Friday, January 31, 2014

My Games of 2013, The Games that Weren't My Games

2013 was packed with quality games and while I only made a list of twenty (only, ha) I played a few more games than that and had my interest on others still, all of which got left off my GotY consideration for one reason or another.  As I've done in the past, this last post is to show off the games that didn't make it on my list proper and offer reasons (or, in some cases excuses) as to why they just didn't grab me since I -want- to talk about them in some fashion, but without playing them or without really enjoying them, it makes it a little hard.  A few of the games will make more sense as to that disconnect, so hopefully that'll help clear things up.  Regardless, this one's going to be a little meaty because there were a lot of pass-overs this last year.

Assassin's Creed IV:  Black Flag

I didn't play Assassin's Creed 4 last year for the same reason that I never played any of the previous Assassin's Creed games on the year they were released (save for maybe the original) - I just wait until they're on sale for $20/30 or in "Cheap Christmas Gift idea" range.  It's not that I don't like the Assassin's Creed games, as honestly I have a fondness for them, but rather I walk away from each and every one of them wanting.  Wanting what, I'm not sure of as it's certainly not more, but the games just seem to lack a certain something that I can't quite pin down and that's what keeps me from enjoying them anywhere near as much as the vast majority of others seem to.
With AC4 being hailed as "the most fun one yet" and whatnot, it was certainly alluring, however, especially with the knowledge that it was pretty good on PS4.  I still don't have one, of course, but it would undoubtedly be a good get and perhaps when I -do- pick up 4 it will indeed be on PS4.  Still, the knowledge that I would have to power though 3 first (and yes, I -would- have to, I'm one of those people) is daunting and certainly keeps me at bay, especially since Ubisoft has never released a 'Complete' version of 3 as I assumed they would.  Which is...very annoying, as the Tyranny of King Washington was something I was -really- interested in, but I'm certainly not going to throw down for it separately.  Still, there's no real rush and AC4 will always be there when I'm ready, which I daresay I can look forward to.

Saint's Row 4

This one....this one is almost painful, really.  Saint's Row is a series I have always respected, but have never gotten into because of the lack of ability to play the first one and yes I understand that's silly, shut up, not to mention the...lack of attention the port of Saint's Row 2 saw.  So I always sort of figured that when/if I ever got a 360 I'd dig into the series there since I could do a straight-shot, but that has become less and less appealing as time wears on.  And it became -especially- unappetizing as I realized more and more that I really, really want to play Saint's Row IV.  So really, I think a trip through Stilwater and Steelport are in my near future (as I own 2 and have 3 as a downloadable title...which means I'll just buy the disk anyway because I can't download it) in preparation for IV, because I really want to play another superhero game and I've heard nothing but good things for IV.

Tales of Xillia

This was another case of "I want to play the game before it (in this case, Tales of Graces F) before I dig into it" and that has gone about as well as every other instance of this particular problem.  I.E. Not very.  I've heard the mechanics in Xillia are much better than Graces, which would be my excuse for that particular line of thinking, but I've also been urged to eschew Graces for Xillia for the short-term pleasure of it.  I might just do it, too, because it's not like there's even a hint of over-arching story between the two games, and thus, I'm clear to jump into Xillia if and when I want to.  But throwing a long, sprawling RPG into my PS3 at this point is a dangerous prospect with Lightning Returns on the horizon, which I imagine will handle that duty quite well.  Or at least I'm hoping as much because I want to like Lightning Returns.  Still, Xillia is something that will get played sooner or later, especially since I -believe- the male protagonist punches things and, well, you all know my stance on -that-.

Bioshock Infinite

While just about every other game has a fairly complex reason behind why I didn't play it this year, Bioshock Infinite is fairly simple.  In all honesty, I don't know that I -will- play Bioshock Infinite, despite it being Game of the Year in the eyes of many and an awesome game in its own right (even if not GotY) in many more.  The issue here is that that's the same thing everyone said about the original Bioshock, and I couldn't stand that game.  There was simply some things in the mechanical and technical design of the game that I thought were seriously under-thought and poorly executed and if the story hadn't been what it was or the core of the gameplay hadn't been as interesting, it probably would've been pointed out and panned.  More to the point, I don't think Irrational Games has evolved -beyond- that design from what I've heard, and I'm really not interested in a game where "Hard" means "The sliders went left and right" in terms of health, damage and resource consumption.  Maybe I'm wrong on that and maybe I'll find out some day.  But last year offered none of those days.

Ni no Kuni:  Wrath of the White Witch

Ni no Kuni, like Tales of Xillia, had the problem of being a big, sprawling RPG at a time when I didn't have the time to go through a big, sprawling RPG.  (Also known as 'all the time')  I picked it up the first time I managed to see it because I (incorrectly) assumed it would become a rare item in short order, but I do believe I've seen it in stores almost every single time I've been to one since, so that wasn't a worry that I had to make.  Regardless, who would've expected that one?  I think my line of reasoning was perfectly thought out.
I've heard good things about the game, of course, and it's definitely something that I want to get into, it's just the matter of being able to do so.  I also believe that I want to get a bigger TV than the one I currently have to be able to fully appreciate the beauty that the game is prepared to offer me.  Because if nothing else, it -does- have that, and my dinky little TV that I've had for years probably isn't going to cut it.

DmC:  Devil May Cry

I sort of fell out of Devil May Cry with 4, having never actually tried it, so when the new one was announced in the way that it was, I felt fairly safe in continuing to stay away from the series.  I then continued to safely ignore it all the way until it was released and found out that it was actually really good and it was like a punch to the gut.  'Son of a bitch!' I said.  'Now I'm going to have to consider DMC 4 again!'  Or I can do the smart thing, ignore 4 and go right to DmC because 1) It's a reboot anyway and 2) It's a game that I really want to play.  It's the game I want to play because it seems like it's very, very fluid and fast and I want to get into that sort of game more and more ever since my dip into REVENGEANCE which is really my -best- exposure, I think.  I play a lot of action games, of course, but I've skipped a lot of the 'important' ones (like Bayonetta, something that will be remedied -eventually-) and the ones I do play, I don't feel like I ever take the time to try and master them, but merely do well enough to get by.  That's something of a skill that I want to get into, and DmC seems a good place to start.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

This one.....this is the one that hurts.  I -own- Far Cry 3:  Blood Dragon.  I downloaded it and everything.  I can play it whenever I want and I don't remember, but I might have had downloaded even before voting.  But I just didn't play it.  I still -haven't- played it.  And I don't really know why.  Blood Dragon seems like it's a game that was explicitly made -for- me, because I loved Far Cry 3's mechanics and I love crazy, batshit absurd things and that is precisely what Blood Dragon is.  Like, to a T.  Blood Dragon is is Far Cry 3 grew a gigantic mouth and ate the entire 80s and a neon factory and goddamnit, I would be all about that.  I think the only reasonable explanation is that I'm waiting for a good break between two games that I have to play to play this since I'll need to take my time with it.  Hopefully if I finish with Lightning Returns before the Stick of Truth comes out...but I doubt that very much.

