Persona Dancing Games

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How did we end up in a world where there are three of these games?

Seriously, a rhythm game based on a series of JRPGs that somehow got successful enough to spawn two sequels?  How did that happen?

So, you remember that time, years ago?  The Persona series was great, everybody loved the last two entries, but the series hadn’t seen anything new except for the somewhat related Catherine.  Sure, they had given an opaque announcement for Persona 5, but we didn’t know anything about it except for “You are slave.  Want emancipation?”  Then one day, bam!  A slew of new games incoming.  Not just more details on Persona 5, but there was an announcement for a Persona 4 fighting game!  Really?  And a gameplay crossover between Persona characters and the Etrian Odyssey engine.  Huh.  And a rhythm dancing game with a new story based on Persona 4.  Ooookay.

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Those were some odd expansions.  The Persona series was very much a JRPG, and that genre doesn’t really have any natural overlap with others.  Sure, JRPG fans might well be fans of fighting games and what not, but there’s nothing that inherently makes a JRPG player more likely to get into those genres.  And yet, as time went on, and we got to see those games in action, well, things developed.  The fighting game turned out to be excellent, even by the genre’s standards.  The Etrian Odyssey mix?  Not so much.  So where did the rhythm game end up on that spectrum?

It’s good, but simple largely due to its delivery method.  There.  That’s the review.  Yeah, sorry, I spoiled that for you.  We’re not doing the traditional review here.   To be frank, you already know whether you want the game or not.  We’re just going to have some thoughts here.

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Frankly, the Persona dancing games are about as good of rhythm games as you’re going to get on the controller.  It’s mechanically sounds, your beats are usually well-suited to the songs, and the gameplay is complicated enough to be involved without being so complex as to be overwhelming.  Like all good rhythm games, it’s easy to get into but there’s a high skill ceiling, and it feels so viscerally satisfying to be hitting a good run.

But, on the other hand, this is a genre that has come to be defined by its alternative control methods.  Your dance pads, your plastic instruments, your microphones, or even without the peripherals, your motion controls or your touch screens.  The Persona dancing games are played entirely with six buttons and a stick.  That makes them way more accessible, but also limits the sort of complexity you’ll see in them.

Persona’s music is great.  Really, one of the most distinctive parts of the games, and for really good reason.  And you get that fully delivered to you here.  Along with some remixes of the classic songs of… kind of mixed quality.  Some of them really do improve on the originals, while others, not so much.  You do get to see some Names in video game composition adding their talents into these, and they hit a good place, for me, more often than not.

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The visuals are really interesting, although you’ll probably be paying more attention to the notes you have to hit than the dancers.  Everyone is mo-capped by a dancer in a different genre.  Most of them are rather distinct, and fit the character really well.  The historically prim and proper Haru Okumura does ballet, for example, while the rough and physically oriented Kanji is into a more wild take on locking, and the idol Rise dances just like an idol.  They’ll do all that in settings that either fall into the game’s story in Persona 4 Dancing or call back to distinct locations from the game for 3 and 5.  There have been plenty of times I’ve watched a replay just to see the dancing again.

The characters have always been one of the stronger parts of the Persona games, and one of the big draws with the Dancing games is they give you more time with them.  Persona 4 does so through its original story, while 3 and 5 don’t have a story of their own but have some more social link scenes with them to unlock.  I am impressed by how accurate their characterizations are, given that other side games tended to… let’s say… highlight certain aspects of certain characters to a degree beyond what they used to have in the source material.  It’s something I appreciated, but it really doesn’t go deep into the characters.  You don’t see them facing their personal challenges and growing as a person the way you do in the original games.  You might say that the Persona 3 and 5 Dancing games have a ‘plot’ of their own, but that’s really setting up for disappointment.  They have some animated excuses for why everyone’s found themselves in a dance party, but those are really better off ignored.  The more the game calls back to it, the more it just reminds you that this doesn’t make any sense, and then the game just gives up on it anyways at the end.  Persona 4 Dancing does have an original story, which I do have to give it props for, even if it’s just sorta… there.

