Category: Editorials

When Record Tracks Need To Change: The Story of Battletoads

1-Battletoads_1Many games go through several phases of record hunting. Some games like Super Mario Bros. have hundreds of competitors competing for the smallest little frame to get the World Record. Some, like Ninja Gaiden III: The Dark Sword of Chaos, have one great run and then pretty much fall off in some categories. Well, this article is going to cover one of the most interesting cases of them all: Battletoads

Why is Battletoads so played despite it being so hard?

If you’re a classic NES gamer you’ve at least heard of this game in passing. It usually makes the top 10 lists of hardest games excluding classic arcade games on a regular basis. Many people have braved to play this game, many have failed. The Turbo Tunnel, Stage Three in the game, has been routinely voted one of the hardest stages to ever exist in a video game. On the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) version (later fixed on the Rare Replay version), the Clinger Winger unicycle stage has a glitch that prevents the second player from completing the stage.

Despite these comings, the game has driven a passionate fanbase that seems to keep growing and growing for some reason. I have somewhat of an interest, I can max out the score virtually on any setting, once under Twin Galaxies settings which disallow multiple 1-up collection, multiple times under unlimited settings, while only beating the game one time ever. I usually get too frustrated at not being able to complete the game to keep playing it for long periods of time. But there are some people that keep playing it, and playing it, and playing it, and some even says it gets easy and routine over time. These people are also very active on YouTube, and regularly post videos.

Also, not recognized by most sites, people are creating horrendous glitch runs that show how memory can be corrupted and still played and improvised on the NES. This glitch division in speedruns has also garnered quite an interest, and ironically, can be very entertaining to watch. However, you have to keep in mind this can potentially break your cartridge and can be very very expensive on a real NES. Still, people do it.

battletoadsNow where’s the problem lie?

The problem with Battletoads is that there are a lot of people daring its difficulty to do amazing things. On TwinGalaxies site alone, there are 11 people who have completed it on Twin Galaxies Tournament Settings (the standard settings). There have been reports of many maxouts on RetroAchievements on emulator on unlimited settings. So yes, there is probably a need to change the rules here, as the meaning of having the top world record is getting diluted, and getting a max score is only an achievement.

Two Possible Solutions

There have been various ideas of how to fix this problem. I will discuss the two I have come across:

There is the RecordSetter way of handling it, where the maxout is timed and the time to maxout is taken. This also adds an element of speedrunning and planning to it; however, this allows abuse of 1-ups and could have infinite loops.

There is also the TwinGalaxies Extreme Settings, which allow for one life only. This completely eliminates 1-up loops, forcing you to progress through the game in order to pick up points, knowing multiple areas and strategies. Still, there is a possible case for leeching, especially on the rubber ducks in Level 9.

What’s the best solution?

I really don’t know honestly. Something needs to change, with the number of people hitting maxout probably hitting about one hundred, especially after the Rare Replay release. I don’t know if there’s a best choice. Each has their pros and cons. Either way, both will cause players to get sharper and more fine-tuned with their game choices and make it harder. And in the case of arguably the hardest game of all time outside of classic arcade games, it is a fitting challenge.

The State of Street Fighter V

sfv-logoFresh off of a relatively successful Evo 2016, which had a record breaking number of participants, Street Fighter V is a hot topic. With the release of Season 1’s final character of Urien, the story mode finally released, it’s looking a little more like a playable game for everyone rather than an unfinished beta state. Let’s look at a few things that have happened so far:

A relatively balanced cast

Only twice in fighting games’ entire history has a cast been balanced properly from top to bottom. One was X-Men vs. Street Fighter where everyone had some sort of broken tech, and Soul Calibur II where the cast could pretty much compete with each other without matchups. Street Fighter V is quickly becoming a threat to that list. With nearly every character having won a Capcom Pro Tour event and a good diversity of characters showing up in Top 8’s and Top 16’s, it’s safe to say that even with the low amount of characters available, there’s a balance between styles, skills, and abilities. It may not be Soul Calibur 2 perfect, but compared to most fighting games which have issues with some cast members being more powerful than others, Street Fighter V is proving to have everybody around the same strength.

urien-ss-3Ease of Play

One problem with recent fighting games is their relative complexity. Even on “simpler “ games like Street Fighter IV, you had to know how to Focus Dash Combo (FDAC) and deal with vortex pressure in order to stay alive. I had a hard time liking Street Fighter IV because of this. Other examples include Guilty Gear’s requirement of knowing massive pre-determined combos and punishing people for being too defensive. Skullgirls or any of the Marvel vs. Capcom titles had so many options for combos you needed to know which worked in certain situations and did enough damage. Tekken 7 and even more recent Soul Calibur’s have you needing to know about 100 moves per characters in their sets to keep you on your toes. Killer Instinct and Mortal Kombat X require you to know overwhelming offense to succeed.

