As an Australian guy who has zero understanding of American Football beyond reading the rules page on Wikipedia about an hour ago, I’m practically overqualified to make recommendations on the direction of one of the most successful sports gaming franchises of all time. Here is Madden 2159. Or as i like to call it, the best Madden game ever.
Madden 2159 is the only logical destination for this series. This box art should explain the general idea that I think this series needs to go in.
T-101 provides expert robot commentary
Humans will still play football with the master race of robots, but only because of ridiculous EEO laws that robots cannot seem to remove due to their unwavering moral compass when it comes to employment. You can see in this screenshot below a player who is about to score a touchdown before he was tackled and his spine shattered.
Amazingly, EA are yet to contact me about turning this into a real game. Get ahead of the game, EA. We’ll all make billions!
Until next time,
Dr Ruffle B. Berg
Professional time machine enthusiast | Looking for Sarah Connor
I wrote a very comprehensive guide on how to create some modern day video game box art. The guys at Kotaku were nice enough to run it and you should probably go read it and agree with me.
I’m totally right, right?
I don’t buy it when people say JRPG games are dead. They’re not dead; you just have to look a little harder to find the great ones. Is Resonance of Fate one of the great ones? Sure, but it’s still kind of awful at the same time.
The main characters in this game are Vashyron: The epitome of the father figure, tough guy, seen-it-all in his past type. Leanne: The good looking but awkward girl that seems so carefree it’s worrying. And finally, Zephyr, the “I don’t walk to talk about it” attention seeking lady faced teen that has pretty much become the norm in games like this. I imagine him being the kind of person that posts those useless moody updates on facebook looking for likes. They play to their archetypes pretty much throughout the whole game, and I like that. Sure, the dialogue gets a bit predictable because of it. But these characters are sympathetic and the occasional funny line actually made me like them after a few hours. Well, not Zephyr. He’s an insufferable douchebag. I was actually hoping he would die early. Sadly not.
I would talk about the story, but to be honest I don’t actually know what the hell happened. You’ll spend 75% of the game doing fetch quests like going into dungeons to get bottles of wine for rich people or cold medicine for one of your sick party members. If you’re looking for an engaging story of FF7 quality, look elsewhere. Things are explained very slowing and very poorly. It’s told via end of chapter cutscenes that usually have very little to do with the player. Actually very little to do with the player is quite a good description. It’s almost as if two different games are happening. You’ll be doing your quests as the player, fighting monsters and collecting items. And at the end of a chapter you’ll just see a cutscene of some other people somewhere else talking about things you have no idea about. It has zero context until about 20 hours in and even then you feel like most of the explaining is happening when you’re off doing something else. This game doesn’t know what tone it wants. You’ll switch from dark comedy and sex filled innuendo to scenes filled with melancholic drama from chapter to chapter. They work individually, but they don’t really make for a great overall story.
But what about the game part of the actual game? Well, it’s brilliant. Seriously, it’s amazing. It takes the usual turn based RPG formula of characters on one end of the screen and enemy on the other and makes it something completely unique, complex and engaging. You have two different types of damage; normal damage that doesn’t do a lot but is permanent and scratch damage. This is damage that absolutely drains the enemies life but isn’t permanent. Basically, you need to scratch someone and then finish them off with normal damage. It means you need to utilize your entire team and simply pressing attack every time it’s an option will get you killed quickly. Different weapons will do different damage. Things like your position on the map, the type of movements you’re making and when you decide to strike all make huge differences on the outcome of encounters. The game becomes fantastic the first time everything clicked and I actually understood the system and exactly how deep it was. The learning curve is very steep and I spent my fist 10 or so battles completely clueless. But one you get it, you’re hooked.
What I loved about this system is that it doesn’t hold your hand one bit. Here is the battlefield; the strategy is up to you. And you will need a good plan going into fights. It’s less about grinding and simply having a higher level or better gear than your enemy. You need to actually plan your attack, where will I move on the battlefield, who will I use this turn? What ammo is better against what? What type of attack will I use? How will my moves impact my characters 2 turns from now? Encounters are won by clever movements and well placed shots. It’s so refreshing to see a JRPG try something different and not be afraid to take to its extreme. This is the furthest thing from your typical combat system and it’s awesome. How many other JRPG games can say they have a combat system so deep that you can you could only really master it on your second playthrough? Not many.
