Emerald Gaming Update – June 2016

I let out an exasperated sigh as I realize this is probably going to be a shorter gaming update, or at least one focused on shorter games. Why? Well, I decided this month to take two classes of five-week-compressed summer classes. And in that time, all this month, I haven’t had much time to game at all. What little I did game went to smaller stuff (which I’ll go over today), my forever pending Final Fantasy VIII full video review,  or…well, more Dark Souls II because I can’t justify anywhere close to a 60 dollar purchase still for DSIII, even if it’s on summer sale.

So let’s send this month off with a pathetic hiss that sounds like it came from a whoopee cushion that someone poked a hole into with a thumbtack, and tackle the few games I did manage to play for a while!


Grey Cubes for PC

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Lemme tell ya a tale of one of my favorite games ever.

I was born too late to ever have a real Atari system of any sort, but my folks had an Atari Flashback system, which essentially was an Atari with twenty or so classic Atari games built in, kind of like a plug and play system. One of those games was called Off The Wall, and I adored it. The deal was simple: you’ve got a platform on the bottom of the screen that you can move left or right, a wall on the top of the screen you’re trying to break, and a ball that bounces between the two. If you miss the ball, you lose a life. So basically it’s “deflect the ball: the game”. Nice and simple, didn’t require two players like Pong did, and despite having access to a Playstation 3 and other far more modern gaming consoles, I clocked a good handful of hours into this game.

Later on in life I discovered what I thought was an Off The Wall clone on my Nana’s Windows XP, and played the everloving crap out of that too. I also enjoyed making my own levels on that particular one as well. Unfortunately, the name of the game has been lost to my memory.

I knew that there were more than those two games that had the gameplay of singleplayer Pong I craved. So, off to the internet I dashed to, and found out that they’re actually called ‘Breakout’ clones. I looked at the list of said clones on Wikipedia, and spotted a game called ‘Arkanoids’, a game I’d heard thrown around by name only, but I’ve heard many talk about it before. Ah, this is where it was popularized, I realized. Throwing “Arkanoids” into Steam search yielded a few clones, and I swiped a cheap one up.

So let’s talk about Grey Cubes, what seems to be the only game published by Deion Mobile on the PC.

The first nine out of sixty levels are great. Awesome. Just what I wanted, perfectly scratching the itch I had. I could pick it up and put it down whenever. Different patterns of blocks were set up for me to break out of with my ball and paddle. Powerups were abound, although an odd choice was to put a constantly recharging powerup that was essentially a magnet to blocks that need breaking. I suppose it was a necessity, as the stages are a little bigger and used physics on the blocks themselves, rather than just the ball. It was nice. Just like I wanted.

Then the tenth level happened. And instead of a wall on top to ricochet off of, I now had a second paddle on top that moved synchronously with my first paddle on bottom. Now, if I let the ball go past either the roof or the floor, I’d lose a life.

No.

Just no.

That’s like removing all the walls on Pac-Man and replacing them with ledges that, if you fall off of them, you die. There are just some structures you don’t mess with in an arcade game, some tenants to not break in a genre, you don’t travel off the edge of the map and die in Dig-Dug, you don’t get points in Pong for making it into the north and south walls, and you don’t remove the top wall on an Arkanoid’s clone and replace it with another paddle.

I stuck around for another ten levels, and stopped at level 20, which was another double-paddle level, funnily enough. I couldn’t handle it anymore, my brain just can’t split that way. Christ, what were you thinking, Deion Mobile? I get that you wanted to breathe new life and try to innovate, and hell I can even respect that, but…just no. Not like this.

I gotta find a new Arkanoids clone.


Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy for Nintendo 3DS

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I think have Final Fantasy coursing through my bloodstream. Currently, I’ve played through and beaten Final Fantasies 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 12, with varying preferences and opinions of each and every one. But one thing that never varied in the games until 12 was Nobuo Uematsu’s compositions, which were always great pretty much regardless of game. Now, I don’t have much experience in the rhythm game genre – horrid at DanceDanceRevolution, never played any Project DIVA, surprisingly love ParaParaParadise, but that’s about it.

So really, Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy, released by Square Enix back in 2012, couldn’t be more perfect an introduction to the rhythm genre for me personally. As long as I get to listen to music I love and not have to use my feet, I’m pretty much good.

The game itself is…admittedly kinda bare bones-y. You only get three pieces of music from each mainline game up to 13 (including 11, the first Final Fantasy MMO. But….but why though…?) There’s a Series mode, where you just clear each game’s music one by one, a Challenge mode, where you can start to play harder and harder versions of the same music, and the Chaos Shrine, which is basically ‘hey look, play two random songs we put together, also there’s 99 sets of these songs so have fun playing the same thing over and over!’

There are three different types of rhythm game in this rhythm game, oddly enough. You’ve got your field type, which tends to be overworld themes where you have to follow your stylus up and down to the beats and holds, your battle type, where you have four rows but yet oddly you don’t have to switch between them, instead just keeping to the beat anywhere on the screen, so why have four rows at all? And then there’s your event type, which you have to follow the beats traveling all around the screen, probably the least interesting. Event type is basically just Osu, for those who have ever heard of that little game.

Okay, as much as I enjoy this game, I have one massive issue with it, and that is sometimes it needs me to tap and follow to the beat of the music, and sometimes it needs me to tap and follow to one of the many instruments in a piece instead, and this can change mid-song without warning. Guitar Hero doesn’t suddenly make you swap from lead to rhythm to tertiary and back again in the same song (usually) so what the hell? Consistency is key, and I found myself many times tapping to the beat just fine in the first half of a song, and then it suddenly wanted me to tap to the bass guitar somewhere in the background midway through and I couldn’t tap the way I was tapping before, like jamming two tapdancing routines together without thought. This is like removing the top wall of an Arkanoids clone and putting another paddle there instead.

