i’ve moved this endeavor to Blogger

If someone somehow finds this blog, well, i’m using Blogger instead now.

 

http://benjymlewis.blogspot.com/

 

I think it suits my needs better, and is less convoluted than this site.

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Mega Man 9 had the best powerups

mm9_selectscreen

The Mega Man games have a system that has been relatively unchanged from game to game:
Mega Man can jump and shoot.

jumpnshoot

Jump n shoot!

At the beginning, you select a Robot Master, go through their level, defeat them, and gain their ability as a new weapon you can use whenever you like.

The idea is that each Robot Master is a difficult fight, but they have a weakness to one of the other robot’s weapons.
So with a little bit of knowledge, you can choose the order you fight them in, giving you the chance to beat the more challenging ones after obtaining the weapon they’re weak to.

Of course, it’s not possible to know or understand the boss’s weakness before fighting them for the first time, so each boss is also designed to be entirely possible to defeat with skillful use of the default Mega Buster.
Some of them are more challenging than others, though. If the player is struggling to complete one of the levels, they can select a different one and come back to the other one later when they are more equipped.

After defeating all of them, the player goes through the final few Wily stages in a linear order. The game designers will know that by this point the player has all the weapons, allowing them to design scenarios based around a fully-equipped player.

Mega Man 9 was released in 2008, 12 years after Mega Man 8. Rather than going with modern graphics and gameplay, the game was purposefully designed to resemble the NES games entirely. Graphics, sound, and gamplay – all of it resembles a NES game to a very high degree of accuracy.

There were six Mega Man games on the NES.
(Mega Man 7 was on the SNES, and Mega Man 8 was on the PlayStation)

Mega Man 3 introduced the sliding ability, Mega Man 4 introduced the charged Mega Buster shot, and Mega Man 6 introduced the Rush Suit.
Mega Man 9 contains none of these additions, making it most similar to the fan-favourite Mega Man 2 in terms of its main gameplay style.

I felt that Mega Man 9’s powerups were much, much better implemented than the ones found in Mega Man 2 and other games, however.

In most of the previous Mega Man games, the weapons were of variable usability. Usually it turned out that one of them was clearly more useful than any of the others – the most infamous case being Mega Man 2‘s Metal Blade, an attack that dealt good damage, used up very little energy, and could be aimed in eight different directions.

metalblade

This weapon was pretty overpowered. It could basically do everything you needed.

In the older games, a Robot Master would take more damage from the weapon it’s weak to, and normal damage from most other weapons. (in some cases, there were weapons that did no damage to them as well)

In Mega Man 9, this is still the case, but with a brilliant twist: each weapon’s traits are helpful in their own unique way in directly countering the Robot Master’s attack patterns.

This is what I mean:

The Magma Bazooka‘s three-way shot pattern is perfectly aligned to remove Hornet Man‘s bee attack.

m_bazooka

 

The Laser Trident‘s wallphasing property is useful in bypassing Concrete Man‘s concrete blocks.

l_trident

 

The Black Hole Bomb is useful for removing Jewel Man‘s main defence.

b_bomb

 

The Plug Ball‘s wall roaming is useful for reaching Tornado Man when he goes up towards the ceiling.

p_ball

 

The Jewel Satellite is useful for completely blocking Plug Man‘s otherwise tricky-to-dodge projectiles.

j_satellite

 

I really like this because it feels as though the boss’s weaknesses can actually be intuitively figured out based on the properties of both the boss and the weapon, rather than the previous games’ trial and error of using every weapon on them to see what does the most damage.

In addition to being very cleverly-designed in regards to the Robot Master fights, the abilities themselves are also all equally useful in conquering the stages as well. In Mega Man 9, it is not the case where there is only one useful weapon, such as Mega Man 2‘s Metal Blades

 

This is a part where the Jewel Satellite helps immensely.

jewel_wily

 

Here, the Plug Ball is great for reaching this enemy safely.

plug_sniperjoe

 

The Tornado Blow can help with these big guys.

tornado_elephant

 

and so on….

I feel like Mega Man 9 has the most cleverly-designed weapons of the classic Mega Man series.

I also got this feeling with Mega Man & Bass for the Super Famicom, but I’ll not go into detail about that game in this post.