The Legend of Zelda:  A Link Between Worlds

As a forewarning, the rest of this post is all 3DS games and I guess that's kind of a good thing and a bad thing for the system in a sense.  Good that I considered so many games and bad that I never got around to them or, in the case of three of them, I just didn't really care for them.  However, The Legend of Zelda:  A Link Between Worlds was the former case, so there is that.  When the game was announced as a direct sequel to A Link to the Past, I was skeptical as hell because LttP is my favorite Zelda game of all of them and I wasn't about to accept anything less than its grandeur.  If you listen to the reviews, they'll tell you that it managed to match those peaks, but I'm still unconvinced because I just don't like the looks of it.  Or something.  I haven't pinned it down, but I look at the game and just feel something off with it, feel like there's something contained within it that I simply will not enjoy.  I'll find out someday, of course, because it's a Zelda game and if I don't buy a goddamn Zelda game when I have a 3DS, what else am I going to get?  Regardless, I'm still wary and I don't think that will be abated until I've managed to put time into it for myself.

Hometown Story

I'm sure the faithful readers of the blog noticed the hype-filled lead-up to Hometown Story's release in which I assumed I was pretty much the -only- person excited for its release and simply couldn't wait to get my hands on it because I expected a wonderful experience akin to Harvest Moon.  I'm sure they also noticed that Hometown Story released and I said not a word about it following that event.  That is because Hometown Story is probably my Disappointment of 2013, right up there with the whole of God of War: Ascension and the actual gameplay design of The Last of Us.  I was just expecting...something from Hometown Story and I did not get it.  It's flat, it's lifeless and it's utterly without charm because of those previous two descriptors.  I wanted a game that didn't handhold you at all (like Harvest Moon) but was incredibly deep and rewarding in spite of that, and found something that was just incredibly shallow and under-thought.  Is it possible that I simply didn't delve into it enough?  Possible - I played it for a little while and just -nothing- was happening, so I stopped - but I highly doubt it.  It just....feels like a proof-of-concept or a beta or something, and I really, really wanted more than that, which is highly unfortunate.

Shin Megami Tensei IV

Shin Megami Tensei IV is the other game that I simply didn't get around to in one fashion or another last year.  I bought it Day One - got the limited edition with the art/strategy book and everything - but it's sat lingering in my game drawer with the rest of my meager 3DS collection since the day I bought it and I've only briefly considered pulling it out and having a whack at it.  The SMT games are...a bit intimidating to attempt because of the reputation the series has in being rather unforgiving and difficult and though IV appears to be the least challenging thus far, it's still noted as being punishing at the start which is precisely what makes it a difficult thing to get into.  Not to mention, my 3DS was more or less monopolized with Animal Crossing, Rune Factory 4 and Senran Kagura Burst, pushing out even Harvest Moon:  A New Beginning and the last 'proper' 3DS game that I've yet to get to included in this list.  SMT IV will get some play time of course, but like every other game in this list (well, most of them) it's all just a matter of -when- because I am unfortunately not made of time.

Fire Emblem:  Awakening

Ask just about anyone with at 3DS and they will likely tell you that Fire Emblem:  Awakening is a must-have title for the platform.  By all accounts, the game is apparently one of the best ones that the 3DS library has to offer.  I didn't see it.  I wanted very desperately to like Fire Emblem:  Awakening, to enjoy it whole-heartedly because it's a Strategy game and I just don't have enough good ones of those in my life.  Final Fantasy Tactics cannot tide me over forever.  I just...didn't, though.  I played battle after battle and found it more demoralizing than anything else - even playing on the easy mode where there's no perma-death, I'm simply confounded as to how you're expected to -survive- maps with all your characters intact, and I certainly understand that you're not given new units easily, so it merely appears as a game of diminishing returns to me.  I get that it's -not-, but I simply cannot corroborate that with what I actually played.

SteamWorld Dig

At first, I was simply convinced that SteamWorld Dig was a game that I just didn't get, much like I didn't get Machinarium.  However, as it went on and on, I feel like I understand the game, I understand what it's about....I just didn't care for it.  SteamWorld Dig, in my viewing, is basically just Terraria with a bigger focus on exploration and no building aspect to it at all.  A big part of the game is dig, dig, digging your way down to get valuable materials and the like, but all you get for your efforts are coins that you use to purchase you can more easily gather materials.  There's also dungeons to be conquered that give you more abilities to facilitate your collection of materials and it all just sort of builds towards you discovering some sort of secret at the lowest, deepest depths of the area.  It's almost paint-by-numbers but with an interesting concept of being able to mine just about anything, and while it plays smoothly and doesn't necessarily frustrate, it just is sort of...there.  I don't understand the amount of people enamored with it, nor do I think it's something I -can- comprehend.  The best I can say is that I didn't hate it, really.

And with that comes the end of 2013's installment of the Game of the Year posts.  Thanks for sticking around through all of them!  2013 was an absolute embarrassment of riches when it came to games if the fact that I still had 12 games to talk about -after- my top twenty, and that was after cutting a few from this post that didn't really have a lot of content to their breakdowns.  It's insane when you stop and think about it, and it's only going to be worse for 2014 thanks to the PS4 coming out.  But it's definitely not a bad problem to have in so many ways.

just so many games, what the hell

Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Games of 2013, The Runner-Up and the Winner

By some stretch of luck or simple decisiveness, picking my top game of the year has not really been a difficult prospect the last few years.  Unfortunately, this was the first year where I simply didn't have a Yakuza game to place, which is all Sega's fault and damn them for it, and such a game would have made my pick this year -very- difficult.  However, in the end, there were two games that stood out for me this year for hilariously opposing reasons and you've probably guessed them already, which means you probably understand the silly juxtaposition they make.  Of course, if you're still a bit in the dark, I'm about to make it a lot more clear as to what I mean.

2.  Rune Factory 4

As I've never neglected to mention even once, Rune Factory 4 is literally the game that was the tipping point in my 3DS decision.  All of the Pokemons, all of the Animal Crossings, all of the this and the that, that all made the purchase tempting, but it was something I wasn't prepared to really consider until Rune Factory 4 was announced for a localization.  That clinched it and, in a way, I'm exceptionally happy that it -did- force me to buy a 3DS, as I've had a lot of fun with mine.  I still prefer the Vita by miles, but the 3DS is plenty capable in itself and it makes me wonder just what the -next- Nintendo handheld will be able to do, but that's neither here nor there.  What -is- here and there is just how enjoyable Rune Factory 4 was, and how disappointed I am that it's probably the last iteration the series will see.

Rune Factory, as a series, only seems to get better and better with each iteration and that held especially true with Rune Factory 4 which was such a marked improvement over even 3 that it was almost staggering.  Combat was refined, farming was re-thought and improved and hell, even the Relationship System was revamped between games.  It was a complete tear-down and re-build of what you'd expect a Rune Factory game to be and even though there were a few elements added that didn't quite reach their full potential (the party system, in my opinion, and the Storefront) it did so many things so incredibly right that I couldn't -not- love it.  There was a reason why I sunk an excess of 100 hours into it, after all.  Well....two reasons.  That it was fantastic was the important one.

