Breaking the Habit: April 2012

Note: Due to a New Year’s resolution, I am restricting myself to one game purchase per month. This article is part of a series describing my choices.

Perhaps I was intoxicated with hype, but only one game on the April release schedule caught my eye. Sure, Skullgirls was generating some buzz, but I had just purchased a fighting game and wanted something different. Likewise, Phantom Breaker would have been excluded from consideration if it wasn’t delayed again. Seeing no opposition, here is my choice:

tw2_e32k10_screenshot_pack_4The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings

Platform: Xbox 360, Windows, Macintosh (Steam)
Developer: CD Projekt RED
US Publisher: Warner Bros.

Description: A role-playing game featuring a real-time combat system with a great deal of technique and which boasts a mature storyline that is heavily affected by the player’s actions.

+ 40 hour game length. Long enough to feel invested, short enough that I might actually finish it.
+ Descriptions of the combat system sounded fun.
+ CD Projekt RED is a small and honest developer fighting against the oppression of DRM!
+ It’s a story like Game of Thrones combined with gameplay similar to Dark Souls!
+ Lots of boobies and sex scenes featuring some mega hot Polish model playing as the main love interest.
+ I’m a total Microsoft fanboy and wanted a game that wasn’t on PS3. Am I being sarcastic? I have no idea!
– PC to Console port. Concerns about downgrades and interface changes.
– I was still really into Dark Souls, a somewhat similar RPG.

Conclusion: I bought the hype; I bought the game. An RPG with a mature story reminiscent of A Game of Thrones in a product that, unlike the actual Game of Thrones RPG, does not look like rubbish. Add in amazing combat like Dark Souls and a branching plot, and it was too much for me to resist.

After spending a couple hours with the tutorial, I was both intrigued and frustrated. The main character Geralt could do everything. The tutorial had me sword fighting, casting spells, setting traps, throwing bombs and daggers, parrying and rolling to avoid attacks, collecting herbs, and making potions. Unfortunately, the interface for switching between all of these options was somewhat awkward on a gamepad, and the controls never began to feel comfortable in this time.

The game itself began with Geralt sharing an intimate moment with main love interest Triss who was rolling around on a bed naked in such a way that nothing was left to the imagination. This may have been pleasing to watch if not for the stiff animations, blurry textures, and obvious polygon edges. Instead, it looked awkward and I felt like a teenage boy watching something naughty.

The botched eye candy led to a bit of humor when a messenger entered the tent to deliver a plot. Geralt reported to the king who was clearly trying to fill me in on some backstory as he told his advisors a bunch of stuff they likely already knew. When the king finished showing me what kind of person he was, I went to eat lunch, and swapped the game out for Dark Souls when I returned.

Despite anticipating the game for several months, I couldn’t get into it just then. Hopefully, I will revisit The Witcher 2 someday and find it to be as fascinating as so many claim.

I am disappointed with my purchase. I was trying to avoid buying games I do not play, and I was having too much fun with Dark Souls to be bothered with something similar. Furthermore, The Witcher 2 has been significantly discounted since release; I could buy it for less now if I was just going to stick it on a shelf. Finally, an April game I initially overlooked, Anomaly: Warzone Earth, turned out to be a lot of fun when I bought it several months later. Maybe I’ll do better research in the future.

Breaking the Habit: March 2012

Note: Due to a New Year’s resolution described here, I am restricting myself to one game purchase per month. This article is part of a series describing my monthly choices and the reasoning involved.

March presented me with a lot of tempting games, but it was tough to justify buying any of them. Here’s the list of March releases. I was able to quickly eliminate Mass Effect 3 due to me having never played the first two, but it looks like something I might enjoy someday. Read on to see all the temptations I faced in March.

Ninja Gaiden 3
Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Developer: Team Ninja
US Publisher: Tecmo Koei

Description: A 3D action game featuring ninjas, demons, and fast paced combat.

+ I enjoyed Ninja Gaiden II for Xbox 360.
– I had just gotten Ninja Gaiden II as a gift from my wife.
– I’ve barely scratched the surface of Ninja Gaiden II; too soon for a sequel.
– Ninja Gaiden 3 has received a lot of negative criticism from fans and the press.

Conclusion: I don’t like to judge things without personal experience, but I also didn’t see a need to pay full price and use up my March pick on such a gamble.

Sine Mora
Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PS Vita, Windows (Steam)
Developer: Digital Reality / Grasshopper Manufacture
US Publisher: Microsoft

Description: A 2D shoot-em-up attempting to appeal to console gamers of today with gorgeous 3D graphics and a lengthy (for this genre) story mode.

+ I tend to collect shoot-em-ups as they are rarely released in the West.
+ Shoot-em-ups are among the purest gameplay-driven games, and I greatly enjoy them.
+ Low Price. It was released as a $15 downloadable game on XBLA.
+ Sine Mora was exclusive at release. I always need justification for my console choice.
– This is Digital Reality’s first shoot-em-up.
– DR sought input from members, but disregarded warnings about fundamental design flaws.
– The game was released with many fundamental design flaws. (Poor distinction between foreground and background, too much randomness in power-up drop frequency, some bullets were difficult to see, lots of dead time, arcade mode was too long, shaking bullets were a terrible idea, etc.)

