Monday, September 27, 2010

Megaman Legends

So it turns out my PS3 can play PS1 games. I've had it for almost a year and never thought to try it. I assumed when the newer models removed backwards compatibility it meant no PS2 OR PS1. So yeah, I'm an idiot. Luckily I brought some PS1 games with me to college to play on my PC and am now enjoying my old favorites on my fancy new system.

One of those is Megaman Legends, one of the best games to ever come out on the PS1. The Legends series is without a doubt my favorite Megaman series. Of course, you can imagine how excited I am over Capcom's recent announcement of a new Legends game after 10 years of waiting. Let's hope they don't let the fans down with this one.

I beat the first game in about 5 hours over the weekend and it was just as much fun as I remember. Going to get started on the second game later this week now that I've got my first few papers out of the way. Look forward to a double review of both games sometime soon.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I'm back!

Hey whoever happens to be reading this. Haven't posted anything new for awhile so I figured it was time for something. First few weeks of college distracted me. I've been inspired to take this whole blogging thing seriously lately, so you can expect an update every few days from me. Hopefully. Give my stuff a read, follow, comment, click some ads if you are feeling generous (please!) and feel free to post links to your own blogs. I'll take a look at them and probably follow you too.

Now for some actual on-topic content. I joined the RIT anime club and watched the first few episodes of a few anime. Triguin, Lain and Baccano to be specific. Loved all three. I'd heard good things about Baccano in particular but hadn't gotten around to watching it. I'll probably post a review after I've seen the whole thing. Check this trailer out. Pretty great music.

Thanks for reading. See you around hopefully!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Batman: Arkham Asylum

I am vengeance... I am the night... I am...

  • Genre: Action-adventure, stealth, beat-em up
  • Publisher: Eidos Interactive, Warner Bros. Interactive
  • Developer: Rocksteady Studios
  • Platform: PS3, 360, PC

Batman. The greatest superhero of all time. If you disagree, well, you are wrong. It is agreed almost unanimously throughout the internet that Batman, given preparation time, is capable of defeating any opponent and tackling any obstacle. Unfortunately, there has never really been a video game that did justice to the caped crusader. Has Rocksteady Studios finally succeeded where so many have failed? In a word, yes.

Batman: Arkham Asylum opens with Batman foiling archenemy Joker's attack on the Mayor's office. He then escorts him to Arkham Asylum, only to watch him escape yet again, seizing control of the Asylum and setting his henchmen loose throughout it. It is up to Batman to grapple, sneak and brawl his way to the clown prince of crime before he can execute one of his most elaborate schemes yet.

The game is mostly played as an over-the-shoulder third person action game (though occasionally switching to first person for certain aspects). The player must help Batman make his way through an island full of people (and plants) that would very much like to see him dead, mastering the Dark Knight's arsenal of bat-toys along the way, ranging from a grappling hook and batarangs to explosive gel. The game frequently pits you against groups of as many as 10 enemies at once, a considerable threat for most video game protagonists, but barely a work out for Batman. Combat is comprised of four main buttons: Punch, Stun, Counter and Dodge. The freeflow combat system allows Batman to quickly switch from one enemy to another, closing large distances between enemies in an instant and making it easy for the player to quickly respond to threats and counter attacking enemies. Batman moves like lightning and takes down rooms full of enemies with style. While its true that combat mostly consists of mashing one button, it looks cool and feels satisfying, and I found myself eager to run into another group of goons to stomp into the ground. But make no mistake, this game is much more than a simple brawler. There are many situations, typically involving armed henchmen (with seemingly superhuman accuracy), where a head-on assault will result in instant death, requiring stealth take-downs and careful gadget use instead. These two primary game play types are broken up by frequent riddle-solving and item collection challenges set up by one of Batman's more obnoxious villains, the Riddler, as well as sidescrolling platformer segments scattered throughout the game in the form of Scarecrow's hallucinogenic nightmares.