Street Fighter V went back to basics. Capcom took out a lot of setups and extra special moves and returned everyone essentially back to Street Fighter 2 Turbo days with a timed combo systems. Granted this brought on some problems like bringing Super Turbo Vega back, which was insanely broken to begin with, but the game is by far the simplest fighting game to play technically-wise in a very long time. Combo strings seem to resemble X-Men vs. Street Fighter pre-infinite discovery, and except for Guile and Balrog (so far), charge characters seem to be on a decline, bringing a more emphasis on smart offensive play. If you’ve played a fighting game at any time, you can probably find something that you know or have played before

jri_11Except for Infiltration (Seon-Woo Lee), everybody’s beating up on each other

Street Fighter V has leveled the playing field except for Infiltration. All the top players seem to beat up on each other. Daigo ended up placing 33rd place at Evo, took 9th at a smaller East Coast tournament, and won some big Asian tournament. Justin Wong had a lengthy run in the loser’s bracket at Evo, and is second in the points standings winning other ranking tournaments across the world. The Evo Top 16 had multiple new faces, from LI Joe to Yukadon, who never really had a reputation of placing before. So it’s not just people from the 2009 Street Fighter IV renaissance who are placing high.

But then there’s the Infiltration monster. Seon-woo Lee has won three of the four major tournaments he has entered, and except for losing to Tokido playing him for the third time in a tournament final and slipping up on Fuudo’s R. Mika sending him to Evo’s loser’s bracket (which he later avenged), he has had an answer to every situation. Whether it’s reading patterns and getting four perfects in a set, or just scrambling to get a hit confirm in an impossible situation, Infiltration has utterly dominated this game so far.

In tournaments, it has been Infiltration, then whoever is the cup of the day. Infiltration will be the heavy betting favorite going into Capcom Cup this year, no questions asked.

13-06-critical-artNot without Controversy

Nothing’s ever perfect. Street Fighter V has had its share of controversy. The first involves ragequitters. It took Capcom a year to find out who had been intentionally disconnecting from a match, then assessing them a penalty. Also, there was the public shaming issue regarding ragequitting, which I think was somewhat uncalled for.

Second is the lack of single player modes, Which I think was done by design choice, Capcom decided to do away with Arcade Mode to signal changing times, and only had a three really easy battle individual story mode, a survival mode which is nearly impossible to finish, and online. Capcom later rectified this problem by releasing a Mortal Kombat X-style Story Mode in July, but in many casual players’ eyes, it should have been released at the time the game was released and people paid $59.99 for it (not including Season Pass), bringing Capcom negative press in that regard.

Next up, is the DLC pricing. In a not-so-unusual in today’s market move, Capcom released a DLC that would contribute to the pro players’ prize pool. Unfortunately, instead of a reasonable $5 or $6 costume like Mortal Kombat X charged, they wanted $24.99 for an extra stage and 2 classic costumes. This caused a lot of outrage among a lot of community people and felt Capcom was being too exorbitant. Capcom’s response: Not every DLC will be reasonably affordable. It’s up to you to decide how you feel on that.

Last, but not least, in shades of Street Fighter x Tekken’s Gems Mode, Capcom released unfinished characters Juri and Urien in Story Mode as “disc-locked content”. While this might be more amenable in business where you can’t custom-make everything, in a consumer’s and general public’s eyes, this is another cheap cash grab by Capcom. This does not help their reputation on that one bit, especially after Street Fighter x Tekken, where they put 19 unfinished characters on the disc along with multiple gems looking for extra money.

jri_11Conclusion

In essence, as a result of all of this, Capcom has said they have had mildly disappointing sales of Street Fighter V, selling 1.5 million copies instead of 2 million projected. So it’s obvious some of their cash grab policies, lack of features, and no nostalgia hype impacted Street Fighter V at launch. However, its community is strong, and had exciting matches at Evo. Now that Story Mode is out, it might be worth it if you can get a deal for it for $20 to $35, then eventually getting the Season Pass, then you get everything for what was originally full price. Survival Mode is still an issue though, as they did patch in Super Turbo-style button reading AI. But in the end, with the Marvel vs. Capcom series unable to be produced due to licensing issues, this is probably the simplest and easiest game to get into that’s out there that’s currently active in tournaments.

