Emerald Gaming Update – March 2016

If I had to describe this month’s gaming experiences for me in one phrase, I’d say ‘high-octane’. Lots of fast moving, fast action, fast…fastness. So, in keeping with the theme, listen to me slowly drone on about these games for almost three thousand words!


 

One Finger Death Punch for PC

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You’ve got stick figures. You’ve got martial arts. You’ve got your computer mouse.

Prepare for intensity.

One Finger Death Punch is a game that is deceptive in its initial simplicity. Created by Silver Dollar Games, mostly known for their plethora of subpar-yet-absurd games released for the Xbox Live Arcade, I received it as a birthday gift, and for five dollars, it’s probably the best five dollar gift I’ve ever received.

What is the story of One Finger Death Punch? Punch things. Story is cheap, this is martial arts, baby! Who needs story when you can Flying Crane kick a hundred punks without even having to move until they get to you?

You are a stickman set on a 2D plane – you have left and right – and you can’t move save for your melee attack. You click the left mouse button to melee left, and the right mouse button to melee right. Other stickmen are trying to get to you, and once they’re in your range indicated by the red and blue bars below you, it’s thwacking time! You move slightly in the direction of your blows. If you let them get all the way up to you, they hurt you, and if you miss, your rating goes down. If they throw weapons at you, you can catch and throw them back, and there’s this inexplicable spiked ball that will one-shot anyone no matter what given you have proper timing to strike it as it bounces towards you. Over time, you gain powerups, your opponents get more powerful, the speed changes according to how good you are, and you make your way through a Super Mario-esque map screen from encounter to encounter.

There are also lightsabers. And nunchaku. And a lot of variety I’m neglecting.

When I was first introduced to this game, I fell in love. You literally only need a mouse to play it; keyboards are for friggin nerds! Left and right, left and right, left left left right left right right left left left right pause left right pause right right right right left left right left right–That’s the game in a nutshell. Hit left. Hit right. Experience the sound effects of each crushing blow you deliver. Keep hitting some more. Don’t let anyone get into your iron defense. Bip! Bam! Boom! Blamzo!

I haven’t finished the game, and weirdly enough I’m not sure if I’m going to. As much as I love it, there came a point where I started enjoying it a little less over time. I feel like it may have gotten slightly repetitive for my tastes after the first few days of playing. This is the sort of game I’ll most likely come back to in a month or two when I get a craving for it and I’ll play it ferociously for a few days to experience that stick-crushing bliss.


 

Payday 2 for PC

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Okay. Payday 2.

Almost every group of friends I’ve been involved with loves playing this game. This is a game that has been wildly popular in all of my various friend circles. While I can’t say it’s a bad game, and in fact is actually quite good, I really don’t get its massive popularity around me.

Payday 2 was developed by Starbreeze Studios, who have done nothing I’ve really played or had much interest in before (besides maybe Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Weird how something that indie-looking and minimalistic came from the same guys that made Payday 2 of all things.) What we’re dealing with here is a first person shooter, up to four-players co-op optimally, and your goal is to do heists to make that sweet sweet money, and upgrade your ability to do heists using said money. The harder the heists you do, the more the payout.

Maaaaan, a good portion of this game is a whole lot of waiting around. For one, you’re slowed to a crawl when forced to leap-frog more than one or two bags of loot. For another, as I type this right now, I’m waiting for the drill to get done opening the safe. Yes, I actually alt-tabbed out of the game. I’m just waiting. This is tedious. Nothing is happening. Sometimes the drill breaks, and I just dryly think to myself ‘Oh no…how awful…’ in the driest tone possible. Now I have to wait for the drill to get repaired, so I can continue waiting for the drill to do its work. You have to wait for the obnoxious mission select screen where missions keep appearing and disappearing at random for no good reason. You have to wait for your getaway vehicle. Wait until it’s clear. 50% of this game is literally doing nothing, standing around, waiting for something.

Quick, Jerry’s down for the count, wait harder!

Grinding is seemingly the only thing to this game ultimately, as the gameplay loop is as follows:

do heist.
get money/exp.
upgrade using that money/exp.
repeat.

That’s it. That’s the game. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of endgame, or apparent goal besides that loop. Objectively, that’s fine, as after all, most MMOs and team-versus-centric games are exactly like that, but I’ve never personally liked games that feel like they have no real end to then. Hell, even Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 has an ending(s), and that’s the closest comparison I can make to Payday 2 I can think of. And it’s not like you can use the money to, say, improve your quality of life in-game, because in Payday 2, heists are your life. At least in games like Grand Theft Auto or Saints’ Row, you can give yourself snazzy outfits and purchase new places to live, customize your vehicles, and so on, but in this Payday world, the only purpose for money is the ability to get more money more efficiently, to get more money more efficiently, to get more money more efficiently, to get-d’ya see my point!?

