Sunday, August 17, 2008

2D Alive And Well

And to think, a decade or more ago, Sony was actively discouraging 2D games on their new PlayStation hardware. Rumor had it even a masterpiece like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night almost couldn't get by their wrong-headed policies at the time.

These days, I'm up to my ears in 2D. Over the last couple of weeks, the stars have aligned, great old ones hidden in the folds of the cosmos have stirred, and a grand convergence has been set into motion. These are but a few of our new bi-dimensional overlords, those whose calls I personally have heard and obeyed: Geometry Wars 2, Pixel Junk Eden, Bionic Commando Re-armed, Braid, Mega Man X, Mega Man Zero, and Diablo II. Neglected altars of worship, soon to have the dust and cobwebs swept away from their forbidding forms include: Alien Hominid HD, Contra 4, Einhander, Ikaruga, R-Type, New SMB, and a number of Castlevania adventures. This is to say nothing of upcoming titles like Castle Crashers, or non-action games that are by their nature 2D, things like Puzzle Quest: Galactrix or 16-bit style JRPGs, which I have a number of waiting to be attended to.

I've completed Act II in Diablo II now, and that Duriel was a tough fight. He tore through my Shadow Warrior minion while I was trying to lay flame traps around him, and I had no choice but to get up close and personal with him, hand-to-hand MNK style, while my rogue hireling feathered him from afar with fire arrows. I was using a combination of health/mana draining charged strikes and the explosive kick finishing attack. I never died, but I did have to use a couple of town portals to get a quick heal and restock potions and revive the minions. My assassin is up to level 22 or 23 at this point.

I got my first couple of PSN trophies in Pixel Junk Eden. Not much to say about this; it's good to kill a few minutes here and there, before or after watching a movie on the PS3. It's pretty relaxing and chill. Coincidentally, it has a swing mechanic, not unlike Bionic Commando Re-armed, which I picked up this week, also on PSN. I bought it immediately to support the team working on it at Capcom in Osaka (I'm sympathetic fellow gaijin trying to carve out a place in Japan). Those guys have a podcast that is just hilarious. Of course I planned to get it eventually, so I thought I might as well help them get the best release week possible. I haven't spent a lot of time with it yet, but I'm liking what I've seen so far. I was a fan of the NES Bionic Commando back in the day.

Mega Man Zero is insanely difficult, so much so that it made me want to go back and see if Mega Man X was also that hard, and I was just better at this stuff when I was a kid. I also was interested in the X series since the only one I ever played was the first, so I found a copy of the X collection for PS2 on the cheap. I've been playing the first game over the past couple of weeks, and it's definitely not easy. I don't think it's quite as tough as MM Zero, but it's no walk in the park. At this point I've taken down 5 of the 8 initial robot masters. These guys will fuck you up if you go in there without the right weapon. I was only able to beat two of them with the plain old mega buster, but once the pieces start to fall into place and you get the appropriate weapons, they go down easier. I remember the final battle vs Sigma being one of the hardest I had ever fought at the time, and I'm interested to see it now, almost 15 years later.

I wasn't too keen on Braid, with the strange aesthetic and high(er) price point, but with the whole internet going gaga over it, and the creator coming off as an honest and interesting guy in interviews, I decided to check out the demo. Well, I'm glad I did, because I like the game. Before I'd even finished the demo I was damn impressed it. Sometimes you just have to see it first-hand to understand. The art style (particularly the character and enemy designs) aren't my favorites, but otherwise it's beautiful in HD, and the puzzles are just nuts. It's mind-bending in the same way Portal was last year.

I'm still not totally convinced this game needed to be $15 with some of the incredible XBLA games that are only $10, though. It's not that I have a problem with spending $15 on a game like this (Puzzle Quest was $15, too), it's just you'd expect things of like quality to be of like price. Is Braid really worth 1.5 times Geometry Wars 2? I guess the question is why do we expect price to be a function of quality/quantity, when at retail everything from Bioshock to the shittiest movie cash-in costs the same $60?


Catherine said...

Mm, when they bring out these new XBoxen I might be able to pick a smaller one for cheap :) and finally be able to check out some of these XBLA games you're talking about! For now I <3 my wii fit :)

Count Elmdor said...

I'd recommend it! Just make sure you get one of the systems with at least the 20 GB HDD.

There's plenty to play on the live arcade even if you never bought a single full-priced disc game.

I thought about getting Wii Fit, but I need to commit myself to a normal exercise routine first! I've been getting kind pudgy since getting a full-time desk job.

Necovia said...

Wii fit!??? No!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey dude,

Found you a copy of Xenosaga I and II for 1500 yen. Will send it out this Monday when I have the day off.


Count Elmdor said...

oh, sweet, man. Thanks. Nice price, too. I was in a Target the other day, and they were sold out of the MS Point cards. I didn't see any indication of them being marked down, though, so I dunno...

Anonymous said...

It's no biggie. I will just have to pony up like everyone else. If I ever hear about the deal again, I will be sure to send you on a mission. A sneaking mission, if you will.

Next purchase is most likely Braid. Demo was wicked