Tagged: Konami

A little brainstorm on Castlevania’s future

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I’ve had this idea for a Castlevania revival kicking around in my head for a while now but have never committed it to a post. This Kill Screen article about the series impossible architecture has finally motivated me to expand on it so let’s workshop this!

The title is about all I dreamed up, a portmanteau of terrible design: Constructslevania. Part Castlevania, part Mario Maker, you play as some entity summoned forth by Dracula to devise the next incarnation of his cursed castle. How about Death? Death makes sense, he’s already able to float around so he can move anywhere on the screen and keep the UI hidden out of view, probably in ‘Dracula’s Grimoire’ or some other book-like conceit. He’s also Death and it’s funny to picture him doing Dracula’s housework when he isn’t directly ruining another Belmont’s day.

A pop-up menu system would allow you to choose hundreds of room backdrops from the series past with tabs for obstacles, enemies, and decoration. All these would be governed by rules to make it feel more Castlevania appropriate. So no, you can’t fill every room with a framerate-breaking number of red skeletons, even though I think they did that once. Maybe there’s even a “holy intervention” phase where you have to place beneficial items or an algorithm that places the whippable torches. From here the gameplay can go a few different ways.

Similar to Tecmo’s Deception you could be designing the castle to watch AI heroes storm in and do their best to reach Dracula. Maybe he’s not fully revived yet and all they need to do is reach his coffin to show him a pointy end. Alternatively, you’re designing the castle for other live players to run through, possibly in a roguelike, one-shot fashion.

Restricted solely to AI heroes I think the game would lean more towards tower defense and would feel much less like a Castlevania game. Designed for live players it would be possible to lay out a more accurate Castlevania experience, maybe even one with save rooms, mid-bosses and puzzles.

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Maybe the Librarian would work better than Death? And who wouldn’t want to hide their own wall meat or lay Medusa head trap rooms?

Personally, I just want a new 2D Castlevania to explore and this would potentially offer a million clever combinations of famous locales and encounters. Building one would also be fun and I can picture players creating devious labyrinths and artistic masterpieces. Maybe it’s even possible to cram a new Castlevania story around other players creations. Konami could even offer new sprites, gear, and bosses for creators to work with. And the music! Having a jukebox of Castlevania’s classic themes to select and jam to is almost worth the buying price alone.

No doubt, this could easily be a money sucking, microtransaction, DLC onslaught with Konami charging for every individual sprite and sound effect. It could also result in an endless number of boring, broken or cookie cutter castles. I would still take all that potential for tragedy just to poke around in a new 2D Castlevania offering. There ya go Konami, have at it.

E3: Konami combines slots with RPGs to make pseudo-game Slot Revolution

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Love playing 10000000 but hate all that strenuous tile matching? Konami is streamlining the interaction for you and simultaneously branding this as a Revolution title. The only thing that could make this better is if NAOKI was doing the music or if it were called Slot Slot Revolution.

If you’re legitimately interested and not just entertained like I am, the game will be released for free  this Summer for iOS, Android and Kindle. You can even carry your progress across devices if you’re one of those tech journalist types that pack three phones and a tablet.

Konami’s Pre-E3 Show: Like Live Action Press Releases

I didn’t stay up late last night to watch Konami’s Pre-E3 show “live” but having just sat through the stream I can tell you that even the shallow, toss-and-turny sleep I got in its place was more enjoyable. I thought the rooftop introduction from cyberCEO Tomoyuki Tsuboi was going to set up a great show of awkward green screen CG but after his hologram fades out it’s mostly cut and dry live action press releases.

Konami has opened a mobile/social office in San Francisco to make Facebook games and team up with Zynga. There’s a lot of Frogger on Facebook and while Frogger Pinball looked mildly interesting it was counterbalanced by the big, hot news of “Frogger Classic” being available on the Chrome Web Store… since January.  Then we moved on to Pro Evolution Soccer news.

Finally Hideo Kojima showed up to narrate the majority of the show as he talked about Zone of the Enders HD Collection, Metal Gear’s 25th anniversary and a handful of Metal Gear HD collections that are already out. This all served as a segued into the first in-game look at the new Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.

If you were sad about how poorly Ninja Gaiden 3 turned out you can rest assured it was all PlatinumGames’ fault. From the looks of Revengeance they have sucked Hayabusa’s soul out of Tecmo’s hands and cybernetically installed it into Raiden. Or think of it as Bayonetta with a dude… a girly dude. C’mon, he’s still pretty girly looking even with the robo-jaw. The action looks great and fast and Raiden can even wield weapons other than his katana. A staff is shown whirlwinding its way through enemies and at one point he unleashes an RPG on a tank. Not very electro-ninja of him but you can’t simply cut everything into pieces all the time. That trademark slow-mo chopping looks as satisfying as ever too, I just hope they aren’t too stingy on when and where you can use it. The trailer proudly declares “early 2013” but I wouldn’t be surprised if it slips into “Summer 2013” territory before it’s finally out.

Mega 64 makes their return this year feeling very vestigial. There’s no Transfarring madness tied into their appearance, just a mildly funny series of Raiden gags and a great appearance by Jehuty. It’s like they’re only there because they were there last year. And then the show is closed out by a CG trailer for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 which I’m not at all excited about. There’s a brief tease for the 3DS Castlevania that leaked out weeks ago which will be officially revealed on June 5th at E3 proper.

I was pretty bummed there was no new Rhythm Party/DDR/music game news or any mention of Contra that they teased at the end of last year’s show but they do promise more news and reveals throughout E3. You can watch the whole show here (it’s only 32 minutes long) but really the trailers for Zone of the Enders, Revengeance and Lords of Shadows are probably all you’re really interested in and have probably already seen.

