Friday, 20 October 2017

Metroid: Samus Returns ★★★★★

Metroid 2, for the original (house brick, of a) GameBoy, was impressive for its day. Even with the hardware's limitations, it managed to have nice big sprite work and animation. It wouldn't have been my first choice for a Remaster, but I'm glad they did. Metroid: Return of Samus is more of a reimagining than a remaster, as it doesn't stick close to the original's design, outside of the story's concept. 

Coming straight off of the events of the classic, original NES game. Humans send in the bounty hunter, Samus Aran, to commit planet-wide genocide, wiping out all remaining Metroid and the Metroid Queen, on their homeworld - SR-388. Probably not too far from LV-426 and wherever Headcrabs come from. -Come to think of it, maybe, the Squidling kids were once human and now have a squid-like facehugging, social media obsessed, parasites controlling them… waaaait…

Once you get past the opening cinematic, with some dialogue and (Basil) exposition, then, unlike more recent entries in the Metroid series, you're left alone to explore and play the game without interruption. This is back to the 2D side-scrolling goodness, of the older Metroid's. The ones that inspired the exploration, find new power-ups and then start backtracking to find new, previously inaccessible, areas genre. (Batman: Arkham Asylum, still my favorite in the series, did an extremely good job of converting this concept into a 3D environment but the 2D Castlevania’s will always be at the top of the list, for me).

Metroid: Return of Samus uses a pseudo 2.5D, with 3D polygonal models and backgrounds, which works incredibly well. Personally, I'm a fan of 2D sprites but Metroid, graphically, is very impressive. Aside from the jaggy edges from the lack of anti-aliasing, due to hardware limitations. It looks and plays a lot like some of the newer games in the genre, like Shadow Complex and 2014's Strider (which were basically love letters to Metroid, anyway, and amazing games). The game's subtle ambient soundtrack helps Immerse you into the tense, claustrophobic and desolate planet. The map's layout has been massively expanded upon, compared to its Gameboy counterpart, and barely resembles the original map.

-Side note: My 3DS XL died, during my playthrough. (This turned out to be an issue with the WiFi chip). I continued on with my old original 3DS. I would highly recommend playing using an XL; so you can take in the atmospheric scenery and enemy design. On the upside, the smaller screen did help make character edges look smoother but I'm not sure that was worth the hand cramp.-

There are a lot of Loot Box, Pay to Win and just lazy, money grabbing DLC issues going around, in games, recently. One I've not heard much about is Metroid's Harder Difficulty being behind a paywall. To unlock Hard Mode you need to buy (or borrow) an Amiibo. That's some dodgy Nintendo tactics, even by Nintendo standards. At this rate, Next Pokemon game, you'll need to buy all the Pokemon Amiibos to acquire Pokemon. Stick to DLC just being cosmetic items that having no effect on gameplay and then I don't have to care.

Samus has a few new additions to her move set. Holding the -L- button allows you to stand still and aim 360°. Handy for some precision aiming and shooting down airborne enemies.
With a well-timed -Y-, Samus will perform a parry and counter, almost all, enemies; including bosses. This is a good way to deal some big damage. The wall grab lets you grab ledges, which you can also aim off of. The Sonar is a bit of a controversial one. You unlock this really early on and using it will show you any areas with weak walls and secrets hidden around. As you go through, gathering new abilities, you soon feel more than a match for enemies.

Your main objective is to hunt down 40 Metroid. Each new area you get to has a shrine-like statue with a certain amount of holes in it, to represent the amount of Metroid within that area. Each time you find and kill a Metroid, you acquire its DNA strand and then take them back to the shrine, to open the next area to explore. This isn't as boring as I've just made it sound. Boss battles start out simple. A parry with a few shots or unloading a bunch of missiles into them will take out the first few you encounter. They soon begin to get more complex and expand upon their behaviour, with lots of bigger and more varied Metroid hybrids. Learning the Boss patterns becomes key to finishing them off.

With the success and praise Metroid: Return of Samus has received, hopefully, Nintendo won't leave it so long to do another 2D Metroid and not let it gather dust, again. Mercurysteam have done an outstanding job. I'd like to see them return to Castlevania, (they made both Castlevania: Lords of Shadow’s), and do a new game in the vein of Sympathy of the Night. Wishful thinking.

