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Graev Rant: What happened to licensed games?

aladdin snesA long time ago licensed games used to be pretty bad, like with E.T. on Atari. Maybe some were good, but I don’t really care because I was either not alive or just barely sentient at the time. Later on there was a golden age of licensed games on systems like the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Disney games were almost always great and stuff like Aladdin, The Lion King, and various Micky/Donald games were just awesome. Ninja Turtle games like Turtles in Time and Hyperstone Heist were the shiz. There were Batman: The Animated Series games and even a few decent ones based off of the movies. I think a lot of these games were made by companies like Capcom and Konami which seemed to print gold with every game. Maybe that has something to do with it or maybe I just have a very poor and selective memory of older games.

There were also several great licensed games on later consoles like the N64 and PSX. The Spider-Man games were incredible. Unfortunately I think I just invalidated these while recalling Superman 64. But I’m sure you get the point here. There used to be a lot of quality licensed games. From there it got so much worse so fast to the point where people just wrote off any game based on a movie, tv show, comic, or book. Every now and then there was an anomaly like Chronicles of Riddick and Spider-Man 2 but by and large it was mostly god-awful crap that got churned out. I think this kind of game-mill mentality really hurt Disney’s game image but fortunately that seems to be getting turned around with the release of stuff like Disney Infinity.

I just used to really enjoy the idea of “getting the game after you saw the movie,” if you get my meaning. It’s kind of like the next evolution of buying all of the action figures after seeing a movie, which I imagine probably ends up being a lot more expensive. Nowadays new movies come out and I always keep an eye out for video game tie-ins with the hope that a gem might slip through the crack. Unfortunately they just don’t seem to make too many console licensed games these days. Which may be a good thing depending on your perspective.

But to answer my own question… What Happened To Licensed Games?

Oh, they’re all on phones and tablets. Fantastic.

I have never played a Mega Man game

Until now!

It’s always been my secret shame, and something that I’ve always been embarrassed to admit, but the truth is I have never played a Mega Man game until quite recently. Honestly I blame it on the fact that I owned a Master System rather than an NES and never had a Playstation 1. I should also probably not admit that I haven’t played any of the early Castlevania games but we only have enough time for so much shame.

So how did my first Mega Man experience come about? Why, after all of this, time did I finally play a Mega Man game? Well all through August there is a new Mega Man game being added to the virtual console service on Wii U. So which game was the first one I played?! Mega Man Battle Network! Whaaaat?! An offshoot game? Does that even count? These questions and more must be rushing through your mind but it is in fact the truth. It looked fun so I tried it out and immediately loved it. I have a vague recollection of the cartoon on Saturday mornings, but other than that I went in blind. Basically the game centers around a kid named LAN and his Net Navi named MegaMan.exe. You can jack into various electronics and send Mega Man onto the net and so on. The combat is actually pretty cool too. You move around on a grid in real-time firing your buster at viruses and the like. When your meter fills you can utilize various chips to perform special shots and attacks or other supportive functions. It’s pretty freakin’ sweet.

Some time later I did feel like I owed it to the series to try out the original games. I got my hands on the old Mega Man Anniversay collection and gave it a go. I mean, how hard could it be if kids in the 80′s could beat them? Obviously that’s a completely stupid sentiment since 80′s hard doesn’t just refer to rock music. I never knew how brutal these games could be and my self-respect and self-worth was seriously compromised. After many, many attempts and a lot of swearing I was finally able to beat the first Mega Man game. I wanted to feel excited but knew that there were 9 other games in the original series just left me feeling overwhelmed. I did try out Mega Man 2 but there is only so much ass-kicking I can take. I opted instead to try out the Mega Man X series and I’m actually enjoying the first game a lot. It is very hard but the pretty colors and added features make going back difficult.

So there it is: my first few Mega Man experiences and only a few decades too late. I’m actually a little hooked on the series now and my Amazon cart is stuffed with a few titles. I guess it’s proof that it is never to late to try something new and enjoy it. On the other hand I now feel incredibly depressed that the Mega Man series seems to be pretty dead. At least we will get to see him in the new Smash Bros. game.

This new console generation kinda sucks

xboxone-ps4It’s not fun to admit, but I’m pretty bummed out about our current console generation. There are a lot of factors contributing to creating this overall “meh” feeling. Obviously I can only speak for myself, and for every unsatisfied person there is likely dozens more who are happy. I feel like I need to vent a little bit about some of the really annoying aspects of the supposed “next gen.” You should probably note that there is a great chance that all of my info and everything I say is entirely wrong. Hey, I should get a T-Shirt that says that.

