Thursday, December 19, 2013

Yesterday's Worlds #4: Bloodrayne, Breath of Fire:DQ, and Bully

BloodRayne 1 & 2 (Terminal Reality/Majesco/2002 and 2004) - Played some of 1 and a little of 2 before.

For me, Rayne has always been one of the sexiest characters in video games. Unfortunately, that sex appeal is probably the reason she never was able to make the jump to a newer generation console (I don't count the 2-D side-scroller game since it's very different from these two). Game companies these days seem to want "young girl" games (The Walking Dead, Beyond: Two Souls, new Tomb Raider, The Last of Us). I guess to some degree, she is as much of a cultural dinosaur as Duke Nukem...but I still love her!

I skipped replaying BloodRayne 1 this time around because, to be honest, I couldn't stand the thought of taking on that tedious swamp level at the beginning again. By the time you finally get through it and start killing Nazi's, it's hard to want to keep playing. It should have had a much shorter introduction and then moved to the WWII location. It didn't help that I played it originally on the Gamecube - the shoulder buttons on the controller for that system were very clunky making it even more of a chore to play. (Of course, this didn't stop me from buying BloodRayne on PS2, Xbox, and PC as well. Love is blind!)

However, I had never played much of the second one, so that was what I decided to concentrate on. They made Rayne even sexier in the sequel, but I have to admit that the gameplay is missing something. The game starts with Rayne searching a vampire-run mansion and, like that Louisiana swamp, it just seems to go on forever. The enemies that attack you only have 2 or 3 varieties and Rayne's best attack is to suck their blood for health and do a finishing move on them. You can string together moves to make fancy combos, but it gets old too quickly.

Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter (Capcom/Capcom/2003) - New.

I never got into the Breath of Fire games on the Gameboy Advance, but I guess I picked this one up on a cheap Gamestop deal. On the surface, it looks like a solid RPG from a well known studio. But once you start playing it, you have to wonder what the designers were thinking.

The story starts out with you living in an underground city and having a capability rating (like a fractional ratio) that is supposed to measure your potential (the theme of the story being that you will be challenging the status quo and proving that people cannot be so arbitrarily judged - or something like that). Character interactions are pretty standard for a RPG and before long, you are on your first mission against "sewer rats" (not rats in this case, but a typical first encounter creature you expect in games like this). And that's where they lost me. The battle system in this game is the most cumbersome I've ever seen. Just to do a simple fight with one first level monster took a couple of minutes! There was the initial contact, a transition to a turn-based battle display, executing multiple attacks to kill the creature, then a victory screen with experience totals before transitioning back. I don't want to even think how long the later battles would take. My interest in playing anymore of this game dropped to about 1/1000000000.

Bully (Rockstar Vancouver/Rockstar Games/2006) - New.

Rockstar raised a lot of eyebrows when they announced this game. Everyone expected, because of the violent nature of their GTA games,  that you would be a bully in this game, taking advantage of weaker characters, glorifying the villain in a real life social problem, and teaching children very bad habits. However, that wasn't the case here. You actually end up playing a fairly average school kid at a very abnormal school - Bullworth Academy (from which you get "Bully"). While you can pick on "weaker sheep", it doesn't gain you anything or advance the story. Usually, you're more likely to be running from bullies in this game.

I was actually looking forward to digging into Bully pretty deeply, but this game suffers from several problems for me. It has the same "no mid-mission checkpoint" problem that all pre-GTA V games suffer from. If I fail a mission, I don't want to have to go all the way back to getting the mission. It sucks all the fun out of a game if you just have to do the same thing over and over because you made a little mistake. I also could not get out of my head that the character you play looks just too much like Wayne Rooney of Manchester United - someone I intensely dislike!

The controls seemed fairly sluggish and you spend more time looking at loading screens than seem reasonable. I actually decided to try the PC version of Bully as I have it on Steam. and found it to be much faster, a little more responsive, and with a serious graphical upgrade...but there was still the problem of failing missions and having to go all the way back to the beginning. In addition, I found some new problems. Some of the mini-games were very hard to play on the PC version (especially the Chemistry one) and the game didn't seem to have a way of switching back to using a controller after I set it to use the keyboard and mouse control scheme.

In the end, Bully was one school of play that I just had to drop out of.

Footnote: This game was the first one I've played here that gave me an opportunity to compare versions across platforms where there was a significant improvement of design. (BloodRayne is pretty much the same over PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube.) I'll have some interesting choices ahead as I get to games that have HD remakes - do I keep to the original version of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, or play the PS3 upgraded remakes?