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ROBOTIC GAMING MONTHLY – Destiny, Danganronpa, and Death at The Hands of Freddy

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Art by CitrusKing46

Welcome another edition of Robotic Gaming Monthly, Topless Robot’s monthly column devoted to whatever in the wide words of video games has washed up recently!

This time around, it’s pretty much a full-on review special as we tackle ten different games for your enjoyment! We won’t say what they are, but will indeed say that they are some super titles that will absolutely smash the competition and provide massive enjoyment for brothers and sisters of all ages! So let’s get on with the show!

Well, first, last month kind of led to our most commented-on edition yet, which was good news…of course, the bad news is that seemingly no one actually made it past the first page. I realize that GamerGate is the most prominent issue out there right now, but fer cryin’ out loud, I spent like half an hour just stating the blatantly obvious, mainly “THIS ALL BE STUPID AND RAPE THREATS BE BAD”, which naturally provoked countless conversations about the whole issue and several insults against Sarkeesian, despite having blatantly stated that one’s opinion of her work wasn’t the issue here.

The point is, between all that, having to do ten reviews this month, and the fact that I don’t really have anything unique to say about what happened in gaming news this month (and the fact that Greggory already handled Microsoft’s purchase of Mojang in-depth), I’m just gonna handle things in bullet point form for this edition when it comes to the editorial/news bits. I may have to keep this format up until the holiday season ends…anyhow, let’s just slip into rapid-fire mode!

EA apparently wants to invest in the newly-unveiled iWatch, believing in it as a legitimate gaming platform. Sorry, but no. It’s a f***ing watch. I mean, it might be able to play games, but I definitely do not see it as some sort of future for video games. Honestly, this here looks like a more accurate future for gaming on the iWatch. Then again, I also ridiculed the iPad as well in the past…

Hollywood’s plans for an upcoming Tetris film. Okay, how…how do you even do this??? I mean, we’ve had a history of making game adaptations out of those with the most basic plots…I mean, hell, at one point we even had a friggin’ Pole Position cartoon:

…And yet even that makes more sense than a Tetris film, because Tetris has no plot. And yet they want an epic sci-fi film? Did they not see how Battleship did? Or did they just see Guardians of the Galaxy and realize…wait…are they afraid the success of GotG means that the public might want more risky epic sci-fi films, so they’re creating an intentional bomb to destroy the public’s interest in the genre? Oh my god, you evil bastards…

Time magazine had an actual war photographer try out the photo mode in The Last of Us: Remastered. A neat idea, but his observations of the game seem like he’s trying a little too hard to come off as deep and philosophical. Still, nice pics, but I’m with everyone else in challenging him to play Spec Ops: The Line as a follow-up. You want to experience the utter horror of war and a serious blow to a gamer’s emotions? That’s how you do it.

– Having not learned anything from Obsidian’s Fallout: New Vegas controversy, Bungie apparently agreed to Activision offering them a $2.5 million bonus if Destiny’s Metacritic score was 90 or higher. I’m guessing this deal was struck before the hype train had left the station, because I doubt Bungie would have agreed to this if they knew they were essentially tasked with creating the gaming equivalent of the Second Coming. Seriously people, please stop seeing Metacritic as the absolute definitive opinion, especially if you actually have money riding on it somehow. Hell, the fact alone that Metacritic promotes the idea of any game below a 75 being absolute garbage these days is enough of a clue to not put too much faith in them.

Alright, so with a quick burst of headlines over, let’s move on to this edition’s main event! Reviews ho!


One man, ten video game reviews, including the supposed biggest game of the year. How far until he eventually breaks down sobbing? Let’s find out!

Destiny

Typically I try to do these reviews in alphabetical order, but there was just no escaping Destiny, appropriately. Activision had sunk upwards of $500 million into the game, locked down a contract guaranteeing more Destiny games over the next ten years, and sent the hype train into ludicrous speed for the past year or so because screw free will, Activision has already decided what the defining game of this generation will be for you. Hell, if they could find a way to actually make it a law for everyone to purchase a copy of Destiny, they would.

So I admit my relationship with Destiny started out a bit rocky, with me not determined to buy into the game’s hype. But alas, it is still my job to look past the hype and at the game underneath, and over time, I thought it was shaping up to be something nice. I did not think it was going to be anything revolutionary, despite what Bungie and Activision kept suggesting. I mean hell, that was kind of blatantly obvious. But at the very least, it still looked like a fun shooter. So now that this supposed legend is finally here, how did it fare with me?

Well, the best way I can describe it is…I sort of have a love/hate relationship with it, I guess.

Let’s start with the story. It’s the future, humanity’s f***ed as usual, but has at least managed to improve space travel, and a giant white celestial body known as “The Traveler” hovers above the last safe city on Earth, and gives Guardians like you special abilities to help protect Earth from various alien enemy forces. After character creation, you are woken up by a floating robot sidekick known as a “Ghost” voiced by Peter Dinklage, whereupon the game tells you “It wasn’t the end…it was the beginning.”

No, it was the end. Because actually saying those words started the first stroke on the ol’ checklist of clich?s, and things go downward from there into a pit of pure unoriginality.

I honestly do not think I can remember any notable details or names from Destiny’s plot. Really, all I understood was “Go to space, kill aliens, save humans, winner is you.” The enemies themselves are an uninspired lot, with the games having you face down various enemy alien factions with names such as “The Darkness” and “The Fallen”. And it is quite a testament to the game’s utter blandness when it comes to plot and character design that I didn’t even realize those were supposed to be two different alien races until I entered one story mission where the two were fighting each other.

Speaking of story missions, allow me to explain how they tend to go: You go into an area, fight off a few enemies, enter an area with no respawning, reach a machine containing some sort of information you need, deploy Ghost to scan that information, then fight off a few whole waves of enemies before a boss appears (which is typically just an enhanced version of a regular enemy). Lather, rinse, repeat. This is all about as repetitive as me making an analogy about how repetitive this all is after this sentence ends. In other words, this is all about as repetitive as going back and reading the previous analogy about repetitiveness again. It probably doesn’t help that all of the waves of enemies seem more suited for a full party of MMO players then someone going at it solo. Whenever I died, I almost felt the game going “Died because you couldn’t bring any friends with you? Well tough luck, saddo!”

As for complaints that everyone else has already made but that I’m obliged to cover as well, a lot has been made about Peter Dinklage’s less-than-standard performance as Ghost, but in all honesty, it seemed to me like less about turning in a horrible performance and more about the terrible script. After all, when your character seems to only exist just to spout technical jargon and exposition at least 85% of the time, it’s hard to make things sound exhilarating. The few moments he’s allowed to get any levity in, you can see hints of a better performance (and game) that should have been. Hell, compared to countless amounts of the other characters having zero personality, he’s pretty much the one-eyed bot leading the blind. There’s also the game’s much-maligned loot drops…but I honestly couldn’t care about them. Look, as long as bullets come out of my gun and can cause what’s in front of me to cease living in an effective fashion, I do not give the tiniest s*** whether my weapon has a purple rarity or not.

