Thursday, January 31, 2013

My Games of 2012, Runners Up

Here's the first of the last batch before I am finally done with Game of the Year stuff (aside from "Games that Weren't my Games" which I might not do right away because good god) detailing the three games that were not number one on my Game of the Year list.  This was, of course, the hardest part, and I'm sure that'll get across in the way I talk about the games individually since, in most cases, I will be trying to convince myself of why I -didn't- pick it as my Number One, but liked it so much that it was that close.  It's weird to say that any of these games, hell even the last three games before this, could have just as easily been my number one pick.  They're all special and wonderful in their own ways, so it was just a matter of trying to pick the one that I'm going to remember the most down the road.  In that, I think I figured it out quite well, but even still, it's a hard call.

4.  LittleBitPlanet PS Vita

It's no secret that I am a man who enjoys LittleBigPlanet in any and all facets, be they the regular Sidescroller ones or even Kart Racers, so that the iteration that happened to appear on what is rapidly becoming my favorite system ever is one of my most favorite games of the year is absolutely no surprise.  It is probably the antithesis of a surprise, and I am imagining everyone reading this was probably just awaiting the occasion where it would finally come up in numbered form.  That it is in the number 4 position is mostly a surprise to myself, but it's mostly because I didn't spend as much time with LBPV as I would have liked thanks to my profile getting corrupted right before I was going to make a real, proper level.  Game.  Whatever the term you want to use is.

Of course, that was honestly -my- fault, as I'm fairly certain that I closed the game while it was auto-saving more than a few times and doing that is just asking to have your game messed up.  I'm not holding it against the game, but in the same vein, it made me consider just how much I wanted to do all of that again, like I had done with the first title in the series after losing my save/profile there to a PS3 YLOD.  I love the LittleBigPlanet games, and I love replaying the story levels in them, but I love doing them at my leisure, not having to worry about dragging in some random to grab three score bubbles halfway through a level every other level.  It's fantastic indeed, truly, that LittleBigPlanet Vita can support proper LittleBigPlanet multi-player, it really is.  However, I'm not so much a fan of multi-player in general, so I can't help but cringe at the thought of all those bubbles where I will have to, once again, involve others in what is my game and my fun.  Especially when my time is as limited as it is.

Still, I'll do it eventually.  Not only because of my enjoyment of the franchise, but because the story in LBPV might just be one of the better ones of the entire series.  The levels are rich and charming, the aesthetic is clear with each and every one, and they're just jam-packed with fun that comes with a full appreciation of LBP2's inventory of power-ups as well as the few Vita-specific ones.  For certain items, I found myself replaying levels several, several times over and not once was it ever really a chore.  Sure, sometimes it was because I was just trying very desperately to Ace a level and it was so very difficult, but even then, I was never really deterred.  Cautious, sometimes, but never deterred.  I'm not happy that I'll have to do all that over again, but I'm not too fussed either.  My return to LBPV, whenever that is, will be glorious and because I've experienced it before, I know I'll fall in love with it all over again.  It's just clearing the rest of the games in the way so that I may truly enjoy it when I get around to it that is an issue.

3.  Far Cry 3

So, did you guys know that I really like Far Cry 3?  Because I really like Far Cry 3.  I liked it so much that I just couldn't believe it.  As in, I literally could not believe that I liked the game so much and I just knew, I knew there had to be a part where it started to crack, started to fall apart for me, because not doing so was an impossibility.  Unfortunately, I was correct, but even still after seeing some cracks I can't help but marvel at this game.  It went from a relative unknown to something that I had to have when I read a rather glowing review from Chance and there is not a single point that he touches on that I disagree with.  The game is fun incarnate.  You could break off large chunks of the fun Far Cry 3 offers and make an entire other game with it and both of them would still be fun.  Fun, fun fun.

The cracks only started to show when, as Chance said, Vaas left the stage.  Directly thereafter, the larger foe in Hoyt precedes a change in scenery and a change in gameplay, somewhat, as it becomes apparent that the best way to get close to Hoyt is to infiltrate his privateers.  That's not a bad idea in the slightest, except the way that the game executes it is faulty at best.  In order to get a privateer outfit, you have to engage in a forced stealth level where you cannot kill anyone or be seen.  The entire game, you've been honing your craft, your skills for killing and yet now, in the situation where it most makes sense, you cannot make use of that skill in any way for what is absolutely a twenty minute long level if you manage to get through it in a single go.  You will not.  You will not at all.  And you might think, when you get it and look like a Privateer that stealth just got a whole lot easier, right?  You would think that.

You would be wrong.

There's no reason for you to be wrong to the degree that we all are in thinking this, however.  Obviously, direct aggression against a fellow privateer will make it clear to them that you're not one of them.  That's fine.  Anyone who witnesses it will be aware as well.  That is also fine.  However, what is not fine is that, in a mission fairly soon after you get the uniform you have to infiltrate an area with three captains and kill them to try and find some important plans and documents on their persons.  That, in itself, is fine.  It takes place along the side of a mountain, basically, which is important.  The mission area is very vertical.  The problem I have with the whole set-up is that, if I mess up with the privateers at the very bottom of the mountain, Oblivion Guard Syndrome will kick in and every single privateer in the mission zone will know that I am an imposter.  For a game that pays attention to every single other thing with such incredible detail, this is almost deplorable and it was so jarring that I nearly quit the mission in frustration.  In truth, after I cleared it, possibly a few others, I haven't played it, having focused on AssLib and other things these last few days.

Still, it's just a minor speed-bump in the road that Far Cry 3 runs and it's more happenstance than I haven't played it in the last few days than reasoned.  There's just so much enjoyment to be had in Far Cry 3 that I'll be back soon enough and I'll spend entire days within its confines before I wrest my victories from it.  There's still beasts to hunt, still relics and letters to be found and, certainly, plenty of pirates and privateers to be dealt with.  While the looming 'threat' of Vaas is no longer in it for me, meaning no more fun moments like his "Insanity" speech, the fun of the game is still there and I am looking to grab hold of that and enjoy it as the last throes of the game are shown to me.  I know they won't disappoint.

2.  Binary Domain

I expected to like Binary Domain.  I expected to pick it up and enjoy it for what it was, feel a slight swell of pride for Yakuza Studios for really doing something that they wanted to do, expanding their horizons and move on to other games.  I expected it to be fun, yet flawed and be something that I couldn't universally suggest to anyone as a great game to play.

Sometimes, though.  Sometimes what you expect and what you get are not the same thing at all.

I can say, with certainty, that I love Binary Domain.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but the game is just so wonderful to me that I just cannot say anything less of it than that.  For their second attempt, it's a magnificently done third-person shooter, especially so when you consider their first attempt was Yakuza:  Dead Souls.  Given that they nailed the gameplay, which is the only part you should worry about with a Yakuza Studios game, the rest, as they say, is just gravy.  Production values are sky-high considering, and the Voice Acting in the title is fairly fantastic as is the dialogue.  Despite the themes in the game, the moments of humor that are sprinkled throughout are genuinely hilarious.

Honestly, if I had to say that there was anything that the game doesn't do well, it would be boss fights.  It's not even a matter of them being badly designed or anything, it's just that they go on far too long.  Perhaps that was exacerbated by me playing the game on the 'hard' difficulty, but even still, they seemed to drag on forever and ever which became a bit of a problem when I would die at the end of them sometimes, necessitating that I do the entire thing over again.  When the game plays so smoothly, however, it's not even -much- of a complaint there and is more about the time invested than anything.  Even the multi-player has its own charm from what little bit of it that I played.  The 'Invasion' game mode has you and others clearing a small map of 'Scrapheads' as they flood in, giving you only a limited amount of ammo for every five rounds of survival.  The squad I was in, unfortunately, only made it to the 25th round of 50, and it was mostly thanks to a lack of cooperation (limited ammo means take it only when you need it), but it was a blast regardless.

