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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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

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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.

Now Playing: The Return

It feels like time for another one of these. Life’s crashing down, but it’s still good to keep in mind how much I’m moving forward. So for those of you who are new here, or aren’t given to remember random minutia about internet stranger’s lives, I’m on a quest. An embarrassingly long time ago, I made the decision to beat, or come as close as I’m capable of, all the games I own, progressing through them grouped roughly by their console generation. Because this was the generation I started being able to make my own purchasing decisions, and the console generation I most filled out in the years following when more powerful consoles came along, I have been stuck in the PS2/GameCube/Xbox on…uh… Original for ages. Like, family members have been born and grown to the point that they can now have weird rambling conversations about cookies with me since I started this era. I have been stuck for far longer than I expected on this console generation. But I am in sight of the end. In fact, it’s my New Year’s Resolution to have this generation conquered by the end of this year. So, let’s take a look at how far I’ve come since our last update.

The Recently Conquered

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time

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Last time I covered this, I had positive things to say about it. I’m going to have to walk that back now. Urrrrrrrrrrrrgh did this game outlast my patience for it. Multiple times, I tried to convince myself to quit this game. Maybe I should have. That was a good 50 hours of my life I wasn’t really enjoying. I wouldn’t have bothered, if I hadn’t made it my quest to beat all my games. But can you put a price on overcoming a challenge? Is there any value worth it to you to be less than you actually are? No, I dominated this game like I dominate all things. And I feel good about that.

This is one of the worst games I’ve played as part of this quest. And given that that’s a list that includes Fur Fighters, you know that’s saying something. I appreciate creativity, I appreciate going outside the box, I appreciate the unusual. But there needs to be some direction to it. The combat system in Star Ocean is a bunch of bad ideas thrown at a wall that don’t really mesh together. The plot devolves until it’s the same thing. Everything about Star Ocean is bad, and the plot is handled so badly that it’s twist, which could be something really interesting handled by someone more competent, ends up making the whole series less worthwhile. I didn’t like it.

Looking at opinion bits online, you run into a lot of people who love this game, and you run into a lot of people like me who thought it was absolute dreck. You don’t run into many people in the middle. And you know, it occurs to me that there’s some things that are designed like that. They appeal to the niche. I don’t know who the niche for this is, people who like complicated combat systems full of features but with simple controls and don’t mind a random happenings plot that has troubles paying off? In any case, the more something is designed for a narrow niche, in general, the less it’s going to appeal to people outside of that. This one doesn’t just target the JRPG fans, it targets JRPG fans with a specific itch. I didn’t have that, but the people who do seem to appreciate it.

Simpsons Hit and Run

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This is a game that should be bad, designed in a way that it could be good, but ends up falling somewhere in between. It’s a lot better than you’d expect a random licensed game to be. Still not great. The engine is solid. Could be great. Definitely competent designers behind it. But they didn’t manage a lot of flaws that really dragged the experience down. Limited load zones, bad pathfindings, reuse of linear designs, artificial difficulty, and really poor final challenges were about the worst of it.

I didn’t actually see the ending on this one. I got to the final mission and struggled through all it’s stupid bullhonky over and over again until the game froze up. I didn’t overpower it, but I did endure longer than it did. That’s a victory on its own.

Devil May Cry

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I deliberately did poorly enough to unlock the easy mode, and played it on that. The internet says that means I was playing it wrong. The internet takes that very personally. Because if I play the game wrong that completely invalidates everyone else’s experience. Well, screw everyone else, I had a much better time playing it on easy than I ever did on normal difficulty. Look. I play my fair share of hard games. I’ve beat Dark Souls, Zelda 2, classic Shin Megami Tensei, the original run of Trauma Center, all sorts of things. Sometimes I play games on hard. Sometimes I play them on easy. It really depends on the game. Some games, I just have a better time going up against something on a lower level, and that ended up being Devil May Cry. Sure, maybe my experience was less ‘pure’ but I had a better time with the easier control scheme and weaker enemies. Some games I like to push me to the edge. Some games, I appreciate being the big man.

I was inspired to pick this up at the time I did by a discussion I came across, referring to this game specifically and questioning how much of your enjoyment of a game comes from playing it in its prime. That had me thinking. Because of this quest, I think I’m almost as immersed in games of this era as it’s possible to be, but even so, I don’t get the full context of this being so different from everything else available at the time. It’s like John Carter of Mars, a lot of what it developed was absorbed into the rest of the medium to the point that what was once original about it became kind of standard, so by the time it comes around again the audience just yawns. It always has felt a bit less than spectacular to me, but I’ve been playing this after I’ve already played games like Bayonetta that take the formula so much farther. Players who played it back in it’s prime enjoy it because they’ve got those good memories of it. But is a game that relies on those memories still a good game? Is it impossible to enjoy some games without those memories?

Evolution Worlds

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This is one of the most disappointing games I’ve played in recent memory. I used to really enjoy it! When I was however old I was when this was new, I played it through several times. This is one of the few games I’ve had where I’ve started a new run as soon as I was done with my first. This time around, though, it just became a clear picture of why people turned against JRPGs so hard at the end of this generation. It felt like I basically just pressed ‘A’ for twenty hours, then called it done. Turn-based combat, without much complexity to it, and a plot I had a hard time caring about, just wasn’t good times.

Bonus Round: Super Mario World 2-Yoshi’s Island

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I love how you can re-buy virtual copies of old games now. I stupidly sold my SNES and games when I left for college, and hadn’t been able to get a new version of this one until I got my Wii U and could access a virtual console it was actually on.

I got my original copy of this game as a gift a couple of days after a major turning point in my life. I played this so much as a kid. As a child, it never reminded me of that point, but coming back to it now reminds me so much of that singular moment. Memory’s a weird thing.

Now Playing

Final Fantasy XII

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Here’s a counterpoint to the Devil May Cry question. I played this when it was new, and didn’t like it. I’ve never gotten far into it before, just really didn’t like the mechanics. It’s a 3d system, but to fight I just select an option and wait? Wasn’t for me.

Now though, years after its original release, now that I’ve played more games that use a similar battle system like Dragon Age, Knights of the Old Republic, etc., I’m enjoying this game a lot more. I’m enjoying it a lot more out of its original context than I did within it.

Planescape: Torment – Still

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I’ve progressed on this since our last check-in, but still don’t think I’m close to beating it. It’s not grabbing me yet. It’s getting close, but I think I’m still just barely out of the rough beginning, so I only find myself playing it every once in a while. I hate everything about the Baldur’s Gate engine. It’s a pain to move around and it’s a pain to fight. I think I’m coming to the end of the rough parts. It’s been a while since the game’s forced me into combat, and I no longer have to walk through every single area to get to where I’m going. The plot and well-written sidequests are moving at a faster pace, and you know, I’m seeing signs of the brilliance everyone else says is there. I still need it to sell me on it, but I’m finding I’m looking forward to when it does.

The Soon to Fall

Valkyrie Profile 2

Shadow of the Colossus

Psychonauts

Beyond Good and Evil

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snaaaaaaaaaaake Eaterrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Mortal Kombat Armageddon

Soul Calibur II

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles

Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean

X-Men Legends

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes