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What About the Lysine Contingency…?

The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, #5


Yesterday I mentioned in passing that fighting Beowulf from Devil May Cry 3 was a boss fighting experience that transcended the staples of normal gaming challenges.

To me, the difficulty of fight with Beowulf stemmed not just from the challenges presented by the gameplay of that segment, by also by the psychological stress the battle places on you, the player.

Now, I consider myself a particularly seasoned gamer, so whenever a videogame is able to genuinely cause me stress, and not just anger or annoyance; it tends to stand out to me as something special.

Such is the reason the battle with Beowulf stood out to me as both an incredibly difficult and exhilarating fight entirely worthy of The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights.

On that same note, today’s boss just happens to have earned their spot in much the same fashion as Beowulf.

As chatty as he is dangerous, the #5 entrant on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights is:

#5. Sinistar – Sinistar

Pictured: A lone fighter pilot prepares to face the dreaded Sinistar head-on.

“BEWARE, I LIVE!”

If ever there were a phrase in gaming history capable of sending a chill down a gamer’s spine, that quote from Williams’ Sinistar would have to be it.

Announcing his presence with a Jack and the Beanstalk-esque “Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum!” of sorts, the arrival of Sinistar at the end of each level in the game of the same name is one of those moments in gaming that, though it may seem ho hum by today’s standards; will live on forever as a classic of it’s time.

Sinistar’s hilariously minimalist taunts and battle cries will likely live on forever, however it’s easy to forget that, as fun as it could be when you were winning; the game was hard as fuck.

A classic twitch shooter through and through, Sinistar was one of those mean-ass arcade games that would bait you into thinking it wasn’t all that tough, only to stomp the ever loving shit out of you by level 2.

Be it Centipede, Missile Command or Robotron, arcade games of the early 80’s, and indeed throughout much of the history of arcade machines thrived on inviting players in win the promise of a fun first level, only to drop the hammer and crush them just a few stages down the road.

Centipede: A whole helluva' lot harder than you'd think.

I’m guessing this was supposed to trigger a “What the fuck? Let’s try this again…” psychological response in the players or something.

Things were different back then.

It was a lot easier to justify pumping money into a machine for a few minutes of fun when few people owned consoles of their own, not to mention the fact that the home systems weren’t capable of the graphical sophistication presented by arcade machines of the time.

History lesson aside, Sinistar was entirely guilty of the gameplay model mentioned above.

It was pretty easy in the first level, but holy Ewoks and graham crackers brother, you gotta’ be a motherfuckin’ pinball wizard to get much further than that!

The boss of the game, Sinistar; being largely responsible for said nut-crushing difficulty.

Fighting Sinistar is not what you’d call a “fight” in the traditional sense.

Much in the way I wouldn't call this a "fight."

Up until his arrival, you spend your time in the game piloting your star fighter, shooting the occasional enemy, and, quite literally; shaking down asteroids for “Sinibombs” and crystals.

The gameplay during this phase of the game, at least during some of the earlier stages; is actually kind of eerie in terms of how quiet and relaxed it can be.

Like many arcade games of the day, the game features no music during play, resulting in a unnerving silence in between the occasional laser or explosion sound effect.

Don’t let my overly romanticized descriptions fool you, this phase of the game is merely the calm before the storm.

Allow me to paint for you, a picture (in words) of how a typical fight with Sinistar goes down:

As you’re collecting shit out in space, at some point you’ll likely notice the enemy ships zipping about and snagging crystals before you can get to them.

For whatever reason they aren’t trying to shoot you down…. For what purpose could they be gathering the crystals for?

As this process continues for a time, it will likely dawn on you that those little ships are up to something…

Something…. SINISTAR.

Just as you’re starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together in your mind, suddenly a horrifying call resonates from the void of space, shooting shivers down your spine and dookie out your poop-hole.

“BEWARE, I LIVE!”

HOLY FUCKING SHIT!

The ravenous space-beast Sinistar has arrived!

His hunger knows no bounds!

He dares you to run, as it is truly your only option in the face of such a beast!

Moreover, he is Sinistar, and he lives!

From the time the hunting call sounds, precious few seconds remain before the great gray beast comes into view and gives chase.

Innumerable questions come flooding into your mind with the utmost urgency:

Should I go out looking for Sinistar, or let him come to me?

Do I have enough Sinibombs to kill him?

Am I a bad enough dude to rescue the president?

Eventually, all questioning and speculation goes out the window as the mighty Sinistar rears his demonic head and cuts a swath through the flotsam of the cosmos, bellowing insults and taunts at every turn!

You juke left!

You juke right!

And all the while Sinistar follows close behind!

In your panic, your fingers trace their way across the surface of the arcade cabinet in search of the one weapon, the one source of sanctuary that can hope to save you from the advance of Sinistar:

The Sinibomb button.

You mash on the button again and again, scattering scores of Sinibombs into the massive face of Sinistar!

With every impact the great beast howls in pain, delivering a shock to your nerves, and a morbid sense of satisfaction…

Bomb after bomb makes it’s mark and your confidence begins to build.

13 direct hits are all that are needed to fell the space monster, could victory be within reach?

NO.

You depress the Sinibomb button one last time only to realize:

You’re out of ammo.

The gray space leviathan follows close behind without any semblance of fear across it’s battered, mechanical visage.

"Never wound... What you can't kill."

In a desperate bid for survival, you begin making attempts to rebuild your ammo supply, carefully skirting asteroids while slowly giving ground to the rapidly encroaching Sinistar.

You juke left!

You juke right!

And just before you recover the last Sinibomb you need to finish the monster pursuing you, it happens:

You accidentally bump an asteroid, Sinistar slams into your ship and crushes it in his terrible maw; sending fiery chunks of debris out into every corner of space.

Such is the ordeal that is fighting Sinistar.

The actual procedure is little more than a fairly straightforward chase, however due to the panic-inducing presence of the boss in question, coupled with the variables of the level construction, (I.E. enemy ships, asteroids) the difficulty piles up very quickly.

