• First Impression,  Pathfinder,  worthless shit

    PF Roll20 Demo Part 2 – Post-Game

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    Hi everyone,

    Great game everyone! Hope everyone had a good time; I know I had a good time DM’ing using Roll20. Seems like it’ll be an excellent tool for games. Next module will be Skulls and Shackles Part 1.

    The Characters:

    1. Banmoril the Magus

    2. Heavenly Peach Petals of Shelym III the Diva Bard

    3. Likour Gnardle the Time Oracle

    4. Grox the Axe-Wielding Fighter

    5. Star Killer the Barbarian

    6. Theodore Hobbs the Alchemist

    The Story:

    One summer day, the members of the group were enlisted by Kendra Deverin, the Mayor of Sandpoint to take on the creature that had been stealing livestock. They were directed to a hill several hours outside of town, where they found a cave mouth leading to a mossy wall and a statue of a warrior. Star Killer pulled on the statue’s fist, and the wall opened up into a hobgoblin hideout!

    As the hobgoblins brandished their weapons, Theodore tossed a bottle of acid, and the fight was on! The hobgoblins fought long and hard, but the group eventually took them down with the help of Heavenly Peach Petal’s music, acid, heavy flails, battle axes, and tiny maces. Past their hideout, the party found an intact fountain devoted to Desna. The water gave a few members a boost before becoming unmagical, and then it was onto the next room: an altar room under the guardianship of two bronze statues of Desna.

    “Approach with humility, and live!” the statues bellowed.

    Several of the party members approached the statues by kneeling and moving, which prevented the statues from unleashing their powerful Burning Hands trap. Star Killer got to the altar first and took a large ruby from the offering cup. It was an Energy Heart, a relic of Desna that can absorb all sorts of elemental attacks. The room’s guardians deactivated, allowing the group to move forward.

    As the party opened the door to the next room, they noticed lots and lots of spider webs and a bloated goblin corpse. Theodore approached the goblin carefully and found a wooden toy dragon, but then the corpse burst into a spider swarm. Two giant spiders descended from the ceiling and attacked!

    Banmoril, thinking quickly, shot a Spark spell on a web one of the spiders was sitting on, plummeting it to the ground. Star Killer was bitten repeatedly by the other spider’s fangs and took heavy damage to his muscles from its poison. Likour tried to assist, but he was knocked unconscious. Banmoril was covered in spiders, but Theodore landed a bomb that blew the tiny creatures away.

    After a quick rest, Star Killer found graffiti mentioned how the goblins were afraid of the “wyrm” and that its “breath is death”. The group then came across an underground lake surrounding a small island. Grox and Star Killer swam out to investigate, but Grox had to turn back. Grox found a pile of treasure, including a sword with a golden dragon hilt. Disturbed by the movement in the water, two reefclaws burst out, spoiling for a fight!

    Grox took one on without the benefit of armor, but the other escaped into the water under the influence of Likour’s Cause Fear spell. Heavenly Peach Petals landed a critical blow to the first reefclaw with a well-placed shot from her bow, but in its death frenzy it swung its claws at Grox wildly! The second was dispatched without too much trouble, as it was still frightened.

    After the turmoil, the members examined a strange pillar that described a fable of a fisherman devoted to the service of Desna. Banmoril deduced the meaning of the story and touched the appropriate symbols, and found he could breathe under water! He dove into the lake and found a bar of platinum that had sunk beneath the water. They also examined the sword, and found that it was a Dragon-Bane Sword!

    Glorying in their newfound wealth, the members moved on to a passage blocked by a wood door. Voices were heard squabbling in Goblin behind the door, so Theodore took a listen and translated.

    “You get it!”

    “No, you get it!”

    Star Killer kicked the door in, and the party found a group of four goblins arguing, and a fat goblin named King Fatmouth sitting on a “throne” of a repurposed tavern chair. The goblin sitting in the chair ordered the other goblins to not attack. The group conversed with the goblin leader and found that the goblins were under the guard of the hobgoblin slavers near the cave entrance. Rejoicing in their newfound freedom, the goblins left and gave the group treasure that they had hoarded from their slave masters.

    Standing in a now empty hideout, the group decided to climb up a cliff shrouded in a strange mist. Once on top, they found six empty tombs, their lids long ago pried open. As Theodore examined a tomb, two skeletal champions clambered forward in metal armor. Even though the skeletons’ swords were masterwork and very sharp, the party prevailed and moved forward. They examined a cave-in, but couldn’t move the boulders, so they continued up a set of stairs into a stone chamber.