The other reason was due to Rune Factory 4's one misstep.  There's a random event system in the game, which is a great idea actually, but the way it's handled is abysmal.  The Random Events occur randomly as the name suggests, but the chance of an event beginning on any given day has to be around 30% if not lower.  Thus you find that a lot of your days are uninterrupted, allowing you to simply focus on your duties or the story if you haven't cleared it all yet.  However, in the Events pool are the events that lock away Marriage to the candidates, meaning you have to unlock it as a possible event (by getting to the appropriate relationship level with that person) and even then, it's only added to the random event pool.  So you could, as I did, be stuck with your lover at 15 hearts (when the Marriage requirement is like 8-10 hearts) and all the proper furnishings, but still get your proposals turned down because the event hasn't flagged and allowed you to experience it.  More annoyingly, the event that kick-starts the third act of the story (the epilogue, really) is...well, a random event as well.

That would be more of a problem if Rune Factory 4 were a chore to play, of course.  It's not, however, and the amount of fun you can have playing it really does help to mitigate the frustration you might feel from playing day-in and day-out without hitting the event that you want or, indeed, an event at all based on the low chance.  It doesn't remove it completely - nothing could as it's a legitimately frustrating idea - but going "Damnit, no event, oh well, I can still do this, this, this, this and that today" at least distracts you and keeps you from simply spinning your wheels and waiting for it.  Use that time to get to know the incredible cast of characters that the game has to offer.  Train your combat skills with the new and improved fighting system.  Try and harvest materials that you then try to figure out crafting recipes for, or buy them and try to work up to being able to craft them with no difficulty.  Simply enjoy all of the bounty that Rune Factory 4 has to offer within its small confines, because it's a damn great game.

And now, without some sort of crazy build-up or further ado, I bring you...

Game of the Year 2013 - Metal Gear Rising:  REVENGEANCE

I'm sure this comes as no surprise. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that if you didn't see this one coming a mile away, you simply weren't paying attention.  I talked about Metal Gear Rising a lot and the bulk of that was simply stating and restating just how much goddamn fun I had with the game.  It bordered on 'indulgent' and if I was worried about not being able to put Soul Sacrifice down, I had to literally wrest myself from REVENGEANCE to actually get things in my life and my backlog accomplished.  At least with Soul Sacrifice, I would be gaining offerings and building up sacrifices and the like, making progress.  There would be no such thing with REVENGEANCE as I swear to you I could put an entire day into a Grey Fox run (Grey Fox suit, fully upgraded Fox Blade, no items) yet only play the first couple of (proper) chapters.  Over and over again.  Since a Grey Fox run literally provides me with what I've yearned for in an action game - the ability to simply cut something and have it fall apart.  That something being enemies, thanks to the Fox Blade's ability of being able to blade mode cut while..not in blade mode.

It's hard to pin down exactly what I liked about Metal Gear Rising, except to simply say "all of it" and by all of it, I really kind of do mean all of it.  The over-the-top cheese dialogue, the lightning-fast (ha!) action, the absolute visceral feel of actually cutting, of actually slicing and destroying, the astoundingly good soundtrack - it's all fantastic.  It was just the perfect slice (Ha- okay, I'll stop) of what I wanted and, honestly, what I needed when it came out.  There's not a lot else that I can say about it that I haven't said already without restating, so I'll give that a shot.
"Oftentimes, while playing REVENGEANCE, I only stopped playing because I knew I -had- to because of other obligations, or because I beat it.  Again.  It quickly transcended from "Game I need to play because I want to and I just bought it" to "Game I need to play because oh my god" and all the way to "Game I want to play forever because oh my god"."
"When I say it's probably my Game of the Year at this point, I say that with full knowledge that I've actually played quite a few new releases already this year with many more on the horizon.  I say it because there are few words that can effectively convey the fun and joy that I experience when I actually play it, though I suppose mentioning fun and joy is a good start.  Playing the game, actually playing just a dream.  It's less about playing the game, about the mechanics, about anything than it is about using everything you have to just have as much fun as you can.  Every room full of enemies is a new chance to pull off some sort of amazing combo, if not in numbers, but in executions.  A chance to dismember every one of them in a different way if that's your thing, or a chance to find new and exciting ways to take them out as you get new weapons added to your armory.

The thing about REVENGEANCE is that, despite its fairly linear structure by nature, there's a staggering amount of freedom when it comes to the fights because of how freeform it can be.  Not only with weapons, with sub-weapons, but with little things like appearance and style as well as the Wigs that enhance your abilities in some fashion.  Throw on the Brown Wig and become a Grenadier.  Stun everyone with whatever's handy before you eviscerate them.  Stay back and pelt everyone with rockets because you have a rocket launcher in your pocket and you ain't even -care-.  Do whatever you want.  Do whatever makes the game fun for you because there is a way for that.  I cannot fathom someone playing REVENGEANCE and not, eventually, finding a way to play it that makes it an enjoyable experience for them."
"Like with the just mentioned Binary Domain, I didn't know quite what to expect, walking into REVENGEANCE, but I did expect something good.  Something fun.  And much the same as with that situation, I got a -lot- more than I expected, finding that at no point in my four hours of playing did I stop grinning, did I stop chuckling and getting excited by all of the wonderfully awesome things on the screen.  The game is beyond fun, it's beyond good - it is exquisite, and it's a whole different beast than I was expecting, but a beast that I've been wanting without knowing it."
-From CUT ALL THE THINGS (2/19/13)
With all that said, I'm fairly confident that it's obvious why I picked REVENGEANCE to be my Game of the Year for 2013.  There will be one more Game of the Year post explaining the lack of certain games on my list and then we'll be all sorted until next time it rolls around.  Thanks for reading in the meanwhile and congratulations Konami and Platinum Games for making such a fantastic game that everyone needs to look into, Metal Gear Solid and Action Game fan alike.  If you walk away from it disappointed, I just don't know what to tell you.

I may have a few choice words I would -want- to tell you, but that's a different story

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My Games of 2013, Not the Top 2

We're getting higher and higher up the list and getting to the point where it became harder and harder to actually pick what went where.  This isn't new, of course, and is practically expected, but it -was- a little interesting since I knew immediately what my top two games were, no issue.  It was just these three that I had to think about for a moment until they fit properly into place.  I'm confident about their positions, as I was with 10-6, maybe even a little moreso, and I'm pretty sure my reasonings will make it fairly obvious and easy to see why things are where they are.  That said, no reason not to jump right in, as I did last time since there's no real disclaimers or anything for this batch.

5.  Tearaway

I had high hopes for Tearaway from the minute it was announced solely because I knew it would be coming from Media Molecule.  If there's any developer that instantly gets leeway with me, MM is certainly one of them, though it did help that Tearaway looked amazing from the get-go.  It was full of charm and had an absolutely wonderful art direction, what with everything -everything- being a papercraft thing in a lush, beautiful world.  It looked like it played well while also incorporating all sorts of Vita-unique controls, something that almost instantly raises the warning bell for most people, in a way that wasn't obtrusive or annoying.  It just looked like a lovely, enjoyable little game.

