Boktai: The Sun Is In Your Hand

Kab(uke) Seme 02/26/2004  

First Impression: Gimicky, Hideo Kojima, Solar Sensor, SNAAAAKE!

To save time skip this review if either the prospect of needing natural light or being able to procure it (in which case you've worse problems than playing games, you fucking Morlock) is a kibosh to enjoyment; the titular sun plays a significant role in the game. It's also a Metal Gear Solid clone down to the wall knocks and exclamation point flirting above an enemy's head.

What a bag of ass I thought.

The crux of the game is sneaking into the Lairs of various Immortals, some Vampires and some not, with the intent of shoving as much sunshine up their anaerobic asses as you see fit. From the hand drawn feel of the of the 3D isometrics, to the block and switch puzzles, I was reeling from the shades of Landstalker and that is a goddamn good thing. Albeit this is a Landstalker full of Golems that tuck into a bowling balls to barrel down on you (and each other), blind mummies chucking explosives and a fucking Sunflower for a sidekick. Oh and you have an evil twin.

For trading so heavily on the Metal Gear Solid formulae there are a hell of a lot of RPG cock and balls in the form of item management. Your boktai-riffic arsenal alone consists of half a dozen 'types' of gun frames, with several upgrades to each, including single shot stuns, spread blasts, solid beam projection mimicking swords—all relying on the sunlight’s rays for ammo. Modifying the gun frames themselves are multiple lenses all themed to a different element (ice, fire, night, gay, etc.) that can be leveled through use. Now throw in the odd grenade or ten and foist it all in a full of everything from health restortive Apples to the Sad Mr. Rain doll. I haven’t even begun to rape the gardening minigame, but many a sneaky FAQ has told me it unearths unique items.

Still, sunlight? Sunlight? Of course the first thing I did was hold the game's light sensor up to a 100 watt bulb (though I hear a blacklight does the job, you dirty cheaters). It needs natural light and actually has a luminosity gauge depending on how direct the flow. So what, you load up on ammo and lurch back inside, right? Game progression even leads to extra clips allowing storage of successively larger amounts of 'sol', bins to deposit excess into and banks to draw light out of at exorbitant interest. Further incentive is that specific enemies are vulnerable or visible only in the dark as well as crystal bugs—essentially little doses of extra ammo/health. No dice. You absolutely need natural rays in order to finish off a boss, or more specifically: Purification.

See, when a boss dies, there’s a coffin and it’s your job to lug this pain in the ass armoire, at a crawl no less, out across the entire dungeon you’ve just bothered sneaking into. Problem is it doesn't want to go and, like a Prom Date with one too few drinks in her, it'll periodically try to shake you off and slowly creep away if left unattended. Countering it’s wayward nature are seals scattered out sparingly which will lock it in place should one need to save & quit or just scope ahead the escape route. Outside you’re set to perform the purification via the atrociously named Pile Driver which amounts to another mini-boss battle as the spirit of the themed immortal lashes back against the pylons you’re powering with the rays of the sun. It becomes a balancing act between dodging attacks and trying to keep the funnels of light from going down. There’s something to be said for not only killing a boss but also unmaking its existence.

I really wanted to lambast this as yet another in a long line of damned video game 'innovations' and instead it turns out to be more than decent. Believe you me no one is more surprised than I am.

Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga

Jhoh "Creexul" Cable 02/26/2004  

I finished the game yesterday, and I already kind of miss being able to play it. It's sort of a Mario RPG Zelda-y kind of game, apparently also with a big connection to Mario Paper, which I never played and regret missing out on.

There's usual level gaining in this game, with a bonus reel you can put in for a stat of your choice, which is nice. Discovering shit around the overworld is fun, although kind of linear anyway, in the usual "blocked by rocks you can't YET smash with your normal hammer yet" way. The battle system is nice, where you do stronger damage if you hit buttons at the right time, and when it comes to enemies attacking you, it's based on if you can dodge them at the right time. You have to learn their patterns first, most of the time, that's where my use of an emulator came in handy. Learning to jump with Mario using A and Luigi using B was tricky for a while but after that while it was natural. Dodging at the right time lets you avoid damage from enemies completely, and even do some counterattack damage in some cases.

This still didn't make it totally without challenge, even with the save states. Some of the last boss battles are hard as dick, and I was seriously pounding the quicksave and quickload keys, just so I wouldn't have to fuck around with missing a lot of chances to do damage because I was reviving one brother or another. There were repeating jump dodges with the last boss, with the huge swinging arms or the swirling fireballs that keeps turning around and back, I ended up with the habit of quickloading in between the arm swings with one hand, and trying to dodge them CORRECTLY with the other hand. Which to me is more fun than dying and starting ALL OVER AGAIN and having to be some kind of half way fucking savant just to finish the game, although I'm sure I would've found it worth it if I was playing on a real GBA.

