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Ask 411 Games 02.04.13: Dreamcast, Card Games, Yearly Releases, More!
Posted by Mathew Sforcina on 02.04.2013





Why am I in HD? And why do I have to pay in order to unlock my clothing? And there's all these achievements laying about, what the hell?

Oh, I get the joke now.

Anyway, this is Ask 411 Games, and I am Mathew Sforcina. I had to give this up for a couple months while my life got a bit hectic, but now that it's a little less hectic, I'm picking it back up. Huzzah and so forth.

While I do miss talking about video games and the whole being an internet based video game broadcast journalist, I think the real reason I miss this is the Banner.



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Remember, questions can go in the comment section, or, better yet, to ask411games@gmail.com. I still have a couple left over, but this column, of course, thrives on the questions you good readers give, so ask away!

Now then, although this is a video game column, we shall begin elsewhere, with a board game review by Ron ‘All In' Gamble, a.k.a the guy who pretty much got me here. So if you don't like board games, just skip ahead to the video. But you should read the following, it is good.

WHAT?

Agents of SMERSH is a game designed by Jason Maxwell. This is his first game; however, he is co-designer of Mythos Tales, to be released later this year. It was successfully funded through Kickstarter. Agents of SMERSH is the very first game published by 8th Summit Games (http://www.8thsummit.net/).

HOW?

Agents of SMERSH is a story-telling co-operative game that takes place in the world of 1970's spy movies. All players are spies trying to defeat Dr. Lobo and his plans to control the world. Players go around the world to take on different challenges in hopes of gaining intelligence to defeat Dr. Lobo at the end of the game.

During set-up, each player chooses an agent. Each agent has a number for each of five skill sets (Spycraft, Persuasion, Deception, Athletics, Hand-to-Hand), as well as Resolve. Each player also gets two advanced skill tokens (for example, Speed, Disguise, Electronics, Lock Picking). Players place their tokens at the starting spaces on their character card, and we're off!

A player may move either one or two spaces in the board, then draws a card based on which continent the city is located. The card will have the title of an adventure which gives a hint as to the upcoming story (three examples: "Tortured," "Daring Infiltration," "Run!") a number (from 1 through 45), and a letter (from A through J). The number corresponds to a section of the Book of Encounters. The letters correspond to a group of reactions to the title (seven or eight per group). After the player chooses a reaction, then one card is flipped to find one more number. Another player then turns to the paragraph that corresponds to all numbers, and starts to read the encounter.

At one point in the encounter, the player will be told to test a skill ("Test for Athletics or Hand-to-Hand +2 [2]), and a way to pass without a test ("Pass with Stealth"). If Stealth is one of your advanced skills, you immediately pass the encounter, and good things happen. If not, you must draw dice from a dice bag according to the number of your skill and roll. The possibilities are a gun (pass), Dr. Lobo's logo (fail), or Injury (fail and hurt). If the player rolls one gun, the encounter is passed (In the case above "Hand-to-Hand +2 [2]" means you draw two more dice than normal, but you must roll two guns to pass). If every die shows either Dr. Lobo's logo or Injury, the encounter is failed, and bad things happen.

After the encounter and reward or punishment, Dr. Lobo advances. Intel is placed on the board, other Intel may be removed, and an airport is closed somewhere in the world. Once an airport is closed, it cannot be reopened. If the encounter is failed, another card is drawn to advance Dr. Lobo's chart.

Also, what kind of spy game would be complete without henchmen? Dr. Lobo's four henchmen (Mr. Big, Darling, Pierre, and Fedor Maximov) go around the world to stop the spies from getting close to their boss. Each time the spies win, they get closer to Dr. Lobo; each time they fail, Dr. Lobo gets stronger. After beating the henchmen a specified number of times, the players look at the Intel they have accumulated throughout the game, and compare it to the strength of Dr. Lobo. If they have enough Intel, the players win. If not, Dr. Lobo takes over the world.

WELL?

Agents of SMERSH hits the sweet spot of fun and satire found in the old "Our Man Flint" movies, as well as the best Roger Moore 007 movies. The Book of Encounters has about 3600 options, so the chances of playing the same encounter twice are very small. The dice, strangely enough, are not the most random part of the game, but that's not a bad thing.

SMERSH is being compared to a game from 2009, Tales of the Arabian Nights, which also has a book of encounters and dice to determine results. While there are similarities, the biggest difference is that Nights is a solo game in which players are competing to become sultan, while SMERSH is a co-operative game where everyone works to take down the evil genius.

If you're looking for a spy game or a co-op, put on a tux or your best backless gown and look for Agents of SMERSH.

PLAYERS – 1-5 (works best with 4)
COMPLEXITY OF RULES (1.0 = Jump right in; 10.0 = Set aside a day or so to read) – 5.5
COMPLEXITY OF STRATEGY (1.0 = No strategy needed; 10.0 = Look before you touch anything) – 4.0
PLAYABILITY (1.0 = If you've played it once, you've played it all; 10.0 = Never the same game twice) – 9.0
OVERALL GRADE (1.0 = Buy it as a gift for your little sister; 10.0 = All-time classic) – 8.0



Of course I was gonna include that. It's awesome and all. Plus it mentions this column and therefore it's valid dammit!

