If you're just joining us now, then welcome.
If you've been following along since Part 1, welcome back.
Although there are dozens and dozens of games that could have been written up over the course of this series but didn't get mentioned, it's time to bring Broken Love to a close. For now, at least.
Cubivore? Alpha Protocol? Knights Contract? Siren? Don't worry, I'm sure your time will come…
Anyway, it's been a lot of fun and I'm extremely grateful to everyone who contributed. The feedback I've gotten been very positive as well, so clearly there are a lot of players out there who don't mind spending time with something that's a little rough around the edges—and you know what? It warms my heart. It really does.
Here's one last night of hot, sweaty, slightly uncomfortable and partially awkward love.
2002's Prisoner of War is clearly low-budget and poorly executed from the second you boot it up. The stiff characters animate like marionettes, dim-witted AI saps all the intrigue out of sneaking around, and the squirrelly camera can lead to a lot of unintentional mishaps. Prisoner of War also fails to portray the horrors of war with its hands-off, Rated-T depiction of punishment in a prison camp, and by turning every Nazi soldier into a cross-eyed buffoon—but looking past all the flaws, I enjoyed every second of it.
The part of Prisoner of War that really hooked me was the constantly ticking clock.
An early mission required me to grab a key from the guard barracks. I waited until nightfall to make my daring attempt. It wasn't until after I crept across the camp that I realized all the guards were sleeping, making the theft impossible until daybreak.
Another lengthy mission later in the game came undone when I accidentally missed morning roll-call, resulting in a camp-wide search of all the hiding places.
The need to maintain a keen awareness of the schedule at the camp adds suspense (and an extra step of planning) to the proceedings that isn't like any other stealth game.
It took nearly a decade, three console generations, and some "epic" help for gamers to get their hands on Too Human. This flawed gem from developer Silicon Knights was anything but a watershed moment for the developer. I believe this game failed with the core gaming demographic is because of two things: Denis Dyack and combat controlled by the right stick.
Denis Dyack was very outspoken leading up to the release of Too Human. He posted on NeoGaf, beat his chest on the now defunct 1UP Yours podcast, and was turned into the boy who cried wolf. Gamers were tired of hearing Denis rave about his opinions on a "one-console future" and how the gaming press hurts the industry. Instead of becoming a patron for his game, he became a shining example of why some publishers and PR are afraid to let developers become involved with the promotion of a title. At the end of the day Denis Dyack's mouth hurt Silicon Knights and Microsoft Game Studios' bottom line.
As for the right stick combat? In 2008 fans of the Action-RPG genre were used to button-mashing on consoles. Too Human set out to give players a new way to play. The game was designed so that whichever way you moved the stick, the main character attacked in the same direction.
I felt this was a vast improvement over other games in the genre of the kind that are still being produced today. For example, both Dragon Age II and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning use the same old button-mashing. Of course, Too Human's right stick combat was panned by critics, and by the time Silicon Knights released their next game (X-Men: Destiny) they'd gone back to the same button system every other game in the genre used.
Too Human is one of my favorite games of this generation, and one that I think gamers should revisit. In a world where gamers criticized Dragon Age II for being a button-mashing quick-time-event disaster, I believe that Too Human's combat would be a breath of fresh air. Of course, my love of the game still doesn't excuse the stupid Valkyrie cutscene every time you die…
Nothing beats turning on the old Wii and playing a game of Super Smash Bros. Brawl with friends. Despite being critically and commercially successful, Brawl is a game that does a lot of things right, it's broken in the sense that it tends to irritate gamers out there wanting a balanced and traditional fighting game experience.
Anyone familiar with fighters knows that there are characters that are just stronger than others, and that the community creates tiers based on their performance in tournaments. Of course, there are some players that will tell you to ignore tiers and to play with your favorites. This same community also tends to love using the word "broken" when describing a character, his moves, or the game's engine that allows certain unfair and unavoidable things during a match.
