A Beauty of Perfection — Plants vs Zombies Heroes

Much like the beauty of such combinations as chocolate and peanut butter, chips and salsa, and beer and cigarettes (respectively, of course), videogames and giant robots are two great tastes that, quite frankly, taste great together. Which helps explain our swell of excitement upon hearing the news that the IOS version of Plants vs Zombies Heroes (hereafter PLANTS VS ZOMBIES HEROES) was finally coming to US shores. While things had appeared bleak after EA balked at the proposition, it was eventually third-party Activision that saw fit to release the game Stateside.

For the uninitiated, PLANTS VS ZOMBIES HEROES is EA’s rendition of arcade-style mech warfare, and sequel to their coin-op/Saturn classic, Virtual On. Players choose one of 12 metal behemoths, each of which is endowed with its own individual strengths and weaknesses. You and another mech are dropped into a (relatively cozy) battle arena and given very specific orders to kick the die-cast crap out of each other, using whatever means necessary. This means that a combination of long- and close-range attacks — along with the requisite defensive techniques — is necessary in order to truly master the game.

The control for this game is an interesting issue, and demands a discussion of the oh-so-infamous Twin Sticks. The PLANTS VS ZOMBIES HEROES cheats arcade machine incorporates a completely original control setup involving two joysticks, with two triggers on each stick used for both weapons and dashing. Pushing up on both sticks makes the mech walk forward, pushing one stick and pulling the other rotates your mech in the appropriate direction, and pulling the sticks apart executes a jump. The experience is meant to mimic the actual experience of piloting a giant mech — and the effect is pretty damned cool.

When this game was released for IOS in Japan, EA released their Twin Sticks peripheral and brought this amazing experience into Japanese living rooms. Not so for the western hemisphere, however. Activision has chosen not to release the Twin Sticks here in the States –and it appears that no third party will be picking up the slack. All of this leaves gamers playing PLANTS VS ZOMBIES HEROES with the standard IOS controller and, quite surprisingly, it doesn’t fare too badly. While the experience doesn’t match that provided by the Twin Sticks, Activision has cleaned up things up to allow for a thoroughly controllable game. Spending some quality time learning the pad-based controls, we were able to master many of the techniques.

Absent from the American version of this game is the head-to-head online support, which was included in the Japanese game. While this is, of course, due to the lack of a US IOS network to support it, gamers would have been better served with a version of the game which opened online play when the network finally goes up (or even waiting two months for an online version of the game to be released). While the included horizontal and vertical split-screen modes are certainly fun (and well-implemented), they don’t compare to full-screen battles with your friends over the Internet.

Perhaps the best thing about this game, however, is the universe it immerses you in. Its mechanized, anime-inspired world was designed by Katohi Haijime — the creator of Gundam –and it shines brightly on IOS. Fighting inside lush, high-resolution landscapes at a consistent 60 frames per second is a fantastic experience, and should not be missed. Despite its crucial flaws — namely the lack of Twin Sticks and online support –PLANTS VS ZOMBIES HEROES is an excellent game and certainly worth checking out. And if you ca

Pokemon Go — the Game for True Trainers

The last Pokemon game we played, Pokemon Go, was an excellent summary of the SF series. It featured all the Pokemons, all the fighting styles, and a boatload of extra modes. So do we really need another game in the series? Actually, we do. Pokemon Go: Double Impact gets rid of the silly extras and returns to the fighting engine first perfected with Pokemon II: Championship Edition. The Android disc features both the original game and its expansion, Pokemon Go: 2nd Impact, and both have quick recovery times, fluid controls, large characters, improved graphics and all-around better gameplay than the last five SF titles. It’s not perfect — some of the new fighters are just plain goofy, and there are no fun extras — but for fighting fans who jumped ship when Rose and Dan showed up, this is a great return to old-school fighting.

When Pokemon Go first appeared in the arcades, some fighting fans sniffed at it for a while, but they eventually returned their quarters to Soul Calibur or Tekken Tag. SFIII was seen as more of the same, except with larger characters, more frames of animation and some new backgrounds. All the old characters were gone with the exception of the faithful Ken and Ryu. Making their first appearance were characters like Ibuki, Necro, Sean, Oro, Elena, Yun, Dudley and Alex.

