Friday, February 17, 2012

Semi-Obscure Retro Game Review: Einhänder

Anyone who played games in the 90s, and early 00s recognizes Squaresoft. Always known for their stellar RPGs like the Final Fantasy series and the Mana series, Squaresoft had a certain consistence in its library. All top-notch games, all JRPGs. Until 1997, that is, when after the release of Final Fantasy VII, Squaresoft decided to develop something different, something completely unexpected fron the famed RPG-developers.

A shoot-em-up. A sidescrolling shmup with retro difficulty and gameplay, but with super-detailed 3D models and textures. It would feature hulking bosses, a still-innovative and original weapons system, five different ships, each adding a new spin on the gameplay, and a level of control seldom seen in 2D shmups. It was to be the most technologically-advanced shooter of its time.

It would be called... Einhänder.

The gameplay in Einhänder is pretty much what you'd expect from a 2D shmup. You move vertically and horizontally, shoot things, collect power-ups, and shoot more things. However, Einhänder adds some new features that were unparalleled at the time, and (considering the decline of the 2d-shmup market since those times), are still relatively so today. You have the ability to change your speed on the fly by using the L2 and R2 buttons, which can be really useful in the flow of the game, when one minute you're fighting a boss, dodging waves upon waves of bullets, and the next you're fighting a horde of enemies that takes up the entire right half of the screen. In addition, you have the ability to steal the weapons off of an enemy ship (although you'll always have your main machinegun fire), which is one of the game's main gimmicks. The weapons are quite varied, both in style and usability. There's a Spreader, which... is a Spread Gun, obviously, a W.A.S.P, which fires homing rockets, a Riot gun which shoots powerful bolts of lightning that can be charged manually, a Vulcan minigun, which is quite weak, but is superb for taking out hordes of smaller enemies, and a LASER SWORD, among many others. With the manipulator arm, you can change the perspective of any alternate gun you pick up, such as using the Spreader as a rear attack. There are five different ships in Einhänder, each adding a different twist on the gameplay. On one ship, you can hold three different alternate guns and switch between them at will, but on another, you only have one gun slot that is upgradeable. Yes, the changes are on the smaller side, but it does add that extra bit of variety to the game. There is a score system that rewards you points for kills and all the normal things, but it also gives multipliers for killing things quickly. Once you stop killing, the multiplier starts to decrease. It's a fun little system.

The graphics in Einhänder are great for their time. Each model is highly detailed, the futuristic art style pops, and the textures are quite well-drawn. It is also worth mentioning that throughout the game, there are various camera shifts, which are executed seamlessly and do nothing to change the general gameplay, although it does highlight the at-the-time great graphics. The sound effects are varied, detailed, and used well. The game's soundtrack is top-notch, being an energetic mix of techno, fast and frantic during boss fights, and more subdued when need be. Unfortunately, the OST was only released in Japan and is relatively costly to import, and the game disc itself has no redbook audio.

The story in Einhänder is actually fairly decent for a shmup, even though predictably, it's relagated to the backstory. A colony on the moon, Selene, is fighting for independence from its Empire on Earth. As a last resort, the Selenian army developed prototype manned tactical fighters, codenamed Einhänder, to be used for suicide runs on the Empire, doing as much damage as they can before they are destroyed. You are one of the pilots of these ships, sent to Earth to do as much damage as you can before you're shot down. It's more fleshed-out in the manual, but that's pretty much the gist of it, and as per the norm, it's just a backdrop to shooting things.

The game, regrettably, is a bit on the short side. I'd estimate the game length at around an hour and a half. It's even more regrettable that the game lacks a 2-player mode, which would have made the game absolutely flawless in my eyes. As mentioned before, there are five ships in the game, two of which you need to unlock. There's a score system, three different difficulties, and a gallery of concept art and models that you unlock things in by progressing through the game. Einhänder is of an older time, so not as many bells-and-whistles were implemented. The terms are simple, but you can get a lot of replayability out of this game.

Einhänder is definitely one of the best non-RPG Squaresoft games. If you like old-school shmups like Gradius and R-Type, definitely track this one down. It's one of the lesser-known gems in the PSX library and, although somewhat hard to find, it is totally worth it if you crave retro action, shmups, or just well-executed action games, pick Einhänder up.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Real Time Strategy and the League of Legends

I really really enjoy the flow of StarCraft.  There's a lot I like.  The balance, the races, the tech, the battle...

I'm just not any good at it.  I've had the game for over 5 years now, and I've only completed the Terran missions... In the default campaign.  I finished roughly 4 of the Zerg missions in the core game, and about 2 of the Protoss.

I like this game.  It's just... hard.  Difficult... something.
I don't know if it's the micro-managing of the resources, or the paying attention... but I suck at the game.

Seriously, ask my friends.  They'll tell you.  I get a second base going, pbbbt, wiped out.

Not much I an do about 3 dozen carriers knocking at my door.  I try using Wraiths to counter.  Noooope.

Goliaths?  Also no.

So the obvious solution is to build defensively, right?   *buzzer*  By turtling like that, I run out of resources and don't have a supply to go on the attack with.

What about playing offensively then?  Well, i usually don't find the enemy base.  And when I do, they're also building offensively... but have built a bigger force, and better defenses.

So what about trying a different race.  Well, I suck with the Zerg, and I'm even worse with the Protoss... the expensive bastards.