And it just was.  Tearaway was a delight from start to finish, playing at a wonderful little world absolutely overflowing with charm and whimsy and just proving to be a great little experience. Every piece of it was crafted with a sense of consistency within its own designs, so that even though you ran the full gamut of environments, it didn't seem forced or anything like that.  It is almost patently the definition of a "If you own this system, you need this game for it" scenario, because Tearaway perfectly encapsulates what a Vita game -can- be, being specifically for the platform, but without feeling constrained by it.  In short, please buy it.

4.  Tomb Raider

I think I start every one of my Tomb Raider introspectives with "I wasn't really hyped for Tomb Raider until I saw it released on my Birthday and got a good vibe", but it's just the truth.  I didn't really want to look into the Tomb Raider reboot since I'd never really played the previous games in a way that mattered or lasted, so I wasn't expecting much.  Yet, I explicitly remember going to GameStop one day, seeing the advert for Tomb Raider in the store and getting so excited that I went "Yeah.  Yeah, I'm gonna get that." and pre-ordering it on the spot.  It just looked so good, and not even from a graphics standpoint only.  It's hard to quantify just what I liked about how it looked aside from -everything-, but it just seemed fun and inventive, even if it borrowed from Uncharted, which borrowed from it initially.  It just looked so well put-together.

Actually playing the game proved that no amount of looking at it could actually inform you of how well-crafted Tomb Raider ended up being.  It was such a great experience that it prompted me to do a follow-up playthrough immediately after beating it the first time, something which I don't -generally- do for a lack of time, but it was worth it.  Tomb Raider was a game that demanded my time and rewarded me appropriately, and it's probably the best Birthday Gift I've ever gotten myself.  That's why I will be utterly unable to resist the Siren's Call that is the Definitive Edition on PS4 when I actually -have- a PS4 and there's the early lull in games.  The first time I find it on sale, it will be mine and that's all there is to it, really.  The great game that it was, but so, so much shinier?  Yes please.

3.  Soul Sacrifice

Soul Sacrifice is a game that I legitimately worried about whether or not I'd actually be able to -stop- playing it eventually.  It was pervasive, stealing every single bit of free time that I had; in situations where I would normally find myself simply listening to music or whatnot while I'm out and about, I'd be sneaking in quick bouts to grab some easy materials or throwing down with an Archfiend for a few minutes before hitting the Home Button to pause the fight for a later time so I could actually function and get about.  It was such that when I did finally quit playing it (temporarily) it was an entirely cold turkey affair and it was not easy.  I still want to throw it in, but I know doing so would be wholly irresponsible, as I have -far- too much going on right now to allow Soul Sacrifice to dominate my time again.

The game just honestly hit all the right points with me, and I'm not sure -how- it did that.  Combat feels fluid and fast-paced, but also has a good weight to it; it's not too heavy like Monster Hunter, but it's not too light either, it simply strikes the right balance there.  Playing a character that more or less relied completely on projectile weapons was an inordinate amount of fun, likely helped along by the fact that I was far more Sacrifice than Save, meaning my ice daggers and flame pins and such packed a punch, but there was just something satisfying about rolling around the battlefield, conjuring up the appropriate flying weapons and letting them loose over and over again.  Something that I cannot wait to get back into.

We're right at the finish line here, folks.  Next post will be the Runner-Up and my Game of 2013 and I'm sure you're all wondering just what it could be.  Rapt attention, the lot of you, clearly.  If you look over the list and you note the two -glaring- omissions so far, I'm sure you know exactly what two games are in the top, but the order might surprise you!  Or, it might not.  I don't know.  We'll just have to see!

Soul Sacrifice withdrawal is serious business, you guys

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My Games of 2013, Not the Top 5

Where my 'bottom' ten games of the list were somewhat strewn about in places that they perhaps shouldn't have been in, the list gets much, much better and more tightly formed and considered beyond that point.  Indeed, even though my tenth through sixth picks might raise a few eyebrows, I'm more than willing to back up my exact reasoning for their placements, whereas my 18th pick might've beaten out my 20th because "Eh, I liked it a little more, I guess".  That's...not exactly ironclad or anything approaching that quality, and while I don't really owe anything to anyone in regards to this, well, I kind of want to do it proper-like, yeah?  With that said, let's just get right into it, shall we?  This first step is a doozy.

10.  The Last of Us

Frequent readers of this blog know that I'm not particularly one to play the "This game is so popular, but in all reality, it sucks" game, especially because I'm not beholden to page views or anything of that sort.  I don't have nerd cred to accrue, nor do I care at being a 'hipster' or anything like that.  I just want to enjoy things and when I don't, I just find it incredibly frustrating because I'm fairly open - I'll enjoy your mechanically terrible game if it makes me giggle here and there or does something that makes my eyes go wide for one reason or another.  (Alpha Protocol springs to mind here)  I never expected that I would have to make these justifications when it game to Naughty Dog's latest game, the newest attempt at pushing the Cinematic Game envelope with The Last of Us.  But here we are.

I can sum up the whole of my problems with The Last of Us with a single word:  Clickers.  I understand Clickers.  I understand their implementation, their necessity and their nature.  I get why they're in the game, since blah blah blah, stealth survival, blah blah, sense of vulnerability.  I just loathe them because they suck every ounce of fun to be had in the game out.  There's honestly really no justifying "Fuck You" enemies in games unless those games are twitch-based and allow a nigh-instant restart, along the lines of Hotline Miami.  That I can eventually buy upgrades to make my death a mere inevitability to a Clicker rather than a guarantee offers little to assuage the frustration that they cause by merely existing, and especially existing in tandem with enemies that I can, and oftentimes had to, defeat with brute force.  Enemies that had the Oblivion gene in which one spotting me meant the horde itself was after me.  Including the Clickers.

The Last of Us, with that frustration in mind, simply didn't feel all that well designed in the gameplay portion of it.  Invariably, encounters were designed around Clickers being the thing to give you pause, and it's what they're good at.  However, being the proverbial elephant in the room that will fucking trample you when an Infected on the other side of a wall from it spots you because you're not a stealth master essentially says "Stealth or die" and without some -really good- stealth abilities, you're going to die more often than not and it just doesn't feel as fair as other games, even Naughty Dog's Uncharted series.  People complain about the 'Bullet Sponge' enemies, but proper implementation of Cover-switching, Headshots and Iron Fist assaults will get you through every encounter easily.  Clickers do not really offer the same amount of leeway that even a pair of shotgunners in Uncharted would.  At the end of the day, it's that sort of thing that prevented me from really lauding The Last of Us to a higher position, and it's honestly just a damn shame since the rest of it was outstanding.

9.  Senran Kagura Burst

Okay, look.  I know what you're thinking and stop it.  As I mentioned at some previous point in time, Senran Kagura Burst is actually fun and that never stopped being true for the entire time that I played it.  Despite that and despite what I said about The Last of Us, I'm sure many will consider it blasphemy that it ranked above the game.  I get that.  I'm not sorry, nor am I making a statement, nor am I trying to get that silly nerd cred or anything.  I had fun with Senran Kagura Burst and it had a surprisingly good story for what it was, and it was just a joy to play.  So obviously when contrasted to The Last of Us, which was a chore to play, despite an absolutely stellar presentation and story, then it should be a little easier to see why SKB got where it got.  It's definitely worth a play if you enjoy fast-paced action games and I cannot stress that enough.

8.  Ys:  Memories of Celceta

Memories of Celceta was my first experience ever with an Ys game, and it was about as positive of one as it could've been all-told.  It's yet another game that I haven't actually finished yet, but what I played of it was enormously engrossing and definitely the type of thing I could see myself powering through to -finish- in that I may very well be doing a "Platinum Get" post for it sometime in the future.  If I ever get the time to properly go back into it and such because all of the games.  Regardless of if I do or not, I will at least beat it and I will probably have to tear myself away from it for other games that will no doubt be begging to be played.  Danganronpa's on the horizon after all and I'm sure I'll put more than a few hours into that.  Of course, they're very different games, and the fast-paced action-RPG combat of Ys -is- definitely alluring when I'm in the mood for it.  Despite not being very combo-heavy or such, the combat -does- encourage you to incorporate a certain amount of flair which works out by simply making it that much more enjoyable.  So much so that you won't even mind fighting things over and over again while you're stumbling about lost in the forest.  Not that I know personally or anything!

7.  Grand Theft Auto V

In a word, Grand Theft Auto V was simply surprising.  The multi-character aspect to it was surprising.  The improved, revamped multiplayer was surprising.  (As was the complete lack of ability to support it for a good month after it launched)  The much, much better story than IV and its sub-stories boasted was surprising.  And I think the amount of time I put into it was surprising as well - because it wasn't that much comparatively speaking.  I played Grand Theft Auto IV until I knew the city like the back of my hand.  And then I played The Lost and Damned and started The Ballad of Gay Tony.  I played Sleeping Dogs for hours after Platinuming it, not even counting Nightmare in North Point.  Grand Theft Auto V, however, basically had me for the main story, some of the side missions and then I was out.  The intention has always been there to go back, perhaps attempt the MP even though it sounds like something I would not enjoy and clean up a little more, but I've not felt that same tug to do it.

However, I think that's mostly in large part to me being more or less satisfied with exactly as much of the game I consumed, which is something that says more in meaning than I can say in actual words unfortunately.  Driving around as Trevor and being reprehensible then switching to Franklin and messing around in a more dignified manner before changing to Michael and treating him as a Real Estate Tycoon didn't get old.  Hell, just -switching- to the characters was an experience, since I always wondered just what transition I'd get, with Trevor's oftentimes being the most enjoyable and the ones to look forward to.  I just think I was gunplay'd out at the time and admittedly GTA V's isn't too terribly exciting, which is why I sort of fell out.  Regardless, Rockstar certainly knows how to pack a lot of fun into their games and GTA V was certainly no exception to that.

6.  Dynasty Warriors 8

This one can't come as a shock to anyone who's a faithful reader here.  "Unashamed enjoyment" is pretty much the descriptor for all of KOEI's Warriors games because the formula just does not get old for me.  I cut up swaths of mooks, I get a little half-history lesson while I do it (which lets me look it up and get the -real- history later) and that is all something that I quite enjoy.  Dynasty Warriors 8 offers a few improvements over 7 assuredly and while it didn't quite blow me away like 7 did, it would've been hard to imagine it doing so.  7 was such a departure, such an advancement from 5 (since we're not counting 6, given it went well outside the 'formula') that it's rather astounding and 8 was less a tremendous step forward and more of a refinement on an already solid base.

Its refinements were rather great, however - every character having their own unique weapon moveset finally blew my mind when I realized it and I still find it a little hard to believe.  Also the re-inclusion of Free Mode helped, though the absolute robust...ness of it makes trophy hunting a bit daunting since one has to finish every stage once or twice...and I think every -iteration- of said stage.  So you'll be playing them quite a bit.  Still, the solid mechanics make it easy to do so, and I'm definitely looking forward to getting the Complete Edition with Xtreme Legends on my Vita, where I'll absolutely have all the time to power through it all.

Not too much longer to go now.  The next post will highlight numbers 5, 4 and 3, while the last post will be the Runner-Up and my top pick of last year.  And...then I'll do the Games That Weren't My Games, but all in all, it's gone much more smoothly than last year, I think.  I quite like the new format, at least.  Much easier if nothing else, and I don't think I go on too much about any of the games, but rather say what needs to be said about them, so that's a plus.  Still, I have a year until next time to find out some other ways to tweak it until I'm absolutely positive it's how I'm going to roll!

I really wish people would stop looking at me like that when I said I liked Senran Kagura Burst

Monday, January 27, 2014

My Games of 2013, Not the Top 10

2013, like 2012 before it, was absolutely packed with games, and the hilarious thing is that 2014 almost seems worse in that regard, at least simply thinking and looking forward at the absolute glut of games we already know that will be releasing this year.  With a backlog miles long already and the knowledge of purchasing games in the future in twos or even threes, it's...daunting at the very least, and almost borders on masochistic, considering there is a real possibility of literally -not- having enough time ever to play these games that I have been and will continue to hoard.  It's not particularly pleasant one, and even though I tell myself "I'll make time for -that- game", it's been -days- since I played Warriors Orochi 3 even though it's literally in my PS3 and ready to be loaded up and played within the span of a minute or two.  Still, I managed to get to at least 22 games in some degree last year (new ones at least), which -does- inspire a little bit of confidence.

As I've mentioned previously, the plan here is to change the format of my GotY stuff to make it a little more fresh and enjoyable for me, but you as well.  Though I suppose you probably do enjoy me having a -lot- to say about every game on my list, but you probably don't enjoy the burn out that becomes evident as I go on and on and on with it.  Which is the part I don't like.  Which is what I'm planning on remedying this year.  For at least this post which will cover games 20-10, possibly the next one as well, covering 9-5 (or maybe even 9-4, leaving 3 and 2 for its own post and 1 for its own, not quite sure on that) and the "Games That Weren't My Games" post, I'm just going to have a staggered format showing the game itself with a paragraph or two next to it.  I'm thinking it'll flow and look pretty nice.

20.  Remember Me

I wanted Remember Me to be so, so much more than it was because it was a cyberpunk game about punching people, two things which we all know that I am all about.  However, I did ultimately find it lacking, even though there were parts of it that I did enjoy, and parts of it that I did genuinely consider to be good in the grand scheme of things.  Not enough things, unfortunately, and they weren't exactly good enough to prop up the bad parts, but I can't say that I was -too- disappointed by the end of it.  Just...mostly so.

Still, that I played 22 or 23 games that would qualify for the list and that Remember Me still made it on, albeit at 20, is ultimately a testament of appreciation to presenting a game with a unique aesthetic, a unique idea and a unique soundtrack.  Had the game tried to carry its lackluster story on the back of yet-another-cover-shooter, it would've been panned far more harshly than it was and rightly so.  At the end of the day, you can at least say that Dontnod tried something different, and they get an A for Effort.