There's not really a whole lot more that I can say to try to impress upon you how much I liked Binary Domain.  What I've said, plus the second-place rank it took should hopefully be all the recommendation you might need.  It's cheap now in the wild, I'm sure, and it's well worth the price you'll pick it up for.  From the fantastically told story (with the usual Japanese weirdness to it), to the solid gameplay, to the absolutely entertaining cast, it's well worth the second place spot in the list, much like the last few games probably are as well for their own high successes.  Still, I think Binary Domain shone just a little brighter all told, and my hope is that a few more people pick up on it somehow, for some reason.  They won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Games of 2012, Part 4

We're hitting the home stretch here and praise everything for that.  There's not a whole lot that I can say here to preface these picks that I haven't already said, and I'm not really up for restating them, so let's just get on with it.

7.  Gravity Rush

Gravity Rush was a rather stunning game from the first time we saw it, to the time we finally got it in our collective hands and to the time where we uncovered all of its secrets, saw its story and gameplay and truly knew what the game was about.  This was among the few games shown off for the Vita, prior to the release that people were clamoring for, the games that people purchased Vitas for and thankfully this was one of the games that made that purchase well worth it.  The art style grabbed and the story charmed and the gameplay amazed.  In all facets, it was just a wonderfully well-done game.  In a lot of ways, Gravity Rush is definitely one of the best games that came out in 2012 because of just how different it was and how good it was as well.

Make no mistake, if you have a Vita and you do not have this game you are, in fact, doing it wrong.  Though I highly doubt that is a possibility because the game is one of the prime staples of the Vita's Playstation Plus Instant Game Collection which means it is -your- game for -free- whenever you want it.  Because if you have a Vita and you don't have Playstation Plus....well, again, you are doing it wrong.  So, by virtue of not being a wrong person, having a Vita and having Gravity Rush is basically hand-in-hand and this is a very good thing indeed because the game deserves to be something that is played by a wide audience.  It's something to be lauded and appreciated and it's something to hold up as a prime example of what a handheld game -can- be and in a lot of ways, what one -should- be.  Whenever the sequel comes out, with any luck, it will definitively reinforce that.

I think my fondest memory of the game, since I haven't played it in so long, is just the feel, the freedom, of 'flying' around the city in which the game takes place.  It's a simple affair, but because it is so simple, it allows for a lot of personalization, if you will, and it inspired a lot of that as well.  It becomes much more than "Shift, point at building, shift to 'fly' to it, you are at your destination".  It becomes "Well, if I launch myself at that angle and cut off my flight at this point, I'll land right there and then I can do this and that"  It becomes a thing that you can finesse and just have fun with on its own merits and, given that it's something we normally don't have access to in games - flight- that is a big deal.  Because not only is it done, but it's done well which is a rarity unto itself.  So long as the sequel has more things to -use- that flight, that finesse of movement, it will be an amazing game itself.

6.  Lollipop Chainsaw

I realize that, around these parts, I did not exactly say a lot about Lollipop Chainsaw once it was released, once I had played it myself and that was not fully intentional.  Rather unfortunately, the game came out at a time in my life and situation where things were hectic and annoying everyday thanks in part to the extreme heat wave, but clearly, there was a bit more going on than just that.  I won't get into the finer details, but there was a -thing- that I was trying to do with Lollipop Chainsaw and it simply fell through, but I didn't want to give up on it completely, so I just sort of held out to see if it could be salvaged.  And time passed, as it does, and I just got into other things that I could and wanted to talk about, so it just sort of fell by the wayside.  That is, of course, rather unfortunate.

So, let's talk about Lollipop Chainsaw.  Let's first discuss that, while playing Lollipop Chainsaw, no matter what the hell was going on around the house, in my life and such at the time that had me down and got in the way of doing things, I could not force the grin off of my face.  Lollipop Chainsaw is a thing of beauty because it is a perpetual entertainment machine.  If you're not enjoying the absolutely stylized, wonderful combat (along with the Sparkle Hunting finishers and the super mode that played "Hey Mickey" in the background while it was active), then you're enjoying the hilarious dialogue between Juliet and Nick, or the other characters, and if you're not enjoying either of those then you just aren't playing the game.  I am mostly serious when I say that I exist in a world where I think it is an impossibility for one to -not- consider Lollipop Chainsaw fun and/or entertaining on some level.

Lollipop Chainsaw does not complicate itself.  It doesn't over-saturate itself.  It simply exists as what it is, and it's because of that simple entertainment factor that it's just so damn wonderful.  It's not going to be one of those games that changes your outlook on anything, it's not going to redefine a genre for you and it doesn't need to.  It is a game that is fun.  That's all it is and that's all it needs to be.  In that vein, there's absolutely no way I could advocate picking up a copy of it yourself, since you probably didn't, and going through it.  You might not laugh at everything, you might struggle with the combat system at first, but if you don't crack a grin, if you don't chuckle here and there, then, well, there might just be something broken inside of you.

5.  Yakuza:  Dead Souls

It is a very, very odd thing for a game with "Yakuza" in the title to not be in the Top Two of any of my lists, and an even more odd thing indeed for said game to barely break the Top Five.  There is a very, very simple reason for why Yakuza:  Dead Souls didn't make the illustrious cut and, put simply, it's just because it was very, very obviously Yakuza Studios' first attempt at a third-person shooter.  Painfully obvious.  It was also fairly obvious that the Yakuza Engine (even modified as it was) was not intended for third-person shooting in any facet beyond cursory.  So, in the end, all it meant was that the Studio wanted to try something different, which is completely and totally admirable, they used a franchise of theirs to make it happen and it just didn't come out with the same level of quality as their other games.  It's unfortunate, but that's just what happened.

Now, clearly I'm not saying the end result was a bad game.  Because it wasn't.  In a way, Dead Souls was an absolute wonder in its own right and a lot of that is because they used the Yakuza franchise.  Not only did they use it, but they respected it (obviously, I mean, it's -theirs-) and made its out-landish story and concept fit into the long-running narrative and canon.  Though, obviously the game is not canon for the series (seeing as Yakuza 5 exists and Tokyo is not in shambles), you could totally believe that it is because of the way it just fits into everything that already exists in the series.  One of the moments that made me actually stop in something approaching shock was when I approached the upper right portion of the map, where Kamurocho Hills had been in development for the last two iterations of the series and suddenly, finally it was there.  It's like going to your old neighborhood and seeing things that are familiar, yet also seeing how time has changed it, the blending of nostalgia and awe of new things.

Something that Yakuza Studios said about Dead Souls was that, if the game were to get localized, they would 'like' to change up the gameplay some to more mirror Binary Domain's controls, the second third-person shooter they released that is much, -much- more like a third-person shooter.  After playing both games, I can safely say that that, unfortunately, did not happen even in the slightest, and Dead Souls really flounders in that respect.  It's not bad, it's just kind of clunky which is not at all what I would ever suggest is an attribute of a Yakuza game.  So, it's bad in comparison to its pedigree, I should say.  Yet, on the whole, it's a wonderfully realized game with the same things you love about a Yakuza game (aside from the combat system), which means it's a quality product indeed.  That might seem to clash with some of the things I said, but realize that I have a far more vested interest in the series than most, so I'm going to be a little over-critical of it.  And, considering it still made it as high on my list as it did, despite my grumblings, that should be a message in itself.

Monday, January 28, 2013

My Games of 2012, Part 3

Here is where things start to get a little dicey.  I already sort of prefaced that yesterday, but it definitely bears repeating.  This is about where it becomes less and less about the numbers and more and more about just listing the games because they ended up being important to me for one reason or another.  Around this point, games start to not be 'better than' the ones that rank 'lower' than them, so the numbers part of it starts to become a little unnecessary.  This will only get more and more prevalent as we get closer and closer and I think I'll need to be a little more focused with these as it gets more into that, so from here on out, I'm going to do less at a time so I can put a little more explanation into everything.  This post and the next post will cover three games each, much like last year, and I will try to do them justice that way.