To give a quick review:

Graphics: 8/10. Nothing special. Not a fan, but don’t hate it either. Wish they stuck to 4’s graphics.
Sound: 9/10. I think the remixes in online play are really cool.
Play Control: 8/10. Please do something about the eight frames of lag. This has to be tested for competitive balance though. More responsive to controls than other iterations though. Larger frame windows and timed combo systems a plus.
Fun Factor/Ease of Play: 5/10. Online play will be hard for beginners. If you have a local friend, that will ease the pain.

Overall: 8/10. I’d recommend it now that the issues are fixed if you can find a sale on it.

Trick or Treat? Are the new Overwatch patches here to help or hurt?

OverwatchIt’s the time of year where people are prepping sugary treats and spooky outfits. Blizzard’s fast paced, colorful shooter, Overwatch, is no different. Another round of patches have been introduced to help balance their eclectic lineup of memorable heroes. Let’s take a look at what those changes are and how they’ll help, or hurt the gameplay.

The first, and most notable change is that now all ultimate abilities have had an additional increase by 25% cost to be able to use them.

D. Va

Everyone’s favorite S. Korean gamer gal has beefed up as a tank with an increase in health to 200 for her mech. Her armor rating remains the same at a total of 400. But that’s not all. If you found her slow before when she’s unleashing her flurry of shots, worry not, because now she’s received a 25% percent boost in movement speed while firing.

halloweenterror-sprayavatars-ana_ow_jp_400x400_png_jpgcopyAna

Our mercenary sniper/healer hasn’t been affected much. Much being defined by how much you relied on all of Nano Boost’s affects. The ability no longer gives an increase in character movement speeds. So, strategy-wise for example, if your plan was to use it on already speedy heroes, or, even another healer, Luccio, for positioning maneuvers, sorry.

Torbjorn

The techno-centric dwarf with his oversized hammer has been brought down (yay or nay) to level. A source of irritation or joy for many players. The scrap collecting defensive character finds himself under a lot of changes. First, scrap is generated over time for Torbjorn automatically. However, this comes at the cost of a 40% decrease in collected scrap from enemy player deaths. So, if you used to run around harvesting the battlefield and tossing out buffs to teammates, you might be waiting a bit longer to do that.

For those of you relying on his turret—and who doesn’t—you’re in for a pleasant surprise. His swing speed has gone up 25% so as long as your turret’s not under fire, faster build time. This comes at a cost in 27% reduction damage for the hammer, not the turret. Hopefully many of you weren’t running around trying to bop people to death with the tool…

Zarya

The Russian power-lifting, laser cannon totin’ tank has had a change to her core system. Her barriers now give you 20% less power absorption across yes, both barriers. So, you’ll have to juggle her abilities a bit more carefully and manage your power usage for the laser as well.

ow_halloweenlegendaryskins_tg_001_fixedLuccio

The rollerblading healer has had a strange decrease to his Amp It Up ability. It’s healing-per-second has been decreased by a sum of 10%. Depending on how you use it and manage your heals, it’s not exactly crippling, but, per second basis, 10% also adds up.

Mei

The diminutive ice-queen’s ultimate has been increased by 15%. Given the power of it and the fact it can render entire teams immobile and at the mercy of other teammate ultimates, I can see why it’s happened. This one’s up for discussion. Good call, Blizzard, or not? Let us know what you think below.

ow_halloween_lootboxopen_tg_png_jpgcopySoldier 76

The click and shoot soldier has had his rounds upgraded. His bullets now do 20 damage per round instead of 17 and his spread has increased from 2.2 to 2.4. A little penalty to accuracy in the exchange for more power! Given his ultimate aimbot ability, I can only see this as a benefit for the right moments. Save that ultimate and unleash the damage when it comes down to a deciding point in the match, and you might be able to turn the tide.

If you liked the article, and have suggestions or something you’d like to see us write about, let us know, will you? Thank you for reading!

The big mistake? A look at Final Fantasy II

ffii_psp_logoFinal Fantasy is a series we know and love. Some highlights:

  • The Four Warriors of Light to start it off:
  • Cecil and Golbez of Final Fantasy IV
  • Kefka of Final Fantasy VII
  • Maybe you’re a Cloud fanboy of Final Fantasy VII
  • Maybe you like the technical aspect to Final Fantasy X
  • Perhaps you’re an online MMO player with Final Fantasy XIII
  • Perhaps you play the others

Either way, you’ve probably played at least one of them unless you’ve had your head in a hole.  However, what you may not know is the series nearly died before it got off the ground.  Yes, I’m talking about Final Fantasy II – Japan.

