Archive for video games

2013 Year In Review: Quickies

Posted in 2013 year in review, comic books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2014 by vagabondsaint

Wow, 2013 was a pretty craptastic year, personally. But, I survived, and here I am with my year-in-review stuff. In April, partly because timeliness is for the weak, and partly because I’m still bitter about 2013.

Anyway.

There will be longer, more in-depth pieces coming, but for now, here are the categories that only merited a paragraph or two! Enjoy!

Worst Comic Book News

That J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman were leaving Batwoman, which was one of the best DC New 52 comics at the time. Williams had been with the character from the beginning of her run in Detective Comics (with writer Greg Rucka), and made Kate Kane into a fully fleshed-out, intriguing character, and the only lesbian in mainstream comics today.  Blackman and Williams cited editorial differences and interference as the reasons for their departure, including not being able to show the wedding of Kate and her fiance Maggie Sawyer.

Solid writing by Blackman and absolutely fantastic, haunting, gorgeous art by Williams are exactly why this book was on the top of the New 52 heap, and while I’ve got nothing against Marc Andreyko (his Manhunter run proved he can write female characters well), he’s not Blackman. Thankfully, though, the pair planned to finish their then-current arc of the book, which would have pitted Batwoman against Batman, and end their run with #26.

And then came the. . .

Biggest Dick Move of 2013

DC decided to cut Blackman and Williams’ shortened run on Batwoman even shorter.  #24 ended up being the last Blackman/Williams issue, to make room for a Zero Year (insanely inane origin-mangling crime against comic fans story arc running in Batman) tie-in issue in #25 and the start of new writer Marc Andreyko’s run in #26 (with new artist Trevor McCarthy).  To make up for this astounding lack of love for the fans, DC announced in January that the conclusion of Blackman/Williams’ last storyline would be presented in the 2014 Batwoman Annual. . .written by Marc Andreyko and illustrated by Trevor McCarthy.

Apparently “DC” now stands for “Dick Comics.”

Most Disappointing Comic-Based Video Game

And the nominees are. . .actually, there aren’t any, because this one was easy.

The winner is: Batman: Arkham Origins!

A little backstory, because games this disappointing don’t just come out of nowhere. In 2009, WB published the first of a new line of Batman video games, titled Batman: Arkham Asylum, and developed by Rocksteady Games.  The gameplay was phenomenal, the graphics were beautiful, the Paul Dini-penned story was enjoyable, and everybody was happy.  In 2011, WB and Rocksteady followed it up with Batman: Arkham Citywhich improved upon the first game in every conceivable way with even tighter gameplay, a much larger area to explore, more challenges, better graphics, more villains, more heroes (Catwoman was playable!), and more unlockables than you could shake a batarang at.  B:AC won awards, accolades, and acclaims from virtually all corners. Both games, by the way, sold like bacon-flavored hotcakes.

Then Warner Brothers decided. . .no one seems to actually know what they decided.  It was speculated that WB wanted to put out a new game in the Arkham series every year, and Rocksteady let common sense triumph over greed and said no, they couldn’t make a quality game in that short a timeframe.  Whatever the story was, WB let their in-house studio, WB Montreal, develop Arkham Origins instead.

And they proved Rocksteady completely correct.

Origins is, and let me say now I did play the game all the way through to completion, a major freaking disappointment.  Story-wise, it’s a prequel to Asylum, but it feels that way in terms of gameplay and writing as well.  Despite having access to Rocksteady’s code, engine, and improved technology, WB Montreal made a worse game.  The fighting system is superficially, the same but lacks the timing and polish of the other two games, the badly-written story flat-out contradicts events in the other two games, graphics and game glitches are EVERYWHERE, the challenge system is counter-intuitive and counter-productive, Batman is a jerk, and the villains are either under-utilized or drawn out in gimmicky boss fights.  And as for all the hype in the ad campaign about Batman fighting uber-mercenary Deathstroke in the fallen snow while thinking about his dead parents?  Brace yourself: that scene NEVER HAPPENS IN THE GAME.  The one fight with Deathstroke is early in the game, indoors, gimmicky, over very quickly. . .and you never see Deathstroke again. The ads lied to you, kids.  WB’s marketing department lied to you.

But on the plus side, Origins was still better than Batman’s adventures in the New 52.