The games mood and art direction seems to be a mix of the most recent Batman films and the 90s animated series, a winning combination. One of the best aspects of this game is it's voicework, featuring the return of Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamil, and Arleen Sorkin to the roles they played in the animated series, roles which have become the definitive versions of Batman, Joker and Harley Quinn in the minds of many fans. There is top-notch voicework throughout the game, featuring many other well-known names as Steve Blum, Cree Summers and Tom Kane. In addition to influence from the many past incarnations of Batman, the game has borrowed many elements from recent games. The entire asylum has a very Bioshock feel to it, complete with audio logs and Oracle filling in for Atlas, and the stealth aspects of the game have clearly taken a few pages out of Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell's books. Yes, we have seen many of these gameplay elements before, but never all in one game, and certainly never while wearing the shoes of the goddamn Batman.

If there is one major flaw in this game it would be the boss fights. There are only three or four unique boss fights, and the others consist of copy-pastes of the Bane fight. Sometimes it will be one Bane clone, sometimes two, sometimes two and a room full of thugs, but the slight variety in presentation does little to mask the fact that you have to fight half a dozen of what is essentially the same boss. It comes across as kind of lazy. Other than that, it is a highly enjoyable game, one of the rare good superhero games, and even rarer good Batman games.

The Breakdown:

  • Plenty of variety in gameplay
  • Great combat and stealth elements
  • Fantastic audio
  • Poor, repetitive boss fights

The Verdict:

You get to be Batman. What else could you want? If you haven't played this game, go get it. It's fairly cheap at this point ($30 in most places) and provides 10+ hours of superhero badassery.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Well, it's late and I can't sleep. So what am I going to do? Why, I'm going to review an anime. Not just any anime though. I'm going to review 1988's Akira.

There's a lot to say about this movie. It is largely responsible for resurrecting anime fandom in the United States after years of stagnation. It is regarded by many as not only one of the best Anime, but as one of the best animated movies of all time, and I would have to agree.

The story of this movie's creation is a highly unusual one. It was directed by Katsuhiro Otomo as an adaption of his 2,182 page manga epic of the same name. Eight massive Japanese entertainment companies came together as the Akira Committee to fund and promote the project, and it was worked on constantly for the greater part of a decade. The movie consists of 783 scenes and a ridiculous 160,000 hand-drawn and colored animated cels.

The movie opens with the sight of 1988 Tokyo being destroyed in complete silence by what appears to be a nuclear explosion. The plot moves inexplicably to the newly built, Neon-lit city of Neo Tokyo in the year 2019. A teenage biker gang, led by 16-year-old Shotaro Kaneda, has gotten into a fight with a rival gang, the Clowns. A breathtaking, gruesomely violent motorcycle duel ensues through a large part of the city. During the fight, Kaneda's best friend Tetsuo Shima crashes his bike and seriously injures himself after nearly running into a hideously aged looking child standing in the middle of the road. Military helicopters arrive and arrest Kaneda and his gang, while at the same time taking away both Tetsuo and the strange child without explanation.

Kaneda and his gang manage to talk their way out of trouble and are released the next morning. They begin to worry however after days pass without any sign of Tetsuo. Meanwhile, doctors examining Tetsuo at a secret military installation discover that his mental frequencies are very similar to something called "Akira". Tetsuo is held hostage by the military, but soon manages to escape. Once loose in the city, Tetsuo begins to have disturbing hallucinations and discovers his awakening psychic powers.

What ensues is an epic struggle between the military and a crazed Tetsuo, who becomes more and more powerful as he rampages through the city, following the telepathic call of Akira. Meanwhile, Kaneda, in hopes of finding Tetsuo, has joined forces with a group of terrorists who want to release Akira.

I don't want to spoil anything else. The plot of this movie is incredibly complex and is something that should be experienced without me ruining anything. It's unlike anything you'll see today, in the age of cheap CG kid's fodder thrown together to make a quick buck. This film was a labor of love by all involved and it shows. The amount of detail in the drawings and all the different things going on in each and every scene is amazing. This film is a thought-provoking, ultra colorful roller coaster ride that anyone who calls themselves an anime fan owes it to themselves to see. We can only hope that the upcoming Live action adaptation does this movie justice. It probably won't, but we can hope.

  • Epic story that blows away most movies, animated or otherwise
  • Fluent, incredibly detailed animation
  • Solid Dub and English translation
  • None come to mind. It's pretty much the perfect movie
Score: 10/10

Loincloths for Everyone!

So the other day I picked up Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, an MMOG set in the universe of Conan the Barbarian, a fictional character originally created and written about in a series of adventure stories by Robert E. Howard in the 1930s. Now, coming into this, I knew very little about the Conan universe, so I can't speak for how faithful to the source material it is. All I can tell you is that after playing this game, I have taken an interest in reading the books as soon as possible.