So if I found Destiny to be bland in several areas, why do I mention having a love/hate relationship with it? Well, remember how I said Destiny looked like a fun shooter? Turns out…well, it still pretty much is a fun shooter. Or at least a competent one, anyway. The controls are nice and easy to get used to, combat is hectic but never impossible (mostly), and the enemy AI is pretty much at the perfect setting. After all, the mission structures and designs may be dull, but there is at least a nugget of enjoyment buried in them. And once you unlock multiplayer (assuming you have a PlayStation Plus membership), it’s quite a blast, even if matchmaking gets a tad unbalanced at times (or you just have players abusing the Loot caves too much). Not to mention it’s also a pretty fun way to level up as opposed to the traditional grinding, but even then the game still manages to offer you a good chunk of bounties, objectives, and side missions to pull off, ensuring you always have something to do (even if repetitive repetitiveness threatens to strike again).

Also, I’d be lying if I didn’t say the graphics were flippin’ fantastic. Destiny does indeed pride itself on its vast open worlds, and even the most clich?d sci-fi environments still have the ability to strike some awe and wonder into you when you see them. This is especially true of Venus, a.k.a. the part of the game where crap begins to at least seem vaguely interesting. Heck, even Ghost’s little Rubik’s Cube-style movements alone are a neat little touch to behold. Also, you can summon a hoverbike out of nowhere with a single button press. Don’t know how this relates to anything, but you can instantly summon a hoverbike that you ride around on the Moon, and I’d say that’s got to count for something.

Really, Destiny is functionally a very good shooter sadly trapped within the plot and structure of something more mediocre. I’ve heard people say things get more exciting once you hit Level 20, which makes me realize that the game suffers from what I call Final Fantasy XIII Syndrome. If people keep insisting that your game begins to get better after about fifteen hours or so, then YOU. ARE. DOING. IT. WRONG.

Destiny is an ever-growing MMO, and hopefully new additions to it over time will bring more variety in the missions and better bits of story. But for now, whether or not you should pick it up is a bit questionable. If you just want an MMO shooter to entertain you with gunfights or provide some multiplayer, I could recommend it. But if you want something with more depth, move along. Because while Destiny’s tagline may be “Become Legend”, it still has quite a ways to go before it justifies all that money spent on it.

Angry Birds Stella

I was honestly kind of surprised to hear that Angry Birds Stella was released this month, as it had seemingly flown under the radar a bit (pun not intended) in comparison to other Angry Birds titles (the merchandise may have stormed the toy aisles, though). Maybe it’s just because it doesn’t carry the same weight as a brand name such as Star Wars or Transformers, but it is a little discouraging to see the version aimed at younger girls to get a bit of the shaft.

Of course, after playing it, I discovered a few reasons why you might want to give it the shaft anyway.

So yes, it’s an Angry Birds game aimed more at younger girls. Thankfully, what could have been an annoying case of just being Angry Birds for Girls tends to be more along the lines of Angry Birds: Friendship Is Magic, with a cast of plucky young avian heroines (Stella, Poppy, Luca, Willow, and Dahlia) setting out on a quest to stop the evil Gale, a rogue bird who now commands her own army of pigs. I really liked the character designs – cute and memorable – while also showing Stella and her friends, typically dabbling in the arts, promoting the positive messages of creativity and friendship. The graphics are also nice and vibrant, lush without ever really coming off as too “girly” or anything.

So I start the game, get through the first couple of tutorial levels, and…Oh. A commercial for another mobile game has suddenly appeared on my screen. Did I mention that Stella is a free game?

I mean, I know you still have to earn a living somehow, but soon there were commercials after every freaking level. Quite the pain in the ass indeed after a while. Still, I can live with it, I can live with it. So I make it through the first set of levels to the first boss…at which point the pigs drop a smoke bomb onto the map screen, and a message appears saying that the smoke will clear in one hour.

And there’s another message saying that I can instantly clear the smoke by spending any of the coins that I had earned during the game so far…and that if I didn’t earn enough coins during the game, here’s a handy-dandy link to a menu that lets you exchange real money for coins.

It was at this point that I considered saving up my money for a flight to Finland instead so I could personally ram a lead pipe up a Rovio executive’s ass. I mean, ads and microtransactions? In all my life I never thought I’d think “Wow, do I sure wish this video game wasn’t free” but somehow, you found a way for me to go there.

Believe me, it gets worse. Aside from the fact that the wait lengths the smoke bombs create reach heights of five hours later on in the game, Stella pretty much tries to soak you for coins at every turn. Need an extra bird to complete the level? Can’t wait for that hammer power-up to reload? Just spend some coins! And it becomes more evil later on when you note that the number of birds you have per level is determined by how many total stars you have, and it comes to the point where you need coins to earn stars and stars to earn coins, again trying to force you to cough up some cash in any way possible. Thankfully you can still beat the levels with the birds they provide, which was good news as I was determined not to give them even one of my hard-earned coins, lest I start playing into their scheme.

I really hate to say this about a game aimed at young girls, but Angry Birds Stella really comes across as kind of a high-maintenance whore, asking you for cash at every turn in exchange for pleasure. And it’s a shame too, because there actually is still a fun game underneath all the reckless greed. Mind you, it’s nothing new, just fling the birds at the rickety structures and pop the piggies, but the puzzles are still designed well and the special abilities the birds have this time around are fun to use (particularly Dahlia’s nicely-named “Science Kung-Fu” where she teleports into an area and appears with a spinning kick that sends everything flying). It’s still the Angry Birds you know and love, but sadly wrapped in a cynical cash grab (well, even more so than usual).

You could say that Angry Birds Stella is still kid-appropriate, but in no way would I actually let a kid of mine play it. Aside from getting them frustrated over having to take hour-long breaks in between games, it would practically insult any kids of mine by exploiting any lack of skill they may have in order to wrangle more coins and even real money out of them. If Angry Birds Stella were sold for five dollars or so and featured a whole game without ads or any interruptions, I might rethink my opinion of it. But as is, any fun and positive examples the game sets are sadly negated. Stella, you are indeed puttin’ me through Hell-a (there, I made the obvious joke so you don’t have to).

Azure Striker Gunvolt

So I think we’ve all sadly accepted the fact that Capcom won’t be making a new Mega Man game any time soon, which means that we now have to start turning towards acceptable substitutes to fill that robot-shaped hole in our heart. Shovel Knight was a great piece of work inspired mostly by classic Mega Man games, and creator Keiji Inafune is busy making his own spiritual successor with Mighty No. 9, but he’s also pitched in some help towards a lesser-known successor as well (from the same folks who helped make the Mega Man Zero games, no less), Azure Striker Gunvolt. And if the name alone didn’t tip you off to its roots (Azure Striker = Blue Bomber), they shine through in the game itself, which is a fun little old-school romp.

Our story kicks off in the near future with Gunvolt sent on a mission to assassinate a psychic pop star belonging to the evil Sumeragi Group, whom you can tell are evil simply by virtue of the fact that they are a corporation in a science fiction story. Gunvolt goes against his orders and decides instead to rescue Joule, the 13-year old psychic controlling the pop star, who he then takes care of. What follows soon is Gunvolt’s efforts to help out a resistance force known as QUILL. Sumeragi has been supervising the psychics who have emerged in this future you see, and by “supervising” I mean “sticking them in camps and turning them into soldiers to hunt other psychics”. And thus things truly kick off with the standard Mega Man-esque Stage Select screen, where you choose which area you want to head to next, but not before talking to Joule so that her song might end up helping you in battle if needed.

No, seriously. Joule can actually use the song from her avatar Lumen to possibly bring you back to life once, but only if you talked to Joule prior to entering a stage. Weird, but helpful.

