Now Playing: One Small Step for Man

Yeah, let’s come round back on this.

For the summary, years, years ago, I set myself on a quest to beat, or come as close as I’m capable of doing, all my games. Every single games that’s part of my collection. Group them by console generation, tackle them sequentially, don’t stop until either they’re beat or I am.

At first it went smoothly. Although I still have some older games either I forgot about at the time (basically my whole Game Boy library) or picked up after the fact, the first several console generations fell quickly. Then I’ve been stuck in the seventh console generation for what feels like ages. But I am near the end of it. In an attempt to keep myself honest moving forward, I’m making it public. Potentially opening up myself to shame but not really because I am magnificent and so don’t have to worry about that.

Last time, I moaned about not making nearly as much progress as I thought. Since then, I’ve changed the way I play games. Got more of a solid schedule to it, less just playing whatever I feel like. Also, I don’t have as much games going at once, and for the time being at least, I’m not working classic games outside of the project series I’m picking up into the rotation. I think it’s had success in moving me forwards. I’ve knocked off several titles in the short month-plus since the last time we’ve done this. Makes me hopeful I might actually get through this generation of the quest in less time than even I predicted this year. Yep, quite a turnaround from the last time we checked in. Let’s get into that.

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It’s Done when It’s Done

It’s an old discussion on the video gaming interbutts, talking about lengths of games and how important that is to their overall quality. The discussion has changed somewhat, what with the indie scene becoming a pretty big thing and production of mainstream games growing in scope and resources, but talk of this has been around for pretty much as long as I’ve been a cognizant part of the sphere. Even now, people will decry games for being too short, games will use their epic scale and 100+ hour playtimes as selling points, and longer games are generally considered superior to shorter ones.

From a market-based perspective, I can see a lot of why that is. With the mainstream publishers putting their games out there for $60 a pop, which equates to several hours of work for most people, I can understand how people would be seeking a certain level of value for their investment, and for those who use playtime as a measure of value, well, it’s not a bad measure at all.

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And yet. Time doesn’t really seem to be a great indicator of the quality of experience. I was struck by some of the recent games I’ve been playing. Final Fantasy XII, where, although I still enjoyed it more than I expected, I was still hit with the impression that it was built with developmental efficiency in mind. Like, given the legendary development difficulties in the game, they ended up trying to get the maximum amount of playtime out of the resources they had available. Led to large gulfs of time between notable gameplay experiences, probably one of the biggest weaknesses in the game. On the other hand, Prince of Persia Sands of Time was a very compact experience. It would have been easy for them to stretch that game out, see some more variations on established iterations between the platforming segments, puzzles, what not in order to stretch it out. But they didn’t. Combat aside, most features that come up only appear a handful of times at most. It feels like a game in which they had all their ideas in a list, highlighted the good ones and only used those, and as soon as they ran out of the good ideas they capped it off and called it done. It’s a very deliberate, satisfying experience throughout, and feels like it’s constantly refreshing and bringing up new concepts. It’s not a long game, but most of it is very well designed, missing a lot of the flaws that drag a lot of it down.

Most pieces of media out there have constraints as to how long they’re supposed to be. Most novels are going to shoot for around 80,000 words. Movies are around two hours in length. Comic arcs get around six issues of 21 pages each to tell their story. Television shows have to fit story arcs into episodes of 30 minutes or an hour each, or if they’re telling an overarching tale, they still have to match that to the length of the run or season. And yet what if your story doesn’t fit the mold, exactly? You have to cut it down or stretch it out to fit into the timeframe you’re looking at, but both ends of those have negative repercussions on the quality of the work. Video games are one of the few story telling mediums where it’s largely acceptable for the work to be just as long as it needs to be. When it’s done, it can be done, it doesn’t have to meet any artificial timeline in order to be produced. We should be taking advantage of that. Many do. Yet even then, there’s a push to make things longer and longer, get more of that time value out of it, regardless of what it does to the quality. And when there’s backlash against that, I feel like it is ignored.