If that’s not Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights material, I don’t know what is.

Oh yeah, after all my fanciful storytelling I guess you deserve a look at what the actual battle with Sinistar looks like in-game:

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The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, #6


It’s funny, as I was typing out the article for yesterday’s entry on our list of The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, it dawned on me just how much I hated fighting Duriel from Diablo II.

As much as I discovered I hated him though, I feel I was justified in placing him relatively low on this list.

Despite the fact that I’m pretty sure there’s not a single boss character on this list that I hate more than him, the actual difficulty that came from fighting Duriel came almost entirely as a result of his unbalanced and, quite frankly; cheap design.

He’s not hard per se, he’s just broken….. And more than a little douche-y.

The point I’m trying to make, is that, in my eyes; the hardest boss fights are the ones that are just that:

Tough fights.

Fighting Duriel isn’t what I’d call a traditional fight, it’s just an unwarranted and totally out of place exercise in tedium within the confines of an otherwise straightforward and balanced game.

I know it’s just a matter of opinion, but I felt I needed to make my stance on this subject as clear as possible.

That being, the next boss on our list, earned his spot, not through being cheap, or even unpredictable; but by simply being one of toughest motherfuckers I’ve ever fought.

There are bosses with patterns, and there are bosses with weaknesses, and then there’s the #6 entrant on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights:

#6. Beowulf – Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening

Pictured: Dante, about a half second a way from getting bitch slapped by Beowulf.

To me, Beowulf isn’t just one of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, he’s also one of the best.

His pattern isn’t anywhere near as complex as some of the other bosses in Devil May Cry 3, and he certainly doesn’t deal an inordinate amount of damage; but for my money he’s the toughest boss in a game packed to the hilt with some of gaming’s stiffest challenges.

We're talkin' TURBO TUNNEL-tough!

The fact of the matter is, Beowulf’s a hard boss simply because he makes you work for your victory over him.

There’s no such thing as a quick win over Beowulf, and therein lies the beauty in fighting him.

The frantic nature of the battle prevents his various “phases” from ever feeling overlong, not to mention lead to instances where the sheer intensity of the conflict cause you to make mistakes with your controller.

If ever there were a sign that a boss is tough, it’d have to be that of making your hands twitch out of pure sensory overload.

To this day, I have yet to find a “good” way to fight Beowulf outside playing it cool and wearing him down.

That’s the thing with Beowulf:

He doesn’t have any weaknesses.

Unlike most Devil May Cry bosses, and indeed most bosses in general, Beowulf doesn’t have a magic solution to his pattern.

Hell, he doesn’t even really have a significant vulnerability to any weapon in the game, making defeating Beowulf an affair based purely on skill and endurance.

Unlike fuckin’ Crash Man:

Beowulf’s pattern is essentially that of a pressure-fighter, a Rocky Balboa if you will.

He’s predictable, and he’s kind of slow, but he’s on your ass all night long and there’s no safe way to hurt him.

At first glance he seems like a pushover as long as you keep your distance, however the sad truth of the matter is:

Inevitably he’s going to catch up to you.

.... But not without taking 20 times the punishment in the process.

While all Beowulf really does in his opening phase is stomp and throw haymakers, there’s a clever science to the placement of his attack angles.

You can see every move he makes coming from a mile away, and yet, due to the wide-arcing nature of his swipes; you’ll often find yourself caught by blows that initially looked harmless.

As is typical of Devil May Cry bosses, Beowulf is rarely reactive to the damage of your attacks, making it unwise to exchange blows with him, given his potent attack power that is equally typical to the series.

The one exploitable weakness I know of that Beowulf has, is extraordinarily minor to the point of being almost counterproductive.

Throughout various cutscenes in the game, as well as the in-game graphics; it is imparted to you that Beowulf bears a scar over one of his eyes.

Whenever a blow is delivered to Beowulf’s scarred eye, he immediately clutches it in pain and swings wildly with his free arm with surprising accuracy.

"Nobody move! One of my contacts just fell out!"

This technique is only really viable in the first phase of the battle, and indeed does a fair amount of damage, however the dangers in employing jumping attacks against Beowulf are numerous, so in my opinion it’s better to play defensively and simple forego the exploit altogether.

The second and third phases of the fight are where things get really hairy.

Up until this point in the fight, Beowulf basically just plods about and punches at you, however once you’ve done enough damage to trigger his second phase, he drops down onto all fours and starts running about the arena with frightening speed.

In between phases, he throws easy to dodge metal towers at you, but make no mistake, once he’s on all fours, he becomes quite difficult to keep up with.

Given his ability to break into a gallop at any given moment, Beowulf’s second phase takes the tricky accuracy of his initial attack pattern and injects a element of unpredictability that makes it a bitch to keep up with.

Much like fighting Sigma in the Mega Man X games, Beowulf is a test not only in a twitch sense, but also in the sense that you never really feel like you’re pulling ahead in the fight.

Sadly, defeat usually comes very late in the fight against Beowulf, as his third and final phase is hard to avoid without taking at least some damage…. Damage that one usually can’t afford to spare by this point in the fight.

Beowulf’s third phase compounds all of his previous attacks and abilities, but adds a few volleys of glowing white energy fired from his now fully outstretched wings.

...I guess I better say what everyone's thinking: BEAST MODE: ENGAGE.

The damage dealt from these projectiles is significant, but mostly survivable.

The real kicker in all this, is the fact that it’s very difficult to avoid these volleys without taking at least some damage.

After softening you up with the projectiles, typically Beowulf will charge at you full speed, at which point one of you will likely be killed given the lowly state of your health bars.

Just take a look at this video where the player does well throughout, but inevitably ends up with almost no health by the battle’s final moments:

That’s what I love about fighting Beowulf:

He represents the rare case when a boss demands not just precision, but also endurance.

He really doesn’t do all that much, but something about the way he subtly changes his angles in order to chase you, and unpredictably makes use of his running attacks; makes him hard in a way that’s different from many other bosses.

