Confessions of a Classic Gamer



Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Subject: Nostalgic Blue and Ginyu, Too

Now Playing:
Sword of Mana (GBA)
Dragonball Z: Budokai (GC)
The Immortal (NES)
Solstace (NES)
8 Eyes (NES)
Wario Land 4 (GBA)
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (GBA)

So, when does nostalgia end and truth begin?

I decided over the last few months to get serious about contributing to the gaming community. I decided to apply for a position to I applied and I was declined. It sucked, yes, but they offered me a chance to try again. I choose not to, though. See, I wrote a review for Contra Advance, which was great when I got it, if only because it was mostly like a portable Contra III, but the flaws in the port to GBA screwed the pooch. The problem they had with my review was as follows:

"The writing is ok, but I don't think he covers the
flaws with the gameplay at all. He seems to consider
the original SNES version some masterpiece, but
besides the issues with the port there are plenty of
downright piss poor aspects to the gameplay itself. It
seems to be a very sugar coated review that's hinged
on nostalgia, despite the moderately bad score. The
text just doesn't do much except to say that the port
was lazy."

Now, after this, they offered to let me change my review to reflect the above statement. If I could address the issues presented, they'd look at it again. Ahem. I asked if I could instead write something else, and they haven't replied yet. I think it's for the best. I'm not writing for them anyway.

What does that say to you? The statement I quoted? Let me break it down...

I think that Contra III actually [i]is[/i] "some masterpiece". That fact is hinged on nostalgia in some fashions, but I see nothing really wrong with Contra III. In fact, the part I hated the most (the overhead levels) have even been taken out of the GBA port... So in a way, they took care of the one problem I had. Unfortunately, they took out more than just those levels, but I'm not doing another port review here. :)

The bottom line is that they are asking me to describe these "piss-poor aspects" which I don't feel exist. If they can't accept that one of their reviewers may not share the majority view of a game, and possibly could love a game that so many others hated, then that makes them just as biased as anybody. To ask me to address issues that I don't feel exist wouldn't reflect my opinion of a game, and therefore I see no reason to lie to myself (and to the gaming public) by publishing a review that features opinions that are not my own. They have room to put multiple reviews of the same game up so that you can get the perspective of multiple reviewers. What's the point of that, I ask you, if their opinions are all subject to "creative difference" with the lead staff? I see a wide range of views in the reviews when they are for the same game. Why is it that when my very first submittal is put under scrutiny, I'm given the option to change my opinion so that they'll like the review.

I don't feel it was "sugar coated", either. I honestly love Contra III. I intensely dislike Contra Advance now that I've discovered it's many flaws. Still, it was steeped in some serious nostalgia... If only due to my somewhat sappy introduction. I felt the rest of my review was fair. Still, none of that bothers me. What bothers me is being asked to address issues that, to me, don't exist. I don't have a problem with Contra's gameplay. I like it. It's natural and the game is challenging. I mentioned these things, but apparently my opinion is not as important as whoever decided not to accept the review. That's fine. It's their perrogative. I just felt inclined to at least let my opinion be stated here, in my own personal space.

They still seem to be a good website, even if their hiring methods are a little sketchy. I doubt I'll ever make that attempt again. I don't think I'd feel comfortable working for a website that had a problem with my opinion on a game. Geez, isn't that what they wanted to hire me for in the first place? Seems counter-productive. Anyway, on to bigger and more important things.

I picked up a few new titles these past few weeks. I have been satisfied with all of them. Some are old, some are new, but I'm very happy with them. Here we go!

-Dragonball Z: Budokai (GC)-

Okay... DBZ is sometimes a sore subject with me. I mean, I was into it before most people who watch it now even knew what 'Kamehameha' meant. And that was 'KA-ME-HA-ME-HA' not 'KAMAY-YA MAY-YA'.

In other words, about 7 or 8 years ago, I was bootlegging Japanese episodes and playing imported Super Famicom games on my modded SNES. Those kids didn't even know who Gohan was (either one of them!). Before then, almost every country in the world had DBZ. It took us so damn long just to get it. When we finally did, though, it was chopped all to hell and "kiddified". Whee!

Still, I loved the manga, the Japanese version of the anime, and any merchandise or game I could get my hands on. Unfortunately, on the game side DBZ was like an ugly, redheaded step-child. He was hideous and annoying, sometimes to the point of being downright stupid, but you loved 'em anyway. This was the shape of DBZ gaming. A series thriving on action and well-designed characters, destined for a life of mediocrity at the 'Butchering Hands of Bandai' (tm).

So, when I heard an American company was going to be producing a DBZ fighting game, I thought the worst. How do you make a game based on an immensely popular Japanese series produced by a Japanese toy company that sucks serious ass even worse? You allow an American company to produce it instead!! That was my thinking, anyway.

Still, the very nice reproductions of famous scenes of DBZ lore and the improved English cast (still not 100% perfect, but they do a decent job) made me give it a second look. It seemed to me that the game captured the essence of DBZ, and that made me want to try the game. Alas, it was only on PS2... At least until recently. So, when I was looking for something in the $30 range for me and Jess to play together, that seemed like a likely choice. After consulting with her, we grabbed it and were on our way out the door.