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I think part of it all comes down to one’s style of play. The video games medium has grown into a very diverse one. Yes, even with all the clone games and ripoffs coming out. Yes, I know 2018 seems to be the year of the Battle Royale mimics, but there’s more than just that out there. Trust me. The medium has something to offer for any of a variety of personality types and playstyles. However you like to game, there’s plenty out there for you. In my case, I maintain a collection. Once I acquire a game, it becomes part of the collective. I’ll generally buy games when I can get them on the cheap years after they come out, and I’ll play them for the first time months or years after I get them. At the same time, all those games are a part of my life, and I’ll always come back to old games somewhere down the line. I cycle through them. So the whole value proposition is quite a bit different for me. Cost doesn’t matter to my enjoyment of it, because I generally work on a different framework disconnected from the price. Playtime is not so important, because I’ll play games multiple times over during the course of my life.

I’ve seen people on Steam logging thousands of hours into multiplayer games. I enjoy plenty of the 40-100 hour epics myself. Yet there’s also a big place in my heart for the games that can confidently present themselves as a concise experience. Those Sands of Times, those Shadow of the Colossus’s, those Superhots, the endless amounts of quality games checking in at single-digit hours. I’ve gained a special appreciation for short games as part of this quest I’m on to beat all the games I’ve owned, where they serve to counteract the lag I start to feel when I get bogged down in this sea of RPGs I’ve built for myself, but even beyond that, they form a very important part of the gaming sphere. There are definitely places for those epic games. There are tons of great games that will take you 70+ hours to get through, and more power to them. But let’s hold some respect for the games that deliver in short form. If a game can boil itself down to what it does best, and deliver that while resisting the temptation to weaken itself by taking on hours that don’t fit, that is something to be valued.

The Twitch Desktop App, Reviewed by Someone Who Doesn’t Care About Twitch

So Twitch’s Desktop App has joined my computer as the fifth in an increasingly difficult to manage amount of games clients on my PC. Now, I don’t really care about Twitch. Nothing personal. If you enjoy it, more power to you. I’m just not much for the whole livestreaming deal. I love let’s plays. Don’t care for livestreaming. Figure that out.

So why did I pick up the app? The games, man. Apparently Twitch sells games. Been doing that for less than a year. And, if you’ve got Amazon Prime, they started giving you a monthly bundle of games. I remember hearing some noise when Amazon made the acquisition of Twitch a while back, but I think I speak on behalf of the entire video games community when I say that giving me, specifically, new games is a good way to ingratiate yourself to everybody.

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And, you know, it’s a legit set of games. I don’t know about you, but when I found out about it, I was completely expecting it to be a bunch of garbage games. I mean, the free TV you get off Amazon Prime seems to be getting weaker every year, I was expecting the games to be the same way. But no. Sure, I already owned like half the games I’ve picked up through this arrangement on other platforms, but you can take that as an indication of the selection’s quality. Your main man has some discriminating tastes. You seem to get a bit of a mix of games, from the somewhat older mainstream releases to the creative indie title to the niche and relatively unknown left field games. Some of them are still filling gaps in the collection. I’m still kicking myself that I missed out on Mr. Shifty from not realizing I could claim games through this service the first month it was available, and although High Hell is not one I had ever thought would make its way to my collection, now that it’s there I’m having a he…..ck of a good time with it.

Of course, this is a new client on offer, joining the likes of GOG Galaxy and Uplay and Origin and the juggernaut of Steam. As far as I can tell, the Twitch Desktop App has only been around since last August, less than a year going. So, what’s it actually like?

Pretty featureless, in all. Which, granted, I’m sure it’s made more for the livestreaming than necessarily the gaming, right now. Maybe that matters to you. As I mentioned before, I don’t care. It still seems to be a work in progress. In the few weeks I’ve been playing around with it, it’s been updated three times, so I’m guessing it’s still seeing a fair bit of development. But really, it will install games on your computer and let you play them. That’s about it.

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Installation works fine. Speed seems relatively comparable to the big boy clients. You don’t have the ability to pause downloads, however. That’s not a problem for me with the small games, the indie titles, or the classics from yesteryear. It’s going to limit its utility for the modern AAA releases, though. At least for me. When I’m downloading a 60 GB game to my computer, well, I live in one of those places where you can actually see the stars at night, so on the flip side, internet speed isn’t the greatest. It takes a while. And I’m not really willing to completely dedicate my internet use to one thing over the next 14 hours. I stop large downloads when I need to do something on the internet, then start them up again when I’m occupied with something else. Wouldn’t be able to do that on Twitch.