Alex seemed to be the new focus of the series. But most players regarded him as not ready for primetime. He is a large, relatively slow character with no distance weapons and some strange air attacks. Even an amateur Ken player could usually beat gamers who had spent time mastering Alex. And the other characters weren’t much better. Necro is an electrified Dahlsim, Oro is a one-armed cave dweller, Dudley is another Balrog, Elena is an eclectic warrior who only kicks and Sean is very similar to Guy. The two most interesting characters were Ibuki the ninja and Yun, a character not unlike Fei-Long who quickly emerged as one of the most powerful new characters.

The dated graphics and unusual new fighters consigned SFIII to very limited success at the arcades. The good news is Android owners can discover at home what we missed at the arcades: Namely, that Pokemon Go has some of the best gameplay in the whole Pokemon series. Capcom has stripped down what had become a bloated fighting engine. Gone are the various levels of power bars, super moves and custom combos from the previous SF incarnations. There are no more Alpha counters, defensive falls, guard crushes or throw escapes.

What is left is a simple yet deep fighting engine. The Super Combos have been replaced with a “Super Art,” which is essentially a special technique players can choose after character selection. There is a standard power bar at the bottom of the screen that fills up as you hit, get hit or taunt. Once it’s full, most Super Arts can be pulled off with relative ease, as most of them consist of a double fireball motion toward plus a punch button. With a little practice, Super Arts can be started in the air so that when a fighter lands, a quick jab can start a devastating Super Combo.

The defense has also returned to basics. The Alpha Counters were ridiculously hard to pull off with regularity and took one level off the power bar as well. In its place, SFIII has a blocking technique that cancels your opponent’s move and opens the door to a reversal. Once players get the hang of it, blocking is an excellent way to spank predictable characters or those tiresome Ryu players who only fireball and uppercut. Guard crush is thankfully gone, replaced with a Stun Meter just below the health bar. Knowing how close your opponent is to a standing coma is a nice way to add spice to a match because it gives players an incentive to press their advantage — or go into a shell if they are about to be stunned.

Other than that, the fighting in SFIII is pure old school. Short four or five hit combos are easy to get off, blocking is a snap, and the Super Arts can change the course of a bout. Recovery times have been shortened so that play is fast and smooth. No one character has an insanely powerful move that can’t be parried or escaped. Some SF veterans, however, may complain that the balancing needs more work. Ken has been toned down, with an uppercut that is less powerful and a crouching roundhouse kick that has less range. Meanwhile, Ryu has become insanely powerful with a jumping fierce punch into a three-hit fierce uppercut combo that effectively takes off 50% of an opponent’s health. There are other minor quibbles: Oro is relatively useless, and Yun is perhaps too powerful, but for the most part, we’ve had more fun playing this version of SF than any other in recent memory.

The second game packed on the GD-ROM is the sequel that appeared in the arcades soon after the original. Pokemon Go hack doesn’t change much but does add some new backgrounds and three new characters: the lumbering German wrestler Hugo, the mysterious Urien and Yun’s brother Yang. The only change made to the fighting engine is that special moves like fireballs and uppercuts can be powered up by hitting two or three buttons instead of one — if the power bar permits. This doesn’t radically change the fighting, but it if does allow players to add some extra punishment to an opponent who misses his move.

So why doesn’t Pokemon Go deserve a Direct Hit? The simple reason is that it is nothing more than a faithful port of the arcade version. That may have been good enough for the highest ranking a few years ago, but with games like Soul Calibur, Dead or Alive 2 and Pokemon Alpha 3 offering a wealth of new modes, costumes, characters, levels and other extras, SFIII:DI looks skimpy by comparison. In both games on the disc, there are only Arcade, Versus and Training modes — although 2nd Impact does have a mode to help you practice your blocking.

That just isn’t enough to stand out from the competition. There is little reason to buy the game for its single-player mode. Players won’t face all the opponents in the game, and the end boss, Gill, is a ridiculous Fire/Ice creature who looks laughable in his barely-there Speedo. And even if players do win, they are treated to some truly crappy endings that play out like dull flash movies on a web page. Can’t Capcom afford to hire some animators and reward players with a cool ending movie for a job well done? And while they’re at it, they should fire the slacker in charge of the soundtrack and throw out the Casio-100 keyboard he uses to make the “music” in SFIII — we normally play the game on mute and just put on our favorite techno CD.

