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Kittens +  Grenade

Would you believe I did not grow up with a Nintendo in the house?

I don't consider myself a ferocious gamer. But I do rip through them when I find one I like, and I've been told that I'm abnormally tenacious. Series I have consequentially beat the stuffing out of include Ratchet & Clank, Jak & Daxter, and of course Sly Cooper.

In games with a few sequels, such as all of the above, each game has it's flaws and advantages. Jak & Daxter was incredibly enjoyable, but too short. Jak 2, while taking a risk by going off in a completely different direction from the first, was stunning; however, there were repetitive shooting missions. When the programmers have a penchant for missions that are just a hair shy of impossible, it can make the entire thing frustrating.

Jak 3 was hands-down the best of the series - they fixed what went wrong and kept what went right. THAT'S game design.

Ratchet & Clank was a fine game - not spectacular, but good. Ratchet & Clank 2: Going Commando improved upon it immensely by bringing in great design elements, better gameplay (yes thank you for pausing while I select a weapon), and fabulous writing.

Ratchet & Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal was littered with bugs. Now I seem to have a talent for finding bugs and breaking game mechanics, but ignoring the instances where I end up freefalling into the void beyond the pixels, the fact that the vehicle doesn't interact with the water on Tyhrranosis - while Ratchet does - was a pretty impressive flaw.

I mean, the vehicle perches on top of the water's surface while Ratchet splashes along beside it, up to his knees in liquid pixels. The lack of a vehicle dismount animation (he simply appears outside the vehicle when you leave it) was a jarring omission; maybe Jak 3 spoiled me.

Boxes also hover on the water surface in the sewer level - and then there was the case of the enemy "ghosts." I had dispatched the "ameboids," yet their eye-glow effects, water splashes and attack noises kept following me. They did no damage and I couldn't hit them - they were just... there.

That was surreal, I showed it to otana. She asked how I keep breaking the game. I wish I knew, I'm almost starting to consider a side career as game tester.

The writing was also a huge let-down at the end. The crux element of the end joke with the villain was brought in quite randomly & suddenly right before the very end of the game. Now that's a throw-away gag if I ever saw one, and NOT the sort of thing you use for the final scene with the villain. And what about Ratchet's frustration with Clank's fame? Where the hell did that go? It just evaporated, leaving that entire line of character development dead in the water.

While I loved the character design of the love interest and some of the weapons were fabulous, #2 was a much better, more well-developed game. #3 seems to have been rushed to the stands without polish, and it ended on a disappointingly flat note. You can literally see the writers going "uh, okay, so he gets the girl, the movie's a hit, and bam the end! Cut, wrap, print!"

Even so, it was a good enough game for me to re-play in Challenge mode. God, I love Challenge mode. Kicking butt out of the levels with the most powerful weapons in the game is incredibly rewarding.

Now to the game I finished yesterday, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves.

First, the ending of this game pissed me off SO MUCH that I actually started re-playing Sly 2: Band of Thieves from scratch to get the bad taste out of my mouth. I simply could not believe the end - it was honestly pathetic, and betrayed everything the first two games stood for as well as the goal of the third game (getting into the ancentral Cooper vault).

I don't even need to bitch about the change to Carmelita's voice actress, but I will anyway - where the hell did they dig up this jewel? Carmelita never had and isn't supposed to have an accent "Carmelita Montoya" aside). I thought at first the new actress was hispanic, but it gradually became clear that she was trying to put on an accent. Whether it was destined to be Italian, Spanish, French, or something else, you never found out, because it never got there.

Aside from her accent, this girl was just plain bad. Bad voice acting in games is something you generally get used to - like bad dialogue. You just get used to it. But if I had to hear that over-dramatized "Cooper! These guys have to brag, even while they're RUNning aWAY" one more time, I was going to SCREAM.

Also, I love playing as Sly. He's why I love the games! Being constantly required to play as other characters to accomplish missions in #3 really took the fun out of the game for me. Some of the RC missions actually made me severely nauseous. Never mind the dragon boss. Mind you, I was sick in the first place, but still... Despite Sly's acrobatics, I've never had that problem before.

Anyway, re-playing BoT enables me to re-discover all the cool shit that game has which they got rid of in HAT. Such as the clues, which encourage you to explore the level. Or having lots of breakable shit that you can actually break without having 13 guards swarm in on your ass. Or missions that actually make use of level navigation with Sly's acrobatic gameplay.

As for that, I swear Sly's "trigger" radius for grabbing to climbable objects is wider. Then there is the beauty of the levels - I don't think any level in #3 made me just want to sit and stare at it for a while. Not like Rajan's (first) level, with a gorgeous textured sunset sky over India.

In conclusion - the last is the best for Jak, but go for the middle child with Ratchet & Clank and Sly Cooper. Greasy sweet, you dig what I beam to you?

