DragonBall Z: The Perfect Game Cycle

Weather you loved it or not, no one can deny what an impact Dragon Ball Z had. For a lot of people, myself included, it was their first introduction to anime. Most remember coming home and trying to catch one of the nineteen (not exaggerating) episodes of Goku fighting Frieza or Gohan fighting Cell. And what better to do with a series that blew up than make a game out of it.

And not just that, but many video games off of it. Its still even to the point where

A game that by no means was bad, but didn’t stand out amongst the mountain of games with it. Image Source: Drangobnball.wikia.com

games are still coming out even now, with Xenoverse 2 scheduled for release later this year. I even contemplated doing a “Games Gone By” of one of the series of games, but there really is no one to choose. Do you consider Budokai  within the same series as Budokai Tenkaichi or Raging Blast as its own line with Ultimate Tenkaichi being a one-off? My point is, is that there is no definitive series for the game.

And why should there be? It can work in a traditional fighting game style (Budokai and Burst Limit) as well as an open range fighting game (Tenkaichi and Raging Blast) or as something entirely different (The Legacy of Goku series on Game Boy). The limits are endless, and no matter how many times you tell the story, it always seems to have people coming back for more.

An element of nostalgia is present for sure, but for a lot of people, they still are just as involved into it as they are Pokemon. But they always progress in what seems like a natural way. Now an online character creator game has been doing well with Xenoverse, and the sequel will no doubt do just as well.

A failed experiment for sure, but Dragon Ball Z Kinect showed the developers trying to listen to what fans wanted. And thankfully this lead to some great changes. Image Source: Game Shogun.com

But why? Why is Bandai Namco able to make game after game? The answer is simple:

THEY KNOW THEIR AUDIENCE

When the Kinect title didn’t work out, they scrapped it and built something familiar but still inventive with Battle of Z. When that did slightly better, they decided to build something that the fans have always wanted by taking the Dragon Ball Online from Japan and making it into Xenoverse for the Playstation 4. The developers listen to feedback, and while they may try and re-use a formula with a new coat of paint on it, they use the formula that worked and fans likes. It still showed that they pay attention to what people like and don’t. And for me, that is extremely important for any consumer company to do.

So now I say, enjoy Xenoverse, but if you can’t afford the newer games, put in one the old Budokai games r Super Dragon Ball Z, because no matter the time, Dragon Ball Z stands out as a beloved franchise that people can enjoy.

 

Games Gone By: The Force Unleashed

A smaller series this time around but by no means that does that make it bad. Well…not terrible, but it definitely deserved more than what it got. These two games I always see as two of the best Star Wars games that not only has a great original story, but also helps expand what we already know from the original trilogy.

The story is a definite highlight of the first game, exploring a lot of what led to events in the A New Hope. Image Source: entreegeeks.wordpress.com

Star Wars The Force Unleashed came out in 2008 on the Playstation 3, Playstation 2, Xbox 360, and the Wii. In it you play as Starkiller, Darth Vader’s secret apprentice who has been training to help him overthrow the emperor. You are tasked usually with hunting Jedi with your pilot Juno Eclipse and polite yet blood-hungry droid proxy. The game takes you amazing places such as the jungles of Kashyyyk to the junk world of Raxus Prime and many other locations I won’t spoil.  Along the way, you grow to love Starkiller as he questions what he is doing and if you really wants to become a Sith.

The gameplay is a classic hack and slash that lets you really use the force in new and exciting ways. You can force-push, grip, dash, and even use force lightning on your enemies. The combat system even rewards you for mixing multiple kinds of attacks together. Certain enemies are avoidant to certain force powers, so you can’t rely on one power.

However, at the same time a lot of the enemies can be considered cheap, often hitting you right as you get up or attacking long-range from off-screen. This especially true for the Purge troopers.

There’s something to be said about being able to take down a Rancor with relative ease. Image Source: videogamesnet.com

You can also have influence on where the story goes (either being canon are longer applicable after it was placed in the LEGENDS canon). You can even pick the final boss! The darker ending even has a dlc that shows a darker way A New Hope and Empire could have gone.