Simply spamming the dodge or roll commands won’t work, because if your timing is off he’ll punish the shit out of you.

Simply pulling out the “right” weapon won’t work, because he doesn’t bear any weaknesses to any of them.

Simply hanging back and shooting him death won’t work, because eventually he’ll spread his wings and run your ass into the ground.

Beowulf’s a terrific boss, that also just happens to be one of the hardest I’ve ever fought.

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What’s The Deal With Asura’s Wrath?

(E3 Footage HERE)

Today I decided to sit down and watch some of the demo footage from this year’s E3.

While I’ve been (halfheartedly) following some of the news from E3, truth be told; today marked the first instance in which I actually watched any footage from it.

Given that I see myself as kind of a Capcom whore, the game I decided to check out was their enigmatic and supposedly “different” upcoming game, Asura’s Wrath.

At first glance, the game seemed pretty decent; but within the span of literally 2-3 seconds, my impression of it changed dramatically.

In case you’re wondering, the character designs were the one major positive I took from the videos I watched.

Pretty pimp...

The 2-3 or character models (2 if you only include major characters, 3 if you count generic enemy fodder) featured in the trailers were all striking and wholly unique, with some pretty fluid animations to boot.

Outside of the character models though, everything I’ve seen from Asura’s Wrath managed to rub me the wrong way.

Despite the beauty of the characters, the backgrounds and scenery were bland and simplistic; bearing a color palette of the Gears of War 1 style “gray and brown.”

The voice acting is atrocious, not only in terms of quality of performance, but also in terms of the actual sound of it.

Also on the audio side of things, the music was mindblowing-ly lazy, with about 15 minutes worth of “intense” in-game footage playing host to a boring drone akin to the early seasons of the American Dragonball Z dub.

Speaking of Dragonball Z, Asura’s Wrath clearly seems to draw a lot of inspiration from it, not just in terms of aesthetic, but also in terms of pacing.

Basically, the formula goes:

Inane and indecipherable dialogue, followed by manic action scene, followed by another inane indecipherable dialogue scene, followed by power-up scene, followed up by dramatic epiphany, followed by even more dramatic power-up scene.

*Sigh* How many years of my life did I devote to watching this exact frame played over and over and over again?...

I swear, all they needed to do was insert a cut away or 2 of grass blowing in the wind, and Asura’s Wrath would straight up be Dragonball Z.

Maybe it’s just because I’m older, but for whatever reason; I just can’t play along with these old fashioned anime tropes anymore…

So far I’ve spent this whole article harping on Asura’s Wrath from face value alone.

Truth be told, that’s where most of my complaints lie, however I do in fact have a gripe or 2 about the gameplay (from what I could derive from the in-game footage).

First and foremost of these complaints is of course:

Is there any gameplay?

While it’s of course far too early to make any serious speculation, from what I could tell from the footage I viewed, Asura’s Wrath has a God of War/Devil May Cry/Ninja Gaiden/Bayonetta/Heavenly Sword/Dante’s Inferno/Etc. action mechanic.

There are attack buttons, there is a shoot button, and there is a context sensitive counter button.

With the exception of the counter button, these buttons are used maybe 5 times over the course of the trailer.

It was actually kind of funny watching the player use the shoot button, as he never really seemed to get the hang of the aiming mechanic; which resulted in him taking damage whenever he tried to use it.

Not that the game ever really seemed to offer any sort of challenge that required him to…

The vast majority of the 15-20 minutes of footage that I viewed, all taken from a boss fight mind you; involved extremely simplistic quick time events.

By “extremely simplistic,” I mean, “if you fail one of these, congratulations; you are a retard.”

The point is, I spent 20 minutes watching in-game footage of a game that looked kind of cool, sounded really dumb, and only asks you to touch the controller once every 5 minutes.

...And no, I'm not talking about Metal Gear.

Worse yet, most of the “gameplay” I saw basically involved repetitiously countering or performing a menial task in order to fill a gauge of some sort, activation of which basically rewards you by sending you to the next repetitive portion of the gameplay/cutscene.

Note the repetition of the word “repetition.”

Like virtually everything to come out of Japan, ever; Asura’s Wrath is very high on style, but seriously seems to lack in substance.

Other than the cool visuals, and distinctly anime-like cinematography and pacing, I really can’t figure out what would make it fun to play.

Bayonetta and God of War were quick-time event heavy, however they also had extremely robust gameplay mechanics to one to play around with in between it all.

Again, it’s far too early to make any serious speculation as to exactly what kind of game Asura’s Wrath is, but as of now; my opinion is largely negative.

At this point I’m still just wondering, what’s the deal with Asura’s Wrath?

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Cowboys & Aliens WILL Kick Ass.

Despite it’s ridiculous title, and dubious connections to the original comic book source material, I’ve got a good feeling about Cowboys and Aliens.

Aside from the inherent possibilities that could emerge from the peanut butter and chocolate combination of cowboys and aliens, I think the biggest thing going for the movie (at least the movie that’s being marketed to us) is it’s serious, but not too serious tone.

Given the goofy title, Cowboys and Aliens could very easily have ended up being a pandering and goofy-as-fuck giggle fest, but based on the visual aesthetic, and “hardened” expressions of most of the cast; it would seem director Jon Favreau has opted to imbue his film with at least some semblance of class and drama.

In addition to this, with a cast consisting of an Onimusha/Devil May Cry 4/Lost Planet/God Hand/EVERY CAPCOM GAME OF THE NEW MILLENIUM gauntlet armed Daniel Craig, the always excellent Sam Rockwell, and an aging and hammy-as-fuck Harrison Ford; the possibility of Cowboys and Aliens being anything less than “fun” are nearly non-existent.

The real reason we're all going to see Cowboys and Aliens: ADAM BEACH.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t always as up on Cowboys and Aliens as I am now.

In fact, when I first heard of the movie, I thought it sounded like a lame joke; another Snakes on a Plane without the loving support of every meme-gobbling fanboy in existence.

