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j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 @j_raidoicon


Fez (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on March 12, 2013

Sonic CD (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on February 20, 2012

Super Pitfall (PC-88)

Surprisingly Playable

The Good
There are few golden-age games as venerated as the original Pitfall!, brainchild of developer David Crane and the then-respectable Activision. With popularity comes sequels, and Pitfall! saw many, some of them better than others, but few would argue that Super Pitfall on the NES was one of the better games.

It seemed like a logical extension for the series: More places to explore, more treasures to find, and more ways to deal with threats. Unfortunately, the developers were either inexperienced or lazy, haphazardly combining strange and infuriating design with controls and physics that could generously be described as "unforgiving". Some commentators have even said that these design ideas, applied to a better game, might have actually worked.

This is where the PC-88 version of Super Pitfall comes in. Upon playing the game, it quickly becomes apparent that the NES version is a stripped down port of this title. There is a purpose to crouching: You can shoot at two levels, making it possible to actually defend yourself. There is a purpose to the gold strewn about: You can spend it in shops for helpful items and ammunition. There is a purpose to the hidden orbs with card symbols on them: You can use them as keys to reach new parts of the map.

This is the game that Super Pitfall for the NES was meant to be. A completed game, with fully-implemented mechanics, recognizable graphics, and surprisingly good play control. Early Japanese PCs were not known for their strong action games, which makes Super Pitfall even more surprising: The controls and physics are far better than the NES version, which is particularly impressive considering the PC-88's complete lack of sprite hardware. Jumping, shooting, climbing, and of course swinging from vines are all responsive, with none of the strange control quirks found in many other Japanese PC action games.

The Bad
You may have noticed that most of my praise above is focused on how much better this is than the more well-known NES version. This is because, though it's a solid game with some interesting mechanics, it is neither exemplary nor must-play, it is simply "pretty good", and not without its faults.

First, and most aggravatingly, is the sound. The tinny 10-second music loop found in the NES game is back again, and somehow manages to sound even worse than before. The infuriating invisible objects also return. Thankfully they are more sensibly placed -- an empty dead end or a background object out of alignment is often a sure sign of a hidden item -- but without a guide you will likely still be left jumping around open spaces looking for the key to the next area.

The bosses are also a particular weak point. There are only two in the game, a large stone head that simply moves back and forth on various patterns, which you fight multiple times, and the last boss which is pitifully easy if you stand behind it. A bit more variation would have been appreciated.

The Bottom Line
To be honest, I wasn't expecting much from Super Pitfall. Having played the NES version, I was mostly curious how it compared, and was amazed that it actually compared quite favorably. It's not fantastic, but unlike the NES version, it is actually worth playing.

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on August 8, 2011

Abyss of the Sacrifice (PSP)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on January 13, 2011

Super Meat Boy (Xbox 360)

One of the finest platformers in recent memory.

The Good
Super Meat Boy is something of a curiosity of modern game development. It's unabashedly hardcore, but also immediately accessible. It's maddeningly difficult, but also surprisingly forgiving. It's undeniably retro, yet also somewhat progressive. Some have called it this generation's Super Mario Bros...though the shortening to SMB is, as the developers claim, a complete coincidence.

The premise is simple: Reach the end of each stage. After the first few worlds, though, the execution required is far less simple. Buzzsaws, lava pits, mountains of used needles, and even plain ol' bottomless pits are strategically placed to put your platforming skills to the test. And skill you will need to reach the end. The controls are pitch-perfect, and there were only very rare instances in which I died and had anyone but myself to blame.

The levels are designed with the controls completely in mind, and almost every one is sublime. In the latter parts of the game, many stages will at first glance appear impossible. Meat Boy will march to his death many times as you figure out the proper path -- and perhaps even a dangerous shortcut or two -- through the stage, and by the time you clear it you'll be zooming around like nobody's business. It's rarely frustrating either, as upon death the restart is almost instantaneous, and when you finally clear the stage you're treated to a replay of every single attempt simultaneously. it's both hilarious and cathartic to watch that army of Meat Boys as their numbers slowly thin out until only one remains to reach the goal.

