The Backlog Episode 3 (Day 17): Killer Instinct

Today for the backlog event of the week, we go to a franchise I both wanted to see and dreaded. There was a time in my much younger days when the arcades had almost died out, but got a second wind on the backs of almost exclusively new fighting games trying to capture the excitement created by the likes of Marvel vs Capcom and the new 3D arrivals. Among these games was one of the few to hold my attention: the original Killer Instinct.

I was never very good at this game, but then I was a young kid who was more excited at the awesome robots and aliens in the lineup. And when I played, the big feature I loved was the fact that how you did in one round carried over to the next, as it was the first fighter I had ever seen where your life did not refill between rounds. I loved the idea and I loved the game. I even played it’s sequel in the arcades.

But that was a long time ago and the last time I touched the series was the rather weak port on the SNES which I rented exactly once. And I let the N64 buy without getting one, preventing me from even trying the only other version of the game to release anyone would see until this current F2P Xbox One/WIndows 10 version. And I will be honest, I expected to get my ass kicked repeatedly and wander off to do something else for the second half of the hour I was giving Xbox One games.

That did not happen. I opened up the main menu, I found the usual features I expected (single player and multiplayer like a fighting arcade game would have), but in addition, the first option was the Shadow Lords, something I was looking at without any explanation. Well, hell, let’s choose that….

….and I found myself in “Baby’s first Fighter” with literally the first several fights being used to teach the core mechanics and attack button layout of the game. Some will find it annoying, but for someone like me who has literally been away from fighters for well over a decade, it was nice to have the game take the time to show you the ropes before destroying you in battle, which the first actual fight damn near did I might add, so you can at least grasp how the controls work, especially as they break away from the standards I personally remember from the SNES era.

But in addition to that, this mode adds adventure/RPG elements into the mix, as you have player levels and your team levels up as you play. You will gain items you can equip to give yourself a small edge in combat, and when you finish, your performance in game will effect the condition of your fighters afterwards. (Such as health in the next fighter and so on…. if you don’t use healing items on them.) And this all comes with a plot-line that seems to sequel the main game. I do not know as I never got to the single player, much less beat it… this mode took up the whole session. The gist of this story is Gorgos, an evil god from the series trying to open portals to earth and conquer it Mortal Kombat style. You play a small team who’s job is to delay the inevitable so you can become powerful enough to defeat him when he finally succeeds. You read that right: you can not stop Gorgos from showing up. All you can do is hold him back long enough get stronger before he does.

Honestly I found this mode interesting and pretty fun, which again. surprised the hell out of me. I expected to walk into this, get my ass kicked for the audience, and move on to something more my speed. Instead, I found something that I am looking forward to making it to be one of my main games, something I don’t say about many fighters at all! Nicely done, Microsoft

The Backlog Episode 2 (Day 10): Contra and… Blaster Master?!?!?

Well it’s Friday, and in addition to being a good reason to get some whiskey (or whatever you choose), to cap off the night, it also means tonight the game for the 100 Days of Gaming would be a new-comer to try to finish. Since Last week came from my collection of physical media, tonight would come from the digital realms of the Wii and WiiU… and I will admit, I was excited to see Contra: Rebirth selected. After all, it was supposedly modeled after Contra III: The Alien Wars which was one of the games that sold me on getting an SNES back in the 1990s.

But it didn’t take long for something to show itself to be amiss… starting with the ability to use both weapons at once when flipping. I tried various ways to dual wield, but could find nothing. And then I started to play and the game was ridiculously hard. I mean, yeah, Contra is known as a challenging series of games, but it’s also a generally clean series that allows you to see what’s going on. I could not claim that in this case, as my first death came hidden behind enough explosions to hide entire enemies as well as the bullet they shot. LIterally, I only saw the enemy on my second try.

Figuring I just sucked at the game for not having played a shoot’em-up of this type for many years, I turned down the difficulty after a few more failures to get through the first level, which did help, but level two would only enforce the game’s reliance on cheap deaths by spawning enemies inches in front of your character’s face and shooting, all but ensuring anyone who didnt know in advance that enemy would be there to lose a life in classic Contra one-hit kill style. This is annoying but not as damning as the boss to complete this level, as it has an NRG pattern that can force you to die by punch to the face (it is a 2 story tall robot).

Now I won’t say I was very good at the game by any means, but I’m not sure it’s worth the time to get good either. Comparing it to my memories of the original trilogy, it felt cluttered and like it was only half-way implementing everything what features were available, all the while trying to use those games (especially the third one) to remind you of how awesome they were and ride on that rather then just being another great game in the series itself. It’s available on the WIi store (yeah, the original, but you CAN access it on the WIiU), but I don’t think I would recommend it based on this introduction.

