A productive week here at Scanline. I wonder sometimes, what should we call people who work at Scanline Media? Granted, there are only two of us right now, but maybe we’ll get more someday. Scanners? Linemen? Linebackers? Or just Scanlines? I think I like Linemen best.
Scanline Media, debating the things that matter. Here’s what we played this week:
Capcom vs. SNK2: Mark of the Millenium 2001
So, it’s fair to say that I am sometimes hyperbolic. I get that. But please understand that I am completely serious when I say this is the best fighting game ever made. It’s deep, it’s fun, it’s amazing, you should play it.
I guess I should justify that praise. CvS2 came out in 2001, and was one of a series of cooperations between Capcom and SNK. This resulted in a number of titles- on Capcom’s side, Capcom vs. SNK: Millenium Fight 2000, Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millenium 2001, and on SNK’s side, SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos (as well as a bunch of little handheld games no one cares about). Of the lot of them, all but CvS2 were garbage. The games were an attempt to mix the mechanics of Street Fighter and King of Fighters, and it would seem that the synthesis was hard to nail. But CvS2 showed that when you nail it, it’s like magic.
So it’s got the three character teams of KoF, it’s got the parries and super systems from various SF games, it’s got the best characters that both companies had made at that point, and it has new mechanics besides. It’s crisp, it’s light-hearted, it’s intense, and it plays like a dream. Oh, oh. And right now, this very second, it is a PS2 Classic for $9.99 on PSN. If it had online I would actually lose my mind. But instead it’s merely incredible. If you have any love of fighting games, get it.
I didn’t know much about Shadowrun before I booted Harebrain Schemes’ long-awaited revival, but it only took me two minutes to get the gist of the universe. It’s Blade Runner, 1984, Deus Ex and pick-your-dystopian-future mashed together under a smattering of neon lights. Drug lords and corporations rule the streets, the poor are oppressed, cops are on the take, and you’re always a stone’s throw away from a monologue from a bounty hunter who watched too many detective movies.
Though Shadowrun Returns follows the formula penned by Phillip K. Dick and friends to the letter, the well-worn beats felt fresh once I earned my Runner wings. It’s enticing to step into the criminal underworld and turn yourself into a lucrative commodity, paid large sums for some of the toughest assignments on the block. Like Fallout, I couldn’t help pouring most of my points into persuasion/intimidation trees; it’s a joy to barter with seasoned thieves and outwit security guards.
With any luck, I’ll have a full review next week.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked
My friend Ethan swears by this game- one of his all-time favorites. It was with that recommendation that I fired up the 3DS remake of this Japanese strategy RPG, and got to work on it. I hadn’t used my 3DS at all in a while, so credit to Devil Survivor for giving me cause to do so… but I do have significant problems with the game.
It feels so old. The graphics look like a PS1 title (so I can only assume the 3DS remake didn’t upgrade them in the slightest), the system of navigating the world feels like an old point-and-click game, and it just seems to forgo any kind of modern design in its structure at all. Despite all this, though, it is basically Persona meets The World Ends With You, so I’m still enjoying the crap out of it. I guess I’m just surprised by how cheap it feels for its pedigree, is all.
Payday 2 Beta
While Payday: The Heist boiled down to “Left 4 Dead with police” (Colin’s cutting words, not mine), Payday 2 throws its ugly beginnings into the fire and emerges as masked beast born from the bones of Michael Mann’s Heat. Washington, D.C. is a criminal wonderland, teeming with heists at cheap jewelry stores and airtight museums.
I don’t know how feature-complete the beta is, but I was very impressed by the little touches that elevated heists from mindless shooting galleries to rapid-fire, strategic scenarios. It’s absolutely possible to make off with the loot without detection, as long as you and your teammates are up to the daunting challenge. However, more often than not, you’ll find yourself slipping up on small elements of the heist- covering your tracks after taking down a guard, using the right safecracking tool for the job- that snowball into high-alert situations. I survived just fine by keeping a cool head, and as I took more missions, I started to learn how to cover my tracks. If I continue to learn through this rigorous practice, I just might be ready for my perfect crime (preferably with friends, not “xXDoomSockXx”).
DoomSock’s a friend of mine. Play nice.
I remember, back when we were writing for Press X or Die, Ben wrote a really positive review of McPixel (or, as the game pronounces it, “MacPicksell”). I wasn’t sure if it would be my thing, but I’ve kept his review in the back of my mind, and when the game went on sale on Steam for a dollar, I was pretty confident that it was a dollar well spent. After playing through a few chapters, I’m not so sure? I mean, it’s a dollar. It’s not that big a deal. But I think I might hate it.
The game consists of a series of WarioWare-fast point and click puzzles- you have two clicks on the enviroment to defuse a bomb and save the day. The solutions range from the bizarre (feeding the bomb to an alien like a hotdog) to the super bizarre (taking some cotton candy so that you don’t pick up balloons so that a clown grabs them instead so that he flies away and doesn’t blow up?), and though you only have twenty seconds to make up your mind on what to do, the game cycles between a series of puzzles, and if you screw up you’ll be back on the one you failed at to try again in no time. The art is crude, the jokes are slapstick and strange, and the pace is frantic.
All that is fine, I suppose, but the whole thing comes across as so ADHD that it depresses the hell out of me. Did the person who made this game have so much trouble focusing on one task for as long as a full minute that they made a game that doesn’t ask you to do that? Are attention spans so shot that constant nonsensical stimulation trumps real, thoughtful design? I’m probably overanalyzing, but the design just reeks of a mindset I can’t stand.
It’s hard to make a high-octane action movie if your lead character is an immortal sourpuss. Fox “fixes” this by sending Logan to Japan and stripping him of his quick healing, but he gets to keep his claws and incredible strength. This Wolverine still rips enemies to shreds with ease; he just gets a little woozy after the fifth shot enters his torso.
Fortunately, the movie manages to eke out fun in spite of its short-sighted plot. From a fight on top of a bullet train to an awkward rendezvous in a capsule love hotel, The Wolverine knows how to play well with its exotic location. With fewer Jean Grey nightmares (the correct answer is “none”) and a less-telegraphed twist ending, it might even meet the minimum necessary requirements for “good”. Sadly, this isn’t a charity, and when there are better, Kaiju-sized fish in the sea, you should look elsewhere.