Anyway I enjoyed this game a lot. If this had come out on the SNES, it would've easily been one of the best SNES games ever. In a lot of ways, it's better than Mario RPG, mainly because video games have evolved more, gameplay wise, and have learned stuff. The controls are better than they were in Mario RPG, and there's a lot more special attacks and shit, without some of the totally fucking ridiculous impossible bonus attacks (like getting 300 repeating jumps in a row in Mario RPG, GIVE ME A FUCKIN BREAK GAME).

The only thing missing from this game was some weird MIX IT UP LIKE SO MUCH JOHN RUTSEY'S QUIZ FOR REVERB thing, like being able to play as the Princess, or Bowser, or both of them trying to rescue Mario and Luigi in a crazy and incredibly fun episode of the game. Or a weird overpowered item or weapon somewhere (which could indeed exist, but I haven't found). One thing NOT missing is the ability to find various beans around the world and then warp to the castle town, bring them to the coffee shop, and then brew them for coffees where new brews get you super special items that are mostly very nice, and also the coffees themselves give you permanent stat points. I always thought that Chrono Trigger should've had a super duper not-even-hinted-at secret shop, like Merlin's shop in River City Ransom, where you could just BUY the power and speed and magic boosting "tabs" instead of trying to steal them from monsters all the time.

The thing is that now, I don't really want to get involved in a long game. Baldur's Gate 2, holy shit, I'm not even going to try. I'm considering uninstalling that. I want a cooler character anyway. Plus I'd rather play Fallout, since that easily gives me the character type I would prefer the most: intelligent young girl with a skill and fetish for firearms, and a sense of justice, but the occasional frenzied bloodbath (that sends her into an implied sexual frenzy, AT LEAST IN MY MIND HEH). She starts off innocent, but then the anarchy of the wasteland kind of gets to her, or perhaps it's just something she's had inside her all along, where she gets into a world of sexual experimentation and drugs, and brutal passionate killings (personified by the bloody mess trait)! O_O And of course when she gets the power armor, she is just absolutely demoralized by the touch of it, and the killing just will not fucking stop, and she figures out what to do with the bodies, just let them hit the floor. Sometimes she will have extremely detailed and vivid fantasies about slaughtering entire towns just because she has the power to do so (dramatized by me saving, slaughtering the town, then loading up so it's totally undone). She might also be masturbating to these fantasies and the idea of her exerting that much sheer power, but that is just in my mind. ^____^ She still has good intentions and wants to be the unstoppable, unmerciful angel of death protecting the good citizens just trying to maintain an existence in the wastes, and also to save her vault, her home and friends and family of so many years that she openly yearns to return to, because she's found her calling, and it's just what she's GOOD at. But sometimes she goes too far which of course leads to the very post-epilogue ending where she bitterly vivisects the vault overseer with one gunshot. I can't do THAT in Baldur's Gate 2 can I?

Uh anyway, my point was that Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga is still kind of long, about 20 hours or so, but not epic length. It will definitely give you enough to keep you going, if you're interested in the game. I'd say it's a medium-small sized RPG. I didn't really want to get into a new RPG, where I'd have to learn a whole new system of play. I got into it though and I liked it.

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow

Kab(uke) Seme 02/26/2004  

First Impression: Fey-Gay Main Character, Pokémon Style Soul Harvesting, Another tepid Harmony of Dissonance.

Boy was I off the mark, well save the whey faced lead. He’s taking it from someone and I've a feeling he's none too discriminate, but that aside I can only just begin to straddle this game's cock.

The plot is throw away fluff I won’t even begin waste time on save to say it does involve indeed Dracula (SPOILER!), amnesia and parallel dimensions with those, sadly enough, being high points. Beneath the confines of piss poor storytelling is everything I ever enjoyed about Symphony of the Night: namely swords over whips, tight control, a Byzantine castle to skulk around in and hordes of undead to plow through. This isn’t say this is the former game made portable. The inclusion of souls is a marked enough change to keep it from being a complete retread.

Souls fall into three categories.

Bullet Soul: One shot attacks which comprise the bulk of your inventory.

Enchanted Soul: Active abilities from heightened defense to shape shifting.

Guardian Soul: Passive abilities mainly limited to stat upgrades.

With little over a hundred of ‘em? It’s enough to sate even my OCD, some enemies giving up the ghost after a few battles and others still shitting down my throat as the number I’ve slaughtered slips well into triple digits. Just discovering what the fuck the new powers you’ve leeched does is part of the process. The first time a skeletal arm wielding a giant thigh bone burst forth from my character's back? Yeah, that was worth the price of admission alone.

My only real complaint is that outside the artificial longevity, prompted by the ‘Gotta Catch‘em All’ of the soul reaping, the game was on the short side being done in about 15 hours. Trying to offset this is a newgame+ allowing one to keep all possessions and non-boss specific souls and a boss rush mode which unlocks a trio of the game’s best weapons. It's really a petty fault in the face of all the game’s virtues, being pretty much everything that got you moist with Symphony of the Night, and I'm glad there isn't much to bitch about. So go out and fucking get it already.

Kab(uke) Seme and Jhoh "Creexul" Cable