The game’s shop is about as bare bones as you can get. The selection isn’t great. Around 200 games, which sounds like a lot, but when you start looking for that one specific game you’re craving, it’s going to seem all too small. The selection is so small there’s not any way to sort through them. They just give you a list of games in roughly alphabetical order, and leave it to you to find what you’re looking for. No organizing by genre, no search function, nada. For whatever reason, they don’t even display prices on the shop screen either. You have to click through to the game’s page to find out what they’re offering it for. Or if Twitch is even selling it at all; some games only sell add-ons through Twitch, to get the full game, you have to buy from another site.

For that matter, you can’t buy games through the client itself. You click the shop button, it just opens the window in your browser. You can’t claim your Amazon Prime goodies through the client either. All browser-based.

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One thing that I think is unique about the Twitch App is that it’s got a dedicated area for managing mods. Only for a handful of games, seemingly, and only for the selection of mods that are uploaded to Twitch, but you don’t need the games to be in your Twitch library to enjoy this benefit. Twitch pretty easily picked up a couple of games I had installed through Steam, and I can seemingly integrate mods simply enough through this service. I’m not really a big mod gamer, but I still found this rather interesting.

Playing the game… you’re just playing the game. Twitch has no overlay here. Which is fine, most services don’t, I think Steam’s a little unique in that regard. I was surprised by this, I would have expected Twitch to provide some streaming features, or at least easy screenshot functionality, but hey, for all I know they do and I just haven’t found it yet.

One last minor irritation, the client doesn’t actually close with you ‘X’ out of it. It just minimizes. Granted, Uplay’s the only client kind enough to close entirely when you ‘X’ out, Origin, Galaxy, and Steam all still run in the background, but it is bizarrely frustrating to me to see Twitch hanging out on my task bar at all times unless I take the extra step of exiting entirely. It’s a feature that makes very little difference whatsoever, but it’s still hitting me on a visceral level.

So yeah, that’s the Twitch Desktop App. As a client to get those monthly games you get through Amazon Prime onto your computer and let you play them, it’s perfectly fine. Missing some convenience features, but it’s totally functional. If it wants to stand on its own as a gaming client, it’s got some work to do. The developers do seem to be working on that, a little bit at a time. But it’s going to take some time to get there. I hope it does have the longevity to last, though. The closure of the Wii Shop has found my trust in marketplaces somewhat shaken, and I’d hate to see these new games I’ve been able to add to my collection get cut off from me.

The Untitled Fallout

Last time on Falling Out with Athena, we gave ourselves a scary dose of radiation in pursuit of obtaining some sick power armor. But we survived! So did Tycho and Dogmeat, in the complete and utter absence of any anti-radiation medicine. I don’t even know how that works! But here we go!

So, you might think that our first step in acquiring sick power armor is to go back to the place that has the power armor, which we just gained the right to enter. Well, you’d be wrong. The first step is to actually go back to the Hub. Because our adventures in the weapons research lab has left us with a bunch of loot. We actually end up with the entire free spending money of all the shopkeepers in the Hub after selling only a portion of what we collected. But there’s also other business here.

You remember that time that we got spotted through a window by that group that was way too high level for us? No you don’t, because that never happened. But we go to check them out, deliberately this time.

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So, I blamed this group’s weird aggro on a glitch that time. They shouldn’t have spotted us from outside the building, but they did, and attacked us as we were just passing by. As I get closer to the building, it turns out it wasn’t a glitch, so much as it was an unfortunate confluence of programming. Apparently, one of the NPCs, randomly wandering around, had meandered into their building and opened the door. The opened door set their aggro onto high alert, and bad things followed for us. They’re supposed to be after us for opening the door, but I guess random jerks invading their space instead makes them angry at us. So it wasn’t a glitch, just a weird confluence of random programming that we ended up taking the blame for.

