Saturday, May 26, 2012

Moving and Working

Hi guys!

Just a quick update today to tell you I'm moving from my apartment tomorrow and my PS3 is buried underneath a lot of things, including my TV set. So I won't be able to post for a while, considering I'll be working for about two weeks just afterwards far from my beloved PS3 and TV set...

I promise I'll be back to playing and blogging as soon as possible!

See you very soon.

Alfred

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Game C2 : Soul Reaver - Dazed and Confused

Time played : 3h

Well, the Legacy of Kain series sure hold its share of surprises! Soul Reaver is another weird game, but another fascinating one as well, even if, as its older sibling, it's crippled with defaults making one wonders once again what it could have been.

But first things first : the story. It builds up on Blood Omen's story in an interesting way. Instead of witnessing Kain's rise to power, the game takes place a long time after the first one, showing Kain as a twisted god-like vampire, who has taken over Nosgoth and reigns from the remains of the Pillars. The first cinematic of the game introduces Raziel, his first lieutenant and protagonist of the game.

Kain sure has aged since the first game. He looks like an even nicer fellow...

Kain and his six lieutenant have total power over the world and just wait for their powers to grow and gain new abilities every now and then (which is apparently what vampires do). However, this little family won't be united for long because Raziel suddenly has wings sprouting out of his back. These little mutations don't seem to be surprising for his friends. The only problem is that, usually, Kain develops these mutations before his sons. Seeing Raziel getting a new power before him kind of bothers him, and he shows it by tearing his wings apart and throwing Raziel into a neverending abyss.

The game then starts a few hundred years later, where Raziel awakens to consciousness once again, in a twisted form, apparently resurrected by an unknown power. The new Raziel has a an emaciated figure, lacks the bottom of his jaw and has moth-like wing remains dropping from his back. Even with all that, he manages to be one of the classiest character in video game memory.

You *might* want to change sidewalks if you run into him at night, though.
And he is out for vengeance! So, with that out of the way, what does the game itself look like? As I've mentioned before, the whole presentation looks like a Tomb Raider ripoff. It's a third-person action game, with an emphasis on exploration. You wander around dark corridors of Nosgoth, now apparently almost entirely underground (for now) and try to figure out where to go next. The battle system in itself is quite interesting. At first, and before gaining access to the very classy Soul Reaver, Raziel has only his claws to fight, quite clumsily I might add. Where it becomes interesting is that the majority of the enemies are vampires (or affiliated) and cannot be killed by just mashing their heads with fists. Once you've hit the foe a few times, it becomes dazed. You have to grab them and throw them into fire, water, sunlight or ram them into spikes in order to really kill them. The soul of the foe then starts to fly away and you have to quickly "drink" it to avoid it to reintegrate the body.

This is a nice change with more basic battle systems, because you have to constantly observe your surroundings, in order to find where to send your enemies ad patres. You can also grab a lot of weapons and decorations from the walls to make for an improvised spear with which you can pierce their bodies, making dispatching them easier. Once you gain the Soul Reaver, though, which happens around two hours into the game, combat is much easier because you can impale your foes really quickly. However, get hit once and the blade is gone, leaving you with your fists and back to the pick them/throw them into fire motto until you've recovered full health.

One vampire shish-kabob, one!

The other major twist behind Soul Reaver is that you progress between the physical realm and the spirit realm. When you're in the physical realm, you lose health constantly (except when you still yield the Soul Reaver) and battles are harder. Get killed into the physical realm (or fall in water) and you're back in the spirit realm. The trick is that you can't interact with anything when you're in the spirit realm, and you have to find a spawn point (thankfully pretty numerous) in order to regain your physical body. You can also voluntarily abandon your body, which is quite useful considering a few different paths can only be taken while in the spirit form.

And a few different paths there are. That's where my major problem with Soul Reaver lies : This game is confusing. And I mean really confusing. First of all, all the places kinda look the same. A few spots like a cemetery or the entrance to a cathedral stand apart but otherwise, it's difficult to be sure what your entry point was when you've just finished fighting in a room. Every once in a while, you unlock a teleporter (much like in the first game) that allows you to go instantly from one place to another, but they use a symbol system which is confusing as well. You better have quite a memory to remember what symbol refers to what place. Add to this that the path you're supposed to take is never clearly defined, nor is your current objective. Of course, no map, as it would be too easy.

I don't remember if this leads to underground random place #1, or to underground random place #2....
Sometimes, it's fun to search all around the place to find the next path, but when you arrive at the end of what was obvious (and obvious is a strong term for this game), you usually can't remember where to go next, and the cryptic clues at your disposal are not what I'd call helpful. For example, my last achievement was to defeat Kain (who will obviously come back soon) and get the Soul Reaver. Then my "invisible mentor" tells me to go east to find my next battle, and that the blade should allow me to reach places I haven't found yet. First of all, I don't know where east is (no map and no compass), and the blade don't seem to unlock anything (except new ways to eviscerate enemies). I've been running around since, trying to find something I overlooked.

Add to this the fact that the mandatory path is sometimes as hard to find as a secret path in a "classic" game (involving complicated combinations of pushing blocks or stacking them in order to gain access to a high corridor you can't really see if you're not thorough in your investigation) and you have a confusing game, for sure. I usually have no problem directing myself in a 3D world (I've finished Descent and Descent 2, damnit!) but this one is really challenging...

You sometimes feel like in a Dali landscape.

But, of course, I'll stick to this one! So far, I've beaten one of my brothers, and had the upper hand on Kain for the first time, allowing me the power to walk through grids (T-1000 style) and to use the Soul Reaver. The sub menu shows that there is at least four other powers to unlock, probably giving me new possibilities for exploring, so I'm eager to see what the game is still hiding from me. This is a really intriguing game (much like its older brother), but it sure is a tough nut to crack!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Game C2 : Soul Reaver - Introduction

Usually, in the videogame industry (or in any industry for that matter), when two companies ally to create an Intellectual property, and that it becomes successful, it's not long before they throw at each other's throats in order to gain full control over said IP. It's exactly what happened about The Legacy of Kain. The first game was created by Silicon Knights (who would later create Eternal Darkness or the Metal Gear Solid Remake, Twin Snakes, for the Gamecube) and published by Crystal Dynamics (makers of Gex, Pandemonium and all the last Tomb Raider games). After a chaotic release, Blood Omen proved to be quite successful, and the two companies started a battle to see who would keep the rights. What happened next is usually what happens in this situation : the big one won. Crystal Dynamics would retain the rights to the Legacy of Kain franchise, as long as they let the "Legacy of Kain created by Silicon Knights" line in subsequent games of the series.

Pictured : Crystal Dynamics CEO about to seal the deal.

