anyone liking these kind of games.

Good thing Mario taught almost every videogame character how to change direction while jumping.
Good thing Mario taught almost every videogame character how to change direction mid-jump.

“But you played Super Meat Boy!” – yes, but SMB is level-based. And doesn’t have limited lives. So the frustration is very much partial. You don’t have to get A+ on every level, you can simply finish it at your own leisure if you want.

“But you like Dark Souls!” – oh, please. Dark Souls isn’t one tenth as hard as those old arcade games. Besides, I’ve always said that DS itself could use a bit streamlining in a few areas such as enemy respawning.

“But you play Serious Sam on the highest difficulty!” – quicksave spamming, that’s the keyword here.

Loom, before even Monkey Island, had no dead ends.
Old adventures had a lot of problems. But Loom, before even Monkey Island, had no dead ends.

I’m not saying I like the excessive simplification of modern games… no, wait. To be perfectly fair, there are a few things I like. The convenience of autosaving every few steps, checkpointing at bosses, quest markers and automatic tab-keeping, etc. is something that I would have trouble giving up today.

If this sounds like an apology of modern games, maybe it is.

Writing about whatever comes to mind