Favorite Comic-based Video Game of 2013

Surprisingly, Injustice: Gods Among Us.  So WB got something right in 2013.  The story of “our” familiar DC heroes being transported to a world where Superman has taken over the world was surprisingly good (and surprisingly violent; RIP Captain Marvel).  The fighting mechanics could have been a little better, but overall, it’s a fun fighting game with a great cast of fighters. Batgirl is really cheap, though.  Lots of unlockable stuff, the stages and stage interactions are beautifully-done, and opponent-specific dialog made this game crackle.

Also, with the sole exception of Wonder Woman, this game was better than ANY of its characters’ adventures in the New 52.

Worst Superhero Movie

This one was really close between Iron Man 3 and Man of SteelHowver, I have to give the award to Man of Steel, because it didn’t have two better movies in its franchise to fall back on. What was wrong with Man of Steel? I’m glad you asked!  I’m also honestly surprised you’re still reading this.

Anyway, what went wrong with Man of Steel.

SPOILER ALERT!

First off, if Jor-El is not dead and buried in the first 15 minutes of the movie, you are making a bad Superman movie. If Jonathan Kent is a jerk who tells young Clark not to use his powers to help humanity and then dies in a bad-CGI tornado after telling Clark not to use his powers to save him, you are making a bad Superman movie. If the lost Kryptonians who show up on Earth are as powerful as Superman three days after showing up, when Superman’s been here his entire lifeyou are making a bad superman movie. If those Kryptonians also threaten Metropolis, a city that your Superman has absolutely no connection to, you are making a bad Superman movie. If your Superman has absolutely no connection to Metropolis, you are making a BAD SUPERMAN MOVIE! If your movie contains dozens of buildings being destroyed and countless thousands dying without Superman saving anybody but one little family in a train station, you are making a terrible Superman movie!  If your Superman MURDERS HIS FIRST VILLAIN, you have COMPLETELY F***ED UP YOUR SUPERMAN MOVIE! GODDAMMIT THIS MOVIE WAS TERRIBLE!

Best Character

Still Batman, just like every year, and despite current Batman writer Scott Snyder being the worst thing to happen to Batman since Joel Schumacher.  Second worst, if you include the entire editorial direction of the New 52.

Best Non-Batman Character

Batwoman, before Blackman and Williams left.

Best Non-Bat-Family Character

The Superior Spider-Man. Yep, I said it. So, you ask, what’s the difference between Superior Spidey and regular (or Amazing, or Spectacular) Spidey? I’m glad you asked!

SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Superior Spidey began when an imprisoned Doctor Octopus, dying of the years of punishment inflicted on his body, figured out a way to transfer his mind into Peter Parker’s body, effectively swapping bodies with his most hated foe.  Peter Parker, genius that he is, doesn’t take long to figure out what happened. He escapes from prison with the help of villains he recruits, and goes to reclaim his body before the body he’s in, Doc Ock’s, dies. Peter finds his enemy, fights Ock-in-Spidey’s-body, loses the fight, and dies.

Yeah.

The Superior Spider-Man comic chronicles the adventures of Doc Ock in Peter Parker’s body, after the death of Peter Parker in Doc Ock’s body.  Ock sets out to be not just Spider-Man, but to be a better Spider-Man than Peter Parker ever was – and does it. From destroying the Kingpin’s power base to building spider-bots to patrol the city for him to hiring minions (that he calls “spiderlings”) to also poatrol the city and provide backup when he needs it to finally completing Peter’s doctorate studies, Otto Octavius is genuinely a better Spider-Man than Peter Parker was.  He uses the powers more creatively, manages his time more efficiently, and even makes an uneasy alliance with current NYC major J. Jonah Jameson.

But of course it all goes wrong, and how it goes wrong is hilarious, engaging, and creative. It’s a fresh take on the Spider-Man story that is, well, fun, a word largely lacking from mainstream comics nowadays.  It’s definitely worth checking out.

Well, that’s it for the quick awards.  I’ll post more next week, from Mississippi and/or Arkansas!

VS

The Soul Still, Ummm, Smolders, I Guess: A Quick Review of SoulCalibur V

Posted in video games with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2012 by vagabondsaint

Soul Calibur V came out a year or so ago, I know.  I just got  it as a birthday gift last month, so, here’s my review.

First off, let me say that I am, in fact, a hugemongous Soul Calibur fan.  I started the series with SoulBlade, and followed it through SoulEdge and into the SoulCalibur series (and own all of that series except SoulCalibur II).  I’ve been following the convoluted story of souls for over a decade now.

