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

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright — Justice For All (2007)

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

As with most sequels, Justice for All throws a few new gameplay mechanics into the mix. The majority increase ease of use and make things more interesting. The rest fail to detract in any overly significant way.

This time around you can present character profiles as well as evidence, making some exchanges simpler to navigate without obtuse reasoning. This plays greatly into the biggest addition: the challenge of undoing individuals’ Psyche-Locks. People have reasons to hide things from you and you’re tasked with finding the keys in the form of evidence and character relationships. The strike system has also been replaced with a health bar that can be depleted in varying amounts depending on the importance of the action in question. This gets replenished between trials and when you successfully remove Psyche-Locks.

Of final note on the gameplay side is the fact that the game has become a bit more strict when it comes to cross-examinations. Sometimes you’ll have to press statements in a certain order or even re-press earlier ones just to move forward. YOU might jump a few steps ahead logically, but some trains of thought must be established step-by-step in court. I’ve heard this be described as game breaking, but frankly, if this momentary stymying ruins a game for you, then you probably don’t have the patience necessary to enjoy this genre.

From a story standpoint, this entry officially walks through the door of allowing mystical happenings to stand in a court of law. I don't mind it, but I can understand (and respect) why some people do not care for it.

As for Phoenix himself, he delivers some killer lines that speak beautifully to his growing confidence. The humor is ramped up and serves to further endear the already established characters. To balance this, the drama has been turned up to eleven in the cases directly composing the main storyline.

Finally, as someone who has become a fan of tokusatsu since the last time I played this series, I can now fully appreciate how much of a deep-seated effect it has on Maya’s resiliency and strength as a person. I always loved how she was able to snare so many of those around her into its web, but now I understand WHY.

If you’re willing to walk the path now laid out for the series by the Fey family, then there’s little chance you’ll find disappointment here.

Buyer’s Guide: Like the first game, it was originally a Japanese GBA game that was ported to the DS. It’s also available on PC, on the Wii (as WiiWare), cell phones, and the 3DS eShop.

4 Saddest Text Screens In The History of Gaming out of 5

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Assassin's Creed III (2012)

Genre: Action / Adventure | Players: 1 / Multi | Developer: Ubisoft

Ass Creed III is the (third) (fourth) fifth home console entry in the protracted series, and is a direct sequel to Ass Creed: Revelations (2011).  Desmond continues his attempt to avert the apocalypse by connecting to the memories of his ancestors in the deux ex machina known as the Animus.  This time he’s freeloading in the mind of his half-English, half-Mohawk ancestor, Ratonhnhaké:ton, helpfully also known as Connor, during the American Revolution.

It was released just under a year after Revelations.  Was it rushed?  The brokenness of the experience answers that question.  In just three sessions (on PS3)  I experienced such delights as doors refusing to open, doors that are open but impassable, mission objectives disappearing the instant I reached them, people stuck inside walls and floors, sound effects happening a week after the event they’re designed to accompany, slowdown during FMV and three freezes requiring a console reset.  (It went into meltdown once.  The picture faded to the colour of winter slush and was followed by some kind of demonic voice, as if Pazuzu was in my TV; it boomed from the amp at least three times louder than anything else.)  A patch was released that fixes some of those bugs but introduces others.  If you're not in a position to patch it, it'll be frustrating.

Ironically, there’s a hell of a good game beneath it all.  The new additions are broken but the concept behind them is to be applauded.  Some of the ideas are pilfered from Red Dead Redemption (2010) but having them in the Glitch Creed series offsets the tired formula with something that seems fresh.  If more time had been allowed for coding and Beta testing, then Ass Glitch could've been even better than it managed to be in its patched state!  When it works, it’s a definite series highlight and a genuinely thrilling experience.

Patched: 3½ poxy blankets out of 5  /  Unpatched: 2 master baiters out of 5

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ōkami (2006) / Ōkami HD (2012)

Genre: Action / Adventure | Players: 1 | Developer: Clover Studio (PS2) / HexaDrive (PS3 Conversion) / Ready at Dawn (Wii Conversion)

Ōkami is a strong contender for the finest Legend of Zelda game that Nintendo never made. I don’t use the comparison lightly. LoZ is one of my most treasured game franchises, so for anything to come even remotely close to it is an accolade in itself. It’ll draw comparisons with Twilight Princess mostly, principally because of the use of a wolf as protagonist, but TP didn't hit the shelves until over half a year afterwards; that they both involve a wolf is an unlucky coincidence.

Visually it's exquisite. As Ammy runs, flowers shoot up and blossom in her wake, similar to the Forest Spirit's passing in Studio Ghibli's Princess Mononoke (1997). (In the NA version of the game Ammy was genderless. A wolf god is okay but a female god isn't, eh?) The painterly quality is inspired by traditional Japanese watercolours and Ukiyo-e wood carving art. The beguiling nature of that style is even more magnificent when backlit. No words can do it justice.

When combat is initiated a wall springs up surrounding you and your quarry. Far from being limiting, it’s useful in that it keeps flying enemies enclosed. You can escape if you want (never!), but combat, while being frantic and highly enjoyable, isn't particularly difficult. If you exploit enemy weaknesses effectively you’ll rarely die. You attack with what’s known as Celestial Brush techniques. You can attack repeatedly, as often as you like with as many techniques as you've learned, until your Ink Pot runs dry. If that happens you’re weakened until it replenishes.

The HD release renders everything in 1080p. It makes the lines sharper and the colours more vibrant. It also added Move support (chuckle) and trophies (yawn).

The one thing that I found annoying about the game is the slow-moving text, particularly during the introduction when all you want to do is get on with the action. I adore a game with a lot of story but I dislike that I couldn't hurry its pace to my preferred reading speed. On second viewing you can often do just that but not skip it entirely; that could've been easily remedied in the update but wasn't.

The music is as alluring as the visuals. It’s inspired by traditional Japanese instrumentation and captures perfectly the majesty and beauty of nature. It got a release on CD. There were five discs; that’s how much of it there is.

5 leaps before thinking out of 5

Monday, July 7, 2014

Daxter (2006)

Genre: Platformer | Players: 1-2 | Developer: Ready at Dawn

This PSP entry in the Jak and Daxter series stars the titular sidekick in this interlude between the 1st and 2nd games as he tries to free the imprisoned Jak who was captured at the end of the first game, but since he is both a screw-up and a 2 foot tall ottsel (combo of otter and weasel) he just meanders around for 2 years until he accidentally gets a job as an exterminator since the owner is in desperate need of one and will take anybody. Daxter will fight metallic insects for their golden core while maybe, occasionally finding out some new information about Jak's whereabouts.

The gameplay is a solid platformer as it comes out of a series of them, with a few added moves from Daxters exterminator gun that he can use not only to stun bugs, but also use to hover and set things on fire. There are also dream sequences that can teach Daxter new combat moves by doing the same minigame inside of various movie parodies. Though they are hardly necessary since I went the whole game without using any of the moves. The difficulty curve is barely even there. It is less of a curve and more of a brisk walk up a diagonal street. If players have a passing familiarity with the series or even platformers in general the game will be mostly a cakewalk. Not that it is bad, but almost generic.

What sets the series apart as a whole is the characters and in that the game fares better with good voice acting, smooth animation and while Daxter is somewhat obnoxious at least he has a personality. Everything is solid , but nothing really stands out. Fans of the series won't have any problems, but it is barely above average.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on UMD for PSP and downloadable on PSN.

3 could have just walked in the back door out of 5