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Console Games PC Games

RIP Marvel Heroes

It’s funny, I am both sad that Marvel Heroes Omega is gone, and completely unsurprised by it.  MH has long been my most played game on Steam, and thoroughly scratched my Diablo itch by providing fun Action RPG gameplay in a non-obnoxious free to play model.  The writing was on the wall when David Brevik left Gazillion, and the slow decline of the game accelerated greatly in the past few weeks.

I’ve talked about Marvel Heroes before, and since that post I’ve added a few hundred more hours, though none in the past few months.  There are a few reasons I stopped playing, the biggest being the “Omega” rebranding.  That’s when Gazillion decided to redo most of the key systems in the game, in a lame cashgrab attempt at console ports.  For someone who had played the PC version off and on since the open beta, the abrupt shift in focus and controller-friendly control changes were annoying.  To top it off, the new Gaz CEO has a history of sexual harrassment so that’s another reason for Disney/Marvel to yank the license.

Marvel Heroes was a ton of fun the past few years.  Weekly events, a fair amount of content, tons of characters that played fairly different.  And characters from all aspects of the Marvel U.  You could have Rocket Raccoon standing next to Luke Cage and Doctor Doom.  The art improved immensely over the years.  The devs were responsive, and even though there were issues, it was clear they cared about making a great game.  Here’s hoping that the talent cut loose find jobs.

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Console Games PC Games Review

Game Thoughts – No Man’s Sky

I’m not calling this a review as I’m not that far in, but I already have a lot of complicated thoughts about No Man’s Sky.  Here they are in no particular order:

  1. Is it any good?  I don’t…know?  Seriously, I can see how some people can tune into it – there is something zen about scooting around a planet, finding the gear drops and cataloging animals.  I don’t know if that part of it is going to hold up, as there is no real progression there.  You can go to another different planet millions of times, but the steps you do are pretty much always going to be the same.
  2. The linear progression is too linear.  Your backpack and ship, save for one specific situation below, always increase by one notch of space when you improve them.  You are constantly juggling inventory.  There are so many crafting materials and parts you need that you never get ahead of it.  If you are going to have a limited inventory, you need a better balance of when you make the player have to make that keep/toss decision.  Every five minutes, every fracking time you land at a new shelter or whatever, is TOO MUCH.
  3. Sameness.  It’s a bit too easy to see “The Matrix” behind it all, as one of the Penny Arcade guys said yesterday, as there are only so many components they use to make up the creatures, and while the planets vary in numerous ways, it’s all within a very specific set of parameters.  For the ships, sure, they look different, but there literally nothing else about them that’s unique – you’re just checking a box to get one more bit of inventory space when you switch.
  4. Is there a story?  It seems like there is, and some of the the little side stories seem interesting, but it’s not (yet) the focus of the game.  We’ll see what happens as I get farther in.

It’s funny, I’ve written all of that, and if I look back it seems not very positive, but I DO want to play again.  It’s almost like, there are hints at a larger, more interesting story surrounding all of this and I just haven’t seen it yet.  I’m just not 100% convinced that the story actually exists, and that the treadmill of find minerals – slightly upgrade your stuff – repeat at a place only slightly different is worth sticking around long enough to find out.  I’ll revisit this and update it if I delve deeper.

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Console Games PC Games Review

Game Review – LEGO Marvel Super Heroes

I played a demo of the very first LEGO game, LEGO Star Wars, it seems like forever ago.  Since 2005, Traveller’s Tales has created similar games in numerous licensed worlds (DC comics, Indiana Jones, and Harry Potter among them), but the latest game, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, is definitely the pinnacle of the series.  Though that may be my inner Marvel fanboy talking.

The story is a humorous spin on the major comic events that are more and more prevalent nowadays – Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds is coming, and he’s hungry.  The Silver Surfer, his herald, is taken down by SHIELD and Iron Man, but his surfboard is taken by Loki and Dr. Doom, who plan to use the power from it to create a Doom-Ray of Doom (or so Doom thinks anyway).  But never fear, the vast majority of the top tier and second tier Marvel heroes are on the case!  X-Men, Fantastic Four, Avengers and more are covered, and while there are some power overlap, each character has it’s own unique charm.  It helps greatly that most, if not all, have their current voice actors from the cartoons voicing them, along with Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson.  The puzzles, for the most part, are inventive and fun.  The years of experience in this style of game show, and the addition of the varied powers makes sure a wide range of characters get used on a mission.  Is it difficult?  Not particularly, though the flying missions and races give me trouble – but those aren’t important to the plot, just side content.  It IS a game for kids, after all.

