The Critical Quickie: Part 1
I like to have a theme when I write, or a template that gives the reader a sense of expectation when going into an on-going column. I started it (and hope to continue doing so) with my “From the Time Capsule” segment for anime, but when it comes to game reviews, my only big contributions have been in the form of collaborations. The style in which we did those aren’t necessarily my preferential stylei, but I want to start something more personal, and hopefully “familiar” to the readers in the future.
This idea came up while I was discussing the idea of vignettes, as style of writing used for example in the book I, Robotiiiii. I’m sure many can relate when I say, I find myself constantly looking at a long backlog of games, and then new games come out that I want to play, or old games that I wasn’t thinking about playing get put on some crazy Steam sale and so I buy it with the intent of eventually playing it. I decided that I would prefer writing multiple small reviews into one article that get to the point, rather than write 2000 words on each game. Thus this new column is born.
Using the movie title “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”iv I’ll hint to my feelings towards the games I plan on reviewing, but in no particular order. We don’t want spoilers now do we?
Resident Evil: Revelations
Resident Evil: Revelations, a 3DS game that was ported to consoles and PC a year later, tells a story that involves Jill, Chris, and some other people after the events of Resident Evil 4 and before the DLC of Resident Evil 5. When it comes to Resident Evil games, this one is relatively straightforward and simplistic. You can tell it was made for a handheld platform originally, although I played it on PC, the controls are kept to a minimum and the game mechanics are the most basic you can get when it comes to the series.
They introduce an evasion system that can be achieved by inputting up or down and ‘A’ when an enemy is about to attack you and you’ll evade. I’m sure this was put in because controlling your character on a 3DS would, in my opinion, be much harder than on a Xbox/PS controller and thus be more difficult to maneuver around enemies. This being said, they really push you to use the mechanic since you’re pretty much forced to a couple of times through the game, and in other areas if you opt not to use it, your task will be considerably more difficult than it could be. Is it hard to perform? It might have been had the timing been an actual requirement, but turns out you can just mash the input while shooting enemies and you’ll get it if they ever try to hit you.
The healing system is the most straightforward thing they could have done as well, instead of mixing herbs, and getting multiple types of first aid, you just get Green Herbs. In matter of fact, I’m not sure why they even bothered using the name “Green Herb” since there are no other colors of herb, they might as well just called them “First Aid Kits”, but I suppose they wanted to keep to the Resident Evil theme. You can carry up to five, and you just push a button whenever you’re hurt to use them.
Another detail that lends itself to being ported from a handheld console are the maps you play on. Or should I say map non-plural. Aside from a small snow area and a few floors of a building, the entire game takes place on a cruise ship. It got so redundant after awhile that part of me just wanted the game to end so that I could stop running in circles around this ship, and any of the “exploration” you can do in the game exists solely on the ship, nowhere else in the game do you have a chance to “explore” (not that there’s anything to see anyways).
The last things I want to touch on are ammo, the gun system, and enemies. Ammo, like all Resident Evil games, is somewhat hard to come by. Usually the game is designed so that it gives you what it believes is enough to hold you over until the next time they’ll hand you ammo. This is fine normally in Resident Evil, except that in this game, the all of fivev different enemies you encounter in the entire game use the same animation for flinching and dying. Personally I think this is incredibly lazy, and was the most obnoxious thing in the entire game. You would shoot enemies, and then continue to shoot them when they flinch because they’re standing still in pain, but then they die and you’re none the wiser until your bullets start passing through them and become wasted, and wasting bullets in Resident Evil is a bad idea. Lastly when it comes to the gun system, you do get to attach upgrades to guns, but they only work for Jill. While you do play as her for about 75% of the game, it gets frustrating when you find a rare upgrade only to realize that you’re playing as somebody else and so it doesn’t matter.
All in all, Resident Evil Revelations is a game that a fan of the series will enjoy, as it fills in some plot points, and has a lot of the aspects of a Resident Evil game is expected to have. Because of redundancyvi and the simplistic nature of the game though, I wouldn’t have wanted to pay more than 15-20 bucks for it, and somebody picking it up as an introduction to the series should think about starting elsewhere first.
