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Sonic Fan Remix: Thoughts/Mini Review

October 22, 2010 2 comments

Transparency: I’m a member of the Sonic Retro site and forums. I was a producer for Ashura: Dark Reign (See some earlier posts of mine) in its days of origin. I’ve dabbled in game maker, multimedia fusion, and the games factory. I’ve been watching Sonic fan projects come, go, and expand for a long, long time. The part where I’m a member of Sonic Retro is important here, because it means I’ve been watching the Sonic Fan Remix, along with everyone else on that site, develop since early this year. This project has gained incredible amounts of coverage from various video game sites, and made headway on the net as the ‘Sonic 4 Killer’, or “What Sonic 4 should be.”.

And now, at long last, after much mouth-breathing and salivation, Pelikan13 has graced us with a demo of his astounding project. I, of course, immediately went to give it a download. And by that, I mean I waited a day, because I was on the college computer when I first discovered it had been released, and the servers were smashed when I got back home.

Well, guess what, it’s amazing. Here’s the thing, though. I refuse to analyze and praise this project in contrast to Sonic 4 as everyone seems hellbent on doing. I like Sonic 4, first of all, second of all, this game isn’t trying to be Sonic 4, and third, I believe judging this game against Sonic 4 does it a disservice by not letting it stand on its own merits. I’m not going to let this be “This puts SEGA to shame” or “THIS IS HOW SONIC 4 SHOULD LOOK”, because this is a project that deserves to stand alone, in its own spot light. Not with the shadow of other projects.

Youtube footage thanks to Jerphunter. I uploaded my own, but this looks way better, and you can watch it in HD.

I don’t need to tell you this is a good looking demo, but I’ll tell you anyway; this is a god damn gorgeous game. Pelikan has brought the classic Emerald Hill (Props for not just rehashing vanilla Green Hill Zone) into HD in beautiful form. The surreal and curvy palmtrees, oversized totem pole tikis, sparkling water in the background, and Eggman flags interspersed here and there take this beyond “This is how I remember this looking” in to a realm of “This is how I wanted this to look back in 1992”. Classic Sonic himself makes a surprisingly smooth transition into 3D model form, with all the charm you’d expect from the rounded, stubby hedgehog of yesteryear. I particularly appreciate the little touches of detail like the Eggman mech in the background, the Orca towards the end of Act 1, and the developing ROBOLAND sign in the background through all three acts. There’s a passage of time here that’s quite neat and works well, thematically. Now all we need is a boss act that takes place with a twinkling night sky and the beginnings of a robotic city in the background.

This comes at a cost, though. If you have a decent rig, you should be fine to run the game. If you have a slightly older machine (Or a shitty laptop like mine), you’ll have to dial the graphics down to fastest and run the game at a lower resolution. It’s a small price to pay, the game still looks phenomenal on low settings.

Of course, the physics of a Sonic game, which have now literally been condensed in to a science by my fellow Sonic Retro members (Personally, I preferred when Sonic ran fast and you just kind of accepted that fact.), are often harped upon in any sort of interactive media featuring the character. Well, as far as ‘classic’ Sonic physics go, SFR is spot-fucking-on. This is in large part thanks to Retro member Mercury, who created a ‘Physics Guide’ for Sonic on the site, and has been instrumental in Pelikan13’s nailing the feel of the Genesis classics. Everything flows well and feels sharp. This might be the first 3D fan project, or 3D project ever, to hit that 16 bit pinball physics feel, and it feels good.

The music is a joy to listen to. There were pages of deliberation on Retro about who should be gone to for music (well, pages of suggestions, really, since only a few people have any real hand in SFR’s development.), and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. It’s just a reworked version of older songs, but it’s fitting. Sound design in general, really, is well done. The sound effects are all back in classic form, but some more atmospheric sounds (rushing water, etc) have been added to the zones to make them feel much more like actual locations and not just static things to run on.

Of course, this is only a demo, and I’ve already managed to extrapolate this much. I wouldn’t expect a finished product any time in the near future, unless Pelikan hand picks several people to help him speed the process, but it’s an astounding proof of concept that I hope to see more from soon.

You can find the official SFR website Here, downloads of the demo Here and Here, and the thread on Sonic Retro Here.

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EA MMA: In the blue corner, the challenger.

October 4, 2010 1 comment

Over the last ten or so years, there have actually been several Mixed Martial Arts video games, mostly focused on the lucrative UFC promotion. In 2009, this sub-genre was revolutionized and truly brought to the mainstream in a way that parallels the sports recent rise in popularity with UFC 2009: Undisputed. Undisputed presented the sport with a brutal realism that was far removed from button combos and special moves that developers tried to shoehorn into its predecessors. It was impressive, but it lacked some key elements in the cage. UFC Undisputed 2010 fixed many of these issues, and it was hard to imagine how it could be vastly improved upon at that point.