There is a LOT to find and do.  I’ve finished the main story line, but I’ve barely collected 25% of the things to find.  There are dozens of unlockable heroes and villains, and many have more than one costume.  You have to rescue Stan Lee once in each level, as well.  There are Deadpool bricks to find, and the Merc with the Mouth appears frequently, narrating the bonus levels found in the buildings in NYC.  You can freely roam the city as well as the Helicarrier, too.  Some of the best funny moments are found that way.

I played this on PC, and it looked amazing.  Tons of fun for the Marvel comics fan in your life.

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Console Games Featured

Vintage Gaming – Super Dodge Ball

Super Dodge Ball might just be the ideal game from the 8-bit era that you didn’t play.  It’s exactly what the title says, your team (USA in our NES version) battles dodge ball teams from around the globe in a tournament.  Each team (from places like Iceland, Kenya and China) had different strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes their dodge ball courts themselves provided difficulties, such as the Iceland court being…icy.  Each member of the teams could dash, jump, throw and catch the dodge balls, and also had superpowered moves if you timed them right while dashing or dashing/jumping.

If you check out the screenshots below, you might notice that it bears more than a passing resemblance to last week’s OGT entrant, River City Ransom.  That’s because, in Japan, there was a whole series of ‘Kunio-kun’ games (Kunio being the main character in most of them), with only a few making it over here.  SDB was made for a few other platforms, and is currently available via the Wii Virtual Console.  In addition to the tournament mode, you had 2 player VS play, as well as a schoolyard brawl mode (also 1 or 2 players).  There is one thing that makes Super Dodge Ball hard to enjoy in it’s original environment – there can be many times where there is too much activity on the screen and the characters flicker.  It was a limitation of the NES.  Still, I got past it easily and it shouldn’t stop you.

I consider Super Dodge Ball an ‘ideal’ NES game because it does exactly what you need it to do.  It’s easy to learn – your buddies could pick it up in a few minutes – but hard enough to entertain.  The same goofily endearing graphics from River City Ransom make nailing a guy with one of your super shots particularly fun.  It’s simple fun, and we can all use that.  Check it out, won’t you?

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Console Games PC Games Review

Game Review – Dishonored

I’ve been playing Dishonored off and on for a while now, and it’s got a lot going for it.  The world is a sort of Steampunk+Magic mix that’s right in my wheelhouse.  I’m fairly in practice with stealthy fighting techniques thanks to making it most of the way through Splinter Cell: Conviction, and Dishonored has a great feel for that sort of fighting – although the sword+gun/crossbow will never not look odd to me.  There are two main thrusts to the story – a rat-borne plague killing off mostly the poor, and the death of the Empress with the subsequent kidnapping of her daughter (for which you are blamed).  It’s a solid base for a game.

The combat is fun, especially if you excel at stealth games.  I’ve come to realize that I don’t, but I’m working on it.  The environments are pretty free to move around, and gives you quite a few ways to go about your missions, which at first center around helping a resistance movement rescue the young empress to be, and assassinate the bad guys.  The assassinations are fun, especially if you figure out the fun ways to take out your targets (I killed one by jacking up the heat in his steamroom).  You are rewarded with the better endings for keeping your ‘chaos’ down, minimizing casualties, but I’ve had a tough go of it myself.  Patience and outside the box thinking are key.

The problem I have, and it’s probably kept me from completing the game right away, is with the non-speaking hero.  Now, I have no problem with this normally.  One of my all-time favorite games, Dragon Age: Origins, has a hero that doesn’t speak.  Skyrim fits, too.   The difference being, you still feel like the world knows you are there as more than just a player character.  The less important NPCs feel no more fleshed out than the wandering townsfolk  in the original Final Fantasy.  “Here’s my line, let me deliver it to you.”  Not a problem in and of itself, but if you are a non-speaking hero, and you don’t have a cast of characters constantly with you to banter with (and build up your own view of you character based on those interactions) you are left with a blank slate wandering through the game.  I’m still attached to my Warden from Dragon Age, but I have no feelings at all towards Corvo.  He’s just PlayerGuy McBlastyblade.  This does not affect how much fun the mechanics of the game are – they are quite fun – but does affect my interest in the story.  With my limited gaming time, I need both to keep at it.

