Thursday, November 29, 2007

tippity-tappiting to the beated it!!

The latest title to fall to my Undeniable Gaming Skills is a new rhythm game from Official Publisher of Reviewiera, Atlus. I am rhythm stylus ninja! Take that, Ontamarama!!

There's a little bit of premise, and a tiny bit of story, but we're talking about a rhythm game here. I care about, in descending order:
music listenability
playing fun/playing challenge
everything else.

Let's move through these in an unappealing, haphazard order.

The graphics are...exceptionally...meh. You control either Beat, a boy (blue, looks a lot like Mega Man on roller blades) or a girl (pink, I wish she looked like Roxy but no). There are no portraits--nor animations--of them the GBA couldn't handle with detail to spare. Nor of anybody else. Nor any backgrounds of interest. Keyword here would be "bland".

But playing the game is simply tits. It's the first Atlus game I've played where the default difficulty level actually falls into my sweet spot: you have to pay attention, and you have to try, but if this happens, you'll beat the game without that much trouble. At its hardest, the Normal difficulty level is comparable to the hardest Easy levels of Osu! Tatake! Ouendan!. (The inevitable comparison, as a Japanese rhythm game easily accessible in these United States.)

Ontamarama plays like so: atop the bottom screen, notes scroll across a bar, and into a circle. Once the note reaches the circle, you have to hit the D-pad in the direction the note requires. The better the note is centered when you hit its direction, the bigger the score. And the better the song'll sound. Easy-peasy.

Except the notes show up on the bar..."empty". You gotta fill'm. You fill'm by using the stylus to tap lil' critters floating 'round on the bottom screen. These critters? Ontama. Different colors of Ontama correspond to different directions the notes'll require. So sometimes it'll get all hectic and you'll need to plan what Ontama you'll clear. While tapping to the beat with your other hand.

More complexities exist, but those'd be the basics: two hands doing two completely different tasks to the beat. Hard mode gets preposterous, requiring yr stylus hand to abandon the screen to go dick around on the face buttons. And then return to the screen to clear yet more Ontama. I won't be progressing terribly far in this mode.

The songs are all pretty palatable. I mean, I like j-pop, at least the versions of it I get from Ouendan, Jet Grind Radio, and to a lesser extent, Space Channel 5. And Ontamarama's tunes are pretty much along those lines. There's some rocky stuff (with guitars, yo) that I find enjoyable on its own terms, but there's also good pairing of slow melodies with fast beats, and a song or two with truly nifty off-beats.

The presentation is generous: plenty of extras to unlock, stuff you can buy to make the game easier, and all the songs you've cleared can be played at any time. Doing this gets in-game currency that allows unlocking later. (If you want to get good at Hard mode, play through the Normal campaign WITHOUT "easy start" and "guard". Fucking trust me.) Later on you get some sets of songs to play through, which is strangely compelling as well. All of these options are, upon reflection, stolen from Meteos. Good lift, fellows!

The reviews have suggested that Ontamarama is a good starter game, a good introduction to the genre. I'll buy that...on Normal. On Hard? This is a savage challenge and I don't care how good you got at Ouendan or SC5. Even on Normal, score-chasing options abound. Those of us who like pure play experiences with real opportunities for playing with personal style are bound to have a dynamite time.

I am such a player; I indeed had one TNT-based week with the cart, and it's still in my travel roster. I give it one Fat scowling at his DS at the coffee shop out of ten. (But if you want a real--and really long-winded--review, peep Pete Sellers.)

recently in retail and...surprisingly little rage, actually

For worthless reasons, Frank Contradiction's only son had to betake 'isself out inta the hinterlands to-day. When I finished up my tedious, expensive errands, I thought to duck into the Freddy's; for there is no better antidote to boredom and irritation than SHOPPING.

In one corner lay the electronics. I scanned the Wii, the DS sections, noticed the vestigal GBA and 'Cube slivers there imbricated, heaved a sigh, and turned to leave. Wherupon I discovered a coupla cardboard towers fairly bulging

Made a quick phone call to Canada, who seems to've lost steam on his DS Zelda, but he stood staunchly 'gainst the notion of new purchases. He turned down Gunpey and a tank game for an infinitesimal ten wing-wangs. I didn't even bring up the GBA stock, since he's essentially racist against older systems. (Seriously, I don't get a week under me without him telling me about the "rumours" about the DS2, "rumours" gleaned from gizmodo or someplace, and "rumours" I think would be better-labled "wild, desperate speculation and fanboy wishlisting". Nary a week!)

I yoinked the bum a copy of Gunstar Super Heroes anyways, since it was only 5 motherjumping wing-wangs. Xmas coming, natch, and I need something to set next to his copy of Metroid Prime Pinball. For myself, Tank Beat, which got awful reviews but is mebbe worth a look since it was by Milestone, whose Chaos Field and Karous both compelled me pretty thoroughly. And Rebelstar: Tactical Command, cuz maybe someday I'll want to play another turn-based strategy game.

Heck, I got a coupla Hamiltons to drop on myself, no? Imagine my stoke-levels when the register jockey requires merely fifteen bucks total! (A guide for the perplexed: pretty stoked. Pretty damn' stoked.)

Rebelstar can live in its shrinkwrap next to Super Robot Taisen 2, which I scored for a ten-spot a couple weeks back off the clearance rack at my more local Freddy's. Eventually I'll go through another hermit phase and bust out the turn-based ass-kicking.

Tank Beat, like all actiony DS games, will get a fair bit of play until I hit a mission I can't beat in like three tries, at which point I shall carry it around for a couple weeks, then dump it into the Session beer boxes housing my DS games. There it can tell war stories with Nanostray, Transformers, MechAssault, and the like.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Set My Seaman Free!!!

My my my, where has the time gone? My daily gaming fix for a good 6-7 weeks were derived from raising some Seamen, which died, then successfully raising some more - and setting them free. Yes. The game ends w/ you "setting yr seamen free." Its how "I beat Seaman." As brilliant as Seaman is as a game, the endless juvenile jokes derived from it ("I have to feed my seaman") garners it some sort of separate, special accolade.

Seaman print

6th grade humor aside, the most impressive facets of Seaman were:
1. Just how worried I would get I was going to run into a food shortage and that my Seaman would starve. Especially after my first attempt resulted in me booting up the 'Cast one day to find a floating-upside-down Seaman. This point underscores the actually quite stressful mechanics of trying to keep a creature alive w/ limited resources.

2. This was probably the missus' favorite game to watch.1 This was attributed to the fact she liked that Seaman talked shit at me. Also, she liked the fact that he kept evolving, and would come running when a transformation began. I mention this only because I find the subject of "games people who don't play (many) games like" an interesting topic. The missus' fave game is Ms. Pac-Man (a fine choice), but she does have the distinction of having beat the original Zelda, which I can't say I have. She's also the one who found our Intellivision and like 10 games for about $6 at the Goodwill bins a year ago, and then proceeded to rock Popeye. She also enjoys kicking ass in Streets of Rage.
In other departments, the Shenmue Experience has progressed to the Forklift Operator Simulator stage, having graduated out of Harbor Loitering Community College.

I've never played a game where you go to work, and have to actually play out the work2, but that said, I'm enjoying it immensely (I've made quota everyday!). Enjoying it so much, in fact, that the acceleration of the plot + increase in fist-fights is kind of disappointing seeing as I don't want the forklifting to end.


1 A distinction previously held by Shenmue.
2 Tho' Grandia does have a swabbing-the-decks mini-game.