Payday 2 isn’t a bad game. It’s just not enjoyable as anything more than a game where you’ve gathered some friends and all of you are bored. Then again, it’s not very accessible to casual players either – not only are first person shooters usually casual-unfriendly to begin with by default, but a successful heist anywhere past the first difficulty level or two requires a lot of planning and coordination. So, if casuals can’t get into it very well, and it’s a game best played multiplayer, and it’s not a Team versus Team affair where at least actual legitimate teams can be formed and get hardcore about their commitment to the game via competition, I’m left somewhat baffled as to how this game has any sort of popularity or staying power.

And to top it all off, it has a pretty steep DLC paywall after a while, where one will never, ever be as good as the person next to you that has all of the DLC, and therefore that one would be the weak link of the team, dragging everyone else down (or alternatively, if only one of the four has the DLC, they get to be an elitist snoot about it and wave their fancy ninja weaponry around while everyone else gets boring guns).

…I feel I need to reiterate again that Payday 2 as a game is fine. It’s not a bad game. The guns fire well, the gameplay’s good, it’s all fine and dandy. I suppose the negativity I have stems from a combination of things – the paywall, the gameplay loop with no other purpose than to serve its own loop, the anomaly that it still seems to be inexplicably popular around my circles of friends, the grinding, the waiting and waiting and waiting for basically half of the game…

Ultimately, maybe this is akin to how I am with Real-Time Strategy, and this is just not my sort of game. I’ll probably still play it with friends to have a good time with others and hang out. It’s a very good hangout-y sort of game for gamer friends.


 

 

Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed for PC

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“Oh, it’s you…” I utter in an empty, hollow voice similar to Angela from Silent Hill 2 (linked in the quote) as I find myself featuring another Hyperdimension Neptunia game on this column. I contemplate to myself, why? Why has this series sucked me in so thoroughly? What is it about these colorful ladies posing as personifications of real life gaming consoles that keeps me coming back? Am I that charmed by the half-cringeworthy visual novel dialogue specifically tailored to inside gamers like me? Is it just the pretty colors? Could it be something about the usually slick menu interface this series tends to have, or the flashy-yet-quick battles that don’t really ever outstay their welcome? Am I just a filthy male, easily led by the promise of busty, powerful, quirky anime women?

Um…okay. So, Hyperdimention Neptunia U: Action Unleashed. Not for the Wii U, but originally released for the handheld Playstation Vita and recently ported to the PC (which is what I played). Sometimes I wonder if they put the ‘U’ in the title just to spite Nintendo.

Unlike other Hyperdimension Neptunia games which are turn-based RPGs, this one is a fast, hack-and-slash game. While I’m not entirely certain, I think this could be considered a Musou game, in the Dynasty Warriors and the more recent Hyrule Warriors thread of mass horde speed combat.

It’s pretty nice and simple. You can dodge, you have light and heavy attacks, a shortcut menu for sweet special attacks that cost some energy, transformations for even better attacks, combos, the standard hack-and-slash affair with transformations really. Just do the X X X and the Y Y Y.

With that said, there is one thing I want to note about this game, and that is that there seems to be an uncanny level of similarity in a lot of the combat moves to Kingdom Hearts 2. In particular, Uni’s transformed light attack are basically just Sora’s Wisdom Form attacks. Then again, it could just be that they’re the same sort of game so by coincidence they happen to have very similar moves.

One final thing. The…well…see, this mechanic…….I’m going to call it the ‘battle damage’ mechanic……creeped me out a lot. I was debating on whether or not to even acknowledge it here. Thankfully, not too far in the game you can attain hardened versions of the character’s clothes so they don’t tear, which is what I did immediately for all of my characters as soon as I got the chance.


 

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater for Sega Dreamcast

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Yes! That’s right! Striking while the iron is hot? Nah, that’s overrated. I like striking freezing irons. They break easier that way! Relevance? What’s that!? I don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore!

My point is, I had a nostalgia trip the other day.

So Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater the First. Developed by the late NeverSoft, before Call of Duty: Ghosts turned their company into ghosts! Ahahah…snark snark…

…anyways…so for those who don’t know, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is a skateboarding game.

…I’m at a loss. How do I describe a skateboarding game? It’s a game where you skateboard. Do tricks for points. Complete objectives to get new levels. It feels really good, and I don’t even like skateboarding.