10.  Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale

You're surprised, right?  Because I'm surprised.  I'm really surprised.  I wasn't really excited for the game at all, but I got it because of the Cross-Buy, if solely so I could play the game on my Vita because, well, it's really kind of a value and I wanted to go with that in the hopes that it might come up more.  I expected the game would be a fun pick-up-and-play ordeal that would tide me over for a few days while I cleared the bulk of it and then moved on to something else.  I expected it would be decent, not particularly good and definitely not great.  I basically just expected, as I think most people did, that it was just an attempt at something that was kind of potentially ill-conceived and just a thing that was trying to reach for something that, potentially, they couldn't really get a hold of.

I was very, very wrong.

Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale is honestly really goddamn fun.  It is definitely pick-up-and-play, since your matches will generally last three minutes, at most, and after that, you can go off and do something else if you're not going to jump right back into it.  Every character is fleshed enough that they have their own strengths and weaknesses and the gameplay is deep enough that it's not -solely- about slamming on buttons and ending up the winner, but with the inclusion of the Super Gauge, it's at least got a welcome element of strategy.  A lot of people didn't particularly like that, but I am honestly really confused as to the why of that since, if you think about it, it's honestly not all that different from other games of this sort.  The only difference, really, is that the 'finishing moves' are attached to a single button that you have to charge up for.  What makes that different from fighting games where you have a special meter, and what makes it different from Super Smash Bros. where you need to use a 'big' attack after your foe is softened up enough to send them flying off the screen?

Obviously, the game got a lot of comparisons to Super Smash Bros. and really, that's fair.  They're definitely similar games and it'd probably be safe to assume PASBR was inspired by SSB, and in fact, I think someone said that it was.  Except, people say this as if it's a bad thing.  As if Nintendo owns the entire cross-over fighting game genre which is really silly, since they were mostly definitely not the first ones to step into that ring.  As if Sony has besmirched the honor of Nintendo, of gamers everywhere, by daring to make a game in that vein because 'Nintendo did it first'.  Because, you know, it's totally not cool to use a genre that already exists, so all the first person shooters, the racing games, hell every game now is ripping someone off and we should all be super angry about that you guys and stay purists to the originals.  Because clearly, they're the only ones that are -actually- good and fun.

The thing that kills me, is that in the same breath, people will tell you that it's a Super Smash Bros. clone and that it is also not enough like Super Smash Bros. to be fun.  As mentioned, the Super thing gets trotted out a lot as a shining example of how the game isn't fun, but really, -how- is it different from Super Smash Bros.?  In Super Smash Bros., you have to wail on your enemy til their damage percentile is high and then use a high-impact move to send them flying.  You have to hit them a lot and then use a specific move to finish them off.  I am thrusting my hands out and making wild motions with them now, I assure you for reasons that are probably obvious.  Beyond that, people complained about the token amount of story in the Story modes which is also kind of silly when compared to Super Smash Bros. as, from what I know (unless it got changed in later titles, I've only played the original), there is no story.

I don't really understand the gaming elitism that PASBR inspired and it's really, really unfortunate because it forced a lot of people to miss out on a really fun game.  That probably accounted for layoffs at SuperBot despite a sequel apparently already being green-lit.  And for what?  So people could feel smug that Nintendo did a fun thing first?  So people could have another little laugh at Sony?  If it's just not a game for someone, because, you know, there are things that are not for everyone and they are called everything ever, then I can understand that.  But the bulk of the people that I've ever seen smugly mocking PASBR are people that would never consider buying the game, have never played it and never will, and haven't even paid attention to its development whatsoever.  And I just don't get that because we are supposed to be in this hobby to have fun and PASBR is fun.

9.  Sorcery

As yet another game that I had a ton of fun with without expecting it, Sorcery was a welcome surprise in my late game rush, validating entirely the excitement for the title I had when it was shown off for the first time.  Again, I didn't really expect much out of the title, nor do I expect many others did if only for the Move functionality it requires (which is another can of worms that I -won't- be getting into tonight), but the game is wonderful and charming and provides a lot that we want, that we look for, in a game.  Despite the vocal minority, it's well-documented that there are motion games out there that people actually enjoy and Sorcery should definitely be on those lists for doing a bang-up job of mashing up the Motion gaming experience with traditional controls, thanks to the abundance of buttons and the like that are actually on the Move Wand and Navigation Controller (or DualShock 3 if you're into that, but seriously, the Nav. Controller is good).  It's definitely not the first that has actually merged the two, but it's yet another title that is proof that it is possible, no matter the insistence against the notion.

Each and every one of Sorcery's motion controls feels natural and is fairly intuitive because of that.  Whether it's swirling your wand like a tornado to switch to the Wind Spell, or drawing a line facing down to make a literal wall of fire before your character, or even just flicking the wand to send off an arcane bolt, it's obvious, the intent behind every gesture and it just works because of it.  What says the most for it is that it is not a game that then had gestures, motion controls added to it arbitrarily because they're just so ingrained into the core mechanics and properly at that.  Potentially the true mark of that is that, without the motion controls, you would still have a fun game in Sorcery, but not as fun as it -could- be, because part of the fun of the game is actually being drawn in thanks to the use of the wand.

Sorcery's progression of power is rapid once it really gets going, and because you're physically doing it, because you're making the gestures and flinging off the spells, it's surprisingly empowering.  Launching three Ice shots at an enemy to make them a frozen block of goblin while charging them to slam into them with your spectral shield at the last moment, shattering them into tiny bits just would not -be- the same without your physical input.  Making a whirlwind and launching it at a group of foes and then deciding to launch a fireball at it to make it a firestorm, burning all those trapped in the vortex to ash, it wouldn't -be- so right.  Slamming down a shock trap right in front of you just as several enemies are charging you, weapons drawn and watching them get taken out by the unparalleled voltage of the spell while also picking off foes further back with bolts of lightning just wouldn't make you feel like you've accomplished real, visceral power in the game without the Move wand in your hand.

It's because of that that, by the end of the game, I was practically begging for more.  I wanted challenge rooms, I wanted new areas, I wanted some form of being able to play the game more with all the Spells unlocked so that I could just go wild with the power.  I just wanted more, and if that's not a compelling argument for how fun it gets, then I don't think you'll ever be convinced.  I'm hoping against hope that there will be a Sorcery 2 or something that invokes the types of things that Sorcery itself did, using much the same methods and I don't know whether to be expecting that or not.  Obviously, the game didn't sell very well, but on the other hand, Sony isn't really all about giving up when it comes to Move games, even if they aren't flooding the market with them.  (Which, neither was Nintendo, really.)  I suppose if there's another game announced in the vein of it, or even a sequel, then you know who will be excited as hell, because it will be -this guy-.

8.  Uncharted:  Golden Abyss

I am a man who loves Uncharted games, if that was not made abundantly clear over the course of this blog.  All of them.  Yes, even 3, we are not starting that again.  So that means that I loved Golden Abyss which is definitely not a wrong statement to make.  I am definitely not alone in loving Golden Abyss, but I would say that I am definitely in the sub-group of folks who loved it -a lot- versus the people who loved it -kinda sorta-, because at its core, it is still an Uncharted game.  Unfortunately or not, depending on your perspective, it was also a game that included a whole lot of features that the Vita supports, features that were initially sold as optional and then made mandatory at some point in development.  People were not too fond of these and, being as they were made mandatory, I can't fully blame them since, for about 90% of the gesture controls, there was no real reason why they -couldn't- have been optional.  I didn't mind them, clearly, but I am, more often than not, the exception and not the rule.

That's not to say that everything that Golden Abyss did with all the extra functionality was poorly-implemented, because it certainly was not.  Something that I absolutely -adored- in the title was the ability to adjust your aiming through tilting the system, but it was a learning curve, admittedly.  It is something to get used to, but when you do, it adds a whole new layer to your abilities to efficiently take out your foes, of which there are plenty in typical Uncharted fashion.  The trick, clearly, is to use the sticks to get close enough to what you're aiming for and then shift a little to get it right on target since in most cases, it will offer you the absolute level of precision that you seek in a very swift and easy way.  While I initially turned the feature off, I popped it back on at some point to give it a whirl and my performance almost became night-and-day.  It was -the- thing that really allowed me to get into prime form, to make my several playthroughs of the game enjoyable without being too difficult.

