PROJECT X ZONE REVIEW: WHAT AM I FIGHTING FOR!? NO, REALLY…

Chances are if you own a Nintendo 3DS, you know of Project X Zone.  The big collaboration title got a massive following when it was announced for release in Japan, and similarly to Xenoblade Chronicles or Pandora’s Tower, hoards of fans begged for it to be brought over to the west.  Well their cries were heard and their wishes granted, for Project X Zone has breached our shores for about a month now, so the question on your mind may be: “Is it really worth it?”

The story follows a cast of characters whose size would make the Game of Thrones cast look like as small dog, and that’s before R.R.Martin wakes up on the wrong side of the bed.  The cast is comprised of characters from across numerous series owned by Bandai Namco, Capcom, and Sega, some of which never even made it stateside.  As with many cross over games, the story REALLY follows a handful of original characters designed solely for the game, in this case it’s Kogoro Tenzai and Mii Koryuji.  Mii is a cheerleader and youngest member of a rich family, and Kogoro is her tutor/private detective/ninja…yeah, I couldn’t make that up if I tried.  A treasure of the Koryuji family, the Portalstone, has been stolen, and due to it worlds from across space and time, reality and virtual reality, are crashing together.  Allies and Villains alike clash in a battle for the stability of the multiverse.  Needless to say, the story isn’t the strong point of this game.  It’s hardly enticing and really only picks up in the later chapters of the game, I didn’t find myself caring until 10 chapters away from the end, and only then I was wondering what the non-original villains were up to.  And with a lackluster story comes similarly lackluster writing, while it’s still better than most of the fanfiction universe (a place where something like this would seem to fit right at home) and the entirety of the Twilight series, it still leaves much to be desired.  Gratefully all the established characters talk and act similarly to how they would in their own series, and there are a number of little nods to their respective games.  For example, when ever Frank West encounters a new, female character that is, how should we say, top heavy, he snaps a picture of her and the “Erotic!” label from the Dead Rising game will pop up over the female.

The battle system is really where the game shines.  Project X Zone is a Strategy RPG with a battle system that focuses heavily on combos and special attacks.  Each playable character is divided into pairs of two, such as X and Zero from Megaman X, Chris and Jill from Resident Evil, and Dante and Demitri Maximoff from Devil May Cry/DarkStalkers.  Along with these pairs are solo units which you can group up with your pair units, and while you can’t control these solo units directly, you can summon them to deal extra damage and extend your combos.  Examples of solo units include Tron Bonne from Megaman Legends, Ulala from Space Channel 5, and Totally-Not-Bruce-Willis Bruno Delinger (PS. It’s totally Bruce Willis).  Battles are separated into two “phases”, there’s the over-world and the battle screen.  In the over-world you have an isometric view of the whole battle field, where you’ll be able to see all enemy and ally placements.  Everyone moves on a grid based system within a pre-determined range, and can attack any unit within a pre-determined attack range.  When an enemy unit attacks one of your characters, you can expend some of their XP to either lessen the damage done to you, or counter your opponent with some attacks in exchange for taking full damage.  When you choose to attack an enemy, your current active unit and any solo unit paired with them are pulled into battle, also, if you’re standing next to another pair unit, you can summon them into battle as well to extend your combo and deal more damage.  The battle screen is set up on a 2D view similar to most fighting games, with the enemy on the left side of the screen and your controlled unit on the right.  By using any combination of a directional button and the a button, you can unleash one of 5 attacks against your enemy, building up XP as you do so.  If you use all of your available moves once, you’ll be granted an extra attack, so once your full array of attacks is available you can perform a maximum of 6 attacks.  By pressing L or R you can bring in the solo or extra pair unit to attack, and if you land an attack at the same time as them you’ll perform a X-Attack.  Once activated, your opponent freezes in place and you generate more XP than usual.  Once your XP is 100% or greater you may press the Y button to perform a unique special attack which will do massive damage to your opponent.  I absolutely love this battle system, it’s very similar to the system in a DS game by the name of Super Robot Taisen OG Saga Endless Frontier (in fact, some of the characters from that game make it into Project X Zone).  However, as much as I can praise the battle system, it still doesn’t shine as much as one would hope.

