11:47 PM - Iron Fist
One of the reasons I got a PSP was to play games from genres I had not tried for a long time. I'm primarily a PC gamer and PCs, though technically capable, aren't the platform of choice for genres like fighters. I hadn't played a fighter since Soul Edge a decade ago so I made it a point to get Tekken: Dark Resurrection last week and it's been eating up my gaming time since.
The region 3 version of the game includes an instruction pamphlet in Chinese but the game is in English and so is the manual.
The presentation is of the highest quality and this is a title to use when showing off your PSP. You have to see it in action to appreciate just how good a game can look and sound on a portable device.
The controls didn't bother me too much. I initially had trouble choosing between the d-pad and the analogue pad for movement. I ended up going with the d-pad but diagonals are a bit tricky and performing a quarter circle (e.g. up->diagonal up->forward) takes dexterity and finesse.
(Bandai Namco released the game in limited quantities with a d-pad attachment which apparently helps and it can sometimes be found sold separately on eBay.)
There are over thirty characters to choose from and the character design range from the X-TR3M3 to the flat-out silly.
It's particularly strange being thrashed by giggly little girlies with frilly dresses. The thing is it's really a no-win situation. If you get beaten, it's embarassing. You've just been beaten up by a girl in a frilly dress. Thanks, Bandai Namco. Why don't you just chop off my testicles now? And if you happen to win, you've just beaten up a girl in a frilly dress. Way to go, tough guy. What's next on the to-do list today? Kicking puppies?
Thankfully, the game does not feature puppies but it does have a bear, a panda as well as a kangaroo and its joey. The kangaroos are especially bad. I lost one fight with them in five seconds.
(Hint: If they start swinging their boxing gloves around and coloured lights start appearing, take action.)
(Hint: Hitting them would be a good action.)
The characters differ in fighting technique and they each have their own reasons for joining the Iron Fist Tournament. These motivations are shown in prologues done in comic book style with voice-over narration. Each character also has an epilogue depicted with a fantastic cinema-quality CGI movie which is unlocked once the final boss has been beaten in Story Mode. Some of the endings are humourous, some uplifting, some enigmatic and a few are quite dark but they're all a treat to watch.
My character of choice is Dragunov, a uniformed Spetsnaz officer who uses sambo. He's got an arrogant demeanour, an unhealthy pallor and a scarred visage suggesting a devil-may-care attitude towards shaving.
To encourage players to keep on playing, the game awards money for winning fights, tournaments and mini-games. You can use the gold to unlock movies for characters in case you don't want to play through the Story Mode but the main money sink is character customisation.
Customisation is a lot of fun. You can make characters cooler, more badass or goofier by changing their costumes, colours and accessories. I'm currently working on earning enough gold to give Dragunov a mantle to go with his sharp-looking hat. I don't think Russian special forces usually wear capes and mantles in battle but it looks very stylish so they should definitely look into it. It would put the special in "special forces."
In terms of difficulty, I haven't had too much to complain about despite not being adept at this sort of game. The game has a few practice modes and these include tutorials for moves and combos. The tutorials are really necessary because some of the combos are so complex I have trouble believing anyone bar adolescents juiced up on sugar and caffeine could execute them.
Still, I managed to do all right with the basic moves and did sufficiently well in Arcade Battle mode that I earned the 3rd dan rank. Of course, this was at the Easy difficulty level. I was getting a little bored with the lack of challenge and moved on to Medium difficulty thinking I was ready.
Well, I thought wrong.
At Medium difficulty, the AI can be devastating with its use of combos and special moves. The most annoying move is the floater (or "juggle" as fans refer to it). Your opponent strikes and you float gently in the air allowing your foe to continue reducing your health bar without fear of retaliation. This can go on for several seconds and while that may not seem like much but bear in mind fights against the AI usually last about 10 seconds. So you're hanging in the air being pummelled and you can't do anything about it. I usually spend moments like that appreciating why violence is not a particularly good way to solve problems.
My win/loss percentage quickly plummeted to about 49 per cent and I'm now a humble 1st dan. On the plus side, victories are so much more satisfying now since I have to work hard to earn them.
Iron Fist links:
- GameTrailer review. I don't think much of the site's reviews -- the Monster Hunter Freedom review was misleading and hypercritical -- but it must be said the videos do an excellent job of demonstrating gameplay elements.
- Tekken Zaibatsu. This is the fansite to go to if you're looking to become adept at the game.
- Official Japanese site. The text is in Japanese but there are wallpapers to download and streaming videos of the trailer and intro.
- Movies. YouTube has most of the character epilogue movies. Asuka's is amusing while Devil Jin's is dark.