That being said, the missions I’ve made it through have been fun.  I botched my first assassination, which resulted in a bloody chase through the castle (who knew a guy in a powdered wig could move that fast?).  I think I’ll keep coming back, but other games will be able to pull me away, especially if they’ve got that story/mechanics sweet spot going.

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Console Games Featured PC Games

Dragon Age 3 Speculation, Part 3

Part 1Part 2

Part 3 of my look at what might come to pass for Dragon Age 3 is a look at what characters may return.  Both Awakening and DA2 had some appearances and references to previous characters, in fact they were thick on the ground for me at one point in DA2, and with the plots from the previous games building up to a potential climax in DA3, one has to think there will be quite a few appearances of your favorite characters.  I’ll list characters below and whether I think they’ll appear, and perhaps speculate in what capacity.  Feel welcome to join in!

Help control the pigeon population in Orlais, bring back Shale!

From Origins:

  • Alistair – He’s one of the tough ones.  It’s not yet certain that our saves from the previous games will be imported, so they may have to established a canonical outcome for him.  I think I banished him in my game that ended up being imported to DA2, but he could be King, or dead too.  Tough to imagine he’ll be heavily involved if the saves get imported because of that.  Don’t think many will be looking for him anyway.
  • Morrigan – Now we’re getting somewhere.  There is a MAJOR plot involving Morrigan left unresolved, with the baby.  I think she’s pretty likely to appear in some capacity.
  • Flemeth – A character this powerful, who has already appeared in two games?  Pretty likely to me.
  • Dog – Wishful thinking on my part, heh.  How long do Mabari live?
  • Wynne – I can see Wynne involved, as the Templar vs. Mages stuff will still need to be resolved.
  • Leliana – A favorite of mine, and should be involved as with Wynne above.  We see her at the end of DA2, and appears to be the Seeker’s (Cassandra) boss.  Would fit with the Templar/Mages stuff, as well as Warden related stuff thanks to her association with THE Warden.
  • Sten – A dark horse candidate.  We saw a lot more from the Qunari in DA2, especially with the inclusion of Mark of the Assassin.  Might be covered in a DLC or expansion though.
  • Zevran – Seems unlikely to me.
  • Ohgren – He grew on me throughout DA:O and Awakening.  Doesn’t seem needed though, and if the game focuses on Orlais as is implied, he probably won’t be there.
  • Shale – I’d love for Shale to appear, but also seems unlikely as she is not really that involved in the leftover plots.
  • Loghain – Another one that’s tough to call, for the same reasons as Alistair.  Could be with you right to the end, dead, etc.

Awakening:

  • Anders/Justice – No.  I killed him/them in DA2, and I think most did.
  • Nathaniel Howe – Unlikely, again due to the whole Orlais thing.  Seems to me like he’ll stay in Ferelden.
  • Sigrun – Unlikely.  I imagine she’ll be in the Deep Roads.
  • Velanna – I didn’t even remember who this was.  I think I stuck with Anders in Awakening just for Ser Pounce-a-lot.

There are other companions from some of the DLC, but they seem to be mostly unimportant.  Nobody would be lookinf for them, anyway.

Dragon Age 2:

  • Aveline – No, I imagine she stays in Kirkwall.
  • Bethany/Carver – Another one where it depends a lot on whether or not saves get imported and how involved Hawke is, if at all.  Unlikely.
  • Fenris – Interesting choice, with the Templar/Mage trouble.  Might be a cameo.
  • Isabela – A pirate captain could travel anywhere, so could be a likely choice.
  • Merrill – Another with something to offer in the Templar/Mage trouble.  But doesn’t feel like someone I’d bring back.
  • Sebastian – Chantry brother, so could be possible.
  • Varric – He’d be a likely one to at least make an appearance, to me.  I doubt the frame the story as being told by him again, but it’s always nice to have a knowledge dump character people don’t mind listening to.
  • Tallis – Another dark horse, depending on what if anything happens with the Qunari.