    They were presented with two doors: one made of iron and one made of heavy marble. Behind the iron door, they could hear the faint sounds of loud snoring, so they chose to open the second door. Likour found the secret switch, and with the sound of grinding stone the ancient doors opened. Inside, the group found the long-dead remains of a priest of Desna, along with his ring and holy symbol. They also found a fishing rod, showing that the interred priest was actually the fisherman from the fable.

    The group went back to the wider chamber and put their ears against the iron door. The snoring they heard before stopped. Steeling themselves, they opened the door and came face-to-face with Black Fang! Still groggy from sleeping and full from eating, Black Fang offered the party the chance to flee if they bowed before him. They refused, and the final battle began!

    Drinking a homemade mutagen cocktail, Theodore grew huge and slammed the dragon in the head with his mace. Star Killer rushed forward and drove the Dragon-Bane Sword deep into the dragon’s belly as he could. The wyrm, now sporting his first wounds in more than a century, lashed back with claws and his huge bite, but everyone fought with everything they had.

    Now enraged, the wyrm unleashes a powerful breath attack: a vortex of acid! Likour, Banmoril, and Theodore fell unconscious and started bleeding out, but Star Killer, Grox, and Heavenly Peach Petals fought on. Impressed with their tenacity, Black Fang departed, eager to fight them again another day.

    Without the threat of the dragon, the party was free to heal their wounds. Surprisingly though, King Fatmouth came into the chamber flanked by his four goblin friends. Sending them away, Fatmouth revealed himself as Rozgul, a Pathfinder operative with the Heidmarch Manor, a Pathfinder guild in Magnimar. Rozgul thanked the group, and vowed that Heidmarch would hear about their deeds.

    Sure enough, when the treasured-fattened party came back to Sandpoint, they found that their lodging accommodations were paid for by the Heidmarch Manor. Not only that, Canayven Heidmarch and Sheila Heidmarch themselves made the trip to Sandpoint to offer them a place in the Manor and a Bag of Holding! The group accepted, and the Heidmarch Manor gave them their first assignment: rescuing two Pathfinder operatives press-ganged into the service of a brutal pirate captain.

    Now, the party has one week to prepare to join a pirate crew in the hopes of causing a mutiny!

    That was a lot longer than I thought, so here’s the loot list:

     

    Underground Lake:

    • a bar of platinum

    Throne Room:

    • 3 large pearls (worth 100 GP a piece)
    • A Wand of Cure Light Wounds (a white marble wand)
    • 422 gold pieces

    Tombs:

    • 2 breastplates
    • 2 exceptionally sharp masterwork longswords
    • 2 heavy steel shields

    Inner Tomb:

    • A Ring of Protection +1 (a gold ring inset with a single diamond)
    • Holy Symbol of Desna (a gold medallion bearing the engraving of a butterfly)

    Dragon Hoard:

    • A dusty set of half-plate armor
    • A +1 light steel shield (an immaculate light steel shield)
    • A flask of Bull’s Strength (a flask filled with a red potion that smells of cinnamon)
    • A scroll of Fireball (a vellum scroll with the inscription DAIYEN FOOLS)
    • A scroll of New Life (a long parchment scroll with the inscription VITAE)
    • 600 gold pieces

    Heidmarch Manor Recruitment Bonus/Quest Reward:

    • 1000 gold pieces (reward for driving out Black Fang)
    • a Bag of Holding I

    Encounter List:

    6. Diplomatic Relations with Goblins (CR 3)

    7. 2 Skeletal Champions (CR 4) – Tarkus, Blueford

    8. Tales from the Crypt (CR 1)

    9. Black Fang Battle/Quest Completion (CR 5) – Black Fang

    Total Base XP from Part 2: 665

    XP Bonuses:

    A Tale Crit in Stone – (first to kill with a Critical Hit) – Likour (+10 XP)

    The Conan the Barbarian Award – (grasped the Energy Heart) – Star Killer (+10 XP)

    Spidey-Sense – (burned the webs and caused fire damage to the spiders) – Banmoril (+10 XP)

    Swarm Behavior – (killed the swarm) – Theodore (+10 XP)

    The Michael Phelps Award – (swam to the other side of the lake) – Grox (+10 XP)

    Power House – (dealt more than an enemy’s max HP in damage) – Heavenly Peach Petals of Shelym III (+10 XP)

    The Little Mermaid – (found the platinum bar) – Banmoril (+10 XP)

    It’s Sandpoint Claus! – (delivered the toy back to the goblins) – Theodore (+10 XP)

    Could Do With a Bit of Rope – (first to climb up the cliff) – Star Killer (+10 XP)

    You Gon Switch It On ‘Em? – (found the hidden switch) – Likour (+10 XP)

    Final Word:

    This was a lot of fun to DM, and I hope it was a lot of fun to play. The next module is going to have a lot of keelhaulin’ and rum drinkin’ and swabbin’ poop decks so be prepared! Tentatively, I’d like to schedule it for July 5th at 6 PM if that’s cool.

