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Sunday, March 16, 2014
[Review] Gatchaman Crowds
[ZOMBiE CyGiG] ranted at 5:16 PM --- Post#7595809055129943108

5/10: Satisfactory

Gatchaman Crowds is based on the original 1972 anime series, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, but the plot and setting takes place in modern day Japan. It is about a group of people given the special ability to transform to human sized meccha to protect Earth against an alien known as MESS. The MESS issue was solved early in the series, which leads to the appearance of the main antagonist, Berg Katze.

The anime series touch on several interesting ideas, one of which involves smart phones. People in the anime are using a social media network call GALAX (sounds familiar... like Samsung Galaxy?) which runs on X, an AI developed by Rui Ninomiya. Rui wants people to update the world (Facebook?) by turning real world problem into games. People will request for help, and then GALAX will look for people with relevant skills to help from data mining and ask if they want to. Success completion of the task gives scores and points.

The use of Galax gives rise to a problem of whether the world requires hero, like Gatchaman or if everyone is a hero, like GALAX users. In loose terms, this translates to if people should rely on authorities like the Police, Army and Government or that civilians should help out each other selflessly without reliance on authorities.
The anime portrayed GALAX users are being extroverts and outgoing, and not typical anti-social smart phone obsessed individuals. This kind of reminds of 3DS Streetpass feature which is essentially a form of social media, but requires near physical contact to work and not just from your keyboard. Could social media reach a point where it encourages social interaction beyond your screen?

Berg Katze uses distrust among humans to stir trouble, like replicating their looks and creating problem, to mislead people on GALAX. Rui in turn uses human's craving for reward to solve those problems. During the first few series, the new member Hajime insisted on putting down distrust and communicate with the alien life form MESS and then manage to end years of fight that way.The anime shows how fast human can react based on presented doubts and rewards, and how using some form of rewards from social media can help humanity achieve bigger success as a whole.

Despite the meaningful morals and ideas the anime presented, the story is generally boring and childish. There was almost no twist and almost everything was predictable. The storyline is very linear. Other than OD, Katze and Rui, most of the other characters are not developed well, including the protagonist, Hajime. The seriousness of the anime was broken by the painfully childish behaviour of Hajime. It seems like her optimism was rewarded simply because of luck, and not as though she had underlying plannings and clear objectives below her kiddish surface. Humour was poorly rendered to the point I have no idea if the director actually intended certain parts to be funny.

The artwork, although acceptable, was nothing special. At times, the lack of depth of field and shading makes the artwork flat to the point I have difficulty telling which part of the scene to focus on. The illustrations does not have much details, but is not clean enough to pass off as being minimalist. The use of mostly only pastel colour schemes for everything without accent does not help as well.The animation seems jerky at times from the lack of frames. Those are all wasted, considered the 3D rendering and animation of the transformed Gatchaman is awesome, detailed and smoothly animated. Not only that, the GALAX interface seems to be well designed and presented.

Overall, Gatchaman Crowds is an anime with potential depth referencing to the use of social media and humanity's reaction to distrust and rewards, but spoiled by poor art direction, storyline and character developments.

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[Review] Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
[ZOMBiE CyGiG] ranted at 5:15 PM --- Post#5691143349417051615

8/10 Excellent

Many would say AC4 is the best in the series, and I would agree with them, although the game is generally on the positive side, it is not without certain crippling issues.

First of all, Black Flag sped up on the basics, Edward already possess a dual blade, able to air assassinate and unlocks his pistol and cutlass within the first hour into the game. The game stop treating the gamers like idiot by integrating most tutorials seamlessly into the gameplay instead of going through long winded training which teaches skills the players may not utilize much later. You can refer back to the in game menu should you need a refresher course later on. This made previous players of AC able to jump into the game faster.

