Wednesday, January 16, 2013

DmC: Devil May Cry

I'm going to be forward with you. I really enjoyed DmC, but I seem to be taking a wildly different perspective from most people on this game. In fact, where many say the story was lacking, I found that to be the strongest part of the game. Let's start off with the new Dante's character (not his appearance just yet).

Rather than Dante being a "like-able" (as in heroic) good character, I feel that he is neither and isn't really intended to be either. Dante is, however, a realistic character and that gives him points in my book. Let's be honest, what are the odds that someone with the history of this Dante (left without a real family) is going to end up an upstanding citizen? Close to none at best. What we have is an immature slacker with no direction in his life until he meets a leader (his brother). This is a pretty believable set-up I think. He's also no master at banter, and I also like that. People often cite the infamous "FUCK YOU!" scene as evidence of poor dialogue, and they are kind of right. It is poor dialogue if you're looking for something incredibly witty. This Dante isn't witty and it shows. Left and right he makes bad puns and jokes, seemingly at nobody, and you can see on his face how proud he is with it. This is EXACTLY something I could see a real person doing. In the heat of the moment just before a fight, a real person doesn't spout comedy gold. Rather, if you watch people circling each other before a fight, you get mostly "Fuck you"s and "Son of a bitch"es. The bad dialogue actually serves to make Dante an even more believable character.

Dante isn't a completely unlikable douchebag however. He has a very strong and naive sense of justice. He believes strongly in freedom, likely in some form of anarchy. In a word, Dante is a punk. This is different from the Dante of the rest of the Devil May Cry series who is more of a Spiderman/Deadpool badass hero. New Dante is just a lost youth who is angry at the world. He's pretty dark and edgy, but I think there is actually a good reason for that, and I'll tell you why later. On to his look.

The Dante of DmC: Devil May Cry looks really different than his predecessor. In fact he looks almost nothing like the other Dante. He has black hair, a baby face, a wife-beater, and a black jacket. In fact he looks closer to Nero, the protagonist of Devil May Cry 4, than to Dante. Gradually in the game, however, Dante changes in appearance closer to that of the traditional Dante. His Devil Trigger form changes his hair white and coat red for one, but more interesting is what changes happen outside of it. After passing a certain point in the game you can see a patch of white show up on Dante's hair. It is in fact visible before it is even mentioned in a cut-scene, which feels rather rewarding if you're a little observant. By the end of the game, after certain events, Dante's hair goes all or mostly (it's hard to tell as the shadows in the game can at times be misleading) white. Dante's appearance in the beginning of the game is a warning that this Dante is different from the previous games' protagonists. However, the changing hair hints that Dante is growing into his role as the story progresses. But enough about that, it's time to talk about the ending, the part of the game I feel deserves the most conversation.

After defeating what appears to be the final boss, Mundus's final form, a cutscene shows the people of the world realizing that they have been living under the vicious control of demons for some time. Dante, Vergil, and Kat stand at a cliff watching the view after they overthrew this tyrannical leader. A few words on Mundus. He was a bad guy that's to be sure. He instated demons as a superior class to humans and ruled with an iron fist without a word from humans. He viewed them as cattle. But he did bring order to the human world; he had a decent motive. Now, Dante was tortured by demons as a child. He has a nurtured hatred for them. Further his moral compass tells him that freedom is of utmost importance. On top of that, his own father was killed by this tyrannical leader. Of course he is going to want to overthrow Mundus.

Vergil, on the other hand, seems to be more mature throughout the game. He is a lot less naive than Dante, willing to do what it takes to achieve his goal of overthrowing Mundus. Vergil was raised in a privileged environment and was well educated. Upon learning of his true heritage, there is a logical progression that leads to his intentions and overall goal.
1. He was born the son of an important and powerful demon named Sparda, and an angel named Eva.
2. Sparda at that point had given up the desire to fight the angels, and instead most likely desired peace.
3. Mundus slays Eva and imprisons Sparda.
4. Mundus has also enslaved humanity and taken control of the rest of the world
5. Vergil should continue the legacy of his parents to end the war between angels and demons.
6. To do this, Vergil must overthrow Mundus
7. At such a point humanity would be vulnerable to the demons as the demons would no longer be led and would then be left in anarchy.
8. The right thing to do is protect the humans and the most effective way to do that is to lead them into strength and continue Sparda's legacy as Mundus's replacement.

