Monday, February 25, 2008

Keeping the Beat

A good run in Gungrave is all about pacing. Shooting is such an afterthought that it's a trivial affair finishing off a screen full of enemies. Of course, the real challenge comes from trying to string those screens together into a nice Beat count. This means killing them slowly, hitting the shot button deliberately instead of hammering away, keeping the last thug alive until the next one appears. This also means juggling the risk of closing in, exposing yourself to more gunfire, with the reward of keeping the combo going.

Pair this depth with my meager performance (I only got the fourth Demolition Shot at the very end of the game), and I've got more than enough reason for a second play-through before I take on Gungrave: Overdose. Luckily, it's a pretty short ride once you know what you're doing.

Friday, February 22, 2008

No More Assassins

No More Heroes is done, Gungrave is progressing, and The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai is awesome. Now, to ruminate over picking up Mass Effect again…

Monday, February 18, 2008

Back from for the Grave

Maybe I'm on an assassin kick right now, because I decided to start playing Gungrave. I intended to start playing it right after I finished watching the series, but unsurprisingly I was sidetracked by obligations and other distractions. Now I'm a month off of the final episode, mind still fresh with the enjoyment I derived from watching, and I hoping to relive some of that same enjoyment. I had played Gungrave briefly before, but this was without a real understanding of the game system, without a real drive or focus and without the appreciation for the extended, though divergent, anime.

It's fun. It's fun to keep the shot button held down, scanning from enemy to destructible object to enemy again in an effort to keep the Beat Count up and the combo going. It's fun to dive forward, to fade away, guns ablaze as they switch to fully automatic. It's fun to slowly approach my opponents, never letting up on the gunfire, only to swat them aside with my coffin (yes, my coffin). It's fun, and it looks good.

In fact, it might be the implied sense of style that's got me the most enthralled. It's a fairly simple game, but the way you can take bullets without flinching, the way you can cut through thugs with ease, the way you do most of it at the same slow, methodically stride, it all implies that you're not only good enough to kill, you're good enough to put on a show at the same time.

Gungrave and No More Heroes are a little alike in that regard, but whereas No More Heroes shows its personality through flashy swordplay and over-the-top suplexes, Gungrave does it through precision (for the most part) gunplay. If your facing anything susceptible to gunfire, you'll hit it, not because of auto-homing, but auto-targeting. Grave was one of the best assassins, and his death has done nothing to deteriorate his skills. He'll hit whatever he aims at, and his undead condition means he can do it without worrying about return fire.

Travis Touchdown, a brass, cocky sonofabitch who kills to prove whose the best. Beyond the Grave, a ghost with a purpose and a taste for revenge. Both kill with élan. Travis, with speed and brutality. Grave, with thought and thoroughness. Different edges of the same fatally beautiful blade.

No More Complaints

After a bit of hesitance from a tedious start, I'm approaching the last ranking match of No More Heroes with eager anticipation. Each new UAA member, each Assassination Gig, each new piece of clothing has led to a new reason to pick up the controller everyday. Even after the game falls into routine, each time through is, for the most part, new in some way. New enough, at least, to keep me slashing away with no regard for how close I am to making my next payment.

Of course, I can't deny that the major appeal is still the unending torrent of style the game teems down. If I'm not getting giddy over the plethora of T-shirts to be bought and found (Sniper and Pimpin' among my favorites), I'm plowing through nameless thugs with move bravado than finesse. As fun as the gameplay has gotten (with it's hidden tactics like parrying), the eye candy (more aesthetic then technical)  has gotten just as appealing.

If there's anything troubling me about the game (aside from the slowdown; think how glorious the game would look if it always ran at 60 fps), it's the prospect of playing through again on Bitter difficulty. I loved many of the more unique missions (the beginning of Bad Girl's stage, running down bad guys on the Schpel Tiger was exceptional), but doing the story all over again just to unlock everything else makes it unlikely I'll do so in the near future. I'd love to play through it again, eventually, but my irrationally need to complete will make saving the rest of No More Heroes for a later time a struggle.

Still, I'm going to enjoy upgrading my Tsubaki Mk-III, buying the last of the available T-shirts (I hope there's another one in the Bearded Sun series) and saving up for my final battle. Oh, and I hope I get to take on that punk Henry.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

No More Tactics

Losing my DS was a slight downer, but I haven't given much thought to it. It's a bit of an inconvenience, but I've been meaning to upgrade to a Lite anyway. I'm more worried about losing my copy of Tactics Ogre, right when I was getting into the game. It's a shame so many Atlus games have low production numbers, as replacing the cart was a bit of a hassle. Two weeks and one bootleg later, I've got a replacement coming to me.

It'll be awhile 'til I get back to playing it, though. No More Heroes will see to that.