Thursday, July 1, 2010

Over It

Ugh. I know I'm not the only one who dislikes all the coverage that E3 gets. It looks to all be winding down now, but for three weeks it just dominated every site and magazine... and owing to the delays in publishing will probably still permeate some of the print mags still to come.

The almost universal best-in-show would have to be the Nintendo 3DS... about which I'll admit some curiosity. I really don't dig handhelds, and have very few games for them... but my kids love 'em so this is probably going to be on Christmas lists and I should be properly informed.

I finished Marvel Ultimate Alliance, managing to overcome by distaste of the aesthetic choices to see the game through twice. Since it splits into two narratives in the middle section owing to Marvel Comics' Civil War storyline there's a few different levels and bosses and two different endings for doing so. At the end of the day, the game was fun, if a bit repetitive. This stems from the game being so much like the first one... and the first one didn't come out all that long ago either... and from the fact that a lot of the enemies and bosses just require the same techniques to overcome regardless of their variety in appearance or weapons. Frankly, I just liked to play as my favorite heroes the most, and only subbed in the others to earn their boosts and constumes, so I sort of aggravated the repetition.

So now I'm on to Okami. This is a game I received as a gift like two years ago, and never got around to. It threatens to also be repetitive in the combat area (I'm six hours into it) but it has a cool, detailed narrative, and absolutely amazing aesthetics. Almost everything about the game is either cool or breathtaking... if one enjoys a stylised version of the Japanese watercolor (sumi-e) tradition. But... and why is it lately that there is always one rub to my highly anticipated games... the 'brush' control is really difficult for me to use.

In Okami, there are quite a number of times you are called on to use the wiimote to 'draw' on the screen. In theory this is a really neat addition. You have to use heavenly powers imbued into your brush to create bridges or bombs, slice away gates or boulders, or bring new life to dead trees. At times you even freeze the screen in mid-combat and slash an oppenent, like some painterly version of bullet time. Originally released for PS2 this aspect of the game was accomplished using the analog sticks on the DualShock controller, but it screams for motion control. But in practice it just isn't that simple. At least not for me. The wiimote seems accurate, but the lack of tactile feedback and the vertical orientation of the screen (and therefore the plane on which you paint) make this frustrating. Particularly when the game wants a straight line in a specific spot with a small window for timing. I've done certain 'quick slash' sections a dozen times over and it makes a cool idea just bog you down. If I could turn off the brush sections I'd seriously consider it at this point.

I didn't realise how big Okami is. I thought it'd be sort of 20 or so hours like most action games with leveling up mechanics. Apparently not. Reviews that I've re-read put it at closer to 50 hours. That's more of an investment than I was looking for in my current 'long' game, but I'll try to stay in for the long haul.

If the brush thing doesn't piss me off too much. But if I can get through MUA2's ugmo heroes and Skies of Arcadia's random encounters, I should be able to manage this.

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