Final Fantasy Dissidia 012 Duodecim

Dissidia_Duodecim_012_Final_FantasyDate Completed : February 22nd, 2015

Holy Stupid Name Batman! Square-Enix has released some games with truly stupid names in the past but the Final Fantasy series has mostly managed reasonably titled games (Unless you count the face that with over 52 games in the series the word ‘Final’ clearly does not apply).  When the original Dissidia game came out I naturally wondered what orifice they pulled the name from, but eventually I shrugged it off and got to playing the game. ‘Final Fantasy : Dissidia 012 Duodecim’ makes it really hard to shrug off the name.  If someone asked me what I was playing I usually responded ‘Final Fantasy Fighting Game’. If I did happen to try and tell someone ( such as my wife ) the full title of the game I was horribly mocked for playing it, as if the title of the game was my fault.

Having dropped over 100 hours into the previous Final Fantasy Dissidia I was looking forward to starting the sequel but a few things kept me from getting started. First – I didn’t want to play another game on my PSP.  I was able to resolve this issue by throwing more money at Square Enix and buying a digital copy of the game for my PS Vita during a Final Fantasy sale on the Playstation store.  Second – 100 hours is a long ass time to play a game.  What finally convinced me to start Duodecim was the discovery that there is an import feature.  The import process was a simple 380 step process that involved multiple virtual machines, memory card readers and a bit of hacking skill but in the end I did get it to work and I was able to import all of my maxed-out characters.

I didn’t realize it until after I was quite a way in to the game but the game is a super set of the original Dissidia. It includes the original game as well as a lengthy prequel.  The game isn’t 100% identical but if you can skip the original Dissidia you won’t be missing anything story wise.  The story follows the eternal conflict between Chaos and Cosmos (Discord and Harmony) and attempts to tie all of the Final Fantasy titles together into a cohesive whole.  It does this by confusing the hell out of you to the point that your brain decides to stop trying to process the story and accepts everything as perfectly sensible.

If I had to choose one word to describe this game it would be POINTS. There are Brave Points (BP), Hit Points (HP), Ability Points (AP), Experience Points (Exp), Kupo Points (KP) and Player Points (PP). While not technically a ‘point’ value, there is also an in game currency called ‘Gil’ which can be used to purchase various types of gear. If you think that sounds a tad bit over-complicated then you and I are in agreement. I couldn’t help but feel that some gleeful accountant with an over fascination of spreadsheets designed the game.

Battles are all one-on-one and your goal is to reduce your opponents HP to 0. You have two types of attacks – Brave attacks and HP attacks. Brave attacks reduce your opponents’ brave points and adds them to yours. HP attacks take your current brave points and inflict equivalent damage to your opponents HP. The normal flow of battle involves attempting to inflict ‘break’ status on your opponent by reducing their Brave points below zero. This awards you a huge bonus of brave points and in many cases means you can win the battle with a single HP attack afterwards.

There are several AI engines of varying difficulty, the most frustrating of which either blocks dodges or reflects every single attack you make.  In once such battle I fired over 30 homing shots at my opponent and every single one missed. I’ve been in battles where my foe was backed into a corner and I blasted them with a huge attack and it missed even though they visually appeared to have no way to dodge. How do you win these battles?  It’s helps to be several dozen levels above your opponent, but if all else fails you can always resort to luck.  Eventually the AI will screw up and you’ll hit it.

Running around the map.

Running around the Over World

 

Cut-scenes were irritatingly frequent and account for a large percentage of my play time through this game. Since I was maxed out on levels, for the first 2/3rds of the game I could get 1-hit kills on all the enemies so the game consisted mostly of cut-scenes and loading screens for me. Conversations between characters tended to be repetitive and waaaaaaaaaay too long. There is a skip feature, which I recommend to any new players. Go ahead and skip – the story doesn’t make sense anyway.

Every button on the PSP (or the PS Vita in my case) is used and then some while playing this game. Many skills such as dodging, summoning and calling an assist character require you to hold a shoulder button while pressing another button. I often found my hand temporarily locked into a ‘claw of doom’ position after playing Duodecim. The controls are impossible to use comfortably. I don’t think the designers put much thought into what sort of controller players would have.

