Copyright Adam Schlosser
Contact:
aschloss@gmail.com


Copyright 2005 Adam Schlosser


Posted by Pip

F101- More Feared Than The Babysitter

We'll leave Jin Pride on her Time island the way the blood sacrifice of being a Force demands: Being harassed by children. Now you know what you put your adorable mom through, Jin! It's karma!
Jin may not be the most feared Sin yet, but she's going to earn that title one block fort or sand castle at a time.


And because nobody asked for it, E3 reactions! I'm not sure what the opposite of the hype train is. I'm going for some kind of Apathy Ferry or Ambivalence Moped. There was some good stuff though:
Xbox backwards compatibility! I certainly wasn't expecting that out of the Xbox team, but that's a nice move. Granted I don't have an Xbox, but if I did, that would have been appreciated.
Horizon! I don't actually know what that game is, but, man, it looks cool. Bestial robot animal that has a klaxon for a roar got my interest.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake! FF7 is a good game but by no means deserves the amount of praise and hype it gets, but it's still an enjoyable title and the last time a Final Fantasy game felt interesting or fun so I'm up for it just to see what they fix, if they get rid of grinding or random battles, a chance to hear its soundtrack again, and to see where they go with it. Thoughts about the game itself aside, that was a fantastic trailer purely for its message of “Hey this thing is coming back, some stuff is staying, some stuff is changing, but you need to chill out and let the game be made”. Bring on the revival of cross-dressing Lady Cloud fan art!
Nier 2!? The sole “video games are amazing!” moment of E3 so far. I most certainly did NOT see that one coming but I am cautiously jazzed up for it. I'm suuuper bummed out that Platinum is making it, but the fact that members the original Nier team are involved is glorious. This brought me from “I might get a PS4 once the price drops and some interesting games actually get released” to “I suppose I'm getting a PS4 when the price drops now”. Square was competent! I-I'm scared. Surely this a sign of the end times.


