Monday Musings 4/7/14
This is Monday Musings, a weekly stroll through my mind's stream of consciousness. The fam's been under the weather this week so my priorities have been elsewhere, but I've finally found a spare second to muse! On with the show!*
The Curious Case of Mercenary Kings
Tribute Games' Mercenary Kings is really fun. It takes a 16-bit, Metal Slug-ish shooter platformer and mashes it up with modern game sensibilities. Retro visuals are set against a game containing a non-linear mission structure, an upgradeable character and weapons, and active reloads; Mercenary Kings becomes a sort of gaming anachronism on the PS4 due to its mixture of tried-and-true with modern and new. The gameplay is old-school inspired fun, often with a difficulty to match. There is a ton of content and the potential for endlessly replayable levels thanks to a variety of mission variables, not the least of which is a timer (which serves as an almost de facto leaderboard), and it even houses a coveted Platinum atop its trophy list!
All of that stuff is well and good, but then you get to the other side of the coin: the technical issues and online/networking performance of Mercenary Kings. You would think at this point, being the next-generation and all, that a 16-bit platformer would run quite swimmingly on the PS4. We are, after all, four generations and fifteen years removed from the official discontinuation of the SNES. Now, I'm certainly no expert when it comes to making games (hell, I'm not even good enough to be considered a novice), and there is much more going on under the hood of this game than you or I probably realize, but I feel like technical glitches and online issues in a game that wouldn't seem to be the most demanding of system resources should be a non-issue. Even the title screens that flash before the game starts are victims of visual blips and audio hiccups. Every time the game loads a mission, there is a screen stutter. These visual miscues pop up during gameplay on occasion as well. Are any of these issues game breaking? No, of course not. In fact, most of these technical glitches occur when you are not actively playing the game. The game proper runs solid for the most part. But it becomes more of an irritation or a nuisance than anything. Why is my title screen skipping? Why is the loading screen freezing for a split-second in the same place everytime? Why is this retro platformer not running 100% smoothly on my PS4!
Online play is whole different Pandora's Box. I sat down to play an evening of Mercenary Kings with the other two members of the Short Pause triumvirate, and we spent more time trying to start a game than we did actually playing one. Private matches were somehow being invaded by random strangers. Missions would start with one or two of us frozen and unable to move, watching bullets whiz by in slow motion ala Neo in The Matrix. Hell, even getting to the point where we could start a mission was a blessing and a half, as most of the time if all three of us were able to successfully start a mission the gaming gods had smiled down upon us.
The reason this is an issue is because this game is fun. I mean it's really, really fun, especially in a co-op setting, which is why it is so upsetting that it doesn't work very well in its current state. Looking around the interwebs, it's clear those of us here at Short Pause aren't the only gamers on the short (no pun intended) end of the Mercenary Kings gaming stick. I know Tribute Games is listening, and I look forward to this thing getting patched up and running like a champ....
Oh, and even with the issues the game is currently facing, the game is a recommended play. It's free on PS Plus right now and we hope to have an in-depth review for you soon!...
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is completely and totally awesome
Go see this movie. Then go see it again. And again. And again. And again....
Intense action and a sweeping, epic story with lasting ramifications on the Marvel cinematic universe, highlight this summer blockbuster in early April. I won't go into details here, but this thing is begging for a spoiler-filled discussion of some sort in the near future...
Yoshi is back and all is well with the next Super Smash Bros.
Yes, I'm a Yoshi player. And yes, I'm ecstatic that he's finally been unveiled as a returning playable character in the next installment of the Super Smash Bros. franchise for both the Nintendo 3DS and the Wii U.
But this wasn't the only news Nintendo dropped on us during a special 39 minute, Smash Bros. focused Nintendo Direct Tuesday evening. To recap:
- Along with Yoshi, Charizard and Greninja were announced as playable Pokémon characters separate from the Pokémon Trainer.
- Characters with transformations will no longer be a part of the game, as both Sheik and Zero Suit Samus are now playable characters outside of Zelda and Samus respectively.
- The 3DS version gets an exclusive multi-player mode known as "Smash Run," which is essentially a platforming/traditional brawl hybrid that finds each of the four players beginning the level in a large dungeon attempting to kill as many enemies and collect as many power-ups as possible. After a brief five minute period running amok in the dungeon, players are then thrown into a traditional four-player brawl, utilizing the power-ups they've attained while tackling the dungeon beforehand.
- Multi-player will be divided between two modes: For Fun and For Glory. The former is a more light-hearted affair with items turned on and only wins are counted, while the latter is the hardcore fighting mode that finds items completely turned off and players only battling on the Final Destination stage, of which every level in the game now has a Final Destination variant. Games between friends will still allow the full gamut of customization options.
