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Archive for October, 2009

As posted on 1UP.com, some fun achievements, maps and unlockables for TF2 this Halloween weekend.

http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3176704

Hopefully I can squeeze in the time to play…

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Netflix instant queue/streaming is one of the few reasons I would consider owning a PS3 or an X-Box 360, it’s one of the best features avail on the 360 now. I am happy with my Wii as a gaming console, but extras like this missing sting a bit. The recent announcement that PS3 was getting Netflix support enhanced that stinging sensation in Wii owners –
But, according to CNet, there’s hope –

http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-10385681-1.html

In addition – (This article doesn’t mention it) But there IS talk of a Hi-Def Wii coming out next year.

Here’s hoping Wii owners get this sooner rather than later.

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I am not, nor have I ever been, a game developer. I am not a programmer, a marketer, or a business manager. I am still pretty sure that when you release a game touted as an online multiplayer experience, one of the top priorities should be making sure the game’s multiplayer actually works.

borderlands1

This robot is the best part of the game so far.

Gearbox, the makers of Borderlands, apparently disagree.

The game has been hyped for a bit, and I bought in. I was looking for a Left4Dead like experience to play with a few of my closer friends, but something that offered some depth. Borderlands seemed perfect. It was released for the consoles last week, and came out this past Monday for the PC, and the game has had a PILE of technical problems and bugs ranging from the minor to the catastrophic.

http://gbxforums.gearboxsoftware.com/showthread.php?t=77748

will get you to the official Gearbox forum “Known Issues/Workarounds” thread. But if you’re already playing this game, you’ve probably experienced it.

PC Gamers especially have gotten used to buggy launches, but having major components of your game bug out or simply not work is inexcusable. You need port forwarding to play an online game? Team Fortress 2 doesn’t. Left 4 Dead doesn’t. World of Warcraft doesn’t. Didn’t someone from Gearbox call someone outside of their building to test this feature? Similarly, why the hell is Gamespy tapped for this service anyway? Boy, so glad I have my Steam friends set up… and now I need a Gamespy account… And now I need to add my friends as friends… again. With probably different names, since it is two different services. Efficient.

And while I appreciate the multiplayer workaround, it is only a partial fix. Sure, you can port forward to make public room play an option, but the private rooms still don’t work, so it makes creating a game for you and your friends even more problematic.

To have this caliber of problem at launch is a disgrace. I was yay close to figuring out how to get a refund when we miraculously got the game going and were able to play.

borderlands2

Nice... tats.

On that note, the game is decent – fairly standard FPS controls, with a cool environment and some interesting characters. While some are against it, I like the stylized graphics. No trade system is a major hassle (a system for teammates to compare weapons would be nice as well), but the menu system for the PC is pretty piss poor also. I would never play this game with people I didn’t know, as the potential for griefing is way too high. But if you have a group of buddies you can get together, there’s definitely some fun to be had. We’re still early in the process, but we had a good time and are looking forward to our next play session once we finally were able to play. It’s far from perfect, but it has potential – and I like to see more co-op games of different genres and styles. While I am annoyed at gearbox, I like the IDEA – But in order for it (and games like it) to succeed and therefore create other profitable multiplayer games, these companies and the gaming community at large should do whatever they can to avoid these sorts of bad press launches.

borderlands3

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Double Dragon was probably one of my original favorite arcade titles. It’s one of those genre defining games, that other games would model itself after and be compared to. In my ongoing retro revival, I busted out the Game Boy version of the DD, which I am sure I had at the time, but don’t remember much of now.

Quick Facts:
Game: Double Dragon
System: Nintendo Game Boy
Players: 1-2
Genre: Brawler
Released: 1990
Time to Complete: 2-3 hours.

ddgb1

The arcade version of Double Dragon was released in 1987, with the slightly modified NES version coming out a year later. This Game Boy port dropped in 1990, and in some ways is superior to the NES version.  Oddly enough, you’ll notice how crisp the graphics look in monochrome, and the character models look great. Unlike the NES version, your player will start out with your full arsenal of moves, including the newly included standing jumpkick (as opposed to the roundhouse found in the other version).