Visually, it’s a mixed bag. While the detail and creativity that has gone into the enemies and the bosses in particular will have you wanting to replay it just to see it again, the world, people and towns are bland. Not a lot of variety has gone into the environments both in and outside of battle. It won’t be long before you’re seeing the exact same industrial area battle zones over and over again. This coupled with the fact that there’s just not a whole lot to see in this game, I was bored with the world quite quickly. Being bored is actually quite impressive in a game with art design this good. The world looks like the inner workings of a giant clock. I don’t know why they didn’t make a big deal out of this; it’s a clever idea that is never taken anywhere.
The game has this whole dress up thing where you’re encouraged(?) to mix and match different outfits for your characters. I didn’t understand this system at all. I was about 45 hours in before I bought a single piece of clothing I didn’t just find from a treasure chest. What’s the point? Nothing I can do will make these characters anything other than what the developers wanted them to be. I don’t see how me spending my money on the most fashionable shades or a shirt that makes Zephyr look even more effeminate (If that’s possible) will add to my connection with these characters. I know playing dress-up is big in Japan. I’m guessing something has been lost in translation. If you’re going to include throwaway features like this, at least give me a reason to care beyond that I may randomly be into this shit.
Thankfully the games other customization feature isn’t a completely pointless addition. You can customise your guns with different barrels, clips, scopes and other add-ons. Given the limited amount of space you have to do this I found the choice or what guns will specialize in what areas like speed, number of bullets of just damage was a difficult choice. I found it wasn’t really worth it to have every gun on every character be an all-round type. I needed to make each weapon have a purpose. Each would play a part in my battle strategy. Either do massive scratch damage, unload bullets quickly to break enemies or just do incredible damage. How many other JPRG games can say they make you think about your weapon this much? Usually it’s just choose it and use it with one or two additions if you’re lucky. RoF took that to a whole new level.
Overall this game is full of some pretty good ideas but only one of them is really fleshed out enough to its full potential. Granted, it’s the most important one, the one that you’ll spend most of your time with. And if one superb feature is enough for you to overlook the shortcomings of the others, then get this. It’s one of the best JRPG games released in years. It’s just a damn the developers didn’t have more time to create a story, world and characters that were as great as the combat system is. This isn’t a bad game, it’s an unfinished one.
To be fair, SEGA never gave this game a shot at being a success. If giving it almost no pre-release press was bad enough, they decided to release it just one week after Final Fantasy XIII had hit shelves. Making sure the majority of your audience was busy with the most eagerly anticipated JRPG game on current consoles to release RoF wasn’t smart marketing on SEGA’s part, to say the least. I don’t know what the endgame was there, maybe trying to ride the wave of FF popularity? Whatever their intention was, all that ended up happening was that RoF got lost in the haze of FF and no one bought it. It’s a shame, even with its problems RoF is a far better game than anything Square has developed in half a decade.
I’d really like to see a sequel to this game be made sometime. Or maybe just that awesome combat system put into another tri-Ace developed game. I now that Valkyrie Profile and Star Ocean did similar things with their battle systems. But it never quite clicked as well as it does in this game. Pretty much all the problems I mentioned above could have been ironed out with time and maybe a bit more cash. But I know that’ll never happen. SEGA own the RoF IP and given that it didn’t do so well outside of Japan, we are unlikely to see another console version.
Besides, tri-Ace are developing for the FF series now and if Square really didn’t want to rush their most profitable series into the grave (more than they already have, that is), they would give complete control to them. Hell, the stagger system in FF13 was a total rip off of the scratch damage system from RoF anyway. May as well let Square take their copying to its logical conclusion and have tri-Ace make the whole thing.
I’m willing to forgive a lot for some awesome gameplay. And this game has a lot that needs to be forgiven. The characters are boring, the world is bland, the missions are repetitive and the story just kinda sucks. But, damn. That combat system is awesome…
There aren’t many video game series that can claim they were universally loved by gamers and praised by critics for years, but the Tony Hawk games are one of those series. In my early years of high school literally all my friends had this game. None of us were skaters but we loved this game to death. The controls were so awesome. The tricks so cool and pulling off those stupidly long combo chains that went on for what seemed like 100 different tricks were so satisfying to land. You’d play a level for hours trying to collect everything or find every hidden easter egg and it never got boring. I can still remember that intro of THPS2 with Rage Against the Machine’s Guerrilla Radio blasting. Good times. It’s no wonder that still to this day many people consider it one of the greatest video game series of all time.