So that’s all I have to say. I think Mega Man 9 has my favourite abilities in the series.

 

 

Kirby 64 doesn’t utilise its mechanics very well

kirby64_1up

Kirby 64 has some interesting game mechanics, unique from every other Kirby game. Unfortunately, it hardly makes use of any of it.

Unlike other Kirby games, Kirby can combine two abilities together. This is achieved by spitting out an enemy of one ability into another, and swallowing the resulting star.

There are seven base abilities in the game:

Fire, Ice, Spark, Cutter, Bomb, Needle, Stone

And each of their combinations results in something different.

For example, Bomb + Fire gives Kirby fireworks.
Fire + Rock gives Kirby a volcano.
Needle + Rock give Kirby a drill.
And everyone’s favourite, Ice + Spark gives Kirby the power to turn into a refrigerator.

Refrigator

How cute!

The purpose of these abilities is mostly for fun, and for accessing the hidden Crystal Shards, which there are three in each level. Usually, the shard is hidden behind a block comprised of two colours, and the colours indicate which combination of ability will break it.

2-1_shard

This brown and yellow block in World 2-1 is broken by the brown and yellow abilities, Rock + Spark.

The actual utility of these abilities throughout the game is mostly limited to one or two useful ones.
For moving quickly through the stages, Fire or Fire + Fire give Kirby the fastest horizontal speed possible. (which is still pretty slow, to be honest. …this game is very slow-paced).
 Ice + Spark gives novice players a chance to generate healing items, in exchange for a rather awkard-to-use attack.
Cutter gives a nice long-range attack,
Needle gives a nice close-range attack.

Most of the abilities are an action where Kirby stops in place to perform some kind of attack.
They’re all different-looking, but the effect is mostly the same between them all – an attack that defeats enemies if you hit them with it.
The main reason to swap around abilities is to have fun seeing the results of mixing them.
And this is fine for the most part. The design philosophy behind Kirby games was always to allow different players the freedom of choice in how they approach the game.

Some players may want to wield Fire + Cutter, which gives kirby a cool flaming sword he can throw.
Some players would prefer to slide around and do pirouettes with Ice + Cutter, which gives Kirby a set of ice skates.
The freedom of choice, allowing players to tackle levels in their own personal ways, is one of the most important aspects of Kirby games in general.

However… this game doesn’t really do much with its extensive powerup system besides giving all these ultimately purposeless choices.

There isn’t any REASON why Spark + Rock is required to get the Shard in Level 2-1, other than the fact that it is the only combination that can break the yellow and brown barrier. It feels like a very static, limited way of going about creating puzzles to solve.

I’m going to compare this game to the previous Kirby games, which I felt implemented the powerup system in a much more interesting way:

in Kirby Super Star, there’s a door in Mallow Castle that’s blocked off and can be reached by hitting a bomb block.  This block is too low to hit normally, however, so Kirby must try various abilities to see which ones work.

kirbymirror

Mirror doesn’t seem to do it.

Many times in Kirby Super Star, there are blocks above Kirby, and blocks below Kirby. Some abilities have attacks that can reach them, while others can’t. It’s up to the player to figure out the best way to reach them. They’re not just outright told precisely which ability to use where.

kirbysword2

Sword, though… now that’s effective!

Kirby’s Dreamland 2 also has blocks that are only destroyed by one specific ability, but for the most part, the puzzles presented in that game are actually just managing to reach these areas with the ability intact, and not so much just purely whether or not you have it.

spark_kirby

This door is…. actually kind of tough to reach without losing Spark.

spark_rick

But if you hop on Rick the Hamster, his version of Spark makes things easier!

But in Kirby 64, the only puzzle behind most of these scenarios is to just look at the colours of the blockade, and use the corresponding power to open it. It’s not as involved, and it feels like a rather artificial way of handling it.

I don’t really like it.

The game also contains an entirely overlooked mechanic where Kirby has the ability to hold an enemy over his head – and surprisingly enough, the enemy will actually help Kirby in some unique way. Glunk will fire shots upwards. Kany will snip at things around with its pincers. Bumber will slow Kirby’s descent. Ptera will allow Kirby to glide through the air.

bumber_float

Weeee… this is pointless.