Nearly every stage in the game also has what's called a "dark world" stage. These are alternate versions of the normal stages, with tweaks to make them more difficult...sometimes a lot more difficult. Despite this, the game is never unfair about the difficulty. You don't have to complete every stage in a chapter to go to move on, and you don't even need to touch the dark world to complete the game.

There are also "warp zones" hidden in a handful of stages, which will transport Meat Boy to a retro-style throwback set of three stages, with the addition of a lives limit. These come complete with retro-style title cards provided by a wide variety of indie games luminaries, and are particularly cool. Many warp zones will even unlock bonus characters from other titles when completed. Even more can be earned by collecting hidden collectible bandages in many of the stages. The sheer amount of content within the game -- more than 300 stages, with more planned to be added regularly, and more than a dozen playable characters -- is astounding for the asking price.

The visuals match the offbeat style, and are very bright, colorful, and animated. Small animals wander about and flee from Meat Boy, often straight into waiting buzzsaws. It's very much a Flash cartoon, Adult Swim kind of aesthetic, but the simple visuals mean there's little to distract from the level design. There are numerous variations and wonderful touches, though. Many characters leave trails behind as they move, providing a visual record of where in the stage you've been. Some stages are even presented in silhouette. The sound is fantastic as well: The soundtrack is consistently catchy, but never obnoxious, and the sound effects are suitably juicy.

The Bad
Despite the high praise I've given above, no game is perfect, and this is no exception. Perhaps the biggest problem is the bugs. I'm not going to say a two-man dev team on a shoestring budget should produce a bug-free game, but there are a few fairly obvious bugs that crept into release, and have ruined several peoples experiences due to lost data, broken leaderboards, and inaccurate stat tracking. As of this writing, a patch is being readied, but is not yet available, so I must warn any who plan to play this game to be careful as there are workarounds for these issues.

As for the game itself, while the main stages and bonus stages are almost universally well-designed, the boss stages often fall flat. Most of them simply feel like a regular stage with the addition of being chased, with the most memorable actually being simply a race against a similarly-skilled opponent, and the worst a simple pattern memorization routine. Perhaps it's not that they're particularly bad, they just feel a bit unnecessary and tacked on.

My only other complaint is towards the replays. Now, the replays themselves, with the dozens of attempts played simultaneously, are very cool. The problem is that there's no way to share these replays with your friends. While it's fun to try to beat your friends' times on the leaderboards, it would be even better to be able to play against their replay. It's also unfortunate that when viewing replays, the menu music plays rather than the stage music.

The Bottom Line
Super Meat Boy is not a game for everyone, but it is a game for anyone seeking a challenge, has a love of platformers, or simply enjoys a finely-crafted game. It isn't perfect, but it's pretty darn close.

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on November 8, 2010

The Adventures of Captain Becky (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on September 11, 2010

Jump! (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on September 1, 2010

Experiment 13 (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on September 1, 2010

Experiment 12 (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on September 1, 2010

Alawishus Pixel (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on September 1, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on August 28, 2010

Sonic the Hedgehog (Xbox 360)

A Low in a Series of Lows

The Good
Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the most divisive game series in existence. Some would argue that the early titles were the forefront of platform gaming at the time. Time, however, has not been kind to the little blue guy, and since 2001's Sonic Adventure 2, things have inarguably been getting worse. The fans will desperately look for any conceivable good in the titles that come out, while the press will dismiss any new title as "another crappy Sonic game" without even giving it a closer look.

Sonic 2006 is not a game entirely without merit. Some of the music is catchy. A few of the environments are rather nice-looking, particularly Tropical Jungle. The falling-through-the-floor bugs that plagued the last few titles are nearly gone. The primary characters (Sonic, Shadow, and Silver) are easy enough to control. A few aspects were introduced in this title that that were later refined in Sonic Unleashed.

But perhaps its real purpose lies in not what the game itself did, but what happened in its wake. Viewing it from years later, it almost seems to have been the "breaking point" for both the fans and the creators; a point where people had grown sick of terrible game after terrible game, and someone realized that maybe, just maybe, it was possible for this franchise that was once iconic and synonymous with the industry to claw its way back up into relevance.

