Saturday, March 22, 2008

Metal Gear Solid

That's right, I've never played a Metal Gear Solid game before today. I am generally not a fan of stealth games, as I mentioned in my Deus Ex article, but I figured that what with all the hype surrounding the entire Metal Gear series, I needed to give it a chance. After a few hours at the first game, I'd have to say that it's pretty good. The gameplay itself isn't amazing, but what really makes the game feel above average is the style, plot, and characters that all come together to make a really fun atmosphere.

The game feels like a military-themed anime in the style of Ghost in the Shell or Appleseed. There's lots of futuristic technology like invisibility cloaks and giant robots, but also that little bit of realism associated with sneaking around and dying if you've been spotted in an inconvenient location. This last point I can't stress enough because this game will kill you. As with most stealth games, it's a lot of trial and error. You try sneaking on this route, they see you, you die, you try a different route, and just keep repeating until you get past the guards. This gets easier when you get a cardboard box to hide under (yes, apparently no guard will think twice about a cardboard box lying in random sections of a military base). Still, the game really feels like you have to go through the game the way the developer wants you to. It's very linear and story-driven. This is both a good and bad thing. It's bad because it means there's little room to experiment with tactics. You just sneak through the game, and you either get caught or don't. If you get caught, you try to run and either die or don't. If you don't, then you have to hide until the alert timer goes back to zero, at which point you just attempt to sneak through that section again. It's usually not practical to use stealth kills or anything unless you absolutely have to. It's possible to create distractions to lure guards around, but I find that usually unnecessary.

Now, the linearity is good because of the story. The plot really does add a lot to this game. I find if I treat it as an interactive movie instead of a game as such, it's a lot more enjoyable to experience. The cutscenes are good, the dialog is good, and voice acting is good. The gameplay feels like just a vehicle to let you travel between cutscenes, but honestly, I don't mind. OK gameplay coupled with an awesome story and sense of style (gotta love Snake sneaking around in a cardboard box, or the occasional sexual jokes and other things thrown into the game for humor) makes this a fun game.

So why am I playing this all of a sudden? The Metal Gear Solid Essentials collection is upon us, which puts all 3 MGS games into one collection for a measly $30. I call that an amazing deal and I was curious about whether I should bother with it, before playing the first game. Well the answer is definitely "Yes." If I ever end up getting a PS3, I'll definitely get MGS4 as well. If you're a fan of stealth gameplay, I can see why this series might just be one of your favorites. If you aren't, like me, you'll still probably enjoy it for everything it offers outside of the sneaking. And even the sneaking isn't bad.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

BRAWL (part 2)

Last post I talked about the gameplay changes between Melee and Brawl. I want to mention some character changes between Melee and Brawl and my take on the newcomers. I'm not going to mention everybody, so If I forget anyone, it probably means I don't really care about them that much. Whine about it to me online if you care so much.

Characters that were changed from Melee:

Mario - his down-air was changed into what was his down-B in Melee. I like that change since I hardly used his down-air in Melee, and it's a nice approach to short-hop into a down-air in Brawl. His down-B was changed to his FLUDD from Mario Sunshine. It's essentially a water cannon. It has to be charged, and pressing down-B again once it is charged will shoot water, at whichever angle you put the control stick, pushing the opponent away. It can be used for edge guarding, and potentially to keep the opponent from hitting you with an aerial attack while you prepare a counterattack for when they land next to you. I'm not personally a big fan of this move, but it could grow on me if I work out more ways to use it. His forward-air has become a very powerful spike for edge guarding.

Bowser - he's gotten a little faster, but his only big change is his over-B. Instead of the claw attack, it is now a grab move where he will flip upward and then slam the opponent down for some good damage and knockback. What makes the move great though is it lets you "bowsercide" by taking the opponent over the edge of the stage with it. You're guaranteed to die as well but if you're up a stock or more it's great. Just like Kirby's back throw from Melee.

Mr. Game & Watch - wow, they made him even better than before! Of course I'm only mentioning him because he was my main in Melee and will definitely be one of my mains in Brawl. So, what changed? For starters, his up-B. It is still an amazing vertical recovery move which can also hit opponents, but on top of that he opens a parachute at the top of the jump which lets him float slowly, allowing for lots of horizontal recovery as well. And as if that weren't enough, he can do any aerial attack after his up-B. He can conceivable juggle somebody with an up-B into a forward-air. Another important change is his up-air, which will now push people upwards with wind if he is underneath them but does not hit them when using it. I haven't found that many uses for this besides escaping from opponents doing a down-air at G&W. The final change for the G&W is his down-air, which will now propel him downward at a pretty fast rate, but takes a pause after starting the move before he starts attacking. Because of the startup lag, it can't really be short-hopped as an approach, but it's good for countering jugglers, or even after an up-B. Also, I heard today that it's possible to cancel the downward momentum by pressing down after the move starts, which lets it be used as a spike. I'll be trying this tonight for sure.


