Cyber Troopers Virtual-On Marz: How Fighting Game Mechanics Make a Horrible Story Mode

For the fifth game I’ve beaten this year, I wanted to keep the Mech trend going and realized that I owned Virtual-On Marz for the Playstation 2.  Virtual-On was a fighting game franchise that started in the arcades, however unlike most fighting games the thing that made Virtual-On stand out was that you sat down in a cockpit and controlled the mech using two flight sticks. Virtual-On was a novel game that made you feel like you were piloting a mech from your favorite mech anime. Against another player, Virtual-On was always fun as each mech was unique with their own attacks and special attacks as amazing upbeat songs played.

The developer Hitmaker accomplished bringing the Virtual-On experience to the Playstation 2. Hitmaker even went so far as to not only provide multiple control layouts for people who never played the arcade game but also re-created the twin stick control experience using the analogue sticks and the shoulder buttons. The soundtrack also comes with songs that fit the arcade game.

However, this is where the praise of Virtual-On Marz stops because Virtual-On Marz comes with a story mode called Dramatic Mode. It is always unique when fighting games include a story mode and I had an expectation that the story mode involved picking a mech fighting each of the mechs that exist in the franchise with a brutal boss fight at the end. Dramatic mode has you play as part of the police force known as MARZ who oversees bringing order from corrupt organizations on the planet of Mars. What starts as being a beat cop explodes where you travel the galaxy uncovering a conspiracy.

What makes Dramatic mode so painful to play is that they took what should have been a simple fighting game and made an overly complex game mode that shows the flaws of Virtual-On as a fighting game against computer opponents.

The gameplay and controls provide the Virtual-On experience and that is great when you are playing against a friend. However, playing through a 12+ hour long story mode only reveals how poor Virtual-On works against computer opponents. One of the big issues is how immobile you are in fights. While you can move forward, back, left, and right without an issue, rotating is incredibly slow that even trying to turn will result in being an open target to the computer’s precise movements. 

Another issue is the targeting and camera. Virtual-On Marz relies on an auto lock system, where if you are facing your enemy you will fire where they are. The flaw of this auto lock system is that the camera does not keep you facing your opponent. To face your opponent, you either must jump, dash and attack, or rotate the camera manually. This makes combat incredibly difficult against the computer as they are constantly mobile and able to turn and attack on a dime.

Finally, there are repair disks that you can use to heal yourself during missions. The problem however is that repair disks are either found in item boxes during missions or dropped by enemy mechs and the drop rate from mechs is extremely rare. Meaning you can find yourself up against a mission or boss with zero repair disks which means is that you’ll have to load an earlier save (if you made multiple saves) or the worst-case scenario being that you must start the story mode from the beginning.

These flaws are what makes playing through Virtual-On Marz’s Dramatic mode a painful experience that the amateur story and voice acting cannot make up for. While most of the gameplay involve fighting other mechs, Dramatic mode decided to go in another direction by having each stage be a mission. Missions can be simple and fair just fighting a single opponent to crushingly difficult that I would like to share with you.

Two of the most brutally difficult missions are escort missions. The first escort mission has you defending multiple caravans against two mechs. However, since these are AI they will aim directly for the caravan and while you can destroy the first two mechs, other mechs will be instantly replaced. You are fighting an infinite number of enemies that directly aim for the caravan that if destroyed result in failing the mission. It was a miracle that I was able to beat that mission. What was more difficult was the second escort mission but instead of protecting the caravans, I had to destroy the caravans that were being escorted by the computer. So not only did I have to fight an infinite number of enemies, but I also had to destroy the caravans. With a broken targeting system, poor camera controls, and being outnumbered beating that mission was an exercise in pain.

What makes Dramatic mode even more horribly designed shift from missions to a race against time trying to acquire fragments to access the final fortress. You select an area, go through a gauntlet of missions and if you make it to the final mission you fight either a team of mechs or a boss that you have previously beaten. If you win there is chance that you get a fragment. It is complete RNG. If the corruption gets to 100% it is game over. If you somehow make it to the final fortress then you better hope you have some repair disks because the final fortress throws in the worst thing any fighting game could throw at you, platforming.