Silicon Knights scrapped their own sequel to Blood Omen, who was supposed to evolve directly from the first game appearance, and Crystal Dynamics then worked on their own sequel, Soul Reaver, where Kain was supposed to be the bad guy, and where the hero was Raziel, one of Kain's lieutenants, seeking revenge from his former master. The whole top-down view was scrapped as well, going for a full-3D Tomb Raider lookalike, with fangs instead of boobs. It would be released on Playstation and Windows in 1999, then ported to Dreamcast in 2000.

So it's funny the developers chose to give the life bar the form of the Dreamcast logo.

The development of this game was chaotic as well, and it meant the last parts of the game have been cut short due to delays. This would not refrain the game from being insanely successful, appearing in a lot of "Best Playstation games of all time" lists, and selling a lot of copies. The success to the game was supposedly helped by the release of a lot of horror-themed movies around the same time, namely The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project or The Mummy. Crystal Dynamics put a lot of money in advertising campaigns as well, and the game had its own comic tie-in. 

So it's time to go back to the grim lands of Nosgoth. I'm really excited about this one, because it's the first game of my list that I have never played before. I just hope I won't experience the same problems I had with Legacy of Kain. If I do have another problem with the PSN version, I swear to all that is sacred that I won't ever buy another Playstation Classic on the PSN. I sure hope this one works correctly! I'll keep you posted.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Game B2 : The Adventure of Link - Final Rating

It's time to grade my experience through The Adventure of Link and establish once and for all if this installment is indeed Zelda's black sheep (or at least, tell my opinion about it ;)

Once again, I'd like to tell that I haven't read any of Zenic's posts about the game, and I don't remember how he graded it. I'll look at his review of the game afterwards. Should be interesting to see if we agree or disagree on this one.

First, the MAMA for this game goes to : The Blue Iron Knuckle!

Heavy armored MAMA
The MAMA for this game had a lot of contenders. The Deathhawks are really annoying too and hard to hit. The flying eyes (especially the ones that are invisible at first) are a pain and I had quite a hard time with the flail-throwing monsters. However, the Blue Iron Knuckle is the more common one. He hits hard, has jedi-reflexes for parrying your attacks, throw a furry of swords at you and takes quite a lot of hits to go down (even when you're fully powered up). Worst of all : they give only 150 experience points, which is the same as a lot of much more easy foes, and appears pretty soon in the game, when you're far from prepared to see this kind of bad guys. So he wins the cup.

Let's go for the ratings :

P for Pleasure/Enjoyment
I sure had a good time through this adventure of Link. As I've said before, the combat system is highly enjoyable and the overworld is huge. The sense of adventure is definitely there and you have this feeling of tackling a huge quest, one palace at a time. However, and that's a pretty big however, the endgame is infuriating. Once you gain access to the second continent, you die often, progress slowly, and you can easily get stuck for a long time on a few subquests or mandatory hidden items. The game is good, and I appreciate the fact it does not take you by the hand, but losing hours because you can't find a Magic container or just because you have to start all over again after being pushed in a lava pit by an unavoidable flying skull is NOT fun. The gaming pleasure is quite lowered by these defaults. I'll go with the middle ground here.
Rating : 5

For example, here, whatever my skills are, I'm gonna get hit by something in one second.

I for Intelligence
Here is another area where Link alternatively shines and fumbles. Exploring the overworld is great, and the inclusion of the subquests adds nicely to the variety. However, the player is not really often required to use his brains to solve them. A lot of the subquests are simply resolved by walking into a cavern, taking down foes and retrieving the trophy/elixir/kidnapped child. The mirror quest is a cheap one and don't get me started on the waterboy quest. When you put the game back in the context, though, it holds quite a few nice ideas for a 1988 adventure. The big black spot here is the dungeons. They are dull and repetitive, and mostly require you to dispatch enemies and try not to get lost. The alternative paths in them are much too rare and don't really require an effort from the player until the sixth or seventh palace. I said enough about the mandatory hidden items to find, and the XP system is a nice idea but doesn't really change a lot of the overall experience. I'll go with the middle ground here too, considering I would have given a 7 for the overworld and a 3 for the dungeons.
Rating : 5


Yay, a kid! Come on, get in the bag, with the rest of my stuff.
C for Controls/Inventory
Controls are slick and responsive, and the battle system is a joy. You really feel in control of your movements and besting a difficult foe is always great, especially since so many of them have access to a lot of your moves, making a lot of battles feel like duels. Inventory use is almost nonexistent, which is weird for a Zelda game. You can use the hammer and the flute on the overworld, but all the other items are used automatically. The magic system adds variety to the mix, but relies on the overuse of Shield and Life spells for the majority of the game, asking you to cast the other ones at some points in order to progress. The occasional misstep of letting an enemy push you in a lava pit can almost always be avoided and the overall feeling of the battle system is definitely one of the greatest feats of the game, so it's a pretty good grade here.
Rating : 7

Shame the Fairy spell never made it to another game of the series...

A for Appeal
The graphics of the game are crisp and colorful, and the size of the sprites is a nice accomplishment for the NES firepower. They don't feel as stable as the first Legend of Zelda, but it's mainly because of the fact that a lot of the action takes place on the same horizontal lines, and we know the NES doesn't like that. The bosses are not particularly imaginative and the overall art style didn't strike me as much as the first game's, though. Much of the enemies/bosses are humanoid creatures and I kinda miss the dodongos or Digdogger. The music is good but not as catchy as the Legend of Zelda overworld and dungeon themes... Nothing much to say here, but thanks to Nintendo's magic, it's still a clear step ahead the majority of contemporary NES games anyway.
Rating : 6

The floating horse is kinda classy, though.

S for Storytelling
The story itself is nothing special. It's still "go in a number of places, battle guardians, get treasures and vanquish evil". Granted, you have to put crystals into place instead of retrieving things, but otherwise, it's the same recipe as ever. However, where this game is a huge improvement over the first one is that Hyrule feels a much more lively place. The towns are nice to explore and talking to people is an interesting touch. One great thing is the difference of ambiance between the first and second continent. The people seem to live in a time of peace on the first continent, even if the monsters are an issue, while the people on the second continent seem much more desperate, asking Like to save Hyrule. The reduced size of dialog boxes and occasional translation missteps drag the whole thing down, and all the towns look like the other ones, with a few exceptions. Nice step in the right direction, though.
Rating : 4

I understand, invisible monsters can be a pain for the neighborhood... 