That isn't to say the controls are lacking, of course, because they certainly weren't.  Nothing -about- the game, in my opinion, was lacking in any real form without getting a little picky.  The complaint that the whole thing takes place in a jungle and a temple, rather than offering slightly different locales as even the first game did (95% of the game in a jungle, 3% on ships, 2% in a bunker, more or less) is one that I will entertain, but even that wasn't too grating.  Of course, Bend Studios is -not- Naughty Dog, so the game probably could have been better somehow, but I'm not complaining one bit with the way it came out, because it was definitely an Uncharted experience in the palms of your hands, and that's all it said it was on the tin.  With any luck, we'll be seeing another foray into treasure hunting with good ol' Drake on the Vita before 2012 is up, because I could certainly be up for that.

As you can see, opinions are getting a little more and more strong for the games as I get closer to the top and -that- is precisely why it got so difficult towards the end.  We started crossing over from games that I liked well-enough to games that I really, absolutely adored and eventually reached games that I could easily say amazed me in some way or form.  All of these are intense emotions, difficult things to get a grip on, to quantify in a manner that made me consider any of them more or less worthy than others.  Yet, I think I did in -some- form, even though I will obviously inform you that every game on my list is -on- my list for a reason, and not simply because I played it in 2012.  My only hope is that I really sort of get across the -why- for those games, the reasons they made my list and the reasons they made the place they did.  Since my list is nothing if not urging you to play some of these games if you haven't, since goddamn, 2012 was a good year for our hobby.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

My Games of 2012, Part 2

Tonight's group of games is where things started to get a little dicey and where the surprises really started.  If there's any section of my list where I imagine the games could be shuffled about and still be representative of my overall opinion, this could probably be it since I like all these a sense, but at the very least, I liked them all -more- than the previous group, if only just a little in the case of a couple of them.  Again, that's all that really matters for this kind of list in the end, but still, I do feel a little wonky with the places some of these have ended up.  Oh well, it's not like I won't make it painfully obvious which of those are the ones.  Still, enough stalling, let's just get to the numbers and get this one knocked out.

15.  Retro City Rampage

I'll admit, when I played Retro City Rampage the first time, I spent hours just enjoying the hell out of it and loving it for what it was, or rather, what it was trying to be.  I told myself, told you folks that it was just too awesome for words, because I simply couldn't find the appropriate ones.  Admittedly in the months since I played it, my opinion has simmered quite a bit, thanks in no small part to the absolute awful final boss/section and the rather tedious and annoying task of mopping up the last collectibles in the game that, in all honesty, are really hard to find.  Not to mention a certain trophy that has all sorts of hidden flags that are -not- what it says on the tin, turning a rather simple matter into something entirely different, much harder to accomplish, which borders on "Why should I even bother?" territory.  Ultimately, that sort of thing just gets in the way of my fun, detours it and unfortunately just takes the rest of the game down with it.

Not that it isn't a really wonderful little game, if only for the nine billion references to gaming and pop culture, classic and modern, that have been packed into it.  It's just that, yes, the fun does eventually run out when there's nothing else to do because, ultimately, the city that Retro City Rampage takes place in is built on references.  Once you've seen them, they become less "Oh wow, that's awesome" and just blend into the scenery, which leaves it to be simply a place that you navigate on the way to your next objective.  Hence, when there's -not- a next objective..there's little reason for you to make one for yourself.  To its credit, it's very much like classic games in that sense, which, I mean, the game was definitely going for a classic game feel.  You can only conquer those worlds once and then do it again and again if you wish, but there's no incentive to remain once you've planted your flag, so to speak.

14.  Ragnarok Odyssey

I admit, when I first saw Ragnarok Odyssey, I wasn't expressly seeing it for what it was, and was instead looking at it like it was something else that I wanted.  What I -want- is another Phantasy Star Portable experience, but Sega has been a little too busy with the doing jack shit in America thing to comply.  At first glance, RO seemed like it would fill that need quite capably - after all, it's about entering zones, taking down mobs and getting loot, what's the difference, right?  Well, unfortunately the difference is there in a way that I can't quantify and while I ended up liking Ragnarok Odyssey for what it was, it just wasn't what I wanted in the end.  It doesn't help that the difficulty turns from an uphill climb to a sheer cliff-face in the latter chapters which is what ultimately put me off the game, but really, there was just a little more to it than that.

Part of RO's charm, and yet part of its short-comings is the way it handles your character and the specific customization of it.  You can buy new outfits, you can change the hair style and this and that after the fact and eventually, you can even change jobs.  You don't -have- to start a new character to find out what a Cleric is like - just switch to the Cleric Job and go do a couple missions, bam, Cleric experience garnered.  If anything, though, that more or less highlights the fact that you -don't- really have that much to say in exactly what your character can be, because your character is flexible enough to be anything decently.  It all boils down to your playstyle in a sense, which is admirable, but again that just sort of negates the replayability and such of the game since if you don't like being a Mage, there's no -reason- to because you will not get better at it.  

It's nothing like other games where you spend hours playing one style because it's what your character needs, then switching to another character so you can see what it's like on the other side of things.  That individuality might seem unimportant, but ultimately it's one of the factors that brought me down on the game.  Of course, that only brought me down after playing into it for eight or so chapters, spending hours on extraneous missions and just straight-up going back to older bosses and murdering the shit out of them only to prove that I could.  Which is to say there's some definite fun to be had with the game - I had it - and it's well worth a look if you're into the type of thing it's offering.  Still, I'm hoping for something more and I'll openly applaud the first damn company that gives me the Phantasy Star Portable experience because I friggin' need it.

13.  Persona 4 Arena

I am not a fighting game person, despite my love for punching dudes in video games.  The allure is that, in most cases, you are exponentially more badass than the dude whom you are punching and that gap in skill allows you to skillfully display that.  Which is fun.  And every now and then, you get that opponent that is -as- badass as you and it's a challenge, but at the same time, it's fun because you're getting to put your badassery to the test.  It's a welcome change in pace every now and then.  Nothing to be repeated over and over, however.  To me, that's what fighting games are - going against an equal with the goal of punching them a whole bunch.  In these occasions, I find my skills lacking more often than not and I don't really find it all that fun to 'train' within the confines of fighting games to then get better at it when I could just pop in Yakuza and suplex a guy across a steel divider and just enjoy that.

Still, I allow myself the occasional dalliance outside of my comfort zone here and there if the draw is right and fresh off my Persona 4 Golden playthrough, I was admittedly looking towards Persona 4 Arena, if only because I am told it is at least somewhat canon and, well, I really dug P4's canon.  Then the stars aligned and the price dropped to $20 the day before I was going to head into GameStop and they just happened to have a copy.  It was providence, pure and simple, so who am I to argue?  Perhaps thankfully, I went in with the same expectations as any fighting game and as such, I wasn't disappointed with my brief dips into it here and there.  It is definitely interesting from all sides, and it is also definitely entertaining, even if it is a fighting game to the core.  Perhaps because it has the lovely Arc System Works people behind it who excel at making wonderful looking fighting games, which this is no slouch at either.

I haven't played P4A a whole lot, but I've played it enough to appreciate it for what it is, I believe and I will certainly be dipping back into it sooner rather than later.  I like it, I honestly do, but I would like it a whole lot more if I knew just what in the blue hell I was doing.  I played through all 67 or however many tutorials there were (which, admittedly were single things like a single tutorial about crouching, a single tutorial about blocking, etc.) and all that information just went in one ear and out the other.  When I am put down in a match with a (computer) enemy (hahaha, noooooo, no online for me, no thanks) I just do things and eventually I win, but it's not skillfully, it's not with mastery of the system, it's just because I hit a lot of buttons that did a lot of stuff.  I hope to figure it out as I play, but I guess if that'll carry me through everyone's story modes, I'll take it.