19.  Deadpool

Deadpool is without a doubt the most enjoyable game that I don't really remember a damn bit about playing.  Memorable the game is not, at least in terms of the gameplay and the like.  As an experiment in making a game genuinely hilarious by way of breaking the Fourth Wall as a matter of course and having it be this huge joke that you are actually in on?  It's astounding.  The comedy is such a central core part of the game's basis, and it's a damn good thing that it is and that they put so much effort into it.  I'd suggest that if you're not grinning or chuckling at any point while playing the game, it's purely because the actual gameplay is just getting in the way of you and your laughs.  That didn't happen with me, but then again, I didn't play the game on Hard.

I don't recommend playing the game on Hard.  Unless you really want the trophies or whatnot, I suppose.  I might do it one day because I -did- enjoy Deadpool, but I imagine it'll be an infinitely less enjoyable experience all around.

18.  Guacamelee!

Guacamelee! is the first of quite a few games on my list that I just didn't really get to enjoy nearly as much as other people did.  I liked it - it was a good game, after all - and I definitely had some fun with it, but I didn't form any real attachment to it.  So after I beat it, that was it, I very easily breezed past it to whatever the next game was on my list.  I wasn't entranced by the magical story of a man and a mexican wrestling mask with mystical properties on his journey to destroy the man that killed him (he got better), nor the smooth gameplay that allowed me to piledrive chickens and lunge across the sky with my fist thrust forward, ready to assail anything in my path.  I liked it, I thought it was pretty damn good (definitely Drinkbox's best work), but that's where it ended.  It was simply a good game.  There's nothing wrong with that, obviously, but for me, it just lacked a bit of a spark, I suppose.  My lack of enthusiasm seems to be the minority opinion, however, which is absolutely fine.  I'm happy that people are happy with the game; after all, I was, it just didn't inspire anything greater in me.

17.  God of War:  Ascension

In all reality, that I put God of War:  Ascension above the previous games is a mistake.  While I found enjoyment in Remember Me, Deadpool and Guacamelee! (though not much in the former's case) I actively dislike Ascension based on my rather disappointing romp through a portion of it before I hit a game-breaking bug that prompted me to eject it from my PS3 and not play it again to this point.  I'm not even sure that I'm entertaining the notion of looking to play it again - I'm sure my problem didn't magically get fixed, leaving me with only the option to restart over again which I'm none too happy about.  Which would be fine if I didn't have a major problem with the way Ascension plays, as it is simply....less fun than previous games.  Perhaps it feels a little less fluid, perhaps I simply miss over-powered Kratos, or perhaps I simply hadn't found the 'click' yet - I just didn't enjoy it.

Ascension made it on my list based on pedigree alone and that's really something I shouldn't have done.

16.  Dragon's Crown

Continuing the trend of "Games other people enjoyed far more than I did", Dragon's Crown makes it onto my list far lower than I anticipate it being on many other lists.  I did at least have the foresight to put it above Ascension, however, which is good because I enjoyed Dragon's Crown (and every other game on the list, obviously) but the question comes in as a measurement one.  Dragon's Crown seems to be a game where you enjoy it more the more you play it, sort of like a game of returns or a snowball effect.  At least, that's what I can glean from seeing other people talk about it, saying they've put 100-200+ hours into it and that it's so much fun and only gets better the more you play it.  Which makes sense that there's a fun game at base if it inspires you to put 100-200+ hours into it, but it's something that you have to -get to-.  So if, like me, you just played a very modest 20-30 hours of it, you're not going to walk away with quite the same feeling.

So basically what I'm saying is that I just didn't get enough time to play Dragon's Crown and it's mostly due to the fact that there's a -ton- of games to play this year.  It's a blessing.  And a curse.

15.  Killzone: Mercenary

I don't want to start a whole bunch of these with "other people dug this far more than I did", but it's a hard thing to do when it's very, very true.  I participated in the Open Multiplayer Beta and found it quite fun, as the mechanics are solid and it essentially does a far, far better job of showing what a FPS game on the Vita can be than Resistance: Burning Skies did, however competent that game was in itself.  I don't have enough experience to claim that Mercenary feels like a Killzone game in the palms of your hands, but I believe I've seen others more qualified to state as such, and what I played was good.  It felt like a natural fit, which is no small task (that wasn't a pun, I assure you) and it was highly encouraging for the upcoming Borderlands 2, if nothing else.  Also for the Bioshock game that is still coming out for the Vita because I gotta believe.

There were a few small things that I didn't like, such as not being able to save mid-mission and pick back up at that same spot (instead being forced to do the entire mission over again - one time I found that I saved almost literally at the end of it and I was less than impressed) which was further compounded by the fact that the missions were fairly long, or at least felt that way.  The other would be that it's yet another game that pushed Stealth Gameplay hard as a perk, yet when I'm spotted by one enemy, every single one has a pinpoint accurate knowledge of where I am and I'm suddenly in this intense firefight just because I missed sniping one guy in the head because I don't know, my reticule was right on his head.  Still, it was solid and gorgeous and I'm going to jump back into it one of these days.

14.  Beyond:  Two Souls

Beyond wasn't treated too kindly by the critics - it never was going to, being a David Cage production - but it could have been worse.  That's a statement on the reception and the game itself - it simply could have been worse.  We've all played Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy or at least know of it, and Beyond is leagues above that.  Does it reach the bar that Heavy Rain set?  Not quite, which might sound as a damning statement to those who didn't even enjoy Heavy Rain, but this type of game is clearly not for them, as snobby as that sounds.  It's understandable; Beyond and Heavy Rain are difficult games to like or enjoy because it turns the mundane into gameplay, and much of the extraordinary into cutscenes, which is precisely the opposite of what you'd expect - perhaps even want - in a video game.

Still, the bits of gameplay you spent as Aiden, Jodie's spectral companion, were especially interesting, as were the relationships that the story engendered in not only that pair, but just about every person Jodie comes across in her lifelong journey.  The fantastic acting segments from Willem Dafoe and Ellen Page make the game shine when it would otherwise merely sparkle and the interesting gameplay that evolves the story in different ways as you go on offers you a bit of attachment to it as it goes along makes you want to stay until the end.  I -did- finish Beyond, at least and at least a second run is in the future, if that says anything more than I've told already.

13.  Dragon Fantasy - Book II

The first Dragon Fantasy game was a game that I really liked as it was just a funny, neat little retro throw-back to the Dragon Warrior/Quest games of old, the first of which I played all the time in my childhood.  As such, it was just a neat thing to experience in that I admittedly had a lot of nostalgia to attach to the game and thus elevate it.  Then when I learned that Book II would be more akin to Chrono Trigger - one of my all-time favorite games - I was ecstatic, because I anticipated something similar.  I won't say that I'm entirely pleased with what I got as a result, and I will say that, much like Ascension, I worry that Book II got its spot on pedigree.  I like Book II, don't get me wrong, but it needed a little more polish to make it a little more mechanically sound.  This is from my brief experience playing it in the first section - I haven't managed to get back into it since.  I -expect- that it will grow on me as I continue on, because there is a lot of game left to it, but I similarly worry that it will not, which left me a bit conflicted as to where to put it.  Ever the optimist, I simply put it higher in hopes that it would earn that spot as I play.  Time will tell on that one.

