Dragon Ball Video Games: A Perspective of a Fan on Their Quality

Although the video games industry has many series based on established franchises from other forms of media, few are as popular as Dragon Ball. The past four decades have included numerous titles about this franchise, but the quality has varied. About thirty years ago, a mangaka (Japanese comic artist) by the name of Akira Toriyama made a manga about a person name Son-Goku who seeks adventure, cultivation of his abilities, and peace with his friends and family. It later became an anime (Japanese television show) in the same decade (the 80s) and was followed by a sequel by the name of Dragon Ball Z. Dragon Ball Z or DBZ for short, has been a worldwide success as one of the most popular forms of media to have ever been made with eighty video games developed specifically about this franchise. Additionally, Dragon Ball GT is the sequel to DBZ, which was made without story ideas from Toriyama. This is about some of the best and worst games this franchise has to offer and what the developers of this game franchise should do in order for the franchise as a whole to remain popular.

In order to understand what makes a Dragon Ball game high quality, a reader must recognize what is high quality about the Dragon Ball manga and anime series. To explain, it is about adventure magic, humor and love, and an ongoing battle of good vs evil even beyond bodily death which are all factors in the growth of characters. The main character of Dragon Ball is Goku, a boy who begins life programmed with murderous intent, but changed after a hard blow to the head disrupted said programming. In this story, many of the characters change and develop over the course of the series. Beyond the well-known hair changing to gold and eyes turning emerald, characters such as Bulma and Krillin, Yamcha and Tien Shinhan, and Vegeta change from their violently selfish ways to compassionate states of mind and even the reincarnation of a being composed purely of evil intent turns from his origins to lead a life of selflessness.

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Bloodborne {Review}

“Overall Bloodborne is a fantastic game, easily the best exclusive on the PS4 and for certain one of the best games of this year.”

  • Developer: FROM Software
  • Publisher: Sony
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Released: March 2015
  • Played on: PS4
  • Play time:  60 hours

Another year, another journey for masochists into a new dark hellhole where every thing can and probably will kill you. Bloodborne is a differently titled game but is actually the fourth sequel to the Souls franchise, the second one in as many years. Franchise fatigue is sinking in slightly but there are no other games quite like the Souls games out there so I say keep making them. Bloodborne retains the series brutal yet rewarding combat within a superbly designed macabre world and changes the focus of the action to create a more fast paced battle experience. Along with the changes to the combat comes some trimming of some of the more role playing elements the series is known for, the result is a souls game that controls better than ever but also feels simple in comparison to past games.

Immediately after starting up the game I noticed the change in the movement of my character. My hunter felt faster and more agile than ever before.Tthe dodges were super responsive, my character could dash in and out of a spot with ease. The mechanics felt so good that I almost defeated on my first try the de facto super first enemy that is supposed to kill you unless you are a master at playing the game. As a big fan of the stylish DMC like action games I felt this was a great improvement; in the past two games I also build dexterity builds because I have always been a fan of dodging more than blocking, now there is no choice as blocking is out. Maybe there are those that loved doing their best turtle impersonation and hid behind a shield all the time, well too bad no more shields for you. Get in there and fight; that is Bloodborne’s motto and to further push that point home there is now a grace period after the player gets hit where you can recover some lost damage if you attack back. One major addition is the inclusion of a ranged weapon, mostly guns, which serve as a way to stun or parry an enemy. It works like the shield parry except since there is some range involved now it increases the functionality of the parry, it is a great addition.

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Resident Evil Revelations 2 {Review}

  • Developer: Capcom
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Genre: Third-person-shooter
  • Released: Jan. 2015
  • Played on: PS4
  • Play time:  45 hours

The Resident Evil franchise is in a strange spot these days as Capcom seems to have no idea what to do with the franchise. Should it go back to its roots? Should it stay a shooter? Should it do both? Many fans desperately want a return to the so called survival horror roots that they fool themselves into believing any slight change to the formula is a return to the old school as was evident with the misplaced praise for the first Revelations game. The sad truth is Revelations was not like the old games, and neither is this new Revelations 2, that dream should be put to rest. Instead fans should appreciate the effort made to try some new ideas while paying homage to what came before. Revelations 2 clearly recognizes and respects why the old RE games were so beloved and it celebrates them without copying them.