Barring that, there’s the ridiculous amount of repetitive time you need to put in to unlock different characters that barely do anything different anyways so why bother changing them? Unless you’re a fanboy like me and want to have them because ‘Oooh I remember them, they were from this one!’.

After each successful song, you get Rhythmia, which is used for your little crystal macguffin in what little plot this game has. It’s basically ‘yo, someone stole the rhythm, bring it back with this rhythm crystal’. Always with the crystals in these spinoffs. After getting 10000 Rhythmia, it’s revitalized and you’ve basically beaten the game, or at least, that’s when the credits roll. I find it a little odd for beating the game to be akin to filling a meter until it’s full, kinda anticlimactic for me personally, but it is a rhythm game though, so I suppose it’s appropriate.

And yet despite my complaints, I still really like this game, and find myself popping it out if I have a couple minutes to kill. It’s kind of like my equivalent of a phone game, except I’m not immediately allergic to it like most phone games.


Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D for PC

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Alright, now here’s a game, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, developed and released in 1998 by Lucasarts and Factor 5. I played Rogue Squadron on my Nintendo64 as a kid and loved it. It was like StarFox except always in all-range mode and less cartoony…and it’s Star Wars. Awesome!

Um…at least, for me. Those who don’t like Star Wars probably wouldn’t have much use for this. But yeah, it’s still fun to fly around in an X-Wing and zap Probe Droids from here to the Outer Rim until the Millenium Falcon comes in for an assist in Corellia before making another Kessel Run.

I hope that last sentence made someone’s head explode.

Anyways, Rogue Squadron basically goes through you flying about and saving people from the Imperials. Sometimes it’s a rescue mission, sometimes it’s a blow-up-enemies mission, sometimes it gets a little more complicated, but it’s pretty much always ‘yo, f*ck the Imperials’.

Now, if it were just that, it’d be fine. And on the Nintendo 64 version of my childhood, it was. But oooh, when I picked up Rogue Squadron on Steam, I wasn’t expecting the bugs. It’s a bit of an older game, so unfortunately there’s no Windowed mode, which is always a minus in my book. When it tries to go into resolutions that aren’t even close to my computer’s max resolution, about half the time it crashes on the spot. Then when it changes resolution again after entering an actual mission, it can crash there too. And once I’m in the actual game, the camera likes to just straight up not follow me sometimes, lagging behind like my grandpa when he tries to follow any other family member through the store. It reminds me of that one useless camera setting from back in Super Mario 64 that no one used because it just set the camera in one place while you ran around spazzing and it rendered the game unplayable. Funnily enough, it renders Rogue Squadron unplayable too!

It’s so unfortunate because the framerate and graphics do look better in comparison to the N64 version. It’s just too bad that the bug attacks made it non-palatable. Play the N64 version if you want to try it out.


Other Quick Updates

Dark Souls II for PC

Remember last update when I said I said I’d probably move on to wallow in Dark Souls II after playing the first one because I can’t justify a 60 dollar purchase for Dark Souls III at the point I’m at in my life? Well, yeah, it happened. It happened so hard that I ended up getting 100% achievements on it, finally completing it the day before I put this update up. Hopefully I can move on to focus on different games now that Dark Souls II has loosened its clutches on me…or at least until I can afford Dark Souls III.

Final Fantasy VIII for PC

It’s a good port. I’m through the first disc now. I kind of don’t want to say too much due to having a full video review of this in the works, but rest assured I’m making my way through it.

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

I would have featured this one as a main thing, except I have this personal policy of not giving a game a full spot unless I’ve played it in my own home, and I played Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance at a good friend’s house. Something about a different setting, I feel, would skew my opinion too much to merit a full section on it, but I’ll mention them here. Having only played Fire Emblem: Awakening, and having only been a few missions deep into PoR, I’ll say that I think it relies a teensy bit too much on being defensive and repetitive, but it surprised me greatly when characters acknowledged the death of one of my units in-narrative, and continued to do so in the following missions. I’m certainly interested in continuing, but uh…yeah, google those prices for Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. Probably isn’t gonna happen unless I decide to…ahem…”acquire” it by other means.

Mischief Makers for Nintendo 64

Another game I played at that same friends’ house that struck me. I’d never heard of it until he turned me onto it. It’s a 2D platformer with an emphasis on repeated airdashes and shaking everything. It feels pretty good, and the main character, Marina is adorable. Give it a go if you’re looking for hidden gems on the Nintendo 64.

Tenchu Z for Xbox 360

The third game that I really enjoyed while at the same friends’ place from the last two games. Again, I’d never heard of the series or game at all, but it’s a game about much more realistic ninja-ing! Maybe not totally realistic, but it ain’t even close to Naruto at any rate. You get a really neat hud with concise information, including how much sound you’re making, what your targets are alerted by, how far away they are, how much light you’re being exposed to, and some other stuff all in the bottom left corner of your screen, all of which contribute to your ability to stealth around and kill without being seen. Of course, if you do get caught, you can run away or try to fight up-front, so it’s not totally over if you get caught. It’s so in-depth that even scent makes a difference; if you’re covered in blood, your opponents will smell it if you aren’t careful, but you can jump into a body of water to wash it off. It’s really neat and for the time I played it, I highly recommend it.

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