Posts tagged ‘3DS’

Kokuga

Hiroshi Iuchi’s career has been a wandering one: he began at Konami, moved to treasure, left treasure for another company, and then came back to Treasure only to leave again. At treasure he created Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga to shumps aka shooters that received intense critical praise and one of which will be heading to steam in a few weeks. Both games shared unique mechanics Radiant Silvergun equips the player with 3 different types of shots that can be combined to create new iterations on existing weapons. Using them effectively is the challenge. Ikaruga on the other had let the player flip between black or white eliminating damage from projectiles of the matching coloring. Each game is also littered with boss fights, some more intense than the last. That’s what makes his latest game Kokuga such a surprise.

Kokuga is a mobile tank shump. It takes place in a much slower place than Radiant Silvergun did. Shots fired in Kokuga have a limited range, luckily your tank’s fire goes much further than your enemies. What Kokuga emphasizes is precision: you can not shoot another shot until your shot has landed. The result is a lot of strafing if you’re not really precise. Aiming is handled by the right and left bumpers making rotating your barrel a bit of a chore. This also sounds bad, but it’s really quite refreshing. Kokuga wants us to think ahead, we have to plan and predict where the next is going to be and then move in for the kill. It takes Iuchi’s previous experiments with strategy and boils it down to minute movements and small predictions. Kokuga manages to make a shooter feel very tactical. This tactical sense is further enforced by the addition of cards. The tank can be temporarily upgraded using a card from the touch screen. Some enemies are more easily dispatched this way, and others practically require an upgrade to take down. The upgrades are limited, but not so much that you run out. However you can only see 3 at a time so if you need a shield regeneration effect, you might need to burn a few before you find a heal. It borrows the card idea from board games at puts it to great effect in a shooter.

Graphically Kokuga is sparse. The polygons are simple and developer G.Rev is known for their shoe string budges and financial difficulties. However, the sparseness of the backgrounds and unit design means you see each shot coming. This is not a shump with overwhelming backdrops. The level design is peculiar to, the game offers 4 endings that can be experienced after beating only a handful of VR missions. The last missions are tough and take place in a warzone while the VR missions are more like a computer training ground.

What I love about Kokuga is the obvious sense of design that went into this. It asks that you create constraints on your play time and lets you go straight to the end. It also feels remarkably tactical while maintaining the real time stress of a typical shooter. It shows what we also kinda new about Iuchi: that he plans his games out. Kokuga is an amazing documents for anyone looking to further their understanding of game design.

November 7, 2013 at 2:56 pm Leave a comment

Find Mii or empowerment, the princess in distress

The vast majority of games deal with empowerment. Skyrim turns you into a bad ass, many FPS games similarly build the character into a gun toting colusus, and Guild Wars 2 level syncs were derided by some because it failed to make the average character feel powerful. Empowerment is usually what we build in games either through skill or through simple accumulation of credits and special abilities. It is also a fantasy primarily associated with a masculine becoming in gender.

I bought a 3ds in April and have been walking around with street pass on for the last few weeks to try out the mii plaza games. Here is how it works, you make a mii and share it via street pass, your mii in turn is traded via wifi to other 3ds owners who in turn you get a mii from. The result is a surprisingly engaging game of vanity, every person I have made contact with has hats well beyond my level and other vanity items I have yet to acquire. It makes me feel surprisingly self-conscious about my mii because I want to impress and delight other as much as the crazy ones I’ve picked up have. Of the two miis I’ve collected both were pretty awesome and made me laugh. Street pass increased the virtual connection, the identification with my avatar by making dress a social and location based commodity. It made the Miis more valuable by making them scarce and special. Then there are the games.

Find Mii is a game in which your Mii is disempowered. Your Mii, like Princess Peach, is stuck in a cage at the end of a dungeon. You are the princess in the dungeon in this game. It’s a strange sensation for me because I am so used to games making me feel powerful, yet I love this camaraderie of 3DS ownership and seeing these street passed Miis try to take out Ghosts in a very jrpg style. The game creates a connection between players and then uses that connection to have someone else’s Mii (which you play as no less) go out to rescue your Mii. It’s a strangely disempowering experience, yet works surprisingly well as a game, it might be the best location based game I have ever seen. What does Fnd Mii say about the relation between player and avatar especially as you experience the actual avatar playing the game as foreign while identifying with your own avatar in the cage? It’s interesting that representing a disempowered and to some extent feminine fantasy in gaming took the creation of location based games to increase your connection with the avatar and then a simple swap of that stronger identification to make you feel like some strangers are coming to rescue you. It really says a lot about the potential of game play outside of physical controllers.

When we talk about and design games we often do with the implicit assumption of a joystick, games are emotionally established and carried by a general assumption of a single player story driven joystick controlled game. That using other interfaces like location and touch can bring unexpected emotional resonance to a game should not be unexpected, yet what Find Mii and Street Pass are proving is that location games can show peculiar places in game designs and take us on metaphors more provocative than just empowerment.

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July 16, 2013 at 12:25 am Leave a comment

Etrian Odyssey IV and Zeno Clash 2

These are just two quick observations on two really great games.

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Etrian Odyssey IV
3DS

Ok first thing, this game has a demo, download it first. etrian odyssey is surprising in that it’s all about being an RPG: stats matter, grinding is common, you make runs on certain enemies to collect the components for certain weapons, and it’s a first person dungeon crawler think Legend of Grimrock. It is surprisingly light on story, for a genre well known for elaborate cinematics Etrian Odyssey dares to do something special: stand on it’s own as a game. What makes it really special is how perilous the game feels, each bear that hunts you down, every random encounter really helps or hurts, the game doesn’t offer empowerment fantasies, rather it makes self-esteem in oodles of cases. Mapping out each dungeon, or going back to defeat some pesky boss: the game really makes you sink time in to accomplish something, and the results are fruitful. In other words it’s a great little game which will reward careful and cautious play.

Zeno Clash 2
PC / Steam

The original Zeno Clash was such a delight because it dared to go into the grounds that magazines like Heavy Metal put forward. It’s characters were punks, driven by little more than libidinal excuses and a world surreal enough to contain terribly human desires. The problem is, the second game rests on a Hollywood like premise, it’s opening is full of action movie cliches, and while it maintains a few intriguing points (it questions the genetics of family and the establishment of discipline) Zeno Clash is at it’s best when the it’s desires come to the forefront and primitivism triumphs over logic, sadly it’s predictable opening destroys much of what made the original great. Then you get into it, as the game progresses it gets better and the details begin to come alive again and the strange primitivism surrealism, the way it denies internal logics in favor of a frank acceptance of things as weird a they are begins to start again. The game is beautiful and has a few Metrodvania elements to it, the addition of weapons surprisingly works rather well, Ace Team knows how to be creative, and Zeno Clash 2 got me once again with the twist, but the weapons are what makes it cool and improve the fighting aspects. I haven’t finished it yet, but if the opening upsets you, just keep playing it gets better the further you go inside.

May 31, 2013 at 1:47 pm Leave a comment


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