O for Optional Stuff
Well, sorry guys, but nothing much to see around here. There are four heart containers and four magic containers, and only the hearts can be considered optional, because you need magic to go on (I rambled about that quite a lot). They are not often hidden in obvious places too, asking you to search every tile instead of sending you on optional paths in order to find them. I guess getting the Shield and Life spell is not mandatory, but I think that trying to complete the game without them is the video game equivalent of repeatedly smashing your fingers with a hammer. No second quest this time neither, even if you can go for a "New game +" after finishing the game, restarting all over again while keeping your experience levels, but I'm not sure this is worth it. We're really far from the first game in this category.
Rating : 2

You sometimes tumble upon XP bags or lives, but that's about it...


FINAL PICASO RATING : 48

For its second outing, the Picaso rating pleases me and the grade is coherent with my vision of the game. It's still a good game, but we're far from the first one (and miles from A Link to the Past or Ocarina of Time). Should the endgame be less irritating, I would probably have gone with a few extra points, but I'm comfortable with this rating. Now I'll allow myself to go look at Zenic's review again, and see how he rated this one.

But now I'm pretty excited to play through the next game on my list. I've never played Soul Reaver and it's supposed to be a really good game. It's time to go back to vampires and gothic worlds!










Monday, May 14, 2012

Game B2 : Adventure of Link - Won!

Time played : 3h30 (9h total) -- "Return of Ganon" screens : 14 (28 total)

Ending screens are as verbose as ever...

Wow. This game was HARD. I mean hard hard. The game is enjoyably hard until the last palace, but it becomes nightmarishly hard around there. But first things first, how did I manage to get out of my stuck situation? 

Well, out of sheer luck, really. I went back to exploring most of Hyrule, hoping I would have missed something obvious. I went through Death Mountain labyrinth again, I explored all the marshes and forests I could find, and I even returned to most of the caves I ran into, hoping that I would find the elusive last magic container. Finally, I went back to the Island Labyrinth (where I found the missing child) and fell down a hole I managed to avoid the first time, once again in a tile that looks like all the other ones.

Somewhere around here...

Turns out the last magic container was down this hole, allowing me to gain access to the old woman's house in New Kasuto, then to the old sage's magic, and to the remaining of the game. Let me get this straight : I love exploring games and I think finding the elusive hidden heart piece or item is really part of the Zelda charm, but the problem here is that it's mandatory. There is no way to finish the game if you don't find this hidden item! Or if you don't find the tree to break with the hammer. Or if you miss the mirror under the table. Zelda II has a few places like this where you can lose two hours searching for an item needed to go on with your adventure. I didn't remember losing that much time with this magic container in my last playthroughs, so I think it means I fell down this hole every time until then. I'm all for viciously hidden items, but not if you HAVE to find them in order to complete the game. Granted, games nowadays have the opposite tendency to hold your hand too much, but I think there is a middle ground to be found here...

So the old woman in New Kasuto gave me the very last magic container, and the sage gave me the "Spell" magic. They told me there was a secret at the edge of town. I noticed earlier that the far right of New Kasuto was a seemingly empty space, bound to hide a secret of some sort, so I went back there and cast the "Spell" spell. A house appeared out of nowhere and I found the Magic key in it. I think it's the only place in the game where this spell is useful, but I may be wrong. With the Magic key in hand, I could then finally make progress in the sixth palace. This one is a little more interesting to explore, considering you have to find a few hidden ways to progress. There is a endless pit in the middle of the place, giving you access to a few floors, and you even have to turn into a fairy during your fall to be able to enter in the right tunnel. 

Suits well the pink color of the place...

The battles are harsh too around here, and you can find two places where you have to battle once again the horse-riding iron knuckle, going back to the Zelda tradition of mini-bosses (which was in the first game, but absent from this one until now). The treasure of the palace is the Cross, which allows you to see invisible enemies (so it means we'll finally be able to enter the western path without getting our arses kicked in a few seconds). The boss is a dragon and is a tough one too (as Chalgyr told in his first comment about this game). The difficulty of this battle comes from the fact that you have to avoid falling down the lava pits every time you get hit, and it can prove tricky doing so while trying to hit the reptile's head.

Hey, it's Hydra from Kid Icarus! Where are my angel minions?

With the beast down, I now have access to the last palace. I first made a stop at Old Kasuto in order to gain the last magic, "Thunder", which kills everyone on screen, but is really expensive (around 2/3 of your fully-upgraded magic meter). Then it's time to tackle the path to the Great Palace. The path is tough as nails as every enemy encounter takes place in areas full of lava pits and it's all too easy to lose lives around here (as you've seen at the beginning of the post, I did lose a few times...). Don't forget that when you lose your three lives, it's back to Hyrule castle for you, so this path can be really bothersome if you're not overly cautious, because losing your three lives can mean easily ten minutes of play in order to come back where you lost.

Ok guys, think! How will you get my blood to resurrect your boss if you throw me in a lava pit?
I finally was able to get in the Great Palace, which is a HUGE place. It's easily two or three times bigger than the sixth one. Once again, you need to keep track of your progress on paper, and the layout is pretty confusing as well. Here too you need to search for hidden paths every now and then, and I have to admit it's a pretty interesting place, with a great sense of accomplishment when you find a new way to explore. Thankfully, Nintendo's sadism was a bit reduced here, because when you die, you only come back at the beginning of the Palace (and it's a good thing too, because I think it would really have killed the game not to). A lot of new enemies are here to ensure you'll die a lot too, the worse being the Deathhawks, who combine the jump of the skeletons with the attack pattern of Iron Knuckles, making them really difficult foes.

Even the slimes are harder to kill around here!

After spending a long time in this place, I finally found my way to the last guardian. It's a huge Inca-bird lookalike, called Thunderbird. At first, he seems impervious to all your attacks. The only way to beat him is to first cast the "Thunder" spell (hoping you still have enough magic to cast it once you arrive here), then go for the head (harder than usual considering this one flies) while avoiding the fire rain he throws at you. This boss is really hard, but it's all about figuring out the pattern and exploiting it. Nothing compared to the next boss. Yeah. Because there is a next boss. Once you've beaten Thunderbird, you enter the last room of the Palace, where some kind of weird gnome guy is waiting, holding the Triforce (Zelda Wiki refers to him as the Triforce Keeper, so it seems he's just been waiting here for years for the hero to come).

This guy.
Once Link enters the chamber, the creepy guy withdraws in the darkness and Link's shadow jumps out of Link's body for the last battle. And this one is hard. Really. In my opinion, it's Ninja Gaiden's hard (just between Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Battletoads on the NES difficulty scale). I fought this guy four or five times before being able to just hit him. Maybe there is a clever way to beat him, but I just found myself mashing the attack button while trying desperately to block his lightning-fast attacks. But I did it! I think it's the first time ever I'm able to best him and it's really a huge accomplishment for me! It made me remember the battle against the shadow in Prince of Persia, except this one was cleverer in the fact that in order to beat him, you were supposed to sheathe your sword and connect with your shadow (I guess as a final showdown, it would have been anticlimactic).