R.O.B. - I love ROB and I really want to figure him out, but he's difficult to play as. He has good short-hoppped aerial approaches with his forward air, he has some powerful smashes and aerials, and his spike is my favorite in the entire game. His recovery is one of the best in the game. He has two projectile attacks, his laser and his gyro (one energy and one physical, which is good against characters that absorb energy projectiles) that both do good damage and knockback. His weaknesses, however, are serious. When he gets forward momentum going, it's difficult to stop. He's a heavy character, which means he won't get KO'd easily, but also that his control in the air is lacking, and it's difficult to juggle people. His aerials are all laggy except his forward-air, so they require considerable timing to work right, and they make juggling very difficult.

Metaknight - This guy is really fun to play as. He's fast and juggles like no one else. He can build damage on an opponent very quickly while avoiding it himself. He only has two weaknesses: he lacks KO power, and he's light so he can be KO'd easily. Now, his recovery is amazing because oh his ability for multiple jumps and glide after them. And with his up-B, he has a second glide as well as vertical recovery. If, however, he gets smashed at any decent percentage he's probably going to die. As for his KO power, this can be fixed in 1vs1 by excessive edge guarding, but in a FFA Metaknight has serious problems.

Sonic - I don't like him. Yeah he's ridiculously fast, but his juggling and combo ability is a little lacking, and his KO ability just doesn't exist. His recovery isn't even that amazing compared to other fast characters like Meta. His best move is probably his neutral-B, but that has virtually no knockback.

Solid Snake - Very tough to play as, and I'm not very good with him. I've heard he can be very good, but his moves are generally so laggy I find it hard to hit anyone. His regular smashes and B moves are just about all projectile attacks like grenades and remote detonators, and they're all pretty laggy. I end up using his tilts and neutral A attacks on the ground and his neutral, down, and back aerials, but even those can be hard to hit with. One thing he excels at is power, and his ledge guarding is good thanks to his B-over missiles. His recovery, however, just plain sucks. When you use his up-B, his momentum keeps him going horizontally, but you lift upward with a helicopter. It's very easy to get caught underneath a stage from this, and there's even a bug where you can grab the helicopter as it rises, which will virtually always kill snake.

Pit - As far as I'm concerned, Pit is just cheap. His recovery is easily the best in the game. He has about a zillion jumps as well as a glide and he isn't even that light. His aerials are good, his ground smashes are pretty good. He doesn't have great power but he's still more powerful than Metaknight and has nearly the same combo ability. His B-over is cheap and spammable when you get caught in it, and his arrows just keep coming. Pit is just a real annoyance to fight.

That's all for now.

Monday, March 10, 2008


I'm only writing this right now because my hands hurt too much from playing Super Smash Bros: Brawl. This is obviously an amazing game. If you've payed attention at all to the reviews then you'll probably know many good reasons, but I'd like to go a little more in-depth into the gameplay, which most major reviews failed to do. How exactly is Brawl different from Melee in terms of the pure gameplay? How are the characters different? Let's take a look:

Firstly, the major gameplay changes. Air dodging is totally changed. You no longer move in the direction of the control stick when air-dodging. You simply become invincible for a few frames while your aerial momentum continues. This ties into the next change, which is that you can also do multiple air dodges in a single jump and do any attacks, specials, or jumps afterward as well. The reason for the new air dodge appears to be twofold: one, it removes wavedashing, which was clearly a glitch in Melee and changed the gameplay significantly in competitive play. Secondly, and more importantly, it's very important for the balance of the game. I'll get into exactly how in a moment, but in general the new air dodging means that you can defend against ledge guarding and juggling much better.

The regular dodging has been tweaked, too. In Melee, some characters (like Game & Watch) had horrible dodging, while some characters (like MewTwo) had really amazing dodges, and this was one factor of Melee that led to imbalance. Well, in Brawl, just about every character has good dodging. Some are still better than others but the dodging has been balanced much better. This also makes up for the lack of wavedashing. In Melee, some characters with terrible dodging pretty much had to wavedash to stay competitive. In Brawl, that's no longer an issue at all.

The gravity has also been changed. Characters are generally more "floaty" than in Melee. This is most noticeable with the fast-falling characters like Falcon or Fox, but it affects everyone. What this means is an overall slower game, with more difficult combos and juggles for the attacker and easier escape for the defender. In my opinion this helps the game's balance but some people might miss the juggling and combos.

Speaking of combos, an important feature of Brawl is the "stale technique" system. If you repeat a move too many times in succession, it will lose power. To restore the effectiveness of the stale move, you need to use other attacks to balance it out. If you save your most powerful smash for when the opponent is at a high percentage, it will be far more effective than if you spam that smash over and over to get them to that high percentage.

One feature worth mentioning is the random trip. At seemingly random times, when dashing, you'll just trip and fall down. This has gotten me killed and also saved me at times, so it's sort of neutral, but I also sort of wish it wasn't in the game. I have a theory that trips become more frequent the more you are winning, but that remains to be proven.

Brawl on the whole is slower and more strategic. Off-stage play is very important, mostly because each character has very good recovery. Unless you knock a character out with a smash attack, they're probably coming back to the stage. To deal with this, you're going to need to follow opponents off the stage to finish them off. Most characters have a spike attack that sends the other character downward to their death when used off the stage, but some characters like Metanight have their entire play style revolving around jumping after an opponent, using an aerial to knock them out, and then flying back. The new mid-air dodge can counter these attacks, but this is the new style of play for Brawl, and it's a lot of fun.

That's all for now. I hope this week doesn't give me carpal tunnel.