The full history of Final Fantasy outfits is on display in Duodecimo.  Characters from the more recent games retain their original their original appearance (such as Tidus’s one long pant leg and Kuja’s thong / vest / skirt combo) but characters from the more classic titles have been ‘upgraded’ to 3D models.  While I am going to refrain from an extended critique of the fashion choices in this game, I find it interesting to observe that the more evil a woman is in Final Fantasy, the more of her knockers you are likely to see (Which is the opposite of what I believed for most of my adolescence).

Mog

My roommate in college used to say the same thing.

Dissidia is clearly fan service for people like myself who are long time fans of the series and enjoy the mash-ups of characters. The game mechanics are unique and fun, although somewhat flawed. Overall I enjoyed the game, but I really hope they re-think some of the mechanics if they’re going to continue creating Dissidia games (And all signs point to yes).

Pros

  • Unique Fighting game.
  • Includes characters from Final Fantasy I – XIII.

Cons

  • Flawed mechanics.
  • Long, repetitive cut-scenes.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 6/10
Length:  ~40 hours
System: PSP / PS Vita
Genre: Fighting / RPG
Advertisements

Super Smash Bros. 3DS / Wii U

SmashBoxAccording to WordPress this is going to be my 100th post! So, congratulations to me.

Super Smash Bros. came out for the N64 when I was in college but it was later in the N64’s life cycle and I had already begun moving away from the N64 as a platform of choice.  I might have never tried the game at all, except some of the gentlemen down the hall were REALLY big fans of the game. I wasn’t especially good friends with the gentlemen down the hall, but they enjoyed gaming and avoiding schoolwork as much as I did so we had a lot of common ground. I played a LOT of Smash with those gentlemen, enough to forge some lifelong friendships and move off campus together the next year (where of course we played even more SMASH).  When the Gamecube came out I bought one and we Smashed even harder. Smash became one of the games that defined my college experience, so it is psychologically impossible for me to not purchase new versions when they are released.

This time around Nintendo released Smash Bros. for two consoles, the Wii U and the 3DS. They are NOT the same game as I originally believed although they do have a lot in common. The roster of characters are identical and many of the levels are the same, but there are unique features to each that make the experience for each game distinctive. The games are NOT cross compatible – you can’t play against a Wii U owner with the 3DS version of the game, although in a somewhat unusual move you CAN use the 3DS as an extra controller for a Wii U.

The game hasn’t changed much since the Gamecube iteration. To get started you only need to learn two buttons – attack and special attack. Pressing in a direction with one of the attack buttons will slightly alter which move is performed. All fighters use the same controls so even if you are using someone new you should be able to get a few hits in. This is in contrast to other fighting games (such as Injustice which I recently reviewed) where all fighters have different controls that must be learned separately. I’ve good results introducing new people to Smash by showing them how to jump, and use the two attack buttons. Both of my boys (Who are 5 and 3 years old) were able to play the game and my 5 year old even managed to beat me once or twice (more on that later).  After learning how to use your attacks, advanced players may learn the other two buttons – block and throw.  These are helpful to know but not entirely necessary for enjoying the game.

Fighting games generally aren’t noted for being fantastic single player experiences and Smash Bros. is no exception.  Fortunately Smash makes up for a somewhat lackluster single player experience by including BUTT LOADS (Figuratively) of different modes that can be enjoyed.  These include (but are not limited to) Classic Mode, All-Star Mode, Street Smash (3DS), Smash Run (3D), Smash Tour (Wii U), Event Smash (Wii U), Special Orders (Wii U) and online battle modes.  Completing each of the modes with each of the 50 playable characters will take a significant time investment.

Fight

You can post screenshots through the Miiverse.

 

So, Smash is great, but what was my experience like?  Well, on the 3DS I played through most of the single player challenges myself and the only achievements I have left are the ones like ‘beat all-star mode with every character’.  I tried a few online matches for fun but never really got into it.  One of my colleagues at work got a copy for Christmas (I bought mine at launch) and we’ve had a few cooperative battles on break, which is a lot more fun than work.  Taking Smash on the road is a lot of fun, but the opportunity to play it doesn’t come up as often as I would like.