It doesn’t matter this time, because we make them angry at us on purpose. Theoretically, we’ve been given no reason to bother. Just a bunch of weirdly aggressive make my day types who we’ve been given zero context on or reason to bother with. I mean, yes, there’s something out there that would key us into the fact that, you know, maybe these crazy violent thugs in a random building in the bad side of town have something to hide that we want in on, but we’re saving ourselves some time and skipping over the part of this sidequest where they ask us to do this thing we’re doing right now.

Last time we came across them, these guys kind of mopped the floor with us. We’ve built up plenty of levels since then, though. We have better equipment. Better armor. Better gear in general. Well, Tycho and Dogmeat don’t, but Athena does. And she takes advantage of it.

The biggest risk in this room is the guy with the combat shotgun across the way from us. He has a lot of HP, and one of the strongest small guns in the game. It’s the next level shotgun up from the model Tycho is carrying. Shot for shot, it’s still weaker than the .223 pistol Athena bears, but it has a burst fire mode that makes it truly dangerous. Get hit with a burst of that, and I’m not sure if even Athena’s new combat armor would be able to keep her from getting one-shot.

Luckily, the guy never resorts to it. Over confidence, I guess. Athena plings shots against him while Tycho, Dogmeat, and the other three thugs move around her.

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One of the thugs gets into melee range with Athena. I had discounted him, because he’s wielding spiked brass knuckles, which isn’t nearly as strong a weapon as that combat shotgun. I came to regret it, though. Dude still does some solid damage. Dogmeat’s got our back, though. Comes up, scores a few hits on him, one of which is a critical hit that knocks him to the ground. Gives us some breathing room to heal up after that.

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Punchman starts harrying Tycho, but Tycho guns him down. Athena has to heal up a bit once more, but she starts overcoming the combat shotgun guy in a battle of attrition, and the thug starts making a break for it and fleeing. Both Dogmeat and Tycho give chase, and end up slaying him on the streets. The guards are surprisingly calm about a pitched firefight spilling out right in front of them.

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Of course, this wouldn’t be us if we didn’t accidentally shoot ourselves in the middle of the fight.

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In any case, Athena mops up inside. One of the surviving guards decides to run outside, right into Tycho and Dogmeat’s loving attention. Continue reading

On Shin Megami Tensei

Athena over at AmbiGaming had posed the question recently. What’s a game you love but never talk about? I recently started replaying it again, so it was a pretty easy answer for me. Shin Megami Tensei. I’ve talked about other games in the series, some of them at length, but I don’t really talk about the Super Famicom original all that much. That got me thinking. Well, everything gets me thinking because my brain is just so big from knowing so much stuff, but that got me thinking specifically about this game. Maybe it’s time to correct that whole not talking about this game thing. Let’s talk about Shin Megami Tensei.

You might know the Megami Tensei series. The majority of the releases for the past decade and a half have seen western soils. Outside of the Persona series, they’re not really hitting mainstream attention, but they still draw plenty of their own groups to them. They series as a whole is known for a lot of things. Mixing a lot of recognizable figures from religion, mythology, and folklore, and letting you fight/ally yourself with them. Being really hard. Having God as the big bad guy. Or, back in the old days, being a classic JRPG series that never had a hope of being marketed to America through NOA’s content policies.

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That last one is how I first came across the game. The Megami Tensei series is one of my favorite ones. It was Persona 4 that introduced me to a lot of it, showed me magic and convinced me to dive in deeper, but my introduction to the series actually came years earlier with this game. Back when I was a cub, I had a friend. I know, I know, stem your surprise. Anyways, friend’s older brother was big into import games. Had himself a modded SNES, which seemed super cool and elite until I grew up and learned that all that entailed was knocking out the little tabs in the cartridge holder so that the SFC cartridges fit in the American SNES. As I recall, he had himself a rather sizable collection of Japanese games as well. Friend and I had some good times alternatively watching him play and playing through a bunch of games, including this one, although outside of when he explained things to us, we really had no idea what was going on in game.