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As I said, you know if you want these games or not already.  These are total love letters to the Persona games.  If you’re a fan, and the music is already drawing you in with its siren’s call, then there you go.  If you’re not already into the original, these have nothing for you.  I really enjoyed my time with these games, because I both love Persona and really enjoy rhythm games.  If you’re not into either, this game is probably not for you.  Again, the rhythm gameplay is simple, but really satisfying, and the music and characters call back to the original games in a way that really tugs on that part of my heart that wants to marry Persona.  And the games are basically the same, so if you enjoy one, you’ll enjoy them all.

Well, mostly.  This is totally a meta thing, but the games do have a bit of a different feel on them.  Persona 4 Dancing All Night feels like it’s experimental, it’s trying a lot of new and bizarre things, and it’s made for the fun of it.  It was made in a time when this had to force it’s own way into the market.  Persona 3 and 5 Dancing came out years later.  They don’t try anything significant that’s not already done in Persona 4 Dancing.  And there’s really no reason they should be two seperate, full priced games.  They came out at the same time, and each seem to be lacking in the amount of content and creativity you’d expect in a $60 game that follows in the vein of something earlier in the franchise.  I still really enjoyed the games, but the latter two just came with the feeling that they were made because they wanted my money rather than because they wanted to deliver a good experience to me.  I have a few issues with tone, as well.  In Persona 4, you already had a pop star as a party member, so that was already established there, but Persona 3 had strong themes of death and trauma, and having that imported into a happy fun dance game left feelings a little off.  Persona 5 fared better, but it was still a little weird seeing the agoraphobic and generally scared of people Futaba exuberantly prancing around in a bikini. I still had a fantastic time with them, and fell so far back into my old OMG Persona All the Time fanhood that I’ve been motivated to re-pick up the old 90-hour RPGs yet again.   For a love letter game like this one, driving me to commit to replaying the originals means that it’s probably hitting right where it needs to.

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Unpacking the Activision Blizzard Layoff

Just fair warning, unless you’re really into base-level business analysis, this is probably the most boring post I’ve written in a while.

Activision Blizzard just announced that it had a year of record profits.  Activision Blizzard just announce that they were laying off 8% of their workforce, close to 775 people.

This has a lot of people angry.  After all, that’s near 775 lives that now need to shift gears.  775 careers interrupted.  775 households potentially shaken to the core.  All while the company is facing the end of the most profitable year its had, and is compensating its executive team accordingly.  The contrast there is galling people.  It’s leading to a lot of anger on the interwebs, discussion of unions, attention to executive pay, and calls for CEO Bobby Kotick to be fired.  You see this posed as a proletariat vs. bourgeoisie issue all over the place.  People hate this, and between the news, the social media, just anywhere you want to look online, it’s not hard to see people expressing it.

To me, and I’d imagine to anyone else with any business experience or education, this is all so, so routine.  Nothing going on here that points to any ethical lapse, no abuses of power, nothing that seems to indicate any real wrongdoing.  Hell, a lot of the layoffs you’ll see out there are either misguidedly shortsighted or the results of significant mismanagement, and this one doesn’t even seem to be one of those.  It’s unfortunate, very much so, but this really does seem to be a normal happening of normal business functions, and really not worth all the vitriol it’s drawing.

It’s been a while since I’ve picked up my business pants for one of these posts.  And frankly, the Activision Blizzard layoffs are a function so utterly routine that I wouldn’t find it worth the effort to be typing up a post about it here.  But my opinion of this matter is so drastically different from that of the prevailing internet shouting that, well, here I am zipping them up once more.

So hey, from the business perspective, let’s go ahead and unpack what’s happening here with Activision Blizzard’s layoffs.