Anyhow, as for the actual gameplay, Gunvolt tends to play a lot like Mega Man Zero (shocking, I know), with the standard run/jump/shoot/wall climb action. The unique bits come with Gunvolt’s Flashfield, a psychic power of his. Just have Gunvolt shoot some enemies to lock onto them and then activate the Flashfield by holding down one button to render them extra crispy. Of course, the Flashfield uses up energy points which tie into his other special ability: Afterimage, which allows him to evade any enemy attack instantly and take no damage as long as he’s standing still…except this uses up energy points as well, so it tends to be a challenge between making sure you manage the two properly…which wasn’t hard, as I rarely used Afterimage often.

Electrifying enemies is just more fun anyway, and your EP recharges over time, or if you press the down button on the control pad twice (which feels kind of redundant, and not much help in the more high-octane battles that require you to concentrate on what’s going on).

You can also unlock new skills and weapons as you progress throughout the game, because again, Mega Man. You can alter your Flashfield and gun at the shop to give them different effects and fit Gunvolt up with skills such as health restoration and the summoning of big-ass swords to take down enemies, each costing a different amount of Skill Points given. So there’s a good degree of customization available, allowing for numerous strategies on how to best tackle each level. There’s also the ability to develop new equipment via crafting…which is pretty much useless since the only way to gain materials is via seemingly random challenges or picking materials at random for your end-of-level reward. It’s safe to say you’ll probably get at least halfway through the game without ever crafting a single item, alas.

The level design itself is mostly linear but inspired, with each stage naturally having its own unique gimmick and obstacles, as per tradition, be it magnetic platforms, catapults, or the spurting of bodily fluids (seriously). I wish I could say that the enemy designs were as inspired, though, with most of them coming off as rather vanilla. This is in almost stark contrast to the bosses, who have a lot of personality, color, and tend to put up quite a challenge. Remember that bit about Lumen’s song possibly bringing you back to life? Yep, you’re gonna need it. The boss battles are a true highlight of the game, providing you with that Nintendo Hard challenge you crave oh so much.

Overall, Azure Striker Gunvolt is another shot of old-school Mega Man-style gameplay we still very much need and crave. While there are a few niggles here and there, it proves to be a satisfying download that comes highly recommend. Especially to Capcom employees. Seriously guys, this. All we want is this. IS THAT TOO HARD??


D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die

Lately, I’ve given myself a new rule that I won’t review episodic games until all episode have been released, typically because one or two episodes don’t exactly provide an accurate judgement of the entire season/game as a whole (hence why despite the numerous accolades its been given, I haven’t mentioned Kentucky Route Zero before). But special cases must be made now and then, particularly in the case of D4 here. For one, Microsoft sprung its release on us quite suddenly last month, and details about exactly how many episodes there are and when they’ll be released are kind of scarce. Second, given how I kind of chose this as one of the best games at E3 and wrote about how it could actually be a proper game to showcase the Kinect wisely a while back, I figured tackling it as soon as possible was kind of important. Long story short, I thankfully don’t have to regret anything I wrote.

Currently, D4 consists of a prologue and the season’s first two episodes. You play as David Young, a Massachusets detective rating something of around an 8.1 on the Wahlberg Scale in terms of personality, who’s obsessed with finding out who killed his wife, whose last words were simply “Look for D”. Naturally, David handles his investigation of this crime in the most logical way possible: By using time travel, duh. See, thanks to a convenient bullet wound in his head, David possesses the power to utilizes various mementos from certain incidents to “dive” back in time and help solve mysteries that occurred in the past. See, if cult game director SWERY’s previous game Deadly Premonition was his version of Twin Peaks, then D4 is his Quantum Leap.…albeit a version of Quantum Leap that features a green-haired fashion designer described as an “object-sexual”, a seven-foot tall black guy in a surgical mask constantly wielding a knife and fork, and a detective who can swallow nine whole chili dogs in a single gulp as part of an average lunch (did I mention SWERY is Japanese?).

Indeed, the quirkiness is on full display here in D4, complete with a memorable cast of characters and colorful cel-shaded graphics that make everything stand out superbly. The visual presentation is quite a treat indeed, topped off with some insane yet fun dialogue sprinkled throughout everything via well-designed characters you won’t forget anytime soon, all meaning that even the game’s duller moments find their ways to pop out at you and make you take notice. The game’s soundtrack is particularly impressive as well, with the Dropkick Murphys pastiche used for the action sequences a particularly fine little detail.

As for gameplay, D4 is an adventure title probably more closely related to Heavy Rain, and on that note, I’m just going to say it: I loved Heavy Rain. Yes, I know David Cage is a nut and that Beyond: Two Souls was a letdown, but it was still a damn good adventure with a lot to interact with and an actual appropriate use of quick-time events for action sequences. So yeah, the fact that D4 followed a similar style was a plus for me. And yes, you can finally sit your ass down when it comes to playing a Kinect game. Mind you, you can also play the game with a controller (although the game gives you the option to switch between the two at any time), but that’s honestly missing out on a lot of the fun. There’s just sort of a little joy to be had in using hand gestures to move between areas and swiping the screen to make David look around him, like you’re working at some sort of futuristic computer.

The more elaborate parts where you actually have to mimic drinking shots of tequila or swing a baseball bat (to name examples) are pretty fun as well and help create a bit of a more immersive experience, and the Kinect’s controls are surprisingly well-executed and responsive…albeit not without the occasional hiccup, such as one time where I scratched my ear and somehow ended up selecting the option that skipped through at least five lines of dialogue that were going on at the moment. Oops.

There’s quite a lot to interact with as well, which is no surprise considering that David’s job is to look for various clues and evidence pointing in the right direction. Hovering over various items with your hand/cursor reveals little details about them and earns you in-game currency, while actually grabbing them causes David to investigate them…and use up a bit of his Stamina bar. Yes, David is somewhat limited by an amount of stamina that he has in addition to a regular Life bar that decreases whenever he interacts with virtually anything, refueled by scarfing down as much food as humanly possible (and then some). It’s a neat little idea that encourages players to still be wise about what actions they perform, but it’s kind of negated a bit by the fact that at any time you can just warp back to David’s apartment, buy food from his catgirl roommate with credits (oh right, David has a catgirl for a roommate, because of course), restore stamina, and dive right back in to where he left off. And since credits are pretty easy to come across just by examining nearly everything around you, I was never in any actual danger of running out of stamina, making this mechanic feel like a bit of wasted potential.

The second episode is also a bit dull at times and ends on a cliffhanger, but otherwise D4 is a terrific game with a promising start, and is exactly the type of game the Xbox One and the Kinect needed: An insane little adventure with some great motion controls and fun little bursts of occasional action that’s just a blast to play overall. Here’s hoping it sells enough copies to get the rest of the season going…and that the next cult TV show SWERY twists into a video game is The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. complete with voice acting from Bruce Campbell (pretty please?).

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

So earlier this year, we here on North American shores (or at least those of us that owned a Vita) finally got a chance to play Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, a popular Japanese visual novel about a group of “Ultimate” high school students forced into a deadly game where they’re trapped in their school and have to commit murder in order to escape. I picked it up on a whim, and immediately found myself engrossed in what unfolded before me, a combination of Ace Attorney and Zero Escape that left me begging for more. Thankfully, it turns out I didn’t have to wait long, because Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair has been ported here now, and indeed it was everything I had hoped for!