I think the worst thing about this guy is the color of the background during the battle.
Once Dark Link is (finally) down, the Triforce Keeper comes back and gives Link the No3 Triforce (ok, we'll call it Triforce of Courage), which he uses to awaken Zelda from her slumber and... what? Did he kiss her? Link... and Zelda? Wow. Ok, it happens behind the almost closed curtain, but the move of their feet can only means that they kiss. My god. It would be like witnessing Mario humping Peach. All my childhood innocence has just gone down the drain.

And considering Zelda's been asleep for a hundred years and Link is 16, this seems kinda wrong.

This is the end! I vanquished Zelda II! I'm quite proud of myself for this one! This is definitely one hard game and it's great to be able to move on in the Zelda history with a spotless record for once! So it's time to put on a Final Rating for this one and go for another game I've never played before!

What did you expect? Another quest? You thought it was Zelda I?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Please vote for the future!

Hello guys,

I know this update can seem pretty desperate, but the poll that will decide the future of my blog (and my next few weeks/months of gaming ;) culminates at 10 votes after a good start. Please help me make some noise about it! After all, I'd love to have more opinions onto what would please the readers and how to adapt, in order to attract more people...


Of course the opinion of 10 people is as important as the opinion of a million, but considering how important this choice is for the future of this blog, I'd love to have a little more votes ;)

Thanks again in advance.

Back to Zelda II for now, I'm in the last palace for the last two hours now and still can't find how to kill the last boss. I won't give up!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Game B2 : The Adventure of Link - Stuck in a Zelda game...

Times played : 3h (5h30 total) -- "Return of Ganon" screens : 7 (14 total)

Well, I didn't think this day would come, but I'm stuck in a Zelda game... I think I overlooked something and proceeded to explore every nook and cranny I could find, going back through the towns and talking to everybody hoping that I would find something I missed, but to no avail.

But first of all, let me relate you my last adventures, because I made quite a bit of progress before being stuck. At the end of last post, I had found the second continent of Hyrule. The arrival here can be a bit humiliating, because the first monsters you encounter are totally invincible to your attacks. After having gained quite a bit of confidence in your monster-defeating skillz on the first continent, the second continent tells you straight : "You're going to suffer". So you flee, shameful, and arrive in a new town, Nabooru (Sage of Spirit in... ok you know the drill). There, you encounter the most difficult and terrifying subquest yet : a woman tells you she's thirsty and there is a fountain about four steps from her door. Go press B near the fountain and... hey you got water! Then the woman lets you in to meet the wise man of the town.

Come on, Nintendo, you weren't even trying there...

There, you gain the power of Fire, which allows you to throw fireballs out of your sword and finally kill the monsters you were fleeing from previously. I then proceeded to explore the second continent. South of Nabooru, a huge spider monster blocks a path leading to a mountainous area, and the path eastward just leads to water. I went north through a cave to discover the northern part of the continent. I then got through a treacherous path leading west to another town, the town of Darunia (Sage of Fire... ok ok I stop). You have here another swordman hiding in a house you have to enter by a chimney. It would be pretty difficult to find if Darunia wasn't the only town in the game to feature chimneys, making them scream "secret!" when you see them. The guy teaches you how to stab up, which completes your attack options.

Hundreds of secrets in Super Mario Bros pipes lead to this moment.

The subquest of Darunia is much more interesting than the last one considering it's about a kidnapped child that has been taken in "the eastern islands". As Hyrule's hero, it's always better to go look for a child than just bring water back to the laziest woman ever. So I went eastward, entering a big labyrinthine area holding quite a few random places where battles took place. I managed to find the kid pretty fast and took the time to go back to Darunia before attacking the palace I found there. Darunia's sage taught me Reflect, which is a required skill to complete next palace, so I'm glad I didn't overlook that one.

It was time to go through the fourth palace. I found this one surprisingly easy. The new enemies here are Wizzrobes, who were a nightmare in the first game, and there can be dispatched really easily just by casting Reflect and sending their magic waves back to the sender. My guess is that the guy who designed this enemy really had a hard time with wizzrobes in The Legend of Zelda and wanted to give the player the opportunity to get his revenge. I found the treasure of the place, the boots (which, according to a guy in a town, should give me the ability to walk on water), and proceeded to the Boss of the place. He's called Carock according to Zelda Wiki, but we'll call him Wizzrobe King. He's definitely the easiest boss so far, considering you just have to cast Reflect and turn in the right direction a few times in order to send his magic back to him and kill him.

You'll pay for all the lives your friends have taken from me in the last game!

With Carock dead, that another palace down. Gaining experience levels has been pretty hard recently, because the amount of XP needed are becoming huge, so beating a boss is always a good thing, considering it takes you to the next XP level. With the boots in my hands / on my feet, it's time to explore the area east of Nabooru where the path leads to water in a strange way. The boots allow me to walk on water and get to a really small island with another palace on it. Before going in this one, I explored a bit around and found a heart container really well hidden (to tell you the truth, I'm not even sure I ever found this one before).

Here, actually. Not what I call obvious...

I'm starting to be out of ideas concerning what to say about the palaces (which sadly, doesn't bode well for variety grades), because it's a bit more of the same really. Granted, you occasionally have to jump in a hole or go through a secret passage in a wall, but the majority of the time in these places is done battling hordes of foes. So, I went through the fifth palace, which is a bit confusing but is easily beaten using paper to keep track of the map, grabbed a flute (which, once again according to a hint from one of the town people, should allow me to do something about the spider monster south of Nabooru), and have beaten another boss. This one is kinda difficult (especially compared to that Carock wuss). He has a big flail and you're supposed to hit him in the body instead of in the head! Woo, change of strategy!

This is the only picture I found of the guy. Enough to realize you don't want to mess with him.
I'm sorry if I tend to overlook this palace, but I have the feeling that my previous updates were a bit on the loong side, and I don't want to ramble on for hours on this one. I'm eager to go back to it and find a way out of the situation I'm stuck in. To come back to that, as I've mentioned at the beginning of the post, I'm now stuck in a Zelda game! I've used the flute to destroy the Giant Spider monster, gaining access to a deadly path south of Nabooru. There I found another town, Kasuto (Sage of... what? No Kasuto in Ocarina of Time? Weird... Thankfully, an army of geeks have already elaborated a lot of theories about that, so I'll just consider it not really important). Kasuto is a dead town and is full of invisible monsters, pretty deadly for now. The first house hides an old man, who doesn't give you magic, but rather tells you to look in the forest east of here. I spent quite a lot of time to figure this one out too : I went back and forth, combing the two forests that can be found east of Kasuto, encountering dozens of monsters, but with no luck. I found the answer out of luck because I accidentally pressed the A button while wandering in the forest, discovering you could break trees with the hammer. What? Really? I've used the hammer to destroy rocks because they were pretty obviously blocking paths and that it made sense to use said hammer to destroy them. But a tree? In a forest? What do you mean, that I should go back in the whole world of Hyrule trying to break the hundreds of forest tiles I passed through in order to check if I didn't forget a secret? And surely enough, breaking all the trees in the eastern forest uncovered the Hidden Town of Kasuto... I'm always glad to have to figure out things for myself instead of receiving too much guidance, but I can't help but feel that luck was a prerequisite to progress in this game lately...

