Editorials and Features
Article by: MrCHUPON
Hands On: Digital Life: Xbox Live Arcade Impressions [Written 2006-10-14]
Small Arms (Xbox 360)
Small Arms, to be very concise, feels like Super Smash Bros. Melee with guns. Four characters are dumped into a 2D arena (gameplay-wise) to duke it out. Since we more or less jumped in with no idea of what to expect and no tutorials, it was pretty much a random button-mashing fest. Unlike in Smash Bros., in Small Arms it seems as getting blasted off of the play area isn't the only way to die, as AnTiPoDe and I were routinely pummelled by our AI counterparts and each other.
Getting used to Small Arms takes a tiny bit of time. The R-trigger is used to fire your weapon, but your aim is controlled by the left analog stick. Anyone who remembers Contra will be familiar with this, but there are multiple degrees of aiming. Using as much of the analog stick's range as possible, you're not just firing in eight general directions. So you might think you have someone in your sights, but you've got to make sure you precisely point the analog stick in the exact direction of your adversary.
You've got melee attacks as well, along with items on the field. Again, it's all very reminiscent of Smash Bros., and for the little time that we played it, it seemed fun. However our experience was very short lived, so we didn't get much out of it gameplay wise.
Graphically, the game has a cartoony design that's actually of a much darker tone. The visuals were very crisp and reasonably detailed, and the animation was smooth. What's impressive is that, according to Garnett Lee from 1up.com, the development team was able to squeeze a gigabyte of assets into 50 megabytes to meet the Xbox Live Arcade Requirements.
Contra (Xbox 360)
Contra for Xbox Live Arcade is a port of the Arcade version of the game. To sum up - the levels are much shorter, the graphics are more colorful, and our heroes aren't bare-chested. From what we played at Digital Life, the game controls pretty well... with the analog stick. The D-pad remains too stiff to properly play a game like this on unless you're the most ninja of ninja gamers out there. However, the analog stick did work surprisingly well - well enough to the point where you'd swear an analog stick shouldn't control a 2D game this well.
Initially, the build we played sported very strange, filtered graphics. It's similar to what's been said about the upcoming Xbox Live Arcade version of Fatal Fury Special. It did create a smoother overall look for the game, but it was also a little disturbing to look at. We were then shown that this was simply an option in the menu screen that could be turned off. Re-entering the game, we saw the pixellated, old-school goodness that is to be expected of retro ports.
Contra for the Xbox Live Arcade is just as fun as you could imagine any old-school Contra game could be, but the problem is that - and this is through no fault of the developer or the console - the arcade game was simply not as fun as the NES version. The NES version we're all familiar with sports much longer levels. Still, any chance to get up on some Contra action should be relished. We'll be looking forward to this one as it launches on the Xbox Live Marketplace.
Doom (Xbox 360)
And it's already out.
But for Doom's sake, here are our impressions of it. Doom is just as fast and frantic as it was back in the DOS days. To wit, it's also just as pixellated. It's been said that the resolution had been upped for its Xbox Live incarnation, but we didn't see any of this at all. It may have been a setting in the menu, but we weren't privy to it if there was.
Regardless of the relatively untouched visuals, Doom still plays like a fantastic, old-school first-person shooter. Surprisingly for this die-hard mouse-and-keyboarder, the analog sticks work quite well here. In fact, it might not be unfair to say that the analog sticks work better than the mouse does for this particular game, in which you don't look up or down but only left or right. Very quick turns end up being a bit troublesome, but the original Doom has never required the quick turns that we're used to making with the mouse today.
Doom is currently out, as stated before, and includes the entire Doom package (except for the recent Doom 3, of course). It's available for 800 Microsoft points.
Lumines Live (Xbox 360)
The extent to which we tried out Lumines Live was simply the single-player challenge mode, which is identical to the one found in the PSP version of Lumines. In what looks to be a continuing trend, the d-pad simply was too stiff to play Lumines Live with the combination of precision and speed that one would be used to on the PSP. This is pretty strange, since the PSP's d-pad isn't exactly the belle of the ball either. Playing with the analog stick, however, was a bit worse since analog sticks aren't tap-tap-friendly.
Certainly, graphics aren't the first thing you look at when judging a puzzle game. However, Lumines looked very pleasant on the PSP, and it certainly looks fantastic here. Everything is smooth and crisp; it all emits a warm, glowing, inviting feeling.
The stages I played through before I got canned by stupid mistake were all ripped directly from the PSP version thus far. This certainly isn't a bad thing per se, as the sound and visuals were of course pleasing to the senses.
There's unfortunately not much to say about Lumines Live at this point, since we didn't end up trying out the different additions that the development team is supposed to be adding. Rest assured that if you loved the PSP version, and you're itching to get achievement points and leaderboard recognition, you won't be disappointed here... as long as you can get used to the d-pad.
Ultimate Mortal Kombat III (Xbox 360)
Chalk another one up for d-pad wonkiness. Surprisingly, the analog stick works very well for Ultimate Mortal Kombat III as an alternative to the janky d-pad - especially considering that it wasn't an ideal alternative for Street Fighter II' Hyper Fighting. The problem is that the analog stick doesn't act as an appropriate substitute for every character. Sub-Zero played wonderfully using the analog stick, but Liu Kang did not (given his preference for tap-tap special moves). Unfortunately, the D-pad did not suffice for Liu Kang either. A lot of this is quite a bit of nitpicking, so if you find yourself used to the Xbox 360 d-pad then perhaps it will suffice.
Graphically, some rough patches of pixellation show but it's hardly noticeable unless you're playing on an HDTV that's a foot away. Characters on the Character Select screen animated with a bit of choppiness, but in-game animation was arcade-perfect. Dan Forden's huge mug coming out of the corner never looked so warming and nostalgic. Those upset with Street Fighter II' Hyper Fighting, take note: the sound is perfect.
Ultimate Mortal Kombat III seems to be shaping up in a similar fashion to, but slightly better than, Street Fighter II' Hyper Fighting in terms of control. It remains to be seen, however, whether or not internet lag will become a problem. The game is due out for download in November.
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