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

A while back, I mentioned my quest to beat all the games by console generation, and how close I was to filling out the PlayCubeBox 2 generation that I’ve been working on for so long I really don’t want to admit it. Just as a means of keeping myself honest, I thought I’d run an update on that, as well as what else I’ve been up to gaming-wise. This might end up being like a regular thing. I don’t know. We’ll find out how much it amuses me.

The Recently Conquered

Tales of the Abyss

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Tales of the Abyss is fantastic. I mentioned that last time, so no surprises there. I used a guide this time, and nearly 100%’ed the game. Beat the super tough bonus boss, got nearly all the extra costumes and what not, still fantastic.

Story-wise, it’ll be the subject of an upcoming post. Just need some time to sort through my thoughts on it. Tales games always have unique and interesting twists on typical storytelling tropes, and Tales of the Abyss did not disappoint. So yes. We will have words on this.

Summoner 2: A Goddess Reborn

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I mentioned that I was pretty surprised at actually having a good time with Summoner 2. That kept up most of the game. The beginning is a giant dreg. When you start building up in power, though, and start getting a lot more options in combat, it starts getting pretty fun, and it stays that way right up until the end game starts through a bunch of bullhonky at you. It actually gets more fun as you get more and more overpowered compared to your enemies, as you get to do more than what the horribly clumsy battle system is equipped to allow.

Of course, the final battle did lose a lot of impact by the fact that both the boss and your character were too big for the dumb camera to actually show what you or it was doing. Playtest your games, people.

The Bouncer

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This came out in an era in which Square just was no good at making games that weren’t turn-based. And it shows. The Bouncer is clumsy and feels slower than its game-type should be. But I still love it. I’m pretty sure that all just comes from good memories. I was introduced to this game over the course of a rather long night co-oping with a good friend of mine, and it’s always been very charming to me since.

I think it also helps that the game is really not long, unless you play it through three times in a row like they want you to. If you had to spend more than a couple hours on it, the games problems would get to be a lot more irritating, but as is, you’re in and out before it starts to wear on you. Kind of like my love life, in that.

Half-Life

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I really tried with this. I wanted to finally beat it. And I did everything I could. Took it as long as I could naturally, then worked in the invincibility cheat, and continued on from there. Finished up the dumb rotating teleporter mazes and all. Then, just as we were about to hit a climax, I started running into a persistent bug that continually reloaded a corrupted save. Impossible to continue, I had to end it. They did really try with the PS2 port of it, but the controls weren’t really working for me, and the glitches ended up killing it. A shame.
Although in good news, the internet says I was forced out before the worst part of the game. So it’s not all bad, right?

Now Playing

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time

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I’d played this before, but apparently I never gave it a real chance. Didn’t realize it, but I got farther in this game than I ever had before in only two playsessions.

It’s a decent setting. A really heavy mix of soft political sci-fi with pretty classic fantasy. I’m really digging it. It’s getting my imagination going in a way that only happens occasionally in these games, mentally exploring the world beyond just what I’m shown.

That said, I mentioned last time I wasn’t too enthused for this game, and that’s held up. It’s the battle system, mostly. Reminds me a lot of the Tales series, except it’s really not as good. A lot more 3D, but your moves are more limited, and that Fury system they have governing your combat is just a pain. In short, attacking costs you Fury, standing still builds it back up. If your Fury is full, you’re immune to light attacks, but you get a heavy Fury penalty if hit with a hard one. Thus far, it’s a system that seems to be entirely in the CPU’s favor, when it impacts the battle at all

I’m hoping that this is a game that’s going to be like Summoner 2 was, in that it gets demonstrably better as I get more powerful and more options open up. It’s showing the initial signs of that, at least. It better. I’ve got another 30-40 hours to go on it.

Simpsons: Hit and Run

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I don’t really have much to say here that I didn’t last time. It’s better than you’d expect, but I think I might have had the old whatever-colored glasses on when I implied it was a particularly good game. It’s sound, but has it’s problems. Particularly with adding an arbitrary timer on everything. I didn’t notice it at the time, but that was a really common feature of its era. All sorts of games this console generation drop a timer on something with absolutely no justification other than gameplay. Not everything needs a failure state, folks.

Bonus Round- Planescape: Torment

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Not one of the console generation, specifically, but I picked up a number of classic games since I started this quest. I’m not requiring that I beat them before moving onto my next set of consoles like I am with all the rest, but I can’t say I’ve beat all my games without finishing these up, too, right?

In any case, Planescape and I had a rough start together. It plays a lot like Fallout, which I love like I would my own child, so that surprises me, but yeah, not a fun beginning. The opening area got to be a bit confusing as I was giving conflicting instructions on how to exit, and my opening class was chosen for me, and was the exact opposite of the one I specced myself for. You don’t have to fight very often, but when you do, it’s quite tense. Especially because it runs off of the Baldur’s Gate engine, and I really hated the combat there.

Getting a party started to turn it around for me. I’m still handling most of the situations diplomatically, but now that I can hold my own in a fight and don’t have to worry about being reset with every bad speech check, even though I’m still not fighting all that often, I’m relaxing a bit more and just enjoying the world and its quests quite a bit. I appreciate that its a game that seems built around dialogue and plot and creatively approaching problems, rather than just smashing your way through them. I really enjoy the nuanced approach.