Just from the ground level, there’s a difference between firings and layoffs.  And there’s a difference between layoffs and mass layoffs.  We’re talking about mass layoffs here, when a company lets go of large amounts of people all at once.  Most of the time, when you see mass layoffs in the news, it’s the result of a company losing money.  Hiring people is expensive, and personnel costs are usually the biggest expense on a company’s ledger.  So it makes sense that if a company is looking to cut costs, the first place they’d go is cutting people, right?  Not so much.  You see a lot of companies really jumping the gun on them, going for layoffs purely as a cost-savings measure after a short period in the red.  Mass layoffs are horrible.  And they’re not just horrible for the people being laid off.  It’s easy to lose track of the simple fundamental, but a company’s ability to make money is dependent on its people doing things that make money.  If you have less people, you’ll be able to do less things, and therefore make less money.  Layoffs can lead to a short-term increase in financial condition, but typically lead to reduced performance in the long term.  Mass layoffs cost a business capacity.

But what happens when you don’t need that capacity?  That’s the situation I believe Activision is in now.  Sure, they’ve made a lot of money last year.  But let’s take a look at the broader situation. Last year, following Destiny 2’s disappointing performance, the larger company has divested itself of developer Bungie.  They’ve been sunsetting their Guitar Hero properties.  Skylanders seems to no longer be on the radar.  Call of Duty Black Ops IV has failed to achieve quite the presence they expected.  Blizzard has no major new games coming in 2019.  Heroes of the Storm is being scaled back.  Hell, Blizzard was running an incentive for voluntary quits late last year, in a preliminary cost-cutting measure.  Sure, the company posted what was reportedly its biggest profit yet.  But it underwent a lot of trouble to get there, and by appearances, that trouble is going to lead to a very slow 2019 for the company.

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Sunshine Blogger!

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This is an award winning blog.  You know that.  And I suppose it’s purely natural.  I am the type of person that awards just seem to gravitate to.  And it’s happened again, recently.  Courtesy of Red Metal passing on his Sunshine Blogger Award to what seems like half the internet.  Including our not-so-humble private space on the internet right here.  Have we won the Sunshine Blogger Award before?  I don’t even remember.

You probably know the drill by now.  I’m not one to pass up easy content the chance to talk about myself curiousity, and Red Metal’s leveraged some questions at us.  Let’s run through them!

In which cases would you deem the manga superior to the anime on which it’s based?

I’m going to assume Red Metal’s really asking about when would I deem a manga superior to the anime based on it, because otherwise the only manga based on an anime I’ve read has been Samurai Champloo, and that wasn’t superior to the anime, so this would be a pretty awkward answer.

Having a story that actually finishes would be a big point in its favor.  A lot of anime, even good anime, even long running anime, has a tendency to end before it actually finishes the story.  I remember spending a lot of time with Tenjho Tenge, Eyeshield 21, Tokyo Ghoul, Inuyasha, etc, only for the anime to end long before the climax point they’ve all been building towards has been reached.  And I hate that.  I hate getting involved in a story, committing to a story, that just stops before it reaches its conclusion.  That’s the worst feeling for me.

Otherwise, it’s mostly an issue of pacing.  Which one delivers its energy and momentum better, and tells the story between major beats more effectively?  Sometimes it’s the anime.  The Naruto manga had a horrible sense of pacing, but the anime smoothed it out considerably.  Sometimes its the manga, when the anime creators weren’t able to properly transfer that over.

Which game do you feel has the best soundtrack?

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I’ve never even played Killer Instinct 2013, yet I still find myself digging the soundtrack like crazy.  At least the first season.  Mick Gordon made some absolutely beautiful music for that game that draws from a lot of very interesting cultural sources that still really fit for it.  I have to really admire it.  Later seasons of the game brought on Atlas and Celldweller instead of Mick, which… just didn’t grab me.  Which is odd, because I’ve loved Celldweller’s other music, and his style seems a perfect fit for Killer Instinct, but it just didn’t seem to synchronize.  But yeah, first season Killer Instinct 2013 is absolutely marvelous.  Check it out.