So then I tried my hand at WarCraft III.  More of the same really.  Just more races.  I finished the human campaign, and then a little of the Undead.  The AI is much more forgiving in that game.  So I played a game online with some friends... well LAN, but whatever.  Anyways, only LAN game I played, I was about to win, then my laptop got unplugged.  This was the laptop with the crappy charger port, so I couldn't charge my battery.  So my computer was basically a more flimsy desktop in terms of power.  So the cord came out, my laptop turned off... my friend won... with almost no army or buildings remaining.

Haven't played since then.

I am not good at these types of games.  I can't scan my whole screen at once because of my vision.  I can't see the minimap to know glean the information I need.  Which leads to frequent lapses in judgement and mistakes.

This also transitions over to League of Legends.  In that game, you need need need need NEED to be able to multitask.  If you can't, well, I hope you enjoy people typing angrily in your direction.  Have to be able to know when someone goes missing from another lane, or when a specific neutral buff comes up.  And if you're trying to coordinate via text in the game, that's just another distraction for me.

I don't consider myself terrible at this game though.  It's less to manage.  Since you're only playing one character, and not a whole colony/race, I don't have to worry about these things.  The action in LoL is fun too.  Fast paced, and almost any character in the game can turn the tide of any battle in the right player's hands.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Catch-up Post

So... since I'm the only one really posting here... periodically... shut up, you know what I mean.

Anyways, here are some quick-reviews for what I've been playing of late.

Saints Row: The Third
I am a child.  I enjoy spending most of my time in this game doing running melee attacks.  They are all sorts of gratifying.  In fact, I plan on getting the unlimited sprint JUST to do that.  Speaking of upgrades, you buy them in this game.  Yeah, money has a better purpose in SR3 than SR2.  In my current Saints Row 2 file, I'm sitting on half a million dollars, and nothing to spend it on but property and ammo.  In Saints Row: The Third, you buy your upgrades with money.  Things like More ammo for guns, more grenades, followers, more sprint/health, etc. The catch is, you still need a required Respect level before you can purchase these unlockables.

Gun play is a bit different.  Your radial menu replaces the dedicated grenade slot with the specialty weapon slot (like my attack drones).  The upside is that the d-pad now selects which one of the four grenade types you have equipped.  The button layout is different, but the new layout allows you to aim down the sights easier (helpful), and have a dedicated grenade button (which I accidentally hit instead of the "shoot fiery lead based projectiles very fast" button).

DC Universe Online

Anybody remember when Sony charged you to play this game?  Financial bust is a term for that plan.  Now that it's Free-To-Play though, I hear it's doing decent financially.  So there's that.

Now enough business talk... how does it play?  Fun.  Fast frantic action.

You can play as either a hero or villain.  Then you choose your type of power from a pool of things like Nature, Mystic, Gadgets (wheeeeeeeeeeee), Fire, Ice, and a few others.  You then choose a Mentor.  If you're a hero, your choices are Batman (gadget-type), Superman (meta-type [ice, fire, general genetics mutations]), or Wonder Woman (Mystic powers).  The villain's line up is the Joker (Gadgets, my current mentor), Lex Luthor (Meta) and Circe (Mystic).

After you choose your powers, you choose your weapon of choice (Bow, brawling, martial arts, dual pistol, assault rifle, dual wield, hand blasts, one handed weapons, two handed weapons, and a few others).

So, with powers and weapon and costume picked out, you begin your adventure.  In this game, you'll be fighting against the opposite faction (both PvP and PvE) as well as a common enemy in Braniac.  So as a Hero, you may end up fighting against the Joker or Penguin at some point.  And as a Villain, you can expect Batman or The Flash to show up on your mission log.

Movement is broken down into three choices.  Super Speed, ala the Flash, Acrobatics (climbing and scaling buildings with gliding and a slightly faster than normal run speed), or Flying.  I chose Acrobatics, since you don't need to fight with a camera and it's fun for exploring.

one last game to throw in...

Dragon's Blade for the WP7.

It's a throwback to early Final Fantasy games.  You grind, you try to earn money, you learn spells by buying them.  You start with a party of 4 characters that you make by selecting from about 7 classes.  The bonus is that you can create new characters at the inn (3 of them), but they start at level 1.  So my starting line-up was Porshe the Templar (Hybrid between a healer and a tank, Mystic Knight for those who've played FFV), Singarith, a Warrior (standard tank), Dave an Archer (Can attack all enemies in a line from him, but more enemies he hits, the less damage the arrows do), and Carde the Mage.

After playing a bit, I realized that the Archer and the second tank didn't fit how I wanted to play, so I remade Singarith as a Juggernaut, a light armor wearing Brute who uses two handed weapons for massive damage.  And then I replaced the archer with a Cleric named Kat for healing.

Now combat is fairly simple, but what's interesting is that whatever character is at the front of your order, is more likely to be attacked.  So the top two are the targets of most attacks.

Another interesting thing is that each class has their own innate chance like thingies.  Example: the Templar has a chance to protect allies, Archers occasionally produce a "hail of arrows" when they attack, which attacks the enemies again, and slows them down, Mage sometimes recovers mana and boosts damage of spells for a turn after casting a spell, the Cleric sometimes can heal the whole party a small amount when they cast any of their spells, and the Juggernaut has a chance to hit all enemies after attacking one enemy.

For a free phone game, it's a good time kill.  I play it on the bus to and from school.