Saturday, September 17, 2011

Thirty Five - Marvel: Ultimate Alliance

This next game has me wrapping up Activision's four Marvel RPGs. It's... probably my least favorite of the four, but that doesn't prevent it from being pretty good. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (the first) up in this.

If it seems a little shockingly fast for me to beat this game, then you'd be right. I straight up no-life'd it. Beat it in 2 days, with about 12 or 13 hours playtime. Why? Because my parents are in Europe and I don't give a fuck. Now, tomorrow will feature zero video games and a lot of cleaning the house. Water bottles and soda cans everywhere. It's embarrassing.

But back to MUA. I'm *sorta* playing this game as revenge. You see, in the summer and autumn of 2008, I was still in school while my three best friends (David, Diane, and Jon) had all just graduated. This is not because I am younger than those three (even though I am, by about three months), but because I am a fuckhead that took a year off school to figure his shit out. Anyhow, they played this entire game together in co-op and I missed out. I got part of my revenge a year later when M:UA2 came out and I co-opted that game with Jon and Diane in David's absence, but I still never had gotten around to the first one.

And the first one was pretty good indeed. The customization of characters shifts from an individual level to more of a team level - there is much less-elaborate equipment (good) and a moderate selection of powers (good, compared to the complicated biznass in XML2), but there is also severe limitations on equipping passive skills (...not sure if want) and annoying consequences if you deviate from your designated "team" characters (really, really annoying). The team customization feature was really neat, giving bonuses to characters on your customizable team (I used one of the Fantastic Four, a mercenary vigilante, an X-Man, and an Avenger, so you get the idea), but makes you give up experience points if you want to add characters to your team to inject some variety into your lineup. Being extremely reluctant to do so, I ended up using those four characters for 95% of the game. I lucked out, as two of my characters ended up being nigh-unstoppable powerhouses and neither of the other two were true duds. I even got a decent amount of personalized dialogue.

Overall, the game's story and dialogue are adequate. Even moreso than the other three games in the series, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance shoehorns in as many Marvel settings, villains, cameos, and jargon as possible into a 10-15 hour experience. In the first two Acts (out of five), I was in the Valley of Spirits, Mephisto's Realm, a bunch of S.H.I.E.L.D. facilities, and a crazy death carnival called Murderworld. I hadn't known of any of those (other than offhand references in other media) prior to playing the game. It gets really, really melodramatic and silly, but it's enough. One annoying thing: they repeat a few boss encounters that really should be new enemies. They also draw from a few really puzzling rogues galleries - lots of Spider-Man villains and random Shi'Ar. I would have liked to see a few more familiar faces, and a few less fights that I had already done a few hours earlier.

One major advantage that MUA2 has over MUA1 is dialogue. In this game, most of the responses are generic and have no effect on the story. Certain characters have special conversations with certain NPCs and villains. In MUA2, they go bonkers with it, with EVERY CHARACTER have personalized dialog (Hulk and Deadpool are even more hilarious than I expected), and there are personality options and more special convos as well. MUA1 is fine in the dialog department, but is outclassed in its sequel. Probably not for the best that I played the second first.

And I wouldn't know from specific experience, but MUA has very, very good multiplayer. It lacks some of the multiplayer tricks of MUA2, but it lends itself extremely well to playing in a group, where you can metagame with everything from character drafts to kill counts.

One last weakness: maybe it's because Thor and Human Torch are effin' MONSTERS, but this game is not very difficult. Of all my character deaths, I'd wager about a third of them were me being an idiot and accidentally falling off a cliff. And most bosses died in a matter of seconds, unless I had to follow through with some timed button press events (of which there are at least four, and they're all annoying). I did most of the sidequests and never deliberately engaged in level grinding, and I still thought the game was a bit of a pushover. The hardest sequences were when I found enemies with elemental resistances, because elemental attacks were the crux of my team. It could be my experience, having played many RPGs and just beaten an earlier game in the series, or this game might be on the easy side.

Overall, MUA is good for fans of Marvel superheroes or co-op RPGs, but ultimately it's one of the weakest in its series due to its short length (12 hours for me, with more than half of the sidequests finished), medium-sized cast, and superior predecessors and sequels. Not bad, but you can do better. I, for one, now want to try playing MUA2 again.

Games Beaten: 2011 Edition

1. Mario vs. Donkey Kong
2. Primal Rage
3. Torchlight Hat Trick
4. Ghost Trick
5. Flower
6. Batman: Arkham Asylum
7. Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus
8. Sly 2: Band of Thieves
9. Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves
10. Tales of Eternia
11. Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
12. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
13. 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors
14. Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation
15. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime
16. Dragon Age: Origins
17. Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
18. inFamous Evil Finish
20. inFamous 2 Good Finish
21. Big Bang Mini
22. Final Fight: Double Impact
23. Breath of Death VII: The Beginning
24. Cthulhu Saves the World
25. Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword
26. Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening
27. Disgaea Infinite
28. X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse
29. Jeanne d'Arc
30. Dragon Age II
31. Jade Empire
32. Cthulhu's Angels
33. DeathSpank: Orphans of Justice
34. Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten
35. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance


Next on the list isn't certain. I'm very early into Odin Sphere, midway through 3D Dot Game Heroes, and stuck at the end of Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?. Still more likely is a random disk from my unconquered stack of PS3 games (which is shorter than ever!)

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