Otherwise Xenoblade Chronicles is probably the soundtrack I’ve gone back to more than anything else.  Some of the most honestly beautiful music I’ve heard in a game, on there.  And it’s incorporated beautifully into the game, matches the settings and events perfectly.

And for a bonus, the soundtrack to Bastion is pretty marvelous as well.

If you could revive a dead video games series, which one would you choose?

Saints Row.  Which is an odd one.  Developer would insist it’s not dead.  After all, Agents of Mayhem follows up on the ending of the final Saints Row game and uses a lot of the same characters, and they’re totally working on another Saints Row project otherwise!  Wikipedia says so!  But we haven’t seen a game in the series that wasn’t, in essence, just a stretched out piece of DLC since 2011, and the current franchise owners seem to mostly be sitting on it.

I’m not even sure what version of the series I’d want to see back.  The original Saints Row was a fun game with a lot of frustrating gameplay hooks and an irreverent but straight-laced plot with some surprisingly intelligent writing hidden beneath the surface.  The second was a pitch black comedy with a plot that went to some rather gritty places, but once again, had some surprisingly smart story beats if you dug into things.  Saints Row 3 dropped a lot of the hidden intelligence, took the idea that ‘haha, crazy funny game series’ up to eleven, and basically made an evil Saturday morning cartoon.  Saints Row IV and Gat Out of Hell took that change and went crazy with it.

So yeah, like I said, I don’t know what I would want from the series, but I want something.  I loved Saints Row 2.  Saints Row 3 dropped a lot of the things I loved about Saints Row 2 and replaced them with something else, but it was still a crazy fun game.  Following up on either of those would make me happy.

What game/film/album/book did you have a particularly difficult time adding to your collection?

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Persona 2: Eternal Punishment.  I’ve said it before, but my favorite game is Persona 4.  I fell in love with that game immediately upon playing it, and wanted to bury myself in the series leading up to it.  Thing is, before Persona 3 made it popular, the Persona series was a very niche JRPG series on the PS2 with a limited run, and it was hard to get copies of the game years after for a reasonable price.  Especially given that they weren’t available on the Playstation store at the time.  I was able to track down the original Persona easily enough, although I still had to pay more than I wanted to for it, but Persona 2: Eternal Punishment for a reasonable price was difficult to find.  Especially given that I wasn’t willing to pay more than original MSRP for a used copy, and I wanted one that came with its original case.  It took me a couple of months, and I ended up doing some minor negotiations with an Amazon seller to get a deal I was satisfied with, but I ended up picking it up for $50.

Of course, now it’s just like $10 digitally on the PSN store.  Progress is a wonderful thing.

Do you prefer to see a film at home or in the theaters?

At home.  Theaters are mostly a date thing for me.  I don’t usually just watch a movie or show on it’s own, I’ve usually got something else going on if I’m just going to sit down and watch something, so being at home lets me multitask.

In what cases did you find yourself siding with critics over fans about a work’s quality?

In general, when you’re dealing with an entry in a games franchise that throws in some deep changes to the established structure, critics seem to weather it better than the fans do.  And I would say I handle it more like the former camp, even for franchises I love.  I understand where it comes from, the new work isn’t meeting up to established expectations, but I feel my enjoyment of the game comes more from its own value rather than the expectations built up, so in general, I don’t get the ‘It’s different it sucks!’ feeling a lot of the fans seem to.

Silent Hill 4’s an example.  Critics thought it was ok, the fans hated it.  I was more in the former camp.  I felt it was a complete mediocre game, but one that wasn’t necessarily poorer than average for the time.  But it was missing a lot of the things that went so successfully in earlier Silent Hills, and for that, the game got blasted online.  Those didn’t really resonate with me.

In what cases did you find yourself siding with fans over critics about a work’s quality?

A lot more often than the above, really.  To be honest, I find the fan reception to be a bit of a better indicator of the chances I’ll have of enjoying a work than the critical reception, for a lot different reasons.  If a fan is excited for the game, and I resonate with the things that make them so excited about it when they describe or show it to me, that’s probably the thing that makes me most likely to get into the series.  Hell, I haven’t cared about Devil May Cry since I tried out the first game and found it too clunky for my tastes, but after watching an LP series by people who absolutely love the games, I’ve been convinced to give a second go to later games in the series lately.