  • First Impression,  Pathfinder,  worthless shit

    PF Roll20 Demo Part 1 – Intermission

    Peep this Stealth roll.

    Hello!

    So overall, I think the first game went fairly well! We had some hiccups in the beginning, but I think we hit our stride near the end. I’d say you guys are about 2-3 hours away from completing this module.

    Instead of a full blow-by-blow which will be the post after you guys finish, I’ll post your guys’ loot, battles, and experience points so far sans some special XP awards.

    Firstly, the loot:

    Goblin Chest:

    • A small sable pouch containing 20 gold pieces
    • (Masterwork dagger) – a well-made dagger in a lacquer sheath
    • (50GP) – A pea-sized ruby
    • (Cure Light Wounds) – A glass potion vial containing a fizzing orange liquid (CONSUMED)

    Hobgoblin corpses:

    • 4 sets of stinking studded leather (one taken by Theodore)
    • 4 light steel shields painted with black hands
    • 3 longswords, slightly rusted
    • 1 longbow made of yew
    • 20 arrows fletched with vulture feathers

    Statuary:

    • (Energy Heart) – A large, flawless ruby

    Engorged goblin corpse:

    • A wooden dragon toy that flaps its wings when the tail moves
    • (Wand of Magic Missile, 4 charges) – A wand made of polished oak
    • A leather pouch containing 14 gold pieces

    Island:

    • (+1 Dragonsbane Longsword) – A black sheath containing a longsword with a golden dragon hilt
    • (potion of levitation) – A bottle containing a milky white potion
    • (potion of invisibility) – A flask containing a clear potion
    • 175 gold coins in a leather sack

    Secondly, the encounters and XP:

    1. 4 Hobgoblins (CR 3) – Hobbler, Hobby Hobstar, Hobnobber, “Hungry” Hob Gadling

    2. Fountain Room (CR 1/3)

    3. Statuary/Altar (CR 1)

    4. 2 Giant Spiders + 1 Spider Swarm (CR 4) – Wuda, Wrydda, and the Pretties

    5. 2 Reefclaws (CR 3) -Hydrox, Oreo

    Total XP (per person): 560 

    Thirdly:

    The 65 point stat thing was unexpectedly constraining for feats, so I’m going to allow everyone to add a total of 5 more points in statistics. My only stipulation is that don’t make a stat higher than 18 before racials.

    I’d like to finish this on Saturday night at 7 PM if that’s good for everyone. Just let me know on Puppyrush or Facebook if that doesn’t work.

  • First Impression,  Pathfinder,  worthless shit

    PF RollD20 Demo (6/8/14) – I Hate Sandpoint. It’s Coarse and It Gets Everywhere.

    bwosh

    Hi everybody!

    Since the Pathfinder Society attempt at the comic book store didn’t work, I thought I’d give RollD20 a shot as a DM. This isn’t going to replace the normal in-person Pathfinder game, but if we can make this work we may be able to use it for when we don’t feel like driving.

    So far, I’ve got Greg, Enoch, Eric, Steven, Jack, and Bob (tentative based on computer situation in Florida). I have a few ground rules and basic stuff to lay down so here goes:

    Time: June 8, 2014. Setup/debug at 1 PM, game start at 2 PM. Game link to be sent over Facebook and Steam at noon.

    Sign-ups: Greg, Enoch, Eric, Steven, Jack, Bob (tentative)

    Module: Modified version of Black Fang Dungeon from the Beginner’s Box. This is more of an ‘on your honor’ thing, but please don’t look at the map or the encounters! If the RollD20 voice chat sucks, we can migrate to the PPR Ventrilo server.