Sonic gets to ask the first question of the new column.

Why hasn't more of the Dreamcast games like Powerstone or Crazy Taxi poped up on home console.

Crazy Taxi was available online but not Crazy Taxi 2.


It is a little odd, given that in 2010, Sega had plans to bring '18 to 24' Dreamcast games to XBLA/PSN. And yet so far, we have only a few, in Crazy Taxi, Sonic Adventure 1 and 2, Sega Bass Fishing, Space Channel 5 Part 2, Jet Set Radio, Cyber Troopers Virtual-On Oratorio Tangram, with another Virtual-On and Shenmue in the pipeline, supposedly. Although that last one is a bit of a surprise, given that 2 Gig is the limit to the XBLA game. PSN doesn't have that limit, so score one to Sony I suppose.

But the size limit did take a little while to rise up, so that explains why Sega didn't put them out early on, but now there's only the same tired excuses. Converting games isn't that easy, and there's legal issues with getting clearance from all the old companies and people involved, and Sega aren't exactly the most customer friendly and/or logical software company…

Currently no Dreamcast games are officially coming out soon, but then given the amount of time from when Dreamcast games became plausible on both major platforms, it's not that bad a schedule.

Still no excuse for the Dreamcast Collection.



Aprince66 missed something.

What happened to Retronomicon? Did I miss something?

Not as such, in the sense that I don't know what happened to it either. Sadly circumstances change for people and often they have to quit writing for the site at short notice. I don't know the exact details with the Retronomicon, there was nothing in the Super Secret Writers Forum, so I can't specifically state anything here, beyond the general.

Mr. Ace Crusher ends us with some serious questions.

How about a 'your damn opinion' question?

What are your thoughts on the general quality of games that come in yearly iterations?

Especially with the WWE series, there's zero incentive to create a 'definitive' version of the game with all the things people want as there's no incentive to buy the next year's version.




I think that the time between games is a useful but not always accurate indicator of the quality of a game. GTA: Vice City came out a year after GTA3, and the second Professor Layton game came out in less than a year in Japan, and they were both good games. Whereas Duke Nukem Forever was worked on for 15 years, and wasn't a good game.

However, I do feel that a yearly cash cow game, while it should encourage creativity and experimentation (if it sucks, you have a new one in a year…) instead teaches the opposite (gotta match last year's numbers, just put in one or two new small features…).

Of course, WWE and other non-Season based games do have a legitimate reason for the speed, in that even with just a year, the roster is always out of date a little. There's always guys who are gone from the company or who are totally different. Imagine if the game was developed for 2 years, it'd be totally useless, although the counterpoint to that is DLC, but then the counter-counterpoint is DLC is bad, so…

I'm not a huge fan, at least when it comes to one company, overall. As much as I dislike the series, Call of Duty has the right idea. Two companies, working on two different streams within the one franchise, so you get a yearly release, but each game gets 2 years development. I think that's the best option, but it's not always feasible. But it's preferable to rushing things out every year just to get the cash… At least from the consumer side. The business side on the other hand…

This one is a total wikipedia/google fu question, but i got curious and started compiling a list of games that a gamer might have purchased more than once, assuming there was an incentive or reason to buy the SAME GAME twice or more; be it the version on a different console (soul caliber 2), HD/re-masters (Legend of Zelda OoT), Director's Cuts (MGS 3: Subsistence), Promotional Goodies (Persona 3 w/Art Book), different extras in a another version (Pokemon Red/Blue), or other compelling reasons other than strict collection for collection's sake.

On a top 10 list, i think i got either Doom or Dragon's Lair as the games most likely someone may have purchased multiple times due to their sheer age and amount of different versions.

I started thinking this as i personally own 4 different versions of Metal Gear Solid 3 (PS2 original, subsistence, subsistence as part of the Metal Gear collection PS2 (for the new art cover), as part of the PS3 HD Collection (for Peace Walker), and i was planning on getting the 3DS version.)




Geez, that list is going to be HUGE, if you include promotional versions and/or if you count inclusions in other packs. I mean, Asteroids has been ported and included in at least 13 different versions, depending on what you count. Similar to that other list I'm not mentioning right now, you could be at that thing for years.



But I tell you now, the winner's gonna be Tetris. If you include everything from the original Soviet version,



Through the ones we know…



And all the handhelds…



And/or all the sequels/variaints…



I really think that it's the most common.

But that said, the scope of the question is a little out of my depth, given the Console List debacle, so if you, or anyone else, would like a more focused list, that I can do. So if you want that, or anything else answered, questions can go in the comment section, or, better yet, to ask411games@gmail.com.

I'll be back next week, hopefully back in the groove, and ready to tackle your questions. Or I'll just gush about Munchkin on the Xbox for a few pages. You have been warned…





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