Leveling entire forests seem to become a pattern in Zelda games.

And then I was stuck. The town seem to hold quite a few secrets. There is an old lady asking me if I had found the seven magic containers (which I haven't), an old guy telling me to come back when I'm ready (which I guess I'm not), another one telling me that the old man who had stayed in the first town of Kasuto has magic (but when I came back to him, he would just keep on telling me to go look in the eastern forest). I'm guessing I have to find another magic container before being able to do anything in this town, but I certainly hope it's not hidden into another random forest tile... A guy told me something useful though, that I was supposed to "call for help in the middle of the three Eye Rocks". Three rocks arranged in a strange pattern caught my attention earlier near the first town of Kasuto so I went back there and used the flute, which revealed the last of the six palaces! Then again, I wasn't able to make any progress in this one because you almost immediately are stuck by a closed door. Considering the manual tells you about a magic key to be found somewhere in the game, I guess I need it to progress.

And there I am : I'm stuck between a palace with closed doors, a village with obtuse old people telling me to come back when I'm more powerful, and old guy in an abandoned town with an obvious case of Alzheimer forbidding him to give me his magic, and another path to the west full of invisible monsters that are kicking my butt (and, once again according to the manual, I need a cross to see them, which I can only assume is the sixth palace treasure).

Depressed Link is starting to wonder if it really is worth it.

But I won't give up! Oh no! I know I already passed this part of the game a few years back, and that I should easily find the way through (or so I hope). So I'll go back to playing and try to figure out how to continue my quest. If any of you has an idea, though, you're free to leave me hints in ROT13, but I'll try a bit more before looking at any of them... I don't want to live the rest of my gamer days with the knowledge I couldn't beat Zelda II by myself!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Game B2 : The Adventure of Link - Death Mountain is not south!

Time played : 1h (2h30 total) -- "Return of Ganon" screens : 1 (7 total)


At the end of my last post, I was heading towards Death Mountain, which is south of Hyrule, but first I had to cross the water town of Saria. This town holds two subquests-lookalikes (both mandatory to complete the game, however, so I'm not sure they should be called that way). The first is a woman asking you to retrieve her stolen mirror. You're supposed to get into one of the houses and search under the table. To do that, you need to crouch near the table and press the B button. It's the only place in the whole game where you're supposed to do that, and I'm not sure any hint point to that area. I went there because I remembered the thing, but I'd like to know if there is any way to figure out alone. Granted there are not many houses in the game and this may be the only one that is empty, letting you figure you have to do something there, but I find it kinda harsh, and I think a whole lot of people have been stuck on this one for a long time. It gives you access to the Life spell, which is maybe the most useful one, considering there are not a lot of other ways to regain health back (except for a few fairies here and there and gaining a level in the Life category). I guess the game is winnable without the Life spell, but I can't imagine how hard it may be.

By the way, isn't it the only moment in 25 years of gaming where Link talks?

The other subquest is much more obvious. The town is separated in two parts and to cross the river, you need a note from Bagu, a guy living in the forest north of the town. To be honest, I just happened to find him out of sheer luck before arriving into town, and I think it happened to a lot of players before me. In this game, it's heavily recommended to wander around in forests and deserts because a few tiles in the overworld lead you to hidden items (or sometimes, mandatory places like bagu's place). So I got the note from Bagu and can finally cross the bridge to Death Mountain.

Death Mountain is a huge labyrinth of caves, where finding one's way can be difficult (to be honest, just writing a map down on paper can avoid much of the confusion). I say Death Mountain because it's how it's called in the manual (and because it's one of the recurring places of early Zelda games), but it doesn't look like a mountain at all. Thinking about why I felt that way, I realized that 2D adventure games (or any 2D games for that matter) made you accustomed to the fact that north is up. Hence, in The Legend of Zelda, when you arrive to the northern area of the map, you know it's Death Mountain. Here, the mountain is due south and your 8bit player's mind doesn't think of it as a mountain. 

Ok, ok, there are mountains tiles everywhere, but it's south! It doesn't work!

After vanquishing the labyrinth, you have access to a cave where you find the highly-anticipated hammer, which allows you to break the huge rocks on the cave, and you now have access to a lot of places on the overworld map (including a really useful shortcut between the north and south of Hyrule, avoiding you to cross the "jump" cave and the marsh every time you die). I so went back to every place in Hyrule where I couldn't go before and netted a few hundreds experience points and one or two heart/magic containers. Now I'm ready for the next Palace!

The hammer let me access the last town in Hyrule (or so it seems, big twist coming!), which is the Harbor Town of Mido (not a sage, but still a Ocarina of Time character). There, you'll meet with your first swordmaster. The guy teaches you how to down stab when you jump, which is pretty sweet because it makes dispatching small enemies much easier. Once again, it's highly unusual for games of the era to gain new attacks during the course of the game. It adds greatly to the depth of the combat system, which is highly needed considering the ordeals coming.

And the guy built his entrance door on the second floor.

An old woman asking for medicine (which I already found before the quest, once again) grants me entrance to the wise man of the town, who in turn teaches me Fairy! This spell is kinda odd, considering it turns you into a fairy, allowing you to fly for a bit and be much nimbler to avoid enemy attacks. It's mandatory to gain access to the next palace and can greatly help in difficult areas to avoid getting your ass kicked when fire is coming from everywhere.

Not that manly though...

The entrance to the tunnel leading to the Palace is well hidden into the huge cemetery south of Mido. You have one guy in the town telling you that you need to "Ask Error of Ruto about the palace". Wait this guy is useful after all! What is great about this is that it really gives the impression you're wandering a living world, where inhabitants know each others. So I came back to Ruto, where Error told me to go "South of King's Tomb", which I assume is the biggest tomb in the cemetery. So I went to King's Tomb and then south. I fell into a hole leading me to the Third Palace.

By the way, that's what happens when Link falls down. I think he's on meth or something.