A little known fact is that Dana White and the UFC went to EA long before THQ and Yukes to make a UFC game. EA dismissed MMA as ‘not a real sport’ and continued to make another Madden. However, the success of Undisputed caught EA’s eye, and deals with the lesser promotion Strikeforce were made immediately, to the complete spite of Dana White, who went so far as to declare any UFC fighters that appear in EA’s MMA game to be fired from the UFC (Of course, this seems to not count for Randy Couture, though this seems to have been allowed because Randy had not signed his likeness over to THQ for undisputed).

And so comes EA MMA, a competitor that I think is needed if MMA video games are going to continue to improve, as I believe competition is the key to improvement. I’ll be transparent here; I’m a UFC fan. I see Strikeforce as a generally lesser promotion with lesser talent and more WWE-style production values. I expected very little out of EA MMA, and that was foolish of me. UFC Needs to step its game up for 2011, because EA is bringing its usual dominance to the proverbial cage.

The Demo for EA MMA just recently came out on XBLA (Yes, you can go play it. Right now!), and I of course had to give it a spin. I want to first note that I like UFC’s soundtrack better. The opening movie for EA being set to Linkin Park’s new song ‘Wretches and Kings’ was a little eye roll worthy, but that’s a very petty complaint. Let’s move, instead, into the important factors: The game’s performance.

EA MMA takes a lot of cues from undisputed, presentation-wise, but veers off in some very significant ways on its own. The biggest difference is of course EA’s ‘Total Striking Control’, which takes more than a small bit of influence from EA’s other hit fighting franchise, Fight Night. It’s the same sort of set up, with the right analog stick controlling your furious fists. However, since this is in fact not boxing, the left trigger serves as a modifier to turn those punches in to kicks controlled via the same fashion. The face buttons serve as one press short cuts to clinch, sprawl, and go for the takedown, while pressing A works to advance your position on the ground, X goes for a submission (Which we’ll get to), and B counters a move or stands you up if you’re in the dominant position. This greatly decreases the complicated nature of the ground game, which is a frustration for many in Undisputed.

However, there is also a control scheme called ‘Classic’ that mirrors Undisputed in an obvious way, with the same sort of striking face buttons and stick-based clinch and grapple. There are a few button variations (A fake-modifier button, which is much more useful against a human opponent who can actually get psyched out), but overall it might be the best choice if you plan to play both EA and UFC.

Submissions are the only thing that, no matter what, are a whole different beast. Instead of the irritating Mario Party submissions like in Undisputed, EA separates its submissions and their mechanics into joint and choke submissions. Joint submissions (Armbar, Kimura, Americana, etc) are a button pressing game in which you try to maintain your stamina while slowly pushing your opponent’s joints (represented in a very cool way by an X Ray view of the bones) to their limit. This isn’t button mashing, though, it requires much more careful timing. Choke submissions require you to rotate the left stick until you find the ‘sweet spot’, which will change periodically and requires a sort of constant twiddling to nail. Your vision tunnels in the closer you get to the choke, narrowing the sweet spot down and simulating actually passing out. Defending submissions works in the same manner.

Fighting in EA MMA feels good. I’ve always found Undisputed to feel a bit mechanical, movement wise, with sounds that don’t quite drive home the impact of every good punch. EA feels organic, and gives you a gratifying smack for every well landed hit. Knockouts are a flurry of punches that never cease to satisfy, and when you clinch, it really feels like these guys are throwing eachother around on your TV. When it comes down to it, I would be happy to sit back and watch people duke it out on EA MMA, while I always found spectating Undisputed matches to be a little boring and methodical. Point: EA.

This isn’t to say EA is absolutely the superior game. UFC seems to present more variable options, and the fights are a bit more spontaneous. EA has a visible torso and head health bar when you begin to really wail on a guy that lets you know when the knockout is coming, and while that’s very helpful for knowing when to back off and play defensive, it also takes a bit of the excitement out of the flash knock out. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen a flash KO yet, as every KO becomes your opponent falling to the ground and you engaging in a mad button mashing sequence to finish him off as he tried desperately to defend. That said, you can turn the HUD completely off, but it doesn’t make flash KOs exist in the game.

Take all of this with a pillar of salt, seeing as this is only a demo. The full version of EA MMA will include EA Game Face in the create-a-fighter, which may or may not have terrible results, live broadcasts of fights in a real worldwide ranking, and many more features that I couldn’t explore in the demo. It’s shaping up to be a great game, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dana White making some calls if it does well. Look for a full review when the game comes out later this month.

Alas, a flashlight! (Silent Hill 2 part deux.)