The Bad
That said, it takes a truly awful game to create that kind of reaction. Now, I'm not dismissing the game; I played it through to completion, then kept playing to reach the full 1000 gamerscore out of a sense of duty. I've been a Sonic fan since my parents bought a Sega Genesis when I was seven years old. I got some entertainment out of it, and an incredible sense of satisfaction when that last achievements unlocked, but it is in nearly every way a terrible game. The developers have gone on record to state that it suffered due to an accelerated production schedule in order to get the game out for Christmas, but I'm not sure how much help a few extra months would have been.

The game is set up in a similar way to Sonic Adventure: only Sonic is unlocked from the start, while the other characters are unlocked when Sonic encounters them in the story. The story makes absolutely no sense, with lots of time travel, a princess that gets kidnapped literally a half dozen times, and some weird creature named Mephiles that I'm not sure if I'm supposed to already know or not. The FMV cutscenes are slick and rubbery, nice to look at, but few in number. Without spoiling too much, the ending almost feels like it echoes the developers' thoughts on the game itself. Overall, it serves to lead the characters from one area to the next, and not much else.

Which would be fine if the areas themselves were interesting to traverse; I'm firmly of the belief that strong gameplay can support a weak story. The problem lies in that there are only actually nine stages in the game, and you have to play all of them with Sonic. Then all of them again with Shadow, and again with Silver. Sure, the layouts are a bit different, skipping areas that would be impassible with certain characters, but it's quite clearly the same stage each time. Indoor areas go even further and reuse rooms within the same level; some levels like Aquatic Base are made from just the same six rooms stuck together in different ways, and there's not even any attempts made to mask this.

The objective in most areas is either "get to the end without dying" or "kill everything in this area". These simple objectives are the strongest part of the game, but things start to slip when they get more complicated. Shadow has the ability to climb into several vehicles, most of which are nearly impossible to control; the hovercraft, in particular, will flip over and fall into the water at the slightest bump -- including using its jump function. Silver can use telekinesis to throw objects, but will often hit the other objects he's holding when he tries to throw. Then there's the ball puzzle at the end of Silver's White Acropolis stage; suffice to say, this one room may hold the distinction of being the most aggravating, poorly-thought out "puzzle" in the franchise; thankfully, there's a bug that lets you bypass it completely.

The game suffers from a serious lack of design focus. There are several half-implemented side characters that you're forced to use for varying amounts of time. Tails can rain massive amounts of bombs on enemies, but for whatever reason his bombs are ring capsules filled with "fake rings". Knuckles is the most egregious offender, getting hopelessly stuck to walls, and having an uncontrollable fireball attack that most often leads to him sailing off into a pit, which will be familiar to anyone who plays Kirby in Super Smash Bros.. There are the aforementioned awkward driving sections. There are more than 50 pointless "town missions" that serve no purpose other than to say the game has side missions.

There are also obnoxiously long load times. Every load time last about 12-15 seconds, and that includes loading for a single screen of dialogue or a five second cutscene. Loading breaks in the middle of a level. The town missions are the absolute worst, though: talk to a person, say "yes, I'll help you", 12 second load, "thanks for helping me", 12 second load, play the mission, possibly fail, 12 second load, "sorry, try again", 12 second load, back to where you started. Installing the game to a hard drive cuts the load times by about half, which makes them almost tolerable, but having to sit through nearly a minute of loading because you made one tiny mistake in a short mission is inexcusable.

The Bottom Line
For all of its faults, I'm still glad this game was made. The lessons learned by the development team were likely a key factor in the production of the far superior Sonic Unleashed two years later. This is a game that has truly earned its dubious reputation, but if it means we're going to start getting better Sonic games now, then it must stand as a reminder of how far a once-loved franchise can fall.

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on August 15, 2010

Blue Dragon (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on August 14, 2010

Bionic Commando: Rearmed (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on August 14, 2010

Bionic Commando (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on August 14, 2010

Beautiful Katamari (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on August 14, 2010

Batman: Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on August 14, 2010

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on August 14, 2010

Assassin's Creed II (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on August 14, 2010

Assassin's Creed (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on August 14, 2010

After Burner: Climax (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on August 14, 2010

Yukkuri no Meikyū (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on August 14, 2010

Twin Blades: The Reaping Vanguard (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on August 14, 2010

SummerVacation (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on August 14, 2010

Prismatic Solid (Xbox 360)

By j.raido 【雷堂嬢太朗】 on August 14, 2010

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