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All reviews - Games (3)

The Most Balanced Street Fighter Ever

Posted : 2 years, 7 months ago on 15 June 2018 01:09 (A review of Street Fighter II' Turbo: Hyper Fighting)

I've played a lot of fighting games during my lifetime. Mortal Kombat (2d/3d), Guilty Gear, Soul series, Tekken, Virtua Fighter, and just about every great SNK fighter I can think of to the obscure Bushido Blade had my attention. But the one game I would always return to consistently was the one and only Street Fighter II. It's the game that singlehandedly ignited my passion for video games, when previously it had been but a passing interest. It showed me the great potential this medium has to offer that can be comparable to film, music and literature in its artistic merit. In terms of richness of depth and simplicity of execution, it has no equal. Street Fighter II was and still is the greatest Street Fighter ever made. The amount of strategy you can employ in such a deceptively simple game boggles the mind. Its second revision, Hyper Fighting, was a distillation of all those elements that makes a great fighting game: great controls, balance, diverse roster of characters, unique playstyles, and open-ended gameplay.

Champion Edition saw major improvements upon the original. But certain characters like Guile, Dictator and Sagat were pretty overpowered. The absurd damage from their basic moveset to their inescapable block stun traps made them cheaper than a whore in a flat-rate brothel. Capcom noticed these power imbalances and sought to rectify them to allow a more level playing field. Thus, as a result of these crucial nerfs and other changes, Hyper Fighting became the quintessential Street Fighter II that we've all been waiting for. Whatever your style; zoning, rushdown, turtling, or a mix of the three, it's all there. Guile satisfies those areas to create a versatile game. He's my favourite for baiting shotokans to whiff their uppercuts.

Ryu became the highest ranked character in the game by most estimates. Not one single character has any serious advantage over him, insofar as it would lead to negative match ups. To outsiders, although Ryu and Ken seem like palette-swapped versions of each other, the differences are actually more than subtle. Ryu's recovery from throwing fireballs is faster than Ken's therefore he can throw them out at a faster rate. His spin kick is an immediate knock down, invincible during start-up and deals chunky damage. It comes out fast with huge hitboxes which makes it difficult to punish. His dragon punch doesn't travel as wide as Ken's, but in a game where keeping opponents at bay is paramount, this is where Ryu's fireball game shines brightest. Jeff Schaeffer argued that Blanka was the best, but I always felt he came up short against Honda. In fact, I get delighted whenever my opponent picks him, as countless Blankas have succumbed to my Honda online whom I'm a beast with. In his hands, Blanka might be God tier, but you've got to take into account how the other good players fare with him too. This isn't to say that Blanka has no counters on Honda, he most certainly has them. But to hurt my Honda you need to be a top top player. Otherwise, it's just business as usual.

Zoning is bread and butter in 2d fighters and all have their varying degrees of significance depending on the game. For Hyper Fighting it's practically essential that you have a powerful zoning and footsie game at the higher levels. If you can't control space and time your jumps with spot on precision, you're going to get beat down regardless of how pretty your combos look. Combos don't even figure that much despite being first discovered in World Warrior. It's all about outpoking and outchipping your opponent. Once Super Combos were introduced, this philosophy was gradually eroded as the series progressed. The games became more focused on rushing and closing down your opponents to pave the way for mixups. Huge lifebars cannot permit these drawn out battles of attrition, to drain it, you need to build up that super meter. For later games, I've got the feeling that Capcom were trying to achieve a middle ground between appeasing their old fanbase whilst wooing the Marvel vs Capcom crowd.

It goes without saying that Street Fighter II launched the fighting game genre and put video games on the map as a competitive e-sport. 26 years on, it still plays like a dream, more than you can say for games of its time and many that came after it.

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A Milestone in FPS History

Posted : 2 years, 11 months ago on 4 February 2018 12:38 (A review of GoldenEye 007)

When I was at gametrailers forums, Goldeneye was more often than not a bone of contention during console and PC fanboys slugfests. It was the preferred target for PC elitists to pick on when condemning the legacy and legitimacy of console FPSs. With so much conviction and zeal in their utterances, you could be forgiven for being taken in by their rhetoric. But closer investigation into the evolution of FPSs does not paint the picture that one side would want you to believe in.

The major flaws honed in were the controls, its frame rate and its lack of customisation. For PC gamers, those factors are generally king when deciding what perks a PC game has over a console game, especially an FPS game. An FPS can't be called a good FPS without decent controls and Goldeneye's fiddly analogue stick control scheme is nowhere near the mark set by the keyboard/mouse combination, and the auto aim feature's existence was purely to compensate its ineptitude. Even though the multiplayer provided split-screen capabilities it still comes up short against what the PC offered, especially Quake, but given that it was an afterthought, it was never going to be displayed as its showpiece.