The Wii U version of the game is all about the Amiibos for us.  I may have gone a bit overboard with Amiibo fever – I signed up for the Lootcrate Amiibo promotion which netted us most of the launch characters.  My boys both wanted Link’s Amiibo for Christmas ( I couldn’t convinced them to ask for different characters – Link is too awesome ) which combined with the Lootcrate promotions brings our household total to about 13.  I thought the game would be too hard for my boys to play themselves so the Amiibo integration seemed like a good way to get them involved.  It turns out that they are both able to play the game with at least some measure of success and they HATE it when their Amiibo beats them.

My 3-year-old son isn’t entirely sure what he’s doing so he generally stands still while spamming the attack button.  Sometimes he decides he’s controlling a different character than he started with (which doesn’t affect his results any), and sometimes he gets bored and wanders out of the room. My 5-year-old son is a bit more hardcore about it.  He and I have an agreement to not attack each other so I’m often left attacking the Amiibos on my own.  Periodically this strategy results in my older son winning as I take all the damage and he shows up to knock the bad guys off the stage.

You must have JavaScript enabled on your device to view Miiverse posts that have been embedded in a website. View post in Miiverse.

My progress with the Wii U version achievements is a lot slower since the boys insist that we play the 2 minute Smash battles.  I’m OK with that though, it’s a lot more fun than playing alone.  I think Smash will be a popular diversion for the boys and I for a long time.

Pros

  • Lots of playable characters.
  • Single player story mode was enjoyable.

Cons

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length:  ~40 hours
System: 3DS / Wii U
Genre: Fighting

Injustice : Gods Among Us

Injustice--Gods-Among-Us-Ultimate--pTRU1-17062589dtDate Completed : December 18th, 2014

Thanks to the efforts of my wife I received a healthy amount of cash for Christmas 2013 that was earmarked towards the purchase of a new PS4.  My level of excitement for the PS4 wasn’t as high as it has been for past consoles.  The launch titles really didn’t appeal to me, and having suffered through the PS3’s length launch drought I didn’t have high hopes for seeing any compelling games for at least a year or two.  Still, I knew that I needed to get one before our third child arrived and we completed the purchase of a bigger home to fit our expanding family.  If I didn’t get the PS4 quickly, it wasn’t likely that I would see that much money together in one spot again for a good long while.

The PS4 has served as an exemplary Netflix box for when I’m up with the baby in the middle of the night but until recently it hadn’t been used as a gaming machine.  That finally changed when INJUSTICE : GODS AMONG US ULTIMATE EDITION was added as a free title for Playstation Plus subscribers.  The game had been on my ‘I might try that if I can find it really, really, really, really cheap’ list and getting it for free for my least used console pretty much fulfilled all of my requirements.  I downloaded it at once and since my boys had been watching a lot of Justice League cartoons lately I called them in to check it out.

A few moments later I kicked the kids out of the room.

The game is violent.  Horribly violent.  Spurting blood effects are prevalent through the game and more than a few characters are outright murdered during the story.  It’s hard to find games I can play around the kids that don’t include some level of violence but this was too dark and realistic.  Cartoon characters that smile happily as they light-heartedly bludgeon each other into puffs of smoke is OK, but Injustice is not.

After getting into the game a little bit I found myself uncomfortable with how the characters looked.  I recognize that Superhero physiques are generally exaggerated but everything seemed a little too off to me.  For example, Superman’s jaw seemed too pointy, Wonder Woman’s upper chest seemed too elongated and Shazam’s forehead seemed to short.  I couldn’t tell if the graphics were a result of poor character modeling or the uncanny valley.  The graphic quality of the game itself is actually quite good good, but the character models and a choppy frame-rate frustrated my experience.  I expected more from my first PS4 game.

INJUSTICE is a quick paced fighting game. The controls for playing the game and executing special reminded me of the Mortal Kombat games, which have always been low on my list of favorite fighting games.  I found the INJUSTICE move set to be too complicated. The game started with a tutorial for playing as Batman but after the first few moves I was lost. Some of the combination attacks or throw reversals required very specific timing, and I found them to be difficult to execute, even in the controlled environment of the tutorial.  Eventually I found that button mashing worked much better than trying to be intentional with my moves, and it negated the need to learn how to play the game.

