This is a Metroid game?

Posted by SpaghettiOh on Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 in Gaming Life /Reviews
Metroid: Other M cover

When I wrote how I felt about Tecmo heading up the next title in the Metroid series, I had pretty low hopes for the developer responsible for more boobs than brains when it comes to video games. The team that brought us Ninja Gaiden and the Dead or Alive series (yes, including those spectacular Beach Volleyball games [/sarcasm]) takes a new stab at Metroid in three dimensions.

Other M is a cooperative development from select members of Nintendo and Team Ninja, along with some amazing CG work by D-Rockets (also responsible for many of Team Ninja’s cinematics). The game takes a much more story-focused approach to the Metroid franchise, attempting to “clear up” many elements of the legacy of the heroine Samus Aran. Until now, the only information we’d really had about our famed galactic bounty-huntress was bits and pieces of dialog from Fusion and the Prime series. Other than that, and whatever character development gathered subliminally from actually playing the games, previous titles either failed to mention anything relevant, or left it completely to the imagination. Either way, the character that stood before you could easily be placed in the dictionary under “badass,” so you’d think that this game would follow suit. Instead, Other M does a fantastic job of taking the chiseled femme fatale molded from past entries in the series and making her softer than a cake with more emotions iced on top than a teenage prom date.

Other M takes place immediately after Super Metroid, numero uno on my ‘Top Games of All Time’ list. The amazing opening cinematic gives instant familiarity to the sequence of events leading up to Samus’ recuperation; defeating Mother Brain & the remaining Metroids, and obliterating planet Zebes in her wake. It’s clear during that very cinematic that this is the most story-driven Metroid title to date. Then Samus takes a turn for the worse, continually spewing nonsense of her apparent post-mortem depression over the Metroid hatchling she’s aptly named “the Baby.”

Throughout the game we witness Samus dealing with issues of her past, confronting the challenges she had with her old commander, Adam Malkovich, as well as her old squad in the Galactic Federation. Her character comes across all too feminized and littered with PTSD. The game often focuses on her mug behind her mask, usually consisting of blank stares into nothingness, while she narrates about how confused and let on she is about the whole “situation,” as if it’s something out of the ordinary for her.

Samus stares into oblivion
Samus considers taking up cross-stitching.

The visuals are really something, though, especially for a Wii game. This is one of the strongest elements I feel the game has going for it. Environments and enemies take the form of familiar baddies as well as introduce some new evils. From the visual art styles to the color palette, everything about the game simply screams Metroid…until it starts moving. The interactivity is where those same visuals start to struggle. The animations feel sped up and choppy, as if playing Street Fighter II on turbo-mode. The melee & other special attack sequences are a nice touch, though. They add some interesting and fast-paced eye-candy, but just don’t make up for the bland and uninspired bosses. Lame.

In the audio department, traditional Metroid games are full of catchy and melodic music, interesting and unique blaster sounds, enemy screeches and whatnot. Contrastingly, Other M is loaded with an unmotivated score, more closely resembling something from the Metal Gear Solid series. Most of the blaster noise is taking directly from the Prime games, and sound effects range from a boring soundtrack of stock sounds to oddly chosen animal cries (Like a seagull! No, seriously…a seagull). You can barely tell the screams of the bosses apart. As for the “cinematic experience,” the script and voice acting sound like they suffer from a bad translation like an early 80s anime. “Mother. Time to go.” ……really?

The gameplay is relatively smooth and straight forward. You play with just the Wii Remote, holding it sideways like a traditional NES controller; not atypical of a majority of Nintendo games these days. Based on previews alone, one might think this would be ideal for a game that appears to take place on a fixed 2D plane. The only thing is…it fucking doesn’t. The game is, in it’s entirety, a three-dimensional third-person shoot’em up with a fixed camera system. Aim is automatic so long as your victims fall within the general direction you’re facing. Just mash the fire button and dodge the occasional incoming attack with Samus’ “Sense” move, performed by a simple tap of a direction on the D-pad. It’s a novel idea, but ultimately takes no skill to pull off. I found myself breezing through serious battles without a scratch by just pounding the shit out of a direction the whole time. The controls could definitely benefit from use of the nunchuk’s analog stick.