In the final fortress you are not only doing another gauntlet but fighting even more bosses as well as platforming where if you fall off, you are going to take damage from the electrified floor. Where once again, if you find yourself going into the final battle with no repair disks you better hope you have an earlier save file.

Virtual-On Marz’s Dramatic mode is a mode that you should never play. Virtual-On is a novel arcade fighting game where you have the most fun playing against friends or other players. Mechanically the game has not aged well and shows flaw after flaw that works in an arcade setting but not as a single player story mode.

If you would like to watch the streams you can watch here.

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Strike Suit Zero Director’s Cut: Amazing Dogfights, Destructive Mech

For the fourth game beaten this year, I wanted to continue playing games that involved mechs. However unlike most mech games being a third person shooter, Strike Suit Zero stands out by being a space flight simulator where your jet transforms into a mech like in anime series Robotech/Macross.

Strike Suit Zero is a kickstarter game developed by Born Ready where you play as a soldier in the middle of a war between the Earth from the Colonial army. To turn the tide of the war and save the Earth, you end up piloting the Strike Suit, a ship with the capability of transforming into a mech.

If you’re familiar with flight sim games like the Ace Combat series, you know what you’re getting into. Each mission will have a series of objectives for you to complete usually defending or destroying a target as you engage in multiple dog fights and battle against massive battleships. The thrill of flying and fighting in space doing barrel rolls, evading missiles, and being able to turn the tide of each mission is what makes flight sim games enjoyable and Strike Suit Zero certainly delivers. However, there are two parts of the game that makes playing Strike Suit Zero hard to get into and enjoy. The default controls and the targeting system.

First, the default controls. My personal experience with the game was using a controller, not a flight stick or mouse and keyboard. The big issue I had that made Strike Suit Zero hard to play was flying the ship. Born Ready made the design choice where in order to fly your ship in flight mode the left analogue stick controlled rolling while the right analogue stick controlled the yaw (moving left and right). As a result, if you wanted to move around, you would have to use both analogue sticks at the same time. While you could move around using the right analogue stick, the flaw of this setup meant that you were using your right hand to fly, select targets, transform, and fire your weapons. My recommendation is to fix this by switching the yaw to the left analogue stick and the roll to the right analogue stick. Thankfully since you don’t have to worry about crashing too much since you’re in space, you rarely have to roll.

The other gripe I have with Strike Suit is the targeting system. In Strike Suit Zero you have two buttons for targeting. The objective and a visual targeting button. However the flaw with both of these is that neither of them focus on the closest target. Half of the time I’m given a target that is on the other side of the battlefield requiring to spend multiple attempts just to target something closer so you can focus on that enemy. The other issue of targetting is the capital ships. However, targeting capital ships was handled in the worst way possible. The objective targetting system will target the capital ship itself, but to destroy the capital ships there are weak points that the targeting system completely ignores. I should also mention that for some strange reason the only way to target the weapons on the capital ships can only be done in flight mode using the visual targeting button. Thankfully, for the majority of the game you’ll be in dog fights or focused on destroying the weapons on captial ships and not the capital ships themselves.

Outside of those personal issues, Strike Suit Zero is a fun space flight game where they balance between flight mode and strike suit mode. While dogfighting in flight mode is fun there are so many enemies that in order to turn the tide of battle you’ll want to use the strike suit mode. Strike Suit mode is extremely powerful as you’ll have unlimited ammo, auto targetting, and piloting the strike suit turns into a third person action game. However, your ability to stay in strike suit mode is determined by how often you use your weapons and how many enemies you destroy. As the highlight of the game, strike suit mode does an amazing job of making you feel like an ace pilot as you take on entire fleets of enemies by yourself as it is something you earn by improving as a pilot.

Graphically the game looks great as the expanse of space looking at the planets, moons and nebula is breathtaking and while the ship designs are simple they each stand out. The strange part of the game was the choice of music. The songs themselves aren’t bad but is an odd choice as you listen to mantras as you engage in dogfights.