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That works the opposite way, too.  I’ve been finding critics to be a little too impressed with polish over substance, and too hesitant to give outright negative reviews to games that come from large-scale publishers.  Dragon Age II is an example of that.  Outside of the setting, I find the game absolutely horrid.  Combat is unengaging, enemy spawning is blatantly stupid, and you have to go through the same levels so many freaking times that it makes me wonder why I’m even bothering putting time into it if I’m just going to have to circle back and do the same things later.  The plot hits some interesting beats, but it continually undermines its own themes, and ends up feeling like a lot of what you did doesn’t really mean anything shortly after you did it.  I hate that game.  The fans hate that game.  Metacritic ranking?  Well, just see above.

What is the most difficult game you’ve completed?

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Does DLC count?  I don’t think Dark Souls is the hardest game I’ve beaten, but I think the Artorias of the Abyss DLC might be the hardest gaming experience I’ve had.  Manus absolutely took me to the wall and back, and before him, I had to enter some sort of weird zen state and tap into my pure gaming instincts just to get past Artorias.

Otherwise, Zelda 2 comes to mind, but I had copious amounts of save-state help on that one.  And I’ve beaten Binding of Isaac, which adds harder levels and harder bosses on top of the previously ultimate challenges each time you beat it, but I haven’t exhausted its challenges as yet.

Which game series have you been following for the longest amount of time?

The original Super Mario Bros. Was one of the first games I owned.  And I’m still digging it.  So that one.

Vanilla answer, I know.

In what ways do you feel video game critics to be ahead of their film-loving counterparts?

You’re asking the wrong cowboy here.  I have an odd relationship with film.  Got burnt out on it a while back, after some stressful experiences working on the borders of the film industry.  Since then, I’ve had a hard time looking at films purely for enjoyment, and as such, don’t pay much attention to it now.  So I guess that’s the way game critics are ahead, I might actually read a review from them every once in a while.

How does hype factor into how you ultimately feel about a work?

If other people are excited for something, and the features that they’re excited about are things that seem interesting to me, that can be infectious.  See the Devil May Cry example above.  I love a lot of character action games, but I didn’t enjoy the first Devil May Cry, so I never gave the series another thought.  Until recently, in prep for DMC 5, the Let’s Play group I followed played through the series, which is one of their favorites, and I find myself wanting to get into the newer games and get that same excitement for myself.

Hype can ruin a work too, though.  Like, for example, with Planescape: Torment.  With the dialogue surrounding that game, I was expecting it to be transcendent, that it would completely blow my mind.  It didn’t.  It did one thing very, very well, but that was surrounded by a lot of flaws and a gameplay engine I abhorred.  I don’t know that I necessarily would have enjoyed the game more were it not for the hype, but I do recall having a very distinct moment of disappointment early on that soured me for a lot of the rest of it.

Doing the Bad Ending Well: Red Dead Redemption

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The second game to fall before the might of The Quest happens to be Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar’s 2010 mix of Grand Theft Auto gameplay and the Western genre.  This game’s pretty well known, so if you’re looking for an opinion piece on it, that ground’s already covered.  If you want the Aether take in particular, I didn’t like it that much.  Even when I was in the mood for a good rooty tooty point and shooty, I found this wide open sandbox to be full of things to do but very little that was worth doing.  But that’s not why I’m here today.  I want to talk about one of the parts of the game that I did like, the ending.  And I want to talk about why I like it.  Because that’s a weird space for me.  The ending to Red Dead Redemption does a few things that I normally absolutely despise when video game endings do it, but they work for me here.  Let’s explore why that is.

Suffice to say, I am going to spoil the hell out of Red Dead Redemption’s ending.  If you haven’t beaten the game yet and you’d still like to, I wouldn’t click that ‘Read More’ button.