You also have the ability to switch to a first-person view by pointing the remote at the screen. A “quick flick” into your right hand allows you to see right out of Samus’ mask. In the instances where it’s used for exploration, this feature works great for finding small details in the environment, like hidden passages, or locking-on to specific targets like door power conduits. Also, the only way to fire anything but the standard beam, e.g. missiles, grapple, etc, is to switch to first-person, where the inability to move around becomes a real nuisance. Boss battles just beg for first-person action, oftentimes requiring it, causing that “quick flick” to rapidly turn into a “quick frustration.” Well, that’s cool…just dodge incoming attacks with the D-pad again, right? No. You’re locked into position. Where you goin’?! Nowhere!!

Other M in third-personOther M in first-person
The mid-battle switch from third- to first-person is a bitch, at best.

That brings me to the actual pace of the game. When one thinks of “Metroid” as a game series, one normally associates a moderately lengthy campaign, coupled with a sizable map that’s been spatter-painted with collectibles and power-ups, not to mention the encouragement to explore it all. I think I can safely say that none of this exists in Other M. Sure, the linear campaign can be upwards of 10 hours if you take your time, the map is varied across different “biospheres” of plant, ice, and lava, and there are power-ups riddled throughout the sectors like Easter Eggs, but the game doesn’t pull together like it should. The flow discourages exploration, and the whole thing feels like I’m a 4-year-old trapped in a cart being pushed through a toy store.

Doors constantly lock behind you as if you’ll never see that area again, only for it to be unlocked further into the mission revealing no real reason for it to be locked in the first place. Attempts to enter locked areas lead to Commander Malkovich raping your ear with, “What’s wrong?! Head to Sector 2!!” as if to slap your hand for trying to be exploratory. Then there are the parts where you’re supposed to explore; segments of hide & seek that induce headaches on par with locating that last word in a word-find. The game will literally force you into first-person and require you to scan nearly every pixel on the screen before you can progress. Eventually you stumble across something so blatantly obvious that you feel like a bumbling idiot for not finding it sooner.

Locked doors and blank stares
Hazy gazes and locked doors, the theme of Metroid: Other M

And don’t get me started on weapon & suit upgrades. Samus, a freelance bounty hunter badass agrees up front to following the orders of Commander Malkovich, a Galactic Federation figurehead, and in doing so she forfeits all of her upgrades as well. Throughout the game, you’ll be “authorized” to use higher power weaponry or suit upgrades via radio contact by Malkovich, seemingly opening the can during the most opportune, yet, predictable moments. How about… “I’m a bounty hunter, and you’re stuck in some imaginary hierarchy of a makeshift military. I’m gonna go ahead and use whatever the hell I want to defend myself while you sit comfortably on your ass in some command center safe from danger. kthxbye.”

I cannot express my utter disappointment that Metroid: Other M unfortunately falls short of my expectations, and what I believe are the standards set by every previous Metroid game in existence. The bottom line is that this game works well in concept. All of the art for the characters, enemies, level designs, etc, look nothing short of Metroid-worthy on paper. However their translation into 3D is lackluster. Everything leading up to actually playing the game gave me more goosebumps than any other game has in years. The live-action trailer alone sharply stung every ounce of me that was devoted to Metroid (live-action trailers are actually quite traditional of the Metroid franchise btw…). We’re talking about anticipation that’s a long time comin’, here! I mean, what’s not to get excited about promo videos full of 2D-esque action-packed gameplay, kickass live action commercials, and beautifully rendered cutscenes? The game itself. That’s what.

The Bottom Line: 2 (out of 5)
Team Ninja's stab at CrocomireMother Brain fucks some shit up
Team Ninja's stab at CrocomireMother Brain fucks some shit up

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Red Dead Redeemed for store credit

Posted by SpaghettiOh on Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010 in Gaming Life /Reviews
Red Dead Redemption Xbox 360 cover

I’m honestly not sure what to talk about first with this title. I don’t anticipate this to be a very long review, mostly because I’m so far beyond frustrated with the game that I don’t even want to talk about it anymore. But this information needs to be heard, and this game is in desperate need of some real criticism. The fluffy scores dished out by the various review sites seem evident of publisher buy-in. I guess that works, “I pay you enough money to advertise the game, you’d better give it a damned good score!” Not in my books! You don’t pay my bills, so I can bash the shit out of this sorry-ass game!