Don’t pretend you weren’t one of them.

In other words, I didn’t expect much; and I certainly was planning to see it.

That all changed when I found myself reminiscing about an old Ray Harryhausen movie of my childhood, The Valley of Gwangi:

In case you couldn’t tell from the trailer, The Valley of Gwangi was one of the coolest movies ever, especially to a dinosaur obsessed child like myself.

You could take pretty much any expectations you’d have for a cowboy or dinosaur movie of it’s day and expect to find them met in some way shape or form by Gwangi.

It was an excellent movie that I’ll continue to love for the rest of my days, and will likely see fit to show to my kids whenever I’m fortunate to have them.

That being said, in remembering Gwangi; I realized that, in the case of Cowboys and Aliens, there’s a good chance it could all work.

There’s a good chance Cowboys and Aliens could capture the magic of something like The Valley of Gwangi, and by golly; I’m excited to see if it does.

Come this July, I’ll be heading to the theater for Cowboys and Aliens, not as some internet retard looking for a cheap laugh; but as a wide-eyed man child looking to be blown away by a movie that’s title advertises exactly what I think we’re all hoping for:

FUCKIN’ COWBOYS, fighting FUCKIN’ ALIENS.

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The Top 10 Videogame Songs, #10

Well fuck my nuggets, I guess we’re doing another Top 10 list!

This time around we’re going to be taking a look at the Top 10 Best Videogame Songs.

That’s right, we went from celebrating the MANLIEST MAN moments in all of film history, to exploring the depths of pussy-dom in search of the best songs in videogames.

Anyway, part of the fun that comes with crafting a list like this, is the fact that songs are not only somewhat rare in videogames; but also the product of fairly recent technological developments.

That is to say, crafting this list was made much easier by the fact that there really weren’t all that many songs to choose from, and virtually all of them were made within my lifetime.

On that note, I feel I should mention that I’m not much of an RPG gamer, so if you don’t see your favorite pussy-ass JRPG mentioned here; I have this to say to you:

Fuck you, it’s my list.

That being said, let’s get on with naming #10 on our list!:

#10. Devil May Cry 4 – The Time Has Come/Shall Never Surrender

This one just barely made it on the list.

I’m a pretty big fan of (the second half of) the Devil May Cry series and it’s fast-paced gameplay, though to be totally honest; neither it’s aesthetic nor music have ever really been my cup of tea.

Gothic architecture and obscene amounts of leather wear aren’t really my thing, and while retarded power metal is something I actually enjoy from time to time; the style of death metal that populates most the Devil May Cry games is one I usually find kind of annoying.

Which brings me to why this track made the list.

The first half of this track, the “The Time Has Come” portion of it; is played during nearly every standard battle sequence of the game.

Using a single track for battle music is standard practice in Devil May Cry games, however the one used in Devil May Cry 4 was the only one that I genuinely began to like at some point.

Admittedly, the battle theme in Devil May Cry 3 also grew on me, however not to the extent that I actually grew to happily anticipate it’s appearances in-game.

Give the theme from 3 a listen, see what you think:

Possessing much “cleaner” lyrics, and an overall less overblown and grating sound, the battle theme in Devil May Cry 4 is indeed quite good by my standards; however it’s second half, “Shall Never Surrender” is also worth mentioning as well.

Serving as the core theme of the game, “Shall Never Surrender” is a melodic song with cryptic lyrics that are typical of Japanese productions, however the simplicity of the tune does much to strengthen it’s appeal.

The song is definitely not for everyone, but I found that the strength of the music bolstered by the pure sound of the lyrics when separated from their bullshit meaning, actually made it legitimately powerful in context.

On that note, being as my taste in music tends to favor the energetic, I make no bones about the fact that I much prefer the first half of the song to second.

Anyway, this one made the list largely on the grounds that it made a fan out of me despite my first impression being less than favorable.

Check back tomorrow for #9!

Filed under: Games, Top 10 Manliest Man Moments, Top 10 Videogame Songs, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,

Batman: Arkham Asylum Is Good. Like, Really Good.

So, Arkham Asylum is a good game.

Like, really good.

Last night I parked my butt in front of the TV for a good solid 4 hours straight playing it, and by golly, I enjoyed every minute of it.

4 hours might not sound like a helluva’ long time to some of the more hardcore gamers out there, so allow me to elaborate.

These days I’m what is commonly referred to as a “casual gamer.”

Pictured: The Exact Opposite of A "Casual Gamer."

Not only that, I have this weird personal issue where after about an hour or so of playing videogames, I start to feel anxious; like I need to get up and do something else RIGHT NOW.

More often than not, I tend to prioritize activities like working out, going to bed early, or writing this fucking blog, over playing videogames.

In the case of my maiden voyage on Batman: Arkham Asylum last night though, this was not the case.

Near as I can tell, the game’s greatest success, is the constant feeling of progress and accomplishment that the game imparts to it’s player.

Last night I mentioned how I really don’t care much for Metroid-style games.

Like many non-Metroid fans, my biggest objection to the structure of those games, is not the fault of the designers, but rather my own stupidity.

Thought I’ve always said that Zelda games made me feel dumb as a kid, Metroid games made me feel downright “special.”

Like, helmet “special.”

Stone Cold demonstrating the image crippling power of The Retard Helmet.

Something about the layout of the map, and how the player was expected to wade their way through shit storms of enemies and hazards without knowing where to go, just never did it for me.

Though I’ve heard Arkham Asylum referred to as a Metroid-Vania style game, (a description which is fairly accurate) the experience is nowhere near as lonesome, nor the map layout as cryptic as either of those games.

Trust me, having Oracle on staff to order you around via radio every now and again is a godsend for exploration newbs such as myself.

Well hello there madam. Feel free to call me on my Bat Phone anytime you like...

In short, it’s similar to a Metroid-Vania game, but with a more structured and objective based progression.