I told you that to tell you this:  SoulCalibur V was a huge disappointment.

I’ll start with the good.  The music is excellent orchestral stuff as always, and the soundtrack CD that came with the Collector’s Edition (which also includes an Art of SoulCalibur V book and a “Making of SoulCalibur V” DVD) was worth the purchase.  The graphics are the best of the series.  The stages are beautifully rendered, and some have things going on in the background that were a little distracting from the fighting the first few times I saw them.  The characters simply have never looked better. The Creation mode has more options than ever before, making it quite easy to create very personalized characters, and I really appreciated the ability to modify almost all dimensions of the body types (a big-boobed woman trying to fling around Maxi’s nunchaku is going to have very bruised breasts and suck at fighting). The stickers and weapon effects are a nice touch, as is the ability to take a photo of your created character for their pre-fight picture.  The bonus character this game is Ezio Audittore from the Assassin’s Creed series, and he rocks.  He is great fun to play, and his moves and abilities make sense.  Another plus is the availability of a fighting style from Namco’s Tekken series, Devil Jin style, which none of the roster characters use; it’s a very fun and enjoyable style to use.

Now the bad. . .and there’s so, so much of it.

I’ll start where I ended the good:  Devil Jin style is available; all of the other non-roster styles from SC3 and SC4 are gone.  No sickle, no grieve edge, nothing else.

Also missing:  a shit-ton of characters.  Setsuke, Taki, Sophitia, Cassandra, Seung-Mina, Yun-Seong, Hwang Sung-Yeong, Talim, Zasalamel, Xianghua, Rock – all gone.  The storyline takes place 17 years after SC4 so it does make sense that some of the characters would be dead or retired, but still, this roster really took a severe hit.  In the cases of Taki, Setsuke, Cassandra, Xianghua, and Sophitia, there are new characters that use their styles, but you know, it’s just not the same (and having Pyrrha, Sophitia’s daughter, use her mother’s trademark crotch-in-your-face throw on her brother Patroklos is just a little weird).

Story Mode took a major hit too.  In SC4 and previous games, Story Mode was short and each character had their own story endings.  In SC5, there is one story, and it’s Patroklos trying to find and save his sister Pyrrha.  It took me a little over three hours to complete, and there’s only one ending.  That’s it.  There’s no stories for the other characters, there’s no bios for the other characters, there’s nothing much about them at all except that they exist.  They’re all usable online and in Arcade Mode and training mode, but without being able to unlock some info about them, it’s pretty difficult to care.  (Except about Ivy, who is still my dream woman.)

Really, the only reason I found to keep playing after beating Story Mode (other than the sheer pleasure of smacking digitized people around with edged weapons) was unlocking new items for Creation mode by gaining player levels.  Oh, and all those effects that your clothing and equipment choices made in other games?  GONE.  No more trying to balance your equipment to give you access to better abilities.  Your clothing and weapons make absolutely no functional difference anymore.  I can understand simplifying the system a bit for new players, but it lost a fun level of complexity there.

The addition of the Soul Gauge, which powers up your moves and can be used to unleash a Critical Edge move when full, didn’t bother me much one way or the other, except that it’s so easy to block or avoid the CE moves that using them becomes a dangerous proposition.  Guard Impacts are now also dependent on there being a charge present in the Soul Gauge, a change I didn’t like much at all.  Perhaps using Guard Impacts to charge the Gauge would have been better, but what do I know?  It did make the game feel a bit more like a Capcom fighting game, but if I wanted to play the Capcom Way, I’d buy a Capcom fighting game (I have several already, thanks).

Oh, and if you played SC4 and thought Algol was a cheap boss. . .fight Nightmare at the end of Arcade Mode and you will miss Algol.  The end-boss cheapness also feels more like Capcom than Namco, the difference being that you can’t use Galactus and see how much different it is to play as him.  You can play as Nightmare and realized how sped-up and uber-cheap the AI is in the final boss fight.

And did we really need three different characters that just use other peoples’ styles? The unlockable Edge Master, Kilik, and Elysium are all clone characters.  Those three slots could have gone to new characters with different styles.

I   have heard that the online mode is really really good; I wouldn’t know from experience as I don’t play games online very much.  Maybe Namco did right by the online players with SC5, but it doesn’t feel like they gave much of a damn about the offline players.