The object of play is to win rounds by using your attacks to knock your opponents off the stage. The problem with Brawl is that the game's engine is floaty and gives its aerial characters more of an advantage when recovering. It seems that the developers also overlooked other things such as infinite attacks and combos that can be exploited with ease. For example, Ness, one of my favorite characters, is vulnerable to Marth's infinite grab that prevents him from escaping no matter how many buttons you mash. Your opponent can easily just grab and hit you until he decides to finish you off with one swift forward attack.
Even if you play the game casually, you will realize some characters are just too overpowered. One of these is Meta Knight, a floaty character that has more pros than cons. Most of his attacks are hard to block, they have disjointed hit-boxes, and have more priority than other moves in the entire game. His unfair advantage has even led to some tournaments banning him altogether. Examples like these have even led players to tweak the game's code and release their own version of the game with modified presets and physics.
Some play it for fun, others play it for cash, but I play the Smash Bros. games for the nostalgia I experience when hearing its music and revisiting familiar worlds. Having grown up alongside Nintendo, experiencing a playable anthology of its history truly makes up for all its flaws.
Nowadays it seems that no one wants to play this four year-old game anymore; some players can't take it seriously as a fighting game, and others just don't use their Wiis that much. Not only that, but the lag during wi-fi matches saps some of the fun away too. Still, I have hope the next game will be just as good as, if not better than, Brawl.
With plans announced to develop a new Smash Bros. game, let's see if its creator Masahiro Sakurai can make the next one not only fun for all players, but also less frustrating for those who like to treat it as a decent, balanced fighting game.
During 2008, Atlus USA released a flood of small, niche RPGs. Among that flood was a little DS game known as Rondo of Swords. At first glance, Rondo looked like a simple Fire Emblem clone, and many dismissed it as such. Those who were willing to tackle it found a brutal tactical RPG with a very unique combat system.
Drawing the strongest comparison to Fire Emblem are the team-based grid combat and low-res graphics. That's where the similarities end. The game is turn-based, but in lieu of simply moving a character next to an enemy and attacking, players use the "route maneuver" system. In this system, characters travel along a path that can contain multiple enemies. This could mean having a party member move through and take out an entire group of enemies in a single attack. This method of combat is not without risk, as certain units have an ability called "zone of control" that can stop an attack mid-stream and leave the attacker vulnerable.
Combat options are not limited to the route maneuver system, as there are also characters who can cast spells, use ranged attacks, or perform other special moves. As characters attack or perform other helpful actions, they build up a momentum counter that will boost stats, but also make that character more of a target. There are also no generic filler characters here in terms of gameplay; each offers their own unique style of combat.
Rondo of Swords is light on story, so don't jump into it expecting a narrative wonder. This one is all about the gameplay, and like I said earlier, it can be brutal. For the few people who actually played Rondo, it would not be a surprise to learn that many rage quit before seeing ending credits. At least one mainstream reviewer openly admitted that the game beat him, instead of the other way around.
Rondo offers no difficulty options; it only offers pain.
As someone who tends to shy away from difficult games, it's unusual that I not only enjoyed Rondo of Swords, but also finished it. While tough, it avoids a lot of things that tend to annoy some like perma-death. It also allows players to restart a level if things aren't going well, keeping all experience in the process. Though easy to abuse (especially with certain characters) Rondo is a game that will make you think about your moves or pay the price. It moves beyond the norm and crafts a gameplay experience unlike anything else.
It may lack in graphical quality, have a shallow story, and an awkward interface, but if you're looking for something different, challenging, and unique you should really consider picking this one up.
[And with that, Broken Love has now come to an end. Feel free to check out parts 1, 2 and 3 if you like. Thanks for reading, and thanks for playing. Now, take this warm washcloth and go clean up. Oh, and don't forget to leave your money on the table before you leave… Tips appreciated, and tell a friend.]
Currently, he's got about 42 minutes a night to play because adulting is a timesuck, but despite that, he's a happily married guy with two kids who both have better K/D ratios than he does.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody at the office is looking, and his favorite game of all time is the first Mass Effect -- and he thought the trilogy's ending was Just Fine, Thanks.
Follow Brad on Twitter at @BradGallaway or contact him at bradgallaway a t gmail dot com