After defeating Mundus, Vergil makes the comment that the world is ready to be ruled by him and Dante. Earlier on in the game we see Vergil take advice from Dante, likely seeing his strong sense of justice (stronger than his own and he recognizes this). Though he doesn't do everything Dante suggests, Vergil's following of Dante's moral leadership leads to Kat's life being spared.

When Vergil reveals his desire to rule and Dante is taken aback, Vergil appears confused. To Vergil, the path was clear. He never intended to cross Dante. But Dante feels misled, as his moral compass directs him to human freedom with no strings attached. He doesn't want to rule, since the only authority figures he ever saw were evil and corrupt. Vergil, coming from a privileged family, likely saw some good in ruling. Now we are at an impasse. We have two brothers who have apparently irreconcilable differences.

At first, Vergil tries reasoning with Dante, but Dante has closed his ears now. He views Vergil as an enemy. Think about it this way: Dante has really only just met Vergil and all he has of their childhood is distant memories. Vergil has known of Dante longer, however, and has had more time to form interest. Dante makes it clear that there is only one way that he will except as an end to the disagreement, and that is battle. Vergil eventually accepts, though it is apparently somewhat begrudgingly.

They fight and Dante ends up on top and is about to kill Vergil. His kinda-sorta love interest Kat intervenes and pleads with Dante to spare Vergil (she probably has some feelings for Vergil since she kind of owes him her life and freedom from demonic mind-control). Dante at this point has gone a bit mad. His eyes are glowing red and he's filled with rage. After some time he relents his attack and Vergil limps away making an escape saying "I loved you Dante." Just before leaving.

Now what does this all mean? To me it means that Dante is the true betrayer in DmC and Vergil is the betrayed, contrary to the previous series. Does this mean that Dante is a villain? Not really. Does this mean that Vergil is a hero? Well, since he has just been given a reason to hate the one thing that helped him have compassion for humans, probably not. Essentially what we have here is a sort of prophecy coming true at the hero's hands. For veterans of the Devil May Cry series, it is known that Vergil was going to fall at some point. It is in the very definition of his character to be an antagonist. Since he was not evil in the beginning of this game, the fall had to happen at some point. However, it was not obvious that such a fall would actually be a result of Dante's naivete.

Now what that is, I think, is good writing. Not only does our hero have realistic weaknesses, but those weaknesses (particularly naivete and a short-temper) end up creating a worse enemy than the one he worked so hard to overthrow. If he was more cool-headed, it's possible he could have talked Vergil out of wanting to rule, or if he were less naive, perhaps he and Vergil would have made good rulers. And that leaves us ready for a really great sequel, as well as really great DLC coming soon, both of which I am eagerly anticipating.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Freeway Fury 2

Today I just discovered a terrific Flash game on Newgrounds called Freeway Fury 2.
The game is kind of a cross between the NES Knight Rider game in the perspective of the old Grand Theft Auto games for the Gameboy Color. The goal of the game is to continue driving to the end of each level and avoid crashing into other vehicles. The twist is that the player can also jump from car to car in much the style of Frogger. And much like Frogger, if you land on the road, you will get creamed by cars.
By performing various stunts (like jumping from car to car) you get Nitro boost points to accelerate the vehicle you are in to get to the end of the level in time. I'm going to say it now, there's not many things more fun than flying a jet plane and jumping out of it and into another.
The game is simple enough in mechanics and premise that it's very easy to get sucked in, and fun enough to get a little addicted.  Plus, there's a high score board to get on (which I did eventually), which is always good for arcade style games. But there's an interesting quirk in the calculation. When you die, you don't lose points, but get to keep all points you gained in that life. Since you get 6 continues, the best way to get a high score is to actually get a lot of points and die on purpose a few times. While it surely isn't expected, it definitely works with the flow of the game, and doesn't totally discourage hardcore players from simply restarting instead of using the continue. Anyway, I'm going to stop talking and let you all play.