12.  LittleBigPlanet Karting

Much like fighting games, I just don't do racing games a whole lot, but I did have to make an exception for LittleBigPlanet Karting for the simple fact that it's friggin' LittleBigPlanet Karting.  My opinion of it hasn't changed much since I last talked about it, but that is to say I haven't really played it much since the last time I talked about it.  I've been thinking about it, but I just haven't yet gotten behind the cardboard steering wheel once more, namely because I've been scrambling to put my playtime into other games so that I could judge them as well.  I still say that, for as weird and out-of-sorts as the mash-up of LittleBigPlanet and a Kart Racer is, it's also a perfect fit in a sense because, well, that is the strength of LittleBigPlanet.  It's meant to be anything and everything you could want it to be, which is why the other iterations of the series have been so popular, or at least so striking with a certain group of people.

In the end, however, I think LittleBigPlanet Karting is a good enough idea to be good, but probably not a good enough idea to substantiate an entire game.  I've only been to two different planets in the story, but if previous games are any indicator, there will only be about five or six in total, so I've seen quite a bit already.  If, perhaps, Karting was simply a level choice for a grander, larger LittleBigPlanet game, that would have been the best course of action, though I understand the scope for that is quite large, almost absurdly so.  So what we're left with is a good idea that goes on a little too long, even if it does take every opportunity to give you ideas that it's not just a racing game.  In all reality, it's -not- just a racing game, but it is, of course, -mostly- one, which does not differentiate itself enough.  Still, it's charming and it's fun enough and I should say I'm better at driving games than fighting games, so I'm not quite as hard pressed to find my own enjoyment with them.  Not much, though.

11.  Assassin's Creed 3:  Liberation

You would think that, after just reviewing it recently, I would be sick of talking about AssLib by now.  You would also be right in that.  It hasn't even been a full week since I posted that up and I've even been playing it -still-, trying to mop up the miscellany because the Platinum trophy is behind a wall of tedium, not one of impossibility, so I want to get it and be done with it, that I might return to the world of Persona 4 or some other Vita game, just so I am not playing Assassin's Creed 3:  Liberation anymore.  So, if you will allow me to be so lazy, allow me to take an except from the review to leave you with here:
Assassin's Creed 3:  Liberation is not a perfect game, much like no Assassin's Creed game is a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination.  The upside is that Liberation is just as flawed as the previous titles, not more, which means if you enjoyed them, you will probably have quite a bit of fun with this.  The story itself is fairly short and not terribly involved with the rest of the overarching story, but in many ways, that's probably a good thing all told.  The draw here is pretty simple - more Assassin's Creed, but wherever you could want to play it at, and that's a very good thing since it does work much the same as the previous titles.  If you're looking for something Action-y to throw into your Vita for a while, AssLib is a fine choice that likely won't leave you feeling disappointed.
So there's that.  Nothing but the Top 10 left and already you've seen some games that might've just been heavy hitters for my list, or might've been considered so, given how much I've talked (or haven't talked) about them.  Still, if you've been keeping up with Kupowered, you'll probably be able to figure out which games are still yet to be revealed, and I'm sure you can understand that it was goddamn hard to actually rank the games that are remaining.  So yes, it's all uphill from here and it's going to be rough going to actually explain my reasoning for why some of the games are where they are.  That is a problem for another night, however, likely tomorrow night.  For tonight, I just have some music and some writing (elsewhere) on my mind.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

My Games of 2012, Part 1

I have been putting this off and putting it off more than usual and that's mostly because I've been given the leisure to do so.  It is Game of the Year time, or at least, it -was-, but given that I use the voting over at a few forums, namely the Penny Arcade ones which didn't start until this week (Last Sunday, I believe), to make my list, I've just been stewing on it til tonight.  Tonight, I sat down, I opened a spreadsheet and input the games I'd played last year (well, 20 of them.  I played 21 friggin' new games last year) and began the arduous task of ordering them.  Ranking them from 20-1, wracking my brain the entire time over whether I wanted this game over that one or that game under this one.  Twenty Games is a -lot- of goddamn games, so it makes a hard decision that much more difficult, but I managed to come up with a list that I'm satisfied with even though it was damn rough putting it together.

2012 was a friggin' big year in gaming, because even as I perused the list of games to add to my own, I must've ticked off three or four games at least that I -could- own, that I -could- have played, that I sort of -wanted- to own and play, but there was just no damn time for it.  This last week and a half, I played over five of the games that ended up making my list and that's not because I was -waiting- to play them or anything, simply that it was opportune to do so.  I could swing playing them now and be able to give them a fair shake.  Granted, I did stray here and there last year playing games that I -couldn't- vote for (namely Final Fantasy XIII and Demon's Souls) but there were reasons for those (for the former, so I could appropriately judge FFXIII-2, and the latter because it's goddamn Demon's Souls) and most of these games that I played just recently weren't in my possession prior to December anyway.  Still, I'm stalling now, so I'm going to jump right in this.  As I have twenty games in my list, it's going to require quite a few posts, but I don't want to straggle them out too much.  This first post will have my bottom five, and perhaps tomorrow I'll cover a good portion of the next bit of it over a single post or maybe two.  Just to get them out there and get this done and dusted.

20.  Final Fantasy XIII-2

You're probably thinking, "Woah, hey Mogs, you hated Final Fantasy XIII-2!  Why is it on your Games of the Year list?"  And that is an entirely valid wonder to have.  Because I kind of wondered myself on whether or not it would even show up.  The only thing I had below it was MotorStorm RC (Because fuck that game, stupid goddamn drifting and grumble, grumble) and it would have been a simple matter to leave them -both- off my list, to only have 19 games to cover.  That probably would've been the wisest course to take, really, but there is something important to Final Fantasy XIII-2, much as I am begrudging to admit it.  Final Fantasy XIII-2 was Squeenix's attempt, a real honest attempt, to do all sorts of different things, to go wild after the wildly constrained Final Fantasy XIII, and to improve it.  That they failed miserably, utterly and completely is its own condemnation, but I do have to hand it to them for at least -trying- instead of directly going to the next numbered Final Fantasy game that A) won't be out for like two or three years at -best- and B) will be all sorts of different itself, possibly in good ways, possibly in bad ways, but not very likely to have a lot in common with XIII.

Final Fantasy XIII was a good game mired in bad decisions and Final Fantasy XIII-2 was a bad game dragging down good ideas.  They're victims of their own extreme natures, but that there was -something- good about XIII-2 is enough to qualify it for my list, even if it is the very bottom spot.  There is also a very small (read:  like huge) chance that the voice-work of Liam O'Brien and Laura Bailey in the same game did wonders for its playability when the actual game itself did not.  While it may a bit silly that I would hold either of those in that high regard, in some ways, there is something to be said for production values and the things associated with that, as even the most fun game could be dragged down by less-than-quality voice-overs for the simple fact that you do still have to listen to those at some point, much as you have to play a mini-game at some point (for, let's face it, like most games) or have to really take a look at some of the texture quality at some point.  It's all just to get a general opinion of a game and that is the name of the game here.

19.  Resistance:  Burning Skies

The fact that I played Resistance:  Burning Skies, got the Platinum trophy in it and reviewed it, yet I don't really remember a whole lot about it is probably a good indicator of why it went so low on my list.  At the end of the day, Burning Skies just wasn't a very memorable game one way or another.  It was decent in quality, neither good nor bad and I think that that's almost worse than being bad since it just leaves it to get forgotten as you move on to other games that actually invoke something in you, whether it is positive or negative.  It's only because I actually liked the game a little bit for not being bad that it topped FFXIII-2, for instance and otherwise it was just a game that existed, that I bought and played and then moved on from.    Really, for as much as I like Resistance as a series, that's quite an unfortunate turn of events, but is not, in itself a condemnation of the game.

Burning Skies' only success, really was showing the world that First-Person games can be competently made and played on the Vita.  Because of the way it controlled, with just a little more polish Burning Skies could have been a good game, one that you would speak of when not specifically asked about it, but doing that seemed a little bit out of Nihilistic Studios' abilities.  It's very unfortunate that they then went on to be given the reigns to the Call of Duty game that was similarly tepidly received even though I'm assured that it controlled nicely as well.  Still, people know that the ability is there, we just need somebody that will capitalize on it.  Since Nihilistic is (thankfully) out of the way, having moved on to becoming a Mobile game studio, that leaves them out of the running to make anymore FPS games for anyone else that offers a quick buck.  Regardless, Burning Skies was definitely not a need-to-play title, but I urge you, if you have the opportunity (perhaps if it is free for Playstation Plus), try it out and see that FPS games work on it, because Burning Skies will tell you that, even if it won't tell you much else.