The game offers very little in terms of difficulty, and reaches more the realms of frustration.  Never was I really challenged by the difficulty of an enemy, since their all pretty much the same through out the game, just with scaled health and damage output.  Most normal enemies can be taken out easily single battle with proper  combo management (and some even improper combo management), while bosses are just a matter of ganging up on them with super attacks.  Often you’ll start a level feeling as if there’s a proper amount of challenge, then three turns in the field will be swarmed by new enemies and bosses, often surrounding your current units and putting your team at risk.  Even with that however I only ever lost a unit maybe three times, the cause of which being me just neglecting their health.  When a unit loses all it’s health, it’s simply out for the rest of level and will be back in fighting shape next level, so there’s no fear of perma-death like in some other strategy games.  Item management is also not a big issue, while I often felt as if I didn’t have enough of the items that heal greater amounts of my health/XP, I never found myself in a situation where I needed an item I didn’t have.  Combine this with the bad story and lack luster writing, it doesn’t lead to a very favorable start.  All in all the game is decent enough, in my eyes, but it’s not something I would recommend to everyone.  If you really like the characters, then you should probably wait till it’s on sale before you pick it up, at least 50% off.  If nothing really turns you on about the game, but you still might pick it up, wait until you can get it REALLY cheap, otherwise you’ll probably feel as if you wasted your money.  I give Project X Zone for the Nintendo 3DS, a NUReviews rating of 3 stars.

CH-CHECK IT OUT: GAME GRUMPS

As a fan of video games, I enjoy the viewing the products of what gaming has spawned, including this website. What is difficult, however, is finding quality works. Two examples of these works are of Egoraptor and of Jontron. Egoraptor is known for his zany flash animations, such as Metal Gear Awesome, Girl-Chan in Paradise, and Sequelitis.   Jontron is also a well known video game connoisseur, providing top 10 lists and game reviews, both paired with sketch comedies.  If someone would have told me two weeks ago that these two would create a YouTube channel and release let’s play videos daily, this would of been my reaction:

But nope. This is the real deal. Game Grumps is the virtual baby of these two highly acclaimed internet gaming ‘big cheeses’ (thesaurus.com actually suggested the use of big cheese). I’ll keep my fingers crossed regarding a Battletoads episode. And speaking of Goofy…

LOVELY GIRLS AT ANIME EXPO. DOES TED KNOW WHO THEY’RE COSPLAYING AS? PROBABLY NOT.

I uhh…sorta know who they are. I know that in the middle we got Super Sonico and to her right is Hatsune Miku I think…Anyway yeah…Lovely.

 

So apparently really like Super Sonico now….Just something about her that I just can’t put my finger on….I know what it is, dem headphones.

 

Now this girl right here rocking the Necomimi Brainwave ears, I was about to ask her name and all that then she bent over a bit to stretch her back a bit….Mmm those legs…..Wait what was I talking about?

Ok I’m pretty sure I know these 3 at least. In the pink we got Kuro Usagi(Black Rabbit) from Problem Children and I think those two are Panty and Stocking. Am I wrong about the last two? Probably so. Do I care? Not one bit.

Then I saw her. Still have no clue who she is. Did I ask to take that photo of her? I sorta did, if you consider mumbling and pointing at your cellphone as proper communication. That cosplay though, such great workmanship and plus that lovely smile of hers just makes that cosplay even better….Yeah her smile. Aaand that’s all I got from Anime Expo 2013, hope whoever’s reading these like what we do. Just make sure to comment and share and all that jazz. Ted out!

A SMASHING OLE TIME: A PERSONAL SUPER SMASH BROTHERS RETROSPECTIVE PART 2 (SUPER SMASH BROS.)

BIFF

This is a multi-part editorial about my experiences with the Super Smash Brothers series and the importance it played in my life. Click here for the introduction.