The gameplay is the same – Move across the stages (occasionally moving up as well as to the right) engaging enemies in an attempt go get your lady back. You are given several attacks to do this, punches, kicks, jump kicks, elbows, headbutts, and more. Also, enemies may drop weapons that you can pick up and use as well.

At the end of each stage you’ll encounter a boss (usually these boss fights will become regular encounters later in the game) until you end up at the last encounter with the machine gun wielding girlfriend stealer.

ddgb2

A couple technical limitations plague this release as much as the NES version: Only two enemies can be on stage at once, and any weapons you pick up will disappear as you defeat the group of enemies that dropped the weapon. While we’re talking about the downside, the challenge factor to this title is pretty low.

Double Dragon was known in the arcade for its cooperative play – There is a 2-Player link mode for the Game Boy, but it involves battling another player, as opposed to going through the story with them.

The music for this title is fantastic, and the stages themselves look interesting and varied. In terms of presentation, I think this is one of the sharpest Game Boy titles I’ve ever played. Despite the ease of difficulty, this game moves briskly, and is very enjoyable, and you never seem to really get tired of beating the crap out of the waves of enemies that come your way.

I will say this for genre evolution: The lack of a “Dash” is extremely noticeable, as there are times you’d like to zip across the screen or charge at/away from an enemy – And instead you’ll need to meander over to them tough guy style.

gbdd3
Graphics:

To me, the Game Boy version looks sharper and crisper than the NES version of the game. The monochrome palette and attention paid to the characters makes them look fantastic. The stages are interesting and well done, and I experienced no slowdown at any point.

Sound:

The music stands out in Double Dragon as well. Decent, non-annoying tunes will help guide you on your mission to save Marion. The battle sound effects are a bit repetitive and minimalist, but it doesn’t detract from the game in any way.

Control:

The control is impressive and response, again probably trumping that of the NES version. It felt very natural and easy to move and attack, jumping worked when you wanted it to, and you were able to execute your moves on demand. The lack of a “Dash” is definitely something that gamers today will notice.

Gameplay:

By now, the formula is classic – The side scrolling brawler has you moving along the stages battling various enemies. There are no friends, there are no shops, there is you, your fists, and several heads that they need to be introduced to. Weapons usable from fallen foes add a little variety, but even if you never used them, I don’t think you’d mind much. Some system limitations force only two enemies on screen at once, and the challenge factor is generally low for the title – it’s enjoyable all the way through.

What I liked:

1. Crisp presentation.
2. Fantastic gameplay.

3. It’s just fun.

What I didn’t like:

1. Technical limitations only allowing 2 enemies on screen.
2. Not very challenging.

3. I only got two for this one.

The Bottom Line:

An extremely well done port that stands up even today. Fans of the genre and series will enjoy a small stroll down memory lane. B.

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Continuing my Retro Gaming kick, I was in a bit of a Contra mood (Isn’t everyone?) after snagging the new Contra for my Wii. So I dug back to 1994 for this classic Game Boy title, which is actually a port of the Super Nintendo game – However, I never (Or at least have no memory) of playing the SNES title, so that won’t factor in to my review.
contra1
Quick Facts:
Game: Contra: The Alien Wars
System: Nintendo Game Boy Color
Players: 1
Genre: Side Scrolling/Top Down Shooter
Released: 1994
Time to Complete: 1-2 hours.

Contra, is of course, one of the most revered and recognized franchises in gaming. If you’re in the mood to grab a gun and run along shooting aliens, this line rarely disappoints. Released in 1994 for Game Boy Color, Contra: The Alien Wars is a port of the SNES title to the little Nintendo, and the title actually holds up pretty well.

You’ll run, you’ll jump, you dodge, you’ll die. You’ll grab the coveted Spreader gun. Gameplay is pretty standard – You keep moving to the right, shooting everything in your path, jumping over what you can’t shoot. You’ll also be able to grapple from things that hang, and climb up vertical walls. These elements are pretty much scripted, so it doesn’t really add much to the gameplay itself, bit it is a nice way to mix things up a bit. Powerups come in the form of floating balls which drop several weapon upgrades including the Flamer, the Spreader, Homing Missiles, and Crash Bombs.
contra2
There are 5 levels total, 3 of them are done in the side scrolling fashion, the other 2 are done as a top down shooter, where your goal is to take out several enemy generators throughout the stage. I found these levels to be more or less filler – and slightly annoying, as the small screen and somewhat sluggish controls led to a few frustrating deaths from the speedy and fast spawning enemies.

