Saturday, July 21, 2012

Level Up: Batman the Brave and the Bold the Videogame

So as some of you should know, August is coming up soon and that means that I’ll be doing my August Theme month. However, I want to bring attention to Adamant Ditto, because they also announced that this July is going to be a theme month for them and they have probably chosen the best theme possible: they will be doing several let’s plays of Beat ‘em Up games. Beat ‘em up month sounds like the best holiday ever to me, so I knew I had to do something for it. At the same time though, I decided I wanted to fix something from my first August theme of Bat-month. At that time, I only had 3 Batman games, so I was kind of missing the last week, so why not do a Batman Beat ‘em up game for you guys? It also seems appropriate because I just hear there’s a new Batman movie coming out: something rises or something like that. Anyways, here’s Batman the Brave and the Bold The Video Game for the Nintendo Wii.
The gameplay is a single plain beat ‘em up, kind of like Power Rangers SNES. The major difference between those two games though is that Power Rangers concentrated more on platforming, while Batman the Brave and the Bold concentrates more on fighting. The size of the characters in Power Rangers were quite big, so it felt claustrophobic when there were several characters on screen. This is not the case with this game, as there are often a lot of bad guys on screen at the same time that you can dispatch with a series of awesome combos. You can do the usual beat ‘em up stuff, like both light and heavy punches, jumps and grabs and you have a few super moves to clear off most of the screen if things get too difficult.
Beyond just the fighting, there are a still few platforming moments and some of the levels have secret areas to find for some extra cash. Sadly, these are not plentiful nor something really all that amazing (often just jumping), so most of the game is just punching and walking to the right. Once you figure out your favorite combo to take out the most enemies at once, you have most of the game figured out, and the only reason you might replay it is to unlock all the gadgets. Even if you don’t figure out a good combo, you can still easily beat this game as the only penalty for dying is a 100 coin loss (even if you have less than 100 coins, you just lose them all and still keep playing). It’s rather sad when a game can get fighting down so well, but offers nothing else (not even a challenge).
I haven’t seen much of Batman the Brave and the Bold TV show, but from my understanding the concept is that, during each episode, Batman teams up with one other DC hero to fight a DC villain. This game has 4 episodes, which allows you to play as Robin, the Blue Beetle, Hawkman and Guy Gardener (in order). The episodes are entirely unrelated though; absolutely nothing holds them together other than Batman and this game. So you’d think for this reason that the stories would all be unique, different and progressively get more interesting. Well, they really aren’t. I found the first story to be the most interesting, as there is a sense of mystery for the first half, a good twist I didn’t expect (though retrospectively I should have) and a genuine sense of panic. The other 3 episodes are basically the same; a villain attacks, Batman and another hero case him, other hero loses some self-esteem, Batman helps them through it, they both kick butt, the end. Granted, the last story has the most at stake, but I never felt like there was actually something to lose.
Batman the Brave and the Bold the Video game has some fun fights, but that’s about all it has. There’s really nothing else to the game; it’s pretty short, a bit repetitive, there is no depth to the story and the only replay value is in trying to buy all the upgrades. However, none of these are bad elements, they’re just the lack of good ones; it’s not like the game play broke on me or like I hated any of the characters. Really, it just feels like this is a game where the makers barely even tried, but at least where it does try, it succeeds. I will also give it that the graphics are really good and the sound quality is fine. If this were a Game Boy Advance game released 10 years ago, I would think this was pretty awesome, but it seems really weird that this is Wii game, so it just doesn’t meet my expectations. Still, if you want some short, cheap fun and like beat ‘em ups or are looking for something for a younger gamer, then you maybe could consider this. I can definitely think of a few other games that were a bigger waste of money. I give Batman the Brave and the Bold the Video game for the Wii 6 levels out of 10.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Level Up: X-men Legends

Happy Canada listeners! Once again, I choose to take this occasion to talk about one of the greatest Canadian super heroes and his team: Wolverine and the X-men. Now, as with Spider-man, the X-men and a lot Mavel super heroes have had a fair bit of their 3D games published by Activision (I’ve already talked about X-men Mutant Academy 2). One of Activision’s most popular Marvel games has got to be Marvel Ultimate Alliance. But before I get to that one, I have to talk about the games that lead up it, like X-men Legends for the Nintendo GameCube, Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox (as I’ll be playing it).
It should be noted that this game is not a direct adaptation of a movie, cartoon or comic book plot. However, I find it has some similarities to the first movie. It starts off when the X-men learn of a mutant named Allison Crestmere (real identity of Magma of the New Mutants) who is being chased by members of the brotherhood. Some X-men stop them and take Allison to the Xavier institute so she can train her powers. Meanwhile Magneto makes a plan to basically kill all humans with a new device. Spoiler alarm, but the X-men unsurprisingly beat Magneto and Magma is able to use her powers with the machine to reverse the effects. Now, if you replace Magma with Rogue, you kind of summed up the first movie; the only big difference is that Magneto wanted Rogue to use his machine, while in the game, Magma using it would be the last thing he would have wanted.
Now of course, I’m painting with broad strokes here and there are still many differences. Mainly that this story keeps getting complex; goals change, you move around, new people are introduced, etc… A full analysis of the plot would take far too long. Furthermore, there are also subplots that develop, such as when Professor X is attacked by the Shadow King. It gives us more variety in a very well done way.
According to online articles, the original intent for the game play was to make an “X-men RPG” in a similar manner to Final Fantasy games: you would pick a team of X-men, go out on missions, level up, equip items and all that good typical RPG stuff. However, along the lines they drew inspiration from action RPGs such as Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance where the battle system is comparable to beat-em-ups. This is great, because as anyone who’s played the X-men arcade game could tell you, the X-men are perfect in the beat-em-up style. What we end up with is an RPG with a beat-em-up battle system where you can control 4 characters.  I think that last element is what really cements the game play as noteworthy, as it allows you to change your battle strategy on the fly. Sure the other 3 X-men are always there (working on AI), but sometimes you need to grab the reigns since the AI can be a little dumb.
To go deeper into battle system, you can jump, use heavy attacks or light attacks together to make some destructive combos. As for mutant powers, each character has a variety of abilities and you choose up to 4 attacks to be made accessible by holding R and pressing one of the main buttons. This is a pretty good battle system… but I feel the game as whole lacks a little polish. It’s not just the dumb AI, I also found myself very reliant on money; I kept needing to buy potions as, even enemies I could easily beat, would do heavy damage if they contacted me. (Also the potions didn’t heal for much.) Another reason why money is essential is because it costs to revive partners. Unless you fork up the cash, you can NEVER play as an X-man that got K.O.’d again. This is evened out by the fact that everyone still gains XP, but what am I even paying for, their medical bills?
X-men Legends is an ok start to a good series, but you really get the feeling that it’s not quite there yet. Maybe I was spoiled by playing Ultimate Alliance first, but I think its problems might still get to me. Still, the overall battle system  and the layout for the game make it worth investing time in, even though I know it’s not the first game to do something similar. The graphics are nice with cell shaded characters that look straight out of comic books yet clearly differentiated from the backgrounds, the music and voice acting are superb (Patrick Stewart does his Professor X for this game) and the story just screams “X-men”. There is also no lack of things to do in this game even beyond the main storyline (which is impressive, because that on its own is already HUGE). This game was really good, but more importantly it had potential, and luckily people saw that. I give X-men Legends 8 levels out of 10.