Revelations 2 is an odd mix of gameplay elements taken from RE4/5 and even The Last of Us. For the first time in the series there is a stealth element where the characters can crouch and do stealth attacks on enemies. Combat is the usual over the shoulder fare but the movement feels more loose than ever, lacking the weight and feel of RE4. For the first few hours I hated the way it moves, characters feel like they are on ice skates, it felt like a cheap. Well the truth is this game is cheap, it was made by a small Capcom team on a small budget. It makes it all the more remarkable that they were able to pull off such an interesting game. Once I got used to the feel of the movement everything clicked. Movement is faster because enemies are fast, there is a big difference from Revelations 1 where the enemies were slow bullet sponges, here enemies react much more to each shot.

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Valiant Hearts: Community Music Video – Powerful Delivery.

Some of you may remember that I used to do these Game/Music projects which were basically music videos using game footage. The last one I’ve made was just over four years ago, but this week something stirred up inside of me and I made another one.

I wanted to use this song since I first started doing this back in 2007, but could never find the appropriate game(s). Thanks to a certain last year release, I was finally able to do this.

Let me know what you think.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqBDpF2MlVQ

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God is Dead and Virtual Morality is Nonsense

“Those who would make such claims and advocate the need for morality within virtual constructs seem to do so without an understanding of what morality actually is or the purpose it serves.”

A few weeks ago I attended a seminar regarding human trafficking. It was an insightful and informative presentation and the woman conducting the seminar continuously referenced and discussed the potential hazards of social media and online gaming, which clearly can (and often does) create situations in which predators make contact and recruit young men and women for all manner of perversities. Online gaming is obviously a place that is rife with potential problems for underage youths, especially those who are granted unfettered access to these online constructs and I’ll happily advocate for any type of edification that makes children and parents more cautious when navigating these types of places.

However, this particular presenter also made reference to GTAV and specifically cited the ability to hire and then murder a prostitute to get your money back. She related an anecdote about a conversation she had with a young man who explained that he performed these actions for the sake of “winning” the game and she used this as a springboard to gently but firmly admonish such content while suggesting it was inherently harmful. She then alluded to her own upcoming book, which she said contained a chapter on what she referred to as “Digital Morality.” ))

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The Evil Within {Review}

“The Evil Within could have been an all time great instead it’s only one of the years best.”
  • Developer: Tango
  • Publisher: Besthesda
  • Genre: Action/Adventure Horror
  • Released: Oct 2014
  • Played on: PS4
  • Play time: 25hours

There are a few game directors who’s name alone carries weight, Shinji Mikami is one of those directors. The creator of the Resident Evil franchise revolutionized horror games, not once but twice. After a few years trying different genres Mikami returns to his roots, with his own development studio and a mission to make a new horror game masterpiece. The Evil Within doesn’t quite reach masterpiece status, it is pulled in too many thematic directions and lacks the innovation of his past masterpiece. It is however one of the best horror games to come out in years and shows that few master action and intensity like Mikami.

The Evil Within has been known as Resident Evil 4 part 2 due to the heavy influences of Mikami’s greatest achievement. This is not classic RE, this is still a third person action game at heart but unlike RE4 it totally embraces the horror atmosphere and has scarse ammo and health. The one word that best describes TEW is “intense”. The protagonist Sebastian is controlled using the standard third person shooter scheme but with his base stats he lacks the speed and power most action games have. Sebastian’s aim is wobbly, he runs out of breath from running for four seconds. He is purposely handicapped to make the player feel vulnerable and that feeling changes everything.

Every enemy encounter feels dangerous, even the lowest of grunts can kill you in a few hits. See a group of mutated humans (exactly like RE4s ganados) and the player must quickly take stock of their inventory and pay close attention to the environment. Maximizing kills with the least loss of ammo is paramount to success which is a very different strategy to RE4 which was all about positioning and letting loose with near infinite firepower. Environments come filled with traps which of course can harm Sebastian or be used on the enemies. Stealth is also an option, sneaking behind an enemy and stabbing them is an instant kill, good luck doing so consistently though as enemies react to any noise. ))

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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor {Review}

“Shadow of Mordor is a safe game. It takes most of its gameplay systems from other popular games, blends them together and adds a neat hook.”
  • Developer: Monolith Productions, Inc.
  • Publisher: WB Games
  • Genre: Action-Adventure
  • Released: Sep 2014
  • Played on: PS4
  • Play time: +30 hours

Imagine you acquire the rights to one of the biggest movie properties and decide to make a game based on it. Rather than using the best aspects of the licence you instead place the game in the most unappealing location with none of the characters people know or any of the music from the films. That is the case for Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, the good news is the game is rather good as it borrows from two great franchises, the Arkham games and the Assassin’s Creed games.