Oh, and a note for the hardcore raiders out there: I have yet to reach level 80, and as such I cannot go into depth just yet about the games endgame content. Also, PvP, while present in the game, is sort of pointless at the moment as PvP experience and levels have not been switched on yet. At this point it is nothing more than players killing each other for fun without reason, so I didn't feel the need to really talk about that aspect yet. Think of this as an initial review based on my first few weeks with the game. You can expect a follow up review once the PvP stuff is fully enabled and I get a little further into the endgame content.

Conan's world is a fictional ancient version of our own, set somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 B.C. Looking at the maps of Hyboria, this is very apparent as many of the landmasses are nearly identical to maps of the real world. It is a world of poverty in which the strong prey on the weak. A world full of terrible secrets, lost riches, and bizarre demonic monsters that hunger for human flesh.

Character Creation

Character creation takes place on the slave ship moments before the ship wrecks for some unknown reason. From the very beginning the game sets itself apart from the Tolkien-inspired high fantasy we are used to in our role playing games. There are no elves, orcs or dwarves in Conan's world. There are only humans and the terrible abominations that menace them. You are given the choice of three different nationalities of human: Aquilonian(White dude), Cimmerian(Vaguely European barbarian dude), and Stygian(Black dude). The races all have the same stats. The only differences between them are there appearances and the classes available to them. For example, Cimmerians, Conan's race, favor the upfront damage dealing melee classes, while the Stygians primarily consist of magic users. Aqulionians are sort of in between, but lean more toward melee.

I was fairly pleased with the amount of options allowed in character creation. It wasn't anywhere near the number of options given in Oblivion, but that is probably for the best as some of the more deformed faces I managed to make in Oblivion still haunt my nightmares. If you have any kind of creativity it is easy to make an entirely unique and recognizable face. I sort of wish there were more voice and facial hair choices, but that is pretty much my only complaint with character creation.

Oh god... what have I done?

There are 12 different character classes to choose from, each with a significantly different play style. Unlike most MMOs, every class can solo competently. Any of the classes can be ass kickers and should have about as much challenge going from 1-80.

Lost... and also naked.

I went with a Conqueror, a heavy armor wearing damage dealer that can also tank in a pinch. After accepting my character, I was given a brief cinematic showing my character floating near death at the bottom of the ocean. The next thing I knew I washed up on the shore, where I was greeted immediately by a magic hobo dude who told me to seek out an old seer in the village of Tortage.

Taking heed of said hobo, I headed up the beach, where I was immediately greeted by a half naked woman chained to a big stone arch. I thought that her captors had chosen a rather inconvenient place to bind their prisoner as she was blocking the only way forward, but I decided to just go with it for now. Naked lady with a weird accent. Yay!

Deciding to listen to her plight, I clicked on her and was surprised to find that Age of Conan's NPC chat is inspired by the system present in Bioware titles such as Baldur's Gate or Knights of the Old Republic. By that I mean that they have completely stolen the system, but that was not really a bad thing for me as I thoroughly enjoyed both of those series. You are given multiple dialog choices when conversing with NPCs. Saying the right things to people may lead to a quest, while being an asshole generally... won't. The system doesn't really affect anything as you are welcome to initiate conversations all over again whenever you want until you get the quests, but it is a nice touch for roleplayers.

Naked lady sent me on a quest to kill her captor further down the beach and take his key, so I did just this, clad in only a loincloth and armed only with the Oar I had been clutching when I washed ashore. It didn't take me long to find the guy, and he immediately attacked me. I can't really blame him. What would you do if a muscular half naked man came out of nowhere and was approaching you menacingly with an Oar?

Them's Fightin' Werds!

Expecting your typical minute-long auto attack slog present in all of the other MMO's I had played, I was pleasantly surprised to find that combat in Conan is drastically different. Icons appear over the enemy you are targetting, depicting where the enemy is guarding and how strong their defenses are in that area. The 1, 2, and 3 keys are mapped to the upper left, middle, and upper right directions respectively(additional directions become available to certain classes later on in the game). To do the most damage, you must strike where the enemy is least guarded, and the enemy will be shifting their guard around very intelligently based on where you are hitting them all the white. You too have the option to shift your guard around, but in my experience, unless you are tanking this isn't necessary, and honestly the process of doing so is kind of clunky so I didn't bother to do it and just put 1 shield on every position, hoping for the best.