I think that covers the companions.  Did I miss someone?  Is there a minor player that you think becomes a major one in the new game?

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Console Games Featured PC Games

GamesRadar’s 100 Best Games of All Time – OH REALLY

The folks at GamesRadar threw down their list of the top 100 games of all time, and while I’m not going to comment on every game (I haven’t played all of them), I’d like to point out what I think they got right and what they missed.

  • 99.  Ducktales – Excellent pull here, actually, as this game was fantastic.  You don’t want to admit to your friends that you played this, but it was really that good.
  • 92.  Quake 3 Arena – Meh.  It was fun, but top 100?  Let me see where the other games end up.
  • 81.  Kingdom Hearts 2 – I’ve tried to play this several times, and it’s like the beginning is some impenetrable wall of text and zzzzzz….
  • 77.  Star Wars:  Knights of the Old Republic – Man, this low?  Not sure about these guys.
  • 72.  TeamFortress 2 – Pure entertainment.  Love this game.  Even if I suck.
  • 64.  Braid – Just a beautiful experience.  Try it out.
  • 58.  Counter-Strike – I came to this late, but had tons of fun with this.  Hours spent at Cyberjocks when it was open here in Buffalo, and many more online.
  • 54.  Sim-City 2000 – THERE BETTER NOT BE ANOTHER CITY BUILDING GAME ABOVE THIS although a Caesar game would be OK I guess.
  • 40.  The Sims 3 – So much better than the first game, as I can manage to get these Sims to stay alive.  With the first game, it was a race to see how my Sims would die (usually trying to cook).
  • 39.  Diablo 2 – On the front of my mind, thanks to the Diablo 3 beta.  Burrows into the part of your brain that likes getting stuff, and then getting more stuff, and more stuff…
  • 38.  Mega-Man 2 – Jesus this game nearly killed me, but I kept the fuck at it and finally triumphed.
  • 30.  Skyrim – Interesting it’s up here.  Is Morrowind not on the list?  I still go back to that.  Maybe because it’s my first Elder Scrolls game.
  • 29.  Super Mario 64 – Agree 100% with this one.  All the different ways to interact with the environment, yet not so complex that you needed a cheatsheet.  Just played great.
  • 27.  Deus Ex – Yes yes yes.  Might’ve been over my head at the time, but still a ton of fun.
  • 26.  Civilization V – I need to give this another shot.  Civ 2 forever!
  • 24.  Final Fantasy X – Never played this one.  But I will smash these guys in the face with a shovel if FFVI (or FFIV) are not above this.  No way this is the only FF.
  • 19.  Starcraft 2 – You’ve read my thoughts on this.  SP is good enough, but MP is a whole bunch of rabid clickers with meticulously mapped-out build orders.  Just not fun for me.
  • 17.  The Legend of Zelda:  A Link to the Past – Still the best in my book.  Worth busting out the SNES for.
  • 14.  Final Fantasy VI – THANK YOU I will not get arrested for shovel-based assault.  Great story, great villain, replay it in whole or in part every year.
  • 12.  Half-Life 2 – Will the original be above it?  Either way, if you are reading this, I probably don’t have to tell you why HL2 is so good.
  • 4.  Super Mario Bros. 3 – The ultimate Mario game, ever.  No equal.
  • 2.  Tetris – We all have a favorite version, whether it’s the Tengen NES (or Arcade) game, the Nintendo version, Game Boy…EVERYBODY has played it.
  • 1.  Portal – Portal 2 was on there too, but I want to replay the original before I comment on the new one.  Portal remains one of my all-time favorite games, and GLaDOS is simply the best villainous AI there is.

WoW is on the list, but I’ve never been big on MMOs, if you are wondering about that.  I think they’ve done a solid job on the list, but there are some glaring omissions to my eyes.  In no particular order:

  • 4X games – What, no Master of Orion?  Stars!?  Galactic Civilizations?  Sins of a Solar Empire?  Anything?  Tough room.
  • Flight Sims – Another genre that isn’t ‘cool’ right now, but so many games here that are worthy.  X-Wing?  X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter?  No Wing Commander games?  Elite?
  • Combat Sims – Microprose needs to be here somewhere.  Gunship, Silent Service, Red Storm Rising…heck, there still isn’t a tank battle game to beat M1 Tank Platoon.
  • Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri – No Civ2 AND no Alpha Centauri?  How does this happen?
  • M.U.L.E. – How many games did they miss from this era?  Still fun to play today.