Bry Wyatt

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Thursday, 19 October 2017

Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite ★★★☆☆

As team-ups go, like The Ninja Turtles and Usagi Yojimbo, Marvel and Capcom just makes sense. Both have a large mixed catalogue of weird and outlandish characters, to bring to the table. Who's not had the playground conversation of “who would win out of X or X”. The Marvel vs Capcom series has always let you fight these fanboy/girl scenarios out, for yourselves. In total, Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite (MvC:I) has 30 characters, in its roster lineup, which is a fair number (until you compare it with MvC2, which had 56) with some more coming as DLC later down the line. (Because that's how games work now and we all love to buy extras, that should have been in the game to start with...).

It's a shame then that MvC:I feels more like Marvel are selling you an advert for their current movie universe, rather than the Marvel Universe. Having cut their nose off, to look like Ghost Rider, and spite their own face; a large chunk of fan favorites are missing from the game, due to studio rivalry and Marvel not wanting to promote characters they don't own the movie rights to. The most obvious of these is Wolverine, who's about as iconic as Marvel get. Fox owns his movie rights, as well as, to all the other X-Men, so Cyclops, Storm and Magneto are all missing. This also goes for Sony properties like The Fantastic Four and Deadpool, all of whom are nowhere to be seen. Instead, you get a few characters shoveled in to help promote the upcoming Movie Universe. The Capcom lineup doesn't fare much better, with some particularly odd choices, such as only Ryu and Chun Li, from Street Fighter. Hagar, from Final Fight shows up, so I guess Guy and Cody are on holiday... and I guess Capcom are trying to remind people that Bionic Commando was a thing.

The story mode is pretty cheesy, as you'd expect when a comic and a game universe combine. It's definitely not as well thought out as Injustice 2's story, that's for sure. Ultron teams up with Sigma, from Megaman X, and then they combine to form Ultron Sigma… because reasons… and then, to ramp up the ridiculous, they turn into Ultron Omega. Through the story you're given two fighters, per scenario, in whatever seemed like the dumbest team-up at the time (Ryu and the Hulk as an early team-up example), to fight waves of generic robots until you get to the next story team-up fight. Repeat this for about two hours until your cake is ready.

Graphically the game is disheartening. I'm not sure what style they were aiming for but I'm quite sure they missed it. I'd take the comic style of the third game over this or some really nice 2D sprite art. (Dragonball Fighter Z looks amazing). Human characters look particularly bad and face animation isn't great either. Human expressions always look like they're ones of constipation or pain… I guess, half the time they would be, getting beaten up and laser beams to the face every few seconds. While still on design aesthetics, I'm convinced the work experience kid designed the Main Menu. It's just lazy and basic, like a bland mid-'90's website that's still waiting to be updated.

Luckily, for MvC:I, a game should always be judged on its gameplay and not its looks because this still remains its strong point. Sadly the chaotic 3 vs 3 of the older games has been done away with and returned to just the 2 vs 2 of the original. Not swapping between three characters, and calling in team assists loses some of the more frantic elements of the previous games but some of the new additions to gameplay make this work. You can now call in your partner, mid-combo, to continue a string of attacks and keep a juggle going. For example, have your enemy stuck in Iron man's cannon blast and while the animation is still going you can swap in your second character for a continued beat down.

The inclusion of the Infinity Stones also add a bit of strategy to the fighting. Although, another missed opportunity, to tie in and add a Power Stone character (or two), from Capcom. Sadface. You pick your stone after choosing your fighters, to match with your play style. Each Stone representing its own individual affects - Power, Space, Time, Reality, Mind and Soul. Each stone has two stages, “Infinity Surge”, which can be activated at any moment of the fight and “Infinity Storm“, which requires at least half of the Infinity Bar to be built up, via taking and dealing damage. For example, the Purple (Space) Stone’s “Infinity Surge” will pull an opponent towards you, allowing for combo traps. At the second stage “Infinity Storm“ it lets you trap an opponent within a small area and limit their movement.

Thankfully the game's controls have been fixed since its Story Mode Demo (fiasco). They no longer feel as disconnected, laggy and unresponsive. It ditches the three button layout of the third game and swings back to the more familiar four button layout of games old. As default the game has an “Auto-Combo”, set to a single button, to help newcomers string together a decent damaging combo. Someone who knows what they're doing will (and should) still win every time.

Loading times suuuuuck! I wouldn't normally mention this but waiting well over a minute to load the next fight is crazy talk. I can’t think of another game running on the unreal 4 engine that’s been this bad. I don't think the majority of people will be playing this as their main "go to" fighting game. More, something you'll dig out from time to time, for drunken nights with friends... at least until we can play MvC2, on current gen.

"Gonna take you for a ride...".

Bry Wyatt

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