October 3, 2008 Leave a comment

At the behest of a close buddy of mine, I decided to jump back onboard Silent Hill (Okay, no, but I was overanalyzing silent hill 5 with him, and then decided it sounded worth a try again). So, reinstalled the game and, lucky for me, my save files weren’t deleted by my last uninstall! So here I was again, wandering like a confused, blind, shellshocked rat through a derelict apartment building.

Now, granted, that’s exactly what I was doing the last time I played, but this time I went a little bit further and found a flashlight! Now that I can read my trusty map again, I’m a lot less frustrated. Also I found a gun. It shoots shiny bullets. I love my gun <33.

And I got the shit scared out of me. Not by one of Silent Hill’s trademark mind fucks, but in more of a totally unintentional Doom style BOO when a lying body was waiting right outside a god damned door for me. It tasted my nail-covered 2×4… Yes it did.

So, this is going well thus far. I’m hoping now that I’ve got a gun and a light source, I might not hate the game quite so much.

Additionally, Silent Hill 5 is apparently much more action oriented than the others of the series, so if I get the chance to try it out, I’ll report my thoughts on that as well.

‘Till then, Pyramid Head time ;D.

Categories: Progress Blogs, Reviews Tags:

Memoirs of a technicolour furball.

September 25, 2008 Leave a comment

Alternatively titled: Sonic chronicles: First impressions.

Well, talk about a game with a duality complex. Two different sorts of fans are gonna see two very different games with this one.

  • Bioware fans will see a VERY mediocre Bioware game, and commence weeping.
  • Sonic fans will see the best Sonic game in nearly ten years, and commence throwing huge parties.

Let me tell you about my experience with the game so far. We won’t go into what I’m playing it on or how I’m playing it, because as long as I say nothing more specific, I haven’t fatally implicated myself yet.

All you need to know is the game has 20 chapters… And I’m on chapter 2. So, Let’s break this down in a system where my thoughts aren’t gonna be helter-skelter everywhere, thereby confusing even me as I think ‘Wait a tick, didn’t I mention that already?’.

Visuals:

Oh. My. God. I may have stumbled in to heaven. Bioware, if anything, are extremely good at taking peices of an otherwise fragmented and canon questioned franchise and meshing everything together so it works with just enough little references and straight up ‘Hey, remember…’ to tickle even the most jaded fan’s happy nerve. I’m happy to report they’ve delivered again, managing to translate a few classic Sonic environments into a glorious 2D painted style of map that smells of some holy hybrid between Sonic The Comic, Archie, and the games. Hell, in the VERY beginning of the game you’re plopped right down in Green Hill Zone, at which point Tails and Sonic even have a breif dialogue talking about the first Sonic game.

However, I digress, I’ll get to how the characters interact. How about the characters themselves? Well, I can’t say much seeing as they’re about the size of my fingernail when at their largest, and about as big as a piece of rice crispies I ate earlier otherwise. However, thus far, everything seems very well intact, no Riders style crazy redisigns, and the character portraits in dialogue sequences feel like a nice mix of Sonic X and Sonic Adventure, the latter greatly redeeming the former. Good on ya, Bioware.

Story:

Not a Sonic game’s strong point. Ever. Until now. While, granted, SC:TDB doesn’t exactly have a story that’s going to envoke your deepest moral self questionings with emotional choices and tales of political intrigue… It IS good for a story about a bunch of talking animals. Here’s your premise: Eggman is presumed dead (though the D word is never said thus far, just that he’s ‘gone for good’.), everyone’s gone their separate ways for some vacation time, a couple of years have passed (Amy is now 15, tails 10, Sonic 17 or 18, etc.), and Sonic gets a very sudden ring from Tails that goes along the lines of;

“Dude, Knuckles is kinda missing.”
“Shit. Are you serious?”
“Yeah, bruh, some black suited mofuckas took him.”
“Ooooh, Imma fuck ’em up.”

Least, that’s how it’d play out in Shadow the Hedgehog or a Dave Chapelle sketch. You get the idea, though. You now have a mission: Find Knuckles. Strangely, I think one of the earliest Sonic fan games had a similar premise. Oh, obscure memories of early Sonic Fan Games HQ…

Uh, again, digression does my soul good: While admittedly I’ve only made it through two chapters, I’ve read plenty of spoilers (oops) and already trounced through several dialogue sequences, which are really the joy of the experience so far. the dialogue options all give the characters a new, less cheesey life while retaining certain conventions from the Adventure games. Sonic is a snarky bastard if you choose him to be, Tails is a genius independent kid, Amy shows up just for the sake of being around Sonic, Rouge is being a crazy spy, Knuckles I guess was guarding stuff before he was ‘nabbed, and I assume Shadow is off being a forced badass somewhere. I’ll tell you when I run in to him. Point is, the characters are filling the positions they’re SUPPOSED to as opposed to buddy buddy somehow we’re always in the same place and SAWNIK HEWOES.