And with that, I’m sure I’ve missed some games.  What would you add?  Hate any of my choices?

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Featured Review

Continuing Game Review: Dragon Age 2

Note:  Continuing means I will revisit this as I get farther in.

Of course I couldn’t avoid Dragon Age 2 for very long, considering how much I loved Dragon Age: Originsand all the related DLC/expansion content.  So here I am, almost through with Kirkwall (pre-Deep Roads expedition), and enjoying it quite a bit.  I’ll put the rest after the jump as there may be SPOILERS.

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Dragon Age 3 Speculation, Part 2

Part 1 of this series looked at the story of Dragon Age 3, and what potential plot hooks are available for the next game in the series.  Part 2, here, will deal with other aspects of the new game, such as technical or gameplay changes.

Combat changed in feel quite a bit between the two games, and (other than the blatant re-use of dungeon maps) remains the biggest differentiator between Origins and 2 for me.  Most battles in DA2 look better, more frenetic, but they don’t need a lot of planning or micromanaging.  The ones that do are forced that way by having the ‘boss’ enemy become unhittable for a stretch to put you up against another wave of enemies.  One battle like that is fun, but there are a few too many like that.  It’s a cheap way to make a fight seem ‘epic’ by making it longer, especially if the mechanic doesn’t feel right for the character you are fighting.

Origins, on the other hand, had slower, more measured combat that was less exciting but required a bit more thinking.  I still think back to fighting the High Dragon as one of the high points of the series.  Overconfidently blowing the horn, the dragon swoops in…and just annihilates us.  The second try, with careful positioning and use of the proper salves and buffs, made the fight actually epic.  My hope is that combat ends up somewhere in the middle, taking the best of both worlds.

The art style between the two games was another difference.  DA:O was a bunch of grays and browns, and monsters that were mostly forgettable.  DA2 updated things quite a bit, added a bunch of color, but went a bit too far off from what Origins started.  I did like the almost comic bookish nature of the interstitial art, but if that wasn’t there, I would get over it.

Character customization was another difference, specifically the armor and appearance for your cohorts.  In DA:O, you had full control over the arms and armor used by all characters.  In DA2, you could control the weapons of your companions, but the armor was set.  You could find improvements that could be applied to them, but not actually change it out.  Nice for making sure cinematics and other talky bits look normal, but lots of us really enjoy tweaking things like that.  More useful in games with a real challenge as mentioned above though, as there were times where I’d tweak my front-line fighters’ gear to defend against the types of attacks we’d be facing (such as protecting against dragon breath).

My ideal version of Dragon Age 3 basically takes DA:O, gives it a graphical lift in the DA2 style, puts back fully customizable characters (perhaps with a ‘use best gear’ button or something similar for the more casual players), and tells a coherent story that’s good from beginning to end.  Not too much to ask, right?

Part 3 of this series will look at what characters might make an appearance in DA3.

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Console Games

Kinect Star Wars Suggestions

Kinect Star Wars was just released for the XBox360, and has drawn quite a bit of attention.  Not all of it was good, as there was quite a bit of negative buzz yesterday for the Han Solo ‘dance party’ song “I’m Han Solo”.  Complete with dancing Han rising up out of the carbonite chamber.  A certain portion of gamers showed a bit of interest in slave bikini Leia dancing, however.  There are other mini-games as well as the full game with a story.  However, I think they’ve missed out on some great ideas for additional content here.  With that in mind, here are my suggestions for Kinect Star Wars 2:

