Tag Archives: platinum

FGC #348 Anarchy Reigns

Here comes the gang!So here’s why I only played an hour of Anarchy Reigns before dropping it forever.

Anarchy Reigns is a Sega/Platinum game from about four years back. As a Platinum game, it is required to be stylish, and incorporate a combat system that is maybe too complicated for its own good. As a Sega game, it is required to be a disappointing sequel. Anarchy Reigns might sound like a singular entry (I don’t see any 2’s in there), but it is technically the sequel to Mad World, a fairly amazing (but often forgotten) Wii title. And, yes, the official word is that Anarchy Reigns is merely a “spiritual sequel”, but like half the cast shows up here, and, ya know, the friggin’ main character is the same, so don’t play me like that, Sega. This is Mad World 2, and you only dodged that branding because people prefer their games to be in color.

But speaking of branding, Anarchy Reigns makes an excellent first impression… from an instruction manual perspective. Look, I’ve mentioned this before, but I am a complete sucker for… let’s call it “game data”. I spent my formative years pouring over Nintendo Power issues (would you like to know the difference between the playable characters in Castlevania 3? I could have fed you this information before I even saw the cartridge), and I spend my downtime nowadays reading the entire contents of random wikis. I know more minutia about the cast of SoulCalibur than should be allowed. And, come to think of it, the period when I was least interested in videogames, roughly the end of the N64 era/start of the Playstation 2 era, was also the time when I was reading about games the least (primarily because of a poor college kid’s budget concerns, and the internet hadn’t become the internet yet). So that “love of reading about videogames” will eternally be tied to titles that feature fresh, interesting characters. I might still be behind the times on Overwatch, but, even from a distance, I can see the appeal of learning about the finer points of Eskimo girl, angel girl, yellow spandex girl, and that one fat guy. Anarchy Reigns initially looks like it could fill that same niche with intricate backstories for chainsaw boy, Weeee!bull boy, fashionable boy, and that one purple woman. Want to tell me Mathilda is the unholy lovechild of a geometry teacher and The Grimace? That’s awesome! Let me get my credit card so I can buy seventeen art books about that one character! Start a game by offering the tiniest glimmer of “story” for this zany cast of characters, and you’ve got my attention from jump street.

And then the good times keep rolling on! Start the single player campaign, and Anarchy Reigns introduces you to its world with a crowded bar at the end of the world. In rapid succession, you’re shown a wasteland of a planet, its burly inhabitants, and, most importantly, a robot bartender with an adorable bowtie. And then we get treasurable characterization for our main heavies. Jack is a burly mess of a maniac, but he also defends the lovable robo bartender, so we know he’s got a heart of gold. Nikolai Bulygin is a crooked cop and obviously destined to be on the side of the devils when push comes to shove, and Leo is his subordinate that is unavoidably going to have a change of heart because everyone he works with is a complete asshole. And Sasha Ivanoff is a woman! Okay… all the instant characterization can’t be great, but the majority of it is pretty damn good. If this were a Persona game, this kind of plot dump would take 70,000 dialogue boxes and a quick detour through three cutscenes. Here, in all of five minutes, you basically know everything you need to know. It ain’t Shakespeare, but it’s pretty inviting for a new(ish) property. You’ve got your heroes, your villains, and the basics of who they are all in less time than it takes for Chris to get me that pizza I asked for like three hours ago. I’m still hungry, Chris!

Then the game properly starts.

Aaaaaand I couldn’t turn it off fast enough.

VrooooomAfter establishing cool characters with an interesting conflict in an exciting world, our first opponents are… random mutants. Okay, every game needs fodder, what’s our first mission? Kill fifty mutants? Oh, that’s super. And then… wait, didn’t I kill the mutants well enough? Now I have to do it again to gain more… uh… blood experience (?) to unlock the next mission? Fine, guess the game wants me to be prepared for the next challenge, which is inevitably going to be epic. Maybe I’ll fight one of those cool guys from the opening cinematic? Oh, no, guess not, as the next mission is fighting some reheated bull dude who has nothing to do with anything. Can’t be bothered to remember that dude’s name, but if it was “Bull Shit”, I wouldn’t be surprised. Okay, that’s done, let’s say we’re done with the opening tutorial bits and… Oh, Christ, it’s an escort mission. With generic mutants again! And somehow that didn’t wind up providing enough EXP to unlock the next mission! Time to do the thing I didn’t like in the first place again so I can unlock something that is maybe not as terrible.