For those interested, here is a link to the game:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What's the Deal with Adele?

This is a bit slow and behind the times, but that's how I work. After tons of comments and hearsay about this supposed musical goddess, I caved and gave her a listen. An honest to god chance. So I listened to "Someone Like You" (this version:
And here were my thoughts.
First off, she gets some rather unwarranted bonus points from me because the guy who introduced her is a fantastic actor by the name of James Corden. But that has nothing to do with Adele herself, so I had to get over my fanaticism and listen.
The first part of the song, the introduction so to speak, is a standard I III VI IV chord progression in A Major, given in a simple arpeggio at about 120 BPM. This put me off a bit, because this is a formulaic pop song opening, and nothing groundbreaking. Nothing beautiful about it either. The music for the song comes off as very superficial, cheesy, and obnoxious. Just like The Scientist, by Coldplay. An annoying overblown pop song.
But I had heard about her singing. Maybe her musical composition was over blown, but perhaps her singing was truly something to appreciate.
I was wrong. Starting off, her voice sounded simply average. Your basic slightly southern sounding drawl accompanied with that sort of huskiness that so many women add to their voices so as not to sound empty. Accompanied with the expected voice cracks, creaks, and squeals, something that supposedly makes a woman's voice sound sultry (think late night radio adverts), but makes her sound rather sloppy to me.
Then the breaking point. She started to screech like some sort of exotic bird. In humans, however, I would never call it exotic in humans. It's just bad singing to me.
My girlfriend claimed to me that it was the lyrical content of the songs that made her music so great.
Except, not at all. Simple rhyme schemes, bland subject matter, etc. All the songs seem to be about some one guy that broke up with her, and she doesn't take any perspective other than the heartbroken ex-girlfriend.
The verdict: Adele is just any other pop star that used the pop music formula to gain popularity. Her somewhat out of the ordinary nature, i.e. not 100% typical, nature led her to be successful in that musical venture, which is what happens to the other successful pop artists.

I would personally like some actual substance to music that got popular, dealing with philosophy or psychology or perhaps history or even mathematics or science. But no, we get songs about sex, and heartbreak. Isn't that wonderful?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Card Wars

I, like many other denizens of the Internet, have oft found myself playing games, watching videos, and skimming my Facebook feed with no real sense of purpose, usually each activity is short lived and pointless.
But every now and then we all find the diamond in the rough.
Today, I have made one of these discoveries.
It's a little game called Card Wars, published by 
GangOfGamers and GeneralVimes, and it's even more addicting than Pandemic 2.
The game is a lot like Risk, except with playing cards and power-ups instead of dice and figurines.
The last game I played lasted over 50 turns, not one of which was uneventful.
The game has wonderful AI, and the game rules are so simple to learn it's almost ridiculous (but not quite ridiculous).  Further, the game actually has a way of letting you know how well you are doing.
The BGM of the game will change based on the type of situation you are in.  If you have a big advantage, the game will play a relaxed reggae beach tune.  If the game is relatively balanced, then the game will play a sort of medieval/renaissance sounding piece.  If you're really in a dire situation you get a sort of battle song playing.
It's really quite helpful, as well as entertaining.

This game is easily worth the time to play, guaranteed to grant good times if you are a fan of strategy games of any kind.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Damaged, Album Review