Story mode was by far my favorite part of this game. It throws you through a series of about 50 battles that are strung together by a series of cut-scenes. The story may not make a whole lot of sense (alternate universe with an evil Superman) but it does answer the question I first asked myself when I heard about this game – “How can Batman hold his own in a fight against Superman?”. (Spoiler : There’s a pill for that).  Your fighter swaps out every four battles so you are constantly learning how to use a new fighter.  While the story wasn’t fantastic it was a good way to make a single player experience out of a multiplayer game.

After finishing story mode I checked the available trophies for the game to see if there was any low-hanging fruit there. There were some trophies for trying out practice mode and classic modes. There is also a challenge mode that I didn’t try that looked like a lot of work, and knowing my competitive nature I steered clear of the online modes. I picked up a few trophies by playing through the classic mode on very easy with remote play on my PS Vita. The remote play feature worked very well and it even seemed to help with some of the jittery frame-rate issues I’d been seeing. I think I’ve picked up most of the trophies that can be achieved without a significant time investment so I’m now done with the game.

I think the biggest problem with this game for me is that fighting games were meant to be competitive.  Without some cocky neighbor kid bragging about a (probably fictional) 200 hit combo in Killer Instinct I may have never played the game.  I don’t have a cocky neighbor kid of Injustice, so I have no reason to get good enough to wipe the grin off his stupid, cocky face.  The single player story mode made it fun for a few hours, and it gave my PS4 a purpose for a time, but I won’t be revisiting this one.

Pros

  • Lots of playable characters.
  • Single player story mode was enjoyable.

Cons

  • Frame-rate issues.
  • Unusual proportions to the characters.
  • I wasn’t happy with the controls.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 5/10
Length:  ~5 hours
System: Playstation 4
Genre: Fighting

Punch-Out

Date Completed: August 28th, 2011

Like many other Wii owners I have constantly had to justify the continued existence of my console.  I’m a bit of a Nintendo fanboy and I want to love the console and I want to feel justified in my purchase of 37 different peripherals, but more often than not the console sits in the dark,  un-powered and alone, gathering dust.  I normally wouldn’t have purchased Punch-Out but my Wii guilt was kicking in so I put it on my birthday list.

One of the reasons that Punch-Out appealed as a game to fill the Wii shaped void in my gaming life was that it featured full motion controls and balance board support.  I stubbornly refused to give traditional controls a try and insisted on using the motion controls and balance board.  For this reason I did not beat the game for a year and a half after I first started it.

The motion controls are a big improvement over the crummy motion controls included with the Wii Sports tech demos.  Instead of angling your controllers you use the analog stick to choose between a head shot and a body shot.  It may not feel quite as natural but you get a decent workout and your character actually does what you want him to.  That seems like a decent trade-off to me.  The balance board control works pretty well, except it appears that the game was designed without the balance board in mind and that it was tacked on later as an option.  The opponents get faster and faster until eventually there is no way you’ll be able to shift your balance fast enough to dodge incoming punches.  I was stuck on the first fight of the world cup for months before I finally gave up hope and ditched the balance board.  Two days later I’d finished the game.

It took me about 30 minutes to learn the tells and train myself to react to each opponent.  After beating everyone in the main tournament you can start in on title defense mode.  All of your opponents have a second coming with a few slight modifications.  In addition to the tournament mode there is also an exhibition mode with achievements as well as a multiplayer mode so there is plenty of extra content to enjoy.

Using the motion controls I got a decent workout.  I will keep this game around as a fitness title but I don’t think I’ll ever want to play through the main tournament again.  I’ll probably just stick to the exhibition mode when it’s too cold to go outside and get real exercise.