In Mordor you play as fake aragorn as you avenge the death of your family with the help of an elf ghost on a quest to murder everything in Mordor. It is super violent, bloody and dark in tone, just like the movies…. wait the movies are not like that. It never feels like this game takes place within the LOTR universe created in the films. I respect that they want to tell an original story but they failed to connect the game to the movie license in any way. Not once did I have the feeling of “wow I feel like I am in this world I love” instead it feels like random goblin killing. ))

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The Fall {Review}

“If you’re looking for a dark science fiction story wrapped in a sound action adventure design structure, you really can’t go wrong with The Fall.”
  • Developer: Over The Moon :: Website
  • Publisher: Self-published
  • Genre: Action-adventure
  • Released: May 2014
  • Played on: PC
  • Play time: 5 hours

The Fall is a 2D side-scrolling action adventure game in which you play as A.R.I.D., the artificial intelligence on-board a high-tech combat suit. After crashing on an unknown planet, A.R.I.D.’s program activates in order to save the unconscious human pilot within the suit. After a short traversal through a cave, players will find themselves in a facility owned by Domesticon, a corporation that designs and manufactures robots for domestic use. However, it is clear from the start that something went horribly wrong here as the human employees are nowhere to be found. The only sentient entity is the mainframe AI who has apparently heavily modified its personality subroutines during the long years of solitude. Also, there’s the malevolent robot known as the Caretaker watching A.R.I.D.’s every step under unclear motives. ))

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Flower Music Video w/ Yann Tiersen

  • Music track: Yann Tiersen – “La Valse d’Amélie (Version Orchestre)”
  • Game: Flower
  • Created: March 2009

The track is from the soundtrack of a French film called Amélie which is one of my favorite films of all time. It’s the orchestral variation of the main theme. I don’t remember all that much about the thought process or even the creation process of this project. The concept itself is simple and it was rather simple and fast to make. The slow beginning section of the track accompanies the slow movement of individual petals, the mid string section showcases the beautiful environments whereas the last, fast section sees the faster gameplay. Despite its simplicity, this is one of my personal favorites as it just evokes a warm fuzzy feeling with just a pinch of melancholy.

As always, comments are immensely appreciated.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4gyh1sTEiQ&feature=youtu.be

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Dragon Age Inquisition {Review}

“My thoughts on this game went through a roller coaster of emotions.”

  • Developer: Bioware
  • Publisher: EA
  • Genre: RPG
  • Released: Nov 2014
  • Played on: PS4
  • Play time: 130 hours

After a stellar original title, Bioware had a misstep with Dragon Age 2. The scope of the game was shrunk down to one city and its surrounding areas. The lack of interesting environments and the small scale of the story were two of the most common complaints. Bioware took those critiques to heart when designing the third Dragon Age game as it has by far the largest game world of any Bioware game. This is a massive game in every which way but there are benefits and negatives that come from this new giant world focus. 

Inquisition borrows the game world structure of MMOs; you explore large areas that are self contained and are populated with all sorts of side quests to complete and new areas to discover. As you explore your map will begin to be filled with waypoints leading to many points of interest, it will be overwhelming. The first 50 hours of playtime is filled with a great sense of discovery as you jump from location to location, each vastly different from the last. From farmlands, to an undead bog, to a beach with a never ending storm that is being fueled by an evil spell; the variety of the areas keep you engaged.))

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Bayonetta 2 {Review}

“The one thing that cannot be argued is that Bayonetta never played as well as this, every improvement went into making the best aspect of the series better, the combat.”
  • Developer: Platinum Games
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Genre: Action
  • Released: Oct 2014
  • Played on: WiiU
  • Play time: +50 hours

Every once and a while a quality game that sells poorly actually  gets a sequel and it feels like a gift from the game gods. Nintendo, for reasons still unknown, decided to fund a sequel to one of the best action games ever made, Bayonetta, and all action game fans rejoiced for good reason. The sequel does not push any new boundaries, it basically plays it as safe as possible while refining the excellent combat system to near perfection.

