Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mario madness

I have been on this Mario craze lately. I dug up my old SNES and played through all the old Mario platformers. Starting with the All-Stars remakes of one, two and three. Then I moved on to Mario World and after that back to Lost Levels aka the Japanese Super Mario Bros 2.

Surprisingly on this playthrough it was the Lost Levels that I had the most fun with. Maybes this is because it's still relatively new to me. I did play a little of the All-Stars remake as a kid but the difficulty was simply too high for me to get much enjoyment out if it back then. A year or two ago I played some of the Famicom game on the Wii Virtual Console but quickly gave up after realizing that the only way to beat it was by using the Koopa shell trick to get a ridiculous amount of lives.

The All-Stars remake which I started playing the other day offers a more elegant solution. Instead of kicking you back to the beginning of the first level of the World upon Game Over it lets you start at the beginning of the specific level instead. In effect giving you unlimited lives. This is a very welcome change since the brutal difficulty often forces you to replay the same level a dozen times.

The original Famicom game was never released outside of Japan because of its somewhat extreme difficulty. But it is not really the difficulty that is the problem. It is the traditional Super Mario Bros setup which gives you 5 lives then kicks you back to the beginning of the world, that is designed for a game which doesn't require you to replay the same level 20 times. When the difficulty is turned up so high that the game becomes more about memorization that formula simply doesn't work. Thankfully whatever team over at Nintendo handled the SNES port realized this and fixed the game. Making it not only playable but a highly enjoyable challenge.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Orthodox space shooting

Why do I love bullet hell shooters? It has nothing to do with their complex scoring systems, their level of customization or their over the top special attacks. No it is all about dodging insane and beautiful bullet patterns. That's what gives the genre it's extreme intensity and makes it so wonderfully satisfying. Add to that some nice techno music and we are in for some fun.

The problem is that in an attempt to improve the bullet hell genre and to cater to a shrinking but increasingly hard core fanbase, developers are adding more and more unnecessary additions to their games. Dodonpachi Resurrection is a good example of this, not only do we have your standard screen clearing bomb, we have a laser canon necessary to counter some enemy fire, we have an extremely powerful hyper canon which functions similarity to the bomb only it lasts a bit longer. Then we have the S/M meter which depending on your play style either increases your multiplier or the spread of your attack. It is easy to see how all this "innovation" can get in the way of what makes Dodonpachi fun, dodging bullets and crazy amounts of them.

Luckily under Arcade mode we have what is called Bomb Style, described as "[a]n orthodox and easy to use play style". Here there is no S/M meter, the powerful hyper cannon is fired automatically when powered up (in exchange for losing the control of the trigger it now powers up much faster), even the traditional bomb is triggered automatically right before you would have been hit by an enemy laser, in essence acting like an extra life. The only thing left up to your control in the laser beam, which I could have done without but since it is the big mechanic setting Dodonpachi apart from its competitor I can live with it.

This way of shaving off all the unnecessary bs leaves the player to fully focus on the bullet patters, nothing else matters. You don't have to keep looking to see if one of the many meters is filled up, you don't even have to keep your bomb finger ready. And that is a God sent since some of those bullet patterns will require 110% of your attention.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Busy dealing with black chicks

I haven't written much on the blog and been fairly inactive on twitter for a while now. I haven't had much time to play video games and even less time to write. My disappearance from the interwebs was recently commented on by one of the hosts of the Apple podcast Kernel Panic. On their spin-off show Beachballed Gabe Glick speculated that I "must be busy dealing with black chicks". Now if that comment is based on my former dating habits or if Gabe is simply projecting his own troubles dealing with a half black and highly pregnant wife on to me, I can not be sure. Either way I always like it when those guys talk about me.

The reason why I haven't had much time to write is a combination of me taking an unusually time consuming statistics class this semester and a lovely new girlfriend. And no she isn't black so Mr Glick can not attempt to claim to be half right.

This however does not mean I have completely given up on gaming. I am soldiering on with Dragon Quest IX and a few hours ago I managed to beat DoDonPachi Resurrection on one continue, something I am a little bit proud of. I am also planning on putting in the last few hours necessary to beat Final Fantasy XIII sometime soon. When I get some more free time I will tell you guys all about it.