And that would be about the point that the disc gets ejected.

I wouldn’t be half as mad if I didn’t know Platinum could do better. Great characters, great premise, great world… and then it’s wasted on generic bad guys that mean nothing. Look, I get it, not every battle can be exciting and significant, and you’ve got to have something for the player to do between amazing set pieces and… Wait a minute… This was produced by the same people behind Bayonetta. Wasn’t that a game that couldn’t go seven seconds without summoning a hair-based Godzilla to devour a flying church that was filled with blood angels attempting to devour all of time or whateverthehell was going on in that plot? Say what you will about Bayonetta (Lord knows I have) but it was never boring. It took its interesting characters, and had ‘em fighting multi-headed dragons before we even got to the title screen. There’s a reason that, despite all of its flaws, people actually played Bayonetta 1 & 2. And part of that reason is that every damned thing in that adventure had something to say. Here comes the hook!Repetitive “score attacks” were relegated to the background, and game progression was not based on experience accumulation, but whether or not you could ride a friggen’ missile after leaping off a motorcycle. That’s the diametric opposite of an escort mission! And it’s the reason no one is begging to see Jack in Super Smash Bros.

It’s entirely possible I’m being hard on Anarchy Reigns. I might be utterly wrong, and this is somehow a worthwhile game if “you just stick to it”. But when you toss all your potential out with the mutants in the opening moments, you leave a terrible impression, and, frankly, there are other games I could be playing right now. Mad World is right there! I could play that again! Why waste time on tedious games when there are so many options available? … No, seriously, not being rhetorical for once. What is it about Anarchy Reigns that makes it any better than any other game out there? I don’t know, and I’m not going to play another stupid escort mission to find out.

Sorry, Anarchy Reigns, I have better games to play. Maybe, next time you’ll actually make Mad World 3 motivating.

FGC #348 Anarchy Reigns

  • System: Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. I guess this means that this was one of those games that had online multiplayer that was free on one system, while subscription based on the other. Never quite understood how 360 wound up being the more popular system with that policy.
  • Number of players: Infinity multiplayer. Do we consider that “four”?
  • Let’s talk about multiplayer: Again, it seems like this title was intended as Overwatch before we had Overwatch. A colorful cast of original characters do not steal all battle it out in various arenas for online supremacy that means absolutely nothing. I don’t think loot boxes are involved, though. Regardless, I have never met a single human being that played this game online, so I never got to experience it for myself. Maybe it’s amazing! Or maybe it’s boring, because, come on, all of these characters play pretty much exactly the same. Nobody has an ice gun, either!
  • Sexual Dimorphism is a scourge: Mathilda has a spikey belt that hardens into a nail bat. That’s cool! She also presents herself for a rectal exam every time she uses her special move.

    What?

    That’s not so cool.

  • Did you know? Bayonetta did eventually slum it in this universe as DLC. I feel bad for her. She is much too stylish for this broken world.
  • Would I play again: If one of you convinces me this game is good, actually, I might give it a shot. But you’d have to be pretty damn convincing!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Tetris Axis for the Nintendo 3DS! That’s much better than Tetris Access, the rarely seen database management software that is wall-to-wall squares. Please look forward to it!

What?

FGC #303 NieR: Automata

Note: This review will involve a lot of spoilers for any game with “NieR” in the title. It’s unfortunately inevitable, and if you’d like to go into the franchise “clean”, I would recommend avoiding this article until you’ve completed both games. Or don’t, and realize why you should finish both games. Regardless, you’ve been warned.

Today’s game is NieR: Automata, the sequel to NieR: Gestalt. Both of these games are emblazoned with this lovely little logo:

Mature!

This is appropriate, as Yoko Taro has somehow been responsible for the most emotionally mature videogames in the medium.