Valkyria Chronicles 2
I love LOVEvii Valkyria Chronicles for the PS3viii, it was most likely my favorite exclusive game for that platform, and when I heard they were making VC2, I was more than eccentric. So in January of 2010, I bought a PSP with the sole purpose of playing Valkyria Chronicles 2 and dove in. Five years later I beat it.
I say often that I’m going to eventually get into deeper articles pertaining to intricate topics, etc. I mainly feel inclined to do so about certain anime series, or social topics, and I could go into the intricacies of why this game is a far cry from its predecessor. Alas, I’m going to keep it simple as I think I already went too long on the previous game. Valkyria Chronicles 2 takes place after VC1, there’s more war, more Darcsen hate, more attempts at Valkyria technology and power, but there’s also more gameplay. Too much gameplay.
I believe that a good game length for a non-standard JRPG (ie. Final Fantasy, Tales of, Star Ocean) is about 15-20 hours, sometimes that comes back to bite me if a game is not fun enough but I feel compelled to finish it anyways. VC1 was a good length, if I recall correctly it was about 16 hours or so, and it was very fun, and knew how to not overstay its welcome. Valkyria Chronicles 2 is a 20 hour game disguised as a 40 hour game; a long, redundant, pointless 40 hours. I’d rather have a 10 hour game with variety than artificial bloating of recycled content to create the feeling that you got your money’s worth. This is the reason it took me 5 years to bring myself to finish this game.ix
The game has some new elements such as class advancement and new skills that do make the game more interesting for some time, and like VC1 there are some challenging portions of the game where leveling up and “grinding” is almost necessary, but on the flip side there are also various aspects to the game that make tasks easier than before.
I believe that developing the game for the handheld console was also a downside, VC1 wasn’t a graphical masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but the PSP graphics were downright blocky. I’m guessing that the development costs for a mobile platform were less than for a console, but I think bringing VC2 and 3 to the PSP was a negative blow to the fan base.
I want to say that fans of the first game should play this, but because of the sheer time requirement it takes to finish it, I can’t bring myself to suggest it, especially since it’s a PSP game, and somehow feels more outdated than its predecessor. I suggest just YouTubing the story, unless you’re about to find yourself with a LOT of extra time on your hands and just feel like playing a tactical strategy game again.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Let’s get to something a little more topical. Rise of the Tomb Raider is the sequel to my personal Game of the Year of 2013, and is just more of that game. x This game is great, and I’m glad they kept what I enjoyed so much about it while adding little new features here and there. If this had come out in another year full of slightly-above-average games like 2013, it would easily take Game of the Year once again, unfortunately it’s going up against what is probably the best year of games of my lifexi.
Since I could go on and on about the great things this game has to offer, I think it would be easier just to point out my negative issues with it. First off, the game’s graphics don’t seem much better than the HD remake of its predecessor, I believe they could have gotten so much more out of it seeing what Metal Gear Solid 5 and Battlefront 3 have to offer graphically.
My second issue with the game is kind of a longer rant, and is really my only other topic I can expand on negatively. I feel like the first Tomb Raider has a step up on this sequel mainly because of the setting and plot of the game. In the first game, you were shipwrecked and fighting for survival, your goal was to somehow get off the island and it was you against the world. That sense of danger and the thrill of having literally everything try to kill you was something that kept me always engaged in the story and I felt closer to Lara Croft’s plight.
In Rise of the Tomb Raider Lara actively goes into danger, and is trying to accomplish a goal, and while I can understand why this might be more closer to what Tomb Raider games are supposed to be like, to me it dampens the excitement. Also *spoilers* you end up helping, and being helped by a tribe of mountain-people, and eventually end up just doing tasks for their sake, just to help build friendship. I like allies and cooperation as much as the next person, but this isn’t what I want when I play Tomb Raider, and to me it only aided in detracting from my intense survival experience.
Aside from those couple of things, I’ll say that if you’re a fan of the first Tomb Raider (2013), then you should definitely check out Rise of the Tomb Raider, it’s a worthy sequel that gives you more of what you loved the fist time. If the predecessor wasn’t your thing, then don’t expect Rise to offer anything new.