Those things aside, it did everything else right. For a brief moment, it was the most sophisticated and realistic shooter at the time even when pitted against the PC big hitters. Sniper zoom-in ability, interchangeable dual akimbo weaponry, stealth-oriented gameplay, locational damage with realistic reactions, gun reloading animation, headshots...Sure, some of these alleged innovations were already done in FPSs that came before it such as Marathon, Terminator: Future Shock, Team Fortress, Outlaws etc. But Goldeneye combined and turned those gimmicky and non-essential elements into essential ingredients of the FPS experience.

While the enemy ai is laughable in today's standards, it was actually cutting edge for its time believe it or not. The soldiers are designated patrol routes, utilised different weapons, responded to noise, ran to set off alarms and are able to climb/descend ladders. Some of these scripts are even beyond the ai of Half-Life released a year later, which was widely held up as the gold standard of artificial intelligence of its time and rightly so.

Goldeneye wasn't just a revolutionary game on consoles, it was a revolutionary game period. If it had been released on the PC, there would be no questions asked about its legitimate place in the pantheon of FPS greats. Halo may have done more to push the viability of consoles as a platform for FPS development, but I always thought Goldeneye was a better designed game overall. It had detailed, intricate, sprawling level designs which puts Halo's uninspired copy-pasta conceptions to shame. That and the absence of a rebounding health meter. ;)

Remarkably, Goldeneye was sandwiched between some really notable forward thinking shooters that came right after it. Not least of which were Half-Life and Starsiege: Tribes which were so ahead of the curve in many respects. I believe that's why its contributions didn't seem like a big deal anymore, with these sudden ridiculous leaps in the genre in such a short span of time, Goldeneye was inevitably left in the dust. In spite of all that though, I commend Rare for the remarkable job they pulled off given the limitations of the N64 system they had to work with. I'm sure they wanted it to shine like a beacon, but alas, there were just too many groundbreaking FPSs in the market during that time. In PC fanboys' eyes, it's small fry and didn't register so much as a blip in the grand scheme of things, but I'm sure PC developers were looking towards the example set by Goldeneye.

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The Father of Emergent Gameplay

Posted : 3 years, 10 months ago on 4 March 2017 12:33 (A review of Deus Ex)

One word best sums up this game: possibilities. I think many games try to funnel you into a certain way of playing to the point where it has a numbing effect on a person's creative faculties. You become a habitual slave to custom and play a game without any wit, wonder or imagination. Warren Spector et al set out to strip away those artificial barriers in the hope of setting free those impulses or sparks of unorthodoxy and of course impudence. Without them who could've known besides blowing shit up, there is a secondary purpose to mines, like for example using it as pitons for climbing walls? This is a classic example of emergent gameplay. Creating something out of nothing. One of my favourite discoveries in this vein is recognising how useful a MIB unit can be. I figured that since it explodes during death, the explosion might help me open a locked container or even a door. So I lured it next to one when I had whittled it down to low health before delivering the fatal blow. Just as I had planned it, the container was blown open and the booty was there for the taking. Only in this way could I nab a lot of treasure and get into restricted areas without the need to waste lockpicks or spend so much skill points. This is just one of many, many examples of what you can do in Deus Ex. It rewards you for being left-field.

You can clearly see the influence of Deus Ex in games today, a prime example being Crysis. Not a lot of people, particularly those who are more of the console gaming persuasion knew how to play that game properly. Or rather they do not know how to 'create their own fun' and let the game go on rails so to speak. If it did not have robust rpg elements to provide another anchor to the gameplay, the same sentiments would've emanated from the feedback of Deus Ex. In fact most people who even professed a liking of the game did not really understand its true beauty. You won't find an explanation in reviews and tribute write ups. They mainly look at things in face value such as its story, character development system, level design etc. The fact that it can stand on these merits and still be called a quality game is an achievement in itself. But I'm a little worried that the most important and defining part of the game is going to be lost amongst its other praised aspects particularly to future generations. I certainly felt that way when I played the third game; the developer understood the appeal of multiple branching pathways but not much agency was granted to manipulate the game mechanics.

Even to this day, I still feel that Deus Ex 1 is the only Deus Ex that truly mattered. I never really got into the sequels. They're mere shadows of its predecessor's self. Invisible War for being consolised and Human Revolution for having little freedom.

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