Beating the game took me about seven hours but there is plenty more to do post game as completing challenges will make your ships stronger and the director’s cut has a second short campaign of simulation battles. I had a lot of fun with Strike Suit Zero enjoying its short and self contained gameplay and story. Something to try out if its been a long time since you’ve played a flight sim game.

Watch the playthrough here


Assault Gunners HD Edition: Simple Mech Games are Fun

For the third game I’ve beaten in 2021, it was at this point where I decided to just beat all the mech games in my backlog. What I do remember about this game was that I couldn’t even play this game as the game would not detect my controller. Thankfully the game has been patched and now works. What I’ve discovered about Assault Gunners HD Edition is that you’ll find a simple third person shooter, simple customization, simple squad AI, and simple bosses.

The story of Assault Gunners HD has you as part of a mercenary group called DATS to help with keep the peace with terraforming Mars. After a few training missions, you’re quickly thrown into the thick as the robotic AI called ANTS are revolting putting the population of Mars at risk. Your mission is to destroy ANTS and discover who is behind making the AI act this way. The entire story is delivered before and after missions with scrolling text so don’t expect to develop any sort of connection. The story does the job to carry you from mission to mission and that’s about it.

The missions you’ll get are straightforward as well capture point, destroy all enemies or reach a destination in a time limit. The latter being the most difficult compared to the other mission types. You will fight hordes of enemies and as long as you stick together with your squad the ANTS are easily destroyed. Thankfully enemies drop plenty of ammo, shield health, health, weapon plans, and discovery points.

When I say this is a simple third person shooter, this is about as basic as you get in terms of gameplay and controls. All your face buttons are dedicated to selecting the weapons you bring into each mission and the shoulder buttons are set for firing and dashing/jumping. While the game doesn’t have auto aim like Armored Core or Metal Wolf Chaos, you have a reticle on screen making it easy to know if you’re going to hit an enemy with your firearm.

However, it wouldn’t be a mech game without customization and that is where if you’re a fan of mech games that you’ll get a nice variety of parts and weapons. Parts and weapons are unlocked as you pick up plans through each mission and while weapons are given to you, you’ll need to buy the parts using discovery points. Parts are divided between upper and lower and support your standard fare of mechs bi-pedal, reverse joint, hover, and tank. However, you’ll also need to level up your parts to gain more health, defense, and mobility. All of which make a notable difference to your and your squad’s performance in combat.

What makes Assault Gunners HD stand out is that for a single player game, you can bring in three additional AI into each mission. You can design each AI unit parts and weapons. On top of designing their mech you are also able to assign the AI (and yourself) one of four roles: Attacker, Heavy Gunner, Blocker, and Supporter. Each role slightly buffs improves your stats only to accommodate your preferred playstyle. During missions you’re able to command the AI to attack, defend, standby and hold using the D-pad. I enjoyed having the AI as their stats will reflect what weapons you give them and the health they have based on the parts you equip them with. The AI are extremely effective in combat but if you want more of a challenge, you can decide to fly solo.

Assault Gunners HD is a nice short game that took me about four hours to beat. If you’ve never played a mech game before and don’t want to feel overwhelmed with customization options this is a nice simple entry point.

Watch the playthrough here.


Zone of the Enders The 2nd Runner: A Story Told Too Quickly

The second game I’ve beaten this year has been another remastered title from the sixth generation of home consoles, and another mech game. Zone of the Enders the 2nd Runner is an overly ambitious game for its story telling and gameplay but rush too quickly both narratively and mechanically to appreciate the game.

Say what you will about Hideo Kojima telling stories through the medium of video games, despite all the flaws that came with trying to tell a story when this game was released on the Playstation 2, he is at least ambitious. You’ll play as Dingo, a miner who discovers the orbital frame Jehuty abandoned on Jupiter and uses Jehuty to protect his friends who are being attacked by BAHRAM a martian independence military movement.

The story of Zone of the Enders the 2nd Runner however is a rushed story. Constant jumps and plot twists show how amateur Kojima was as a producer trying to tell a story that was bigger than him. Zone of th Enders the 2nd Runner also doesn’t take the time for characters to build relationships. Interactions between characters result in jarring conversations as the game stumbles trying to develop connections which stands out even more as the game is fully voice acted with some decent performances and others that are flat.