Fast forward a couple of years. My family had moved away. Our parents kept in touch, but he and I didn’t. After graduating college, I committed to spending a year as an Americorps volunteer in an economically blighted area in middle of nowhere America. Early on, my mother had sent me a care package. Well, apparently she’d been talking to her friends about it, because my old friend had sent her a couple things to include in there, including the old copy of Shin Megami Tensei. I ended up spending long, long hours with that game, trial and erroring my way through the Japanese text until I finally found a translation guide online and could play it fully. I spent a lot of time with that game. That proved to be a very transitional time in my life, wherein I lost a lot of the old and found a lot of the new, and a lot of my memories about all that have gotten tied up in my thoughts about Shin Megami Tensei.

Artistic works, whether visual arts, movies, books, games, whatever, often end up meaning something to us, moreso than the work itself. Shin Megami Tensei is one of those games to me.  It’s been a constant companion for me, a game I come back to every once in a while just to relive.  It was even the subject of the first LP I ever attempted, although a similar transitional time in my life interrupted that.  Maybe that’ll be one that finds new life here eventually.

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Going Down, Fallout-Style

Hey, boys and girls. It’s that time again. What time? Fallout time.

So last time, we had a bit of an abbreviated session where we decided we want some sick power armor and now we’re in a hole in the ground in an irradiated hellscape.

But it’s not just any hole in the ground! This is the West-Tek Weapons Research Facility, which we don’t know yet but sorry, I’m bad at spoilers. Otherwise known as the Glow. Because it’s so irradiated, that things glow here. Athena popped some pills, so she’s probably alright. Or is she? Find out below!

Yeah, she’s alright. Sorry. I’m bad at spoilers.

I’m also bad at screenshots too, because looking things over again, I didn’t take enough. So I’m just going to have to do the writer thing here, and paint you all some pictures with my words.

Outside the giant hole in the ground, there’s a dead loser. I’m not kidding. The game actually calls the poor sap that. Inside, we find corpses all over the place. Some of which look like they’ve been here a while. Some of which not so much. There’s a lot of corpses that look out of place here. Some people that are obviously from the outside world. It seems the Brotherhood have been sending their random wannabe joiners out here for a while. Probably not been getting many back.

Athena’s going to turn that right on its head.

So, there are four main dangers here. The first, and the most obvious, is the radiation. This is the only place in the game where we have to worry about radiation, but it is a doozy here. Athena’s endurance is on the low side, so even making it here without being struck with radiation poisoning takes some doing. Much less hanging around here. I brought just a bit over the bare minimum needed to get through here, but any drug is going to lose its effect with time, Rad-X included.

Luckily, time proceeds really slowly when we’re dungeon diving. As long as we don’t do anything stupid, we’ll be fine. Granted, Athena’s a night person, and it’s daylight out, so the chances of us doing something stupid have increased, but she’s still much smarter than the average bear, so trust me, we’ll be fine.

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The second danger is that the first floor is littered with traps. Dogmeat and Athena both have enough skill with traps to detect when they’re near, but not enough to do anything about them. Especially because Dogmeat never stops blasted moving around! We trip quite a few as we make our way around the giant gaping hole in the center of the facility.

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As you might expect from a weapons research facility, the Glow is loot heaven. We’re just scratching the surface on the first floor, but already we collect some high tech equipment, some bullets, and some skill-boosting books. Athena’s tempted to read them right now, but that would be one of those stupid things we talked about earlier. I’m a night person too, and I’m playing this game at night, so my intelligence is heightened. I’m able to avoid the temptation.

There’s a dead Brotherhood of Steel member near a computer terminal, in full power armor. Athena gets excited, but no. It’s seals aren’t sound, and it’s let in so much radiation it killed the person inside of it already. It’s probably a deathtrap. A sick, sick deathtrap. The brother is carrying two things of interest. A yellow keycard, and a holodisc in which he recorded his last moments. With the holodisc, we could go back to the Brotherhood and prove we made it in and out of the Glow, as required for initiation. I mean, we could do that, if you missed what I said earlier about loot heaven. This is probably the best place to get cool stuff in the game, outside of maybe the Brotherhood themselves. A lot of the very best stuff is going to be useless to Athena, because you guys tagged her small guns skills in the beginning and I want to respect that instead of turning her into a mini-gun toting she-warrior anyway. But there’s still a handful of very important things I want to pick up here.

