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Something Old, Something New

Something Old, Something New published on

I’d loaded up and messed with StarTropics 2 early in my messing with NES emulators, but didn’t play very far into it. It’d been a long time, so me being me, I just kind of assumed my old self stopped playing because they had gotten bored of it and moved on to pirating something zanier. Turns out I probably ran out of patience!

To properly describe my beefs with StarTropics 2, I have to lay out a bit about the mechanics of the original. StarTropics has a very strict tile-based movement system, and making your way through the game means mastering that particular quirk. While restrictive; the game is designed with it in mind- enemies aren’t usually super aggressive, those that are are typically slow… in general, there’s a lot more of a feel that each room is a puzzle to solve beyond ‘kill all the enemies and the door opens.’ Even when you do get a room like that, it’s usually done to make sure you know how to deal with a certain type of enemy or that you know your way around a special weapon. (In particular, the Asterisk, a.k.a. throwing star is given to you then you pass through several rooms where using its splitting ability is needed to take out paired enemies in tricky locations.) It certainly has its share of dick moves in later stages (as anyone who was watching my Twitch stream of the game can attest to) and rather unforgiving general design choices (if you die in a dungeon, you always start your next life with a meager 3 hearts, and some checkpoints are placed in a way that makes it impossible to refill your health to a decent level before the boss.)

What I’m getting at is StarTropics is awkward and fairly hard, but it checks a lot of the ‘good game design’ boxes. StarTropics 2 attempts to be more of a standard isometric action game, and it feels like a case of something that’s not broken being ‘fixed.’ Mike can move and attack diagonally, and isn’t restricted to full tile movement. You also seem (oddly) to be able to jump farther diagonally than straight across gaps, as well as alter your airborne course a little.

This is actually kind of a problem! Particularly coming straight off of the first one. Jumps across tile-wide gaps was easy the first time around, as your movement was ‘locked’ to a grid, but in more intense platforming segments like the three-lane boulder dash in the Wild West mine section, I find myself falling to my death way more often than I would have under the old system. In fact, the same basic obstacle was IN the first game before the fight with the ostrich mech. The challenge was about timing there, and more of a standard placement issue in the sequel.

So, at least part of my problem is that I’m used to the first game’s controls. That’s on me. But Mike retains just enough of his old movement habits that he’s not quite as responsive as he could be either. You can still kind of spin in place if you rotate the pad fast enough, trying to walk him in a circle around the room, however, you can feel that he still hangs a bit when changing direction. You still have more freedom of movement to be sure, but it feels less precise and measured.

Let’s talk about what it does well, though! It’s more deliberately funny than the first one. The graphics are definitely nice, more detailed. Dungeons now have multiple elevation levels, which is used to interesting effect in parts. Leaping from higher levels adds an extra ’tile’ to your jump length, and the height of yourself and enemies factors into who can hit who. It’s also kind of neat how you’re giving a telekinetic shot as a permanent secondary weapon, and your two main weapons receive upgrades throughout the story.

I’ll keep picking at the game off and on- my Twitter (@thethreetwo) and Twitch widget should say when. Currently picking at the card stuff again though.

PAX East: Wrap-Up

PAX East: Wrap-Up published on 2 Comments on PAX East: Wrap-Up

I had a pretty good time this weekend. The getaway alone was badly needed, but to spend it among gamers, dorks, and creators was just great. I think I feel more at home at gaming events than when I went to anime cons, it’s hard to put my finger on why. But I did get into anime via games, sort of, so you could say I have more roots in games than that.

pax_east_2

The first thing I did Sunday was squeeze into the throng at Nintendo’s booth to try out Star Fox Zero, and got a strong impression of… eh. I don’t totally hate the idea of tilting the gamepad for precision aiming, but then when you reach the boss, the camera locks onto it, and well, you see- a fighter jet tends to constantly move forward, which is a lot different than other games that try this because you’re usually controlling a character who is able to do things like side strafe, or just stop fucking moving for a second. You’re forced to use the first-person view on the tablet, which restricts your field of view but is about the only way to really tell what the hell you’re doing while occasionally glancing up to make sure nothing’s coming from your side. The only thing I can think of this accomplishing is making the fight look neater for other people in the room for you. It also reminds me uncomfortably of the first-person missile aiming they crammed into Metroid: Other M, and reminding people of Other M is probably unwise.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions: #FE was also on display alongside Kirby Gets A Robot and Monster Hunter Generations, though Capcom cheated a little by putting MonHun in their booth too. I’m on to you…

I didn’t really see as much stuff in the vendor floor that I just *had* to have this year. I got the Barbarossa card game out of a combination of morbid curiousity and wanting to prove to Dan that it really does exist. I was happy to finally play AEGIS for real with the makers. It was a little complex, but I imagine a few games in once you get a feel for the units, it becomes faster paced. I’ll probably share some links and stuff as their project enters the Kickstarter phase, so brace for the shilling. I gotta do what I do for that combining-robot fix.

