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

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy (2012)

Genre: Rhythm / Music | Players: 1-2 | 
Developer: Square Enix 1st Production Dept. / indieszero

Theatrhythm plays similarly to Elite Beat Agents and other stylus-controlled rhythm games on the DS. However, the notes appear on the top screen while you react on the bottom. This is strange, but serviceable. Gameplay is divided into 4 styles, across 3 modes. In all of these you tap notes, hold notes, and slide the stylus in various directions.

The Series mode has song sets for each of the games, I through XIII. The opening and ending songs are simply bonus stages where you tap the screen as notes pass over a crystal. Relevant dialogue from the games scrolls on top. This is entirely inappropriate as each song deserved to be fully playable. The other three songs in each set are a Field theme, an Event theme, and a Battle theme. Notes in Field themes move across the screen horizontally over animated backgrounds of game locations. Event theme notes dance around the screen in patterns, while gameplay footage plays behind it. Finally, Battle theme notes come across in four rows simultaneously.

It should be noted that you aren’t playing the full songs and this is jarring and inexcusable for Event themes, especially those with lyrics.

The Challenge mode allows you to play songs on higher difficulties. The Chaos Shrine mode is mostly where you amass items and the crystals needed to unlock characters. Speaking of characters, it’s worth noting that each game’s lead (as [sometimes incorrectly] designated by Squeenix) is available from the start so you can construct a party of four. At least one additional character from each game is unlockable.

Here’s the rub: unlocking them takes a decent amount of effort and they start at LEVEL 1. It was bullshit in Tactics and it’s bullshit here. I wanted two additional characters. I threw the first into my party as I started to work on getting the second and it ruined me. So, I would have been stuck with the party I leveled (to 50, mind you) until Snow arrived. Then what? I’d be burnt out and have no desire to play casually using those characters, negating the point of busting my ass entirely.

There’s a multiplayer function to the Chaos Shrine, but there was no reason for me to check it out. If you really like Elite Beat Agents and the lead Final Fantasy characters, give it a shot. USED.

Buyer’s Guide: Available on 3DS and iOS. There’s an expanded version coming soon, but it adds music from XIII-3 and XIV. Who needs that? I don’t. There’s a decent list of downloadable songs on the e-shop, too.

2 Shafted Pasty Dudes out of 5

I do not have binocular fusion and are thus incapable of experiencing 3D. 
Don't ask me how it looks here, or in any other 3DS game.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD (2012)

Genre: Sport  |  Players: 1 - 4  |  Developer: Robomodo

It’s sad when the most you can hope for from a beloved game franchise is that the next entry isn't as weak as the previous one you played. The joy that’s associated with a purchase is replaced by fragile hope or, in the case of THPS, an expectation of disappointment. Having played the game I'm left with the paradoxical feeling that lingers when you expect disappointment and you get disappointment.

It begins in the Warehouse, the first level in the first ever THPS game. It was and still is the perfect place to start for new players and it presented an equally perfect opportunity for developer Robomodo to introduce seasoned pros to any tweaks made to the game’s control style. But right from the off it’s clear that more time was spent making the levels look a little prettier than was spent on bringing a very old control method up to date. I read some place that they had full access to Neversoft’s code, but you’d never know it.

It’s an amalgamation of the first and second games only, so the moves available to the player are limited, but that’s no excuse for the arbitrary way something will work one minute and fail the next. Take Venice, for example; you don’t need to be near the spray cans to pick them up, but jump directly through the middle of the secret DVD and it’ll not even register. Collecting S-K-A-T-E is a game of chance based more on luck than skill. Doing what’s required to perform a specific trick will either do what's expected or do something completely different. And those green fences are the work of Satan; they're so broken.

Subsequent DLC added the ability to revert and offered up three levels from THPS 3 (Canada, Airport, Los Angeles), but my love for THPS 3 keeps me from buying it.

There’s no two player split screen (why the hell not?), but there are online modes (not on PC) for up to four players, including Graffiti, Hawkman, Trick Attack and a new mode called Big Head Elimination.

I sincerely hope that if there's ever another home console Hawk game it manages to capture what made the pre-T.H.U.G games so appealing, so that I can once more give the series the praise it used to deserve.

2 face-plants out of 5

Friday, June 6, 2014

Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright (2005)

Genre: Adventure, Visual Novel | Players: 1 | Developer: Capcom

If stepping into the shoes of a defense attorney doesn’t sound entirely appealing to you, you aren’t alone. I wasn’t enamored with the idea at first, either. The large cast of quirky, slightly over-the-top, but infinitely endearing characters will see you through this trepidation but they will not make you enjoy wading through seas of text anymore than you already do. An appreciation of old-school point-and-click adventures and visual novels is indeed the most important prerequisite to enjoying this series.

To that end, and this game’s credit, a number of improvements have been implemented that greatly decrease the probability of experiencing DEAD STOPs. Gameplay is divided into two discrete modes: investigation and trial proceedings. On trial days, you will cross-examine witnesses and attempt to expose the real criminals (usually murderers) by pointing out contradictions using evidence you gather while investigating. To relieve the strain on the legal system, trials in this world have been capped at three days. To relieve the strain on your sanity, investigation segments will not end until you’ve found everything the script deems necessary. If you present incorrect evidence or choose a wrong dialogue option, you are given a strike. Five strikes and you’re out. However, you can save at any time and scum like a boss.

This is not a particularly damning game.

As mentioned, while the characters can be cartoony at times, they are obscenely memorable and painfully relatable. Few things in this world (not just games) have as much heart as the Ace Attorney series. This derives significantly from the cast, which tent-poles a plot that ultimately and masterfully pulls the strings tight on what can initially seem like unconnected trials and events. Don’t get me wrong, the sleuthing and intuiting gameplay is well-executed and leads to some jaw-dropping moments, but it is not the keystone of the series. This is why adventure game fans should give it a shot, even if they don’t have any great interest in the legal system.

Buyer’s Guide: This was originally on the GBA in Japan, if you’re so inclined and linguistically equipped. The DS version contains an extra trial that is covered in full, here.

It has also appeared on PC, Wii (as WiiWare), iOS, and mobile phones (partially).

4½ Well-Deserved Burgers out of 5