Another area that was very different from other MMOs is that every melee attack is considered an area of affect attack. What this means is that if you position yourself so that your weapon reaches other enemies, you will damage all of them. I thought that this was pretty cool, and placing yourself strategically to hit multiple enemies is often a must, as you will often find yourself hopelessly outnumbered by foes.

The ability system isn't too different from other MMOs, with the possible exception that you never have to pay to learn any of them. They just pop into your skill book as you level up. The ability names are not very creative(Care to tell me the difference between Enraging Strike and Brutal Enraging Strike? Because they have significantly different effects), and the fact that older ranks of skills are not replaced by the newer ones can sometimes make it hard to keep track of which one you are supposed to be using.

Each skill comes with a specific combination of attack directions you are supposed to hit to trigger the skill itself. They start off very simple, usually with only a single direction, but as you get higher ranks of the skill, the combinations get a little more complex. The skills, despite having bland and similar names, each have unique effects and animations, and it is pretty fun experimenting with them and trying to figure out which combinations will kill a certain enemy type the quickest.

Honestly, I'd have to say combat is one of the best things this game has going for it. It's drastically different than anything I've seen before in an MMO and it requires you to actually pay attention and watch your enemy's actions. Fights last a realistic amount of time for once! Unlike in games like WoW, where you are likely to spend upwards of a minute hacking away at your enemy, fights in Conan will end in a few swings, and if someone gets a critical hit, things are pretty much over.

I almost forgot to mention one of the more amusing features of the fights. Did I mention that Age of Conan is a Mature rated game? Well, Age of Conan is a Mature rated game. If you manage to use an ability as the final blow in a fight, you might be treated to one of the game's many Fatalities. These can be anything from beheadings, rib crushings, Gears of War style head stompings, impalements, dismemberments, disembowelings, etc. What kind of fatality you get depends on how high level you are and what kind of weapon you are using. There are enough different animations that you will not get bored with them easily. While performing a Fatality, your character is immune to any kind of damage. For a brief moment the game stops and allows you to admire your awesomeness before throwing you back into the fray with a ten second buff that will cause your stamina to regenerate like crazy.

The World

From the moment I washed up on the beaches of Tortage, I was taken aback by the environments. Even at the lowest settings, the game rivals Oblivion in terms of detail, and set at the highest settings blows away anything we've seen lately with the possible exception of Crysis. The world of Age of Conan is a beautiful one. The zones are instanced as opposed to the constant, loadless world of WoW, but loading between zones is fairly quick and the zones themselves are quite massive. The zone designers did a very good job of making you feel like you are not being boxed in. You can travel to the edges of the zone and find reasonable excuses for not being able to just travel through into the next one, such as towering steep mountain ranges or vast, deep bodies of water.

One thing I noticed and rather disliked was that once you leave settlements, you will not find many NPCs out in the wild. Sure, there are plenty of quest NPCs hidden around, but I would have liked a merchant every now and then to unload my stuff without having to make the hike back to town or waste my Hearthstone (it's a skill called "Path of Asura" in this game, but it functions basically the same except that you can use it a bit more often). I guess it makes since realistically as the moment you set foot out of the settlements you are surrounded by all manner of bloodthirsty beasties, and that merchants would prefer the safety of a town to operate out of, but it makes it sort of inconvenient for me to have to run back across the entire zone to sell my crap every twenty minutes.

Wrapping Up

Wow, this review has gotten pretty lengthy... But we are almost at an end. If you've actually read everything I've had to say so far, thanks for being a trooper. This is the first in depth review of something I've done in awhile, and while I tried to keep it brief, there is a lot of stuff to mention about this game both positive and negative, and I don't want to give the impression that I skimmed over any details.

Questing is an essential part of the solo experience of any MMO, and Conan has not disappointed so far. There are quests aplenty in each hub, and you are likely to get high enough level to move onto the next hub before completing anywhere close to all of them.

