Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- First Impressions

It’s a pretty titanic moment in my “gaming career,” in my lifetime, even — although it doesn’t feel as jarring or emotional as it sounds. Having played Guilty Gear for nearly a decade, and Accent Core, which was the latest, and longest-running game in the series (approximately 2007 until 2013), it definitely was a big deal to play the next generation Xrd -SIGN- last night.

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Persona 4 Arena Ultimax Impressions

It’s been a long wait for the sequel to Persona 4 Arena, especially since there’s always plenty of Japanese footage to ogle. There’s been a surprisingly short amount of time between the JP and US disk release, so while I’ve been messing around with the overseas version leading up to Sept. 30th, I got it now, all to myself. Instead of doing a proper review, I’d rather lay out a few thoughts, informally.

If ArcSys x Atlus’s main goal was to shake things up, they dramatically succeeded. Those who hate one-hit-decisive games and thought the original Arena was like that, Ultimax is considerably amped up. Everyone seems buffed, crazier, stronger (unfortunately, some less). If full-screen supers, near-instant teleports, and often easy 4k-6k combos. Offense is still, by far, the best defense, and characters who can spam and reset easily are top-tier. This feeling goes out of the park with Shadow characters, who, once they build up the meter, can finish an opponent in one combo.

That said, the game feels even more accessible and beginner-friendly that ever. Maybe that’s just my impression, but somehow the game feels very transparent. All the special moves in the game are still just quarter circle motions, and there’s a new mechanic that does moves automatically by holding square, or A. I’d love to entice some new players, and I really enjoy teaching, but don’t think I ever stuck with a student for very long. Most of my friends just aren’t into it.

That accessibility is just a smoke shield, however. While you can easily get away with doing practical, simple combos, in order to get max damage from hits you need to sweat quite a bit. I’m speaking mainly from Yukiko’s perspective (because how could I speak for everyone’s combo learning curve). Not sure why or how, but they made her combos much harder than ever before. Whereas in the first game she had to make loops with Maragis, the ground fire, and do those while holding and letting go at the right time to release Agi explosions, this time around she has to do the same while doing insane cross-ups under the opponent and with tighter timings. Yes, to do combos with SB Agi, she needs to run under the enemy while they are popped up in the air from a Maragi and then continue the combo. It does sound hard, and the execution isn’t that insane, but the timings literally are 1-2 frames apart.

I think ArcSys is trying to layer the difficulty in Persona, and to be honest, can’t blame them. The caveat is that Yukiko can do simpler combos, but they just won’t be for that much damage. To get that highest damage or appropriate corner carry or okizeme set up really takes perfection. I suppose that’s a plus, and beginners won’t tell the difference as they do auto combos or just simpler, custom ones. The game is significantly more volatile and explosive, and some characters really amp up their damage a lot. If I can offer some critique personal to Yukiko Amagi, I think they sort of lost her character concept. Not in her combos, but her relatively weak confirms. It’s unclear what her game plan is supposed to be.

A feeling I get after playing for some time is that the matches feel really similar to one another. There’s a lot of repetition, which I’m not sure comes from a smaller number of tools or what. It’s not that the command list is small, but the game is very much about spamming and repeating what’s effective. In spite of games like Guilty Gear having characters spam things similarly, those things always felt like tools, rather than mere things to throw out. Think about Sol’s Gunflame, Baiken’s tatami, Anji’s butterfly, or Millia’s discs.

In conclusion, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is weird, zany, explosive, and unpredictable. Anyone who’s looking for a more “sane” experience should head over to Blazblue. I didn’t play the story mode yet, just Arcade, and this time around I’m looking forward to finding out what happens in Arena. Just to see Koromaru interact with the cast. He’s so cute!

Wot I’ve Been Up To

The reason for my Rock, Paper, Shotgun-inspired title is because I applied there recently, as they’ve had an opening. In any case, thought I’d finally update this forsaken blog. And restore it from such status. Reminds of the Forsaken in WoW. I’m thinking about stopping playing WoW.