The gameplay of Zone of the Enders has always been unique. Thankfully the game provides a training mode and in game tutorial that will help learn the mechanics and the unusual controller layout. Unfortunately, like the story the gameplay is also rushed constantly introducing new subweapons that are rarely or never used due to the length of the stages being so short. The combat against enemy mechs is enjoyable as you learn to fight enemies in both melee and range but fights are often over as soon as they begin. I should also make note that the game’s targetting system works on a small scale but later stages involve so many enemies that it becomes insufficient for the larger scale stages.

The bosses also involve novelty mechanics as well. Some boss fights go so far that combat don’t involve an actual mastery of the combat mechanics but are more focused on stripping down the gameplay to coincide with the story. While this does make some boss fights interesting, the climax of the game takes the concept so far that makes the battle tedious and drawn out.

Despite all these gripes, I appreciated the amateur story telling and unique gameplay. It reminds me that I’d rather have developers shoot for the stars when telling a story and designing a game that is flawed but ambitious. Zone of the Enders the 2nd Runner is a game of its time for better and for worse. It’s a short experience that I’d recommend to those who would be interested in Hideo Kojima’s works outside the Metal Gear series and for those who enjoy sci-fi mech games.

If you would like to see my first playthrough of Zone of the Enders the 2nd Runner you can find it on Twitch.


Metal Wolf Chaos XD: Believe in Your Own Justice

If you would ask me what are the only two games that the developer From Software makes it would be Dark Souls and Armored Core. While most people know From Software for making Dark Souls games starting with King’s Field to now having a remastered version of Demon’s Souls. The same could be said about Armored Core games even though that is the lesser known franchise today. However, one of least likely of the mech games that From Software developed has gotten a remaster as it was the one of the few games they developed for the original Xbox as well known as Metal Wolf Chaos.

Metal Wolf Chaos XD put simply is just an upscaled version of the original Metal Wolf Chaos. There are no added game modes or any extras bells and whistles. Nor does this game have the standard in depth customization that is traditionally offered in an Armored Core game where you get to design your mech from top to bottom. What makes Metal Wolf Chaos XD enjoyable to play is how cheesy and corny the story is. If you are a fan of B-movies then you’re in for a treat with the most over the top voice acting that will remind you of watching Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

You play as Michael Wilson, the 47th President of the United States that just suffered a coup by his Vice President Richard Hawk. Your mission as the President is to take your mech, known as Metal Wolf, to take back the United States by liberating the nation from sea to shining sea and there is no better way to liberate the United States than by blowing up everyone and everything trying to stop you.

The gameplay of Metal Wolf Chaos is a mission based third person shooter. Each stage you will have a main objective that you will need to complete usually consisting of destroying buildings or other mechs. In each stage you’ll have the option to fulfill side objectives by liberating prisoners or finding energy pods which will result in unlocking new songs and make Metal Wolf more durable.

While you won’t be able to design the parts of Metal Wolf, like Armored Core, you’ll be able to spend your resources to research and build a wide variety of weapons to customize how you want to liberate the nation. Handguns, Machine Guns, Rocket Launchers, Missile launchers and more is at your disposal as you get to bring a maximum of eight weapons into a mission. While you can only use two at a time, you’re able to swap through your weapons on the fly. However, swapping between weapons is cumbersome. There is no quick select to access any weapons. You press the swap weapons button and then you are left scrolling through a list of all the weapons you brought into the mission. When you’re in the middle of a fire fight, having to switch weapons on the fly can result in blowing up prisoners as you fumble picking the wrong weapons.

In terms of difficulty, Metal Wolf Chaos XD is overall straight forward and simple. Some missions will take a bit of trial and error deciding which weapons are the best to use and what objectives or enemies you should focus on first. However, where Metal Wolf Chaos XD difficulty ramps up to an unfair degree is the final boss. Beating the final boss was an exercise in pain that the only way I was able to beat the final boss was being as cheesy as the voice acting to win.