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The holodisc itself details a rather grisly scene for the poor fellow who held it. A contingent of Brotherhood folks were investigating this place. Had no trouble with the first two levels of the facility, but tripped some security sensors on the third, and had to fight their way out through a bunch of battle bots. This poor fellow was separated from the rest of his crew, noticed his armor was no longer air tight and thus no longer radiation-proof, and succumbed. Not pleasant.

But hey, what say we just wander into the same danger he fell to, eh? The terminal next to him has some access to the power controls of the facility, but the primary power is non-operable and we leave the emergence power alone. It’s at least powering the elevators, which we use the keycard he was carrying to access. The doors were electrified, because apparently just not opening isn’t enough to keep people out, but the keycard takes care of that. We head down to the second level.

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On the second level, we find robots. And also traps that we notice but can’t do anything about so we just endured them, but robots. Not just any robots. These are the same types of robots that cut the Brotherhood apart. Security robots. Deathbots. They might have lasers or something. And if the Brotherhood in their sick power armor couldn’t stand up to them, what chance does Athena in her lame metal spiky punk armor, Tycho in his leather armor, and Dogmeat in her no armor stand?

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Now Playing: Status Update

You know, I think it’s about time for another check in on this one.  Making this all public as a way of motivating myself.  Accountability an all that.

For those of you who weren’t around last time, or aren’t in the habit of of remembering random minutia from incredibly sexy internet stranger’s lives, I’m on a quest.  A long, long time ago, I decided that I was going to beat, or come as close to it as I was able to, every single game I owned, grouped together by console generation.  Seriously, I want to emphasize that.  A long time.  I’ve been playing games for a long time, and have amassed a huge collection.  Doesn’t help that I usually have some side game I’m working on outside of this quest, or that new games do get added into it.  It took me a few months each to cross the NES and SNES generations.  PS/64 took me about a year.  I’ve been working my way through the PlayCubeBox era for an embarrassingly large amount of years.  But I’m nearing the end.  I was hoping to have finished up that generation by the end of this year.

But I’m probably going to have to pick up the pace.  It’s been months since we checked on this last, and I’m disappointed that my list has not changed as much as I thought.  But let’s get into that.

The Recently Conquered

Planescape: Torment

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My thoughts on that are up here.  This is a game I went through a roller coaster with.  I started out really hating it.  Then I enjoyed it.  Then I progressed to a point where I couldn’t do all the stuff I was enjoying anymore, and I started hating it again.  Then that stopped, and I enjoyed that more, then the end game started, and, well, you get the idea.  ‘Twas unfortunate.  When it’s good it’s really good, but when it’s bad it’s awful.

King of Fighters 2002

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Yeah, this wasn’t part of the original list.  But GOG had it for free, so I had to pick it up.  I’ve been treating PC games like how I have this one a little bit differently, on this quest.  I do have to get them done, and I usually work with at least one classic game alongside whatever I’m doing for this mission at any given time, but I’m not going to hold myself back from moving on to the next console generation for these.

In any case, I suck at fighting games, but I really have a lot of fun with them.  And I love crossovers.  So King of Fighters is in the top of the field at a lot of things I really appreciate in games.  2002 is a Neo Geo port, and doesn’t have a lot of the features we take for granted in modern fighting games, so took me on a bit of a learning curve getting into it, but once I got there,  well, there aren’t many 2d fighting games better than most entries in the King of Fighters series, and 2002 really does deliver the quality.

I’m really not a fan of the ol’ SNK boss syndrome this that is so constant in fighting games and that King of Fighters exemplifies, where the final boss is so much more crazy hard than any of the other fights leading up to it.  I play games one player, so the deliberately broken final bosses are always going to be my cap of any given fighting game experience.  It always leads to me having to make a choice of whether to choose to play at a difficulty level where I’m appropriately challenged by all the normal fights, but I’ll be blown up by the final boss, or to choose a difficulty level where I won’t have as good a time leading up to it, but I’ll at least be able to draw some satisfaction from the conclusion.  It’s not a good choice to be making.  2002 does mitigate it somewhat by presenting you some additional options when you lose, but it wasn’t enough for me.