  • Lando’s Mining Empire – If you’ve played any of the huge number of business management games, you know what this is about.  Help Lando by mining Tibanna gas and other minerals, placing them in the refinery, and then delivering them to your customers.  But watch out!  Darth Vader might alter your deal at any time!  Pray he doesn’t alter it any further!
  • Jar-Jar’s Hip-Hop Pose-off – Everyone’s favorite Gungan is here to challenge you to a pose-off!  Bet you didn’t know Gungans invented hip-hop music in a galaxy far, far away!  Match his movements, or he will somehow trip over his own ears and kill an entire regiment of troops.  Not at ALL racially insensitive!
  • Slice the Sith – Sith Lords jump at you – cut them up!  But watch out for Palpatine, he’ll fry you with Force lightning!  I hope your father can save you.  Sure would be nice if your astromech droid had warned you that could happen.
  • Droid Jet Jump – Speaking of Artoo, fly him through several side-scrolling adventures, where it becomes clear how much easier things would’ve been if only the droid remembered he could fly throughout the original trilogy.
  • It’s a Trap! – Uh-oh!  That things operational!  Better help Admiral Ackbar guide his Star Cruisers in close to the Imperial Fleet, but dodge the traps!  Sure could use an eight year old blundering his way through the entire enemy fleet and defeating them by accident.  Haha, that never happens though!

I’m just going to sit over here and wait for Lucasarts to contact me.  I’m a born game developer!

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Console Games Featured PC Games

Dragon Age 3 Speculation, Part 1

So Dragon Age 3 is happening, while future content for DA2 is shelved.  Bioware is looking for feedback on the future of the Dragon Age franchise, and the first thing I thought of is, where can the story go?  There are a ton of plot hooks out there, and any number of them could make up a worthy Dragon Age game.  Here are the ones I can think of:

  • The Warden and Morrigan – Morrigan leaves with the child that may or may not have the soul of one of the Tevinter’s old Gods.
  • Corypheus – Speaking of, it’s strongly hinted that he has possessed the body of whichever Warden party was still alive after Legacy.
  • Qunari – Especially this, in light of their importance in Act 2 of DA2 and Mark of the Assassin.  They have spies everywhere, and nobody really KNOWS what they want.
  • Mages VS Templar smackdown – I like this one, as it can involve folks like Wynne again, perhaps as leader of an ‘anti-resistance’ of mages that just want to get things back the way they were, and don’t want to resort to blood magic.
  • Flemeth – Still around and causing trouble, implied to be even more powerful than we’ve seen.  How do you kill something that seems to just pop right back up again?
  • Dalish Elves – A wild card in all this.  Could try to establish yet another homeland, though this might not be ‘epic’ enough to drive forward a whole game.  Maybe DLC or expansion material.
  • Tevinter Madness – We’ve so far only seen bits of these crazy mages so far, with Fenris and such.  Lots of evil possibilities here.
  • Something Else – Thedas is massive, and the little corner we’ve seen only scratches the surface.  Many all-new adventures could happen, and might make sense since there is unconfirmed (to me at least) talk that our save games won’t be imported into the next game.

I’m sure I’m missing an obvious future plot hook, so if you know one, comment it up.  I’ll add it to the post.  What would you like to see, plot-wise?  I’ll look at game mechanics in a later post.

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Console Games Featured PC Games

Vintage Gaming – Oni

Beat ’em up games have a long history, whether in the arcade or on your various console systems.  From Renegade to Double Dragon to River City Ransom, this style of game was a fun diversion from my RPG and Sim game-filled life at the time.  You might consider Oni a logical extension from those games.  Made by Bungie, Oni is a third-person perspective beat ’em up based in a near-future dystopia, with character design heavily influenced by Anime.

The story has Konoko, working for what amounts to Big Brotherish police force finding out she’s been lied to/finds corruption, and goes on to fight it.  Or something, I’m a little hazy because all I cared about was beating the shit out of dudes with the melee fighting system.  There are weapons, but you can only carry one, and if you run out of ammo, they’re no good.  But I didn’t buy Oni to use the weapons, I wanted to fight hand to hand.  That system was fun, with combos and special moves.  It would flash a different color based on how impactful the move was, or if it was blocked, and felt very fluid if your old machine could handle it.

On the negative side, I know many people were dismayed at how few and far between the save points were.  The devs also overpromised and underdelivered a bit, as people were expecting LAN multiplayer and a giant mech (based on one of the trailers).  Still, I had a blast punching, kicking and throwing my way through some pretty large (but fairly spartan) environments.  Tons of crates, too, if you’re into classic shooter level design.

Oni was available for PC, Mac, and PS2.  Your best bet would be a used copy from one of the sources linked at Amazon, there, if you are interested in trying this out.