All in all, I didn’t really test Irrgarten much after the first test run brought up a couple serious flaws and playing by myself in the room afterward I realized that turn order needs to be more of a thing since ‘do everything then tally the end result’ seemed to be harder to keep track of. I kind of instinctively want to remove a character who’s lost all their hit points even though they’re supposed to ‘exist’ til the end of the round. I’m thinking next revision I’m going to see about combining item cards and tokens into one entity so there’s less chits needed, and maybe it’s time to cave and incorporate dice since even though it’s technically more ‘pieces’ to the set, six sided dice aren’t especially rare or anything.

Oh no, through a wacky misunderstanding, now TSA-kun thinks I have a crush on him! Ach, uguu~
Oh no, through a wacky misunderstanding, now TSA-kun thinks I have a crush on him! Ach, uguu~
Oh, funny story to wrap this all up with. I got picked for a bag search on the way home, and sat off to the side looking at the x-ray trying to figure out what set it off. I had the charger to my older laptop, which is outdated and massive, my 3DS with charger,and the rest was basically t-shirts and other laundry save the uh, copy of Barbarossa I picked up.

“What’s this at the bottom anyway? Cards?”

Yyyyeah. So I was sitting off to the side of the TSA agent watching him run the sniffer all around the box of cards, then turned it over reading it rather intently. “It’s a gag gift,” I said.

“You’re ok, go ahead.”

So apparently, novelty playing card games are something to be careful about taking through airport security. Little protip for anyone else who decides to go on the road with a copy of Tanto Cuore or whatever stowed in their bag.

After class tonight, I’ll have some time to breathe and work on my own junk, so stay tuned the next few days, and if you’re not already, feel free to follow TheThreeTwo on Twitch or plain ThreeTwo on Picarto for my gaming/drawing streams.

On Gamestop And Retro Trade Ins

On Gamestop And Retro Trade Ins published on

snesGamenesia article here.

When they first announced this program I was actually looking forward to it a bit, but the comments here as well as the actual policies laid down reminded me, oh yeah- this is Gamestop.

Now, personally, I don’t have the hate-on for them that some seem to. I’ve got one super close, the staff are pretty friendly, not too obnoxious with upsells, and for the most part seem to know their stuff more than I usually expect. (Not to knock their employees on the whole or anything- I imagine working at a game store means you have an interest in them, but working retail outlets I know not every employee knows every item under the roof so I’m kind of pleasantly surprised when I go to buy some of the weeaboo cult garbage I like to play and wind up chatting and trading recommendations for stuff.)  But if there’s one thing that does let me down past online testimonials, I do think the trade in system is kind of balls and dabbling into the retro market doesn’t seem like it’s going to bode well. For starters, the pricing model seems oversimplified, particularly for the collector set who are probably the biggest target for the program. Having a box and manual is kind of a big deal to collectors, generally speaking the more complete an item is, the better. So, maybe they want to get more casual, curious types’ attention? Their shops have the market for convenience pretty cornered in my area, either tucked in malls or Wal-Mart adjacent, with the smaller local shops relegated to strip malls and the downtown area. (Maybe not such a problem for some, but I’ve been without wheels a while now.)

I guess ultimately how I feel is that a big part of the scene around old games is based around the community. They’re games we grew up with, have memories attached to, or longed to play for years and years before spotting a copy by chance in a dusty shop or convention booth. It’s a tall order to take that scene, put it into a nationwide chain, and expect it to flourish put alongside the brand new stuff that most Gamestop customers are there to pick up. Best case, it will mean having a convenient and possibly cheap spot to pick up old titles on a whim. Worst case scenario, it may wind up hurting the existing aftermarket trade by absorbing potential stock and eliminating copies from circulation. Taking another bite out of smaller game shops probably wasn’t out of their consideration going in. Gamestop dealing in retro hardware isn’t entirely unprecedented, though, they’ve been offering vintage merch in the PowerUp Rewards shop for a while, so they probably have some kind of stash or supplier already to kick things off from.

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