Conclusion: The game turned off dedicated fans of the shoot-em-up genre and failed to attract the new crowd DR thought Sine Mora would appeal to. The game lost it’s exclusive status and was ported to several other platforms with the help of G.Rev (an experienced developer of shoot-em-ups) and those versions are probably better. I followed this game’s development closely, but now I can’t say when or if I’ll ever want to buy it.

Warriors Orochi 3
Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii U
Developer: Omega Force / Tecmo Koei
US Publisher: Tecmo Koei

Description: A ridiculous hack-n-slash with split-screen co-op capabilities that combines the cast from Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors into a mythological scenario rather than their usual historical settings.

+ My wife loves playing Dynasty Warriors 3 on the Playstation 2 with me. Time for an upgrade?
+ I can’t see myself not having fun with this.
– I don’t know if this is the best * Warriors game currently available.
– I couldn’t get excited about buying this game for myself.

Conclusion: I didn’t buy this game, but I do still pick up the case when I am shopping. Maybe I’ll buy this as a gift around the holidays. My wife gets far more excited about these games than I do.

Phantom Breaker – Special Edition
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: 5pb
US Publisher: 7Sixty

Description: Some janky 2D fighting game featuring a mostly female cast of anime stereotypes.

+ Xbox 360 exclusive. I need more justification for my console purchase.
+ I’m a sucker for Limited Edition boxes.
+ I like fighting games.
+ I like helping underdog developers bring unexpected Japanese games to the West.
? Fairly simple game mechanics. Simple inputs. Intended for beginner and casual play.
– I don’t like the artwork.
– The animation was very poor in video clips I have seen.
– Everybody who’s played the Japanese version of Phantom Breaker said it’s terrible.

Conclusion: I pre-ordered this game and intended for it to be my March purchase. It was delayed. I canceled my pre-order because I wanted to keep my options open for April.

Armored Core V
Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Developer: From Software
US Publisher: Namco Bandai

Description: Team battles with customizable mecha.

+ As a huge Battletech fan growing up, I’ve always been interested in Armored Core.
+ Armored Core has been around since the original Playstation.
+ From Software made Dark Souls, so I don’t need much convincing to trust them.
– Offline Campaign is allegedly short.
– Online play is based on five-player teams; I don’t have friends who want to play this.

Conclusion: I really wanted to be able to buy this, but an online-focused game that requires team play means I get allied with obnoxious kids because I don’t have four (or any) friends who are interested in playing this game. I guess I should have gotten into Armored Core last generation when games like this were still played offline. Considering the mech customization and team play, I could imagine this game is downright amazing with the right group of people. Just no time or place for ACV in my life.

My choice:

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift EXTEND
Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PS Vita
Developer: Arc System Works
US Publisher: Aksys

Description: 1 vs 1 fighting with an interesting cast of characters featuring a wide range of play styles.

+ I love the artwork and sound in Arc System Works games.
+ BlazBlue is great.
+ Plenty of offline content, smooth online play.
+ Thorough tutorials.
+ Interesting characters and story.
+ Deep gameplay mechanics.
– BBCSX is basically BlazBlue 2.5 and I already have BlazBlue 2 (BBCS).
+ BBCSX contains the story from BlazBlue 1 (BBCT), which I do not have.
+ BBCSX contains all of the DLC from BBCS and some new content and game modes.
+ BBCSX included a mini artbook and soundtrack. See first plus.

Conclusion: I passed this up in February, but BBCSX seemed like a better buy than all of the March games. I’ve since had a ton of fun playing this game online and offline.

I’d recommend BBCSX to anybody, beginner or expert, who wants a fighting game they can really dive into. The tutorials cover the basics from walking and jumping and gets into advanced techniques like when to use a Rapid Cancel and character-specific strategies. BBCSX is plenty of fun just being played casually with friends, but gets even better if you take the time to learn it’s seemingly endless intricacies.

There is a fairly active community on Dustloop. You can discuss extremely technical details like reading frame data, or argue about whether or not Noel Vermillion is wearing panties.

All in all, great fun, great game, great community.

Feel free to comment on my choices, tell me how wrong I am, or share which March releases feature characters you hope are going commando.

Breaking the Habit: February 2012

Note: Due to a New Year’s resolution described here, I am restricting myself to one game purchase per month. This article is part of a series describing my monthly choices and the reasoning involved.

February’s game selection was predetermined. On June 7th, 2011, I placed a pre-order for a game that was going to be released in February. Read on to see what warranted my unnecessarily early pre-order, and to see which games I was forced to skip as a result.

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Show and Tell

My friend Laurie visited in December to bake cookies, and it became my duty to entertain her six-year-old daughter. I like children, believe they are the future, and want some of my own, but I have little recent experience interacting with them. I took the easy route. I went to my wall-of-video-games-that-looked-interesting-but-I-never-had-time-to-play, and tore the plastic off Super Paper Mario; henceforth SPM.

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The Life Demonic

Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, among the most sought-after PS2 games, was recently reprinted. This means that you can get a new copy for about $40 as opposed to $200. Take a look at or if you’re interested. I have no idea how long these reprints will be available.

Before you plunk down $40 just because it’s rare, I’ll talk a bit about the game. Continue reading