Kinda glitchyMind you, that is a pretty low bar to clear. As an obvious example, every Grand Theft Auto game has been rated as “Mature”, so Rockstar has taken the “only adults are supposed to play this” mandate to heart and written grandiose, developed stories meant to appeal to an exclusively aged demographic. Ha ha ha, just kidding, Grand Theft Auto games are more about seeing how many times the number 69 can be inserted into random conversations than it is ever about telling a “real” story about violence in America… or whatever they’re shoveling into their press releases this week. And even if you take the GTA series completely seriously, you have to acknowledge that the franchise is fairly limited in perspectives. Would you like to play as the angry white guy, the angry black guy, or the angry and balding white guy? Yes, you could argue this thin characterization is the result of having to present a protagonist that might surf cars and play with a rocket launcher in his (inevitably “his”) spare time, but I know plenty of psychopaths, and they do have a slightly broader emotional range than “always irritated all the time.” People are people, Rockstar, not robot animals.

NieR: Gestalt (note: that will be the last time I type “Nier” with correct capitalization) is what could easily be the story of one angry white dude. And we’re going to spoil that game first…

FGC #145 Bayonetta

So coolThis old man has a complaint: why does everything have to be cool?

Today’s game is Bayonetta. Do I need to explain Bayonetta at all? Since its release six years ago (and even before), Bayonetta has been the subject of a lot of videogame news coverage. Good news: this isn’t a Time Killers or Hatred situation, Bayonetta is, from an objective perspective, a good game. It’s a Platinum action/beat ‘em up game, which means good things for anyone that enjoys a lot of action. Need to unlock a door? A key is boring, how about throwing the doors wide by dodging a bolt a lightning. It worked for the titular Bayonetta, and it worked for some truck robots a few years later. And it’s not just about squeezing excitement out of a game’s every pore, Platinum games are all about careful, deliberate challenges that start small and scale to extreme levels. Whether you’re summoning a hair monster or revengencing yourself upon your enemies, Platinum generally knows how to show the player a good time.

The bad news, though, is that Bayonetta got a lot of attention for its… let’s say questionable aesthetic. According to the head honcho of Bayonetta’s development, everyone’s favorite pop sucker was designed every step of the way with “sexiness” in mind. Her gun-heels, magic hair, and general personality type were all designed to titillate. Personally, I find this idea fairly ridiculous, as I believe it was Sharkespeare that said “I know sexiness only when it swims up and bites me on the ass.” In other words, sexiness is interpreted by the audience, and Bayonetta fits a very narrow interpretation of seduction. Personally, I didn’t even think about it until the game has these two standing next to each other…

The girls

… And I realized that maybe Bayonetta isn’t even completely shaped like a human. We’re not quite in the realm of Liefieldian anatomy yet, but we’re still hovering somewhere around “what is wrong with that woman?” Sorry, I know it’s a personal hang-up, but I demand my objects of desire actually look like humans. So, yes, pose and preen all you want, witch, I’m still seeing a woman about as desirable as a Gardevoir.

But that’s the thing about this whole debate: Bayonetta is a divisive character because she’s so stylistically unique. Whether you think she is a “sexy” character, an empowering character, or an object to be ogled, she was basically designed to be everything, so your reading is equally valid. Yes, she’s an objectified heroine, but she also kicks a metric ton of ass through brains and brawn, so she’s a fine role-model. … I mean, if you’re into that kind of thing. It’s all up to your interpretation, and if someone disagrees with that, fine, that’s how opinions work.

But there is one thing Bayonetta absolutely is. She may or may not be sexy. She may or may not be objectified. She may or may not even be remotely realistic. All of that is up for debate. But there is one thing I can say with absolute certainty.

Bayonetta is cool.

And, honestly? I’m tired of cool. Videogames shouldn’t overwhelmingly feature cool characters.

Even the shops are cool!Now, to be clear, this isn’t some old nerd ranting about the days when he used to get transformed into an eggplant and like it, dammit; no, this is about how videogames work. Have you played Bayonetta? When you first started, were you any good at it? Did you score an S rank on every battle, or were you limping along with a sliver of health? Bayonetta’s gameplay is all about dodging, so how good were you at dodging angel monsters and giants (and giant monsters) you had never seen before? Yes, you might be an S-class angel slayer now, but I’m going to guess you weren’t when you first picked up the controller. You got better at Bayonetta, and, technically, Bayonetta herself got better with you.