Soul Calibur II

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King of Fighters did instill a fighting game mood in me, and Soul Calibur II was what I picked up next.  It came out at a bit of a strange age for fighters, when most every big name in the genre wasn’t prepared to brave the market as it was then, and the ones that did didn’t get the attention they would in years before or after.  I usually credit the Mortal Kombat series with keeping fighting games alive in this generation, even if their games somehow had that really weird inconsistency in quality even though they were all using the same engine, but Soul Calibur II did its part in that, too.  A legitimately great game that had some very solid sales numbers, this was another sound leg for the genre to stand on.

I didn’t keep up with the series much after this, but if they’ve been able to keep building on top of what they did here, they’ve got something worthwhile indeed.

Also, again, I love crossovers, and being able to play as Link in a game like this hits a very warm and fuzzy spot.  I don’t care if it doesn’t make sense.

Now Playing

Final Fantasy XII

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I mentioned last time that I had been surprising myself with how much I’ve been enjoying this game.  Well, the honeymoon period is over.  And now I’m starting to see it for the shrewd partner it is.

Final Fantasy XII famously had a lot of production difficulties behind it.  Lots of games do.  Some of them rise above that, and still deliver a great time even with all the behind the scenes drama.  Others never quite overcome the challenges presented by the difficult environments they’re birthed from.  Final Fantasy XII seems to have been largely defined by the compensations they’ve had to make for what was going on with the development team.  The production difficulties feel like they’ve been woven into the game’s very DNA.

I’ve hit a point in the game where it feels like everything has been built to stretch, to offer as much playtime with as little development effort as possible with no regard to the quality therein.  Everything feels like a grind with no payoff.  I get through one area after another, and nothing seems to actually be happening because of it.  It’s been so long between cutscenes that I’ve forgotten what half of my characters sound like, and story is so sparse that I’ve got very little idea of most of my teams’ motivations and personalities.  And there’s a huge amount of grind in a literal sense.  Nearly everything, from weapons to abilities to magic, you have to unlock the ability to use it by grinding points and you have to buy the thing itself with money.  And there’s not enough money going around, unless you go back and scour areas over and over again, to keep all six members of your party up to date.

I’m over 50 hours into the game, and it’s currently what I’m pouring most of my playtime into.  I’m hoping the end is within sight and that things will pick up then, but with how little substance the game has behind it, it’s difficult to get a sense of where the momentum is leading.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles

Crystal_Chronicles_gameplay.jpg

Yeah, I’ve just been in a Final Fantasy mood.

This is an odd game for me.  It feels like it’s on the verge of being a great game, and in multiplayer, I bet it’s a blast.  But the whole game is built around multiplayer, yet multiplayer requires extra peripherals and hand-helds, and for someone like me who doesn’t have friends in the first place, much less friends with the right combat simulator equipment, that is absolutely never going to happen.

And that causes some pains to the single player.  The inventory management, the bosses, many enemies, there so much in this game that was obviously intended to be handled with a group, and there’s no analogue to be had in single player.  Even basic combat suffers from this, as it’s obvious various combat techniques are meant to fit into roles and leave gaps that can’t be covered when you’re all by yourself.

All in all, I’m still having fun with it.  But as the challenges get steeper the gaps between how I’m able to play and how the game is meant to be played are showing more and more.

In any case, it shouldn’t be long before this game joins the conquered list.  I’m near the end, and at the point where I could start getting what I need to make it to the final level, but I’m wanting to revisit some locations and get my character as strong as possible first.

The Soon to Fall

Valkyrie Profile 2

Shadow of the Colossus

Psychonauts

Beyond Good and Evil

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snaaaaaaaaaaake Eateeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrr

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Mortal Kombat Armageddon

Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean

X-Men Legends

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

Only two more JRPGs on that list.  That’s been one of the biggest things taking up so much time.  There’s a few other ones there that are also going to take a commitment to get through, but I don’t think many other than the JRPGs are going to be crossing the 40 hour mark.  Definitely possible to have it all done before the end of the year, I think, but it might be tighter than I’m hoping.  Especially as I’ve always got other projects going.  It will take some focus.  Eyes on the prize.