    Story:

    “A few weeks ago, livestock started to disappear from nearby farms. Sometimes a half-eaten corpse is found, sometimes only bloodstains. The people of Sandpoint are afraid, and mayor Kendra Deverin is growing desperate. She hopes some heroes will volunteer to search out this menace and put an end to it before it kills a person. She’s offered a reward of 1,000 gold pieces to the group that stops this mysterious creature. Although no one has seen the killer directly, a long black fang was found in one of the animal corpses, prompting the locals to dub the unseen killer “Black Fang.”

    You have decided to go on a quest to put an end to these brutal killings. Rumor holds that Black Fang is living in an old cave not too far from town, which has been used as a den for many monsters over the years. You’ve gathered your gear and are now approaching the entrance to this dungeon, but you still have a few moments to get to know your fellow adventurers.”

    Character creation rules:

    1. Stats: Allocate 65 points any way you wish before racial abilities. We got a possible 6 people, and in the regular Chesapeake game we have 5 people at 75. This made for some real powerhouses and easy encounters, so hopefully this’ll balance that out somewhat. This makes you several points lower than the pre-made characters in most modules.

    2. Alignment: Only rule is no chaotic evil. 

    3. Story: Don’t get too bogged down with your backstory besides a basic outline in case you don’t like your character (see 6).

    4. Class/Archetype: Any first party class/archetype can be used. Greg was looking at the alchemist I know, and Jack was kind of leaning towards a Mad Dog barbarian.

    5. Make a DNDSheets please. This is just so I can see your characters and what you made. (Greg: I can help make your character on Saturday if you want to hang out.)

    6. Remember this is just a demo. Have fun with making your characters and try not to be too worried about party composition. Obviously, it might be a big tougher to play without a healer, but we manage in Bob’s game with just a Bard healing. Also, if we play more and you decide you don’t like your character after this demo, you can transfer your equipment and XP to a new character for free.

    7. Starting Gold: Assume you rolled all 5s on the Starting Wealth formula. This’ll start you with slightly more gold than average.

    8. Two traits: Can be anything as long you have the pre-reqs.

  • Annie May,  First Impression,  Review,  worthless shit

    OVA Roulette – Nakoruru

    Vintage: 2002

    # of Episodes: 1

    It must seem like a no-lose proposition to an animation studio: make an anime show based on a fighting game and take advantage of a built-in fanbase. Problem is, even the more well-known fighting games make for lousy shows, and if the franchise isn’t good to begin with, the no-lose proposition soon turns to no-win. Especially when that franchise is Samurai Showdown, oops, I mean Samurai Shodown, and double especially when you choose to make the show centered around one bland character.

    The plot is this: the titular Nakoruru is found walking through the snow with a big gash on her back until she collapses and is found by two even duller characters. They take her to a village, animals start acting up, Nakorururu goes to sleep and has a nightmare, Bland Female Character 2 sings a song, bear attacks and dies, some plague woman comes by, landslide, plague woman cackles ominously.

    That’s it.

    That’s literally the entire show.

    This means either production stopped after one episode because the studio ran out of money, or the other episodes withered away in shame.

    Rating: Don’t have a rating system yet, so I think I’ll start with 2.5 out of 5 and add/subtract points arbitrarily.

    2.5/5.0

    + .5 = show doesn’t look half bad

    + .5 = somehow got character designer from Mezzo Forte so characters look aight

    – .5 = a Samurai Shodown show and no Earthquake?

    – .5 = seriously, no Earthquake?

    – .5 = plot starts a growing conflict but doesn’t finish it…

    – .5 = …but the scriptwriters found time for a 2 minute song

    Final Score: 1.5/5.0

  • First Impression,  Street Fighter 4

    Street Fighter IV: Streets Don’t Make Good Fighters

    First thing’s first: I was really hoping combos wouldn’t lean so heavily on links. Links are when you chain two moves together, giving the opponent no chance to block. The timing on links opposed to normal moves (usually jab -> something) is the stuff of nightmares. The window is usually less than a dozen frames, a frame being 1/60th of a second. Hit it too late, and your opponent can block it. Too early and nothing happens; that’s when you get a flaming bone sandwich shoved into your skull. I like to stand my Street Fighter 4 box next to my TV and, whenever this happens, give it a big fuckin’ thumbs up. YOU’RE THE MAN CAPCOM, YOU ARE THE MAN.

    (That was a very clever reference to the Samuel L. Jackson/Eugene Levy comedy.  I am basking in your silent applause)

    As for the online…well, the netcode is fantastic. That’s really the most important part, and they nailed it. Of course, they took that excellent netcode and encased it in a capsule of shit, but you can’t win ’em all. No multi-person lobby? Matchmaking searches which take forever? No recordable video? I know these problems will supposedly be addressed by a patch in March, but goddamn, Dead or Alive 4 had this features at launch. Over three years ago.

