Sunday, March 15

Double Dragon Neon Review (PS3): Hair Metal


"Why can't games just be fun anymore?" - Redundant Internet Dickhead.

This is near enough the quote I've read in numerous comments and forum posts across the web. Before GamerGate, before the Hitman: Absolution trailer, people (usually identifying as "gamers") have sought to trivialise gross sexism by pointing out that the transgression has occurred in a medium known for the frivolity of scoreboards, acrobatic plumbers, and any other number of tropes that are difficult to take seriously.

I start with this acknowledgement because apart from seriously questionable costume choices and historical sexism, Double Dragon Neon is a thoroughly enjoyable sidescrolling beat-'em up. If you can swallow the recycled damsel in distress pretext for the ensuing two and a half hours, and some super sexualised women combatants, you'll have fun.

The combat system uses the best parts of side scrolling brawlers and fighting games like Street Fighter Alpha 3. Traditional kicks and punches can be mixed up to wind opponents where you can then launch, juggle and throw. You can follow up with attacks on downed opponents, and even set up group attacks if you've managed to stun two enemies simultaneously. Rounding out the arsenal is super moves (which drain an energy bar), running attacks, and the ability to roll and duck to set up "Gleam": a status which grants a boost to your attack. The wealth of offensive options means that the action never gets stale.

Boss fights also allow for variation. Most involve pattern recognition so you can beat on big people and/or monsters without taking damage. One even incorporates platforming into the mix, and the result is stellar. There's a sense of humour to some of the enemy designs that's better executed here than in your average brawler.


The learning curve is almost flat until you reach the final boss fight. I was caught unawares by one of the few enemies that could juggle me. The amount of damage they could deal was also significantly greater than any foe I previously encountered, so I had to wrestle frustration and the urge to destroy my controller.

Messing around with tapes was how I overcame the final fight. Equipping different tapes allows you to experiment with super moves and fighting styles, which in turn determine the amount of health you have, and your ability to take and deal damage. I'd played the entire game with "Training Wheels" on, but switching to an attack-heavy style meant I spent less time avoiding deadly attacks.

Double Dragon Neon is, on one hand, charming with its relatively-deep fighting system and its overt, eighties-flavoured sense of humour. This charm is then periodically dispelled by scantily-clad women begging "Punish me!" as they expire. There's a line between nostalgia and sexism that is carelessly walked here, but in the end, it's very easy to recommend provided you know what you'll find.

Wednesday, February 18

Parting of the Heavens

She holds back
Sparing others
In spite of herself

She should collapse
Cover us all in her misery
So we would feel but a prick

We owe her that

She deserves more
I'd give her everything
But I can't stave space and time

I have my own diseases

My worries are infinite
You'll not hear of them
Not in this dreary weather

You have my ears
Treasures that exist in many places
Make it rain 

It's dangerous to separate 


Friday, February 13

prayers for family

blessed are the absent fathers
and the thrones they can't rest on
they built the castle and tended the gardens
their sons can't wear their shoes
now they live in servants' quarters

blessed are the tireless mothers
they don't need our prayers
and they can't have our ears
ceaseless are their worries
we waited too long to listen

blessed are the youthful brothers
that could never grow up
weakened by empathy 
besieged by selfishness
separated to save themselves

blessed are the saintly sisters
who always look over their shoulder
afraid to be themselves
scared to share the truth
alone and searching for nothing

Sunday, February 8

Resident Evil: Revelations Review (3DS): Serious hardware

For the first time in ten years, I finished a survival horror game.

I blame Resident Evil 4, and the emergence of more gruesome fare such as Dead Space for leading me to shelve the genre almost entirely.  The former was the eminently playable, though horrifically violent match that lit the blaze that was an abundance of increasingly hyper violent horror titles. The fuel has started to dry up though, with tepidly received, relatively recent releases in each of the big series: from Resident Evil 6 to Silent Hill: Downpour.