Those familiar with the first game will be right at home as the controls are nearly identical, the combat system is the same and the structure of the game is unchanged. Every new addition serves to enhance the lightning fast combat system and remove all the frustrating elements from the previous game. Like the first game, attacks are split between arms and legs with basic combos coming from alternating the two. Depending on what weapons you use on each limbs you can have a variety of attack types from slower close distance attacks to fast long distance ones. Certain combo chains end with a wicked weave attack which is basically a large attack that can stun or launch an enemy. Tying the combat system together is the dodge button which is your only defense; players can continue a combo chain if they hold down the buttons rather than tapping them quickly while dodging in a move called dodge offset. Dodging at the last moment before being attacked activates witch time, a sort of matrix like bullet time slow down that allows the player a small window to do damage. This balance between offense and defense is the core of the Bayonetta combat mechanics and they have never felt better than they do now. ))

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Staring into the Abyss: Why “Hatred” Might be a Needed Dose of Introspection

“One of the most fascinating aspects of violence in the media, at least from my own perspective, is that it does not, in any viable way, reflect the reality of true violence or human loss…”

Firstly, let’s give credit where credit is due:

The developers of the upcoming videogame Hatred released a short trailer for their impeding isometric shooter, the thrust of which is that the player assumes the role of a sociopathic gunman whose only apparent goal is to inflict as much carnage and misery as possible on his fellow human beings. The brief trailer went viral rapidly and has already garnered the attention and predictable outrage of various press sites, both gaming and non-gaming alike.

http://youtu.be/ytdEYapPXdY

Clearly, Polish developer Destructive Creations is looking to court controversy, knowing that such press will facilitate loads of free exposure and advertisement and in that they have clearly accomplished their goal. I do find it a bit amusing that several sites reporting on this game, while freely espousing their own moral umbrage, seem entirely oblivious of how readily they are actually advertising a product that would otherwise be largely ignored.

Not that I necessarily blame them for their outrage as the premise is clearly disturbing and those who are predicting some manner of backlash aimed at the medium as a whole might be correct that this type of endeavor could tarnish an industry already entrenched in controversy. Still, looking at the trailer and watching the random snippets of overt violence, I couldn’t help but take away two very profound truths:

  • I’ve seen and done considerably worse in other videogames that I’ve played. Yes this game is violent but trust me what I state there are games far, far worse that possess a violent quotient that eclipses anything shown in Hatred thus far.
  • I am somewhat interested in playing this game. ))
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Is Losing Games Acceptable?

In the past one hundred years, mankind has made an interactive entertainment medium for new experiences. Through the decades, there have been successive video game platforms with which advancements in video gaming can be focused on. My experiences have been mostly with the third generation of video game consoles to the present generation. Legendary games have been important to both the culture of the video game community and its economy and the same is true for games that were not as much of a success. Super Mario Bros. is a testament to the impact a single game can have. It is the reason why some people call all consoles “a Nintendo.”

That said, other lesser known titles are worthwhile as well for various reasons such as the fact that a consumer may find a game that she very much enjoys, but it was not as well known when it was available at major retailers. The Entertainment Software Association recently sent a message that they do not want people to preserve older games because doing so is the same as hacking and hacking is piracy. The logic of this argument is invalid because white hats, a kind of hacker, do legal work in the modern world, so I would like to give special attention to a few games that have meant a lot to me. They gave me a sense of independent daring. My intention is to show the ESA that there is more to software preservation than criminality.

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Spotlight on Excrement (Vol. 1 Back To The Future)

Here is the first installment of a series highlighting some of the truly worst games ever made. My inaugural article is on the NES game Back to the Future.

Enjoy.

 

Back to the Future (NES)

back

The film Back to the Future is regarded as a masterpiece; a deft fusion of clever science fiction and comedy.

The videogame based on its namesake, released by LJN for the NES in 1989, is none of these things and rather was created (four years after the film no less) for the express purpose of bilking consumers out of their cash. Having played the game when it was initially released, I can only assume the marketing strategy revolved around the use of the iconic film poster as bait while simultaneously hoping the consumer didn’t do anything as probative as flipping the box around to take a gander at the screenshots.

Back to the Future is basically a shoddy Paperboy rip-off where you as the gamer assume a facsimile Marty McFly from an overhead viewpoint and run through the streets of Hill Valley while avoiding such hazardous obstacles as girls using Hoola-Hoops, men moving plate-glass windows, and missile-like bees apparently so offended by your trespass into an alternate space-time continuum that they have singled you out for destruction. You must also collect clocks (which are symbolic for time…very clever) otherwise the depletion of this commodity causes your picture on the bottom of the screen to fade away and you perish. (One of the few gameplay aspects that bares some manner of semblance to the original film)

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Progress Bar Radio – Day One Edition

Progress Bar Radio’s first show! Batman: Arkham Asylum/City remaster might be coming. Anthony discusses his divided views on remasters. Anthony believes VR can’t overcome issues to break into mainstream. Daybreak Games needs to put their foot down to H1Z1 fans. Would you pre-order Quantum Break if Alan Wake were a pre-order bonus? Anthony fills you in on the rest of the weekend and early morning news.