    As far as character balance goes…I can’t really say. Sure people have been playing the arcade for months (and the newly updated arcade version for a little while too), but the console-specific characters? Total mystery. Well, I suppose they’re not a total mystery, since so many people have come forward to inform us that yes, these console characters are actually quite lame. You know what, I shouldn’t make terrible generalizations like that. Some are decent, some are worse. You know, I often hear that Capcom games are well-balanced. That’s a rant for another time; all I’ll say is I wish I was attracted to tall muscular cycloptic Thais so I could have spent the last fifteen years laughing instead of crying and having boiling coffee poured into my eyes.

    And then there’s everything else. SF4 has a ton of bonus shit. Time Trial, Survival and a move/combo execution mode, all yielding more character colors, titles, icons, and gallery artwork. The graphics are great; everyone knows this. The animation is as slick as the grease build up on my face which glistens with the reflected glow of my television in the darkness as I destroy scrubs online. “Fall on your knees, salvation has fled; your doom is approaching. Its name is Dan.” That’s a line from a song I’m writing, about Street Fighter 4, but you can use it if you give me credit. I sing it over Live all the time anyway.

    So far yes I like SF4, I’m just not sure if I’ll be able to stick with it and gain any real proficiency. Linking sucks and the more elaborate combos  seem like more work than I’m willing to put into a game I don’t flat-out love. I truly believe Capcom’s goal was to make the game really easy to pick up for any moron, but make serious play insanely difficult. For no real reason. I don’t like when something is overcomplicated just for the sake of it. In fact, you could say it is one of my least favorite occurrences. At least I got the anime movie that came with the game. Man I love anime, I’m gonna watch some right now.

    SOME ANIME

  • First Impression,  Street Fighter 4

    Street Fighter IV: The Not so New Generation

    There’s this new game that came out a week ago.  It’s been getting some pretty good reviews.  Like 10 out of 10 good.  With all the hype surrounding the game, I bought it and played for about two to three hours each day since release.  So, is it a 10 out of 10?  Not really.  10 out of 10 would imply that there’s nothing wrong with the game or at least nothing major that would leave a sour experience with certain key areas.  Anyways, let me break it down:

    Visual Effects/Design:

    I really like the graphics.  The animation is smooth and flawless.  The facial expressions of each of the characters are hilariously exaggerated.  The stages are very vivid and eventful.  The art style is refreshing and, for lack of a better term, stylish.  Unfortunately, while Capcom was too busy trying to get everything I just mentioned above right, they forgot to don their creativity and originality hat while designing the characters themselves.  El Fuerte?  It’s like they kidnapped El Blaze from Virtual Fighter 5, put him in a sauna for 72 hours and hypnotized him so he’s convinced that he’s El Fuerte, the wacky cook.  Hey, you know who else was a wacky cook?  That’s right, Chef Brian!  Bet you didn’t see that one coming did you?  I don’t think I need to get into Rufus much.  Honestly, I would be fine if he was just a joke character, despite the fact that the only joke character Street Fighter 4 needs is Dan (well, two if you count Vega ho ho ho), but he’s not a joke character.  He’s a fast moving motherfucker who apparently is worthy of fighting alongside top tier characters such as Bison and Balrog.  That is fucking depressing is all I have to say.

    So, moving right along, next up, we have Crimson Viper.  I hate to sound like a giant homo but I love picking the female characters most of the time.  I’m not going to write a huge article on why I like picking female characters and I’m sure I’m not the only one who does so.  I’ll just say that I pick them because they’re either hot or cute.  C. Viper is neither of these.  Of course, that’s only 35% of the reason why I don’t play as her; the other 65% is her character mechanics and playstyle.   That’s all I have to say about her.  Abel on the other hand is alright.  Alright if you ignore the fact that he’s French and generic.  The only reason why he gets off easy is because he’s my main right now and I don’t want to feel depressed every time I play as him.  Then there’s the rest of the cast.  They’re all characters that have appeared in the past Street Fighter games and really, what’s there to say?  Nothing has really changed my opinions on the standard Street Fighter cast.  There are certain character that I do like (e.g. Guile, Zangief, Bison, Chun-Li) and then there’s are certain characters that I don’t like (e.g. Dhalism, Honda, Akuma, Vega).  Of course, I can’t play any of the characters that I like because I really hate charge characters.  Now, it may seem rather noobish not play a perfectly good character just because that character design doesn’t suit my taste but let me just say this: if I’m going to practice hours and hours to get good at a game, what’s even the point if I really hate playing as that character?  It’s like driving a super fast car on the race track except the car is made out of cardboard boxes and the word “faggot” is spray painted on both sides of the vehicle.  Sure, you may win some races but at what cost?