OK, that might be taking it a bit far. I can’t make such a dubious claim without presenting some sort of reason for my scrutiny, right?

Red Dead Redemption takes place at the dawn of the Mexican Revolution, and your character, *says in a Western voice* Mister John Marston, is stuck in the midst of a civilization that can’t seem to make up their damned mind about anything. I felt there were some strong tie-ins to the political climate of today, which wouldn’t be atypical of Rockstar, but there just wasn’t enough for me to rant and rave about the story much more than that. A majority of the dialog takes place on horseback or riding a carriage, which blends already screaming voices with the constant patter of hooves and dirt. Sure, it helps set the mood of the game, but I’m not sitting right next to the fart who’s squeaking, and I had a hard time telling what the hell they were talking about. No, I won’t turn captions on, for the same reason I don’t text and drive. Duh.


A biased Fable II review

Posted by SpaghettiOh on Saturday, September 12th, 2009 in Gaming Life /Reviews
Fable II cover

Yes, definitely biased; though, not biased in the way you might think. I, for one, will spill it straight up that I love this game as well as it’s predecessor on the original Xbox. I’m more than positive, however, that there is a plethora of people out there that absolutely loathe this franchise, and are keen to spouting off the creator, Peter Molyneux’s, name like they have beer with him every Friday. For some ungodly reason, they’ve had a horrible experience with either title, or have heard enough about someone else’s horrible experience to never want to play the game and take the stance of being the stubborn shit-head they are and not actually play it for themselves and declare independent thought.

I’m here, today, to be one of those people; a shit-head. You’re going to read a review on this game from a perspective of one that thinks less of Fable II than they might of their ex. For if one in favor of the title were to look past the charm, glamor, and tuxedo that is the game’s reputation by those that worship it, it’s actually quite easy to call the game out on its shortcomings. Because in all honesty, this game needs a lot of work.

Let’s talk about graphics! Those things that make up the reason the video game industry is still around, right? The glimmering shiny display of neatly organized polygons blended with a unique art style that, from things small to tall, look like they came straight out of a fairy-tale book. Take these concepts and mash them all together to form bland and generic templated houses, shops, towns, and wooded areas. What indeed looks absolutely amazing on paper (and it does… see concept artwork below) doesn’t end up looking all that stellar in a video game.


A walk on the Mirror’s Edge

Posted by SpaghettiOh on Monday, June 29th, 2009 in Reviews
Mirror's Edge

Mirror’s Edge is…a unique game. The demo available on Xbox Live sat on my hard drive for months before I actually played it. When I finally boot it up, it was a breath of fresh air to be greeted with the vibrant primaries against clean whites that make up a majority of ME‘s color palette. Quite the contrast from the plethora of grit & grime, post-apocalyptic mess that has been the video game industry as of late.

Not that this is much better, really. The game is set in a strict government regulated future where large amounts of cash are invested in keeping buildings clean and deploying armies of mindless gunslingers to take out rooftop ninjas carrying bright-yellow shoulder bags. Mirror’s Edge is first-person platformer that consists of scaling sky-scrapers and clearing gaps in between all while watching your girlie figure and maintaining your calluses. You play as Faith (or maybe Faythe; that would be cooler 🙂 ), a faithful employee of service “X” consisting of couriers, or “runners”, delivering “Y” to “Z” by hand to avoid conventional means of communication by keeping under the radar of a government that apparently closely resembles a Fourth Reich.

Mirror’s Edge definitely has a lot going for it. This is most apparent when you’re sprinting along ledges of rooftops hundreds of feet in the air jumping from one building to the next. The next platform lights up red, and you know you’re next jump is gonna be a doozy. Pick yourself up and zip line across the jagged skyline, fall a couple storeys & land into a roll, sprint to the door where you shoulder your way inside to a narrow corridor where you wall-jump up to the air-duct vent that leads outside & you do it all over again.