Absolutely none of this is useful in any way. There are zero scenarios where holding an enemy above your head will help you go through an area in a different way than to just defeat them normally and carry on.

This is me trying my hardest to make this game mechanic useful in some way. I really have to go out of my way, and it ultimately ends up pointless.

It’s interesting, but one part of the problem seems to be that this is the only Kirby game where there are no doors.
This means that everything in each level must be strictly linear – there are no side-rooms with puzzles where it may make sense to utilise an obscure enemy interaction without compromising the simple flow of the main level.

I think that that’s the main thing this Kirby game is missing – interesting interactions.

Despite being one of the most rich Kirby games mechanicwise, this is the most sparse game in the series contentwise, with nothing really there that uses any of the existing mechanics in an interesting way. Most of the time, you just have to walk forwards, and all of the levels are beaten fairly simply.

This is all in the past though…I’m just really glad that Kirby’s Adventure Wii introduced the Ability Challenges. Now there’s an amazing example of the game taking the existing mechanics and making interesting use of them!

I would love to see a future Kirby game where you can mix abilities together. So far, Kirby 64 is the only one that did this.

Just as an aside, I also want to take this opportunity to complain about the Enemy Info cards in Kirby 64. There are 22 levels in the game, and at the end of each, you have a chance of acquiring an Enemy Info card, which shows an enemy, its name and its power. There are 81 cards in the game – meaning that in order to collect them all, you need to replay the same levels over and over and over. At no other point does the game reward you with a card other than at the end of a level.

enemyinfo
I personally spent an entire hour beating level 1-1 over and over and again just to complete the collection. I was listening to a podcast, though, so it was okay.
I think it would be better if there were either more levels in the game, or more opportunities to obtain cards from other sources.

…perhaps they could have instead given out enemy cards as prizes to some new challenges that used the mechanics in an interesting way?

Whatever though. The game’s pretty cool.

 

 

The best Pokémon game is whichever one is the newest

I am of the opinion that the best Pokémon game is whichever one is currently the newest. As of this post, the newest are Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, the Gen 6 remakes of the Gen 3 games Ruby and Sapphire.
beautifly1

Pokémon games always seem to add significant quality of life improvements each time there’s a new game release. Some examples are:

Gold / Silver – The ability to register a key item to a button (usually the Bike or a Rod)

Ruby / Sapphire – The PC box overhaul, with a visual, user-friendly interface that has been used ever since

Diamond / Pearl – The player’s inventory is no longer limited, removing the need to store items in the PC

Black / White – TMs are now unique items with infinite uses, rather than one-use items

Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire – Fly can now travel to any route or landmark, rather than just towns

All of these changes may seem minor on the surface, but they all vastly, vastly reduce the amount of wasted time and tedium the player has to go through on a daily basis while playing Pokémon.
r7-daycare

The system of Pokémon breeding is of particular complexity. When it comes to the matter of allowing players to get their desired, precisley-tuned Pokémon through breeding, it seems that GameFreak have had some challenge maintaining the balance between making it too easy and making it too frustrating or tedious.

In order to demonstrate this, I’m going to briefly overview how the various games handle the Nature of a hatched Pokémon:

In Ruby / Sapphire / FireRed / LeafGreen, the Natue of a hatched Pokémon is entirely random. This means, in order to obtain a Pokémon with a desired Nature, each egg is a 1/25 chance to get what you want.

In Emerald, if the female parent is holding an Everstone, then there is a 50% chance of the hatched Pokémon inheriting her Nature. This greatly increases the odds of your egg having the correct Nature – it’s now a 1/2 chance if you happen to have the correct parent Pokémon available.

In Diamond / Pearl / Platinum, it works the same way as in Emerald.

In HeartGold / SoulSilver, it works the same way, however now EITHER the female or male parent can hold the Everstone for this to work, making it easier to set up the correct Pokémon to create eggs.

In Black / White, it works the same way as in HG/SS.

In Black 2 / White 2, the 50% chance to pass down the Nature with an Everstone has now become a 100% chance. As of this game, passing down the nature is no longer down to luck.

You can see, as the games get more recent, this particular facet of Pokémon breeding has become easier to deal with. Before B2W2, the system pretty much guaranteed that half of your eggs would be useless to you before you could even check the hatched Pokémon’s stats or Ability or any of the other things that are randomly determied upon hatching.