Which is a good thing, seeing as I can think of no dumber element to a Batman game than having the player get lost.

Think about it, would the fuckin’ Batman ever get lost, much less at Arkham?

Pictured: Batman upon realizing he is in fact, a retard.

Batman is a man on top of shit in any situation, so I feel it is a wise decision on the part of the developers to have made the game’s structure reflect this.

Aside from the strength of the layout of the game, I feel that the games 240 or so collectibles really add a lot to making the player feel like their making some headway into the game, even in it’s early stages.

While part of me wants to say that, like Mega Man X3, there are in fact too many hidden items in the game, to the point in which you literally can’t turn a corner without accidentally bumping into something useful, thus far I think I actually like this element of Arkham Asylum.

It is kind of silly, walking into a room and finding Riddler trophies n’shit strewn about; but in a game with a map as large as this, any form of progress, no matter how minute, goes a long way towards making neurotic players like myself feel like they know what their doing.

Near as I can tell, this is Batman’s greatest success:

Spoon-feeding the player little rewards throughout the entire game so as to effectively stamp out the possibility of frustration.

It’s an incredibly elementary approach to game design, but it’s working for me so far.

As of writing this, I have had firsthand encounters with 2 major supervillains of Batman’s rogue’s gallery:

The Scarecrow, and Bane.

The developers take on Scarecrow was mighty impressive.

Both the level design and his costume for his sequence reflect a definite Freddy Krueger-esque sensibility, but given the seedier nature of Arkham Asylum’s art design, I feel it works very well.

Ninja + Freddy Krueger + Batman Begins Scarecrow + Psycho Mantis = Arkham Asylum Scarecrow.

From a gameplay standpoint, I found this “boss fight” (wasn’t really a fight…) to be quite entertaining.

Shifting the game into 2-D sidescrolling mode so as to allow for more streamlined movement and coordination really worked, and I applaud the efforts of the developers.

Bane, on the other hand, was a fun battle on a visceral level, however the comic fan inside me was kind of miffed by his brutish persona.

Bane as envisioned by the marketing department of the UFC...

As a kid that grew up reading Knightfall, Bane has a special place in my heart as one of my favorite Batman villains, and yet every time he’s used in media other than the comics, his character is grossly misinterpreted.

Um... No. Just, no...

Bane isn’t a massive brute or meathead, he’s a cunning and wily villain that could be called Batman’s equal on almost every level.

Oh well, my inner-comic dork’s objections aside, I’m happy that Arkham Asylum took a few seconds to at least explain why Bane suddenly went retard, not to mention Hulk-ed out beyond the realm of believability.

Essentially, Bane serves as key element to the game’s plot, not as a mastermind, or even hired hand; but as an instrument forcibly implemented by the combined will’s of The Joker and a mysterious Dr. Young.

From what I know at the 4 hour mark, the plot involves Joker using Dr. Young to extract and deconstruct the Venom Derivative from Bane, which they then mutate and enhance to create a more powerful Titan Formula which causes people to Hulk Out.

Basically, Joker plans to use the Titan Formula to create an army of Hulk-ed Out thugs to let loose on Gotham.

It’s kind of stupid, in a Silver Age comic-y sort of way, but the real experience of a game is playing it, and the minute to minute experience of Arkham Asylum thus far goes a long way towards making up for a slightly retarded plot.

Anyway, I’ve said about as much as I feel I can about Arkham Asylum for now.

I will say this though:

The combat system is a little simplistic for my Devil May Cry trained thumbs, but it’s rewarding in a “look what I just did with 2 buttons!” sort of way.

Now excuse me, I’m gonna’ go beat the shit out of some more Bat-Villains…

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Demon’s Souls Is… Not So Hard Anymore

Hah! Not so bad anymore, are yah'!?

About a week ago I posted a bitchy/whiny article about how Demon’s Souls knocked me down and took my lunch money.

I was about 2 hours into the game at the time of writing said article, and I just wasn’t “getting” how the game worked.

I was frustrated by the game’s punishingly restrictive rules, and humbled by it’s timing heavy combat system.

I’m now 8 hours into Demon’s Souls, and I feel like I’ve got it by the nuts.

'DESE NUTS!

At around hour 3 I had memorized the layout of the 1-1 section of the Boletarian Palace level, making harvesting souls (money) quite a bit easier than before.

Around this time I also began finding uses for my souls in the form of upgrading my Knight’s  long sword among other things.

Did I mention I named my character after the Ultimate Warrior?

Now if only I could make him look like this...

Now that's just a terrible photo... Sorry about that.

After toughing it out for some time, advancing by inches every time, I met and defeated my first boss demon, Phalanx.

It was a tedious battle to be sure, but unlike some of the stiffer challenges I’d faced up to that point, (I’m lookin’ at you Red Dragon of one-hit kill-ery…) I managed to best the blob monster on my first try.

I should probably note, that I really admire the artistic design of the Phalanx demon.

Consisting of a hoard of shield-faced blobs armed with spears, all protecting a central core, I found it to be an inspired take on the Sumerian/Grecian military formation.

Behold, the only culturally significant photo on the Azn Badger's blog!

In doing so, I was awarded with what I had spent the entire game to that point wishing for:

A waypoint.

4 hours into the game, and I encountered my very first checkpoint.

Eerily enough, as if crossing that first major threshold served to change the entire dynamic of the game from then on out; playing Demon’s Souls has become a markedly less devious affair.

While the early goings were teeth-grittingly difficult and frustrating, ever since I took out that first boss demon; my progression through the game has eased into a much more natural, and far less tedious pace.

Maybe I’ve just become accustomed to the cautious play style required to navigate the game, or maybe my character has just gotten strong enough that he’s able to power through what used to be one-hit kills; but either way, I’m enjoying the experience a whole helluva’ lot more than before.

I’ve killed no less than 4 more bosses in the past 4 hours of gameplay, 2 of which I didn’t even really have to fight.

What I mean to say is, there were 2 bosses that I took out through exploitative means.

