Saturday, 21 April 2012

REVIEW: Colours! 3D

Anyone with an iPhone or an iPod Touch will be familiar with Apps, little tools and games developed for the enjoyment of those seeking mindless fun. Granted, you'll find similar bite-sized nuggets of minimum to neutral to occassionally high enjoyment on various other handheld devices, but it seems the main sellers are those that support Apple's App Store, a virtual shopping centre stocked full of miniature games and tools. Over the years, the App Store has developed a massive range of apps, as you'd expect, but since anyone with at least a slight amount of programming knowledge can develop a piece of software to be metaphorically stocked on the virtual store shelves, not all of this stuff is of great quality. In fact, a lot of it is complete and utter crap which usually overwhelms the good stuff that never really succeeds. Granted, it is undeniably exciting to find a bite-sized piece of fantastic software that hasn't hit the mainstream, but one of the greatest strengths of the App Store is also its biggest weakness. As biased as it sounds, the Nintendo 3DS eShop isn't like that. Only titles that make it through quality control are made available to download by 3DS users, which makes for a much smaller, but overall higher quality range of downloads. A simple idea for an application is a drawing tool, many of which can be found on both downloadable stores mentioned above, albeit in a lower frequency on the 3DS. On Nintendo's side is Art Academy, which comes in the form of both a retail package and various downloads. On iPods and whatnot, however, there's a monumental amount of these tools, as you'd expect. However, there's one that stands above them all, and that, my friends, is Colours! 3D.
This gorgeous Hatsune Miku fanart might look amazing here, but you really should see it in eye-popping 3D. Credit to the artist of this image, I own nothing, in case you were wondering.
You only need to take a look at the artwork pictured above to know that Colours! 3D, is indeed a very impressive piece of software, yet somehow it manages to be fantastically simplistic in design. You'll get to grips with the tools and controls on offer within minutes, and will be creating mini-masterpieces (in full 3D, if you wish) not much later. Allow me to explain how the tools found in the application, briefly; After selecting a canvas (either widescreen, landscape or portrait), three brush types, as well as full size and opacity adjustments, countless colours, and of course an eraser tool, are avaiable. As anyone should know, these are the basic tools needed to create a masterpiece, but if you want to delve even deeper, a number of other settings are available. One of these is the tool exclusive to the 3DS version of Colours!, which is, as you'd expect, the function to make your drawings stereoscopic. 5 layers can be arranged, copied and deleted at will, so if you mess up the 3D it's extremely easy to fix. Speaking of fixing things, undo and redo buttons are also included in case you slip up or vice-versa. Alongside all of this, you can flip layers horizontally or vertically, and make use of various other easy to understand functions. It really couldn't be any simpler, but that doesn't mean it's basic in the slightest.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Preview: Reflecting on the Action of Resident Evil 6

I've always had a sort of love-hate relationship with Capcom as a games developer and publisher. They're one of the biggest names in the industry, known for unleashing a fair few classic franchises upon the world, such as Mega Man and Street Fighter. But honestly, and you'll know this all too well if you've been reading my blog for a while, the company has made some frustrating moves throughout their mostly high-quality legacy of game development. I'm sure we all remember the cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3, a superb-looking 3DS title, as well as some recent downloadable content annoyances, but one that really springs to my mind in particular is a certain Resident Evil game. No, I'm not referring to Resident Evil 6, the topic of today's post, but instead to Operation Raccoon City, an action-focused title that basically throws up poor-quality gameplay, pathetic storytelling and absurdly bland characters all over the classic Resi 2. Look up some reviews of the abomination, and you'll know full well what I'm talking about. Of course, you're probably wondering at this point why I've brought up this title, when the subject heading clearly states that this post is meant to be regarding my thoughts on the next main instalment in the long-running Resident Evil franchise. What does the atrocity that is Operation Raccoon City have to do with that? Well, it has a fair bit to do with one aspect of the upcoming release, I'll have you know.