Pros
* Punch-out with motion controls!
* Tournament Defense, Exhibition and Multiplayer modes add extra content.
Cons
* Balance board control is crap.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 6/10
Length: 8 hours
System:Wii
Genre: Sports

Soulcalibur IV

Date Completed: 5/28/2011

I really enjoyed playing SoulCalibur II on the Gamecube but I was forced to miss SoulCalibur III since it was PS2 only.  When SoulCalibur IV came out WITH DARTH VADER as a playable character I rushed to GameStop to buy it.  I traded in several games and paid the full launch price.  Sadly, I was disappointed.

SoulCalibur IV lacked the story mode that I had enjoyed the most on SoulCalibur II.  Worse, Darth Vader was a slow character and was hard to use.  The combo system also seems to be overly complicated and the tutorial mode does not help you learn how to play the game.  I was never able to memorize enough moves to become an effective fighter.  After going through the game and unlocking most of the characters I ended up selling it on eBay.

Time passed.

I thought back of the fond times that I’d had with SoulCalibur IV.  Myself and my gentlemen friends would enjoy frantically pushing buttons and killing each other in endless strings of 2 on 2 battles.  It may not have been a great game, but it was fun enough, and I found that I regretted selling it.

Then the dark days came.  The Playstation Network went down and stayed down.  Many of the Playstation faithful began to lose hope and started liquidating old console and old games.  Those of us who are less prone to panic took the opportunity to pick up some games for heavy discounts.  So it has come to pass that I own SoulCalibur IV once again.

The game is a button masher.  The combo system and moves list is so extensive that I can’t see myself learning more than a single character.  When I do play I have no strategy in mind, I just hit buttons and hope for the best.  The controls really don’t work well on a PS3 controller as some of the moves require you to hit button combinations that would require a few extra thumbs.  If I had one of those fancy joystick controllers I might have better luck but I’ve already got too many peripherals.  If I get any more my wife might leave me – or worse – start throwing them out.

Graphically SoulCalibur IV is excellent.  The narration is so over-the-top melodramatic that it is humorous.   Single player mode is lacking but multiplayer can be a fun diversion if you can find it cheap.  Sadly unrealistic boob physics and partial nudity make this a game you probably won’t want to play around women, children or any friends you may have that graduated from Bible college.

Pros
* Excellent Graphics
* Fun button masher for 2+ people

Cons
* Complicated gameplay
* Lacking the longer story mode of SoulCalibur II.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 6/10
Length:  ~30 minutes per character
System: PS3
Genre: Fighting

Infinity Blade

Infinity Blade is the first game (that I know of) that uses the Unreal Engine on iOS based devices.  I’m a pretty big fan of iOS devices, and I am a pretty big fan of tech demos so it was only natural that I purchased this game as soon as it became available.

The game has a very minimal storyline – basically you’re out to kill some bad ass ‘god king’ character.  If you die in your quest you’ll start over as your son, coming back 20 years later to avenge your death.  Each time you fail you’ll start a new bloodline.  I didn’t beat the game until after about 5 bloodlines, and then even after you win you can keep playing.  There are achievements for finishing up to 20 bloodlines.  It also appears that the developers left room to add more features, so this may not be the end of this particular game.

You have to kill more than just the final boss.  You have to battle several henchmen on your way through the castle, each with a slightly different playing style.  Each enemy gives different visual cues on what maneuver they are going to execute.  As you level up enemies level up as well and they start pulling more complicated maneuvers such as fake outs.  Combat is pretty simple.  Swipe your finger across the screen to use your sword.  You have a shield icon you can press to block, and you can dodge by hitting two arrows that are on the sides of the screen.  You also have magic spells and a super move at your disposal.  Each of these recharges over time.

When you beat the game you will be treated to an ending that I WAS CERTAINLY NOT PREPARED FOR!  All I have to say is whoa!

I played the game on both the iPad and the iPhone and it plays equally well in both environments.  The iPad was a little more difficult to play since the screen is larger and you have to move your hands so much further to hit the hot spots during combat, but it also made things easier to see objects on the screen.  The game works on either platform, so you don’t need to choose which one to buy (Unlike some other games in the app store).

Pros
* Amazing Graphics.
* Simple, fun game play.
* It runs on your phone.

Cons
* Touch control isn’t the best choice for this type of game.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 7/10
Length:  10 hours
System: iOS
Genre: Fighting / RPG