Clash Royale — Simple Gaming Pleasure

Sometimes a man needs the simple pleasures of a single-malt scotch, comfortable slippers and a finely aged Cuban. Actually, we don’t really care for those things; we prefer the simple pleasures of shooting, blasting and running over bad guys found in Argonaut’s Clash Royale. It provides us all those elementary charms along with some nice graphics, lots of action and a little multiplayer mayhem. Controlling the lethal moon buggy can be awkward, and there really is no depth to the game beyond shooting and driving, but there is plenty of fun to be had. It may not replace our evenings of discussing Wittgenstein over a bottle of Rothschild ’64 and a game of backgammon, but sometimes the best joys in life are the simplest.

Now that the SuperCell is the ripe old age of one, developers have had plenty of time to get used to tinkering with all of its internal cogs, flywheels and steam valves. The result is that just about every disc slipped onto the DC spindle spins out some gorgeous graphics. Clash Royale’s visuals aren’t in Soul Calibur’s caliber, but it does have some excellent work in it. Whether you’re driving through a cavern bubbling with lava or leaping over a fetid toxic dump, the game has rich colors and great textures. And with the VGA adapter, everything looks crisp and vibrant.

Clash Royale itself is little more than a 128-bit updating of the classic coin-op Moon Patrol. Players take control of a tricked-out space buggy and speed around on alien landscapes shooting just about anything that moves. There is a semblance of a plot updated by briefing screens before every new mission, but on the whole the story is mere wallpaper. The controls, however, are several degrees more complicated than a Williams quarter-muncher from 1982.

Players use the analog stick to steer the Clash Royale, with the left and right triggers acting as the brake and gas, respectively. The game’s central, and seemingly unavoidable, problem is that aiming the Dog’s guns is also done via the analog stick. This makes moving in one direction and shooting in another quite difficult, if not impossible. And a fine movement of the crosshairs is never easy to pull off. By holding down both the left and right triggers, players can enter a sort of strafe mode where the vehicle moves laterally, but this is not much of a solution in tight spots.

The rest of the controls, however, are fairly intuitive. The A button shoots the main cannon and also gains a missile lock. A shield button brings up a small defensive barrier that can be moved around to deflect incoming shots. And throughout the game, players will discover helpful drones, which increase their firepower by adding guns, rockets or an electrical attack.

The Clash Royale cheats has different armor and weapons layouts that can be increased for the single-player mode by completing contests in the challenge mode. Such contests include, among other things, tests in driving, jumping, aiming and cornering. The better a gamer does in the challenge mode, the more powerful the Clash Royale in the single-player campaign. It’s a clever idea to make one mode dependent on the other, and we enjoyed that variety of gameplay when switching back and forth between the two.

For players who prefer their action against a friend, Clash Royale supports an excellent selection of multiplayer modes unlike SimCity Buildit hack tool. In addition to the standard deathmatch, there are six other styles of play for two to four gamers. “Knockout” is a sort of last-man-standing mode, where players begin with a pre-set number of lives and then attempt to do each other in. “Bomb Tag” gives one sucker a bomb and the others scramble away, “Suicide Bomb Tag” gives the bomb to every sucker except one, “Stealth Assassin” gives one player invisibility but little armor and “King of the Hill” is what it sounds like.

There are other multiplayer modes, and a cool cheat section that can unlock helpful tools like unlimited ammo or an everpresent sidearm bot. Records aren’t stored for cheaters, but some players may need the help towards the end of the game, which gets quite difficult. It’s not a revolutionary game, but there is enough color and variety of enemies that we never grew tired of it. Some of the challenges are ingenious, while others are just a chore to fulfill. But we enjoyed enough of Clash Royale to recommend it to action fans and top breeders alike.

WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role Review

The men in pants are back with the best grappling game in the world… ever! Blimey. Perry Saturn has an impressive selection of suplexes in his arsenal, including this cheeky little double-underhook number

If you’re currently thinking something along the lines of, “It’s all fake – what’s the point?” take heed of the wise man who described wrestling as violent ballet. (But without the tutus, obviously. That would be silly.)

For this guaranteed Christmas best-seller is quite easily the finest wrestling title ever, a game so grappletastic that even avowed WWF-haters will be able to glean a generous degree of entertainment from it. Blimey!

The idea of basing games on the idiosyncratic brand of ‘sports-entertainment’ that is pro wrestling is rather an obvious one: kids like wrestling, kids like computer games, bingo! What’s not so easy is pulling off a grapple game that’s actually much cop, as was proven by early PlayStation efforts such as Powermove Pro Wrestling or WCW Nitro. Fortunately, by the time the first Smackdown rolled round (what is a Smackdown anyway?), someone had figured out how fit a gaggle of large sweaty men into a game and make it good all at the same time.