I loved every minute of Leon S Kennedy's critically lauded adventure on the Gamecube, but after I finished RE4, my resolve gave out. I barely lasted an hour with its sequel, which was dismissed by the majority of outlets and players alike for the partner mechanic, which apparently toned down the scares. I couldn't handle the pressure of Dead Space 2's nightmare-inducing first act. I shied away from anything that looked even remotely frightening.

Enter Resident Evil: Revelations.

Released in 2012 and bought at launch, it sat in my collection almost unplayed until now for two reasons:
1.     I'm a big, fat scaredy-cat.
2.     Even with the Circle Pad Pro (CPP), the game was a monster to control.

Playing without Nintendo's custom-made peripheral made aiming a robotic affair, made playable only because I'd spent fifty-something hours using a similar button configuration to play Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker on the PSP. With the CPP, aiming was somewhat more fluid, but putting the system to sleep disconnected it. I'm a sleepy, lazy, fearful adult person, so I let it rest.

Enter the New Nintendo 3DS.

Not only is the latest iteration of the 3DS a bangin' fashion accessory, it also has this ugly little nubbin that works as a second analogue stick. It works well, to the point where moving the protagonists doesn't feel like operating an ornate heavy weapon from a bygone era. Finally, you're allowed to aim and move at the same time. As slow as that combined action is, it makes Jill et al infinitely more nimble than Leon was; meaning the intensity gets dialled back a notch.

The narrative at play in Revelations, as with all survival horror titles, is in an incomprehensible mess. You control multiple characters throughout, but the only real difference is that they have different voices and genders. You move slowly through corridors, you shoot abominations of the flesh with a variety of weapons. Sometimes you die, rarely is it overly gruesome. I could handle this combination of flavours, however bland they may have been.

There are some troubling sexual politics apparent in Revelations. From making light of stalking to every woman's combat outfit being puzzlingly designed to show off curves and bare skin. You'd figure that the prospect of infection with a deadly virus would lead the women of Resident Evil to ask for a functioning zip in Jill's case, or a second pant leg for Jessica's outfit in the second arc. Nope. Get those tits and pins out, ladies. Parker and Chris are covered from head to toe at all times though, so I'm glad at least some of the heroes will be free from the threat of infection.

I did feel as though the final act was unnecessary, and there's a distinct lack of variety in terms of enemy opposition, but I think this is what I needed if I was to reengage with the genre. Resident Evil: Revelations is an enjoyable romp, but if you're expecting an adrenaline-pumping roller coaster ride with jump scares hiding around every corner, look elsewhere.  

Recommended if you can find it cheap on any platform where dual analogue sticks are the norm, otherwise let it sink into the bargain bin.

(Image source: http://www.futura-online.com/blog/llega-resident-evil-revelations-a-nintendo-3ds/resident-evil-revelations-ns3ds-7/)

Wednesday, February 4

Irish Nurses

Elaine!
Do you remember me?
We drank wine and cider
You were loud

Elaine!
My wife made new friends 
Your confidant and shoulder
For tonight at least

Elaine!
I worked the catwalk 
I deceived you all
I'm terrified

Elaine!
My friend in double denim
He's taken, I swear
Leave him be

Elaine!
We crossed paths again
Your face said 'Fuck off'
I kept walking

Tuesday, January 27

Loot

Disappointment is a colour
A luminous emerald
Lighting the dark of the moon

Is there nothing more tragic?
Hours farming redundant green
No uses other than scrap

No better swimming in blue
Players rehearse for purple
Striving for nothing but gold

Monday, January 26

Current

Life happens around me
Normally content to ride with it
Only when it slows 
Flows at half speed
You see it all
The potential
Washed away in the current
Careless words stain
Warnings to those who can't comprehend
Who would, but can't now
The current's strong again
They're being carried away
They're going under
They're drowning
You couldn't save them if you tried
If you stayed
If you fished for hours and pulled them out
If you thought to do this years ago
It's too late
They'd swim out if they could
When they could cross their heart
And hope to die
Now they just hope to die