    Audio:

    There’s nothing really noteworthy to say about the audio track.  A hadoken sounds like a hadoken and a shoryuken sounds like a shoryuken.  The soundtrack is pretty much the standard music we hear in most fighters.  It gets the job done and doesn’t distract from the actual gameplay.  If I have to compare it to other fighters, I would put it right above Soul Calibur 4’s soundtrack but below 3rd Strike.

    Single Player Mode:

    The single player mode is pretty mediocre.  The AI can either be an extreme pussy or an absolutely unfair asshole.  I expected this though since most, if not all, fighters uses the same god damn single player setup.  Come on guys, can you at least put in some damn effort?  For the uninformed, the setup usually starts out with your first fight all the way to your second to last fight (where you fight your rival/destined encounter) being incredibly easy.  When you get to your rival, the difficulty usually varies between fighting games.  Sometimes the difficulty doesn’t change at all and you fight your rival like normal (e.g. Street Fighter 4, Soul Calibur 4, etc).  And sometimes, the difficulty shoots straight up through the ceiling and if you’re using the Xbox 360 or Dreamcast controller, then you’re all kinds of fucked up (e.g. Guilty Gear X, KoF series, etc).  Now we’re on the final boss.  His difficulty is usually pretty high because he is, after all, the final boss.  I understand the boss fights have to be more challenging but seriously, this is a fighting game.  Isn’t giving him an arsenal of cheapass moves too much?  Couldn’t you just raise the difficulty bar by 2 points or something and just be done with it?  Not only does it require little effort but now you have another character that you can actually use in a versus match without feeling guilty.  How can you argue against that?  But nope, gotta give these bosses instant teleports, life regeneration/resurrection (fuck you, Gill), instant and safe projectiles, unblockable attacks that cover the entire screen, etc.  So, yeah, that’s pretty much Street Fighter 4’s single player mode in a nutshell.  As for the actual story and cut scenes, it’s at least better than Soul Calibur 4.  I know that doesn’t say much since Soul Calibur 4’s single player mode is god awful but oh well.  Also, you have to unlock characters in single player mode, which is bullshit but not surprising since we all saw it coming.

    Multiplayer Mode

    Other than character designs, everything else that I’ve said about the game just now is pretty insignificant when compared to the most important aspect of the game, the multiplayer mode.  Fighting games generally aren’t very good when you play them alone.  But I’ve been buying them for years despite the fact that there was practically zero competition for me to play against, which doesn’t make any sense.  Maybe I just loved the potential fun each fighting games held and hoped that one day, I’ll find somebody competent to play against.  Fortunately, I’m now living in a era of fast online games and good local competition.  So, after playing the game for about a week with friends online and offline, is the game good enough to redeem its failing qualities in character designs and single player play?  The answer is a resounding yes.  Now, the multiplayer is far from perfect.  The lobby and match making system is complete and utter trash.  Come on Capcom, how is it possible for a game like Dead or Alive 4, which was released within a month of the 360 launch, has a better lobby and match making system then Street Fighter 4?  Hell, Soul Calibur 4 has a better lobby system even though the game is lagged to all hell online.  I mean, I know Street Fighter 4 will be getting a “Championship” downloadable pack which will address all these issues but still.  For the uninformed, Street Fighter 4 can only put you and one other person in a lobby at a time.  So, you can’t invite your other bros and homies to spectate and queue up for the next battle.  Despite all this, there’s one thing Capcom got right in multiplayer and that’s the latency.  Moves come out as if you’re fighting the person offline.  Although there may be some occasional hiccups and slowdowns, it doesn’t happen nearly enough for it to affect the outcome of the game much.  And if it does happens, it’s only there for 2 seconds or so.