Call of Duty: World at War review

Posted by SpaghettiOh on Sunday, May 24th, 2009 in Gaming Life /Reviews
Call of Duty: World at War

The World War II genre of video games has become an extremely saturated market over the last couple years thanks to our friends over at Electronic Arts shitting out a new Medal of Honor title every six months. But it’s not just EA, really… check out this list. Of the 170+ games in that list, 135 of them were, or will be, released since 2000. This should give you a good idea of just how many games have cluttered such an interesting topic; one that might have people scratching their heads as to why anyone would even make a “game” about in the first place.

If you read the article I wrote on BIA:HH, you’d know that obviously I’m not all that thrilled on what’s happened in the industry to my favorite historical event. Not since the famed opening level in Medal of Honor: Frontlines, where you participate in a Saving Private Ryan-esque beach storming, has there been a WWII game as good as this. I say that with 100% sincerity, so you can go buy the game now.

I’ve never really been a fan of the Call of Duty titles; I always thought they were too stiff, boring, and inaccurate. That’s where this game helps the franchise take a turn for the better. As soon as the campaign starts up you’re pummeled with real archive footage of soldiers dodging bullets through trenches, seamen shooting Zeros out of the sky only to be kamikaze’d by another, and all the death, guts & glory that comes along with such an epic war. Hands down I knew right away this game was going to set some standards for the genre. The sheer fact alone that they used footage as graphic as what my eyes were just raped with meant that the developers at Treyarch were serious about this game.


Midnight Zen: A Midnight Club: Los Angeles review

Posted by SpaghettiOh on Monday, November 10th, 2008 in Reviews
Midnight Club: Los Angeles

The Midnight Club series has always been a favorite of mine in the racing genre. Los Angeles definitely does the franchise justice. The game is as fast-paced and thrilling as ever, and even tends to bring the borders of reality and simulation even closer; except when it comes to winnings and spending those winnings to upgrade your car. Underground racing games have always left this area far too exaggerated in my opinion, giving you way more than you’d ever expect to win in a real street race and getting to spend it at a parts store where the owner is apparently your bitch.

Since I don’t live in LA I couldn’t tell you as others might that significant landmarks are as easy or as hard to find in the game as they are in real life. From what I can tell, though, it definitely hits the spot when aiming to make the player feel like they are in a real city. Streets and buildings resemble everyday stores and stops, and the navigation screen is something of an eye-opener, bringing a Google Maps-like effect to the player after calling up the map. The traffic on the other hand…not so real. I often found myself easily keeping a steady pace over a buck-fifty on the highways and main streets. Hell, even the back alleys were a bit of a chuckle. Nothing, not even a dumpster, can withstand the sheer rage and madness of a Skyline roaring it’s way.

I’ve read/heard many complaints about the difficulty of the game, and I have to say… QUIT YOUR BITCHING! Rants range from checkpoints becoming difficult to find to the AI having some strange ability to rubber-band back to your general position. Seriously folks? Are we that spoiled with the difficulty curve on video games these days? Go back and play a few rounds of Contra would ya?

For me, this is where Midnight Zen comes to play.


Review: Dracula X – Nocturne in the Moonlight

Posted by SpaghettiOh on Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008 in Retro /Reviews
Nocturne in the Moonlight Saturn cover

Immediately following the events of Richter Belmont’s adventure, Rondo of Blood for the TurboGrafx-16, Dracula X – Nocturne in the Moonlight starts you off smack in the middle of the final boss fight against Dracula from the previous game in the Castlevania series. Known here in the U.S. as Castlevania – Symphony of the Night, Nocturne is the Japanese version of one of the best titles of the 32bit era. I had the privilege of playing the Sega Saturn exclusive version, which contains more areas of the castle to explore and additional features and dialogue than the PlayStation.

