January 7, 2009

Slashing and Hacking the Hack n Slash Games

MrWeymes Says: The hack n slash is one of the veteran genres in the video game universe. Games such as Golden Axe, Gauntlet, and Diablo are all classic examples. There has always been something very satisfactory about felling an opponent with a simple x, x, x, or a, a, a combo.

Current hack n slash games have evolved to the point where they feature huge storylines and excellent cutscenes unfold as you play. The biggest innovation to hit the hack n slash genre is probably the ability to dodge and parry. These actions are available in such games as Heavenly Sword, Devil May Cry 4, and Ninja Gaiden 2. The ability to parry or evade has added challenges to more recent games and they take time to master. Anyone who has played Ninja Gaiden 2 on a higher difficulty knows the skill that is needed to time defensive maneuvers. These moves may be bothersome to some old school hack n slash fans, and for them there are still many hack n slash games with a more classic approach to choose from, but if gamers want the video game industry to grow, they should never shun innovation.

Aside from shooters, the hack n slash genre is still one of the most popular. Most action RPGs are simple hack n slash games at heart. Kingdom Hearts 1 & 2 are probably two of the most famous hack n slash games available. Regardless of how many times you "cast heal" on yourself, or level up, the combat in the Kingdom Hearts series consists of pressing the X button repeatedly to disperse your foes. Perhaps the action RPG genre is so popular because its fans simply do not have the patience to play through several turn-based battles featured in games like Lost Odyssey, Final Fantasy 10, and the Disgaea series. It's odd that these action RPGs are often praised for their "innovative" or "unique" battle systems, because as mentioned above, the hack n slash genre is a veteran.

Tales of Vesperia, and the rest of the "Tales of" series is an example of a very popular action RPG with heavy hack n slash gameplay. The battle system is very simplistic and requires simple combos to fell your opponents. Other examples are the recent Xbox 360 exclusives Infinite Undiscovery and Too Human along with Rise of the Argonauts, which is available for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

In closing, the hack n slash genre is still one of the most relevant genres in video games. This is evident by finding bits and pieces of the hack n slash in several other genres. As long as video game enthusiasts still get their thrills from both hacking and slashing enemies, it's assured that the hack n slash genre has a long life ahead of itself.

Jimmy James 70 Says: As MrWeymes just explained, the hack n slash is a tried and true genre with a long history and a prominent future. So why do hack n slash games get slashed and hacked by the critics? Looking at the hack n slash games available on the Xbox 360, only one has a Metacritic score of 85 or higher, and that is 2006’s Dead Rising. Hack n slash games are innovative, unique, and intelligent and are very well done with beautiful graphics, and challenging enemies; and yet, they are treated as the equivalent of fast food for games. You know it's bad for you but you eat it any way. Cause they're fun. So, the critics need to step off their pedestal and start giving the hack n slash genre a fair review. It’s about time they did.

I played two hack n slash games that released in 2008 this past year and I liked them both for very different reasons. While both games have great graphics and relevant cutscenes, that’s about all they had in common, except that they are not exactly keepers; which makes them great titles for game trading.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed has a great story, is a beautiful game, and after you painstakingly learn the controls and combos, you can fight off dozens of enemies at once. But the game requires a very steep learning curve that takes a lot of fun out of the game. Star Wars might be the first game that I like that isn't fun to play. For example, there is nothing more frustrating than to watch your Jedi stand there paralyzed, unable to move and fight back, while enemies grind you up with combo attack after combo attack. You would think a Jedi could bounce back from taking a hit a little faster than that. Or, when your Jedi is knocked down, he takes his time standing back up, and by the time he is standing, that big giant Robot looking stormtrooper is sending another blast to send you right back to your knees. After three times in a row of not being able to stand up I am ready to throw my controller out the window. Is this Lucas’ way of adding realism to video games? Please. You can leave realism at the door as far as I am concerned. And what about when you finally climb to the top of something, only to get immediately blasted and knocked down a chasm to your immediate death? What fun is that? And fun has always been my number one defining factor for a game... So, I’m kind of torn on this title… I love the story and the graphics, and when I do remember how to execute a combo move, it’s like fine art unfolding on the screen; but all the unnecessary deaths, the paralyzed-Jedi routine, it’s just downright frustrating. Only two more missions to go and I can trade this one back. Thank goodness I didn’t pay for it and if I can trade it back for 1000 points, then I will have played the game for free. And that makes it worthwhile.

A stark contrast to Star Wars is Viking: Battle for Asgard. While it is light on story and suffers from repetitive game play, it is heavy on great cutscenes and is very easy to learn and master the combo moves. That’s what I loved about this game: the sheer simplicity of it made it tons of fun to play and you can literally hack and slash your way through the hordes. While this is a title you’ll want to trade as soon as you’re done with it, it’s still very worthwhile to play through, even if you don’t finish it.

Kube00 Says: In my opinion, games that meet the requirements of hack n slash are usually action games, sometimes dungeon crawlers, but more often than not they have little, to no puzzles and consist of killing enemies that keep on coming. Most of the games I would consider hack n slash have a top down camera of some sorts.

The best-known hack and slash game that is still played today is the infamous Diablo II. Although it could fall under Action RPG, the Diablo series is more aligned with that of hack n slash. There is a limited story line and the action gets very repetitive as you face off against wave after wave of similar enemies. There’s fun class and skill development, with several unique characters, and the multiplayer consists of playing co-op through the single player levels or dueling. Despite its age, Diablo II still has a semi-strong following and the Lords of Destruction expansion is available for cheap on Goozex (both the expansion and Diablo II are available for 100 points).

A few other hack n slash games worth mentioning are Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance I and II as well as Fallout Brotherhood of Steel. I would even go and argue that X-men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance are at their core hack n slash games. Hack n slash games are still fun and they are at their best when played in co-op. Most of them have a fair amount of replay value even if their length is a bit on the short side.