Naval combat is intense, rewarding and somewhat educational. Although a lot of tweaks were done to make the game fun in lieu of being realistic, one can easily visualize and learn the gist of naval battle in ancient times. Some realism sacrifices include speeding up the movement of boats tremendously, decreasing the turning radius, much reduced weather effects, weapons on deck for "coolness" sake and immediate and consistent sail controls. Still, it helps gamers to understand how chain-shot were used to demast ships, how crews can throw hooked rope to draw the enemy ship to yours for boarding and how the main cannons are located on the broadside so that you can put in more of them. Since the sailing speed is sped up, attack and chasing down enemy ships are intense and fun. The satisfaction comes once you destroyed the enemy's ship and board it to end the battle.

Hunting now makes much more sense. No baits or traps are involved like in AC3. Your attack animals like how you attack human enemies. The animals will free roam the area and it is up to you to think of a way to hunt them - run and wack, air assassinate, sneak from cover, pistol snipe, sleep darts etc. Like in Far Cry 3, you can either sell the loots from a hunted animal, or use it to craft upgrades. This is more satisfying that just using the in game money to buy upgrades - though that is also possible by buying animal parts.

Your regular weapon shops are back - you can buy ammo, weapons and armour from these shops, which I remembered to be absent in AC3. You can also invest money to open one of those shops in they are not there in the area.

However, there is no real benefit from upgrading your weapons. I manage to beat the game with the first cutlass i bought. There is only one kind of main weapon - cutlasses, no axe, no hammer or those fanciful ancient times weapons. They cost a lot to upgrade but the rewards from upgrading is not really satisfying - not as much as upgrading ship parts.

Combat is still too simplified as usual, and it seems like they up the difficulty level by simply making the enemy attack more powerful. You mash the attack buttons for regular enemies or you counter or disarm depending on enemy type. Most of it is just a matter of timing. Time it well and even the lousiest cutlass kills, off timing will result in a huge loss of health. If the combat are so simplified, i would rather have it easy than purposefully increasing enemy's attack damage to enjoy having multiple kill streaks.

The main story is nothing special, nothing touching. Most of the time I lose track of why the characters are doing and simply following along the missions. It was the same for previous assassin's creed, where I would simply not remember the story line weeks after completing the game.

The modern day assassin part was lackluster compared to the past games. You no longer apply your skills you learn into modern day and you are stuck in your office playing mini games to simulate hacking of computers.

One thing I missed from the previous assassin's creed series was taking down towers. It has been replaced by taking down forts but the experience of sneaking up a tower and slowly eliminating the occupants is never the same.

Technical issues plague the PC port as usual, with only one CPU core doing the work and not fully utilizing my GPU. I can only play with 30 fps even if I lower my resolution to 720p on my GTX560Ti.

Overall, the pirate experience is something new in the gaming scene. The game mechanics had been refined over the past series and the presentation is top notch. Naval battles are well designed and fun. Movement from ship to land are usually seamless. Overly simplified combat, average storyline and technical issues prevented the game from shining as bright as it should be.

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[Review] Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon
[ZOMBiE CyGiG] ranted at 5:13 PM --- Post#6206786703444059072

6/10 Good

The game puts you in third person, controlling Luigi to solve puzzle and and capture ghosts around the Evershade Valley. Very similar to the Ghost Busters, you use a vacuum to suck a ghost in after stunning him with a flashlight. Using the suck and blow function of the vacuum, you can operate several mechanism like fans, balloons, pulling away carpets, closing port holes, operate pull switches etc to solve puzzles to advance. The flashlight can be used on certain light sensitive locks or to kill minions for cash and health. A dark light is also give, which can reveal mission items in the room hidden by Boo and extract items from painting.

The game is technically good, in the sense it is very well presented. Almost every single item in the room rattles and shakes when you use your vacuum. You can interact with multiple items in the level even though most does not yield anything. Spiders wandering in the background, foliage rustling as you walk past as Luigi humming to the BGM, and brightening of the room after a room is cleared adds on to the atmosphere of the game. The light shafts from the flashlight and the effects of dark light behaves in a believable manner. The 3D complemented the above, especially the rendering of the flashlight, and even at max level, felt comfortable. The effort put into building the physics of the game make the game feels like a 2013/2014 title despite the incredible inferior hardware of the 3DS.