Still, the introduction was only half-an-hour, so I owed you guys a little more. I had the WiiU running so.. screw it! Let the dice roll for the next game on it! And… the dice punished me… hard. The next game was one I knew sucked already as I had tried to play it long ago…. Blaster Master Overdrive. Like Contra Rebirth, I picked this one up immediately wanting more of the awesome I remembered from the NES original…. this one was the game that finally taught me better.

RIght off the bat, the game hints at how bad it’s going to be by requiring you to use the Wiimote only. The lack of support for even the classic controller just shows the level of care that went into this “sequel/reboot.” Once you actually start playing the tank feels slow and clunky, even compared to the original game. And it does not help that the camera lets you get close enough to the edge of the screen you are going to that you can easily run into any enemy if you dont take your time.  But the ground at least feels better and more like the original game, but it cant save this title.

But at least tonight was entertaining as we broke the game by dying and reloading, causing weapon upgrades to re appear and build all my weapons to max power, seeing this for the first time

As with Contra, this game is simply not worth your money. Although in this case, you have a much better remake available if the itch for new Blaster Master hits you… Blaster Master Zero. Go play that one.

First “Backlog” Epsiode: Legend of Zelda: The Skyward Sword

Before I begin, I would just like to take this moment and say hi to everyone here. I was part of the 100 Days of Gaming last year, but outside of the hashtag before each stream, was fairly quiet. But I thought it would be fun to take part in the main posts this year and thankful for the chance. (Btw, thank you Zaldar for introducing me to this last year and letting me know both that it was on again and there is a page this year. And thank you Herobyclicking for offering to do these posts.) The only other thing I have to say here is that I’ve been an Extra Lifer since the first one, and watched it grow in awe. (If you were there to see it start on Sarcastic Gamer too, I was the community member Diortem and a bit of a regular to the site.) So really, thank you guys for making amazing event even cooler.

But enough on all that… I’m hear because once a week during this event, I will be taking a break from the main games I am trying to finish to try out something that’s been sitting around in my collection waiting to be played. Keep in mind, this selection is about showing some love to some new (to me) games and systems I am currently not playing, so as long as my main games sit on PC and PS3, these systems will not be touched in this section, but aside from that, the dice decide what I try for an hour or two. My first session was last Friday (which will be the day I do this from now on) in which the dice picked a disc-based Wii game: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

Now when I picked this game up, it was something I did by chance. I believe I was even in the Toys R Us because I needed a gift for the office Christmas gift swap (Im lucky to work with a group of people as sick as I am…. very lucky indeed), and since I was there, I figured I would check out the games in case I found some gem for the older consoles… and I stumbled on not only the then newest Zelda title, but a version that included a CD sound track… and for cheap. Yeah, I wasn’t leaving it behind, but it only got a test run to ensure the game would run when I got home. After that, I put it on the shelf… until this Friday when the dice decided it was time to play.

Now I wont say I was expecting a lot from this game. You see, I have a few Zelda nuts as friends… one never played the game and the other hated it due to the way you have to fly the bird in the game. Not being a huge fan of the franchise myself, this means a lot going in, but I do not believe I agree with her.

First off, I found the game very story driven as for the first few hours we followed Link through a very tutorial-like mission to find his missing loftwing: a giant bird you will use to fly throughout the game once you have freed it from it’s prison. And while my time flying was limited, it felt absolutely perfect using the Wiimote’s position to control the direction you fly (as well as using gravity like a speed boost. Apparently there is combat that will go on with this and her big issue was trying to aim while doing this, but I will have to see later. Sadly 2 hours was not enough to get to a point where you fight while on the back of this bird.

But that is not to say that I didn’t get to see any combat. In fact I got to see a fair bit of sword fighting between training on logs and the cave you have to go through to save that bird, and to be honest it felt great. The Wiimote Plus was used quite well to reflect the position as well as the location of your sword as you swing at enemies in 9 different directions, and it picks up the difference between these moves very effectively. The only issue I had with sword-play I think was my doing as there were times I wanted to bring the blade down on slimes and saw Link instead rip them up bottom first, but I think it was because I brought the wiimote up fast enough to setup for this that the game thought it was an upward swing.

However, that isn’t to say I didn’t find a major problem with the game, and that would be the camera. You see this camera is designed to follow you and outside of the command to lock onto whatever is in front of you, you have no control over it. In general this is not an issue, but it makes platforming a real bear when it wants to. This is demonstrated in the very first area the game wants to teach you how you jump and climb right as you leave the first building in the game. You simply will not make it if you don’t use the lock-on trick to center the camera behind you as what should be a straight-left jump curves with the angle of the camera as Link moves. It is unnecessarily frustrating and feels like a warning of what is likely coming down the line in later puzzles.

Overall, however, I get the feeling that I am going to enjoy this game when I play it for real, and I had a lot of fun with it in the short time I spent it got for the 100 days of gaming. While I am in no rush to play it again right now, I look forward to coming back for more.