I first played this title when it was released as downloadable content on Xbox Live Arcade. Of course, that was the English port, but it was still enough to suck me into the decade old 2D adventure. Anyone who knows me knows that Super Metroid is my favorite game of all time, and Nocturne‘s gameplay is not far off. It’s a lengthy 2D RPG platformer that takes you through the bowels of Dracula’s castle in search of what’s caused Castlevania to come back into existence. Collecting a slew of weaponry, armor and items along the way, the main character, Alucard Tepes, is something of a recluse. He doesn’t talk much, but there’s honestly no need (Hell, Samus gets away with it…). On his journey he meets Maria, a sprite from Richter’s adventure searching the castle for him after his disappearance. They exchange awkward silences and facial expressions occasionally throughout the castle and eventually end up duking it out. You’ll see two different endings depending on the choice you make and/or items you collect.


Review: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Posted by SpaghettiOh on Monday, September 22nd, 2008 in Retro /Reviews
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars box art

When I first bought RPG back in the summer of ’96, I’d never played an role playing game before. I don’t even think I knew that this game WAS an RPG. I remember picking it up for two reasons: 1) because the cover was awesome looking; it has all these bright colors and looks very enticing – and 2) I wanted to make my friends jealous. 🙂

When I got the game home, I popped it in and I was pleased with it’s opening, music, and interface. One thing, though, left me confused; what was with this whole “battle system”? The concept of taking turns to fight each other was new to me, and it left me scratching my head as I tried to follow along with the guide I bought.

Twelve years later, I decided to play the game and take it seriously. I was trained at RPGs with good ol’ Final Fantasy VII, and have been a snob when it comes to RPGs ever since. Some I can play, some I absolutely love, and some I absolutely loathe. So, I set aside an hour or two every night before bed to get some pre-Paper Mario action in.


Mark Bozon should be a role model for everyone at IGN…

Posted by SpaghettiOh on Wednesday, September 17th, 2008 in Rants /Reviews
Mark Bozon @

As you know I’ve become more and more agitated with the lack of talent at IGN and have become more inclined to start looking elsewhere for game coverage. I’ve been going there for more than 10 years now, and a lot of the people there are just completely inexperienced with journalism and gameplay let alone the ability to give an unbiased review. These ARE two different things, but when you clash the two subjects it needs to be able to flow extremely well with an unbiased opinion.

I’m very sorry to say that as IGN has grown in size, they are proportionally growing less appealing to people that really care about video games and aren’t fanboys or just playing them for the sake of pop culture. As for knowledge of their competition, it feels like IGN has completely failed when it comes to this aspect of their industry. Most of the time the coverage and/or content is completely equal to that of Gamespot’s; the articles are nearly the same with a few words and emphasis changed here and there.


Seeing the greatest movie ever twice in one weekend still isn’t enough

Posted by SpaghettiOh on Monday, July 21st, 2008 in Movies /Reviews
The Dark Knight poster

The Dark Knight is easily the one of the best movies I’ve ever even thought about seeing, and seeing it the second time was just as pants-wetting. However, when the previews were over and I was still only looking at normal movie screen, I realized that my second experience with the film would hardly do justice against the previous viewing with the eight-storey tall IMAX version. The beginning of the movie wowed every soul in the theater as a collective gasp came over the audience during the opening shot of Gotham city covering the entire screen. The first six or so minutes consisted of straight IMAX-filmed movie that made everyone realize how absurdly large the screen actually is, only to be followed by the best 146 minutes anyone will probably ever experience in a movie theater.

If you’ve not seen the movie yet, I’ll do the honor in telling you to stop reading this and order your tickets now (then come back of course…). It lives up to everything you could ever want from a Batman movie and completely obliterates and puts to shame everything Batman up to this moment. At no point whatsoever during the film did I feel as though something could have been done differently. Every shot, camera angle, or word spoken was gracefully executed by some of the best film crew and actors Hollywood could possibly throw at a script with such high expectations.

Ledger’s performance as the Joker is absolutely golden, and unfortunately can never be looked forward to in a future title. When I originally heard of Ledger’s selection as the character, I was somewhat disappointed that other prospects were not chosen. As anticipation of the movie increased, and footage and understanding of the character slowly seeped from the set, I’ve grown to admire the staff’s choice of Ledger as the infamous Joker. In some ways I’d wished his laugh was a bit more maniacal and/or breathy, but in seeing his performance for the second time I caught on to, and admired much more, the sarcastic outlook on life and philosophy Ledger managed to pull off so effortlessly.