18.  Tales from Space:  Mutant Blobs Attack!!!

Speaking of things free on Playstation Plus, for a little while there, Tales from Space:  Mutant Blobs Attack!!! was one such title offered and I snapped it up, somewhat eager to see what the little title had to offer.  I knew nothing about it other than it was a rather charming little platformer with a touch of puzzle elements and, well, that is pretty much what I got.  Those impressions pretty much put everything on the tin and there's nothing at all wrong about that.  It does make it a bit hard to say much else about the game since...well, there's not a whole lot of depth to it, really.  Even the story, such as it is, is barely interspersed between chapters with no real dialogue, relying on some basic images to convey a basic story of the blob landing on the planet, getting bigger terrorizing everything and so on.

It's simplistic and that's most of its charm really - you navigate levels, eating whatever you can to make yourself bigger so that you can advance, and then you get to the end.  The next level has you eating more things so you can get even bigger and so on.  You start out as something that one might find on their desk and, in short order, are large enough to consider houses something to hop off of like stepping stones, chowing on cows for a snack and pulling in Helicopters for a good meal.  The presentation doesn't necessarily do the scale justice, but it's done well enough that, if you think about it for a moment, it really sinks in.  As it gets more and more complicated, however, as platformers and puzzlers tend to do, it becomes less and less fun, for me anyway, and for that reason, I didn't even bother finishing the second to last and last areas, since I just got overwhelmed with the puzzle elements and just found the levels to be a chore.  Still, it was fun while it lasted, as they say.

17.  Dynasty Warriors Next

If you're even a casual reader of Kupowered, you probably know that I was a man who enjoyed a good Warriors title.  I say 'was', however, since KOEI, in their infinite wisdom, decided it was a good idea to stop making disk-based games solely for the PS3 and solely for the NA region.  Yes, yes, there's that whole story about "Sony won't let us because blah blah blah", but it's a bunch of horseshit and I'll not hear anyone tell different.  As such, Dynasty Warriors Next is probably the last Warriors game I'll be able to enjoy unless they release any new titles for the Vita since their download sizes will probably not be the 11 gig monstrosities that One Piece:  Pirate Warriors, Warriors Orochi 3 and such have been.  Next was not quite the best send-off for the series, either.

While it aspired to be Handheld Dynasty Warriors 7 in a way, it ultimately didn't live up to that specifically because the replayability is mired in a randomized, barebones attempt at an Empires game that doesn't even accomplish a good shake at that.  Still, it -played- mostly like DW7 and that is a very, very good thing.  Beyond that, it kept my interest for a long, long time, though not anywhere near the 78+ hours that would have been required for at least one of the trophies, which would put me that much closer to the Platinum for it, a task which I have fully acknowledged will never happen.  Because I just am not about that.  I don't have that kind of time.  Clearly.  All in all, however, I liked Next even if my opinion of KOEI and all things Warriors has changed dramatically since.

16.  Sound Shapes

I had a lot of fun with Sound Shapes, and in my opinion it was a pretty neat little game, even if 'little' ended up being quite the descriptor.  I'm not sure what gave me the impression, but I expected there to be full albums (which, admittedly would be three songs/stages) as DLC to accompany the post-release of the game and it was only a year later when the game got -anything-.  It was not Album DLC either, but simply new tools to use for music in the creation tool which, while welcome, did nothing to extend the actual -game- itself.  In all reality, that was Sound Shapes' biggest fault in that it just was entirely too short, especially for the build the game had going behind it.  The online community reflected that in dying off fairly shortly, or perhaps that's just me being bitter because the level I created only got 4 plays and none of them were from anyone that reads this, I don't think.  I even showed if off here, though that's only the visual side to it, not the audio, which I thought was pretty good!

Still, Sound Shapes was a fantastic little thing for what it was, and that's really what counts.  The levels were fun and varied, the music was wonderful to listen to, and the package was fully there, even if it was a bit too easy outside of the challenge levels.  If there had just been a little more to it - maybe a couple more albums, it would've rated much higher in public opinion, I think and it would've kept interest for a lot longer than it did.  It's another case of "great while it lasted" and if only it had lasted a bit longer.  If only.  I could say it again and again, but the fact of the matter was that it just wasn't and still isn't.  Maybe the community's put together something fantastic in the meantime, but I'm not sure and I probably won't be finding out since the 1 gig and change of space that Sound Shapes needs is being used up by something else that I'm actually playing.

So that was the bottom five games of my list.  That...that was pretty much the easy part.  It was everything after this where things pretty much got harder and harder to pick as it went along, and I ended up surprising myself quite a few times when faced with all the options I had.  It wasn't like some years where I had x, y and z games that were -my- games, where the rest, I just enjoyed in some form.  No, there were quite a few games that were -my- games, and it was hard putting them in order, though I think I did so in a satisfactory manner.  Hopefully by the end of all this, I'll feel the same way, because man, I'm sure I can regret it and I fear that I might because of how close it was.  Still, that's something we'll have to see about!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Oh, Right, There Was a Nintendo Direct Thing

So, because Nintendo is in panic mode because they are not used to selling less than a hojillion (it is a number, totally) consoles at any given moment in time, despite the Wii U's sales being...well, completely reasonable for what it is, we have some new announcements.  New announcements that are....mostly unnecessary.  Popular media might be saying that Nintendo is 'failing' with the Wii U (which is impossible to tell at this early juncture and it pains me to have to make this a fucking point to talk about) and while they're perhaps not advertising it well enough it is, as I said, selling fine enough.  Remember, once upon a time the 3DS was considered "failing" as well and boy oh boy, that happened, didn't it?  Really, I think Nintendo's panic is stemming from a sense that there is actually competition now - let's face it, the Wii was in its own league in more ways than one so they haven't been on this front in a long time.  But they decided to enter a different ring this go around and I don't think they were prepared for it at all.

If you've got the muscle, then you might as well flaunt it, is the thought process I'm going with here and while Nintendo's 'muscle' is a little flimsy with me, I am not in the majority here.  So let's go over that first and get it out of the way.  Possibly the only thing I would care about in all of this is the above-pictured Yoshi's Island game that is, clearly, being helmed by the Kirby's Epic Yarn team.  It looks absolutely wonderful for what it is, and while I don't really hold a particularly different spot for the Yoshi's Island games over any of Nintendo's other series, it's good fun and with this art style, I can only hope to see some real good things.  Kirby's Epic Yarn, from what I was told, brought some rather neat things to the table, really taking hold of that fabric universe concept and running with it.  Maybe I'll find out myself one day if I pick up a Wii U and a copy of the game, but that's basically all the information that I found about it - It is a Yoshi game and it is being done up in Epic Yarn style.  And that's probably enough for now.

Actually, I lied.  If there was -anything- I cared about at all from the Nintendo Direct, it would be the news that Xenoblade Chronicles is probably (definitely) getting a sequel for the Wii U, of course.  I am in the slightly awkward position of knowing absolutely nothing about any of this, however, beyond the fact that I friggin' -want- to play Xenoblade Chronicles and the only thing standing in my way is owning a Wii outright (or, again, a Wii U) and the game which currently retails for $50 if you can find it in a store and good luck with that.  My excitement stems from the dangerous, perilous place of being told that it is, in fact, a fantastic RPG.  That sort of information had led me astray in the past (no, I'm not linking it this time, you know what I'm talking about) and it could very well be the case here.  But....I doubt it, considering the team that's behind the games.  So if anything, I'm just glad they're getting a push to do what they do - make good RPGs.  Hopefully one day I will be able to say I have played both.