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Demon’s Souls

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Moving into the next stage of my quest to defeat all the games I own, I knew the first game I conquered had to be a statement piece. Something that would make all the other games of this generation, who had been previously watching from the sidelines, quake in fear knowing the unstoppable domination that was coming for them. It was very purposeful that the first game of this generation I chose to target was perhaps the harbinger of a wave of pointedly very difficult games, Demon’s Souls.

I did a bit of research online before diving into this game. From what I understood, the goal of this game was to ‘git gud’. Every single challenge everyone brought up was met with the command from other players to simply git more gud. So by my understanding, as you defeat the challenges throughout the game, you collect more and more gud, and once you collect enough of this ‘gud’, the magic governing this world then transforms your player character into an amazing asshole that posts on the internet without providing anything of value.

Hmm… maybe I’m halfway there already.

Luckily, playing the game, I found that the internet has a very different understanding of the game than what it actually has to offer.

Demon’s Souls is Dark Souls’ somewhat less cool older brother. I love the Souls series’ design philosophy, the idea of building a huge challenge, but having it all centered around the idea that no matter how skilled a player they are, with enough preparation, practice, and patience, anyone can beat any challenge therein. That’s absolutely interesting to me. Things are absolutely tough in Demon’s Souls. At no point is success a given, and there are always true threats available. But everything is made to be overcome. Things are hard, but never overwhelming.

Demon’s Souls also carries with it a very interesting variation in combat design too, one that did carry over to later games. In nearly every combat oriented game out there, offense is key. In most games, your main advantage over AI characters is not that you’re better equipped or innately stronger than they are, although that is often true. It’s that you’re more aggressive than they are. You will launch more attacks per unit of time as one person than they will as a whole horde. You will attack while dodging. You will attack while navigating obstacles. You will attack while maneuvering between cover. You will attack when you wake up, when you eat your breakfast, when you brush your teeth, when you go to work, and every single moment throughout your day, your attacks are key.

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Now Playing: Mission Complete

If I’m going to do this, I need to commit to just doing this.  While I’ve got the time here, let’s get at least one real post down.  One thing that happened over my little hiatus here, I have successfully conquered the next stage in my little quest here. For those who don’t remember, I have been on a quest to beat all the games I own, grouped by console generation. For more than half a decade, I’ve been working my way through the PS2/Xbox OG/Gamecube era. Lots of games in my collection. Many of which take 40 hours plus to conquer. And I have finally, after a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, done it. This is a big moment for me. And in celebration of it, let’s take a look back at the games I have conquered since my last check in on the topic.

X-Men Legends

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I said last time that I hadn’t played this long enough to have a solid opinion of it. I’ve beaten the game now, and that’s still true. I remember having a mostly enjoyable if occasionally frustrating time with it, but it really doesn’t leave much of an impression. Back when it was new, I remember hearing a lot of word of mouth about this game, but I guess it just hasn’t really aged well.

It does have what I’m now recognizing as a level of jank that was common with a lot of multi-platform releases of its day. Graphics a little muddy and unclear, controls a little simplified and sloppy in a very familiar way, loading a harsh and sudden stop to gameplay. It’s like these game have to take all the minor flaws of every console they’re on and port them to the others to make a game that works on all three. That one of the things I’m most glad the industry overcame in the following generation.

Valkyrie Profile 2

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I have to confess, I didn’t beat this one. This game beat me. 20-30 hours in, after getting through the slow parts of the game and reaching the point where it really kicks things into high gear again, Valkyrie Profile 2 goes through a pretty serious difficulty spike, and I ran into a boss fight I just couldn’t overcome. With the right moves, the bosses were one-shotting me. After too long of trying, I had to put this back on the shelf. Which is a pretty similar story to what I faced with the first Valkyrie Profile earlier on in this quest, come to think of it.