    Gameplay

    Okay, so we got the multiplayer component down but what about the actual gameplay/combat mechanics?  Obviously, Street Fighter 4 needs more than great netcode in order to considered “good”.  For those who are new to the fighting genre, the game is very easy to get into.  There are three ways to punch and three ways to kick.  You can also throw by pushing both jab and short, focus attack by pushing both straight and forward, and taunt by pushing both fierce and roundhouse.  And then there are special moves (which is usually limited to 4-6 per character), super moves, and ultra moves.  Now, remember when I said that this game was easy to get into?  Well, by easy, I really meant that anybody can just pick up a controller and start duking it out with their friends in less than a minute.  I didn’t say that this game was easy to play because deep down, this game is highly complex.  Some may even argue that the game is way to complicated for its own good.  I can understand why to some extent, too.  Like for instance, making ultras take three punches/kicks is a very poor design decision in my opinion.  A friend of mine was complaining how the focus attack system is a good mechanic but falls short of greatness due to how awkward it is to focus attack dash cancel out of special moves into another combo.  Minor griping aside, this is a fantastic competitive game to play against live opponents.  Every battle, you learn something new and gradually become better.  And as you get better, the matches become more intense which in turn makes the game better.  It’s a little hard to explain what is it that makes this game good to most newcomers but if you have ever tried playing a fighting game seriously against other like-minded folks who wants to win at all costs, then I’m sure it’ll be easy to understand.  Having six different types of normal attacks instead of the usual four buttons other fighting games utilize definitely opens up a wider variety of tactics you can use to defeat your opponents.  And then there’s focus attacks, which I covered a little bit of.  A move that can be utilized both offensively and defensively, it can absorb one hit and one hit only.  Depending on the level of focus attack you used and what your opponent used, if you release the focus attack, it can send your opponent into a crumple state.  You can then use this opportunity to unleash a punishing combo/ultra as long as you correctly time your moves.  Not only that, but you can dash cancel out of a move that would have been otherwise unsafe if the move had been blocked.  Not surprisingly, this opens up a giant floodgate on the types of mind games you can play with your opponent.

    What attacks are can be canceled into a special move?  What’s a good move you can use to jump in and get close to your opponent?  What’s a good ground anti-air move that you can use to punish an opponent foolishly jumping in without warning?  What EX moves can you use that has armor properties and when is it a good idea to use them?  These were all questions that was going through my head as I played online.  Now, when I played online, I usually only played with Bob since playing with my other friend, who is a beast when it comes to Capcom fighters, would only be suicide.  Still, my win:lose ratio was about 1:9 when I first started but by the end of the week, it started looking more like 2:3.  Bob started out by spamming dragon punch whenever possible, whether it was halfway across or on wake up, and by the end of the week, it was probably one of the moves he used the least unless he was sure that he’d be able to hit me with it or he was trying to play mind games.   There was one game where we both were at 10% health on the final round.  One mistake would cost us the game and for the next ten seconds in the round, we both did nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  I’m sure Bob was waiting for me roll so that he can throw me out of it and I was waiting for Bob to jump in so that I can tornado throw him as soon as he landed.  Or if he threw in a fireball, I could just jump in over it and land a kick on him.  So, we just stood there, staring at each other.  Finally, I got impatient and jumped towards him in order to land the final kick on him.  He blocked and I ate his dragon punch shortly after and lost the match.  I lost the battle but I was having fun.  And really, if you’re having fun, who cares about everything else (excluding character designs god damn it Capcom).

    Verdict

    I didn’t expect this “first impression” to be so long but hey, it happens.  If you managed to read the entire article, then you already know what I think of the game.  If you’ve just skipped the entire article and you’re only reading this section, then let me bottom line it for you.  The game probably has some of the worst character designs since Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter: The Movie, and the single player mode is nothing worth writing home about.  But if you can get past the lackluster multiplayer lobby and matchmaking system, then you’ll find a game with a lot of depth and replay value.  If you don’t like fighters, then this game will not change your mind.  If you do like fighters but will only play a fighter “casually” (and I use the term loosely as it’s very possible to play a game seriously and still be casual like me) and will only play by whatever fucked up rules you have, then go back to Super Smash Brothers Brawl and stay there.  If you’re like me, then this game is for you and it’ll keep you hooked until the next big fighting game comes out.  With all that in mind, I give this game my stamp of approval.

  • First Impression,  Street Fighter 4

    Street Fighter IV: Street Fighter the Voyage Home

    Now that everyone on Xbox Live and their down-right quarter-circle punching grandmothers have air fireballed my 360 into a steaming pile of melted plastic, it’s probably time for some sort of review.