Danganronpa 2 has you cast as Hajime Hinata, an eager high school student who’s just been accepted into the there’s-no-way-this-will-turn-out-to-be-ironic Hope’s Peak Academy, a school designed to finding and taking in the best students (known as “Ultimates”) in every possible skill and area in order to further mold them as the greatest hope for humanity’s future. Of course, things don’t go so well when Hajime blacks out upon seeing the school right before he enters, waking up on a tropical island resort known as Jabberwock Island with fifteen other classmates and no memory of what his “Ultimate” skill is. It turns out this is all just a happy class trip orchestrated by a talking magical girl rabbit known as Usagi in order to act as a bonding exercise…which quickly goes south once the evil Teddy Ruxpin known as Monokuma appears again and tells all the students that they’re now competing in a game to the death.

The goal? Murder another student without getting caught, and you escape the island while everyone else dies. Get caught, and it’s Punishment Time (a.k.a. death). Or just stay on the island, which now has a sinister-looking machine counting down how many days are left. Needless to say, Hajime and company wonder just what the hell is going on, and in-between this deadly game, have to unravel the mysteries of Jabberwock Island.

…Aaaaand that’s really all I can reveal without spoiling anything, since this is both a murder mystery and an ontological mystery, after all. For that matter, investment in the previous game and the Danganronpa Zero light novels is somewhat required in order to get the absolute best experience out of everything…with the latter being kind of an issue since the story hasn’t even been localized yet (although fan translations are easily found online). Mind you, this complication isn’t necessarily due to having to know the continuity of the Danganronpa franchise, but rather more because Danganronpa 2 absolutely loves to screw with your head and subvert everything from the first game, setting up a maze of rugs where any one you step on can get pulled out at any time. You think you can actually guess where the plot is going and who survives? “THINK AGAIN,” goes the game, as you feel something get yanked out from under your feet as your face hits the floor. While reliance upon the rest of the franchise can be considered a flaw by some, there’s no doubt that it still makes for a terrific story with lot of twists and turns.

Said twists and turns involve three different modes of gameplay: Daily Life, Deadly Life, and the Class Trial. Daily Life is the calm before the storm, the moments where in between searching new areas that have been unlocked for clues as to what the hell is going on and having to deal with Monokuma’s latest motive for you to begin killing, you get to look around and interact with all of your classmates. They are a colorful bunch indeed, some terrific characters and designs with a lot of personality, and you have the option to hang out with them and give them presents you can purchase, revealing new anecdotes about them and their hidden depths as well. And this is one of the cruelest things the game does to you. Not because of bad design or anything, far from it. No, it’s because after Daily Life comes Deadly Life, the moment where a body is discovered, and there’s always the looming chance that the person you had just become BFFs with is now either dead or a murderer. Cruel but effective, the game rewards you for becoming emotionally invested in a virtual character and actually getting worried that they might kick the bucket. Deadly Life is pretty standard: once the body is discovered, you have yourself a little point-and-click adventure as you search for all of the evidence needed to point out the killer at the Class Trial.

The Class Trial is basically the defining part of the game, or rather “parts”. I don’t know if the intent was to replicate a kangaroo court actually run by teenagers or not, but it basically boils down to a set of mini-games that answer questions one way or another. One moment you’re shooting down contradictions in arguments by presenting evidence as literal and metaphorical truth bullets while swatting away white noise, the next you’re playing a game of Hangman to answer a question posed, then playing a rhythm game to deliver the final bit of evidence against the guilty party, then finally assembling a manga to recreate how the full crime went down. It all sounds like a lot to work with (not helped by me having to sum it up briefly), but it’s fairly simple to understand…not that the game does that good a job explaining it either, since the tutorials can feel a little sloppy and rushed at times.

The sequel also adds two new games to the mix: Rebuttal Showdown is a bit where you face off against someone questioning you and have to slice away their statements by swiping the Vita screen until you have the opportunity to hit back with contradicting evidence using a “Truth Sword”, and Logic Dive is a part where you have to form a logical conclusion by boarding along a virtual path filled with obstacles until you reach a branching bath where you have to choose the right response to a question. They’re both harmless and neat additions, even if they can come off as a bit too “arcade-y” at times. But then, there’s the aforementioned Hangman’s Gambit…or as the game tends to refer to it at time, “the (Improved) Hangman’s Gambit”, and I am almost positive that those brackets were meant to be sarcastic quotation marks. I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say the thing is even more of a frustrating mess than it was last game, a dickish puzzle where you have to put letters in the right order while making sure incorrect letters don’t collide as they float by. If there were ever a mechanic that deserved to be hung to death itself…

I could go on and on for quite a while, especially how incredibly the mysteries are set up and always make sure to give you enough info to solve them while still leaving you itching to discover the rest of what happened during the trial, or how the story gets pretty bizarre towards the end in an interesting way, but I guess I’ll just end it at this: Danganronpa 2 is a fantastic game, a superb sequel, a marvelous a must-have addition to any Vita owner’s library. Don’t miss out on it.

…Oh, and it also has Gundham Tanaka, easily the frontrunner for Best Video Game Character of 2014.

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The dude has trained hamsters of death. TRAINED HAMSTERS OF DEATH. Zim would be so proud.

Five Nights at Freddy’s

…Well, I guess there was no avoiding this. I had heard about Five Nights at Freddy’s a couple of months ago, announced in a Destructoid article. I thought “Heh, a horror game set in an animatronic pizza parlor, that’s pretty funny.” and then stored the game in the back of my mind with countless other indie games I had heard of before, guessing I might probably never hear of it again.

And then the fan art came rolling in. Oh god, did the fan art come rolling in.

As a member of deviantART, I was no stranger to seeing multtitudes of fan art plastered on the front page and in my messages, documenting the current big thing in animation, video games, and whatnot, but the domination of Five Nights at Freddy’s took me by surprise. Even considering the standard fact that anthropomorphic characters + creepy s*** = one form of DA gold, I just wasn’t expecting a fandom such as this to take off seemingly overnight, at least not while The Great Don’t Starve Invasion of 2013 was still lingering around. To put this in perspective, keep in mind that we are dealing with near-My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic levels of fan art here for FNaF. Yes, that big.

So there was just no avoiding it. I simply had to see what the big deal was about. How did a five-dollar indie game created by only one man win the hearts of the internet?

Alas, I learned quickly after playing that unlike those courageous warriors known as the Fat Boys, I was clearly not ready for Freddy. Oh, i don’t mean I couldn’t get into the game or disliked it, far from it. No, when I say I wasn’t ready, I really mean that I wasn’t prepared for the game to scare the piss out of me. And it kind of says a lot that a game created by one man that could easily be recreated with just a pile of still images, .gifs, and audio files ended up being more scary than say, the entirety of Dead Space 3.

So what exactly is the setup here? Well, you’re a new security guard at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, hired to work the graveyard shift with the sole task of monitoring Freddy and his friends. See, these Rock-afire Explosion-like animatronics have a habit of getting up and roaming around during the night, and your job is to peek through the security cameras via your tablet in the security office to keep an eye on them. Sounds simple enough, save for the fact that if any of them discovers you, they’ll shove you into one of their robot outfits whose inside mechanics will rip you to shreds and leave you as a bloody carcass trapped in an animal suit. Oh, and you only have two doors to protect you from them, and keeping them closed quickly drains the limited power that you have currently ticking down. Also, the pay kind of sucks and you don’t get any free pizza. Damn bean counters.