They don’t seem powerful enough

I totally admit that I am not a very tech savvy guy, which I’ve probably said before multiple times but I’m just putting it out there. The current generation of consoles doesn’t seem powerful enough to run next gen games. Getting 1080p and 60FPS seems to be an actual challenge and that’s pretty disheartening. Price points were really important for the PS4 and Xbox One and going over anything higher than $599 is a death sentence. Maybe trying to hit that $400-500 dollar mark wasn’t the best idea since they cant put a lot of power in it while still making good margins.

I’ve always been a huge fan of more stylized visuals over the gritty realistic stuff anyway. Maybe it would be better if more devs went in that direction rather than trying to shove as many light shafts, dust particles, and sweat drop bloom effects into a game as possible. Realistically console games will never look as good as PC games so maybe they shouldn’t try so hard to be what they can’t.

Remakes/Re-Releases out the ass

This is probably my biggest gripe and I’m pretty fed up with seeing remakes and re-releases of past generation games. Sometimes this is a good thing, like when it comes to a game like Wind Waker. That was all the way back on the GameCube and they gave it a pretty great overhaul and added in some new features. I don’t see anything wrong with revisiting older titles like that, especially since they can be hard to find. What really irks me is all of the PS3/360 games that came out so recently and are getting re-released onto the PS4/XboxOne. You can get some of these games for really cheap on last gen consoles but the re-releases are full priced titles most of the time. That really bothers me and I don’t know why anybody would pay potentially $50 more for a slightly prettier game. Kudos if that’s your thing but the real issue I have with all of these games is that it is usually stuff I have A) Already played or B) Had zero interest in last gen. So for me, and people like me, there aren’t a lot of new things to play and experience.

/End Rant

That pretty much covers all the stuff that I can think of that annoys me. It may be that my mood is just foul because I’ve had a really long and boring game drought this summer with only a few small oasis… oasises… oasi? bright spots in it. Luckily next month seems to be my salvation and I’ll get to enjoy Destiny and Disney Infinity 2.0 along with some other stuff. I imagine things will get even better over time but if they don’t I will probably be back here bitching away.

Rogue Legacy PS4/Vita

rogue-legacy

Rogue Legacy came out on PC a year or so ago but just recently made its way to consoles. Despite being an avid fan of roguelikes and rogue”lites” I never got around to playing the PC version. Recently we were able to get a review code from Cellar Door Games for the Playstation version of the game and I have been playing it non-stop ever since.

What kind of game is Rogue Legacy?

Rogue Legacy plays like an action platformer with roguelike elements. However, I also get a major MetroidVania vibe due to how the map and game levels are laid out. Not only that but the enemy types and variety along with the character combat remind me a lot of 2D Castlevania games. Your character runs around a castle setting fighting off skeletons, armored knights, floating eyeballs and skulls, elemental wizard guys, etc. Your main weapon is a sword which you can swing with but you also can do a downward thrust attack Scrooge McDuck Style, though you only bounce off of enemies and only slightly. You also get a secondary attack in the form of a spell like an arcing axe or throwing daggers. Like I said, very reminiscent of Castlevania sub-weapons. There’s also a very heavy emphasis on platforming elements and while you are making your way through the game you will have to avoid hazards like spikes, turrets, and fireballs as you make your way through corridors and between platforms.

rogue-legacy-ps4What are the roguelike aspects?

Whenever your character dies in Rogue Legacy (and you will die a lot) you take over as one of your descendants. You get a choice between three characters with different random configurations. There are several character classes in Rogue Legacy and they all have different strengths and weaknesses along with a special ability that can be unlocked. Your choice of character can also come with a variety of different and interesting traits. Some of these are just fun and offer cosmetic changes, like Color-Blind which makes everything black and white or I.B.S which makes you fart occasionally. Some of the traits can actually be beneficial like O.C.D. which lets you gain mana by breaking environmental objects. Gigantism increases your sprite size but also increases your swing range while conversely dwarfism makes you really small and shortens your range but lets you access a lot of secret areas. However a lot of the traits can be just awful and really impact how you play, like with Vertigo, Far-sighted, and Near-sighted.

Your progress in the castle and adjoining areas will be reset and randomized upon your death, aside from major bosses which stay dead. Fortunately there are lots of things you can do with all the gold you find stashed away. You do retain all of your gold upon death and in your next life you can use it to put points into a skill tree of sorts. There’s a lot of passive abilities that increase your hp, mana, and stats but some unlock access to new classes, class abilities, and merchants. Once you have a blacksmith you can use your gold to buy new equipment, provided you find the blueprints for the gear in the castle. The Enchantress can give you up to five different bonuses depending on the runes you find within the castle. These can increase your speed, how much gold you earn, give you double jump, let you fly for a short while, etc. If you double up on runes it actually increases the effect so if you equip two of the jump runes (or whatever it’s called) you can actually jump two additional times mid-air. The last merchant is the architect and he will keep the previous castle layout but you will only get 60% of the loot inside. It also lets you teleport to and retry bosses.