Another 'no info, just a thing that says it's happening' tidbit was the announced Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem game which is, yes, Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem in the same game.  Why?  I don't know.  How?  Beats the hell out of me.  There was absolutely no information beyond a thing showing that they were in this thing and that development is 'in progress'.  Personally, I'm not at all -what- kind of sense this makes....because it's not really striking me any right now.  Maybe it's just because I've been considering both series by their previous years, but both seemed to have been in a transition away from Consoles, moving on to handhelds.  Indeed, the latest entries to -both- series are being released on the 3DS in the coming future and the last console releases for either series was in 2007 (Fire Emblem on the Wii) and 2003/4 (SMT 3:  Nocturne) respectively.  So to combine them both -and- put them on a console is a little wonky.  Perhaps it's because of the off-screen play that kinda sorta makes it like a handheld that you can't take anywhere, but that's flimsy.  It all is, kind of.

Speaking of flimsy, after all the hurr-durring and grumbling about Sony's line of HD up-makes, I'm seriously waiting for some people to eat crow after The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD became a thing.  Because this is the exact scenario, and it's not even one that Nintendo's new at.  Excusing the 'Nintendo selling the same game to you over and over again' (more on that in a moment) meme, I need only point at The Legend of Zelda:  Ocarina of Time 3D and Starfox 64 3D to show that Nintendo has absolutely no qualms pimping out their old titles with shinier graphics.  Yet you never ever hear those titled 'cash-grabs' or anything of the sort.  It's a bit petty of me to harp on, I realize, but well, somebody's gotta.  Anyways, aside from the announcement of Wind Waker HD, there was a little bit said confirming the existence of a new Zelda title for the Wii U in development that will 'challenge the old conventions' to sort of reinvent the series a bit, but that's literally all that was said about it.  There might be info about it at E3, but I would highly doubt it.

Finishing out the Wii U news from the direct, the important bits, at least, it was mentioned that the Virtual Console is headed towards the Wii U proper, for full implementation rather than simply from Wii Mode.  There is a slight caveat here, however:  if you're planning on being able to off-screen play your favorite Nintendo or Super Nintendo games that are supported, then expect to pay for the privilege.  It should be noted that when the Virtual Console launches, it will only support Nintendo and Super Nintendo titles and not all of the ones that the Wii's Virtual Console supports.  Because Backwards Compatibility isn't just a flip to switch and we've all been aware of that already, but I somehow think people will manage to be patient, considering it's Nintendo behind this which isn't unfair at all, no sir.  Anyways, if you've purchased an NES game or SNES game through the Wii's VC then you've probably already played it by now and if you want to use it in Wii U, as mentioned, you'll have to pay for that.

Now, I've heard tell that this is because the VC games are packed in their own individual emulators, thus it requires a new emulator for the Wii U which is incomparably stupid, for the record.  It seems like a smart enough idea at first - packing the game with the emulator basically all-but ensures that it'll work with it because they've obviously been tested with one another.  That's fine.  It does, however, completely kill the possibility of a quick-n-dirty solution in the future and, if there's anything we've learned from the combined efforts of the VC and the PS1/2 Classics over these last years, it's that if a quick-n-dirty doesn't exist, neither does the game anymore.  Developers simply don't have time, nor the drive, to put anything into repackaging old games that sell for a pittance, and even signing off on making it a thing and paying a slight cost is far too much to ask in many cases.

So what does this mean?  Well, if that's the case, then don't expect to see much of the meager selection of the NES/SNES games on the Wii's VC to make the jump to the Wii U's VC, for one.  They might get a good portion, hell they might surprise me and get more than half, all-told, but there's no way the Wii U's VC will be 1:1 for the Wii's.  Beyond that, thanks to the $1/$1.50 Wii U tax (For NES and SNES respectively) either expect similar things for the next Nintendo console (which is admittedly -years- away), or expect that the next this whole thing comes around, there won't be even an option - Wii U mode or bust.  For what it's worth, it seems like the extra dollar and change has been built-in to the pricing of the NES/SNES games for the Wii U VC (NES games run around $5 on Wii VC, and will be $5-6 on the Wii U, SNES generally run $8, will be $8-9 on the Wii U VC) so at least Nintendo (probably) isn't singling out the folks who have actually supported them previously with these purchases and demanding an extra buck for a full-featured experience.  Of course, if they were, who would honestly raise a fuss about it?  I'm genuinely curious on that.

On top of that, Nintendo basically made a lot of promises to unveil some Mario things at E3, Super Smash Bros. U and probably elaborate on some of the already mentioned pieces here.  So really, they're flaunting their big guns for no other reason than they can.  Mostly because, if we've heard right, E3 will be a big deal for Sony and Microsoft as well and Nintendo just loves trying to steal thunder whenever possible.  Well, they generally succeed at that anyway, so it's not really 'trying' so much as it's Nintendo not letting anyone else have a fair shake.  It's good business to be sure, but it's also just kind of a dick move.  A mountain of dick moves by this point.  Yet every other company is 'the jerk company', always trying to screw over everyone else, including you, up-charging you for the shiny new thing and offering what is clearly sub-standard service.  Nintendo never does that, clearly! 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Do I Like Far Cry 3?

"Alright, two Tapir hides.  No problem."  After checking my map for a good Tapir Hunting Ground, I hopped into a nearby vehicle, a rather beat up Jeep and drove most of the way there.  When the area was within sight, I hopped out of the car and considered my options for a moment.  "Hmm...Tapir's are little things, can't run too fast.  I'll be able to use my machete easy enough."  I kept my pilfered shotgun at the ready, but the six shells I had left didn't instill much confidence in me, should I find a use for them.  Popping a Hunter's Instinct shot, I took a look around for even the barest hints of Tapirs around - I just needed two and the animals tend to show up in packs.  Surely that would be enough - if I could just chase down two of them, that would be enough.  That's all I needed right now - just two and I could make myself a bigger rucksack so I wasn't off-loading used needles and playing cards to the nearby vendors every ten minutes to make room for more, for animal skins, for valuable herbs.

Crouching low, I could see the outlines of two Tapirs on the horizon and I grinned with the small victory, yet it was short-lived.  The raucous yellings nearby alerted me to patrolling guards - it was only later that I would learn their vehicle had broken down and they were simply cursing their bad luck.  None of us had any idea of the truth to their moaning.  I would have to be careful, that much was for sure, but the machete was silent enough - surely some animals screeching wouldn't be different in the jungle, right?  Just a little closer...I hand my hand ready to let loose the first machete swing when a sound stopped me in my tracks, but not the Tapirs.  The tell-tale growl preceded an obvious flash of orange as a tiger chased after the Tapirs I had been stalking myself, running them across the road and out of my range, driving a bigger rucksack that much further out of my grip.

"Hey!  You bastard!"  To say that I had lost myself in the adrenaline that pumped, anticipating my kill, would have been a massive understatement.  I had been ready, I needed that now and nothing, not even a Tiger would stand in the way.  I forgot about the nearby pirates, I forgot survival's instinct and charged, chasing after the interloper, an iron grip on my blade with the cool metal of the shotgun in my other hand a far-gone memory already.  The tiger had taken one tapir down already - my kill - and was pouncing the second as I got to it.  The shouts of pirates sounded out, indicating that I'd been seen, but I didn't care; I was fully lost in the moment.  Once, twice, three times I sliced the Tiger as it finished off its prey and only after that third slice did it turn to me, selecting a new prey.  It pounced, I fought it off frantically and with one more slice after I recovered, I felled the feline.

"Oh, shit!"  Only then had the incredulity of the situation sunk in as my machete dripped with the blood of the slain beast before me.  My reverie was shattered as a bullet zipped past me from the Assault Rifle of a pirate, one of three, who was approaching my spot, littered with animal corpses as it was.  I sprang into action, rushing up a nearby hill and ducking, taking stock of just where the three were.  They had seen me, that much was clear, but they had to have been watching me too.  "Motherfuckers!," I called out over the hill.  "Didn't you just see me kill that tiger with a machete?!  Do you honestly want to fuck with me?!"  The impacts of the bullets as they hit my hill was all the answer I needed.  A grim smile crossed my lips as I hefted the weight of the firearm in my hands and nodded.

