Wednesday, December 30, 2009

God Damn Newtypes

Despite having picked up Modern Warfare 2, most of my time has been spent with Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 (because I don't do multi-player).

To make my co-contributor to this blog feel vindicated, there is no Japanese voice option in DWG2 (that's what I'm calling it from here on), not that I really mind. I've been developing a lot more respect for Brad Swaille lately, and this game sees the triumphal return of Michael Kopsa to the role of Char Aznable. Char's Japanese voice actor has a bad habit of not having any vocal inflection (which annoyed the Hell out of me in Utawarerumono), and the english VA they got from Blue Water followed in his footsteps.

The game doesn't so much build on the house of the original Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, instead it burns the house down to the foundation and re-uses the foundation. There were two sets of fans clamoring for various changes. One group wanted more Gundam SEED, and another wanted Char's Counterattack (there was a group that wanted Gundam Deathscythe to show up, but they were ignored for writing slash fics about Duo and Heero), both groups got what they wanted. DWG2's "Official" mode is massive compared to the original game, despite actually having fewer characters. While Scirocco and Haman got cut from Official mode, the remaining characters get a minimum of five missions, most getting seven or eight, and Char and Amuro both get a 2-3 mission CCA bonus scenario.

"Original" mode got cut in favor of Mission mode, which is... bigger. I do sorta miss Original mode, since the story they wrote for it was this fanfic thing where it felt like they put a bunch of Gundam nerds in a room and told them to come up with ideas, but everything they said had to be preceded by "wouldn't it be cool if...". That's how we got such interesting set-ups as: Elpeo Puru becoming a Domon Kasshu cheerleader, shonen cliche Judau Ashta apprenticing himself to space dictator Paptimus Scirocco, Heero Yuy getting suckered into training under Master Asia, and pacifist cross dresser Loran Cehack getting into a relationship with genocidal schizophrenic Puru Two. I wanted to see how that all panned out, but it was cut. Not that the story missions in DWG2 don't do some odd crossovers. In Kira Yamato's story, Jerid Messa seems to take personal offense at Lacus Clyne for some reason, and Kira and Athrun steal the Gryps 2 colony laser from both the Titans and Char's Neo Zeon. If you're not a Gundam fan then those people and factions are not even words but jumbles of letters. If you are a Gundam fan then you can see the continuity snarl in all that. And those are just the scripted encounters, most of the enemy aces you face off against are randomized.

Which gets into the whole relationship thing. As you shoot down pilots they tend to dislike you, while fighting along side them makes them like you more. Barring story issues, of course. The pilot randomization seemed to be under the impression that Kira and Lacus wanted to murder each other, but Lacus' friendship with Kira never dropped out of the top tier. This comes into play as you get invited to join various Gundam factions, such as Zeon, Axis, Neo Zeon, the Earth Federation, the AEUG, and Diana Counter. To get in, pilots for those factions have to like you (you can also get Nanai Miguel to "mess around with your egg salad", to quote BioShock). If you're worried about the randomization thing forcing you to fight pilots you wanted to befriend, there are also "Friendship" missions that exist solely to let you farm relationship points with pilots who don't like you.

I enjoyed the original game, and my complaints about the sequel are few and far between. First off, the mobile armor fights need some serious balancing. Some of the mobile armors have attacks that can cover a whole field in fire, and they sometimes spam that. Also, it's nice that the camera locks on to a mobile armor whenever one shows up to fight you, but it's not so helpful when Quess and the Alpha Azieru launches funnels that shoot you whenever you try to do anything. You can shoot down the funnels, but with the camera fixed on the mobile armor that's easier said than done. Then there's the learning curve. It's not especially bad, but it's especially noticeable for a Dynasty Warriors game. Despite all the changes between Dynasty Warriors 5 and Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, DWG was still a pick-up-and-play experience for me. But the changes between DWG and DWG2 had me combing the manual for a half hour before playing. The learning curve isn't bad, it's just shocking that one even exists. And, of course, DWG2 retains the original game's problem of making you keep allies alive despite said allies having the survival instincts of lemmings.

If you liked the original game, you'll like the sequel. If you were on the fence about the first game, the improvements and added depth of this one really make it worth your while. If you've never seen or heard of either Dynasty Warriors or Gundam, it might make an interesting rental. It's certainly a treat for the eyes after all that "real is brown" that permeates games lately, Gundam has the Amazing Techni-Color Battlefield. If you didn't like the first game, though, the core complaints you probably had weren't fixed here. Of course it's starting to feel more like old school Dynasty Warriors when some random grunt interrupts your combo, leaving you vulnerable for an officer/ace pilot to ram a musou attack down your throat. Thanks for that consideration, guys.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Curse You, Stupid-Cheap-Hard Game!

I was cheating at video games since I can remember. Hell, I was the first kid in my county to get a Game Genie for the NES. Just about everyone has pointed out that games have gotten easier, arguably to make them more accessible to people who aren't going to devote 5 hours, 2 liters of Mountain Dew, and a pound of marijuana to beating them. But no one has pointed out that cheat codes are dying out. The few games that have cheats don't even have the invincibility thing going anymore. Modern Warfare had infinite ammo, and Red Faction: Guerrilla just gave you increased damage resistance rather than total immunity. And all of these cheats had to be earned. I think that is the measure of difficulty in gaming, we don't get cheats anymore. The games are easy enough that we don't need them. How many of you, back in the old days, used to beat a game out of spite? The game wasn't good and you stopped having fun days ago, but turning off the console and walking away somehow meant that the game had "won", and by God you weren't going to give that smug little bastard the satisfaction. On a vaguely related note, Battletoads was a hard enough game that I can honestly brag that I beat it, even with a Game Genie. Yeah, the game was so hard that beating it WITH cheats was considered an accomplishment. Beating it without cheats was just a legend. I've seen it done, though. And I still can't beat Ninja Gaiden. Any of them.