Comments

I have to say I disagreewith you on the ending Sly 3's story. 3 Had allot of really good character development which finished witch asked a very good question to Sly's Gang. Game Play wise I would have liked it if the level design allowed for allot paths on the city maps depending on what character you were playing.
BTW Have you Played Jax X (the Racer) While not a fan of racing it was worth playing it for the art direction, side story line and VERY well done cut scenes(Kicking off with the best opening of the games so far) also i have to get round to Playing Daxter the game which takes play in the 2 years Jax is being tortured by the Barron.
We've had our eye on Jak X for a while, neither of us are racing fans, but we love the Jak series enough that I think we'll pick it up. Sadly we don't have a PSP, so Daxter is unavailable to us. :(
I don't have a PSP either but Might rent one for Daxter ^_^
Jax x is worth a try. Decent Plot (not as Epic as the main games but still good) heres the opening http://www.gametrailers.com/player.php?id=7507&type=mov
it Also has some nice unlockable movies and a super short (like less than a minute)short with Daxter and Tess =^-^=
Sly 3 spoiler

My problem with what you'd call "character development" is that he made that decision because he was scripted to. It didn't flow naturally from what we'd seen of his prior motivations and actions, and only one (!) bit of internal dialogue made at the tail end of the game supported his reasoning for what he did.

That's just (granted, IMHO) sloppy writing. If they wanted to make it believable that he would abandon his life as a thief to go chase after Carmelita, they needed to have shown him mooning after her the entire game and regretting the elements that kept them apart. You don't change a character's entire life direction/modus operandi/career without some heavy-duty setup.

YMMV.

End spoiler

We're going to get Jak (fyi with a K ;) X at some point. I'm not a fan of racing games at all, but I did really enjoy some of the racing in the prior games, so that is on our "Must Have" list.
Sorry about the Jak with the X. I rushed that post off before I went to work.
.........................Sly 1-3 Spoilers......................

I think the point, IMO, (I don't think any ones opinion can be humble, but that’s just IMHO =P) was he saw what being in the Cooper Gang might do to his friends in the actions of Dr. M and to a lesser extent the fate of "Big Jim" McSweeney. Slys' adventures had already cost Bentley the use of his legs.

As to Sly's motivations, In Sly one he recovers his stolen birth right in the form of the Thievius Raccoonus and avenges his parents’ murder by taking down Clockwerk. In Sly 2 he seals that vengeance by ensuring that Clockwerk cannot be raised to threaten him or any of his friends and desendence. Finaly in Sly 3 he recovers the last of his legacy by finding and opening the Cooper Vault. After recovering the horde of hundreds of lifetimes of theft and passing each tests his forbear set before him what remains to be a challenge to to him? Also and perhaps more importantly to Sly, his lifestyle would never permit him to be truly close to Carmelita and steal the one thing he would value above all else.
Carmelitas’ heart.
Oh I doubt he planed for Carmelita to save him or for her to come up with the "Constable" Cooper story but Sly being Sly, he took full advantage of it.
The Cooper Clan took pride in steeling form the worst of the criminal underworld so his skills are very transferable to the role of a thieftaker.

As for character development I think the focus of the games slowly shifted to Bentley as early as "Bentley saves the gang in.." level in Sly 2 who (forgive the pun) truly comes out of his shell in 3. This can be seen with:
The increase in the number of his skills.
The addition of Penelope as equal parts love interest and knight in shining amour with an intellect rivalling his own.
The dialogue between Bentley and Dr. M which forces the place to consider who really does the hard work in the Cooper Gang.
When added the redemption of Panda King and Dimitri, The Panda King in particular was very well realised with both he and Sly reluctant to surrender there past animosity, I think that the character development in Sly 3 exceedingly well done.

......................Spoiler Ends.............................

That said for over all gameplay and voice acting I agree Sly 2 was far more polished. I had a cloud of disappointment over me when I began Sly 3 until the second stage proper. But Sly 3 won me deep affection for what it did for the secondary characters. (That and I got hooked on the ship to ship combat ^_^)

R&C2 was a blast, best of the series. If you do RPGs...check this one out... www.shadowheartsnewworld.com
Its the weirdest RPG Ive ever seen. You get to help a huge drunken lucky cat (female who talks like a man BTW) and a Brazilian ninja named Frank (who uses stuff like a cactus or a swordfish as a weapon) help bust Al Capone out of prison, because his sister is going around the world opening portals to hell and releasing demons. Theres also an indian girl whos always taking her clothes off. Its fun :P
I'm playing FFX right now, and I'm very much left with the impression that I'm happier with platform games. I don't really feel like I've done anything when I'm just telling characters to do stuff, if that makes any sense.
I see. Hmm, try to find Castlevania SOTN if you like those old-school platformers :P

There is one scene I want as a screensaver for my computer from Sly 3...

...and that's the fight with the boss (Tsao the chicken IIRC?) in the bamboo forest canopy, then down in the forest itself. A couple of the opening panorama's were nifty, but none of the stages looked impressive outside of the pre-planned flythroughs, in-game you could just never find a drop-dead georgeous viewpoint outside of the bamboo-forest fight.

Other than that though, I mostly agree that Sly 2 was the 'crown jewel' of the series. The ending had a nice 'touch' of Sly's quirky playfulness with Carmelita throughout the series finally coming together, but between the horrible voice actor compared to 2 or even 1, and the let-down of the rest of the ending, I agree, the ending got maybe a 3 or 4 out of 10.

Re: There is one scene I want as a screensaver for my computer from Sly 3...

It took me a long time to figure out how you were supposed to fight Tsao in the first stage. But I have to say, the second stage running through the bamboo was one of the more beautiful levels. Stands out as one of the neatest boss fight stages I've seen.

I was running through the first Rajan/India level and showing off the sunset to Otana. That thing is just breathtaking.

Re: There is one scene I want as a screensaver for my computer from Sly 3...

I hope Dog Story for the Wii will come here and that it will be good. @,@;