They did.  That was fine by me.  Perhaps I was simply emboldened by my conquest, or perhaps I just simply knew in my heart which of us would survive this day.  I stood all at once and rushed off the top of the hill, launching myself into the air as I did, surveying the three below me.  I fired once as the wind whipped through my hair and a Pirate fell.  I landed with a noticeable thud, catching myself in a crouching position to avoid hurting myself and, instead, I hurt another Pirate.  The shell tore through him and took him down and I stood, charging once more for the last man who seemed oblivious to what was to come.  A last shotgun blast at that close of a range had just the effect you might think it would and just like that, I was free.  No opposition any longer in this area for the moment.  Nothing to hunt, nothing to hunt me, just me.  So, that knowledge in my mind, I scavenged the spoils of my victory:  the money and items from the pirates, the two Tapir hides I had needed, and the skin of my surprising kill.  Only after finishing my new, larger rucksack did the sound of the tires screeching hit my ears.

Two more Pirates jumped out of a new vehicle, a truck that lacked a top or a windshield of any kind and I checked my ammo.  Three shots.  I liked those odds.  I charged the truck much as I had charged the last three foes in my path and sent the closest Pirate to me crumpling to the ground.  The other one, as close as he was, was lucky enough to just catch the blade of my machete, still slick with Tiger's blood, across his chest twice, sending him to the beyond.  This truck was mine now, and I had no reason to linger in this area much longer.  As I hopped in and turned around, I heard the shouts of even more Pirates, but I didn't care.  I saw them, however, as I began driving off to the East and I couldn't help but chuckle - they were on foot and they were right in my way.  That didn't work out well for them and it only mildly affected the smoothness of the ride as I soared through, getting a goodly distance away before I stopped the truck and, after a sigh, I pulled out my map once more.  "Alright, now what do I need...."

Yes.  Yes, I would say that I like Far Cry 3 very much.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

And That's a Wrap - Goodbye THQ

Most of the reports of today's sales have been made public and many of the companies that have walked away with shiny new things have already gone ahead and confirmed the reports of their purchases.  While there's still some loose ends, it's more or less done and dusted with the latter, very unpleasant option of piece-mealing THQ's resources away being the one that went through.  Though, at the very least with this deal, Studios and IPs were a package deal, so as long as the IP was purchased, the studio and the folks who worked on the game still had a place to work, even if it was a different place.  Though, that distinction is an important one to make, and I'll get into the why of that eventually.  It is rather unfortunate, however not only for that bit, but for everything overall I'd say.

First up is the obvious important bit:  What went where?  As stated, for the most part, if a Studio was sold off, their IPs made the travel with them from what we know, though I'll make a point to point out who has what still.  The elephant in the room and the one everyone expected the most out of was Volition, specifically for the Saint's Row franchise.  Of course, Volition also handles the Red Faction IP, so by all accounts that should stick with them regardless.  So who bought Volition?  Why, the Koch Media Group of course!  Who?  Oh, Koch Media is a big thing, but most notable is their gaming branch which is known as Deep Silver, a publisher that hasn't made a lot of waves aside from Dead Island.  Oh, and that whole little thing about the up-coming Dead Island:  Riptide coming with a bloody female torso statue in the limited edition.  You know, a tiny thing like that that certainly didn't draw any attention at all.  Volition was acquired for $22.3 Million, handily beating out the next bid from Ubisoft of all places at a paltry $5.4 Million.

So that means Volition went for the most money right?, actually.  In a move that surprised the hell out of everyone, I'm sure, Sega actually coughed up the most amount of money in the whole of the auction, offering $26.6 Million for the developer Relic (along with their IPs) and the Company of Heroes IP.  Right behind them was Zenimax Media, the fine folks who own Bethesda, at $26.3 Million which, of course, also made it the highest runner-up bid for the entire sale.  Ignoring the usual doom and gloom that generally comes with Sega news, it should be noted that, for the most part, Sega already has their toes in this market with Creative Assembly's Total War franchise which was held up as one of Sega's 'core' franchises.  For the most part, it seems that a different branch of Sega, a more sane one, handles the workings with CA, so it might just be safe to assume Relic will be treated much the same - simply allowed to put out a quality product when they can.  Not too bad of a deal there.

The next highest priced item was actually just an IP known as "Evolve", which we have...surprisingly little information about.  If the rumor mill is to be trusted, it might look like some sort of First-Person XCOM-ish affair, but I imagine we'll want to wait for some news before figuring on it.  Take-Two Interactive was the buyer on this one with a bid of $10.894 Million, handily beating out Turtle Rock Studios bid of a mere $250,000 which was the minimum bid for anything if we're told correctly.  Some have speculated that this was Turtle Rock's attempt to buy their way out and become independent, but I don't know the truth behind it.  Anyway, they were about $10 Million short, so I suppose it's mostly a moot point by now.  With any luck, we'll hear some information about this game come E3, if not before, since it seemed like it was nearing the end of its development.

As for everything else?  Koch Media also managed to grab up the License for the Metro series (which I believe is just the ability to publish the games - the one that's already out and the up-coming sequel) with a bid of $5,877,551 which is a bloody precise number if nothing else, beating out Ubisoft's bid of $5.175 Million.  I mentioned Ubisoft a lot because they bid on quite a lot, really, and all of that ended up paying off.  They secured the rights to publish the South Park:  The Stick of Truth game (barring legal issues) for $3,265,306 which was the only bid for said item.  They also walked away with THQ Montreal for a cool $2.5 along with the two IPs it was working on - 1666 (I believe it's a Star Wars game) and a game named "Underdog" which we have very little information about.  The only other IP that was on sale on its own was that for Homefront, which sold for a paltry $544,218 to Crytek, who was working on the game anyway, meaning they'll be able to develop and publish it them for themselves.

There are quite a few unresolved issues here regardless, the bulk of them being rather strange to think about.  Early reports stated that the likes of EA and Warner Bros. at least were also sniffing about, yet not a single one of their bids (if they made any) were apparently high enough to secure them anything.  Warner Bros., that's possibly understandable, but EA?  There's even rumbles that Take-Two Interactive, and not EA (also known as the company with like every single sports franchise) secured the license for WWE games outside of the auction itself.  Considering how it turned out, I'm just wondering if they only put in a bid for Volition, but their bids were lower than even Ubisoft's (which is hard to imagine).  Still, I had expected to see at least one instance of EA, be it the winning bid or the runner-up.

The other, honestly really sad thing to point out is that, as you no doubt have noticed by now, there was not a single bid for Vigil Games, the developer behind the Darksiders franchise.  I'm not quite sure what made this a reality - I don't know if everybody psyched themselves out with the other properties that everyone thought a low bid for Vigil was someone else's responsibility, or if the budget for the previous two games scared off potential buyers since, let's face it, the games did not come cheap.  Most of that was thanks to THQ mismanagement, which brought about this whole situation to begin with, but one could only assume there was a cost-sink in mind associated with the series.  Whatever the reason, as unfortunate as it is, Vigil Games did -not- get purchased in the auction and, unless bought out before THQ's Chapter 11 goes through, that'll be it completely for both Vigil and the Darksiders franchise.  Over as in "If you ever wanted to own the games digitally, maybe do that -now- since it might be impossible for them to be sold soon enough".  Although...

There's definitely going to be more follow-up between now and when THQ is dissolved into Bankruptcy, but this is definitely the bulk of the story here I would assume.  Generally, the consensus seems to be that Relic with Sega is probably the best place for it, considering Creative Assembly's seeming autonomy, but is much less favorable for Volition.  Funny thing about that whole Zombie Bait thing is that somehow people don't trust you to be a normal, decent human being after that, so the worst is being assumed for Red Faction and, more importantly, Saint's Row, whose tongue-in-cheek humor about things know, how women are handled and such could get very awkward.  A Ubisoft-published South Park game is probably fine enough - I doubt it's going to mean much of a difference, honestly.  The rest is kind of just there, really.  With any luck, there'll be a good ending for Vigil before this whole thing pans out completely, since I don't think they're technically going anywhere just yet despite really sad, heartfelt goodbyes and I figure there's no reason why THQ -can't- continue to sell things off individually.  It's all just to pay people, right?  This deal just barely made more than the ClearLake deal would have, so a little more money would just make things much nicer for everyone.