Video Game Review: Nier

Nier box art

Oh, Cavia. What are we going to do with you?

I mean, first you make Drakengard, a game so bizarre that even a detailed (and humorous) Let’s Play has difficulty deciphering what the heck is going on. Then you decide to make an even weirder game based on the most mind-bending ending of Drakengard? Do you just hate making sense?


Alright, I guess I’ll just take this from the top. It’ll be easier that way.

Nier, in a nutshell, is a third-person action RPG with bullet-hell elements. Yes, you read that right. Bullet-hell elements. Early on in the game, Nier (our hero) picks up a talking book named Grimoire Weiss, who gives him the ability to use magic. The two spells you start out with—Dark Lance and Dark Blast—let you summon lances to shoot at enemies and fire a steady stream of magic “bullets” that looks suspiciously like the ones used in Touhou games. Oh, and the bosses, mini-bosses and some normal enemies fire bullet patterns that you have to dodge, block or negate with magic attacks.

So yes, the combat is a strange mix, but it’s also the best part of the game.

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Blasting Aliens with K-ON!!

Before you get your hopes up, no one’s made a Touhou-esque shooter featuring Ritsu and the gang. Yet. Instead, Beat Hazard gives you a ship, throws you into a twin-stick shooter arena filled with enemy spacecraft and asteroids, and determines your weapon strength, spread, and re-fire rate based on how frantic the background music you choose gets. In other words, it’s like Macross 7 was adapted into a curtain-fire shooter. As you can see from the video, “Go! Go! Maniac” works really well. In fact, J-pop in general works really well, as does metal.

It’s a cool idea, and I’m enjoying it so far despite a couple irritating problems. For example, Beat Hazard doesn’t work well for every song. Since your ship’s ability to kill things is heavily dependent on the intensity of the music, trying to play some genres will just be an exercise in frustration. Everyone hoping to cause massive destruction with Enya will be disappointed. I also found that the amount and density of particle effects on the screen can often become absurd; it’s a neat visual effect, but the gameplay isn’t fun when I can’t see where the enemy bullets are. Finally, there’s no AAC or M4A support (at the moment), so anything you buy off of iTunes won’t work unless you convert it.

Still, for $10 it’s a fun little diversion that I can see myself consistently going back to for half an hour every few days. After all, I still play Audiosurf (another game with music-generated levels that I highly recommend), and it’s been over two years since I bought that thing.

Video Game Review: Yakuza 3

Have you ever wanted to be a badass with a heart of gold?

That’s a rhetorical question. Of course you have! It’s why Goku is one of the most popular characters in the history of anime. It’s also partly why Yakuza 3 is so much fun. Kazuma Kiryu (that stern-looking dude in the box art) is not your typical ex-yakuza. He’s not just one of the most respected and feared chairmen in the Tojo Clan’s history; he’s also a big softie. He’s such a nice guy, in fact, that he decided to run a small orphanage in Okinawa after leaving his life of crime. And this is where the gameplay portion of Yakuza 3 begins…after about an hour of cutscenes. Yes, like many of my favorite games (Psychonauts, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Final Fantasy X), this one has a few caveats to its otherwise solid design. I’ll explain why after the break.

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Video Game Review: Gyromancer

So, Square Enix teamed up with Pop Cap to create a game that mixes Pokemon with Bejeweled. I guess this means Kingdom Hearts is no longer the strangest collaborative effort in video games. But I’ll put my incredulity aside for a moment to talk about the important point: is it worth $15? Continue reading

Video Game Review: Brutal Legend

Tim Schafer, founder of Double Fine Productions and designer of Brutal Legend, is one of the very few people in the industry who could say his resume doesn’t include a single bad game. Unfortunately, those games–particularly Grim Fandango and Psychonauts–are notorious for not selling well. With Brutal Legend, Schafer seemed to be consciously trying to break that tradition. He got a big name voice cast, including Jack Black, Tim Curry, and metal legends Ozzy Osbourn, Lita Ford, Lemmy Kilmister and Rob Halford. He licensed 108 heavy metal tunes for the soundtrack.  And as the game neared release, he and EA proceeded to market the hell out of it with comedic Jack Black ads, several gameplay videos narrated by Schafer and other, less conventional, promos. Of course, the question is whether it’s worth all the promotion. And if you’re okay with the game not being quite like what was advertised, then the answer is yes.
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Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker To Feature… Vocaloid?

Hideo Kojima has revealed that his upcoming game Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker will employ the Vocaloid software, which is most famous for it’s role in creating Hatsune Miku. Apparently, Vocaloid will be used to create weapons that can sing and scream. Although more seasoned Metal Gear fans are unfazed by this bizarre announcement, my reaction can be summarized as follows:

Meanwhile, Kojima is engaging in his usual hyperbole while promoting MGS: Peace Walker. Most recently, he claimed that “I haven’t announced this yet, but there’s another feature in [Peace Walker] that will surprise people, to the point where they’ll want to go out and buy a PSP right now!” Hmm, given that the PS3 didn’t make me want to get a second job, I view that claim as rather dubious.

–Via Joystiq

Bayonetta Demo Impressions

Unlike a lot of the gaming press I’ve been reading, I viewed Bayonetta with a large dose of skepticism. Sure, it was from Hideki Kamiya, the guy behind Okami, Viewtiful Joe and the first Devil May Cry. That’s a darn good pedigree. However, any game that goes to great lengths to emphasize the sass and sexiness of its female protagonist (Hello, Bloodrayne!) makes me suspect their motives. Yeah, they might just be really proud of their character design; but more often than not, the development team is just trying to distract players from the game’s shortcomings by saying, “Hey, look over there! Boobs!” I suspected this was going to be the case with Bayonetta and went into the demo fully expecting it  to be a carbon copy of Devil May Cry 4 with Dante and Nero replaced by a sexy witch. I’m happy to say that I was wrong. Mostly.

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Video Game Review: Red Faction Guerrilla

Stop! Hammer Time!

Nothing good ever happens on Mars. It always seems to be Earth’s whipping boy, so you have to wonder why anyone would willingly go there. It’s covered with sand and rocks, it’s colder than Earth, the entire place has an red-ish orange hue (except of the ice caps, obviously) and–according to Wikipedia–it has the largest dust storms in the solar system. How could Mars possibly be more fun than Earth?

Well, if it’s anything like Red Faction: Guerrilla, you can destroy every vehicle and structure in sight with a hammer, explosives and a good deal of reckless abandon. That’s a pretty compelling reason.

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Video Game Review: Batman Arkham Asylum

Originally posted by Stilts

Stilts’ blog can be found here

One of the things I love about Batman: Arkham Asylum is that it hooks you within the first minute. As the Batmobile speeds toward Arkham Asylum to drop off the Joker, the player is treated to impressive graphics, lighting and color schemes that sets the atmosphere perfectly, and the great voice talent of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill (who voiced Batman and the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series). Clearly, Rocksteady Studios is not screwing around.

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Video Game Review: inFamous

Originally posted by Stilts

Stilts’ blog can be found here

If you’re like me, the name Sucker Punch conjures up a lot of good memories. The developer is responsible for both Rocket: Robot on Wheels (an underappreciated gem) and the Sly Cooper series (three gems that did get the appreciation they deserved); the influence of the latter, in addition to modern-day comic books, can definitely be felt in inFamous.

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