Death by Degrees [Playstation 2]

Year: 2005 // Developer: Namco // Publisher: Namco // Also On: N/A

THE LEGEND OF TEKKEN’S FIRST LADY BEGINS HERE, the back of Death by Degrees‘ box proudly claims. And why not? Nina Williams was/is one of Tekken‘s most popular mainstays, and there was no reason why an action-based spin-off shouldn’t work when the Tekken team had previously ventured outside of the standard 1-v-1 fighting with the Tekken Force modes. Unfortunately, Nina’s solo adventure received poor to (at best) lukewarm review scores on release, and I even recall seeing Death by Degrees in a countdown of worst games for the PS2. I disagreed with these scores vehemently back in the day and, after revisiting the game in 2020, I can honestly say that I still enjoy this game.

Is it a misunderstood gem? No. There are loads of things about Death by Degrees that piss me off and were rightly criticised in period, but I feel that the good outweighs the crappy to enough of a degree (get it?) that I feel motivated to defend Namco’s Tekken spin-off.

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Rejecting the revolution

Before I get into this rant, it’s important for me – critical, even – to outline just how much I loved the Valkyria Chronicles series. I played the first three games to absolute death, and bought the thick-ass art books for all three (something I might show here on DS90 at some point). I don’t think that Sega ever managed to re-capture the magic of the original with the two PSP sequels, but they were still highly-enjoyable RPGs that must have done things right for me to invest so many hours into them.

With that background knowledge in mind, I suppose it was only natural that I didn’t want to believe the hate for Valkyria Revolution. Surely it couldn’t be that bad? Well, put it this way: there’s a reason why you can still easily pick up a brand-new, sealed copy of the (so-called) Limited Edition for less than £10.

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Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance [Playstation 2]

Every so often I will actively purge my videogame collection of all the games I know I’ll never play again, or those that I haven’t touched for years. I used to keep everything but, over time, I’ve managed to wrestle the inner hoarder into partial submission. After all, there isn’t the time to keep up with new releases let alone return to everything I’ve already experienced. You have to be realistic sometimes and simply let go. Tying in with this philosophy, I recently decided to turn a critical eye towards my PS2 collection. I’ve long considered this shelf to be slimmed down to the bare essentials but when “essentials” is still around fifty titles, there remains space for improvement.

Rather than simply get shot however, I’ve decided to play some of these games again to see whether or not they actually hold up in the harsh light of 2020. First up, Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance, a 2005 beat ’em up from Capcom. When I originally played this, I loved it. I considered it to be underrated; a hidden gem if you will.

But how does the 2020 edition of me feel about Beat Down?

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Well THAT was epic

If you read my recent post regarding my thoughts on Yakuza 6, you might have been under the impression that I was speaking about the game from the perspective of somebody who’d actually completed it. Well, confession time: I hadn’t. But I have now. And what an ending it was too.

But this was more than just the conclusion of yet another Yakuza game: this was the finale of Kiryu Kazuma’s story – an epic, and emotional story that spanned seven main series entries, over a decade of Yakuza/Ryu Ga Gotoku releases (the first being the PS2 original which hit Japan in 2005), and an in-game timeline that began in the late 80’s with Yakuza 0. It’s fair to say that Kiryu went through a lot during that time. He’s been embroiled in countless Yakuza conflicts and shadow games involving corrupt officials, lost countless friends and loved ones to said conflicts, and been shot, stabbed and beaten more times than I’ve had hot dinners.

The Yakuza series has always been OTT, with characters that can survive a highly unrealistic quota of explosions and bullets, but there came a point where Kiryu’s tale simply became far-fetched, so I can understand why Sega decided that it was time to retire the Dragon of Dojima. Nevertheless, I wasn’t particularly happy about said decision when Kiryu and his allies have become much-loved staples of my personal gaming landscape. So this Yakuza 6 ending NEEDED to be pretty good.

[Spoilers ahead, obviously]

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Paper Mario: Origami King

This post – about the upcoming new Paper Mario game – was inspired by a good read on The Wizard Dojo. Check out Scott’s thoughts (and blog in general) – it’s much better than what I cobble together here.

Anyway, there’s this new Paper Mario game coming out soon for the Switch, subtitled The Origami King. You may have heard of it. A lot of Nintendo/Switch fans lost their shit and got super-excited about it (good for them), while others have had a more lukewarm response to Mario’s latest paper-based spin-off. Where do I sit on this one? Somewhere in the middle. The trailer looked fun, but also disappointing. Maybe I’m just an crusty old entitled gamer? Perhaps.

But here’s the issue: The Origami King resembles Sticker Star and Colour Splash – not the first two Paper Mario games that fans desperately want to see a proper sequel to.

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Yakuza 6 is the worst in the series

Hopefully I’ve hooked you in with that clickbait-esque title BUT, before you berate me for using such shady tactics, I do actually mean what I say…sort of. Yakuza 6 IS the worst game that I have played in the main series (ignoring the Dead Souls spin-off) but it is still a Yakuza game. Branding the sixth chronological installment of Sega’s beloved franchise as the worst one is like being presented with a group of semi-naked Playboy bunnies and being asked to select your least favourite.

What I’m saying is that Yakuza 6 ranks bottom for me, but it’s still a fantastic game regardless of its issues.