Mind you, it’s pretty easy to spot more than few holes in the central premise (as some already have), but then again, that’s not the star here. The true star is the game’s tendency to scare you s***less at any cost, now matter how prepared you might be. Hell, the game begins with a warning that yes, there shall be a hell of a lot of jump scares, but indeed they shall be used as effectively as possible. Hell, just simply looking through a camera and seeing those unnatural abominations just standing there in the hallway, looking at the camera with dead eyes…it creeps the f*** out of you, knowing that this thing is prowling the halls and could potentially be the source of your doom, your imagination providing all the horror for you.

Then you put down the camera and discover an animatronic rabbit shrieking right in your face. And then, nothingness.

Gameplay in FNaF is as simple as it needs to be. The goal is to survive the night until the clock rings 6 a.m., and the only actions you have are to to either trigger the doors to your office, turn the lights outside on and off to make sure a giant chicken isn’t there waiting to kill you, and bring up the tablet to view what’s on the security cameras at the moment. As mentioned before though, all of these actions drain power, and when you lose power, you don’t live to see 6 a.m. So you have to be particularly careful and use the cameras to make out any eventual patterns that Freddy and the others seem to move in so you know when to close the doors and defend yourself at the right moments, crafting yourself the best possible strategy…and even then, odds are you still won’t be ready, largely thanks to the new tactics Freddy tends to pick up as the week goes on. It’s a simplistic but nerve-wracking experience, like dealing with a cross between Chuck E. Cheese’s and the Weeping Angels.

Any flaws? Well, the fact that you only need to hover over the bar to summon your security tablet means it’s pretty easy to accidentally bring it up, even when you don’t want to because you’re trying to conserve power or such. The game’s also incredibly short, with each night only lasting about eight and a half minutes or so, meaning the game can be beaten in just over an hour (unless you decide to try for overtime, or god help you, 4/20 Mode…). Then again, if you want more, there’s always the grand reopening soon…nonetheless, Five Nights at Freddy’s is a cheap and astounding horror game for PC and mobile users that you should definitely look into…um, assuming you have a change of pants ready. And don’t mind staring into the faces of potential Eldritch abominations.

Hack ‘n’ Slash

I’ll admit that despite being quite the huge Tim Schafer/Double Fine fanboy, I kind of winced a bit when I originally heard that Hack ‘n’ Slash had received the most votes from fans during Amnesia Fortnight 2012, where fans voted on which prototypes for new games DF should work on (personally, I voted for The White Birch and Black Lake). It just seemed at first like the type of annoying “meta” game about games that sounds pretty funny and cute as a concept, but then you get the final product and realize that the cute little joke making up the central gimmick was only amusing for about ten minutes or so, leaving the rest of the game kind of a dull slog. You know, the same kind of curse that plagued other indie games such as DLC Quest and Evoland (in my opinion, anyway). So does Hack ‘n’ Slash bypass the same obstacles with its concept that those previous games stumbled over with theirs? Well…sorta.

So Hack ‘n’ Slash stars a young elf named Alice, accompanied by a sprite known as Bob, as they set out on adventures to defeat an evil wizard known as Christo…although you could just as easily call the characters Shmink, Shmavi, and Shmanondorf, respectively. Yes, Hack ‘n’ Slash is crafted as a loving ode to the Legend of Zelda games, with the twist being that this game is actually more of a puzzler, with Alice wielding a USB sword that allows her to hack into any enemy or object with a port in it and screw around with their settings, altering the game’s world in the process in order to benefit her journey. So yes, you get to screw around with the game’s actual code to solve puzzles here, be it setting the level of damage an enemy deals to zero, assigning negative values to pushable blocks so that you can actually pull them out of the way, or just reprogramming a guard’s idle animation into one where he walks straight forward off a ledge to his utter doom in order to get him out of the way. Hell, it’s even possible to full-on crash the game in the process (or at least just end the game’s universe and respawn afterwards)…or theoretically even crash your PC, if you like (for some reason)!

The obvious plus here is that the multitude of hacking options gives you a bit of freedom, deciding to handle certain scenarios in whatever manner you please…although this does lead to more than a few moments where you might solve a puzzle and think “Was I meant to do that?” Case in point: I ended up defeating the game’s first real boss by hacking a point to spawn a near-infinite amount of turtle enemies in front of him which I had commanded to move right in front of him and go into a “Burrow” animation, and somehow this ended up hurting him even though really, I was just dicking around to see if I could even find a clue towards defeating the boss. That being said, the game’s puzzles are its obvious strength here; the types that encourage you to think outside the box and offer a good challenge, like having to find artifacts so you can search for a variable that changes Alice’s name in order to fool a warden who can read it, or having to change an enemy’s alignment to Good and program him to move out in order to distract nearby enemies.

However, these puzzles also prove to be a bit of a double-edged sword where challenge is concerned. See, while they start out fair, things escalate over time to the point where the game threatens to turn from a quirky and cute action-adventure with a concept based around programming into…well, actual exercises in programming, dealing primarily with Lua. This pretty much happens around the point where you’re given artifacts that allow you to delve into practically any object in the game and tackle the programming sequences within, signaling a turn from simply modifying values to having to deal with full-on algorithms. It might actually work for those interested in programming (hell, it could even be considered educational), but it honestly just feels less fun.

Thankfully, the game’s presentation boosts things back up a bit. While the character designs and writing feel a slight bit less inspired then those in other Double Fine games, everything is colorful and nice to look at, and there’s still a good chunk of wit that shines through. The various artifacts you collect along the way are also fun to tinker with, especially those that reveal the entire game’s world in a way similar to the Arkham games’ Detective vision, where you basically get to see every boundary, hitbox, variable name, et cetera floating all around you. It’s a neat little touch that basically doubles as a way to show all the work that goes behind games like this. That being said, I wish a little more work went into some of the controls, particularly Alice’s nasty habit of slipping off ledges should you get too close, even just a second after she respawns right in that very spot. I swear, there was one point in a sewer level where this happened at least four times in a row, making me wonder if I actually did crash things.

So whether or not you should pick up Hack ‘n’ Slash honestly seems to boil down to how much of an interest in programming you have and/or how much time you’re willing to invest in a concept such as that. Nonetheless, I would still say it’s a decent piece of work that handles its gimmick much better than other games of its nature do, and is a fine addition to Double Fine’s library…though seriously, get started on The White Birch and Black Lake next (unless Notch coughs up his Minecraft money, in which case, you know what to do).


Neverending Nightmares

Previously, I had best known Matt Gilgenbach as the man behind Retro/Grade, a quirky, fun, vibrant game that was a musical old-school shoot-’em-up in reverse that you could play with a guitar controller, possibly the best rhythm game/shoot-’em-up hybrid I had ever played (and possibly the only one, but seriously, it kicked ass). So naturally, his follow-up game would be the logical choice of…a blood-filled psychological horror game with an Edward Gorey-esque art style about a man having endless, painful nightmares all inspired by the creator’s own experiences with depression and mental illness.

Huh…Well, I…definitely have to say I didn’t see this coming…

In all seriousness, though, Neverending Nightmares is quite the eye-catching, immersive game indeed. You play as Thomas, a young man seemingly haunted by the death of a young woman at the hands of a man suspiciously wearing clothing similar to his. Every time he wakes up, he ventures out into his now-labyrinthine house until an unspeakable horror happens to him, forcing him to wake up in a new nightmare (which also serves as a checkpoint system), over and over again, like a weird mix of Inception and Silent Hill. To say more about the story could be a potential spoiler, largely because the game really loves to screw around with your head in this area. It isn’t exactly the most complex journey, though, typically just consisting of the player helping Thomas navigate through a maze of corridors while attempting to make sense of everything and avoid the various monsters in his path, with your only options to defend Thomas being to run the hell away until he runs out of breath, or occasionally have him hide and hope the horror eventually passes. Or possibly try and reason with the seven-foot monster infant crushing him to death, but that kind of rarely ever works.