Metal Wolf Chaos XD is a corny, cheesy and simple game to enjoy. The game is self-contained and can be beaten in an afternoon. If you wanted to try out one of From Software’s strangest mech games then you should try out Metal Wolf Chaos XD.

If you would like to see my playthrough, the VODs are available on Twitch.

OBS Twitch

How to Use the Image Mask Filter in OBS

When it comes to improving the presentation of your stream the OBS effect filter tool, image mask, can be a great effect way to personalize and give your stream layout its own identity by making sources such as images or webcams to have the appearance of other shapes such as a circle. In this guide I’ll be going over what an image mask is, and how to attach an image mask to a source in OBS.

What is an Image Mask?

An image mask is where you take an image and lay it over a source such as a video or image to take on the shape of the image. To understand what an image mask is below is an example.

Rounded Edge Rectangle Image Mask

An image mask will traditionally come in black and white. The white area represents the area of the source that will be visible. The black area represents the area of the source that will be masked.

Making an image mask template can be created using paint or photoshop applications such as Affinity, Adobe Photoshop or GIMP.

Adding an Image Mask

Once you have created or downloaded your image mask follow these simple steps in OBS to add the image mask filter.

Add Your Sources

First add and place your sources where you want them to be on your layout.

We’ll be adding a rounded edge rectangle image mask to the Darksiders III logo
Select Filters

Right click on the source that you want to add the image mask to and select Filters.

Select Image Mask/Blend

Click on the + sign in the lower left corner and select Image Mask/Blend. A pop-up window will appear where you can name the image mask filter. Then press OK.

Set Image Mask/Blend Settings

For the basic black/white image masks, set the Type to Alpha Mask (Color Channel). Then click on Browse and select the image mask file. For the Color setting, set the color to white (known as #ffffff in hex code). If you would like to make the image transparent, adjust the opacity to your preference. Then click Close.

For the path the image mask used was the Rounded Edge Rectangle

And that’s it! You’ve successfully added an image mask filter designing your stream.

Image masks are great to personalize your stream and customize your layout. You can make subtle changes to stream such as using rounded rectangle image masks or circle image masks. Or make your stream stand out by adding a star shaped image mask to your webcam. The limits designing your stream are up to your creativity.

Politics Twitch

Who is the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act For?

On December 27th, President Donald Trump signed into law an omnibus bill that contained the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2020. The Protecting Lawful Streaming Act makes it a felony with a 5 year jail sentence for a first violation and 10 year jail sentence for a second.

Before we get ahead of ourselves here is the actual legislation of the law as sponsored by Senator Thom Tillis from his own website.

Also, I’d like to make it clear that I am NOT a lawyer and if you have questions regarding copyright then you should seek out a lawyer who specializes in copyright law. The point of this article is to build a better understanding of the law and to become aware of the potential damage this law can do if you stream on websites such as Twitch and Youtube.

So, what does this have to do with streaming video games on Twitch? Currently as of 2020, not much. Whether it is your hobby or career, the intent of the law is not aimed at the individual who is playing Valorant, Among Us or retro games.

When it comes to the law however, there are four factors that you as an individual should be aware of when it comes the law: The intent of the law, the application of the law, the interpretation of the law, and the enforcement of the law. The Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2020 is a perfect example of how a law of good intentions could have dangerous results.

Intent of the Law

The intent of the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2020 has a simple goal, to stop people from generating private financial gain from offering or providing to the public a digital transmission of copyrighted content without permission from the owner.

I know I said simple but let’s break down what the law’s intent is with a hypothetical. Say for example you have a friend who buys a pay-per-view ticket of a boxing match from his cable company. Because your friend is tech savvy, he setups up a website and sells access to his website for half the amount of the pay-per-view ticket.

Your friend would be the intended target of the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2020. He is providing a service to the public for his own financial gain using copyrighted content that he doesn’t have the authority to stream from the copyright owners.

However, the reason that every tech website and political website that talked about the dangers of the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2020 is because of the application of the law and the interpretation of the law.