The third palace is a hard one as well, even if I had much less trouble beating it than I did with the second one. The treasure is a raft and the boss is a little different this time. He runs towards you on a horse. You have to avoid his attack, jumping and downstabbing him (yeah, you'd better not overlook the swordmaster in Mido), then, after a few hits, he gets down his horse and fights you as a blue armored knight which you encountered a few times already as common enemies (and who are frighteningly strong and good contenders for this game's MAMA).

Floating horse that is.

After felling the beast, I got another experience level and another palace down! It's time to use the raft on the port near Mido and... Gasp! Another whole continent! Hyrule is huge! I couldn't have seen that one coming!!! I'm joking, but when you consider the game in its release year, and seeing that the map in the manual only shows the Western continent (calling it Hyrule), I guess a few people were astonished at this point in the game to discover they only seen half of it. When you remember, Nintendo used the same kind of trick in A Link to the Past telling you only of the first quest (getting back three jewels) before sending on another, much bigger, quest. That's a great way to surprise the player and much rarer nowadays. I think games are becoming too expensive to just hide 50% of the game in the publicities and advertisements...

I feel like a green-dressed Christopher Columbus!

And that's it for today, folks. It's time to explore the new continent (which is a huge jump in difficulty) and get to the next palaces. I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Game B2 : The Adventure of Link - Harsh Beginnings

First of all, I'd like to start this post by two things :

-I wanted to give credit to an excellent website, the Let's Play Archive, because as for now I'm unable to take my own screenshots, I'm currently using theirs, because they have a few games that are played through and commented in screenshots form (and it's often really funny). This site is a blast, and I owe them the illustrations in my blog, so let's give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. (I'm not sure this expression works in english, but it does in french, so I use it anyway...)

-Secondly, I wanted to tell that, even if Zenic already did a playthrough of Zelda II (which I read in february when he wrote it) not so long ago, I chose not to read it again before going on my exploration of said game. The advantage for me is to keep away from any thing that I could have forgotten and go through my own path instead of following his steps. The problem is that, for people who already read his blog, it could mean a few repetitions during this game playthrough. I apologize in advance. It's a good read, though, and comes as heavily recommended (but read mine too ;)

So, back to Zelda II :

Here, kids, learn a valuable life lesson.

Time played : 1h30 -- "Return of Ganon" screens : 6 (yep, that's a lot)

I wasn't wrong when I told this game was hard! I died about four times trying to beat the second dungeon... Once again, I think I must be getting old. So far, I've done 2 dungeons and I still have a long way to go. You start in Hyrule's castle, near unconscious princess Zelda (I'm not sure it's the one I saved during my first quest, which is where the "Zelda timeline mess" starts) and have access to two towns (Rauru and Ruto, namely sages of Light and Water in Ocarina of Time)

We're far from old creepy sword dealers in caves...

The first impression is exhilarating. You have access to a huge overworld, you see in the first ten minutes more people than in the whole first game, and even are given your first subquest, which is to get a trophy in a cave north of Ruto. The first problem is that you can't see a darn thing in these caves and have to go get the first palace's treasure (namely a candle) in order to progress. So to the first palace we go. Thanks to one of the villagers (and the map in the manual), you know the first palace is in Parapa Desert, which is northeast of the castle. But first, you gain your first magic in the town of Rauru, which is Shield (and it... shields you... when you cast it... yup). Then, to go to the first palace, you have to cross one of these dark caves, where you're guaranteed to get hit by a sneaky beetle hiding in the darkness.

When I was a kid, I thought it was a glitch of some kind...

Then you go through the first palace, which is really simple (there even is a map of it in the manual, which is a nice touch) and serves as an introduction. For now, Link is a wimp. He has to hit each enemy numerous times and gets his arse kicked every now and then. The experience system is quite clever. You have three categories to upgrade : Attack, Magic and Life. Each category has 8 levels and each level is more expensive than the one before. As for now, nothing exceptional. What is clever is that each category has different prices. When you attain the required level of XP (let's say 100 for a life uprgrade, for example), the game prompts you with the choice to level up or not. If you don't, you can wait for the next required level (e.g. 200 for an attack upgrade) and change the way your Link evolves. In the end, you'll always have the same character, but the experience system adapts to the moment. Let's say you need a boost of life to kill a boss, you can skip the magic one and wait to have enough experience to buy the life upgrade. And if you lose your three lives (yes, Link has lives now...), you lose all the XP you haven't spend, so sometimes it's a question of taking a risk or playing it safe... It's a really clever system, especially for a 1988 game (this feature was notably absent from the Famicom Disk System version, which was the first one to get released in Japan, where all the levels have the same XP price. It was tweaked when the game was released in other territories).

And there are still heart containers hidden around (and magic containers as well)

The combat system is absolutely top notch too. It revolves around the idea of parrying the attacks of your foe, and attack when their guard is down. It too is pretty cutting edge for the time. The controls are really precise as well so even if it gets a while to get used to, you'll be killing huge guys in armor in no time. Which is a good thing, because nearly every enemy in this game is a deadly threat. Flail throwing monsters, knights in armor, jumping skeletons... even your basic everyday slime is a danger when it's dwelling near a lava pit, sending you to your death if you touch it (and it can happen a lot). Add to this a few monsters (usually the nimbler ones) that steal experience when they hit you, and you'll understand how a few places can turn into nightmares.

These infinitely respawing jumping rats are getting on my nerves...

But all of this comes to one of my major issues with the game so far, it's that aside from the battles, there is not much to do in the dungeons. You just wander around, occasionally getting lost (graph paper required, even if the first game had an automap, this one doesn't want to take you by the hand) and killing a whole lot of baddies. You won't see a lot of riddles or puzzles around these parts. The game is pleasant, but it's far from the usual Zelda experience... (Granted, when it came out, we didn't know yet what an "usual Zelda experience" was) The same complaint goes for the bosses, that you can usually beat by jumping and hitting them in the head a few times. We'll see if this changes later in the game, but I don't remember a lot of variety in this category...

The first dungeon was a cakewalk, and allowed me to get the candle. The boss, a horse head guy, fell down quite easily and now every cave is lit! Before going back to the towns, I explored a bit and found a heart container south of the first Palace. The otherworld is worth exploring, because you can find a lot of places with hidden secrets : fairies, XP bags, heart or magic containers, extra lives... which is always a good thing in my book.