Technically, I was quite impressed with how much they crammed into a Game Boy game. There is great variety in the graphics, several enemies, decent music, and stages that definitely move and change. I never felt bored or like I was repeating anything, and the pacing of the game was perfect. The difficulty was about what you’d expect, some cheap deaths, but you learn your lessons. A limited number of continues means you need to be on your toes. One fo the frustrating elements from the series remains intact – in that if you die and lose your special weapon upgrade, you’re going to be in trouble when you respawn.

On the downside, the controls were a TAD sluggish and jerky at times, when moving side to side to deal with enemies that come from both sides of the stage. This is mostly forgivible. Also, the boss fights were pretty simplistic – While most of the bosses looked pretty cool, they basically each had 1 or 2 moves that you just had to get in sync with and take them down, so the boss challenge factor was pretty low.

A view of the mediocre top down mode.

A view of the mediocre top down mode.

All in all though, this was an enjoyable and fast paced shooting romp – that still holds up pretty well 15 years later. It does boggle my mind the idea of paying $30 or $40 for games like this at the time though. :shakes head:

Graphics:

I think they did a great job cramming Contra onto the small screen, the graphics don’t really look watered down at all. The “Color” element of the game is pretty weak however and definitely looked like an afterthought.

Sound:

I think they use the same Contra soundbytes and music from the first game still. So… go with what works.

Control:

Controls were a bit sluggish at times, but not so much to really take away from the gameplay experience. The climb/grapple maneuevers were fun to execute, as well as hopping up and down dual teired terrain. Some of the jumps were actually fairly tricky to execute requiring spot on timing.

Gameplay:

The Contra formula is in full force here: Run, shoot, get powerups, jump over enemy fire. You’ll keep things fresh by having to grapple, climb walls, and jump to avoid traps. The boss fights are interesting and challenging enough, with enough excitement to make them FEEL like boss fights. The top down stages felt a bit weak, however, and didn’t really enhance the gameplay.

What I liked:

1. Fun Gameplay.
2. Classic Contra elements intact.
3. Impressed at how much game they crammed onto a GBC cart.

What I didn’t like:

1. Slightly sluggish controls.
2. Top down stages seemed weak.
3. Boss fights seemed a little simple to master.

Recommended:
Yes (B!)

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I was one of those fortunate video game kids, growing up with both popular consoles (Atari, Coleco, Nintendo) and computer systems of the era (Commodore 64, Amiga, even some early PC). One of the obvious benefits to playing games on the computer was the ability to basically save whenever you wanted – this reduced the danger of trying something radical, or figuring out what “that big glowing thing that looks suspiciously like a fireball” really is. On console games, you rarely had that luxury – You saved at specific save points or used a password system of some sort to continue a game at the beginning of a level.

When I first became aware of emulators around a dozen years ago, (mostly MAME at the time) I loved the idea of the save state. It made going through and beating games viable, as when we get older, sitting around and playing the same title until we learn all the “insta kill” locations that Arcade games were known for becomes much less of an option. In my younger days, I prided myself on being able to beat games without continuing or stopping – Of course, HUGE Nintendo titles still only took several hours to defeat. You could go through Zelda and Mario 3 in one setting. Now we have these 40 hour behemoths, so that isn’t an option.

I felt a slight amount of guilt using the save state feature – And now that I have emulators available for my Wii and DS (I am going through and playing some classic Gameboy and Gameboy Color titles) I am making liberal use of them – as I don’t want to have to keep playing the same level of Mega Man or Contra repeatedly.

My question is to you, other gamers – What do you feel about save states? Is it akin to cheating, or a necessity to the aging gamer who has more choices and less time to spare? Tell me your thoughts.

-LAG

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