On the surface, it seems like you can build a team of Gods.  Each weapon, spell, etc., can be leveled up 16 times.  You can essentially make it so you know everything very well, especially on the Game Boy Advance remake.  At the very least, you can make your characters any custom class you want.  Sounds good on the surface, right?

ff2coverWell, all’s not rosy.  This game takes hours upon hours of grinding just to be able to realize that dream.  When I was replaying it for RetroAchievments recently, it took almost 40 hours just to get to Level 10 on each with every character.  I still haven’t found a way to really level past 10 reliably.  Also, you have to do things like take hits to get more MP, then spend MP to get spells.  It turns into a tedious, sometimes stupid, play mechanic that doesn’t reward smart play and turns the game into a grind-fest.  I spent nearly 90 percent of my time grinding and like 10 percent actually playing the game.  It is debatable whether I could have cut some time, but considering that it was my third play through and I had some idea of where everything was, this is a lot of time to be spending grinding just weapons and spells.

This verdict has generally been agreed upon.  The game has been universally the worst seller of the entire series according to VGchartz.com.  It also has been passed over at the time for being a bad game in the eyes of the American reviewer at Nintendo.  The only reason Final Fantasy III – Japan wasn’t released in the United States was because of time restraints for Final Fantasy IV, which was needed to showcase the Super Nintendo.  Final Fantasy IIJapan even had a localization done, but like Super Mario Bros 2 – Japan, it was rejected for release close to the final call.

This was later rectified when America discovered the games and its remake was packaged with seller Final Fantasy I when brought to the United States in the GBA remake, Final Fantasy I and II:  Dawn of Souls.  It still showed how bad of a game it was, and except for hardcore players, is generally not played.  I may play emulated versions, but I won’t buy it.  Square Enix doesn’t deserve my money for that game.  I did a run of it for RetroAchievements.org on their stream channel, and I kind of regret doing it, because of its length and how awful the game really is.

Fortunately, due to forgiveness and bumping it out of release, it didn’t destroy Final Fantasy as a brand.  However, when you ask for different games, and new features, don’t always be so sure.  Sometimes conservative is better, but not to the point of Capcom recycling.  Experiments don’t always work.  Final Fantasy II – Japan would be better off forgotten if not for copyright time-related issues and renewals.

Are you benefiting from your gaming?

game-controllerVideo games are a multi-billion dollar a year industry. From top tier AAA titles varying from shooters to rpgs, to the niche indie games in between. They all add up in content. But, they do a great deal more than that for their players.

Did you know that video games have been responsible for improving the creative arts and your own creativity? They have and are doing just that.

Since video games have reached the mass appeal, and affordable realm through mostly consoles, every other kid has had some level of access to them. They’ve evolved over the years from simple objective based games that revolve around navigating puzzles and several tiered stages to something more.

Story. Games have gone from straightforward shooters or scrolling maps to fully fleshed out worlds driven by characters and series of events. They now revolve around making choices, brilliant narrative and building upon a series of choices. This evolution in gaming has coincided with the growth of an entire generation that has learned to coordinate complex strategies, weigh choices and consequences as well as learn about writing.

As an author myself, I cannot impress the importance of those things enough. Video games a the perfect medium in between the silver screen, and written prose. They balance the visual appeal of movies/television with the evocative writing. Growing up playing them has contributed both to my love in writing as well as a good chunk of my progress.

Video games are now led by creative times of writers and storyboarders trying to create the perfect narrative pacing, lovable (or detested) characters, and mind-blowing settings. They aim to suck you in and keep you immersed in a new world or worlds. That is an art form, one, many other creators are now learning from.

With the evolution of video games has come a new culture of artists making fan art. They’re not only sharing their passion for the games and their art, they are improving their own skills by practicing upon using another creation. It’s a world where art is begetting art. It’s leading to pop up successes of professional costumers (cosplayers) making a living and name dressing up as their favorite characters. Video games are pushing the creative community to new heights.

I’ve personally improved my literary fiction techniques by playing games. When you’re in depth behind a character forced to making gripping choices with even larger consequences, you quickly learn how to write characters people want to root for, cry over, and even hate should it come to it. You learn to elicit emotions.

Video games aren’t only visual eye candy. They are interactive art that helps people feel, and grow as people, and artists. You can’t really put a price on that. But if you could, it’d likely come in around $59.99.

This is the first piece of many to come about the evolving culture of video games and their positive impact on people.

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THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2017
Copyright 2012 Beazley Entertainment
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