I think it is important to mention at this point that I have not seen much of the level 50-80 content, and have heard from many of the higher level players on my server that after level 50, quest content slows down and you are left to grind more. This seems like quite a gap to spend primarily grinding, and seems like a big oversight on Funcom's part. Fortunately, they have listened to player feedback, and stated last week in their summer mission plan that they intend to focus on improving the level 50-80 content as quickly as possible. Let's hope they act on that before I get into that range, eh?

Here is an aspect of the questing in Conan that some gamers, myself included, will like, and others might hate. Upon receiving a quest, the objective for that quest is highlighted on your map with an arrow pointing you in the right direction. While some may not like this linear style of questing, I appreciate not having to consult the Allakhazam or the Age of Conan wiki every 5 minutes to find each and every elusive NPC and quest drop. It keeps you in the experience, and getting to each objective is often an adventure in itself presenting its share of challenges.

Quests are organized in a journal with two tabs, one containing all of your current quests and the other a history of all the quests you have ever completed, useful if your ever questing with a friend and need to make sure you are both caught up on the prerequisites. By simply clicking on one of your quests, a tracker will appear on screen listing all of the objectives and turning the arrow for that quest golden on your map(inactive quest arrows are marked white). Unfortunately, you can only track one quest at a time, which got a little annoying when I was doing multiple quests in the same area. Often times I found myself forgetting to do things I could have done in a single trip, and ended up returning multiple times to finish quests off.

One last thing. The first twenty levels of Age of Conan are spent on the island of Tortage, a tutorial zone that exemplifies the concept of Darwinism. Those who are serious about progressing into the real game will do so in about a day's playing time, while the asshats who generally just cause problems for the more mature players will be trapped there for quite awhile. The island is a very polished experience, with plenty of backstory, a fairly memorable cast of characters, and full voice acting for every NPC. However, once you reach level 20, finish up the story and take a ship to the mainland, that same level of polish just isn't quite there. Voice acting is only present for NPCs important to the main story. And glitches, while few, pop up every now and then, although none of them are particularly troublesome and the bigger ones were patched within a week of launch.

Is Age of Conan a WoW killer? No, it isn't. There isn't going to be a WoW killer for some years to come, and even then it will probably be WoW2 that does it. Funcom was not trying to kill WoW when they set out on Age of Conan's lengthy development process. What Age of Conan brings to the table is a more mature role playing experience. While it lacks the depth and polish present in WoW, the sheer fun level of the combat, the size of the zones, and the dark mood of the game are enough to earn it a place in my heart. If Funcom makes good on their promise to throw constant new content at us and addresses the existing issues with the user interface, I suspect the game will carve out a nice niche for itself right behind WoW. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for something a little more grown up than WoW.

Also, there are boobies.

  • First twenty levels are very well done
  • Character creation allows for a very unique avatar
  • Innovative, addictive combat
  • Plenty of content for the first 50 levels
  • Very visually attractive world
  • Dark themes not typically seen in MMOs
  • Level 50-80 relies primarily on grinding
  • Interface is frustrating at times
  • Very hardware intensive
Score: 8/10


Hey everyone. Matt here. Now, some of you probably don't know me. In fact, most of you probably don't know me. Actually, it's safe to assume that none of you know me. So I guess I should introduce myself before we begin, hmm?

My name is Matt. I'm a long time gamer and anime fan who began with the Gameboy waaaay back in the early 90's. Recently I got the crazy idea to start a blog where I could review the games I play, discuss a bit of news, etc. I hope to infotain all of you.

Now, I play all sorts of different games, but my interests primarily lie in Role Playing Games(Both western and Japanese), Strategy Games, and First-Person Shooters. My reviews are most likely going to be centered around these genres, so if you don't like those you should probably stop reading right now.

Also, since I am an anime and manga fan, I will post the occasional article about those as well. I will try to maintain a nice balance between the two. For those of you who are interested, my favorite anime is Neon Genesis Evangelion. For all it's flaws I think it is a really good show. I miiight do a review on it, but seeing as just about everyone knows about it, I don't really see the point. We'll see. My favorite manga is Gantz by Hiroya Oku. That one isn't as well known, so I will probably do a review of it in the near future.

The rap this opening post up, I will answer any questions about the meaning of the name. NGen stands for next gen. Not very creative, I know, but all the cool names were taken. I might change the name later if I get some inspiration, but for now, it's NGen. Also, it is pronouced "En-Jen" not "Na-Gen" or anything weird like that.
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