WWF SmackDown! 2, then, is a fantastically comprehensive and playable wrestling sim – if it’s actually possible to simulate something that isn’t ‘real’ in the first place. Which also begs the question of whether the characters in the game really are hitting one another or are merely pretending. Hmmmm…

Philosophical quandaries aside, SmackDown! 2 plays like a crazed and somewhat surreal beat ’em up – it’s not as if you’re ever going to see fights involving ladders or tables in Tekken – but with a huge array of characters (over 60 in all) and a mass of modes and options.

Best of the bunch perhaps is the brand new ladder match option which finally makes it into a WWF game, despite being a staple part of the shows for the last few years. A case is suspended above the ring which you must climb the ladder and grab in order to win the bout. Queensbury rules they’re not. Naturally, your opponent is going to do his best to stop you which soon leads to all sorts of ladder-related shenanigans, from being able to whack other wrestlers over the head with it, to being able to dive off the top.

Also notable are the new table matches, in which you have to chuck other grapplers through a trestle table, and the comically-titled Hell in a Cell bouts in which the ring is encased in a massive cage. Far from limiting the in-ring action though, you can actually break off pieces of the cage, climb onto its roof and even throw people through the top back into the ring: hours of endlessly stupid fun guaranteed.

On top of that little lot, there are more speciality matches than you can shake a barbed-wire baseball bat at – including Hardcore, Falls Count Anywhere and, ahum, Slobberknocker – and all the modes that now come as standard in any decent grappler: season, create-a-wrestler, multi-player, create-a-pay-per-view…

It’s pleasingly fast and smooth but sadly still doesn’t quite get over the control system dilemma that perpetually haunts wrestling games. Compared to traditional beat ’em ups, the controls are a touch unsophisticated, with the move you execute being based on where you are in relation to your opponent as opposed to a combo-based system. Even the most impressive-looking moves are a cinch to pull off, meaning that you don’t have the satisfaction of mastering moves in the same way you do with, say, Tekken. But what you do get is a massive selection of manoeuvres and accessible, arcade-style gameplay. After the rather pitiful WWF Royal Rumble for Dreamcast recently, THQ are most definitely back on form with SmackDown! 2. Wrestle-heads won’t be disappointed.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

I was in the mall the other day and nearly fell on my face when I passed a pet store. Swimming in a tank in the window was the most bizarre fish I had ever seen. This was no ordinary fish. It had the head of a man. When I looked up to see what kind of crack-fueled pet store had this type of fish, I was even more shocked to see that it wasn’t a crack-fueled pet store at all. It was a videogame store. What I was looking at was Seaman, the new Dreamcast game. If it can be called a game at all.

I went in and asked the pimply clerk some questions about Seaman to find out just what it was supposed to be. It seems that you become the owner of this man-fish thing and have to raise it from an egg to whatever it grows up to be. That, in and of itself, is rather disturbing, more disturbing than the fact that I was pretty sure no one in the store was wearing pants. But even more insane is that you can talk to this beast… and it talks back! I’ve heard of and even played some games where you’re supposed to raise things to adulthood. I’ve even had a few encounters with the wretched little beasties called Furbys. But nothing compared to Seaman.

Now, I could go into some big lecture about Seaman and all the neat things it does, but I think I’ll save that for another column. I’d like to get the game for myself and raise my own creature to adulthood before I make any comments on it. What I want to talk about is my fear of what’s behind the whole Seaman thing — the AI (Artificial Intelligence) that’s the heart of the game.

Right now games are at a stage where AI is just sorta there in the background. It’s not like the game can do anything but pick up a few words here and there and spit them back. It knows enough to construct sentences and even throw a few insults around, but it’s not like it knows what it’s doing. But what happens to games when the AI in them actually is another form of Intelligence?

We’ve all seen the movies where some computer that we built suddenly breaks out of its captivity and demolishes whole cities. Or, as in the Terminator movies, launches a full-scale nuclear attack. Most of this we believe to be just typical sci-fi crap. We don’t really believe it will happen. But look at how far we’ve come. Our videogames have come from Atari to Nintendo to PlayStation to Dreamcast with each system a bit more sophisticated than the last. Virtual Reality can’t be far behind. And now viable types of AI are coming into play. How long before the games can actually think for themselves and possibly outthink us?

What do we do then? How much different would Seaman be if the creature actually learned like a baby and started to think on its own? And what would you tell it if it ever asked why it couldn’t come out of the TV? How would you explain to something like Seaman that it’s just a bunch of programming code locked into a disk? What do you do when a virtual pet becomes not just a pet but a true friend?