- Players with poor playing habits will be subject to banning, including those who start and don't play games, cheat, target players, and frequently drop out of games.
- Finally, and most importantly, we have a release window. The 3DS version will drop on handheld players around the world this summer, while Wii U players will have to wait until the cold of the winter to get their hands on Sakurai's latest brawling opus.
It's this last point that's a cause of concern for me. I don't yet own a Wii U, and in my honest opinion, Super Smash Bros. is probably the one game that would damn near force me to buy one. I've been playing and loving the series since the N64 days, and despite my disconnect with modern Nintendo, this is a game I'm really excited to get my hands on. Along with the soon-to-be-released Mario Kart for the Wii U, the next Super Smash Bros. is a bonafide system seller. So why in the hell is it releasing on the 3DS upwards of six months before the Wii U version?!
This is another one of those things where Nintendo just doesn't seem to get it. The 3DS is a worldwide, system-selling phenomenon. It's packed with a wealth of top-tier games and practically sells itself off of the strength of Nintendo's name alone in the handheld sector. Those players itching to play Super Smash Bros.? They can plunk down $150 or less and pick up a 3DS if they don't already have one, enjoying the game half a year before owners of the Wii U alone can get their paws on it. How many systems has Nintendo cost themselves by not only releasing it on the 3DS to begin with, but by also making sure it arrives on the handheld system six months before the console version? Maybe it doesn't cost them any sales at all, but I gotta believe that some players, the more casual fans of the Smash Bros. series, may find the Wii U version "old hat" by the time it finally hits in the winter. And who's to say it even makes the projected winter release? Super Smash Bros. doesn't exactly have a reputation for hitting shelves in a timely fashion. This is just the latest in a growing list of business blunders that already includes a lagging-far-behind-the-times online service, a poor relationship with third-party publishers, a system at least a generation behind in terms of raw specs, no achievement system to speak of, a system devoid of any type of storage, and a struggling console that is overpriced due to its "revolutionary gamepad" that developers don't seem to be utilizing in any monumental way.
"So why in the hell is it releasing on the 3DS upwards of six months before the Wii U version?! This is another one of those things where Nintendo just doesn't seem to get it."
I feel like such a gaming bastard denouncing modern Nintendo. This is the company that turned me into the hardcore gamer I am today thanks to the NES and Super NES. But it's a little sad to see their current state within the industry. They still make fun games, and the heart and soul that many of their first-party titles exude are still present, but I just find myself caring less and less as the years go on. That said though, I'll be one of the people waiting for Super Smash Bros. to hit the Wii U (hopefully) this winter before I finally pick up the system for myself. How many others like me are willing to wait, especially with the 3DS version on the immediate horizon?...
Oh, that reminds me...
The final patch for PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale has finally dropped, bringing with it a host of over 100 improvements and balance adjustments. This effectively ends support for this game, but there is still a rabid online community for this title and I still find myself jumping into a match from time to time.
This was a great game that never hit the audience it should have. It sold well enough, but it could have been bigger had it received a more focused marketing push and a proper single player element. This was way more than just a Smash Bros. clone, with a unique fighting and combo system that differentiated itself from Nintendo's stellar fighter. I'm still holding out hope we'll see this concept revisited again sometime during the PS4's lifespan, as I'd love to see another developer take a crack at the franchise (R.I.P. SuperBot).
If you haven't played in awhile, crack open the game and give the newest patch a spin!...
The Vita Slim/Borderlands 2 bundle drops on May 6th
We finally have a confirmed release date! May 6th, the Vita Slim hits the North American market and it's bringing with it the handheld version of everyone's favorite first-person lootfest, Borderlands 2. Along with the system and game, players will be treated to an 8 GB memory card in the box. I just want to reiterate the tremendous value in this deal, as each of these components purchased separately would easily run you $60-70 more than the current $199 bundle price.
I love my Vita. I play it everyday, and if you've yet to get on the Vita bandwagon, I implore you to jump on this deal and pick up the handheld system I've always wanted and finally got...
Game of Thrones is Back
I'm not sure much more needs to be said than that.
If you've yet to find yourself engulfed in the exploits of the denizens of Westeros, subscribe to HBO, buy the Blu-Ray sets, rent the DVDs, or just trade your friend your Netflix login for his/her HBO Go login and start watching this show!
George R.R. Martin's dark fantasy world already has me on the edge of my seat, ready for the thrilling season to come. That Prince Oberyn's quite the character, eh?