Tuesday 25 April 2023

24/4/2023: MMBN/Rockman EXE revisited

Who are you, again?

Rockman EXE or Megaman Battle Network. Who doesn't love that in their childhood?

I have been waiting for so long for this game -- the last game I bought was Warioware where I cleared all 52 weekly challenges and still haven't got another new game, but now here it is: the Rockman EXE remake.

I always praise TWEWY with its battle system utilizing the full potential of the DS console, and in that sense Rockman EXE was also doing similar things in the GBA era: fully customizable chip deck and navicust system which allows you choose the upgrade to take, and a battle system using all buttons that looked  very simple but can be extremely sophisticated. 

The battle system fits really well in a PVP environment which is something I did not notice back in the time. That is partly due to the fact that the viruses (or opponent's navi) are actually using attacks similar to what you can do using respective chips, creating an equal field. As such it is much easier to transcend the PVE theories to PVP theories. The highly customizable nature also means that the opponent would be highly unpredictable, testing the depth of the players -- and of course the ability to react. Although technological limitations made it hard to do real time battles back in the days, there were actually tournaments in Japan. It's so grateful that Capcom decided to bring PVP back, and you should definitely try those.

The battle system has its limitations though. The grid system (somehow reminds me of battleon/adventure quest which somehow is still alive...) is a double edge sword: this is surely the trademark of the EXE series, but also clearly outdated and make things less flexible. You can see the development team making improvements every generations but as long as the battle is still grid-based the drawbacks would persist. The biggest problem in my opinion would be the fact that the field is frozen as mega chip (those character/navi based attacks) activates, leaving no room to avoid the hit. Positioning would be the only thing you can do beforehand, but with so many mega chips to dodge this is just luck based. That won't matter too much in PVE even at endgame level (as opponent's strategy is fixed) but that would undermine PVP environment quite a bit. I always think in that way like how I treated classical Tetris -- this is all about how the meta would be. A comparison is that in fighting games there are also combos where character gets grabbed and can't counter till the end of the combo, but that only happens when the opponent performs the right input strings (which is often tricky, and takes time) and hitting the right space. That is  fair because opponent has its reaction time but not in Rockman where everything is done in a press.

The plot is really written in a retro-futuristic perspective from the 2000s (cue Effiel 65 here) on how future would be: a world where individual gets personalized navis (in modern ai, a general AI assistant); electronic things fully connected in a single network and every program has a physical look in the network world; and...connections are done by plugging in! How many of you still using LAN wires? Even funnier there is a scene where someone connected with infrared connection. How many of you even used infrared connections other than remote controls, allow me to ask? I think it's a thing when Nokia phone (3310 or similar generations) used infrared to send ringtones, then GBA had gadgets allowing infrared connections (did someone talked about GBC IR sensor...? You guys are too old for here) but it remained nothing more than a forgotten novelty...

Despite the story talking perspective, you get a heavy taste of early 00s RPG for sure. The complicated and sometimes annoying map together with a very high encounter rate and very repetitive battles makes it a torture to go through, but that's why you get the MAX burst mode and 'cheats' that allows you to access chips immediately. I hope they add a repel like item here though. A levelless RPG system should implies that the strength of the character largely depends on your finesse, but if you are good enough you should be allowed to skip battles. This is almost a theorem in 2023, but back in the days this is how we children spend time.

I spent the most time on EXE5 (not Colonel coz I missed the version selection screen) as in 18 years ago. The GBA cartridge containing the game should be somewhere in my living place but I just couldn't find that anymore...together with GBA. It's not that I liked this version the most, it's the one where I have the most memories with it. Memories with the never-ending liberation mission. 

Ah those liberation missions...this is worth another 1000 words for some other day.

But yeah, those who experienced the original game should definitely give it a try on switch, as the collection pack is quite a bargain.

Saturday 8 April 2023

古早遊戲BGM巡遊(3): Son of Sun

音遊好像也算遊戲,把音遊戲原創曲拿出來好像也沒違反規矩?我想避免一直講音遊就是,因為這個系列的目的是音樂為主題做些雜談,而非音遊專欄。不過在音遊裡挑一首也不是隨便來的,近十年像大黑、Freedom Dive、BBKKBKK這些都不夠古早,這次講一首再古老一點的。

DJMAX的Son of Sun。

比起Marble Zone和Reincarnation之流這首也不算太古老,但在音遊界裡勉強算是吧。一如前面我介紹過的兩首,很多樂曲沒被介紹到只是因沒有再次遇上所以想不起來。一旦不小心聽到了就會忍不住逮著懷緬一番。

DJMAX是時代的眼淚。其6K打法和TECHNIKA打法成為了日後不少音遊的參考對象。6K自不用說,現在TECHNIKA的打法還有Cytus等遊戲在用(嚴格來說Phigros或者Dynamix這堆浮動判定線的也算其變種?)。可惜它血統不正(不是KONMAI甚至不是和製)所以宣傳力度與普及性不足,觸屏在2008-2010過於前衛所以成本偏高但又難以跟一時無兩的jubeat競爭(即使是2010始發血統純正的reflec beat也落得類似下場),最終沉沒在時間的長河之中。

到了十幾年後的今天,不但DJMAX的玩法有了傳承,連其歌曲也重現在不同的音遊裡面,包括了我今天打的Chunithm。我之所以想寫這篇,完全是因為我在這首歌上面打了個full combo SSS+,明明是首Lv13但分數比我打過任何的譜面都要高。說起來今天我本來飯氣攻心一直提不勁去打,但打出了這個高分後就突然開竅,一路高歌猛進甚至SS了Lv14+的Pure Ruby和Elemental creation,也許這就是進入狀態的威力吧。

回到樂曲本身。DJMAX裡面好歌有一堆,ESTi跟M2U都出了不少難忘的作品。隨便舉例ESTi有SIN和OblivioN,M2U則有Space of Soul和The Princess of Darkness。但為甚麼我偏會記得Son of Sun這首呢?

很簡單,這首歌的節奏感極強加上BPM200的速度,是拿來做音遊的一流素材。規律的重拍子貫穿全曲,配合各種複雜的拍子比如0:14那段x xx xx的節奏或者1:31落在1/2拍子上的人聲都是可塑性非常高的段落。DJPop早在2009就為這曲子做了個鬼畜譜面,但要體現那個節奏感的話那些同時容納多軌道的音遊才是更好的載體,比如DJMAX TECHNIKA本身,譜面1:46那段一隻手hold+另一隻手推進;又或者我上面打的中二一隻手上下應付AIR note另一隻手極速左右晃動應付下面的音符。(當然Ultima難度就更誇張了……)