12.  Killer is Dead

Killer is Dead is a game that absolutely and completely oozes style if nothing else, and it's something that I quite enjoy for it.  It also has a very interesting battle system that, while not quite what I'm used to, or perhaps what I expected coming from Lollipop Chainsaw, is very entertaining and fluid to enjoy. Regardless of that, however, you'd be hard-pressed to look at both games and suggest they came from separate studios because they both share unique art styles (that are different between the games), intense, fast-paced action and quirky, strange stories and characters.  Mondo Zappa, however, is particularly interesting for me, however, as he plays mostly the Straight Man while executing people and robots with a Katana and transforming his arm into a machine gun, freeze ray, laser cannon and a massive drill.

One thing I have to say is that, had I not bought the game new (with the DLC) and had I not been so careless to play one of the DLC chapters before an actual one, I would've been a lot more frustrated in the game.  That DLC chapter loaded me up with resources with which I bought some very needed upgrades and as such, the next few proper chapters were very enjoyable, what with me being a veritable killing machine that still had to learn the basics of dodging and perfect guarding.  So in that instance, the difficulty was just right, but if you don't have that luxury then it might necessitate a bit of grinding.  In a fun game like Killer is Dead, that might not be a problem, though.

11.  Animal Crossing:  New Leaf

Animal Crossing:  New Leaf devoured hours of my life, hours that I will never see again, and hours that I only mildly regret tossing into the black hole that is the latest iteration in Nintendo's Life simulation franchise.  As I cannot think of another way to describe it, even if that doesn't hit all the right marks.  I had an astounding amount of posts about the game, of which my Review of the game, the Gaming By the Numbers post I made about it and The Culling were definitely my favorite of the bunch, and in the end, I just could not suppress the amount of goodwill that the game engendered in me despite the fact that it was still very much Animal Crossing in formula and execution.  Which is, by all accounts, a strike against it, since Animal Crossing in formula means "Extremely front-loaded, entirely bare thereafter", meaning that you generally end up leaving the game unsatisfied because you just....stop playing it.

That happened for me.  I stopped playing New Leaf long ago and even Christmas Time didn't inspire me to jump back into it even though it really really should've since that was the precise time of game that I was waiting for.  Even considering that, I had no reason to go back.  No drive to do so.  I'd done most of what I wanted to get done in Kupolis and the remaining bits were more tedious than anything else.  However, it's due to the new additions that I enjoyed New Leaf so much and that I have something approaching hope for whatever the next game ends up being.  Because there will likely be improvements on top of those ones and that is very nice indeed.

And that concludes the bottom 10 of my Game of the Year list.  It was a hard order for some of them, and admittedly it could have used some shuffling, but my top Ten are much better lined up, I think, and I'm much more happy with their placement than the games here.  That's still just a really strong statement to just how many and how good the games were last year, and it's almost crazy to think that I had enough time to play them all, even for the limited amounts of time that some of them received.

yes, yes, I do quite enjoy that format, excellent

Sunday, January 26, 2014

So, What's Going On?

Things have been a bit weird here on Kupowered!  I know this.  Generally, if there's a problem I tend to skip a night, but it's rare that there's two in a row, and without computer problems or something like that, I've never been behind more than that at any point in time.  I mean, I guess there's just a first for everything, but goddamn if I'm not frustrated with it.  In a sense.  The part I'm frustrated about is that I haven't really had a lot of time lately, and even when I -have- had time, I haven't really had the focus or ability to actually just sit down and type like I do.  Always something going on or something like that.

Most of it's....well, it's not bad things, but it's some things that I am exceptionally nervous about.  Without going into too much detail, it's related to a family member, and there'll be a fairly serious situation regarding that on Friday.  It's something that definitely merits worry, which I've been doing, but it's also something that -shouldn't- be worried about.  I've been working on that.  You know how it goes sometimes.

The other crazy part of my life is something that I've taken to explaining as "a Goddamn Anime".  (Used in a nice way, of course)  I won't bore you with the details (rather, I dare not share them) because the absurdity of the entirety of it all is unfathomable - even living it, I simply don't believe it.  Thus I surely can't expect others to do so.  Maybe I'll share the story one day when it's actually come to some sort of conclusion and I'm not in the dead center of it, but we'll see.

Now, the main reason I wanted to get this post out is that yes, I've been posting up posts rather late and dating them back to sequential dates.  The reason I've been doing that, aside from the obvious, is simply to get every page some visibility.  Besides, I have actually -started- these posts on the nights they're going up, it's just that I never really got to finish them.  It's cheating, sure, but I'm fairly sure you fine lot don't care too much.  Especially once I finally ht my stride and get everything set up nice and easy.

This week, whenever I get around to it, will finally be Game of the Year time.  I just wanted to say that I won't be going all-out this year and will instead be embracing a new format.  Or rather, an old one.  If you remember my Final Fantasy Tactics thing where I tried to make it a big deal as a way to ensure I would actually finish the game for once (and failed), I made extensive use of staggering pictures from side to side and for whatever reason I just really liked that.  Considering I have a -large- list of games this year (20, like last year) and considering that I about burned myself out completely last year doing them, I'm cutting it back to something much more manageable.  By...doing a staggered picture thing like that for aesthetics while saying a little piece on each game.  Of course, around the Top Five or so, I'll probably have -more- to say about each game and might go to something more traditional, but for everything before then, simply expect visually pleasing blurbs.  I think it'll work much, much better.

Thanks for all your patience, folks.  Sorry I've been a bit shite, but things have just been really...hectic.  Hectic is not the right word, but it's close enough.  It's been unlike anything I've encountered in a -while- and definitely not since starting this blog.  So it just hasn't been the easiest thing to juggle.  Still, I'm okay personally and I'm in good spirits, so that's all I'll need!  Probably.

bad Mogs, you don't want to try FFT again after reading those posts, stop it

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Watch Dogs Probably Still Coming to the Wii U

Back when Watch Dogs was announced, few people were really proclaiming that "the writing is on the wall" or anything of the sort for the Wii U, and the fact that the game was announced to be on the Wii U was less a surprise and more expected.  Especially being an Ubisoft game, which has been one of the few staunch supporters of the system (even if that support is waning a bit), it just seemed an inevitability.  As the Wii U has begun to flounder, support has tapered off, but at least users more or less always had Watch Dogs to look forward to.  A proper new IP with a spin that promised to make the Gamepad invaluable if used correctly with a hardcore draw that, had it released when it was supposed to, might've drawn in quite a bit of business.  As such, it's not going to do that, and its existence was even in question for but the briefest of moments.