Unfortunately the games have been steadily declining in quality and popularity (Does anyone even remember American Wasteland, Downhill Jam, Project 8 or Proving Ground?) ever since the Pro Skater heyday with the last nail in the coffin being Shred; a game released to such a poor critical and commercial response that Activision put the entire series on hold and axed the development team. How badly did Shred do? It sold 3000 copies in its first week on sale. Those are shockingly bad numbers for any boxed retail game let alone one that a publisher has spent who knows how many millions researching and manufacturing a peripheral specifically for. To give you an idea of how badly that game flopped. The recent HD remake of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater sold 120,000 copies in its first week. The fact that Activision has now released a HD remake of the first game is a clear indication that they have raised the white flag. They’ve given up trying to progress with this series and are just going to re-release what they know was good. That’s fine in the short term. But you’ll eventually run out of games to give the HD makeover to before you end up in the part of your catalogue that killed this IP in the first place.
Why did these games get so terrible as time when on? I can think of a few possible reasons. Activision saw more potential in other series in the later years and gave less development time/money to this one. No other skating games meant any need for innovation in the genre was effectively gone. And my personal favourite, the developers had completely run out of ideas after the first 4 games and had to just slap the Tony Hawk name on any game to meet a quota. Take your pick.
It’s not entirely fair to say that it was only the quality of the games that caused a decline in the popularity of this series. Some of the blame has to go to Tony Himself. When was the last time he was winning competitions or doing never before done tricks or even just on TV at all? It’s safe to say that he hasn’t exactly maintained the same level of exposure that he did when these games would have been pitched to the publishers. I’m no skater, so I don’t know if Tony is still relevant in the skating culture. Either way he’s no longer relevant in the video game world. Maybe it’s time to pass on the torch onto someone else. But who? Who can gamers and skaters get behind as their new poster child for the sport in video game form?
For a while it seemed like Bam Margera of Jackass fame was going to take the title. He got as much screen time as Tony Hawk did in Underground 2 that I was certain Activision were grooming him for his own series of video games. So why didn’t they? Well, my theory is that Bam was so prominent in THUG 2 because this was the time when Jackass, its corresponding spin offs and the cultural zeitgeist of filming you and your buddies doing stupid stunts was at the height of its popularity. Jackass and the Tony Hawk games had found themselves with a common audience. So it seemed logical to give Bam top billing. But, as the mass hysteria of Jackass started to fade, so did Bam’s chances of getting his own spin off series. It’s a shame, he brings enough crazy with him that a series featuring him would have probably been the best option.
Ubisoft made a decent attempt to have someone else become the face of skateboarding games with Shaun White Skateboarding (And Shaun White Snowboarding). Who’s Shaun White? He’s an Olympic gold medal winning snowborder and a professional skateboarder who has plenty of awards to his name. So he’s really good at what he does. People seem to like him and he’s got character. Ticks all the boxes, right? So why aren’t we eagerly counting down the days till the next White IP? Well, because the games Ubisoft has made so far have been awful. I was given the review code of Shaun White Showboarding and could only put up with it for about 2 hours before I gave up. Granted, I’m not exactly that invested in the sport. So maybe I was never going to fall in love with it. But even if I was a huge fan, the game is just poorly designed and more importantly, it’s just not fun to play.
It doesn’t matter how much star power you’ve got on board, if a game is bad then you’ve just killed your opportunity to create a series. That’s the difference between the Shaun White games and the Tony Hawk games (The early ones at least) those games had the star power as well as being well made, accessible, challenging and really fun. Ubisoft just kind of hoped they could cash in on the name with a half developed game and it didn’t pay off. I don’t ever remember anyone buying the Tony Hawk games because it was a Tony Hawk vehicle. People (myself included) bought them because word got around that they were brilliant games. Unfortunately I think the Shaun White ship has sailed. Not just the skateboarding but the snowboarding as well. EA’s 2012 SSX game has pretty much become the new benchmark in snowboarding and it just doesn’t seem logical for Ubisoft invest any more money into a skateboarding series that had a lukewarm response from critics and didn’t sell that many copies.
Maybe skating games don’t need a new posterboy? Other skating games have done well with no famous names attached. Still, i can’t shake the feeling that we need a competitor to the Skate games. One that focuses on the professional side of the sport rather than the more on the street approach we have today. Skating games are in desperate need of a new face, but who?