Side-note: You know, even though this is the first actual entry for the editorial series (aside from the intro), it’s kind of hard to figure out a proper place to begin. I could just delve straight into the first Smash Bros, but I believe I do need some build up before I get to that. I apologize if the next paragraph or two seems out of place or feels like filler.

______________________________
In the introduction, I said that I got my start with video games with arcade games. But the place where I played the most was at home. I started off if a Sega Genesis, since the local Blockbuster Video Store had one set up to try out games. I only owned two games for it: Toy Story and Sonic 3D Blast. But every weekend, I’d rent out a game from Blockbuster. Of course, being about 5 or 6 at the time, I really had nothing to go off on in terms of selection except for what I saw on TV, which was why a lot of the games I rented were games based on TV shows or movies, like ‘Ren and Stimpy’ and ‘Ninja Turtles’. I really didn’t get much too many of the big Genesis games aside from the Sonic games and Vectorman. Same thing happened when I got my next console, the Playstation(I got the Crash Bandicoot demo kiosk at KB Toys to thank for that.) Hell, I didn’t even have a memory card for it. But thankfully, I believe I had a fuller console experience with the Nintendo 64, especially since game saves don’t need a memory card.

The Nintendo 64 had a quite of bit of first for me. Aside from my GameBoy, it was my first Nintendo home console. I didn’t have Super Mario 64 (though I rented it) or Ocarina of Time (since I didn’t even know what it was at first), but I did get a well rounded experience with its library. I played games like Mario Kart 64, Mario Party 1-3, F-Zero X, Donkey Kong 64, Goldeneye, Kirby 64, Paper Mario(still need to beat that), and so on. It was really the first time I really enjoyed multiplayer on a home console as well. Many of those games mentioned before were memorable because of the appeal of 4 player multiplayer. For me, I played multiplayer N64 games with my friend, Pat, and his two brothers at his house. If we weren’t outside playing basketball or on the trampoline, it would be video games. I would like to say that we were evenly matched…but that just might be me repressing memories of constant losses(nowadays, there’s too many to count). But after a certain game came out, the level of competitiveness reached a whole new level between us. Furthermore, this game helped tighten the friendship Pat and I have, since has been going for almost 18 years now (I’m currently 22 now). To put it in simple/relevant terms, we are Smash Bros.

Of course, no article about Super Smash Bros for the Nintendo 64 would not be complete without that commercial. Just seeing the Nintendo characters that I was able to recognize at the time, all in the same frame no less, was mind-blowing. Pokemon was still huge at the time, so even just seeing Pikachu was awesome. Finally, a Nintendo fighting game? I’m in. I played Tekken 2 and Marvel Super Heroes quite a bit at the arcade (OK, more like button-mashed). I was never amazing at fighting games (I’m still only decent now), but since it’s a fighting game I can actually practice whenever, it could be cool.

Although I didn’t get the game until my birthday, which was 6 months after the game was released, I did get very familiar with it at Pat’s place. It became a staple of our hangouts. We’d all have our main characters; I typically used Pikachu and Mario, while the brothers would rotate between Kirby and Samus. We’d play it until my dad came to pick me up. Once I got my hands a copy of the game, I got a much better look at the game, aside from the Multiplayer mode. I’d do speed runs of the game without a timer just for fun. I learned the movesets of all of the characters. I’d do 1-on-3 matches against computers just to see how I fair (still can’t win against three level-9’s). I’d go to Training Mode to see how much damage I can deal out with the fan without KO’ing the CPU player.I’d look at the character profiles to learn the backstories of the characters I wasn’t familiar with and made note to check out their games. That last part really helped me familiarize myself with Nintendo’s franchises. I honestly don’t think I would have checked out any Kirby or Legend of Zelda games if it wasn’t for Super Smash Bros.