Also the soundtrack is phenomenal. Take a listen for yourself, it perfectly captures  John Williams’s style and feeling, heightening  the game exponentially.

 

All things considered, I think that this game offers a lot, especially for Star Wars fans. While the cutscenes have some creepy facial animations, the story is still one that pulls you in and makes you feel for what’s going on. It also gives an ironic twist as to the origins of the rebellion. Sadly, the charm and heart was not present in the second game.

More polish than substance unfortunately. Image Source:game-debate.com

The Force Unleashed 2 came out for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, and PC in 2010. The game generated immense hype by showing that Starkiller now using TWO lightsabers, as well as having Boba Fett and Yoda in the story. However, the excitement for the game quickly diminished for most players when they realized they were more than halfway through the game after roughly an hour.

If you like Boba Fett, then you’ll love all 30 seconds of his screentime. Image Source: engadget.com

The story is pitiful. Vader is trying to clone Starkiller, and you play as on of those clones who is still attached to Starkiller’s past. From there, you escape Kamino, try to find your friends, and get revenge on Vader. Unlike the last game, where you go to many exciting locations, in this game you really go to one. You fly to Cato Neimoidia and then you’re on your way back to Kamino. But don’t worry, there is a  good five minutes of Dagobah in-between, and playing on the ship to Kamino. The game also ends with many questions that are never answered, and after Lucasarts was shut down, I don’t think they ever will be.

While the story is abysmal, the gameplay at least seems improved, as well as the graphics. However it feels as though you’re far to powerful in the beginning of the game, and no enemeie seem like a threat. You barely have to strategize to beat them unlike the last game. Its either saber slash or force. That’s it. And large enemies are repeated so often they just feel like a chore to get through.

Oh and the Soundtrack is painfully generic compared to the last, doing reorchestrated (worse) versions of the previous games best tracks.

You stop these missls at least thirty times in the span of two hours of gameplay. And each time its more tiresome than the last. Image Source: gameratedgames.com

This series did have promise, and had the ability to fill in holes fans never expected to see filled. However, with a very mediocre sequel and the shutting down of Lucasarts, it seems like this section of a galaxy far far away will forever be just that. Far away.

Games Gone By: Sly Cooper

Sly Cooper is without a doubt one of the best games series I have ever played. It constantly tried to do things new and expand the universe in many colorful ways. And while a new game may seem like a good idea with its movie supposedly scheduled for 2016, it’s still without definitive plans to continue, so why not take a look.

So simple yet so profound. Image Source: Amazon.com

The first game, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus was released for the Playstation 2 in 2002. The game had a very simple design and a simple concept, but what they ended up doing with it made it work in a way no one imagined.

The premise is a raccoon that’s a thief (because they look like they wear masks, get it?) named Sly who wants to recover the book his ancestors created detailing all of their secrets. This book being the titular Theivius Raccoonous. The book was taken by a gang known as “The Fiendish Five”. Along the way to help him are Bentley the turtle, the tech guy, and Murray the hippo, the driver. You were also on the run in each stage from Sly’s police pursuer/love interest, Inspector Carmalita Fox (whose accent changes in each game). The game’s sense of humor and dramatic storytelling keep it from being too serious but also too grim, finding the perfect sweet spot for a thrilling story of revenge and growth. Especially with an amazing final villain like Clockwerk, an immortal mechanized owl surviving solely on jealousy and hatred.

When your final villain is built up with silhouettes like THIS, you’re doing something right. Image Source: Villains’ Wikia.com

The gameplay was very simplistic. Sly could use his cane to hook onto objects as well as smash enemies and boxes holding loot. There was also a large focus on stealth as well, having Sly avoiding spotlights whenever possible as well as avoiding enemies that could only see you if you walked into their flashlight. However, what a lot of people found to be irritating was  the one-hit kills from all enemies. Sly could pick up a lucky-charm that could let him take one or two shots, but that was the limit, frustrating quite a few fans. Another source of frustration were the turret and driving mini-games that were often brutal and unforgiving.