The lack of any offense helps to highlight how fragile Thomas is against the demons tormenting him, heightening the tension and horror all around. The aforementioned Gorey influences in the graphics are also an inspired choice, with the only splashes of color being either various splatters and streaks of blood or highlighted objects that you can interact with. The black and white drawings with loads of detail in every scratch greatly contribute to the unsettling atmosphere, and much like in Five Nights at Freddy’s, the game may be host to a checklist of clich?s in creepiness (eyeless dolls, messages in blood, jump scares) but it uses these visuals and tricks all to near-perfection, especially when combined with an equally creepy soundtrack with disturbing audio bits that are a perfect match (it’s unsurprising that game suggests using headphones for maximum enjoyment).

Alas, while the visuals do set the stage perfectly, the stage does have a habit of becoming monotonous after a while. The game’s structure sets up a lot of similar rooms and corridors, and it does feel at times like Neverending Nightmares has a bit of trouble keeping things fresh. It might be one thing to head into a hallway and see a pile of severed limbs on the floor or peek into a room and see a massive bloodstain on the wall, but by the third or fourth time it happens, the shock and feeling of dread the game delivered has clearly passed. It also could have benefited from some more interaction with the surrounding environment. Most of what you interact with is honestly either just window dressing or portraits of various people who helped the game on Kickstarter as a reward, and while the former provides additional optional bits of horror, it doesn’t tend to add anything to the actual gameplay.

It’s also kind of a short game, with my first playthrough clocking in at just under two hours, and an additional hour or so to see all of the game’s endings. That said, actually coming across these endings is set up perfectly, with various choices you make during the game actually affecting the entire setting of the next level and the monsters within, creating a nice bit of variety. For that matter, all of the endings are well-done and equally valid, offering various insights into Thomas’ own psyche.

Neverending Nightmares is a bit on the linear side and not perfect, but again what we have here is a superb example of how a horror game should be done. A simple, nerve-wracking chiller that you definitely need to check out, especially in the spirit of the Halloween season. Truly a nightmare you wouldn’t mind experiencing for yourself.

Roundabout

Okay, so let’s make this as simple as possible: Roundabout is a game set in 1977 where you play as Georgio Manos, a chauffeur who dares to be different and thus drives around in a constantly revolving limousine with the entire game being an open-word puzzler where you have to maneuver Georgio’s revolving limo around several obstacles in the way in order to get passengers to their destinations (somewhat like Kuru Kuru Kururin), massacring several pedestrians in your path while crashing and burning countless times, with a story told entirely via FMV sequences. It is completely dumb, completely ludicrous, and that is why I freaking love it.

Roundabout is pure cheese at its most delicious, indeed. A sloppy, adorable love letter to the idea that anyone can make virtually any game concept they want no matter how insane it is, as long as the result is pure fun. And indeed, while Roundabout excels in serving up high doses of cheddar, the actual game is indeed a terrific puzzler. It all comes down to mostly timing, mind you, making sure your limo can get around whatever’s in your path at just the right moment, but every course is laid out in such a way that it never really feels monotonous and that the challenges keeps getting upped in appropriate and fair doses. Speaking of which, it’s quite impressive that the game merely sends you back to a checkpoint a short distance away each time you crash (and you will crash), but still feels like a true challenge, each explosion only encouraging you to try harder and re-think how you’re going to handle things. Of course, if you want a true challenge (and unlockable rewards), you’ll have to see about completing missions as quickly as possible and without dying, so good luck with that. The optional challenges you unlock via progressing through the story are also a nice touch, with activities ranging from bouncing a soccer ball off you limo to competing in a demolition derby and then maybe dodging cars falling out of the sky because something something military. It’s a nice bit of variety, is what I’m saying.

But of course, as mentioned earlier, the cheese is all front and center here, and what we get is high-quality fromage indeed. The FMV sequences may mean that a simple puzzler makes for big download, but the end result is a glorious blend of some of the best bad acting and purposely ludicrous writing you can see in gaming today, with everyone either hamming it up nicely or going full low-key. The 1970s-style imagery and funk/disco soundtrack merge together perfectly to create that perfect feeling of an enjoyably bad film, which probably shouldn’t be a surprise when your main character is actually named Manos (how did I not realize that up until now?). Top it off with simple, vibrant visuals occasionally livened up with the bloody splatters from a corpse you ran over, and the whole thing is a delightful romp to both play and look at indeed.

Roundabout also boasts a good chunk of collectibles for you to unlock and discover as well, giving you an incentive to go and explore this insane world. Be it new horns, cash stashes, or property you can purchase to earn money to give Georgia’s limo upgrades to help you out, there’s definitely a lot to look out for…which kind of makes it a shame that I couldn’t seem to fast-travel anywhere, especially given the size of the game’s city. In fact, it gets a bit annoying trying to get to the properties you purchase in order to collect the cash they generate, since it involves having to navigate a world that’s basically one gigantic obstacle course. It may be fun to navigate during the gameplay segments, but when all you’re trying to do is head over to the disco to pick up eighty bucks, it can get a tad frustrating, which sadly can be sad of the game’s open-world nature in general at times. The story mode is also short, clocking in at only a few hours, but I will say that it’s completely worth it for the ending alone, which features one of the most gloriously geeky tributes for hardcore gamers everywhere.

Minor quibbles notwithstanding, Roundabout is a fantastic puzzle game and a delightfully cheesy b-movie rolled into one, creating the best of both worlds and a can’t-miss indie game. Indeed, it is quite the delicious cheese platter everybody needs to take a sample from…right down to the cheese that leaps across rooftops in a drug-fueled stupor, because why wouldn’t you want your cheese to do that?

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

Earlier this year, one of my most anticipated games was Murdered: Soul Suspect, a supernatural adventure game where you played as a ghost who had to solve his own murder (no, not that one). It definitely seemed like it would have been a breath of fresh air, and in the end…ummm…ehhhh, yeah, as I have documented here, here, here, and here, it turns out forced stealth sections and an over-emphasis on collectibles kind of killed what could have been an amazing game. So when I saw The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, another adventure game involving a mystery-solving detective and supernatural forces, I saw an opportunity for a second chance that would hopefully turn out much better…and lo and behold, it indeed turned out to be terrific! Ethan Carter is an amazing, atmospheric adventure game with a powerful story and some absolutely gorgeous scenery that deals with the struggles of a helpless boy reaching out for help to deal with the problems of a family that doesn’t understand him…all from the people who once rewarded you for nailing enemies in the nuts during ultraviolent FPS games (geez, what’s with the horror games this month coming from unlikely sources?).

You play as Paul Prospero, a detective answering a letter from Ethan to come to his town of Red Creek Valley, Wisconsin to help him out. The town looks absolutely stunning, small but spectacular with the feeling of a Norman Rockwell painting floating through every area, be it the Autumn-kissed forest, the quaint forest paths, the severed body on the train tracks…ooh, right. Yeah, you quickly learn that things in Red Creek Valley have gone a bit screwy, with flashbacks to Ethan’s family discussing such things as sacrifice and talking about an entity called “The Sleeper” (insert Dune/Woody Allen joke here). To discuss the story from this point onward would be spoiling a lot of the game’s best moments, alas, so I’ll just simply say that everything you unravel around you turns out to be attached to some sort of intriguing story.