Of note, I want to say that I grew up with the Nintendo 64 version of this game, and I was plesantly surprised when I popped in the Dreamcast version in the present and found that the soundtracks were extended. I didn’t even realize the soundtrack was cut up in the N64 version as a kid!

I was having a really fun time reliving my childhood memories with this game, and it still genuinely feels good to play. Until Downhill Jam. The issue with the stage Downhill Jam is that it’s not only my personal favorite course, it’s the course with the most infuriating challenges as well. so as far as I’m concerned the game may as well end at Downhill Jam because nothing’s as difficult for me, and nothing is as fun to peruse around either. San Francisco comes close, but not quite there. Last night I nearly broke my Dreamcast controller trying to get 40,000 points on Downhill Jam.

I never claimed to be good at the game. I just like it. And the song Superman by the band Goldfinger is an untouchable nostalgia track that can only be associated with this game for me.


 

Nights Into Dreams… for Sega Saturn

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They say that hipsters like things before they’re cool. They don’t realize that the REAL hipsters are those who like things AFTER they’re cool and no one remembers them anymore.

So I’ve been looking into Sega Saturn games.

I don’t even know if the Sega Saturn was ever cool.

Granted, I’m nowhere near able to purchase an actual Sega Saturn, and as it’s a rather dead console not commonly remembered, I’ve been a bad boy and started playing with Sega Saturn emulators. I read up on some Top 10 Best Sega Saturn games and picked a few out that I thought looked neat. Among those was a game I’d never heard of called Nights Into Dreams. What surprised me even more was that it was developed by Sonic Team.

I literally played this for the first time today, on the day this update is going out. I am so far enjoying it far more than nearly every Sonic game I’ve ever played, with the possible exception of Generations.

You can really tell this was made by Sonic Team when you start to play it. It’s a bit difficult for me to decipher exactly what is going on, but from what I can gather, you play as a girl or boy who gets absolutely bodied at the start of the world. Then, you get access to a…special suit that allows you to fly? From there, it turns into a sort of 2.5D game where you fly around, go through rings (don’t have bad flashbacks, it’s way better feeling than Superman 64), collect blue orbs and deposit said orbs into these giant jellyfish-looking structures to make them explode. Grab the shiny that comes out of the jellyfish building thing, fly back to the beginning and you’ll have access to the next area. Repeat four times with differing environments and obstacles until you get to a boss, then beat the boss which is usually a small puzzle to figure out.

The thing about this game is that you move basically by looping, and creating loops that connect to the sparkly trail you leave takes out obstacles and draws all items in that loop to you. It’s like if you could swim through air rather than fly, and the movements the player character makes are pretty similar to that too. No, better, it’s like a rollercoaster with no seat or rails while you have control of pitching up, down, or going faster. The movement is all quite loopy and imprecise, but that’s perfectly okay because the game doesn’t really penalize you for that. Running into a wall or ceiling just pinballs you gleefully in the opposite direction, you can dash even faster if you want, and honestly I can’t say I’ve ever died even from taking damage, so either you have a lot of health in the game, obstacles just slow you down, or I’m a lot better a gamer than I give myself credit for, and we all know that last bit isn’t true.

As far as I know, the only perceivable threat is the timer that counts down the time until you revert back to your human form, in which it becomes  fully 3D-controlled until you get your suit back and resume the real game.

This is irrelevant, but I’d just like to point out that the mountain climbing abilities of these kids puts anyone in Bethesda to absolute shame.

The only criticism I have is that you can die at the boss levels, after you’ve cleared the five stages in the world you’re in, and when you do, it boots you back to stage one of that world, which can be pretty infuriating. However, I like the gameplay enough to not be terribly upset by that unless it gets too difficult for me in the future.

It has come to my attention that, after I searched for an image for this section, a Steam version of this game exists. I’ll be acquiring that as soon as possible and playing that from here on.


 

Quick Updates From Last Month

Fire Emblem: Awakening

So I went a little social link crazy and through multiple strategic saves and resets, filled out all of My Unit’s support log. I don’t think I’ll be doing that for anyone else because man, that really took it out of me. I’m good on FE: Awakening for a while now. Damn good game.

Darkest Dungeon, Crypt of the NecroDancer

Too harrrrrrd. The former I perceive as just unfair, and the latter crashed again at the last boss fight (and is also very hard), so my motivation for these games is kind of empty. Maybe I’ll come back in half a year or something.

Shin Megami Tensei, Chrono Trigger

I need to pick these back up. Since last month, I haven’t really even touched them. Unlike FF7, which I have played through in the distant past, I really wanna make an effort to try and get through these games. The video game historian in me demands it. I just got lazy.

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