Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ketsui Death Label on the DS

This game is the entire reason I now own a Nintendo DS. After roughly 8 or 9 hours with the game I have no regrets at all.

If you know anything about shmups you probably know that Ketsui is one of the most highly praised games in the genre. It's also well-known that it is one of the rarest and most expensive games in the genre, because it never left the arcades. Guess what, now it is! Ok, it's not actually the full arcade game. It's a "Death Label" version of the game. This means that the game only contains bosses, of exceeding difficulty. This might seem lame to some people that a game consists entirely of 11 bosses, each of which can be beaten in a few minutes at the most. The game, however, offers much more than that. The insane brain-numbing bosses are a large part of Ketsui's popularity in the first place. It offers 9 different difficulty modes, each consisting of different sets of the bosses with different difficulties. The range of difficulty is such that one boss on Novice difficulty will be entirely different from the same boss at Very Hard difficulty, or even on Death Label difficulty.

Even though surviving every mode is difficult enough - although the game does give you progressively more starting lives so that eventually you should be able to conquer it - there is also a fun and unique scoring system in place, one that actually differs from the original arcade game. In the original game, scoring involved point-blanking enemies with the normal shot, which started a short timer and allowed you to kill enemies with the lock-on shot for large point-chips. It was fair simple compared to many Cave scoring systems, but enjoyable and not as restrictive as the chaining found in Dodonpachi or Mushihime-sama. In Death Label, some elements were retained. Namely, the risk-reward system of point-blanking enemies for more points. The closer you are to a boss while using lock-on shot, the bigger the point-chips you get, and the faster your score grows. At the same time, this increases your point multiplier. You can lower the multiplier by getting hit or by using lock-on shot to destroy enemies, so it is a careful balancing act to whittle down the health of a boss by point-blanking it with lock-on shot, and then deliver the killing blow with the regular (much weaker) shot, all without being hit at all. It's very challenging and involves changing your entire strategy on some of the bosses if you want to score well. I'm looking forward to re-learning all 11 bosses, in all 9 modes, to improve my score.

This is the first true bullet-hell shmup on a portable console, and it works surprisingly well. The fat DS is really great because of the big d-pad! The bullets are bright and colorful, which means they aren't hard to see on the small screen of the DS. If you have a DS, and you don't have Ketsui yet, do yourself a favor and go import it from japan. It's an awesome game.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fallout 3, I-Fluid, and other odd things

Haven't posted in a while, so here's what I've been up to:

Fallout 3 is definitely awesome. It is basically oblivion with guns, from a gameplay perspective, but I don't think there's anything wrong with that because I liked Oblivion. I also have to admit that killing supermutants over and over is getting a little repetitive now, but everything else about the game is pretty great.

Another game I recently bought on a whim on Steam is a little indy gem called I-Fluid. Think of the game Gish, but in 3D. You play as a water droplet. Levels are set mostly on kitchen tables and counters littered with various fruits, breads, plates, silverware, and paper towels. Because the game is physics-based, you need to avoid the absorbent surfaces like paper towels and dry bread, because they will absorb you and kill you. There are a variety of goals, from 'go from point A to point B' to 'move all 7 tomatoes into the bowl'. Oh, that's right, you can also possess fruits and control them. The game is pretty darn creative and easily worth the $10 it is selling for on Steam right now (hint, go get it).

I also haven't posted since Left 4 Dead came out. As amazing as that game is, I haven't been playing it much, because I've finally broken down and decided to get a gaming mic. Left 4 Dead pretty much requires it for maximum enjoyment, and I could definitely use it in TF2 as well. Who knows, maybe I can finally look into joining a clan now that I'll have a mic (clans require them).