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Walking the Streets of Rage once again…

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It’s been a while since I posted something here on Darkstalker90. There are various reasons for that but I won’t bore you with those because that’s not why you’re here, is it? You’re here for some gaming-related content so I’ve skipped over the (frankly embarassing) backlog of semi-completed drafts to talk about a game that has commanded my attention over the last week or so: the mighty Streets of Rage 4.

Go back just a few years, and SoR4 would have been just a fantasy – one of those games that cropped up on many a retro-head’s I-wish-they-would-make-this-but-they-probably-never-will list. The franchise’s future seemed to be confined to re-releases on retro Sega compilations and those iffy plug ‘n play devices. Sega themselves had tried and failed in the 90’s to develop a Streets of Rage 4, and the popularity of the side-scrolling beat ’em up had rapidly waned with the demise of arcade-style gaming.

So it was a pretty earth-shaking shock to say the least when Streets of Rage 4 was first shown in 2018. With Sega acting solely as a licensor this time, it was down to the collaboration of Dotemu, Lizardcube and Guard Crush games to do the series justice and deliver on twenty-six years of fan anticipation. No pressure, then… Continue reading “Walking the Streets of Rage once again…”

Greed: The Killer of DOA6

Well, that’s that then: Dead or Alive 6 is officially, er…dead and I couldn’t be happier about it. That’s probably a bizarre thing for a fan of the series to say. Doubly so given that – at the time of typing this post – I still haven’t purchased DOA6.

However, the recent Twitter announcement from Koei-Tecmo, about April’s DLC update being the final batch of support for DOA6, felt like justice in a warped way. The game has badly underperformed at market and consistently attracted low player numbers. It’s a big turnaround from the success of Dead or Alive 5 and there’s a good reason for it.

Greed.

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Let’s put this into perspective. Dead or Alive 5 was severely criticised for its fuck-ton of DLC and neverending stream of season passes. Yet, the tide of add-ons was viewed with a raised eyebrow and a knowing smirk. It was Koei-Tecmo playing the “sex sells” card and it more or less perfectly straddled the line between being acceptable and straight-up taking the piss. If any proof was required that the DLC tactics didn’t push fans away, consider that DOA5 had two updated editions (Ultimate and Last Round), spanned two hardware generations, and was supported for six years.

DOA6, on the other hand, is being put out to pasture barely a year after the initial release. To me, this is JUSTICE, because it is a case of a publisher pushing the limits of DLC beyond the realm of acceptability and being punished for it. Gamers were rightly horrified by how brazen Koei-Tecmo were being with DOA6‘s add-on content and clearly voted with their wallets. It’s something that we – as consumers – need to do in order to show big publishers that we won’t lap up any old bullshit.

DOA6 ran into trouble straight away when Koei-Tecmo vowed to tone down the game’s sexuality in order to get more people involved and give the series a greater chance at being taken seriously. As it transpired, it wasn’t the drastic Victorian-era suppression of the female figure that we feared but the story nevertheless generated negative press and worried a good chunk of the DOA fanbase. But it wasn’t paranoia over SJW rule that ultimately killed sales of DOA6. It was the publisher’s determination to wring their customer’s wallets dry.

First of all, Dead or Alive 6 has had FOUR season passes in less than a year! As far I’m aware, Season Passes cover a year’s worth of DLC in most games, hence the name. Not in DOA6 however. Fuck that logic. They were eye-wateringly expensive too, with the most recent Season Pass 4 retailing for $90.

Overall, the game has hundreds upon hundreds of dollars-worth of DLC available to download. You thought DOA5 was bad? Well, Team Ninja really upped their work rate for 6, pumping out new costume packs at an insane rate. It really is the undisputed claimant to the title of DLC: The Game.

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This is a pretty gloomy story so here’s a pic of Honkers Honoka showing off Koei-Tecmo’s commitment to cleaning up their act.

But the worst of all didn’t come until this year, when the publisher decided that it was acceptable to charge players for a change of hair colour…and make them pay for said colour every time they changed it.

In a way, the audacity of Koei-Tecmo has to be admired.

On the other hand, the whole saga of DOA6 has been an embarassing series of apologies to the fans, promises of fixes and back-tracking. Add to this the crappy in-game unlock system and the fact that DLC can’t be purchased individually for American/European PS4 owners of the game specifically, and you have a really unappealing fighting game on your hands.

The other big problem is that the game isn’t THAT big of an upgrade over Dead or Alive 5: Last Round, which still looks fantastic in PS4/XBO form, plays brilliantly and isn’t saddled with terrible money-making schemes. Yes, the DLC for that game is still a joke, but it is at least more honest (if you can get past the awful organisation and confusing compatibility Catalogue add-ons) and what’s available is the accumulation of six years worth of steady support as opposed to a relentless tide of DLC being vomited out in single year. I, for one, saw no reason to upgrade from 5 to 6 and have yet to be convinced. Unless Koei-Tecmo announce some sort of all-in-one retail package of the game, then I doubt I ever will.

So I’m glad that gamers have woken up and rejected Koei-Tecmo’s business strategy.

Unfortunately, it does mean that the DOA series may well be mothballed as a result of this commercial failure. I also wouldn’t be surprised if KT blame “market trends” or other vague reasons for the absence of a DOA7, rather than holding their hands up and publicly accepting that they went too far with 6 and allowed greed too much of a say.

I hope that this isn’t the end of Dead or Alive but Koei-Tecmo need to learn from the failure of DOA6 and take a leaf from the books of other publishers of fighting games.