The huge inspiration for the game is the classic fictitious stories, folklore, and legends produced by America over the turn of the century and years beyond, and it shows. Indeed, it feels like several little bits of pulp fiction brought to life, and each one is a treat to behold…even if what they all lead to is, without giving anything away, an ending that might alienate and annoy a few people (which it has, though I wasn’t among them).

Thankfully, the actual game underneath that story is simple and fun as well, and despite the game’s immediate claim from the beginning that it won’t hold your hand, general bits become pretty easy to figure out. From a first-person perspective, you control Paul as he looks over each crime scene/mystery for clues, clicking on one when you find it to trigger a series of quick questions that run through Paul’s mind (always a fun little visual), and then marking it as a vital clue, occasionally broken up via a simple inventory puzzle or interactions with machines and scenery to get everything needed into place. When everything is ready, Paul can trigger a seemingly sixth sense-ish power that allows him to conjure up recreations of everything that led to the current scene, which you to have to mark in numerical order and play back to get the full picture as to what happened. Easy and awesome to work with indeed. Of course, while this is arguably the central mechanic at play, then there are the other puzzles that require something different…but again, that would be spoiling the experience, but rest assured they’re all equally simple, fun, and challenging to work with as well (with the possible exception of the maze area, which is the only part where you can technically “die”, which just involves being sent back to the beginning of the maze).

And with the game’s open-world nature, you’re basically free to tackle these puzzles in whatever order you wish…which I do not advise you do. Trust me, it’s easy to tackle things at your own pace early on, but much like in Roundabout, it becomes clear that the lack of any sort of fast-travel mechanic hurts things slightly. While Paul is able to run, that doesn’t change the fact that backtracking across this wide open land can be a hassle at times, especially near the end of the game…where it is theoretically possible to have to head back from the very end of the game to the very beginning if you didn’t look around hard enough back then. The game also falls on the short side as well, clocking in at only a few hours, which might leave you wanting more.

Despite its short length, though, young Ethan’s tale is an incredible one indeed, a clever and engaging mystery and somewhat Myst-like adventure that comes highly recommended. Also, I’m pretty sure there’s at least one elder spawn at some point, which I know for the TR crowd is usually a plus. Give it a shot; you won’t regret it.

…And thus ends our ten-game review. I think I may be legally dead now.

And I know, some of you may be pissed that we’re missing a rather obvious hit game here this month, what with it being one of year’s most anticipated sequels for quite a while now. No sense beating around the bush, because I’m annoyed we couldn’t fit it in as well…I mean, I wanted to review Wasteland 2 just as much as everyone else, and I even own a copy I got from their legendary Kickstarter campaign, but alas, I just couldn’t make enough room this month to fit such a large RPG in there. I am terribly sorry for having let all of you down.

Alright then, pretty sure I’m not missing any other games, so on to the Retro Gaming Mag Spotlight!


And now, time for the Retro Gaming Mag Spotlight! This month we head back to 1995 – I know, we already went there earlier, but I was inspired – and the April issue of Next Generation.

Ah, Next Generation. Meaningfully named for the fact that gaming was just about to enter its fifth generation, they strove to offer a more business-oriented perspective. More serious stuff, looks inside the industry, looking forward to the future of new technology that can enhance graphics and gameplay, focusing on the shining, upcoming stars of this bold new generation…

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…Or maybe not. Yeah, while I dig the bold statement there in the title, most of you out there familiar with gaming history sadly know how this story ends. Hell, it wasn’t even turning out fine for the Jaguar back then, with the line “Can Jaguar claw its way back to the top?” confusing the hell out of me then and now. I mean, that would assume the Jaguar was ever on top to begin with, and even against the rival 3DO back in ’94, it was falling behind. Heck, even at ten years old, I knew the answer to the question posed there was a blatant “No.”

– We open not with a letter from the editor, but with a teaser of the main story in the issue. I don’t exactly know why they felt it was needed, and the random emphasizing of words in a weird Frank Miller way just seems incredibly corny, like everything is being read by an extreme version of Christopher Walken.

– We truly open on an interview with the legendary father of video games himself, Nolan Bushnell. After the token questions about what it feels like to have basically given birth to an entire industry, they ask what his favorite game is at the moment, and surprisingly, it’s Myst, chalking it up to an incredible integration between story and gameplay…apparently seeing the future a little. He then talks a bit about the various accomplishments made in video games over the years, and also that the biggest challenge in games right now is how to appeal to women, and while I don’t want to say it’s a trigger or anything, let’s just move on, shall we?

Bushnell then goes into the then-current days of people purchasing $2,500 PCs to play video games, saying these people are kidding themselves and that the computer is just a harassment to play software, which is all that’s really important. And today we just have phony master races kidding themselves by harassing others into thinking you can get an uber-powerful PC just for $400 without any hassles; go figure. He also points out more of the obvious by saying how Atari needs to do a hell of a lot more to stay in business, and then goes on to sadly predict that the non-linked computer will be obsolete and that the future involves cyberspace “sportstainment” that several people will watch, like some sort of crazy legendary game league or something, I guess.

Nolan then wraps things up by essentially being asked if video games today are more fun than Pong, and I’m sorry, but there is no way any answer to that question should be anything but “Yes.” I mean, I get what he’s trying to say, but comparing all current games in general to the most basic video game ever made is a bit absurd, even with more people today wanting to fling birds rather than solve complex mysteries.

– Next, the news goes straight to Atari gearing up for battle with the Jaguar CD, and those of you who are Angry Video Game Nerd or Spoony fans know that this story really doesn’t have a happy ending, with the damn things barely working. Even the article seems to be trying to make a mountain out of a molehill, pointing out their lack of decent games. Yes, the Jaguar’s saga pretty much appropriately ended with a crapper.

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– We then get a look at a Japanese Saturn commercial, which I’m just going to post right here:

Sooo….yeah, that happened.

– A pros and cons list between the Saturn and PlayStation pretty much just focuses on the technical specs and hardware, but contained within is a list on current statistics in the gaming industry…that leads into a list of statistics about the porno industry for some reason. Awkward, but possibly appropriate concerning this crowd.

– Next comes a bit about Mr. Payback, an actual in-theater interactive movie from 1995 starring Billy Warlock and Christopher Lloyd, written by Bob Gale. It was indeed a film where the audience voted on what scene should happen next. The film was a flop, though, thus explaining why we don’t have Futurama-like setups in our movie theaters today.

A look at movers and shakers in the industry next, complete with more emphasis. What’s particularly notable is the bit about CompuServe and America On-Line providing shareware and demos, thus leading columnist Selby Bateman to wonder about a possible future where you could just buy and rent games from your couch using your controller. Shows what he knows, I buy games from my bed using my controller due to a lack of a couch! Ha!

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– A news article comes later about Apple and Bandai teaming up to produce their own game console, the Pippin! Never heard of it? Well, let’s just say there’s a reason why Apple hasn’t gone with a full-fledged gaming console despite their recent success. All I can say is that Apple must have been grateful for the 32X, Jaguar, and other failed consoles from the area drawing more attention away from their failure as well.

– We get a prediction that the then-upcoming HDCD format could be the future of gaming (Spoilers: It wasn’t), and also a list of upcoming tech events including this “E3” thing that’s premiering for the first time ever. Wonder if that’ll work out.