But my initial love for Smash Bros didn’t stop there. At school and at summer camp, I wouldn’t shut up about it with my friends. I would ask how to get unlockables, the best way to speed through single player mode, whose the best character in the game is, and so on. It even led to a semi-creative project that a friend and I worked on. One year, I spent a summer at a different summer camp than the usual YMCA day camp. This camp was held at the campus of a college, so many of the activities we did took advantage of that, like the bowling alley and the Olympic-sized pool. But the coolest thing there, and I apologize if this seems lame, was the computer lab. I didn’t have a home computer until 2004, so I didn’t spend too much time on them except from at school. The lab instructor encouraged used to work on creative projects like making birthday cards or banners with computer programs. I did remember working on a door hanger, since I didn’t have much of a clue on what to work on. However, two guys in my camp group were showing everyone what they worked on. It was a Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time card game. It kind of played like the Pokemon TCG, except without the evolutions or energies. After playing it a few times, I asked how they did it. It was actually rather simple. They made the cards in PowerPoint. They switched the orientation of a slide to portrait (taller rather then longer), and add things like a picture, health, and attacks to the card. Then they printed out the cards in groups of 6 per page, so the cards came out at a decent size. On top of that, the lab instructor offered to laminate the cards as well, so the cards came out very slick. Impressed and slightly jealous that I didn’t think of doing that sooner, I turn to my friend said asked “You know what video game would be perfect for a card game adaption?”

This was the background used for the back of the cards. Everyday, for a while now, though, I regret not keeping them in a place where I’d know where to find them.

Of course, being around 10 years old, and realizing that you were actually suppose to play with Pokemon cards, not just collect them, the Smash Bros cards had no sense of balance whatsoever. I think Sonic, you know we had to have had a Sonic card, was overly powered, due to his dodging ability and quick attack. But nevertheless, I was ecstatic that an idea of mine became something tangible, as in I can actually hold and show people what I made. However, we literally had the cards printed out and laminated at the last minute/day of camp. So we did one or two quick rounds before we got picked up. But since we both had a set of the cards, along with the template saved on floppy disks, we both decided to make new cards ourselves and play each other next summer.

Nowadays, when it comes to playing Smash 64 in its purest form (as in being played on a console connected to a television), that is something that occurs occasionally. Currently, my video game backlog is quite overwhelming, so it doesn’t get as much playtime as it used to. If I got friends over, we’d opt for Brawl, since it’s the most accessible game in terms of controllers and gameplay. Although now, thanks to smartphone technology, I’m able to play a quick round or single player run on an N64 phone emulator if I’m waiting on a line or something. Every time I boot it up, I however, I can’t help but be amazed that I’m able to play a game that defined my childhood at any time, any where. Sure, there are some things like graphical issues and touch screen controls that slightly damper the experience, but I’m appreciative, nevertheless. In fact, I’m appreciative of all the ways I can enjoy Smash 64, whether it’s on a couch, on a phone, or on a computer, being played online. That last part, though, is a writing entry for another time.

In a sense, the next two parts of this editorial series branch off of Smash Bros 64, due to both parts being intertwined. The next part is obviously Super Smash Bros Melee. However, the part after that is a revisit of Smash Bros 64, but now with online play. Online Smash Bros 64 is something I feel is significant enough to warrant its own part, since it brought an new element that would change the future of my gaming experiences.

Until next time, smash on!
(I’ll get a better sign off phrase for next time, promise!)

C’MON STEP IT UP EPISODE 4: MOÉVATE YOURSELF

 


On this week’s episode, we talk about Moé ways to lose weight, Kevin Butler playing the Nintendo Wii, and what happens when video game websites talk about… other stuff besides video games.

You can download the MP3 here!

The world’s first “moévation” fitness app
http://burnyourfatwithme.com/

Kevin Butler-Bridgestone Commercial
http://www.joystiq.com/2012/10/09/bridgestone-respond-to-sony-kevin-butler-wasnt-in-our-commerci/

KSI Eurogamer
http://nureviewsnetwork.com/2012/10/06/i-liked-it-better-when-video-game-websites-actually-discussed-video-games/