My first impression of the game was an instant rush of nostalgia. The opening to DBZ (of course, the stupid American 'Rock The Dragon' song was playing instead of 'Head Cha-La') was faithfully reproduced (though slowed down) in 3D glory. Cute in a lot of ways, but still somewhat impressive in others. I was happy with it (other than the song).

Let's skip ahead, shall we?

The Story mode is how you do it here, as in, unlocking the characters and such. I went into Story with no idea of how to play. The game reproduces much of the major battles and scenes in the first three story archs very well, filling in some gaps and showing alternate paths in later trips to the mode. The graphics and sound are both very impressive. The voice acting is good, if a little forced and off-sync. Still, not a bad effort.

The game itself plays like a cross between Psychic Force and 3D fighters like Tekken. It's got a slow pace like PF, and also with the trajectory flying (no dashing in other directions, unfortunatly. A feature I feel should be added), but it has the dial-a-combo style of Tekken. I was also reminded of Mortal Kombat, in that most characters feature similar moves aside from the very special ones. This normally bothers me, but it fits this game somehow. Maybe it's because other than their signature attacks, each of the characters did fight really similarly in the series. Anyway...

As far as a fighting game goes, it's so-so. As a DBZ game goes, it's jizz-in-your-pants amazing. I've never seen the characters look so good, and have the fighting game actually be fun to play. It's not SC2 deep or anything. It's pick-up-and-play fun, and with the feature of collecting capsules and modifying/editing your characters, it makes for some nice customizable fun.

The fun part for me is getting to play characters that have previously been unplayable and overlooked in almost every single game. Raditz, Nappa, Recoome, Yamcha, Krillin, Android #19, and several others. Finally, a chance to play as favorite minor characters! I was always surprised by the omission of Krillin and Yamcha (being so integral), but I always wanted more villians like Raditz and Nappa to make themselves available. Same with the Ginyu force. I have a special place for Recoome in my favorite characters list... Same with Ginyu himself. I'm glad I get to use them, as they work so well in this game.

The gameplay revolves around Combos. It's required to pull off just about everything. The only thing that doesn't require it is transformations, which are great. It's nice to see the ability to actually, manually, turn Trunks Super Saiyajin... Or Super Saiyajin 2! It's nice to have first-stage Frieza, even if he skips right to the final form. Then, there's Cell, with all three of his forms. Nice, nice.

The game is full of fan fun. The fighting leaves a little to be desired, with a somewhat wonky movement system that doesn't always do what's intended. Having to use combos to pull of a Kamehameha seems odd as well, and the regular Ki Blasts are nearly pointless, especially agasint the computer. The AI is maladjusted, truly. One minute stupid, the next, near perfect. The guard system needs work, as well as the 3D movement system. In the end, these issues should be resolved by the sequel, just releasted on PS2. Guess I'm waiting to get that one, too, hm?

Once you understand the gameplay, though, if you're a DBZ fan, you'll be hooked for hours.

My final verdict is that, as a fighting game, I'd probably give this one a 6.5. However, as a DBZ Fighting Game, it gets a resounding 9.

-Sword of Mana (GBA)-

Have I mentioned how much I love the Mana (Seiken Densetsu) games? I know I have, so I'll drop that.

Getting the remake of the original GB game was an exciting prospect. I had been watching the official Japanese website for months, practically salivating. I had a pretty 'Heroine and Mana Tree' background for a long time, and I would stare at it forever, wishing I had the game right then.

So... it's finally here. On Tuesday I nabbed my copy at Gamestop, and had it in my Gameboy Player the moment I got home.

The music is great. You know how much I love the music in Mana. Excellent. However, the songs repeat a lot. So far, that's not a problem.

The graphics do the job. It's no Legend of Mana, but hey, that was on the PS1. They are nice for GBA for sure.

Gameplay? A cross between the original and 'Legend'.

So, what's the problem?

I don't have one.

I love the game. However, it appears that nobody else does. =) Oh well. More for me then.

I'm not really writing a review for Sword of Mana because I don't think I need to. 10/10. Love it. However, I feel that something kinda cool is happening, and I'd like to say it.

It's been brought to my attention, both through the botched application at GBA Central and through discussions about Sword of Mana that my nostalgia might be getting in the way of my good sense. I've had similar experiences when watching movies that everyone else hated (Matrix Revolutions). That wasn't nostalgia. It was just having an open mind.

Somehow, someway I've become less jaded. I've opened up a bit and can enjoy something for what it is, instead of concentrating on what it isn't. Isn't that what it's all about?

I got The Immortal, Solstice, and 8 Eyes. Ironically, I rented these three games nearly simultaneously back in the day. Inextricably linked in my mind. Bought them on the same day. Nostalgia.

I don't know. Hey, look... I know what I like. That's just who I am. It's too bad that people don't agree with the things that I say, but that's tough cookies. Oh well. They don't have to agree. I don't need that. I just want someone to say, "Hey, our opinions are different, but that doesn't make you wrong."

Let's see... Recap time:

I've opened up a bit and can enjoy something for what it is, instead of concentrating on what it isn't.

They have a single word for describing that sentence above.

Beni - 1:21 AM




As gaming sinks further into mainstream mediocrity, I choose to step out of that vile mookish black hole... Going back to a time when we gamed for gaming's sake.