Henry Rollins’ first album performed with Black Flag is like an emotional typhoon.  From ,“Six Pack” and “TV Party”, the humorously sarcastic critiques of the American slacker, to the self-loathing journal entries that make up the entirety of the second side of the album, Damaged is a lo-fi thrash of angst and anger.  The guitars are played as if just being learned: with feedback and wrong notes played constantly. The drums are beat with speed and with no regard for accuracy or technique. The entire album is composed completely faithful to the punk ethic. Using that which was available to them, Black Flag played in an aggressively amateur style, making it the perfect kind of album for confused youths. Anyone who has felt rage at themselves, or the police, or the world, or anything, can relate to Damaged.  The yelped vocal delivery of Henry Rollins makes it quite evident that all of the songs are genuine.  Take the opening lyrics of “Damaged I” for instance: “My name's Henry and you're here with me now! My life, it’s a song, it’s so you won’t even let it happen. You won’t, you won’t let…” These are the rantings of a mentally unstable young adult struggling with depression and the pressures of society. This makes a lot of sense when you consider that Rollins was only 20 at the release of Damaged. Eerily, these themes would pop up again ten years later with another group with a similar sound; the dark lyrics and the noise-driven guitars were clearly influential on Kurt Cobain.  Damaged is the quintessential hardcore album of the ‘80s, yet it remains one of the most notable albums released in the past 40 years.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Melee Man?

So there's this game on called Melee Man, which is essentially a Mega Man clone.  The graphics were set to the resolution to the Gameboy Color, which gives the game a cute retro feel.

(play the game here

The game was pretty solid, but I have a few issues with it.

First off, the signs were WAY too annoying. I'm not dumb, I can figure out that spikes hurt when I step on them, I would have figured out that killing baddies would reveal keys (I'm not going to leave an enemy un-blasted). I didn't need the arrows to tell me where to go. The level design was nice enough that I didn't need any signs. Maybe one or two explaining the controls, but that's the absolute most.

Second, the levels were too easy. I had no trouble getting through all the non-boss levels.  They weren't full of mind bending puzzles, or tons of enemies swarming around me.  They were simple levels that required no thought or skill.  I had no emotional connection to the game except for the fact that I wanted to complete it to analyze it.

Which brings me to my final issue. The boss battles had a significantly higher difficulty than the rest of the game. The first boss was hard, but not too hard, the difficulty for the preceding levels could have simply been upped a bit. But that final boss... Jeez. It wasn't impossible, and I suck at this game and was able to beat him... after literally 5 hours of gameplay! The only reason I kept with the game was that I wanted to be able to give a fair review. Even with only 8 hit points, it was like a Castlevania boss. It would have felt more fair if the levels weren't so damn easy. And I hardly felt rewarded at the end. I would have liked some kind of "Conglaturation" sceen at least.

In the end, I give this game a 7/10

Friday, November 4, 2011

Free to Play, Microtransactions, and Virtual Billboards

So as I'm sure many of you are aware, DC Universe has gone F2P (free to play for all of you anti-acronym freaks).  The change in business model has given the game a HUGE surge of new players.  Over 120,000 people signed up overnight to play DC Universe.  Now their servers are crashing due to the overwhelming demand for the game.  No doubt SOE is throwing an office parade in celebration, but now is no time to stop working.

If SOE isn't careful, the entire game could be ruined by F2P, as many games have been.  Such a huge name like DC would make that much harder to do, that is certain, but it can still happen (don't forget we once had a Matrix MMO).

At this moment, they have multiple tiers of accounts and already a DLC pack for bonus powers.  Player's could in the future begin to complain about buying your way to power (although in a game where Lex Luthor is a futuristic bionic cyborg hero/villain, that seems oddly fitting).  But SOE could lower the price of some of the microtransactions greatly with advertisements.

Now before I hear (well read) anyone say "What? I don't want commercials and banners in my game," listen to what I have to say first.  We live in an ad filled world, and sometimes it's enjoyable.  The highway has billboards ALL over the place, but no one really cares THAT much, unless they danger the wildlife (which is extremely rare).  I propose that DC Universe does the same.  Many games on consoles do this occasionally, but they don't have the huge pool of consumers that MMOs have.  In a "modern-ish" setting, like what DC Universe offers, advertisements would not only fit in the game, but would be rather GOOD to have in game.  I could see myself being immersed further in a world that connects so seamlessly to the real world.

Anyway, I was one of the 120,000 that joined up to play DC Universe, but since the servers have been down I haven't had a chance to play.  I am rather excited for it, though.