North : Hyrule castle. South : the swamp of Youllgetkilledalot.
So back to the subquest. I mentioned earlier the fact that, in the village of Ruto, one of the villagers asked me to retrieve a stolen trophy. I got the thing back (easier to do when the cave is lit...) and gained another magic, Jump, which allows to... err... jump higher. It allows me to cross the cavern south of town and gain access to a whole new area, including the swamp (where movement is sloooooow) and Death Mountain (labyrinthine nightmare we'll explore next post). In this town, you'll also find a living legend among geeks of this era : a guy just tells you "I am Error". There are numerous theories about how this name came to be (typo from Errol or mistranslation that works in japanese?) but my favorite is this one.

This guy is the definition of an Internet meme.
It's time to explore the swamp. The second palace lies here and is a much more difficult place than the first one. Here, the graph paper starts to become mandatory and difficult battles are numerous. Like I said, I died a lot in this place. Each screen holds one or two harsh monsters, you have crumbling bridges, crumbling ceilings, and the boss is really much more difficult than the first one. Thanks to the experience system, though, every attempt of beating this place resulted in one level gained and my Link has become increasingly tougher, allowing me to finally beat it. Another huge difference with the other Zelda games is that, when you beat a boss, you don't gain a heart container, but a whole level of experience. It's another strategic point : you don't want to go kill the boss if you're close to getting a new level, because it would be wasting a lot of XP. I realize now that this game doesn't have a economic system, and it's the only game where rupees don't exist. I guess XP act as a replacement currency.

Swamp Palace Boss : two flying helmets throw fire at you while you desperately try to hit him in the head.
The Second Palace treasure is the Glove, which allows you to destroy blocks every now and then, once again gaining access to new areas (only in dungeons). So I'm two dungeons down now, and it's time to explore the southern area of Hyrule, which holds the ominous Death Mountain. But enough rambling around (it's been a long post already) and I'll tell you all about it in my next post.




Sunday, May 6, 2012

Game B2 : The Adventure of Link - Introduction

Trying to figure out what to do in sequels was difficult for Nintendo during NES lifetime. They eventually understood that taking the basic same template and make the more polished game (with occasional jumps in technology) was more than enough for their major franchises. I think a umpteenth New Super Mario Bros will be boring one of those days, but it usually works.

However, in these early years, they were wondering how to make sequels for their hugely successful games. The most well-known example is "the case of the two Super Mario Bros 2" : The sequel to SMB in Japan was exactly the same game with (much) harder levels and sadistic traps to surprise the veteran players (including the particularly twisted idea of a reversed shortcut that took you back three worlds behind). Nintendo then realized (maybe rightfully) that their game was "too difficult" for America (and Japan, in my opinion) and took another game, did a palette swap, and released what we western players know as Super Mario Bros 2 (later rereleased in Japan as Super Mario Bros USA). Konami had the same problem with Castlevania, releasing the horrible Castlevania 2 and trying to turn a perfect formula into a RPG/Action hybrid (with an emphasis on cryptic puzzles and the most frustrating day/night cycle ever). Both companies came back to their senses with SMB3 and Castlevania 3, both going back to their roots, and both excellent games.

But I digress. The subject as hand is as well known as the others, and it concerns the sequel to The Legend of Zelda. Nintendo took a bold risk with this one, turning the whole concept on its head. The overhead view was now only for map exploration while all battles took place on a side-view perspective (similar to Metroid or Castlevania). Experience points were also implemented, probably because of the huge success enjoyed by Dragon Quest (in Japan) a year before. There was many more NPCs to talk with, a magic system and whole towns to explore. Like we'll see later, all these changes weren't for the better and Nintendo would eventually come back to the first game template for their third (and all subsequent) Zelda outing.

But they kept the golden cartridge. Coolest thing ever.

All these changes didn't hinder The Adventure of Link to become a huge commercial success, but nowadays, it's considered the black sheep of the series (of course we don't talk about the CD-I games, but we'll get there eventually). In my memory, the game is still cool, but it's widely different from your classic (and loved) Zelda experience. And it's the hardest game in the series, making a few parts a nightmare to go through. I'm not even sure I already finished this one... Well we'll see about that, won't we? It's interesting too to note that it's the last Zelda entry to receive a number in its name. All the later games will only have titles, adding to the overall feeling that The Legend of Zelda is one huge story being written, instead of a following of numbered games. 

And the flashing lights of the death screen causes seizures. Probably a way to teach kids about the value of life.

So I'll play the game on my 3DS, where I got the game for free (I was one of the dudes who paid 100$ more for buying their console before everybody else, and was rewarded with a few games... yeepee). I won't be playing on my NES, sorry about that, but I have painful memories of losing my saves on this particular game. I managed to find a manual online, which was written in an english so bad it could make mine look like Shakespeare's.

So the backstory of the game is that Link defeated Ganon in the precedent game and is now 16. However, princess Zelda was touched by a curse that put her in a neverending sleep. The only way to wake her up is to secure the Triforce of Courage (nicely named No3 Triforce in the introduction screen). However, the Triforce has been sealed in a palace and you have to defeat 6 guardians in 6 palaces in order to open the last one. It's interesting to note that all the difficulties in the two first Zelda games have come from the securities installed by the Royal Family to protect the Triforce, and have almost nothing to do with Ganon, but whatever. Ganon's minions are at stake too because they need Link's blood to resurrect their master. Would I be Link, the sensible approach to this problem would be to lock myself in a secret bunker someplace in order to prevent that, but, hey, it's not his style, better to take risk to doom millions of people for saving the princess...

Another thing to note from the manual is that it already introduces the idea that all the princesses of the Royal Family are called Zelda, paving the way for the demented storyline Nintendo released not so long ago. I really thought this whole idea came much later, so it's really interesting to discover tidbits like this in a series I thought I knew like the back of my hand.

I hope this time I'll be able to beat this game, and settle a 25-years old grudge against the last boss. To Hyrule we go!




Friday, May 4, 2012

Game A2 : Resident Evil 2 - Final Rating

Here goes the first tryout of the brand new PICASO system (ok, granted, it's nearly the exact same system than before with new names, but you can't blame me for trying to make it sound exciting). It's been nearly a month since I started the game (and more than one month since I last applied a rating), so I'll try to be as accurate as possible...

But first of all, the MAMA goes to... (drum rolls)...

MAMA #4 : SHERRY BIRKIN
Yeah, I know, you probably saw this one coming, but she deserves it. She is annoying, she is slow, she is the personification of what is wrong in protect missions. Get away from her and she curls in a shivering ball of fear on the ground, waiting for the zombies to bite her head off, and she spends the majority of the game running away from Claire (or falling into holes), making her scenario revolve around the idea of "get Sherry back". To add insult to injury, I consider her responsible for the lack of multiple endings in this game because, eh, you can't let children die in video games so you have to save her (no choice here). And I don't even want to google her name, because I can't imagine how many sick fan porn pictures she starred in. She'll be back in Resident Evil 6, so let's hope the fact she has grown up makes her less irritating...