Look, the point is, it’s good. It’s no KOTOR, but it’s good.

Gameplay:

Is this where the game will fail? Is this the horrible underbelly to the heavenly content otherwise? Surprisingly, no! Not yet! I’ll admit, the fight system annoys me a bit, but maybe that’s because my tablet just isn’t quite as accurate as a DS stylus. I mean, what. Your special attacks for each character depend on a sequence of correctly timed stylus strokes and taps, it’s harder than it sounds, but it’s extremely satisfying to pull off correctly and do massive damage to some poor enemy crab. And yes, characters can expose weak spots, so attack for you-know-what.

So the other main question is… How do you translate the almost speedy to a fatal fault Sonic the Hedgehog to a more paced genre like RPG? Simple: A little give, a little take. While it’s no blistering platformer, it’s not a trudge along RPG either. The more sonic-esque navigation moves (loops, jumps, flying, etc) are controlled through little icons that pop up near your current character, allowing Sonic to zoom around like it’s 1991.

All in all… It actually feels good so far. I haven’t gotten too far in to the deeper elements, but there’s a Codex containing tons of info on the Sonic verse, a chao system in which they become equiptment, thus making Chao useful for the first time ever, and items to augment your characters, though thankfully they don’t show up on the actual model.

Conclusion:

If this seems vague so far, it is. Two chapters in, ffs. I’ll keep you updated.

‘I can’t see what the hell is in front of me’ Hill 2

September 8, 2008 Leave a comment

Oi. So in the spirit of old games that should be fun, I picked up a copy of Silent Hill 2, supposedly one of the scariest games ever. Now, maybe I’m just not the right kind of guy for survivor horror (Hey – I loved Resident Evil 4!), or maybe it’s an issue with the fact that I’m just an instant gratification kind of person, or maybe that I grew up on what was equivalent to Mario on crack (Sonic), but I have a rule: If a game doesn’t have me interested by half an hour in (Or I feel like I’ve been playing for longer by that time), I’m probably not gonna like it.

Exceptions to this rule are games that don’t have an expansive long ass storyline I actually have to commit to, IE The Unreal Tournament series.

However, when I’m expected to commit to something, it had better fucking draw me in like a cartoonist on hallucinogenic drugs. SH 2 I’ve been playing for about 45 minutes, and I’m not feeling it.

“Oh, but Mr. Cynical, that’s barely in to it, you have to give it a chance, every story starts off slowly!”

God damn it, I’m playing a game here, not reading a suspense novel. It doesn’t help that the first 20 minutes of the game were spent wandering a road from a beach to a shitty little town and then wandering that town running in to the occasional groaning thing that looked vaguely like what could have passed as a menacing sack of meat covered in blood a few years ago only to find a dead end on every god damn street until I finally ran in to a mobile home that I only entered by CHANCE seeing as no other doors worked that finally pointed me forward, from which I spent a minute going to a bar only to have my map updated, an alleyway just to pick up a key, and then back down the street and across the road to an apartment complex I used the key to get in to where I am now again wandering with absolutely no hint of what I’m supposed to be doing and damn if I’m going to explore every sodding room in the place to find what will probably just be another bloody map marker.

All that in about 40 minutes, I feel like I’ve been playing for hours. Now, granted, I can’t rag on the graphics like I almost started to that much considering it’s a seven year old game, but they haven’t aged gracefully.

Maybe I’m really not giving the game enough breathing room to suck me in, but the fact that it took about twenty minutes just for me to get a 2×4 and have my first time whacking aformentioned low poly piece of meat isn’t helping it’s case. If it’s paced like this the entire way through, I might just rape the game disk – I’d get more use out of it that way.

The atmosphere isn’t doing anything for me either, on the ‘sucking me in’ point. The fog is supposed to be creepy or something, all it really does is frustrate me because between shoddy camera angles that change every 2 seconds and are more inconvenient than the early Resident Evil games and thick fog that covers everything but about 3 in-game feet around my character, the game does a bang up job of making sure I can’t tell where the fuck I’m going, forcing me to resort to looking at where I am on my map every minute or so, which would be fine if there was a mini map, but no, I have to press a button, wait literally a second for the map screen to pop up, register where I am and where I need to be, press the cancel button, and wait another second for it to fade. This process repeated several times only serves to lengthen the agonizing pace and further frustrate me.

I’ll keep playing, only because I really really want to see the Pyramid Head scenes and I’m too much of a lazy bastard to look them up on youtube.

Sheesh.