Nut Load. Mini reviews of games old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional shock face.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days (2009)

Genre: RPG / Action | Players: One / Multi | Developer: Square Enix

358/2 Days is an interquel that begins around the time of the first game’s end, runs parallel with KH: Chain of Memories, and ends a short time before the beginning of KH II. It’s advisable to have played both KH and KH II if you’re to have any hope of following the half-assed story. If you bypass the others and pick this as your first KH experience you’ll be very, very confused. I've played both of them more than once and I was still confused.

Tetsuya Nomura was quoted as saying that if you want to know what the 358/2 means, you’ll need to finish the game. I did, and I still don’t know what it means. Finishing the game didn't answer many questions, it raised more. KH was already a convoluted mess, it didn't need this shit.

The biggest problem with the game is that it’s about Roxas. No one cares about Roxas. I'm aware that he’s supposed to be defined by his lack of personality, but that doesn't give the player anything to connect with. Being Roxas is as dull as licking magnolia paint... in the dark.

You’ll visit familiar worlds and see familiar faces, but once there missions are tedious. Kill Heartless. Collect hearts. Kill Heartless. Collect hearts.

Happily, there are some positives. The gameplay is polished and the controls are responsive. There are a lot of different moves mapped to the DS’s limited number of buttons. There’s even some doubling-up, so it’ll take a while to be able to effectively replenish your Limit (powerful attack), use items or cast magic if you haven’t got what you need assigned to a short-cut.

There’s something called a Panel System that lets you customise your weapon, armour, magic, items, abilities and character level if you have the appropriate slot filler. During missions you can use only the items, spells, etc, that you equipped on your panels prior to setting out. You’ll have to think carefully about what to position where, because things are shaped like Tetris blocks.
As you progress your panel will get larger enabling more items to be attached. It’s an interesting if occasionally frustrating system.

I'm constantly amazed at the visual splendour that devs like Ninty and Square are able to squeeze into such a small screen; it really is beautiful to look at, but I see no reason why it was exclusive to the DS. I didn't use the stylus once. It could easily have been ported to the PSP.

One tip: Before you go for the final boss battle, make sure you've plenty of battery power, because it’ll be a long time before you can save your game.

2½ ice creams out of 5

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Resident Evil 5 (2009)

Genre: Action/3rd Person Shooter | Players: 1-4 | Developer: Capcom

I acknowledge that RE5 is not a survival-horror game. It’s a buttery-smooth 3rd-person shooter set in sun-baked Africa. When you’re in Spain, you kill zombie Spaniards. When you’re in Africa, you kill zombie Africans. Fuck you, Adam Sessler.

To get it out of the way, the story is pretty by-the-numbers, but tends to play like a buddy cop film that’s in on the joke, using hokey meta-dialogue to its utmost advantage. Unfortunately, some important details are relegated to text files. 2018 Update: Chris is a cynical—but, resolute—bastard and I find legitimate sentimentality in his journey as it plays out in 'full' across the Lost in Nightmares campaign and the game proper. I believe that the details of the classic games are best relegated to those files, which now exist simply to explain why the antagonist is the way he is.

Ultimately, RE5 succeeds entirely because of the gameplay, which improves greatly upon the engine debuted in 4. Weapons and items can now be mapped to the d-pad, and the menu has been shrunk drastically. Pausing is for sissies. Infinite ammo is available for all weapons, even if you initially have to dig through menus to turn the option on in TWO SEPARATE PLACES. You can personalize your arsenal quickly through regular playthroughs or grind in levels designed for amassing money and the points necessary to unlock each weapon’s infinite ammo, additional costumes, visual filters, and collectible figurines. Your arsenal carries across into the Veteran and Professional modes and you’ll need it. You’re dead in 1-2 hits on Professional.

The biggest addition, of course, is the co-op. My online experiences with friends were the best I’ve had to date. Playing with strangers comes with all the usual pitfalls and it should be noted that if you’re thinking of using cheats, a person with a cleared save file will have to host any online sessions. In terms of playing alone, I found the AI to be incredibly helpful on my first playthrough. After that, Sheva became incompetent in equal measure to my mastery. Her biggest flaw is her propensity to use healing items the second she gets her hands on them. 2018 UPDATE: I believe there is a reason for this, which I will relate, here.

In addition to co-op, the kill-streak-for-points fan favorite Mercenaries mode returns with both co-op and a competitive iteration in the form of Versus. Characters can be unlocked via earned points on each map or purchased with bonus points. The Gold variant of the game comes with all DLC released up to that point, including two new scenarios giving over control of notable NPCs and providing an immense amount of fanwank for fans of the first Resident Evil.

If you want a big, knowingly dumb, but superbly executed action-shooter with Resident Evil trappings, don’t pass this by. 2018 Update: If you want a slick, playable action-movie with nuanced protagonists who are emotionally resonant, and an appropriately imposing and infuriating villain, cherish this.

Buyer’s Guide: Available on the PS3 and Xbox 360. The entirety of the extra content of the Gold version of the game is provided via dlc codes for the 360, because of the size-limitations of its discs. If you want to permanently have the additional content available to you, get Gold on PS3, PS4, or Xbox One. This vanilla iteration appears to have been on PC, as well.

3½ ‘Ikuze, aibou’s out of 5
With properly functioning AI, it's 4½ Guttural Screams out of 5