Shovel Knight Original Soundtrack
Link

Awesomenauts Soundtrack
Link

Intro Music:
“Electro Cabello”
Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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The Order 1886 {Review}

“The groundwork is there; the guns are great, the controls are great, the world is interesting, and there are so many potential boss battles for the future. They just need to show some level of respect toward gameplay design.”

  • Developer: Ready at Dawn
  • Publisher: Sony
  • Genre: Third-person-shooter
  • Released: Feb. 2015
  • Played on: PS4
  • Play time: 9 hours

The Order 1886 has been described as an interactive cinematic experience with unparalleled graphics. From the first previews we have known that this game may not be the most gameplay focused game, still some hoped remained as Ready at Dawn made some great God of War games and hyped some of this games Lycan battles as being unique. Well the game is finally here; it does set a new standard for graphics and it absolutely is an interactive cinematic experience. Sadly the gameplay portion was a mere afterthought, which is a shame because all other elements of the game really shine.

At its core The Order is a very basic third person cover shooter. It lacks the maneuverability of an Uncharted or the intensity and enemy diversity of a Gears of War. So when I say cover shooter, I mean COVER shooter, you need to be behind something during most gunfights and  all you do is pop out and shoot other guys who also hide behind stuff and pop out. I would say about half of the gunbattles don’t even allow you to be in the same area as your enemies, they block you off in a section with cover and you shoot across the map at others who are in cover; this is the very definition of a shooting gallery. The times they do let you move around, and use something that resembles actual tactics, are usually in small rooms (usually square in shape) with a simple layout of cover.))

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Games Journalism Is Dead And Games Media Killed It [Part 1]

“Who’s fault is it? I don’t think anyone really knows but if games media and its journalist are to serve on any level of relevancy to the games industry then they need to get original…”

I have been an avid gaming enthusiast for over 30 years. I have bought and played thousands of games over the course of my tenure in this avocation. The library of games that I have owned physically and digitally in my lifetime number in the tens of thousands and span over a plethora of different genres and tastes. I have always had an infinity to all types of video games and digital interactive experiences and have learned to enjoy the differing ways in which they approach this medium regardless of whether they are focused on gameplay, story or even just simple old-school fun.

When I was younger, way before the birth of the Internet, the only way to know what was coming out on your preferred gaming platform was through magazines. There were no “Let’s Plays” or “Quick Looks” and rarely would you see any commercials of a game. If you did not have a magazine subscription, or a friend with one, then your only other option was to visit your local video game store and look at the cover of the box and hope that the screen shots provided on the artwork were a truthful representation of what was in the game. The latter scenario was a deadly game of Russian Roulette and one, that if I were actually truly playing it at the time, would have tasted the wispy layer of metallic gun powder on my palate only briefly before my abrupt demise. ))

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Destiny {Review}

“Destiny is the most fun I have had with an online title since Phantasy Star Online.”
  • Developer: Bungie
  • Publisher: Activision
  • Genre: Role-Playing/First-Person Shooter
  • Released: Sep 2014
  • Played on: PS4
  • Play time: +100 hours

Few games have the expectations put on them that Destiny had. After leaving the Halo franchise behind, Bungie signed a ten year deal with Activision to make the next mega franchise in gaming. The first details on Destiny promised a gigantic universe to explore with groundbreaking co-op play. Somewhere along development content was cut and the vision was narrowed into the game we have today. Destiny delivers in the gameplay department but falls far short in most every other area.

I will attempt to make this review be as positive as I can because I really do enjoy playing Destiny despite it’s many issues, so we begin with the stellar gameplay. The Halo DNA flows through Destiny, movement and shooting has the same responsiveness Halo fans would come to expect. Being a MMO hybrid Destiny gives players multiple classes to choose from each with their own special powers. Players have specialized grenades, supers that have a variety of effects some being stage clearing blasts and most have some form of movement skill like floating or double jumps. These powers mixed with the already fantastic precision shooting Bungie is known for makes Destiny the most fun first person shooter to control that I have ever experienced.

Maneuverability is a huge component to the combat, for me this is important as I am not a fan of shooters where escaping is not an option. All classes offer some power that can get you high in the air to quickly move away from cover or rise up and over enemies. One power allows you to basically do a short teleport jump completely disorienting your enemy (works great in PvP). This is not a game where the only defense you have is to hide behind an object, Destiny gives you the powers to evade death in many ways which makes combat more thrilling. ))

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