No, that would be "blaxpoitative," but it shows you're thinking...

As mentioned earlier in this post, as well as probably every first time Demon’s Souls player’s writings, there is a Red Dragon in the first stage that pwns you like a bitch if you so much as look at him funny.

Good riddance you flying, red piece of fuck....

Truth be told, he’s not so much a boss as he is a predictable, but still dangerous environmental hazard, but seeing as he killed me a few times and has a meaty health bar, I count him as at least a mid-boss.

Anyway, as an environmental hazard, the Red Dragon is stuck on a very simple looping movement pattern, making him unable to reach you in certain areas, as well as unable to defend himself from attacks launched from certain areas.

That being said, I took note of this, bought 80 arrows, and sat down for 15 minutes slowly chipping away at his health with a wimpy bow and arrow while standing completely out of harms way.

It was silly, it was spiteful, but good God was it satisfying to get that fucking dragon off my back for the remainder of my gameplay experience.

Exploitative Boss Kill #2 came in form of slaughtering the Vanguard boss of the Shrine of Storms using a similar tactic.

My money's on the big guy. Jus' sayin' is all...

This one was not as satisfying as in the case of the Red Dragon.

The Vanguard was a demon that I had spent much of my time in Demon’s Souls expecting to have an epic showdown with at some point in the game.

You see, The Vanguard was the demon featured in the opening tutorial segment of the game.

While I don’t actually know if it’s possible to defeat The Vanguard during the opening sequence, in my case he killed me in 1 hit, thusly handing me my first humiliation of many to come while playing Demon’s Souls.

Sadly, my revenge would be bitter sweet; as instead of facing him head on, I found a way to get behind him and, much like the Red Dragon; peppered him in the back with arrows without him so much as trying to hit me.

Oh well, at least he coughed up a shit ton of souls.

"Vanguard! Your brother's soul, is MINE!"

As of writing this, I feel that I’ve grown to like Demon’s Souls very much.

It’s a tough game, for sure; but it’s one that can be very rewarding if you’re willing to play by it’s terms.

Not long ago I ran into a Mind Flayer-like creature in the Tower of Latria (a place I got lost in and quickly retreated from in favor of the Shrine of Storms).

Huh, wouldn't you know it they actually call it a "Mind Flayer." How very proper of them.

Said creature could be killed quite easily, however I found that it could do the same to me with even greater ease.

Though I was killed in my encounter, on my second; I changed up my tactics and stayed out of sight until it drew very close.

In a very Solid Snake-esque maneuver, I dashed out from the shadows and caught the monster off guard, thusly killing it before it could even lift a finger/face tendril to attack.

It was a very satisfying moment, that would not have been nearly so rewarding if not for the fact that the game forced me to rethink my strategy.

Now that I think about it, I like that; that the game is always difficult, no matter how buff your character gets.

Not only does it keep you humble, it serves to make the gameplay more involving in the sense that you’ve always got to be on top of your shit, regardless of how puny your opponents may be.

Much like another game I happen to like a lot, Devil May Cry 3.

While I may be a much better player than I was at the start, make no mistake; I still die in Demon’s Souls quite frequently.

Except for a few instances of ridiculous fall related deaths in the mine stage, I can concede that most of my deaths in Demon’s Souls are my fault.

I still get frustrated, yes; but I haven’t really felt the causes to be unfair or cheap.

Every now and again I get a little bit too adventurous, or a little bit too overconfident; and that’s generally when I find myself dead.

Thankfully, the penalty is just losing your money… All of it.

I’ll probably never get used to that, but I’ve never been too upset by it.

After all, it’s just money.

Thankfully, I’m not having to say that in regards to my purchase of Demon’s Souls.

Yet.

 

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Demon’s Souls Is Hard…

 

ARRRRRRRRGH!!!!!!!

So, I bought Demon’s Souls from a friend the other day.

He told me he played it for 5 hours and then called it quits.

This is coming from a Korean fellow that specializes in, as he phrases it; “beasting” games faster than they can come out.

As fate would have it, there would be no “beasting” of Demon’s Souls for my Korean buddy.

In fact one could go so far as to say that the game “beasted” him.

Despite this, like a fool I thought I could do what my friend could not.

Before I bought the game, I read scores of reviews singing the praise of Demon’s Souls, and heralding it’s difficulty level as the Battletoads equivalent to the modern era of gaming.

While it does indeed seem like it could be a great game, make no mistake; Demon’s Souls is a punishingly difficult game, to the extent that it feels borderline unfair.

As of writing this, I’m barely 2 hours into the game, and I’ve done exactly nothing.

My first created character was a Barbarian.

I set out into the game with the mindset of creating a Conan-esque tank, however to my surprise; the Barbarian was just about the worst choice to do so, at least in the beginning stages of the game.

Turns out, despite their inherent physicality, Barbarians start out the game with no armor, and some of the worst equipment imaginable.

Not good when the game derives most of your survivability from your equipment and armor rather than your stats.

Despite spending about an hour getting a good feel for the timing and nuance of the game’s control scheme, (while dieing about 9,000 times…) I found that; for a beginner level player, a Barbarian was simply too fragile for my skill level.

Enter my second character within an hour of starting the game, a much sturdier and well-equipped Knight.

Well, after dieing every 5 minutes as my Knight, I think I can honestly say that he’s probably going to be my primary character from now on.

Every time I play Demon’s Souls, I feel like I’m moving a half-step forward, only to get thrown 20 feet back every 5 minutes.

When I said the game felt borderline unfair, I was referring largely to the checkpoint and currency systems.

The checkpoint system is a pain in the ass because, well; near as I can tell there are none.

This wouldn’t be a problem except, unlike friendlier games like Diablo; Demon’s Souls has no “scroll of Town Portals.”

Not only that, Demon’s Souls thoroughly rapes you by forcing you to reclaim your “souls” (money) while wading through every enemy in the level up to that point.

Enemy placement is always the same, and any entry or exit of a level causes them all to respawn.