However, the game managed to fix a lot of its problems with its sequel, which is often heralded as one of the best Playstation 2 games of all time.

One of the best sequels to come out that improved on nearly every aspect. Image Source: Amazon.com

Sly 2 was released on the Playstation 2 in 2004. The game centered around trying to collect pieces of Clockwerk that were stolen by a new gang known as “The Klaww Gang”. Each stage centered around getting a piece or two back, and seeing how each gang member was using them, often in inventive ways (this was seen in using the tail-feathers to print money or the lungs to help fuel a train indefinitely).

Although now, Sly wasn’t the only one out in the field. Now you could play as Bentley and Murray, who both grow as characters the more you play them. Bentley is not as strong as Sly but much more technical and gadget based. Murray on the other hand isn’t as quick or maneuverable but more than makes up for it in brute strength. The game also has a health bar, no longer being limited to one hit kills.

The bosses may overstay their welcome however, as many of them aren’t limited to just one stage. It works for darker characters like The Contessa, but for the forgettable Rajan it just feels like padding.

One character I wanted to get more from was Arpeggio, the leader of the Klaww Gang who was reduced to a joke. Image Source: Sly Cooper Wikia.com

While the story went much more in-depth in terms of character and villains, it still has too many holes in the armor to be truly amazing. Thankfully, the next game in the series manages to keep things concise with even MORE characters.

A game with a few rudimentary backdrops, but an even stronger story. Image Source: Amazon.com
A game with a few rudimentary backdrops, but an even stronger story. Image Source: Amazon.com

Sly 3 came out for the Playstation 2 a year after Sly2,  in 2005. The story picks up a little after the last one ended. Bentley is now in a wheelchair, Murray has gone off to seek redemption as he feels responsible for Bentley’s condition, and Sly is trying to bring his friends back together and claim his birthright: a vault of loot hidden by his ancestors on a remote island.

The game is even more character-driven than the last.  Instead of trying to take down each member of a gang, each level is about trying to persuade different expert thieves to join Sly and the gang take the vault back from Dr. M, the “tech guy” character from Sly’s father’s previous gang and the series’s most interesting villain yet, sans Clockwerk.

Though the inclusion of Don Octavio is fantastic as well. A lion-mobster whose obsessed with people hearing him sing? You couldn’t get more ludicrous and yet so amazing. Image Source: Sly Cooper Wikia.com

The game also includes a lot of new characters that are added to the gang such as an Australian koala guru, a mouse technician, and even a few old enemies have come onto the gang’s side. Those being Dimitri from Sly 2 and the  Panda King from Sly 1, who brings much more sympathy as all he wants is to redeem himself for what he has done and save his daughter. These additions help to foster new interactions and help the group feel more dynamic with its mix of colorful characters.

The gameplay this time around is very similar to Sly 2, however, now Carmelita is also playable, as well as many more mini-games involving the already seen hacking and helicopter/turret stages, but also new ones such as bi-planes and pirate ship battles. This game helped to trim the fat of the last game and make the experience even better. The same was attempted by its sequel many years later, although that unfortunately didn’t live up to expectations.

Too little too late unfortunately. Image Source: Amazon.com
Too little too late unfortunately. Image Source: Amazon.com

Sly Cooper Thieves in Time came out for the Playstation 3 in 2013. The game was green-lit after Sanzaru Games took the previous three games and remastered them for the Playstation 3. With Sucker Punch more focused on making the Infamous series, Sanzaru Games was given the reins on the long-awaited sequel.

The story has Sly and the others going throughout time to save his ancestors, as parts of the Thievius Racconous have been disappearing. Determined to find out what’s going on, Bentley makes a time machine out of the van and they set off to different time periods such as feudal japan, the medieval times, the old west, and even the ice-age.