But now for the grades :

P for Pleasure/Enjoyment
Resident Evil 2 is a great game. It's known as one of the best games of the series, and has been ported to a high number of platforms (including the Tiger Game.com version that I'd love to play if it wasn't so expensive or so badly emulated). Like I've said before, the game is a great blend between action, cinematic moments and puzzles. However, everything is not perfect. The game alternates between excellent sequences and a few boring ones, for example. The endgame is pretty excellent in both stories, but there is a long part of the game which is kinda slow. Add to this a few frustrating points, mainly thanks to the really problematic inventory (for chrissakes, why does a lighter take as much space as a shotgun?) and some "run into corridors shooting zombies" sequences. The puzzle sequences are somewhat bland too, especially if you compare them to the Silent Hill or even Dino Crisis ones. Overall it's still a great game, so I'll go for a 7, which is my highest grade in this category so far.
Rating : 7


And the modified shotgun adds one full point to the "Pleasure" factor

I for Intelligence
Is this game a clever one? Tough question. On one side, there are a few nice ideas concerning the Zapping System and the "scared shitless" moments. This game really knows how to keep you on edge, and knows when a player feels safe in a RE game. After all, the huge Mr X is the first RE enemy to follow you in another room, and after going through Resident Evil 1, you tend to think just changing room is enough to keep you safe. Added to that, the fact that you can cross the same corridor two or three times before seeing something leap out of the window to eviscerate you is a enough to avoid making you fall asleep during the long back and forth moments. On the other side, the Zapping System is a bit faulty, with some moments where you feel plain silly to do the same things twice, while two seconds ago, the presence of the other character was reminded to you... Well I guess it has built up on the first game template, but not enough to grant another point. The fact that it's a more straightforward game than the first one doesn't help either in this category. 5 it was, 5 it stays.
Rating : 5

And pushing blocks got old in 1972.

C for Controls / inventory
The controls are on par with the first game, even if it's less bothersome this time around. I think the enemies are bigger or slower, like if the developers' answer to the control complaints of the first game had been, not to tweak them, but to make the game easier to manage despite them. I actually managed to kill a crow this time! The fact that there is no "quick-turn" option (I actually remembered otherwise... I guess it started in the 3rd game) is difficult to overcome too, even if the characters turn around a bit quicker. One last issue is that if your health is really low, your character starts moving at a snail's pace. It's a nice idea, but if you're short on healing items and have to cross ten corridors at this speed, it can make you want to hit your head against the nearest wall. Concerning the inventory problems, not much to say (I already said enough). It's bothersome but it's part of the experience. The adding of a "permanent" item slot (the lighter for Leon and the pass for Claire) is great, but the fact that some special weapons now take two spaces is hard to bear. There seem to be more "magic boxes" this time around, but it doesn't avoid the necessity to really manage your inventory at all times if you don't want to stumble upon an item you can't take if you have too many healing herbs in your pockets. I'll add one point to the RE1 grade, but it's still far from ideal.
Rating : 3


Come on Claire. Turn around. Turn arouuuund!!! Arrrrrrrgh!!!
A for Appeal
The same mash-up of techniques than in the first game is used, with real-time 3D characters and rendered backgrounds. Of course the game is much prettier than the first one, with actual nice-looking character-models, but considering the two years separating the two titles, it's the least Capcom could do (and 2 years of 3D video games evolution in the 90s is worth 5 nowadays). The voice acting is on the level of a good B-movie, and while it's nothing worth an Academy Award, it's far from the "80s porn movie" feeling of the first game. When Capcom released the Resident Evil Rebirth remake on the Gamecube, everybody was wondering if all the other games would be given the same treatment. Capcom then chose to release RE2, RE3 and Code:Veronica with no modifications. It seemed revolting by the time, but when you compare the first two games, you have to admit this one is still highly playable nowadays while the first one kinda smells like old clothes. Add to this the excellent cinematic cutscenes (of course, they're ugly by today's standards, but it was kind of a big thing in 1998), and this game gains two points in this category compared to its older brother.
Rating : 6

And the Hunk cutscene is great. What? Did I already tell that?
S for Storytelling
Here again, it's sort of a mixed bag. The Birkin's story is really nice, especially when you compare it to video game writing of the time. Even if Annette is a weird character, alternatively a poor widow or a psycho with a gun, and even if Sherry should be killed or eaten alive (yeah, I love kids), the drama is pretty well done for a game of this era. Of course, the game has some moments where you can't help to laugh (the "death" of Ada is the scriptwriting equivalent of a few Steven Seagal movies), and the plot has a few holes larger than Texas, but it's nice to follow anyway. The documents sharing the lives of the former workers and civilians (and now probably zombies) are still there and it all adds to the overall ambiance.
Rating : 5

Ooookaaay... We met two hours ago, but I appreciate the feeling.

O for Optional Stuff
Sure, there is a lot of stuff to find if you like searching around. The special weapons and weapon modifications are all optional, and I guess it's perfectly possible to finish the game without them (of course, probably more difficult). The problem here is that you spend a lot of time running into various walls and mashing the A button to be sure you don't forget a magnum round or a first aid spray somewhere, because nothing shows an item is to be found here. A little light glint like in the first game would sometimes have been nice, but it's overall not a big deal. Concerning the post-game content, ok, the Zapping System is overrated and playing through the game twice is not really an "all-fresh, all-new" experience... However, the ability to tackle the game in two different orders is excellent for replay value. Once you've beaten the game once, you have the mandatory new costumes to unlock, but you can add the inclusion of a mini-scenario involving Hunk, one of Umbrella's soldiers, and his mission to deliver the G-Virus. It's an ancestor to the future installments "mercenary mode" where you're given grades depending on how well you perform. There is another character to unlock, Tofu, who is, as his name implies, a big tofu block... and you have to play the game several times while under different handicaps to unlock it (no first aid sprays, no special weapons, etc...). So, we have to admit Resident Evil 2 is packed full with content and, should you consider playing the game again (and again, and again) without getting bored to death, you have plenty of value for your money. As far as I'm concerned, though, I never unlocked the Tofu guy mainly because I didn't find enough incentive to play through the story six times in a row...
Rating : 7

Here comes the Tofu hero : Healthy and a good example for your kids. Don't eat it after it went in the sewers, though.


FINAL PICASO RATING : 55

Strange, I would have thought this one could beat even The Legend of Zelda. Well, we'll see if it's a good news for the PICASO system (meaning the games have plenty of room to improve) or bad news (meaning no game will ever go over 70). Well I really enjoyed going through this one again (twice!) and it's time to move on. On Zelda II we go! And please let me know your thoughts about the new rating system.