My main issue with the currency system, is not that you lose all your money when you die, but that there’s no banking or storage system in the game.

Do I really have to carry all of my wealth on me at all times?

Seriously man, if you had 5,000 souls of demon’s in your possession would you go walkin’ around with ’em in your wallet?

No, you’d put ’em in a fuckin’ bank.

That being said, the currency system is largely why I’m “nowhere” in the game as of yet.

Simply put, I can never survive long enough to save up my money to purchase items with.

Not that there’s any items I want/need anyway.

I suppose it doesn’t help either that I haven’t the slightest clue how to level up my character…

Anyway, I’m whining; so I’ll stop now.

As it stands, Demon’s Souls is a brutally difficult game, but for drastically different reasons than I am accustomed to in my “hard games.”

When it comes to twitch reflexes and memorization I.E. Contra, Raiden, Devil May Cry; I have no problem.

In the case of Demon’s Souls though, the game’s difficulty comes largely from the stringent rules of it’s gameplay, as well as the fact that timing and precision are the order of the day, rather than quick reaction time or fancy button combinations.

It’s a frustrating and loathesome game that truly hates it’s players, but truth be told; I actually feel compelled to keep trying at Demon’s Souls.

After a few years of getting raped by Battletoads, I put my controller down and said “No Mas.”

Though I’ve only spent a few hours with Demon’s Souls, those few hours have shown me that; despite all the teeth-gritting frustration, there still may in fact be a game worth experiencing hidden beneath it all.

Here’s hoping I’m right…

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Bayonetta: First Impressions

BUTT.

In light of yesterday’s Devil May Cry post, I figure it’s appropriate that I take the time to share some of my thoughts on the similar, but also very different game:

Bayonetta on the Xbox 360.

Please bear in mind that, as of this post, I’ve only got about 2 and a half hours of gameplay under my belt.

Developed by Sega, and directed by the prolific and uber-talented Hideki Kamiya of the now defunct Clover Studio, as well as the original Devil May Cry fame, Bayonetta is, in a word:

JAPANESE.

Every pixel, frame, word and beat of Bayonetta is absolutely gushing with Japanese zaniness and anime-esque melodrama, such that my first few minutes with the game were almost too much to bear.

The aesthetic is way over-the-top, and the story and characters decidedly tongue-in-cheek, and for the most part, not all that appealing to me from a personal standpoint.

Nope, still not appealing. Goddamn she got a tiny head...

Despite this, I will say this:

The artistic design of the game, while not necessarily up my alley; is actually quite impressive.

The costuming and ornamentation of the character designs, while perhaps a little bit too flashy and intricate for it’s own good, are quite unique and certainly praise worthy.

Huh, this I like. Go figure...

In fact, I could honestly see myself owning a coffee table book of the production materials for Bayonetta at some point.

Anyway, the flashy cut scenes of Bayonetta, (choreographed by the always excellent Yuji Shimomura of Versus and Death Trance fame) annoy me much in the same way that Devil May Cry’s do.

They’re overlong, they often show the characters behaving contrary to how they do in-game, (Anybody at all tired of seeing Dante be invincible in cut scenes, only to be a total pussy in-game? Anybody?) and they feel artificial, like flash for the sake of flash.

Kind of like any movie by:

Pictured: "Flash" incarnate.

I guess the cut scenes just frustrate me because they are actually quite intrusive to the gameplay experience.

Like Devil May Cry, Bayonetta is a game all about action, and when the action is frequently interrupted by cut scenes, showing my character busting out awesome moves that I’d like to see myself do in-game, I get just a little bit frustrated.

Bottom line, 2 hours into Bayonetta, I can’t help but feel that the pacing is not quite up to snuff, as the gameplay seems to come in all too infrequent spurts.

Which brings me to my 2nd, and ultimately far more critical gripe:

Bayonetta’s learning curve is just plain mean.

We're talkin' Kobe Mean Face-Mean!

While the game, like any current gen game, comes with the obligatory introductory tutorial sequence that seems to be essential to the illiterate, non-instruction manual reading gamers of today, outside of teaching you the basic button inputs of the game, Bayonetta doesn’t really teach you how to play the game.

Sure, you can put up a good fight, and sure you know what you’re doing for the most part, but at the end of the day, if you’re playing the game straight through as I am, you’re just not given enough time to get a grip on the gameplay before the game starts tossing you some serious shit to deal with.

"Oh don't mind me, I'm just the first boss. Excuse me while I TOTALLY WRECK YOUR SHIT while eating bagels and lox."

This is coming from someone that utterly beasted half of the Devil May Cry series.

My problem is this:

Bayonetta didn’t give me enough time to warm-up to it.

In the Devil May Cry series, the basic enemies are reactive to your blows, staggering and generally being reduced to punching bags the moment you first lay into them.

This is not the case in Bayonetta.

There is no fodder in Bayonetta.

Nope, none of these.

All of the enemies in Bayonetta are able to put up a decent fight, thusly leaving you with nobody hone your skills on.

Every fight is a desperate struggle.

From what I can tell, my complaint may in fact be a result of me having failed to grasp the concept of the dodge system and the Witch Time AKA Bullet Time mechanic.

I don't care what you tell me man. There IS a spoon, and I'm eating my fuckin' Cheerios with it as we speak. Fuckin' new-age bullshit...

Anyway, at this point, I’m tempted to say I like Devil May Cry 4 better, but I’m only a few hours in, so we’ll see.

I’m still having fun with Bayonetta.

I love the gorgeous presentation and liberal use of the context sensitive button mashing segments.

I’m diggin’ the core gameplay, but at this point I truly do suck at it.

Time will tell…

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Devil May Cry and the Azn Badger

Capcom’s Devil May Cry series is one that the Azn Badger desperately wants to love.

Honestly, I don’t really care much for the Gothic aesthetic of the series, nor do I have any sort of appreciation for the death metal soundtracks and overall overblown nature of the storylines and cutscenes.