I feel the game’s combat system is a little too ambitious for its own good. It’s definitely unique, planting you on a 3d field where enemies only move when you do, you can see their areas of attacks in advance, and your goal is to get close enough to make a strike of your own while weaving through their danger zones. But there were too many parts working against each other for this to come through. Stages were a bit overcomplicated, which made navigating this system a pain, and the fact that your companions could both trigger attacks and weren’t entirely controllable by you was absolutely ridiculous. So many times, someone on my party wouldn’t follow through on my dash, start walking towards the rest of the group, and get every caught in an AOE attack they triggered. The system ended up being more frustrating than deep.

Psychonauts

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It’s a creative game, I’ll give it that. But I’ve noticed that if a game doesn’t control well, I’m not going to enjoy it. And Psychonauts is a pain to navigate.

It was worth going through to see all the interesting ideas they crammed in there. Their design really had a lot behind it. The worlds were absolutely interesting, and they threw some really off the wall ideas in that I delighted in experiencing. I can’t say I was really having fun with it, though. The game never felt quite comfortable to move around in, and there were several times where I tried something to get past an obstacle, failed horribly and decided that wasn’t the solution, only to look at a walkthrough later and find out that was the correct thing to do, it just didn’t work for reasons that weren’t really apparent to me. Wasn’t a fun way to get through the game.

Metroid Prime 2 Echoes

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Used to be, I didn’t like this game. I know, they named the planet after me, but flattery only gets you so far. It’s funny how much just changing my playstyle with it made a difference.

It’s an odd problem you’ll find every now and then, where the optimal way of playing a game is the most boring way of playing. If you follow along with that, the pace of the game completely grinds to a halt when you reach Dark Aether, where the best play is to avoid the damaging environmental areas and spend big chunks of time in the healing safe zones. That’s how I played last time, and ended up with a miserable time for it. This time around, I decided to be a bit more aggressive, not play it so safe, and the pacing ended up a lot better off for it.

It’s still probably my least favorite Metroid Prime game, but that’s because the series is just really, really good. Played right, it’s a pretty good game on its own. I learned from Red Metal that this game was rushed through in a crazy short amount of time. It’s miraculous how little you seem to see of that; it feels as complete an experience as anything else you’ll find.

Beyond Good and Evil

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Beyond Good and Evil is a really interesting game to me. A frequent complaint about it is how short it is. I think it’s as good as it is because it’s so short. Stretching the game out further would make it worse.

Beyond Good and Evil is a very creative game, but you can tell it didn’t have the budget it needed to fully realize those ideas it was bringing. It’s full of gameplay that isn’t exactly well executed, but comes alongside features to help mitigate it. The combat isn’t exactly well developed, so they keep it up front early on when things are simple, then move it more and more to the background as things get more complicated. Piloting and hovercraft combat aren’t super precise, so they keep the world concise, give you lock-on features so you don’t need that precision, and have several upgrades shake up the system so you don’t stick with the same frustrations long enough for them to burn. The plot is really bad, so they just ignore it for most of the… ok, never mind that last one. In any case, if it were any longer, the flaws of their limited gameplay would shine through, and it’d feel worse. As is, they always presenting new and fresh ideas, there’s a lot of variety in what you’re coming across, and you’re always have to think in new ways. I’ll take a short game that always feels fresh well over a long one that just drags on.

Level design is really top notch here. The stealth system works pretty well, too, once you get used to how it functions. The game is really at it’s best when it’s having you sneak into hostile territory, navigating your way safely through complex obstacles and avoiding detection from enemy forces. It actually loses intensity and excitement when it gets you into the fight scenes.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaake Eaaaaateeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

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I was shocked to look back over my save files, and find that I only played this game once, over ten years ago. This game made such an impact on me. I clearly remembered the order of events, quotes, plot happenings, characters, so much of it has a strong hold on my memory. I can remember it so clearly that I would never have guessed I’ve only been through it once. I guess it’s a testament to how well-presented it is, that it’s gained so much adamance.

Anyways, you know this game already. It has gained a lot of market share in the gaming sphere, and it’s well-deserved. This is one of those momentous games, one of the ones that hits it right on nearly every cylinder.

Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean

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This used to be my favorite game. I’ve beat it a bunch already, although the last time was a few years ago. Coming back to it this time around did give me a different perspective on it, though, which is really why I’m doing this whole quest in the first place.

Frankly, the game hasn’t aged well. Or maybe I’ve aged beyond it. The normal gameplay is still great. The deck-building, card-based combos, getting things to the point you can reliably double or beyond your damage by stringing the right numbers together, it feels so, so satisfying. But the slow-paced, turnbased system really drug it out of me. And I used to be enamored by the plot, and the characters. While they still definitely have their moments, I feel the years since have raised the storytelling standards of videogames, and Baten Kaitos is merely average, now.

Still, though, I enjoyed this a lot more than I did many of the other JRPGs of the time. Which is really saying something. Time has revealed a few more flaws, but it really is a gem.

Shadow of the Colossus

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The player sphere speaks of this game as if it’s a masterpiece. And make no mistake, it is. That may give you the impression that this is a flawless game. It’s not. Far from it. But that’s not the point. This is a game that, flaws and all, is still an utterly amazing experience.

You see this game pop up all the time when people talk about games to introduce non-players to the medium. Which is a big mistake to me. I mean, walk before you run. If you’re looking for an example of ludic storytelling, of a game that uses the unique features of being a game to bring you into a story and to explore it from all facets, there are none better than this. And it doesn’t require the twitch reflexes many others do that often serve as a barrier to completing a story. But it does require a level of coordination and at times, an understanding of video game logic that I don’t think someone unfamiliar with the medium will be able to muster.

I imagine it’s a very different experience after your first time through. More of the challenge of the game was in figuring out how to damage the colossi, which often relied on rather inconsistent mechanics, than it was in actually doing the deed. Playing the game already knowing how to do that with all of them, that would change things quite a bit.

Still Alive

It’s been what, like six months now?

Yeah, I haven’t been around for a while.  I’m not really one for talking about meta stuff, so was kind of thinking I’d just fade away.  But Lightning Ellen was kind enough to check in, which got me thinking I might owe you guys a little more of an update than that.  So, if you’re still seeing this six months on, this one’s for you.

So what happened?  Life, my great, mortal nemesis, got the better of me.  Between working full time, classes in the evening, some really major ongoing life changes that are currently putting a lot of constraints on my time, the amount of space I’ve been having available for these personal pursuits had become a lot more limited.  So, this summer, I’ve had to shift around some priorities in order to make life work, and unfortunately, blogging didn’t make the keep-list.  I’ve got a ton of hobbies and a very limited amount of time in general, so I haven’t been the most prolific blogger even in the best of times, but with my freetime fleeing before me much like my enemies, even what I had been able to muster had to go.

And I’ve missed it.  I’ve missed you.  Yes, you specifically, reading this.  There’s a missing part of my heart that only you can fill.  I’ve missed making content for the internet, rather than just consuming it.  And I miss the connections I’ve made through blogging, the networks and friends I’ve been able to tap into.  But, so far at least, I haven’t been able to make things work.

That might change.  No promises, but I’d like to make an attempt at blogging again.  My courseload this semester is a bit lighter, and I’ve got some ideas to throw in.  I’m want to give it a try.  No guarantees, and if I am able to do it, content might be a bit different.  I’ve always enjoyed writing at length and detail a lot more than I’ve enjoyed brevity and efficiency, as you may have noticed, but my current schedule may not allow for that, if anything.  Moreover, I may not be able to connect with others the same way I used to.  Or maybe times will change and I’ll be able to get into all that once again.  Time will tell.

In any case, whether you’re a fellow blogger, a reader, a lurker, a fan, just someone who checks in occasionally, thanks for reading my work here.  That’s really a powerful thing, that we’ve been able to share ideas like this.  Hopefully, we’ll see each other some more down the road.  If not, well, this blog has five and a half years of content behind it.  It’s been a good run.