Except… from level one (even before that if we’re including cutscenes and prologues) Bayonetta was already cool. She was already harvesting the hosts of Heaven and dropping pithy one-liners with or without your help. If anything, you playing as Bayonetta made her less cool. Way to go, poindexter.

I maintain that Mega Man X is the ur-videogame, because the titular X grows exactly in pace with the player. X gains abilities as “you” find upgrades (and learn to explore the stages), defeat bosses (and learn their patterns/weaknesses), and maybe even acquire a hadouken Totally rad(and learn to read Nintendo Power). This is perfectly mirrored in the plot, as old, “outdated” X must be rescued by cool Zero during the opening stages (when you’re absolutely more likely to be running low on health while getting acquainted with the controls anyway), but is able to avenge and triumph where Zero fails much later during the final siege. Mega Man X doesn’t start cool, but he gets there, and eventually surpasses the game’s own definition of cool (who, in retrospect, I guess is kind of a zero).

But modern (predominantly Western) videogame character design wants to skip to the end from the first moment. Bayonetta is never not cool. Nathan Drake is never not cool. Kratos, God of War, is never not cool. And, in cases like Kratos, sometimes the “cool” character is rewarded time and time again for simply being an asshole. Kratos ushers in the apocalypse on more than one occasion, and the narrative seems to be unironically shouting, “Are you not entertained!?” Kratos killed everyone in Ancient Greece (literally), and because of his unimpeachable coolness, you’re supposed to celebrate his victory.

This, really, is my issue with the character that must always be cool. It creates the dual problems of “there’s nowhere to go but up” (which is antithetical to how videogame skills work) and “they’re cool, so they must be right”. Bayonetta, let’s face it, is kind of a jerk to everyone in her immediate area. Her abilities on the battlefield are empowering and unrivaled, but she also treats nearly every other character in the cast like a clown. But it’s okay! Because she’s cool! It’s all in good fun, what’s to worry about? Well, how about the fact that she’s yet another hero in yet another game that acts like everyone that isn’t the protagonist is disposable? In a medium that has an unfortunate stereotype about attracting a number of antisocial loners, maybe we shouldn’t be elevating the concept of “I’m the hero, I’m the only person in the world.”

GulpBut, hey, ya know, it’s cool. Cool heroes and heroines sell videogames, nobody wants to play as some tubby guy in overalls or some kind of anonymous goat herder. We want to be the coolest right now, and damn character or skill development. Who cares about empathy for the less privileged when you’ve got snarky comebacks?

Bayonetta is yet another too cool heroine fighting against a world of squares. She’s the only thing in her world that matters, and I feel like that should matter more.

FGC #145 Bayonetta

  • System: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and, in a late entry, the WiiU.
  • Number of players: There can be only one “coolest”.
  • So your ideal videogame heroine is…: Tina Belcher. Obviously.
  • Hail to the Sega: Space Harrier and Hang-On, classic Sega arcade games, both get dedicated levels. I barely noticed the Hang-On stage, but, despite my general shooter prowess, I got hung-up on the Space Harrier stage for what seemed like ages. I want to say it was because its checkpoint distribution may not have been all that great, but it also might be because I have never been good at Space Harrier.
  • Admit it, you’re not very good at this game: I’m not! I’ve completed Bayonetta, but I simply don’t have the reflexes to finish everything with S rank or gain enough coin to buy out that shop. It’s really what got me thinking about this, because Bayonetta is always like, “Oh, I am simply the best,” while I’m looking at a health gauge hovering around zero and a rank that nets me a statue of a fat guy falling down.
  • NOW!Quick Times: Oh, and all quick time events should be thrown into a fire. All of them.
  • Favorite Angel: It comes early, but Beloved gets my vote. Nothing like a giant baby-faced golem towing around an axe the size of a small house.
  • Did you know? I’m still disappointed that the announcer for Super Smash Bros. 4 doesn’t faux-whisper, “Bayonetta” whenever the character is
    selected.
  • Would I play again? I keep meaning to play the WiiU version… but Bayonetta 2 is right there (even in the same case!), and I feel like that game is an improvement in every way. Well, it’s still overly cool…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… X-Kaliber 2097 for the SNES! This… this isn’t an X-Men game, is it? Just very 90’s? Alright. Well, please look forward to it!