Operation Raccoon City is purely an action-focused game, and not a very exciting one at that. The core gameplay is essentially built on two very generic elements, these being a cover system (never seen that in a 3rd-person shooter before, am I right?) and of course, the shooting itself. Both are badly handled, no doubt, but I'm not here to discuss that. My point is that, if this is what a focus on action could do to a Resident Evil game, all of us need to await the arrival of the sixth main series installment very cautiously, until it finally drops in a hopefully high-quality package at the beginning of October towards the end of the year. Now, don't think I'm booting the game, here, in all honesty I think it looks absolutely amazing, but the clear increased focus on action does bother me slightly. In the first trailer we saw for the game, a cover system was spotted. Big deal, right? Well, you'd be surprised at how easy it is to mess an element like that up, as many 3rd-person shooters have showed us over the years, ORC in particular. I should mention the fact that the aforementioned abomination of a Resident Evil spin-off wasn't developed by Capcom, but was under their supervision. If they gave this the green light, and not Mega Man Legends 3, there's something quite wrong with them. Regardless, with this short piece of word-based ranting out of the way, I'm going to begin my thoughts on what we've seen of Resident Evil 6 thus far, while also reflecting on the main complaint many have with the game, in the space of a few paragraphs. Get ready to experience some word-based hype, folks...

I thought now would be a good time to write up my impressions of Resident Evil 6 so far, considering the fact that we saw a second trailer for the game at Capcom's Captivate event the other day. Unlike the debut trailer, this 3-minute video focused completely on story footage, and it's in this aspect that the next big Resident Evil release clearly won't disappoint. For those who haven't been following the game since its announcement around two months ago, here's a brief summary of what can be gathered from the first two trailers: First off, the brilliant protagonist of the second and fourth main Resident Evil games we know as Leon Scott Kennedy makes a return, and he's looking scruffier than ever 10 years after the Raccoon City incident that occurred in the events of Resident Evil 2. The President of the United States, supposedly the father of Ashley Graham (that's the girl Leon had to save in the fourth main game), has decided to tell the world the truth about the catastrophic bio-terror outbreak a decade prior, but unfortunately for the world, things go a little bit wrong. Well, very wrong. You see, before having a chance to inform humanity of the Raccoon City incident, the President becomes infected and zombified himself, left alone with Leon and his new partner, '''''. The hero is regrettably forced to neutralise him, a decision that would later drastically change the course of history. With the President deceased, utter chaos across several regions ensues. One of these locales is Tall Oaks, a city that has seen the same fate as Resi 2's setting, and it's here that Leon and his partner need to investigate what's going on some time after the former world leader's death. Who could possibly be behind the President's infection? What effect will the biggest scale of bio-terrorism the Resident Evil franchise has ever seen have on its fictional world? All of this looks to be explained in this one release.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

REVIEW: Super Smash Bros. Brawl (100th Post)

If anyone were to ask me what the most anticipated release in terms of videogames has been since the dawn of the medium several decades ago, I'd undeniably struggle to conjure up the image of a more packed metaphorical hype train than the one that belonged to Super Smash Bros. Brawl a number of years back. At Nintendo's E3 conference in 2006, this gargantuan beast of a videogame release was first unveiled to the public's eyes in the form of a memorable teaser trailer, and from that point onwards an absolute ton of people, gamers and casuals alike, got very, very excited. And you know what? Super Smash Bros. Brawl, one of Nintendo's greatest and most certainly biggest creations, deserved every last bit of hype it received and then some. For me and many others, no other game beats Sakurai's smashing legend from a content perspective, and I highly doubt anything will top it until the series' next installment drops in several years time. Brawl is truly an absolutely massive game, celebrating almost all things Nintendo in a single, quality package; one very fitting to be reviewed here on the blog as a celebration of 100 published pieces of writing from yours truly. Heck, I'd struggle to think of a more fitting game to review for this oh-so special occasion - Not even titles I prefer in terms of quality such as Skyward Sword, Metal Gear Solid 3 or Persona 4 deserve this one-off spot more than Brawl, and I'll tell you why in the space of several paragraphs and a couple thousand words right now. Here's hoping I do this legend of a game justice...