So, what exactly is it that I do like about Devil May Cry?

That my friend, would of course be the bombastic, action-heavy gameplay of the series:

My introduction to the Devil May Cry came in the form of the 3rd, and best, entry in the series, Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening.

Yes, I am in fact aware that he is wearing a nipple-strap. The game STILL kicks ass...

Featuring the highest difficulty level in the series to date, as well as perhaps the best, or at least, most relatable storyline, Dante’s Awakening effectively ruined me from enjoying any of the other games in the franchise.

Let it be known, beginning a game series from it’s highest peak in terms of overall quality, and then working your way down is not the way to enjoy a videogame franchise.

That'd be like going from THIS to THIS.

You see, I really enjoyed my time with Devil May Cry 3 on my PS2.

I played it to death, nearly beating it on the hardest difficulty in the process.

After I finally grew tired of 3 though, I made the mistake of thinking it would be fun to work my way backwards and play through the first game in the series.

I skipped that sack of fail Devil May Cry 2 though, as I’ve heard nothing but bad about that one…

ASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!

From the moment I picked up the controller to play the original Devil May Cry, it immediately became clear to me that I was playing a vastly different, and far inferior game.

The gameplay was slower and less responsive.

The animations were less dynamic and felt very detached.

The attacks lacked the sense of “oomph” that was the highlight of the experience in the 3rd game.

Not only that, but due to the games’ age, the graphics and textures were somewhat lacking.

Yeah, I'd say there's a difference...

Needless to say, I found little enjoyment in playing the original Devil May Cry post-Dante’s Awakening, so much so that I saw fit to return it to Gamestop after only a few days.

Devil May Cry was a wonderful game for it’s time, serving as the progenitor of a new breed of fast-paced action games shortly after it’s release.

You see what you did Capcom!? You gave that piece of fuck Gackt an excuse to star in his own game!

Despite it’s laundry list of credentials though, being the first of something doesn’t necessarily make it the best, or in this case, anywhere near that level of quality.

Recently, I had the opportunity to play through Devil May Cry 4 on the Xbox 360.

Pretty fuckin' spankin' if you ask me...

After the beating the ever-loving piss and shit out of Devil May Cry 3 in decidedly epic-fashion several years back, I found Devil May Cry 4 to be somewhat tame in terms of difficulty.

In general enemies were easier to stun, and more importantly, easier to corral and manipulate, resulting in the gameplay being much more forgiving, and ultimately flashier than ever before.

Since the release of Devil May Cry 3, Capcom went on to reinvent the Resident Evil series, and indeed; much game design in general, with it’s 4th entry.

In the post-Resident Evil 4 world of gaming, context sensitive button functions were very much en vogue, predictably resulting in Capcom’s own Devil May Cry 4 including several instances of said gameplay elements.

In fact, awesomeness can be visited upon most enemies with a simple touch of the “B” button:

Cheap thrills yes, but thrills nonetheless.

Personally, I couldn’t give 2 shits about the new main character of Devil May Cry 4, a frustratingly emo little butt-pirate named Nero, (voiced by Adam the Black Ranger AKA Johnny Yong Bosch)

Pictured: Nero.

I will say this about him however:

His move-list is fun, inventive, and made all the better by the inclusion of the Devil Bringer in his arsenal.

The Devil Bringer is the chief innovation brought to the table in Devil May Cry 4, and for the most part, it’s worth the price of admission.

Trust me, yanking enemies over to your position for quick and efficient beat downs is a pleasure that far surpasses repeatedly Stinger-ing my way across an arena just to get to an out of reach opponent by leaps and bounds.

But then again, being able to do shit like this is pretty fun too:

While the game is a little bit on the easy side when compared to Devil May Cry 3, I’m willing to concede that that may in fact be a good thing.

Devil May Cry 3 was a beast.

It got off on taking eager young player’s confidence and shitting all over it like a fuckin’ pigeon perched above a Porsche.

... Yup, pretty much the visual I was going for.

4 however, is a prettier and more accessible game that even goes so far as to have a storyline (for those that give a shit) that requires virtually no knowledge of the prior games to understand.

Simply put, Devil May Cry 4 serves as a fine example of how to begin a series anew on a new platform.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it fared better than Resident Evil 5 in the console transition.

While not as good as 3, 4 was an enjoyable entry in a young series that was desperately in need of a #2 best game in it’s lineup, as up until it’s release, none of the other games could be at all regarded as anywhere near the level of quality of Dante’s Awakening.

I understand that I’m being critical of the series, but as I mentioned earlier, Devil May Cry is a series that I want to like.

So far we’ve got 4 games in the series, and I’ve only liked 2 of them.

I don’t like the art.

I don’t like the music.

I hate the storytelling.

All I play them for is the raw experience of playing the game.

In that sense, 1:2 ain’t a bad ratio at all.

KITTY.

Which brings us to the newest Devil May Cry game, one that, to my knowledge; is intended to be a massive diversion from the core series.

Uh, okay. I see what you did there, very nice... I don't get it.

Going by the name DmC, (Ugh…) this new game features a protagonist of a drastically different design aesthetic, as well as a game world that seems a little more urban, and less castle-like than previous entries in the series.

This would all be fine in my book, as I was never that attached to Dante or Nero as series’ protagonists, except for the fact that this new character’s design is just plain HIDEOUS.

Pictured: An ugly-ass, skinny piece of emo punk-fuckery that I honestly have ZERO desire to play as in a game.

At this point, all we have is a trailer to work from in terms of first impressions, however I for one feel my desire to give this game a shot slipping away purely based off of the character design:

That may sound petty of me, but unless DMC gets some truly fuckin’ incredible reviews chances are I’ll probably sit it out in favor of taking a step back and visiting some of other hardcore action game franchises out there, like the Ninja Gaiden series and Bayonetta.

Every now and again I have to ask myself: Why HAVEN'T I played this game yet?

Anyway, this has been a lengthy and intensely muddled post.

For this I apologize, but thanks for reading.

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