Hatching the perfect Pokémon is still a nightmare of RNG and hours of riding the bicycle up and down beside the Daycare ad nauseum… but it seems that, with every new game release, this nightmare becomes less and less annoying to deal with.

290px-B2W2_Prelease_World_Tournament_Cynthia_Eng

Pokémon is also always keen to add completely new features out of nowhere and then inexplicably remove them the next game.

The Pokémon World Tournament, an area where you could fight against every single gym leader and champion from past games, was only included in Black 2 / White 2.

Also in In Black 2 / White 2, there was an achivement system with Medals, rewarding the player for completing various objectives….which was completely abandoned with X / Y.

HeartGold / SoulSilver went for a touchscreen-focused interface, allowing any function of buttons to be replicated by controls on the touchscreen…which was completely abandoned with Black / White, which went back to to buttons as the only input for most things.

The strangest case of them all, though, is regarding the Battle Frontier, an extended postgame battle challenge area. They created it for Emerald version, then remove it for Diamond / Pearl, add it BACK IN again with Platinum, keep it around for HeartGold / SoulSilver, and then remove it again in Black / White. …and it hasn’t been seen since. What the heck?

It also seems strange that Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire completely disregard the extra content that was added in Emerald – such as Mirage Tower and the Battle Tents.

There are also the more important changes such as the Physical / Special split of Gen 4, or the addition of Fairy type in Gen 6. All of these fundamental changes to the formula I believe are good for the game.

I find it cool how they have managed to make changes to the competitive balance of Pokémon’s metagame that can also feel exciting to the more casual players.
Whenever a big change is made to the game such as adding Fairy type Pokémon, I am always welcoming of it.

For the most part, I believe that Pokémon is always getting better and better.

Thoughts about Sonic the Hedgehog 2

I recently bought Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on the 3DS.

Metropolis

Sonic 2 is a game I have played a lot of. I played it a lot from quite a young age on friends’ Mega Drive systems as a kid. I played it a lot as a young adolescent on my own Mega Drive. I played it a couple of times more as I got older, too – when I got Sonic Mega Collection for PC, and later for PlayStation 2 and GameCube. (and I currently own it on a whole bunch of other things too)

I like this game a lot. At least, it seems I’ve bought it a lot.

I was completely fascinated by the world of Sonic as a young kid. The characters have a real appeal to their design and personality. And it seemed like the environments were something more than just some game levels – they were like entire worlds for exploration and imagination.
There was all of the other Sonic media around at the time – the “Sonic the Comic” strips and the “Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog” cartoon often used thematic elements from the games’ levels as the settings – giving us a stronger idea of these worlds being more than just what appeared in the games.

So basically, I have a lot of personal fondness for the Sonic series from this era, and a lot of fondness for this game in particular. …(along with Sonic 3)
But when I bought the 3DS version, something about it made me question the way I think about replaying games.

Sonic 2 has always had a hidden level select feature (I still have the code memorised – just enter in 19, 65, 09, 17, hold A+Start and you’re good to go), but uniquely, on the 3DS version this feature is not hidden and can be accessed easily.

I launched the 3DS version and had a look at the ever-so-familiar level names on the level select screen.

S2_level_select
Emerald Hill. Chemical Plant. Casino Night. Hill Top. etc, etc, etc.

The entire game’s contents are laid bare right here. Just by looking at a level’s name and the tiny square icon that appears when you highlight it on this menu, all of the level and its contents are immediately brought to mind.

After having played Sonic 2 so much throughout my life, it seems almost pointless to even select a level here. I already extensively know what happens in each of them.
I could just take one look at the level select screen and claim that I’ve had my fill of the game.
…I guess all I needed was the reminder that, yep, this version is still the very same thing I know and love.

I guess I can also load up Emerald Hill Zone just to see how they utilised the 3DS’s autostereoscopic 3D effects, and then…kind of just not play any more.

…So, then. What was the point? Why was I so excited to purchase this game from the 3DS eShop? I don’t regret my purchase at all, but it’s fairly unlikely I’ll ever need to play this version.

It’s kind of funny, huh.