Quick Critique: Splatoon

There's a lot of potential for Splatoon to become one of Nintendo's best new properties, but its first offering leaves a lot to be desired and is extremely light on content, usability, and basic features. The motion controls are awful and the kind of thing you would have expected designers to abandon after the early Wii days. You're forced to use them through the tutorial but you can turn them off afterwards. That's probably the nicest thing to say about the people that thought that control scheme would be acceptable. You made a terrible thing but at least you had the foresight to recognize that people would find it terrible. Sure you didn't actually make it viable or in any way enjoyable but you knew what you were making was terrible. The biggest issues with Splatoon's usability seems to stem from nobody actually trying to approach the game as a normal user would. You can't adjust game settings from in a level or even from within the single-player hub world. You have to quit out of the level and then out of the single player hub world to get back to the main hub world to change something as simple as the camera settings, but that forces you to re-watch an unskippable series of scene where you're told about the available maps in multiplayer mode. And you have to watch that scene every single time you load the game and most of the times you return from single player mode. It's not even useful, it just tells you what stages are available in multiplayer and given the extremely limited number of stages, that's not useful. You're not allowed to actually select which stage you play on, so the fact that the stage icons show up on the screen where the game assigns you to a match does everything that scene does without the interruptions.
The characters themselves are super stylish and cool but their world is just kind of simple cartoon Japan and doesn't carry the style through. I'd have much rather they created a world that fit these characters and was as unique as they are. The back story is that rising ocean levels destroyed the previous world, but that doesn't factor into anything other than the ocean being the game's version of a pit to kill you if you miss a jump. The game starts with you running across skyscraper tops and floating platforms so I was expecting to build up to beaches or places where the ocean is crashing in or coral reefs encroaching onto dry land, but there's none of that. There's so little variety from the start of the game to the end of the game that it feels like there's just a couple of pieces rearranged in slightly different ways. You never get any different weapons or abilities either, so your characters form that same tedium. You can unlock some guns variations for multiplayer by beating the bosses, but you don't get a chance to try them out in single player, so even though the campaign is extremely short and you can beat in a day or two, it feels stale by the end. Story-wise, there's really no distinction between the good guys and bad guys. The bad guys are evil because they want to enslave some creatures to power their dying city, versus the good guys who want to enslave these creatures to power their thriving city. There's a good way to do the "we're not so different, you and I" plot, but the game doesn't seem to be aware of its hypocrisy or acknowledge it in any way. Plus, the Octolings have way better design than the Inklings so I found myself more attached to the bad guys than my own allies, but that might just be "evil version of the hero" fetish showing. The character themes don't gel or relate to the core game either. The game makes a point to call out that all the Inklings care about is fighting and fashion, but the final boss is a DJ so there's a weird disconnect there. The Squid Sisters are trendy celebrities with weird clothes and their music careers have no bearing on the game, so they kind of work with the fashion angle, but then why is the big bad Octoling a DJ? It feels like he should have been a fashion designer or model. The Squid Sisters consume clothes and he makes clothes. That's a rivalry. "We love fashion and you make music" are two vastly different thoughts. The final boss is extremely tedious and possibly only remotely fun for the first wave of the process and then the game makes you repeat that five more times just giving the boss instant-kill attacks and the ability to infinitely spawn minions as the battle drags on. Then when you finally suffer through that, the game barely has an ending. You get a quick scene done in the same style as the annoying multiplayer stage messages when you load the game that you won and then the credits roll. So little thought or care went into that.
With such a minimalist single player campaign, you soon find yourself in multiplayer trying to get your money's worth out of the game, but it quickly wears thin. Multiplayer doesn't seem to have the faintest hint of any kind of matchmaking. When I was level 2 after my first match, I was going up against a team of players ranging from levels 9 to 20 and in the 4v4 match, two of my teammates immediately dropped out at the start of the match, probably because none of them were close to those levels either, so it was me and some other low level guy going up against a team of four players that greatly outranked us. It doesn't even try to level match, so you can have a team of three level 20 people and one more against a team of four people all under level 10 instead of splitting it up so the teams' ranks roughly add up to each other. Your level limits what kind of weapons and loadouts you can have and also your stats and abilities. A low level player can only have six abilities but a higher level player can have twelve and higher ranks unlock new weapon loadouts and abilities, so your rank is a big deal and can turn the tide of battle. I'm sure none of the higher level players are happy when I show up because my rank means I'm using stock weapons and my stats are lousy. There's no pre-match interaction or set-up, so you can easily load into a battle where everybody is using the same weapon and nobody can play off strengths and weaknesses. You're not even allowed to change weapons between matches, so if you find yourself in a match where everybody is using a sniper rifle and you're melee, you can only change your weapon by quitting out of that lobby, changing your equipment, and now you can't get back to that previous match and you're thrown in with new people whose loadouts you don't know.
It's super grindy to unlock items for multiplayer but at the very end of a match, you can get a communication error and nobody will earn any experience and you get nothing for the match because even though you were transitioning to the results screen, the game counts it as a disconnect. The way the grinding is set up is that you're rewarded just for painting rather than killing players, so the optimal strategy is to leave people alone and play janitor all match. The little bonus you get for winning is negligible compared to what you could earn during the respawn countdown if people just worked together, so matches are frustrating when there are people just focused on murdering each other and you just want to paint. Part of the blame rests on the community because even though the game is set up to reward painting the map rather than shooting each other, there are still players that pick the sniper rifle and camp in one spot the whole match. Anybody that's at a low level has no incentive to play and would benefit from colluding so they can grind out the weapon and feature unlocks and THEN start playing for real, but there's no way to load into matches against similar players because you're assigned a match by the game and you have no input on the map, settings, player levels, or weapons allowed. You don't earn any coins to buy items or experience to unlock new items through local multiplayer and that mode isn't exactly fun (you pop balloons in a mode even less interesting than Mario Kart battles), so there's no reason to touch that mode more than once. There are only two maps per mode (and you're restricted to one mode until level 10), so the grind itself is incredibly tedious. I bought the game Thursday evening and by Saturday night I felt like I'd seen everything it had to offer minus unlocking new weapons that don't seem all that different and new stats from gear. I can only play three or four matches before turning the game off because it's getting tedious. Other games have multiplayer staples like Capture the Flag that are staples because they're fun, but they're all missing here. I was really hoping that given the lessened focus on killing opponents, there would be some kind of cooperative mode where you're working together to fulfill a mission or join forces against a giant boss or something. Instead, it's just two modes with only two possible maps at a time each and lots of grinding. Even after all that grinding, there isn't much variety in the weapons, which is a place the game really could have shown off some style with Ratchet and Clank-levels of weirdness. Instead, you have various forms of machine guns, sniper rifles, and the only weapon that does show a little creativity, a melee-esq weapon that has some weird hit detection and usually leads to both the attacker and attackee dying at the same time. Despite the story focus on how fashionable the Inklings are, the clothing options are too limited; they're primarily the same hipster-quality shirts, shoes, and hats just in different colors or with a different logo slapped on it. The only gear that has a unique look are the two sets you get for beating the single player campaign, but the Octoling headpiece doesn't even grant you the sweet Octoling-girl hair. However, the items you're equipped with are what determine your stats, so I'm stuck with stats that aren't doing me any good just because I want my character to look neat. If your theme is all about the characters having style, let players choose the cosmetic look and make the abilities tied to some jewels or charms or some accessory that you can swap out without it dominating your look.
Splatoon feels like it could be the start of a great franchise thanks to the style the characters have, but it also feels like nobody considered how actual users would play the game, interact with menus, try to strategize or communicate with each other, or want different modes to play. If we find out that the game was supposed to be a Christmas release that was yanked up to summer to try to drive some interest in the Wii U and that's why it's so unpolished and bare bones, I would have no problems believing that.



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