There’s just not much here for us offline people, and little reason to keep replaying once you’ve unlocked all the characters. Honestly, once I’d unlocked the characters, I went right back to playing  Arkham City, trying to beat all the challenge maps.

There’s some good and a lot of bad in SoulCalibur V.  It could have been worse, but it could have been a whole lot better.

P.S.  As cheap a final boss as Nightmare is in Arcade Mode, the characters in Legendary Souls Mode are much, much worse.  Seriously, this mode makes me completely disgusted with the game.  It’s so ridiculously difficult with characters moving at lightspeed, using unbreakable combos over and over again, and perfectly countering your moves that it’s really just not worth playing.  The time investment required to get good enough at the game to handle this mode is not rewarded in any way, and the unlockables you can get from it can be obtained much more easily (and with much less profanity) by just playing through Arcade Mode again and again to get your player level up.  Really, fuck this mode and whoever at Namco thought that “cheap” equals “enjoyable difficulty.”

What I Do When I’m Busy Not Writing New Posts As Regularly As I Should Be

Posted in comic books, politics, randoma with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2010 by vagabondsaint

Just a few of the sites I peruse and other activities I engage in when I’m not writing as many blog posts as I should:

1.  Huffington Post – left-leaning news blog. Funny, tragic, amusing; it’s where I get my news and such.  Okay, really I just have a massive intellect-and-accent crush on Arianna Huffington, but don’t tell her.  I want it to be a surprise.

2.  Comics Alliance – stuff about comic books and related media presented with wit, way deeper research than I could ever be arsed to do, and a smattering  of wisdom.

3.  HollaBack DC! – a blog for women in the DC area to report incidents of sexual harassment and verbal or physical assaults.  I’m seriously considering trying to start a HollaBack Seattle, if one doesn’t already exist. (UPDATE:  It did exist.  The HollaBack Seattle page states that the site moved to HollaBack PNW [Pacific Northwest] in 2006 and the link to that site doesn’t work.  The Seattle page is worth browsing, if only because it includes the phrase “spirit of the hollaback”.)

4.  Cracked.com – Seriously, Cracked makes me laugh until I pee.  And I am pretty sure that I am one of the no-more-than-30 people that bought both copies of their print relaunch a few years ago.

5.  Playing Soul Calibur 3 – This is just for story research, I swear.  Trust me.

6.  Ex Machina – I just started reading the trades, since the series is about to come to an end and I won’t be buying the trades forever.  It’s pretty damn good; the story of the world’s first and (to that point) only super-hero deciding that he could do much more good if he became mayor of his hometown, which is (of course) NYC, because nothing exciting or unusual or unique ever happens anywhere else but NYC, and it’s the only place in the world that anyone could have a power-granting accident, and certainly NYC is not the most overused city in comics, movie, TV, and books absolutely fucking ever.  Other than that, it’s a pretty good story of a hero trying to deal with real-world problems.

7.  Learning to play bass, learning Japanese, sleeping, eating, caring for daughter, self-improvement, missing a special lady, oh yeah, and WORK – just minor stuff, really.

So yeah.  When you don’t see new posts from me, that’s what I’ve been doing.  Aren’t you glad you know now?

VS – 6.16.10

Redirect

Posted in comic books, humour, politics with tags , , , , , , on December 14, 2009 by vagabondsaint

I originally started this blog with the intent of writing about two of my greatest loves:  comic books and video games.  Yes, I am both a fanboy and a gamer, and this blog, this politics/current events blog, where was I was going to share my (dubious) wisdom on both topics with adoring audiences.  It must be noted that this was my second attempt at doing so, after my initial attempt to start an online community of like-minded fanboys and gamers failed miserably, for some reason.

I honestly have no idea why this didn't work out.

Then along came the exciting, history-making, panties-dampening excitement of the 2008 election cycle, and I got swept right up into it, so this blog became about that.

And now?

Now I’m just sick of politics.  It’s revolting, it’s disgusting, it’s horrible. . .and that’s just Joe Lieberman.  To make it even worse, it’s addictive:  try to quit it and you’ll go through severe, traumatic withdrawals.

So, this blog and I are taking a break from politics.  Time to go back to my original escapes from reality, comic books and video games.  I need to have fun for a while, remind myself that political machinations are not the entirety of society.

So, next post, video games and comic books!

VS – 12.14.09