– Our main story is an article chronicling the history of Atari and all the struggles they’ve had over the years, which I’m pretty sure you can figure out with any online research, so no need to bother here. The actual question of whether Atari can survive or not only seems to appear at the very end, with Atari supposedly having debuted the Jaguar at the perfect time and supposedly gunning for more hardware and software manufacturers to release more stuff for the Jaguar…yeah, spoiler alert again, but despite their settlement, absolutely no Sega games were seemingly released on the Jaguar. Not exactly a strategy that worked out.

– We cap that off with an interview with Atari president Sam Tramiel, and this is why I was inspired to pick this issue, since Next Generation did an interview with Tramiel that was so ludicrous it was actually named one of gaming’s dumbest moments once…unfortunately, that was an interview with Tramiel in another issue. He’s still a bit crazy here, though, pretty much kind of like any executive behind a DC Comics film today who’s totally convinced that he can still beat his competitors. Suuuuuure.

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– Ugh, thank god that bit of sadness with failed consoles is over. So what’s next? Ah, an interview with Nintendo’s Gunpei Yokoi and how he’s convinced that the Virtual Boy will be a huge success and OH COME ON. Geez, no offense to Next Generation, but this one issue is like a monument to failure that just doesn’t know it yet. You know what, let’s just move on.

– Next up is Part 2 of an article about what’s wrong with PC gaming at the moment….which would probably make more sense if I had actually read Part 1. For that matter, it largely seemingly deals with the technical aspects of PC gaming, and as I may have established before, I couldn’t care a bit about the technical specs because it’s just the game that matters, plain and simple. Still, we do get some insights from Sid Meier and a still-sane Peter Molyneux…the latter of whose name gets embarrassingly spelled wrong. Oopsie.

– The previews aren’t much to write home about, save for a look at a then-upcoming Command & Conquer…mostly consisting of incredibly outdated CGI that doesn’t seem to represent the actual game at all. Well, at least now we have trailers with good CGI that don’t represent the actual game at all…

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– Reviews! Early PlayStation and Saturn reviews are here again, but let us also give props to Return Fire, a critically-acclaimed game that was a surprising 3DO highlight (that later got ported to other consoles, though). We also get a rare 32X CD game with the FMV title Corpse Killer, which turned out to be the dud of the issue, gasp.

The reviews for 16-bit consoles are a bit less kind (only two stars for Beyond Oasis? Heresy!), but at least we got Ogre Battle as a standout for the Super Nintendo, the hit strategy-RPG that still remains as a bit of a cult classic to this day. Finally, Bob Gale strikes again with Tattoo Assassins, a game that he did the story for. ‘Twas another attempt to dethrone Mortal Kombat that boasted over 2,000 fatalities…and was also never released. As the review makes it clear, we didn’t miss much.

…And following a Letters section, that basically does it for this particular issue. As usual, a big thanks to Retromags for making the archiving of these glorious gaming mags possible. Make sure to give them your support, even check out the full issue featured this month right here if you want, god bless ’em! Next up, the most notable gaming trailers from the past month!


Well, time for the usual roundup of video game trailers, this time with a couple of highlights from the Tokyo Game Show, in addition to general awesomeness involving wolves. So let’s get going!

Danganronpa: Another Episode

(WARNING: This video contains at least minor spoilers involving which characters survive the first Danganronpa game, so if you haven’t finished it yet, watch at your own risk.)

So yeah, what a coinkydink that just moments after Danganronpa 2 hits U.S. shores, up pops a trailer for Another Episode, the first spin-off game in the series…and a trailer that appears to also tease an official third game in the works, no less. Notably, Another Episode is quite less of a murder mystery and more along the lines of an action game where you destroy Monokuma robots with a megaphone that blasts them with hacking powers (insert “still more realistic than Watch Dogs” joke here). Quite the gameplay change, but after two enjoyable murder-filled romps, I’m still excited nonetheless.

Far Cry 4

Ah, the noble elephant. And it never forgets…TO KILL!!!

…Yeah, I couldn’t resist another Futurama reference here, either.

The Great Ace Attorney

The Ace Attorney game decides to take a side trip as well into the end of the 19th century during Japan’s Meiji period, starring Phoenix Wright’s ancestor as he heads to England to learn how to become a full defense attorney…which of course involves meeting Sherlock Holmes and helping him solve a mystery, duh. Oh, and Watson is an eight-year old girl in this incarnation, presumably because Capcom didn’t think your Sherlock fanfics were creepy enough.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Okay, so now Snake can adopt a wolf cub, have him fully grown within a week, and then train him the wolf not only to be his partner, but to also wear his own little eyepatch as well? MGSV, you are starting to win me over more and more…although one question remains: Much like the game’s horses, will I be able to make the wolf poop on command and then weaponize his poop as well? Because if so, this just got upgraded to a day one purchase!

Noct

You know, we really don’t get a lot of top-down survival horror games. Especially not ones presented entirely in monochrome that also feature such horrors as gigantic spiders. It definitely looks unique, I’ll give it that, and with its Kickstarter campaign successfully finished, here’s looking forward to it next year.

Moon Hunters

This game’s Kickstarter has ended as well, and the crowdfunding for this old-school RPG turned out to be a raging success, largely because…well, much like other retro-inspired games such as Hyper Light Drifter, just look at it and tell me you don’t want it in some way. You know very well that inner child in you who grew up in the ’90s wants in on this.

Vane

Well, since I couldn’t think of a way to fit in a good Carly Simon joke here, I’ll just skip to the part where this game comes to us courtesy of former developers of The Last Guardian. So in addition to just looking really damn gorgeous and intriguing, this may very well end up being the closest you’ll ever get to experiencing that mythical piece of Team Ico…

Battle Chef Brigade

Have any of you ever thought “Well gee, I sure do enjoy Iron Chef, but I sure would enjoy it more if the contestants actually had to straight-up hunt down their own ingredients first”? Well, that’s kind of a weird thought, but thankfully it’s apparently going to result in a combo of Vanillaware-style fantasy games and Cooking Mama that sure as hell looks entertaining. And if you agree, you can chip in a few bucks towards their Kickstarter right here.

Duck Dynasty

I tried to write more concerning this…thing, but every other time I completed a sentence my computer somehow immediately auto-corrected it to just simply say “WHYYYYYYY????”

One Upon Light

Yes, a second top-down game presented entirely in monochrome. Funny how coincidences like these happen, huh? Anyhow, One Upon Light is more of a puzzle and stealth game and looks to hold a lot of promise as well. Seriously though, between all this and Neverending Nightmares, I’m wondering if monochrome graphics somehow make games better these days…

———

And thus we reach the end of another edition of Robotic Gaming Monthly. Thanks for dropping by, feel free to leave any comments offering suggestions, questions, additional discussions on what we talked about, or messages about how much we suck, and remember, Halloween is best celebrated with pizza! Pizza, and the neverending screams of dead children all around you! See you next time!

Previous Editions of Robotic Gaming Monthly:
– Robotic Gaming Monthly #4 – PAX, Gamescom, and Sad Signs O’ The Times
– Robotic Gaming Monthly #3 – Rapture, Road Not Taken, and Ripping on Pre-Orders
– Robotic Gaming Monthly #2 – Splatoon, Sunset Overdrive and Shoveling Up The Past
– Robotic Gaming Monthly #1 – Kinect, Kinkiness, And Various Kicked Asses

About Author

I'm Kyle LeClair, AKA "SlyDante." I'm a freelance writer for Topless Robot, I love video games, and when I stop being lazy, maybe I'll finish the rest of this profile.