Final Thoughts

Rogue Legacy is essentially everything I want in a game like this. Great art style and music, fast-paced and difficult action, and gameplay mechanics that keep me playing for hours on end. The PSN version of the game is also cross-buy and cross-save compatible. In fact, Rogue Legacy has the best cross-save that I’ve seen of any game yet. Your saves are automatically synced (but it can be done manually) and it’s really easy to jump between platforms. I’m spent quite a few hours with the Vita version and it is just as good as the console counterpart. So if you have a PS3/PS4/Vita or any combination of them you should really consider checking this game out. Or if you don’t then it’s always available on PC but I’d recommend you play with a controller since I imagine trying to play this with a keyboard would be a nightmare. Anyway, for what it is I find Rogue Legacy pretty perfect or at least as close as you can get in this kind of game.

Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight is probably among the best purchases I’ve made this year and is easily one of the more memorable experiences. It’s pretty sad when a $15 download title is just so much better and so much more enjoyable compared to a lot of hyped “triple-A” titles that have come out this year. I’ve actually spent more time playing Shovel Knight and other stuff like Papers, Please than I ever put into games like Watch Dogs. That’s mainly because Watch Dogs just wasn’t very good, but it also seems to be a growing trend with all of these big budget games turning out to be boring and uninspired while the smaller, and often independent, games shine so much brighter. I suppose it’s something that has been going on for a while now, but I never really took a whole lot of notice until recently. Anyway, enough about all of that and onto Shovel Knight!

shovel-knight-levelThe whole concept of Shovel Knight is ridiculous and awesome or perhaps just ridiculously awesome. I mean, a knight that goes around fighting people with a shovel is just hilarious in its own right but the idea opens up some interesting gameplay ideas. Personally I would have loved to see some more elements that involved digging and some interesting secrets and puzzles to go along with it but at its core Shovel Knight is an action platformer first and foremost. I want to compare it to something like Mega Man but I don’t actually have a lot of Mega Man experience. Shovel Knight might actually be closer to, a lot closer actually, Duck Tales–even down to Shovel Knight’s ability to bounce continuously on enemies and certain objects with his shovel. There’s a lot more to it than that, however. In addition to bouncing and swinging your shovel you can also collect and buy various relics and upgrades throughout the game. There’s a wide variety of optional sub-weapons that you can acquire that not only help in defeating baddies but also provide some additional help in the platforming department by granting you the  ability to walk and travel over spikes or flight a short distance.

The overworl layout of Shovel Knight looks somewhat similar to Mario Bros. 3. All of the levels are connected by paths and in order to progress you need to defeat bosses to unlock the way through. There are also a few optional side areas where you can gather some extra treasure and even some wandering bosses. A few towns are also available and you can talk to NPCs and buy upgrades there. Each of the actual levels are themed to a specific boss like Mole Knight, Plague Knight, Propeller Knight, etc. This is what reminds me a little bit of Mega Man, especially since you get the option of a few levels at once and can tackle them in any order. Sometimes this can even prove to be helpful if there is a handy relic in another level that might make things easier for you later on.  The game is actually pretty difficult and you will die at least a few times be it from enemies or platforming. At the end I had 85 or so deaths so maybe I just suck. When you die you lose a portion of your acquired treasure and go back to the nearest checkpoint you reached, which can sometimes be pretty far away. Some of the treasure you lost will remain at the spot of your death in the form of floating bags and if you are able you can regain some of it. The higher treasure amount you have, which is what you use to purchase stuff and acts as somewhat of a score, the more you lose.

shovel-knight-bossMy first run at Shovel Knight lasted around 8 or so hours and that was only at about 97% item completion. A new game + option exists which lets you carry over all your stuff into a harder version of the game and right now I’m working through that. A form of achievements also exist called Feats. Some of them are fairly easy while others are just straight up crazy. I mean, complete the game without dying? Don’t fall into a single pit? That’s just crazy but that’s another cool aspect about this and games like it. You can really make it as hard for yourself as you want by trying to beat the game without getting any relics, by destroying the checkpoints for money, trying to beat it in under 90 minutes, etc. All of which also have an attached feat.

Shovel Knight is a fantastic game and one that I wish could just keep going on and on without end. If you have a Wii U, 3Ds, or PC then you really need to check it out. The visuals are incredibly charming and the sprites are just awesome. The music is catchy and there is actually a lot of good variety to it. Plus the game is just loads and loads of fun. Support Shovel Knight and maybe we will get a sequel if we are lucky.