I wrote about PAX East sometime ago, specifically about the diversity side of it. In July, I happened to be in San Francisco, just in time to attend GaymerX2, the second gaming convention specifically tailored for LGBTQ folk. It was quite, quite small, as far as conventions go, taking up three relatively little rooms with narrow hallways. Somehow, I didn’t really draw in the atmosphere and the awesomeness that I’ve seen many of the attendees rave about. Maybe it’s because I didn’t go with any friends and didn’t make any friends there. That would be the main reason, I think. But in any case, I still attended some great panels and listened to a few famous speakers, as well as played a few indie games.

Those are some of my new posts at IndieGameMagazine, but there’s also our monthly digital magazine. It’s not very expensive, and it brings back at least a little bit of that joy of monthly gaming publications. And it supports IGM directly, so it’s the best thing you can do if you care about games writing and particularly the indie kind. Check it out here.

As for me, I’ve also been doing a part-time internship downtown Chicago covering the human resources industry. It sounds very boring, but it’s paid, and that’s what I need right now. The company is called Human Capital Media, and they have four different magazines, and I have articles under each one. This is valuable experience, and something I can do that’s different from gaming.

When it comes to games, there really aren’t any that I’m particularly excited about. I still play Blazblue and Guilty Gear, and although Blazblue is getting a new update soon, I’m yearning a little more to upcoming Persona 4 Arena 2, which beefs up the cast as well as the soundtrack, which is intriguing to me. Other than that, I’m trying a little bit to get off games that require commitment, like Diablo 3 and WoW, and go for experiences that are actually finite. I’ve started replaying Neverwinter Nights and planning to write a post on that soon. I should finally get to Journey as well. I know right, I didn’t play it yet. I have a catching up list, and am getting on it. Till next post!

Wrapping your head around fighting games

That’s Faust from Guilty Gear. He’s excited to see you too.

I can’t believe it but, tomorrow and Sunday, I’ll be playing in a fighting game tournament whose prize is more than what my parents make in a month. Frosty Faustings VI is happening this weekend, the 6th edition of a winter tournament in Chicago.

The special thing about this tourney is that a guy from Chicago, who has been living in Japan for I don’t know how many years, comes back to the Windy City to host the tournament specifically: Elven Shadow. He doesn’t blog anymore, but you can check it out here. Frosty Faustings comes from Faust, the character Elven uses in Guilty Gear.

I had the chance to play him a few times since his recent arrival in town; and, given what the level of play in Japan is, he’s a tough one to keep up with. His play is good enough to stun the opponent with a few combos, he knows all kinds of setups. It’s all about the setups.Faust, a crazy doctor who pokes you with a giant scalpel, seems ridiculously good in this version. He throws out items which create safe situations for him. In the air, he can throw a bomb that’s a great for the neutral game, and he has great range on all his normals. My characters (Baiken/Anji) need to get up close and pressure to do much, so as you may imagine, this isn’t easy for them.

Baiken

Anj

But there’s more to Elven Shadow than this. He’s got amazing reactions and reflexes. He’ll anti-air anything, block most mixups, and stop you from getting in with throws. Like a machine. The most I hoped for were random hits. This guy’s on an entirely different level.

After playing him, I felt strange. Deep in thought, yet inconclusive. Indecision is my worst disease. Do I really want to play fighting games that seriously? Since playing regularly with the local “scene” this summer, I feel like I lost my childish, innocent “fun” I used to have. After getting a few good spots (like 3rd or 2nd in small tourneys) maybe I’ve started thinking I’m destined for more. Like hey, maybe I got a shot at this.

This weird mindset sunk really recently, but I know it’s not good. It’s playing like I’ve got something to prove. It’s depressing me. I don’t feel like I want to do this anymore. After this tournament, I’ll probably take a long break.

Valve Apologizes for DireTide, Tourney Success

On Friday the 8th, something unexpected happened over at the Dota 2 blog. Valve finally spoke up about the recent controversy regarding DireTide – the Halloween event and update for its free-to-play MOBA. In a post titled “Not My Best Work!” the company explained the recent snafu.

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Looking back on PlayStation 2; Nostalgia and Classics

Now is a good time to devote some love and attention to one of the most important boxes in my life, the one with which I spent so many days and evenings. Seriously, I wonder how many hours I’ve actually spent playing on the PlayStation 2 – over 200 hours for Soul Calibur II alone. At GameNTrain.com, I wrote a list of “10 Unforgettable Classics” for the console. Of course, the list is intended to be short, controversial, to incite comments.

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