Application and Interpretation of the Law

If you’ve ever read a law it is one of the most complicated document you will ever read as it was written by lawyers for lawyers. Each law constantly references other sections of the law without providing the documentation and is written as specific and at the same time as broadly as possible. Which is why organizations like the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) are worried with the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2020 passing. Because the intent is one thing, but how the law is applied and interpreted is another.

What makes the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2020 dangerous is how broad and open-ended the law is written. In establishing the definitions within the law, all computer programs, musical work, motion pictures, and other audiovisual work is within the jurisdiction of this law. Which means a lawyer could easily interpret computer program to mean video games as they can be defined as computer programs or audiovisual work.

Another problem of the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2020 is how open ended “without the authority of the copyright owner” is. Applying this law means that any copyright owner can claim that any person streaming their content does not have the authority. The dangers of broadly defined and open ended laws leaves open for multiple interpretations that can be argued with is biased for the companies that claim ownership of the content.

Enforcement of the Law

In regards to the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2020, this is the last barrier as you can have a law but it has no power unless it is enforced. A good example is that a police officer could decide to not give you a ticket if you were caught speeding.

With the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2020 however, it will be up to the copyright owners and the companies that own the copyright to decide if they wish to enforce this law as well as coordinate with law enforcment to detain the person they are accusing that is in violation of the law.

Companies Have Their Eye on Streaming

I want to re-emphasize that in the short term this is a new law and the intent is not focused on people who are creating content on Twitch and Youtube. However, now that there are streamers like Ninja who made $30 million from their Mixer contract. Companies now have their eye on the few content creators that are able to make a living from these platforms.

If you are a person who streams be it a hobby or are able to have it as a career, you need to be aware of laws like the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2020 because any lawsuits that come from this act will affect the streaming industry and your ability to make any revenue.


Twitch Community Challenge: Boost This Stream

Twitch’s help section on December 1st 2020, just posted a new program for Twitch Partners / Affiliates to have their stream be promoted. Now if you’re a streamer, you already know that discoverability on Twitch is effectively non-existent. With the primary means of discoverability being having a high viewer count so you are seen in the category you are streaming in. Extremely effective for those who are already have an established viewership, but not so much for smaller partners and affiliates that stream unique or dynamic content.

As this is an experimental program, here is how Boost This Stream is meant to work. Due note as Boost This Stream is an experimental program, expect this to be a limited timed program as Twitch is trying to create solutions to the discoverability program on their website.

As a Twitch Partner or Affiliate, you’ll get an e-mail if you are eligible to test Boost This Stream. Boost This Stream is treated just like other community challenges, viewers have a limited time to use their channel points to meet the required amount in two days. If successful, your content will be listed as a promoted content on “highly visable parts of Twitch”. Meaning that your stream will likely be at the top of the list when it comes to their existing recommendation algorithm for viewers. The example the Help Guide uses is “Live Channels we think you’ll like”. So your stream will appear on the front page if the viewer watches content that matches content they already watch likely based on categories such as Just Chatting, Retro, or specific games you have streamed.

Two things I’d like to emphasize about the Boost This Stream Challenge from the help article.

  1. The time window for Boost This Stream is 48 hours. It’ll only start when you start streaming. However, the challenge will NOT stop if you go offline during that 48 hour period.
  2. The channel point requirement of Boost This Stream will be varied by the channel determined by factors such as average size of your channel and the number of viewers you have.

One part where I am concerned about Boost This Stream that isn’t answered is how long will the streamer be promoted when the challenge is successful?

Say for example that you’ve started the challenge and your viewership is successful at the end of your stream. Does that mean that the challenge and your promotion will be wasted if you don’t keep on streaming? Will you be promoted again if you go back online within the 48 hour period? Because the main concern I have is that this challenge will result in Partners and Affiliates to develop unhealthy streaming habits.

Overall, it is good to see Twitch try different things to increase discoverability for everyone. Given that the reach of the promotion will likely be based on a recommendation algorithm, it’ll be interesting to see if streamers will be willing to share their analytics to see if the challenge is effective in both the short and long term.

If you would like to read the help article for yourself, you can click this link below.


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