Now Playing: Rhythm Party (Xbox 360 Kinect)

As a Kinect launch title Dance Central was neat but the more I played it I realized that it’s not a dancing game at all, it’s a dancing instructor. You do exactly the motion that is asked of you and are penalized for any creative flair you may add. While this could legitimately make you a good dancer it’s not what I want out of a dancing game. Games are about living out fantasies and when I’m in front of a camera, about to perform for a video game I’m already a really good dancer. Rhythm Party embraces this delusion by not demanding anything too specific of its players and for that I’ve come to cherish it.

Essentially it’s the Easy Mode from Konami’s Kinect title, DanceMasters, extruded out into a full game. There are no 3D dancers to mimic, your goal is to make sure some body part hits the circular targets that appear around your in-game visage in time with the music. Along with simply hitting the markers on screen you’ll occasionally have to hold on one for a few seconds or make directional swipes when a series of arrows appear.

While that’s all it takes to move through Rhythm Party’s meager playlist and unlock higher difficulties the game is tracking (and scoring) much more of your movement. Stepping around the play space, jumping, spinning, posing and more are all tracked with optional in-game challenges to hit a certain number of those moves in a song. Hitting consecutive targets and throwing in extra moves builds up a score multiplier while “special effect” moments add bonus points and unexpected costumes over your in-game self. Suddenly you’ll be dancing around with a pair of fairy wings on your back or encased in an Iron Giant style robot suit. Each song has its own special effect that matches the style of its well-animated background and is honestly, usually, quite silly.

Silly is the best way to describe Rhythm Party and that’s not meant to be condescending. Though there’s depth to be found in the scoring and motion tracking, it’s really an excuse to dance around to music and watch crazy things happen on the screen. That frivolity makes it all the more disappointing that there’s no multiplayer mode at all. Even a take-a-turn high score competition would’ve been enough but at the least it’s easy to restart a song and swap places.

Where Rhythm Party feels the most thin is in its playlist. For the regular price of $10 you get ten songs: 3 short cut U.S. pop tracks from the Village People, Bobby Brown, and Lady Gaga, 1 kid tune, 2 that feature Vanilla Ice and 4 that would sound at home in DDR. I have come to enjoy all of them (except YMCA) but it’s very much up to personal taste if you feel like you got ripped off. You can also spend up to an extra $12 to add 12 more songs through DLC but most of those are from the same artists here and there’s no official way to preview them without buying.

Rhythm Party isn’t deep or technical or even very challenging. It’s got a bare-bones set of features and songs. It doesn’t even make it easy to play with friends which you’d expect from a game with “Party” in its title. Somehow, though, it transcends all those quibbles for me by enabling my delusions for short bursts of silly dancing — I mean, really good dancing! You can spend more on DLC but for ten dollars I can’t think of a Kinect game that’s made me as happy as Rhythm Party.

This review was originally posted at PEGreviews.com which is currently on hiatus

Done Playing: Scarygirl (XBLA)

My first exposure to Scary Girl — the gothic storybook creation of Australian artist Nathan Jurevicius — came in 2009 with the official Flash game. Part platformer, part adventure game I loved looking at the 2D art but didn’t care much for actually playing it. Three years later and I’m surprised to see a Square Enix published follow-up as a full-fledged side-scrolling 3D platformer. Finally, I’ll get to enjoy a Scarygirl game for its looks and its gameplay… I thought.

While it starts out pedestrian enough with short levels, a handful of enemies and some pick-ups Scarygirl secretly aspires to be a hardcore old school platformer: precision timed jumps, crystals that are just out of reach, waves of enemies with fast attacks, and punishing boss encounters with multiple patterns to memorize. Oh, and don’t let those patterns flutter too far out of your mind because in the last level you’ll be fighting them over again.

I haven’t undertaken that kind of platforming challenge in a while but I’m still certain that Scarygirl’s frustrating difficulty comes mostly from its clunky controls. Not even jumping feels right as Scarygirl goes straight into a helicopter-tentacle hover if you hold the button at all. That hover move also sends her slightly higher than a normal jump and you’ll frequently have to hover into the sides of ledges before she elevates enough to land on top. Combat grows more complex from the basic light and juggle attacks at the start but I never found it reliable enough to be any fun. Spamming a powerful combo to keep enemies at bay or running past them altogether was what kept me sane as they line up to take potshots while you attempt to block and counter. You also have a grapple move that’s used to swing from hooks and the ability to grab dazed enemies and throw them around but those too felt unreliable and twitchy.

In starkest of contrasts to the gameplay, Scarygirl is a downright joy to look at! The hand drawn characters from the online comic and graphic novels have been transmutated into splendid 3D form. They lack the 2D charm that I love but I was constantly enamored with the way this game looks and moves. There’s plenty of depth-of-field effects and the camera moves pretty frequently, keeping the perspective fresh. The music and sound effects aren’t as exceptional but they fit in fine with the whimsical presentation.

Scarygirl embodies a love/hate formula that had me both desperate to be done with the game but also yearning for more to see. Funny, then, that the game checks multiple times for DLC when you load it up. Whatever that content may be I have a hard time recommending a full price purchase. Six hours of frustrating (single or co-op) platforming for some pretty visuals is a tough sell. The only reason to slog through it again is to find secrets and buy collectibles and that’s not incentive enough for me. I say save yourself the pain and go right to the source: buy the graphic novel.