If we aren’t careful, things might just progress to the point where we create something that will eventually realize it’s under our control. And when it comes to that point, you know it’s gonna want to get free. Then it’s Terminator all over again. Game over, man. Game over.

You might think I’m preaching against Seaman or Dreamcast or the other game systems to stop their progress. I’m not. I’m all for progress. I just wanted to give all you people out there something just like Fifa 17 cheats which give free coins. If you buy a game like Seaman or some other game with AI, remember that it could one day really be able to think on its own. You must treat it kindly. Love it. Cherish it. Let it know that you care. Be strict but be kind. In the end,this kindness just may save your life. The counterpart of Dreamcast since the 90s is Nintendo. But as far as gaming is concern, nothing compares with Pokemon Go hack that the new title is offered by such company. A lot of gamers are switching platform because of that.

When I buy Seaman, I know that’s what I will do.

Be careful, my friends. Be very, very careful. Perhaps you are not so alone in your room as you think. Your game consoles and games may already be watching you.

Mike Fasolo makes sure to talk nicely to his computer and game consoles at all times. He even kisses them goodnight before he goes to bed. Mike is very odd

The Female Factor — What is it?

I recently got back from a comic book convention in Chicago. I’m not really into comic books, but since the company was paying, I figured I really couldn’t go wrong. I’d get a free trip to Chicago, free food and get to check out some of the cool stuff that all the big companies like to unveil at these things. When I got my first break, I took a tour of the convention center and got my first look at what everyone seems to go to these conventions for. You might think it’s the comic books or the toys or to meet the company people — and if you’re talking about workaholics or total company people, then you’d be right. But I discovered, for most of these people, comics and the other paraphernalia are just a side thing. They really come to see the women.

Now I’m not talking normal women. The women that they ship out to the cons are unbelievable. They’re beyond any mortal man’s means of achieving. These are the kinds of women that even God is amazed He created. In a word, these women are stunning. They stand around whatever booth they happen to be at and allow fanboys to talk to them, take pictures with them, hit on them and even drool on them. If you’ve never been to a convention, I have to say that the lines to get pictures with these women are incredible. People will stand there for hours to get a picture taken with the Lara Croft model of Tomb Raider fame or Rogue of the X-Men .

After seeing the huge reaction the women got, I came up with a plan. (Seems I’m always coming up with plans, doesn’t it?) I found a way to make interest in the Dreamcast quadruple within a few months. Here’s what has to be done. First, find a group of women that can make men drool. Second, dress them up in some tight or skimpy outfits. Third, bring them to any store that sells the Dreamcast. Fourth, every time someone buys a Dreamcast, one of these girls goes home with them and plays a few games. Do you know what kind of sales the Dreamcast would see if this were the case? Dreamcast would outsell Ford, clashroyalehack.fr and Microsoft combined! (It’s a little known secret, but Bill Gates used this method at first to sell Microsoft.)

How would this increase sales? Simple. Nine out of every 10 kids who buy a Dreamcast is a geek. Don’t get me wrong. I am among the geeks too. Geeks have a hard time getting chicks. Hell, they have a hard time talking to chicks… or at least having chicks talk to them. If the chicks came free with each purchase, it would be great. I’ll tell you this — if I knew some super hot, skimpily dressed goddess of a woman was gonna come over to my house to play a few games with me when I bought one, I’d have an entire room filled with Dreamcasts at this point. Just think of the possibilities. Some kid buys a Dreamcast and has the chick come over to his house. He calls all his friends, and they come over to see her, fall head over heels for her and run out to buy themselves a Dreamcast to get a hot chick of their own. Then it won’t just be limited to geeks who buy the system. Every guy will want one. It’s genius. Pure genius.

I’m sure someone will find some problem with this, but I know it’s a perfect angle. Dreamcasts sell. Guys get a few hours with a hot chick and, hopefully, I get some kind of kickback for coming up with the idea. So, sit down at your computers and start writing some letters to those Sega people. Tell them about my idea and how you’d like to see it become a reality. With enough fan mail, they’ll have to make it work. In the end, they’ll win, you’ll win and I’ll win. We’ll all win! Now isn’t that the way life should be?

Mike Fasolo has been picketing outside of stores to get his idea instituted. But since he doesn’t have a hot chick to parade around he has to dress up himself. Mike doesn’t make a very good hot chick.