Super Smash Bros. first emerged on Nintendo's first polygonal 64-bit system back in the late 90's, acting not only as the big N's step in to the fighting genre, but also a dramatic departure from many fighting games before it, such as Street Fighter and the original Tekken. Brawl's pre-predecessor packaged 12 playable characters, only four of which were unlockable, as well as nine stages to do battle on, eight items to make use of and two distinct game modes in the form of a basic single player and local multiplayer. How far we've come since then. As if the sequel, Super Smash Bros. Melee on GameCube, didn't add enough, almost a decade later Brawl hit the Wii with the most content found in the series yet, and most definitely the largest amount of things to do in any release in the gaming medium ever at the time. 35 Nintendo all-stars to play as (including a number of 'alter-egos'), 49 items, 41 stages as well as a stage editor mode, well over a thousand collectible trophies and stickers reminiscing Nintendo's vast history, 128 achievements to keep you hooked for countless hours, a full single player (or co-operative, if you wish) adventure complete with fantastic CGI cutscenes and a heap of stages and bosses, the addictive group options the series is known for, many returning modes from the previous two Smash Bros. titles and much, much more. I could write a several-thousand word essay on the metric megaton of content found in Brawl, but I'd rather cut down on that and discuss about my opinions regarding the game. Yes, the amount of things to see and do in this release is certainly plausible, but as the old saying goes: Quality, not quantity. Thankfully, unlike many releases, particularly ones that fit under the fighting genre, Brawl packs a lot of both of these things, blending the standardised Smash Bros. formula with a multitude of modes that are different enough to keep things fresh for a very long time. I've owned the game since before I even received my Wii, and after owning the game for well over two years, I'm still brawling to this day. Nothing screams longevity and lasting appeal more than this title.

At the heart of it all is Brawl's freshest mode, one absent from the first two Smash Bros. releases: The Subspace Emissary. This 10-hour adventure mode sees you taking control of almost every character in the game, and as I mentioned previously, battling a number of bosses and watching some truly brilliant CGI sequences involving the cast. This mode, which can be played on your own or with a friend through local co-operative play, is drastically similar to the Kirby games which is to be expected from Sakurai-san, who is also hailed the pink blob's creator. It's an action-packed 2D platformer with less of a focus on jumping and avoiding obstacles (although this is still evident) and more on beating the living daylights out of packs of truly bizarre enemies to advance. It doesn't work that well as a platformer, in that it's not difficult to slip up and collide with some spikes only to get launched off the screen as if things couldn't get any worse, but ultimately, I digress. Subspace Emissary is admittedly one of the weaker things Brawl has to offer, but having said that it's still a particularly enjoyable addition complete with some memorable and occasionally hilarious sequences. The plot itself is enjoyable, too. In basic terms, an evil known as the subspace is wreaking havoc in what I like to call Trophy Land, a universe housing an unexpected collision of various Nintendo worlds. Samus teams up with Pikachu in order to retrieve her power suit, Fox McCloud is forced rather hilariously to work with Diddy Kong who is trying to rescue his father-turned-trophy Donkey Kong, and so on. All of these branches intertwine throughout the adventure, and eventually even the supposed villains come up against a mysterious force threatening the whole of Trophy Land. Brawl's story takes many well-known Nintendo sagas and manages to successfully combine them while making them feel unique when paired up. All in all, it works. Subspace Emissary is something you'll play through once and unlikely do so again, but you'll love it on your initial playthrough. This mode is only the icing on Brawl's content-stuffed cake, however, hence why I've got it out of the way before the main bulk of the game: multplayer.