    A not-really-that-long story short, I’m beginning to think that Capcom programmers don’t want to make games for the PS3 or the 360. It sounds stupid, but seemingly every Capcom game from the past five years has some sort of arbitrary game design decision thrown in that hangs around until the Metacritic score is exactly 10% lower than where it would be were the game made for general enjoyment, then the Special Edition comes out for the PC and ‘fixes’ all the problems or adds in features that counter-balances them.

    Dead Rising had a moronic save system and a font size measured in nanometers, both of which Capcom stubbornly refused to change until the upcoming Wii version. Lost Planet had a terrible matchmaking system and a ‘why-the-fuck-aren’t-you-dead-didn’t-I-just-shoot-you’ rolling/invulnerability frame system. Devil May Cry 4’s level designers apparently thought they did such a good job on the first half of the game that they should just use it for the second half, and so on. Street Fighter IV, unfortunately, has the same affliction as these games, but rather than make this An Introduction to Street Fighter IV: A Treatise, I’m going to split this up into a few areas and say why I thought they were good, bad, and where the bad design choices ended up.

    SOUND

    The first of the arbitrary design decisions that I noticed involved the horrendous voice acting. You see, you can’t change the voice acting from the U.S.-Manga-Corps-level dub work to the Japanese voices until you actually beat the game first. Sure, it will take you about 10 minutes on Easiest, but why is it even set up like this?

    One sound for each attack is another awful choice. It isn’t so annoying until you realize that, like the other Street Fighter games before it, each character has about 5 special attacks total. After several matches of getting my ass handed to me by a Dhalsim that shouted YOGA YOGA FIRE YOGA BLAST YOGA YOGA TELEPORT YOGA YOGA over and over and a CPU Abel who said I SAW THAT I SAW THAT I SAW THAT ad nauseum I was about ready to set all my matches to one round to reduce the amount of time I had to listen to them.

    GRAPHICS

    The actual gameplay graphics look amazing, and little details such as Okami-like ink flourishes during some attacks makes SF4 stand out from other fighting games on the 360. Other details to look out for are the backgrounds, which can be a little distracting when you have dudes in the marketplace stage falling off balconies and crashing bicycles, but is otherwise a nice touch and shows polish.

    What doesn’t look good is the animated cutscenes; they look worse than the actual Street Fighter anime (which looked cheap to begin with). The character designs in these scenes look off – Dan is built like a brick house, Sakura looks a little too boyish, and Ryu’s shoulder span makes him look like a pinhead. Combine that with cringe-inducing voice acting and you see why I rapidly hit Start during every cutscene that comes up.

    GAMEPLAY

    Quite honestly, the last time I played a Street Fighter game was vanilla Street Fighter II, so I was a little surprised to turn on SF4 and find that not much has really changed. Sure, there are new gameplay modes (Time Attack, Trial mode) and some new mechanics like Ultra Combo Attacks, but the game is still all about down quarter-circle-forward punch.

    Speaking of which, you might want to master that particular motion, as practically a third to a half of the fighters use that same motion for their special attacks, and therein lies one of SF4’s greatest strengths and weaknesses. If you master one set of characters (the Ryu, Sakura plain-Jane set) you’ve pretty much mastered a large fundamental portion of the game, and the other portion (charge move-centric characters) is so frustrating and works so rarely you’ll probably not want to bother.

    ONLINE

    Bar none the worst feature of SF4. Seriously, I can’t quite understand why this portion of the game design continues to be such a difficult portion for developers, particularly when designing this portion should only be a two-step process:

    1. Play Dead or Alive 4 online.
    2. Do what Dead or Alive 4 did.

    The worst arbitrary design decision here (and the worst in SF4, in my opinion) is the fact that you can only make 1v1 lobbies until the March patch comes out. Fighting game matches are quick, and playing the same person over and over with no spectators (another feature absent for no reason) can get dull after a while, especially when you play player matches online and play a nasty Akuma for 10 matches. What was so imperative about getting SF4 out in February without what should be standard features?

    Not that you should bother trying to play matches without friends. With network indicator working only rarely, quick match not actually putting you in a match (seriously Capcom, what the hell), and the result list being made of mostly games that you can’t connect to or games that are already full, the matchmaking system descends miserably to a level of uselessness not seen since Team Butts tried to play Gears of War. SF4’s matchmaking is still an improvement though, because in the words of Bob, “Even when you did get a game in Gears of War, you still had to play Gears of War.”

    BOTTOM-LINE: The best way to illustrate playing SF4 is this – it’s a lot like talking to a not-so-smart friend before he takes an exam. You want him to do well because he’s your friend, but you can’t quite help but feel he’s missing key points.