Online features are great, where you can create lobby and wait for friends or world wide players to join your room just like most PC games would allow you to. Online games are similar to the campaign where a bunch of players are put together to either capture all the ghosts, or to escape the room. One impressive mention is that the Download play allows the other player (without the game card) to access nearly all the features of game instead of a strip down version like Mario Kart 7 or Street Fighter IV.

However, the good stuff ends there. The game features a in game currency which can be collected by exploring the levels. You can collect money, gems and find Boos. Finding all the Boos gives you bonus levels which is great, but the same could not be said for cash and gems. Cash gives you upgrade to your monster sucking machine, but I find the main benefits is to rip more cash from the ghost than doing devastating damages. It also upgrades your dark light, which is pretty useless as it cools down very fast. In all, I feel that spending effort to collect cash leads on to no real benefits but to grab more cash. Collecting gems almost has no benefits at all.

There are two irritating levels in the game. The first is boss level of Haunted Towers, which have you run up a flight of stairs with three sections, take a random guess which is not haunted, and if it is you slide down and repeat. I couldn't exactly remember how long i spent doing that but it was around 20 to 30 minutes. The actual boss was easy. It makes me wonder why would the level designer do something so distasteful. The other one is Paranormal Chaos, which has a sudden spike in difficulty. Almost none of the other missions has a timer and players are usually encouraged to take things slow and careful, but things reversed in this mission and even if you could defeat all the ghosts, it hardly means you have time to do so. Other than those, the part where you need to balance Luigi on a beam is pretty hair splitting as well, especially when playing on the move as it relies on the gyroscope. I found it best to simply put your 3DS on a level ground and advance.

The most game breaking flaw of Luigi's Mansion is the long levels. Most levels easily last from 20 to 40 minutes if you spend your time exploring. I have hit an hour before for some levels and having to retry a level multiple times as well. That is crippling for a mobile console, where players should be able to take up and put down anytime, considering one checkpoint in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag or one round of Rush in Battlefield 4 on PC usually last only 10 to 15 minutes. Although you can close your 3DS to pause the game, you cannot swap out to another game. There are no checkpoints in middle of a level as well, meaning you have to finish the entire level to save. If you loses halfway due to some silly mistake, you will have to redo the whole level. There is a bone you can find which restores your health full once if you fall, but the bone seems to be random and it could be pretty hard to find and it will add time to the already lengthy level. You can only carry one bone at one time and you cannot bring it to the next level. It could be extremely frustrating if you spend your time looking for those not-so-useful coins and gems, just to fall near the end of a level and having to redo the whole stage again from scratch. I feel that more checkpoints should be implemented mid levels, or better still, being able to save anytime in the level.

Overall, Luigi's Mansion could be an excellent game, but ruined by some poor game mechanics and design and test the patience of gamers with lengthy levels on a mobile platform with no checkpoints.

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[Review] Nano Assault
[ZOMBiE CyGiG] ranted at 5:12 PM --- Post#8559184126081955162

8/10 Excellent

If you enjoyed Nano Stray 1 and 2 on the NDS, or you love bullet hell games, you will enjoy Nano Assault on the 3DS. Nano Assault is the sequel to Nano Stray 2 and made by the same developers. Unlike the top down shooting on Nano Stray, this game is played from the third person view.

The game reminds me of Radiant HD on Android and Nokia Symbian, kindly recommended by Calixto Tay, which is a classic bullet hell game - enemies fires volleys of shots, and you dodge them. One hit from them and you are dead. You start off with three lives, and you get to collect items that increases the amount of lives. The game is no where near as extreme as Touhou, but can be quite punishing at times, unlike Kid Icarus where you have a longer life gauge and customisable difficulty level.

It has a less complex, easier, but also less precise control system compared to Kid Icarus. Unlike Kid Icarus where you can control where pit move and where pit shots independently, the ship in Nano Assault only shoot forward as you move it around the screen.

It is hard to say the the graphics is good given the very limited capabilities of the 3DS, but the presentation is top-notch. It is an eye candy to look at the beautiful levels and effects.

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