It can’t be denied that the use of color and lighting in this game makes it look BEAUTIFUL. Image Source: Analogaddict.com

The game had gameplay slightly updated and easier to pick-up, but not enough to be totally foreign to fans of the old series. Also, playing as each of Sly’s ancestors feels welcome and very fun to play, especially Ser Galleth Cooper, the best ancestor in my opinion. However the story seems to fail on building any excitement for the conclusion, especially with a lackluster main villain whose less interesting than his lieutenants. Another strike against it is that it has established characters change personalities out of nowhere (cough Penelope cough cough)

The game also didn’t sell as well as once hoped. With that being a factor, the cliffhanger ending seems like it won’t be fulfilled anytime soon. However, with the movie coming out presumably sometime this year, the attention it could get may warrant a return of the master thief in the near future.

Here’s hoping we’ll see him back soon. Image Source: news.cheatcc.com

 

Nintendogs: Man’s Best Friend, Loyal to the End

In 2005 and 2006 a little game called Nintendogs took the handheld gaming world by storm.  Such a simple idea, taking care of virtual puppies, the idea had been done before, but most of those games had an ending; ultimately there was a way for the game to end whether it be training the dog after a certain amount of time or completing mundane care tasks with little reward.  Then the Nintendo DS artfully used its stylus and touch screen to create an interactive environment in which the person behind the screen acted more as an actual owner and less of an errand boy.

First of all, you got to pick your own dog.  You were given enough money to pick whichever dog you wanted that was available in your specific game.  Then you got to name it, feed it, give it water, give it baths, make sure they were happy and energized with toys and walks.  You can could teach your puppy tricks and even train it for competitions.  You could make your dog a pro athletics champ or maybe just dress them up and take them out on walks hoping for a special mystery gift to show off your doggy prowess to your friends who also had the game.

The game offered tons of opportunities to redecorate the house, dress your pup up, and become a competition champion.  The only real end goal was maxing out the trainer points which were earned while playing the game, but in the end there were always the dogs to take care of.  The puppies always needed to be fed, given water, washed and walked at the very least.  There was always something to do in Nintendogs; so why do so why are so many puppies left abandoned?

It is really sad when you think about it, the puppies being left all alone with only themselves or maybe they have a friend or two to play with.  They’ll be parched, starving, and filthy with flies jumping off of them, but they’ll slowly walk up to the screen begging for a bit of love and attention.  It’s almost heartbreaking going back to an abandoned Nintendogs game, simply because they don’t die; they just wait.

It could be said that this style of punishment is used in other games, but in games like Animal Crossing the villagers move away if you don’t keep up with them.  That would almost be better than the Nintendogs treatment.  Yes the dogs run away, but that actually only happens if the game is left on.  If that game isn’t played the dogs are left in a state of abandonment, still growing hungrier, thirstier, and dirtier with each passing day.

 

Thinking about the dogs being left to just wait reminds me of that one story, Hachi: a Dog’s Tale, the story of a very loyal dog who constantly waited at the train station for his master so that they could come home, but after the master dies while at work, Hachi finds himself waiting still for him to come to the train station, leaving Hachi to wait for the rest of his life.  He was so loyal he couldn’t bear to leave his spot.

You can’t really ever hurt your Nintendog.  They can get “sick,” but there isn’t a risk of losing them.  They just look a little off for the rest of the walk after they eat trash, but after a few paces they’re back to their chirper selves.  You can tug their leash a little too tight, but they only whimper for a second then they bark with joy.  You can tug their paw a little too hard and it prompts a sneeze or they dance a bit jumping back and forth on their paws, but you can never really hurt them at all.  They don’t hold a grudge over anything that their owner does or doesn’t do; they just continue to wait for love and attention, even if it’s the form of a few style taps on the screen.  Give them food, water, a bath, maybe even a walk; make your Nintendog’s day, they’ve only been waiting ten years.

nintendogs wikia
Image from Nintendogs Wikia