What has now been blamed on a 'glitch' was a strange occurrence that disallowed GameStops in Italy (and other regions, including America) to pre-order the Wii U version of Watch Dogs.  That's a problem!  Generally such a thing is a precursor to an unspecified delay (another one would kill the game anyway, and it would've hit the other platforms at least) or an outright cancellation, with pre-order cancellations going out shortly thereafter.  It didn't get to that point, but given the Wii U's standing and Ubisoft's now-shaky faith in the system, many were almost assured that it was a foregone conclusion.  Especially when Ubisoft went the weird route (considering how this all resolved) and dropped the classic "We have nothing to report at this time" instead of just going "Nah, it's still coming out, I don't know what's up."  I suppose it's called the company line because it's the line the company wants you to use all the time, but still, there has to be -some- exceptions.

As of now, it's more or less gone back to the situation as it was before - the Wii U version is still expected, but we're still at a lack of general information for the game itself.  It still doesn't have a release date after the delay it was subjected to, meaning we have no idea just what's going on with it.  And more criminally, we're still not sure just how much of the focus will be on the cool hacking stuff it was premised on, and how much will be bang bang, shoot mans like a good portion of sandbox games out there.  Watch Dogs is at a critical phase where enough time has passed that the initial hype is well and truly gone, and the follow-up pieces have been....lack-luster so far.  It needs -something-, some kind of showing or boon that'll place it front and center again with positive public image, but it's hard to tell if that'll happen.  Or rather, I doubt it will because Ubisoft gonna Ubisoft.

seriously, I just want it to be good, but I have no idea if it even will be anymore

Friday, January 24, 2014

On the Radar - Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor

As much as it pains me to admit this, since I'm sure some circles would call for my head and/or my nerd card, I'm just not really a fan of Lord of the Rings.  I've tried several times over with the movies and the games and perhaps that's the problem, in that I've never tried the books, but it has just never worked out.  I tried watching Fellowship three times and fell asleep all three times, twice for Two Towers and I saw Return of the King in the theater, so I didn't fall asleep then.  The film, however, did stop about 2/3rds of the way through for about 10-15 minutes, though, so maybe it's a sign.  Perhaps it's just not for me, as they say.  It's a thing that happens sometimes.  So when I heard tell of a new Lord of the Rings game coming out, I didn't pay it much mind, even when there was a bit of controversy over some of the animations used in the alpha footage.

All that said, however, it wasn't until I saw a post by Chance on the subject that I decided to give it a look-see and boy am I glad I did.  While I can definitely see where the concerns lay insofar as the Assassin's Creed comparisons, I don't care.  That is because what I see looks astoundingly good, especially for a franchise that I have no particular affection towards.  Of course, it's hard to -not- look good when it cribs from the Darksiders school of thought, by being a Locke's Socks amalgamation of Lord of the Rings and these fantastic games.  Intentional or not, you can pick out the Assassin's Creed, the Arkham Asylum/City, the Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver and the Hitman bits and inspect them on their own merits, and you can possibly try to determine whether or not it's cool that they are so clearly those bits placed into the stew that is Shadows of Mordor, but it's an easy decision.

When it looks like that?  Yes.  Yes it's cool.

Of course, Shadows of Mordor does bring something incredibly interesting and new to the table in the Nemesis system, which I for one am wary to believe is as fantastic as it's made out to be.  Simply because I cannot comprehend a world in which is does work as flawlessly as indicated just yet.  The Nemesis system claims to be able to randomly create a Nemesis for you that will serve as a major figure in your world that you ultimately want to kill as well as henchmen for that figure.  Not only that, but the Nemesis system promises, much like so many other games do, that all your actions and decisions matter and change the course of your story, causing your Nemesis (Nemeses?) to act accordingly.  The example used is that the player encountered two of the figures in the game early on, left the major figure to burn to death in a fire, but he survived, leaving him with a rather nasty burn, and a mean grudge.  It promises a wealth of opportunities and scenarios unique to every player and it sounds, in a word, amazing.

The cynic in me just cannot believe this is possible.  The cynic in me understands that, if you're using voiced lines, there can only really be so many instances of situations possible, since the lines have to be recorded for them all.  And the cynic in me believes that it's something that will offer less 'endless possibilities' and more 'scenarios created by creative gating' which is merely a series of binary yes/no options that are little more than littered along a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style path.  On the path in the trailer, there was a choice where the player apparently did -something- that left his Nemesis with a massive burn on his face.  That choice is a gate that takes you to a certain path in which X and Y happens.  While it gets a bit more impressive when X and Y are influenced by A, B and C or what have you, it's all something that you can see the workings of.  Depending on how many 'paths' and 'gates' they actually include in the's quite possible that this 'unique experience' will not be that at all for most, which would be unfortunate and the exact thing I -don't- hope for.

I don't really like the cynic in me.  While I can see all that logic and such, I don't want to, because 'player choice affecting world-building' is something that I'm always a fan of, though few games pull it off as well as some shining examples which is an absolute shame.  It's a hard thing to pull off, I'm aware, because it's stacking variable upon variable, but it's so worth it if it actually works.  It's for that reason alone (well, the genre-blending helps) that I'm looking forward to Shadows of Mordor now, and I eagerly await some more trailers that show off the Nemesis system more - hopefully showing different ways entire scenarios can carry out or something along those lines.  Mostly just because I want to believe they can pull this off.

really, I'm just drooling at the potential to do a fictionalization of my playthrough of the game because it would be so good

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Toukiden Demo Impressions

Toukiden is pretty much Monster Hunter.

That's the brunt of it, really.  It's not surprising - all the media beforehand suggested as much - but it also manages to not be disappointing through some magic of tweaking the basics of the Monster Hunter gameplay mechanics.  Still, the skeleton, most of the muscle and indeed, some flesh that resembles Monster Hunter is present, even though it's got a convincing costume of something else on top of it.

That costume is good, however - Toukiden's aesthetic is fairly interesting despite carrying a lot of the browns one would expect from a Demon War-torn country, as that simply makes the more striking bits shine all the more.  The cutscenes are standard KOEI fare as well, which means they're incredibly nice to watch and easy to enjoy with how deceptively good they look.  And really, just the game itself looks pretty good from the character designs and outfits, to the weapon designs and the Oni themselves.  Even the canned faces and such that you get through Create-a-Warrior (which is your only way to have a character, rather than my initial thought of having a cast of characters to select from like most Warriors games) are fairly good-looking, though I use that from an aesthetic point of view, and not one from personal tastes.  More to do with the model, the look than my appreciation of them.

I suppose I should clarify that I'm no Monster Hunter expert - far from it - as my only real experience was playing the demo for one of the PSP games for three non-consecutive hours and not 'getting it', and then watching a friend stream hours of Monster Hunter 3 footage while also similarly not understanding it.  So I appreciate that there might be a difference in 'feel' and an overall difference in the experience because of that.  However, I also know what I see, and what I see in Toukiden is something that is very, very close to the same -thing- that Monster Hunter is.  The maps are the same segmented affairs in which there are monsters (and I assume they can eventually move between them).  Missions are handed out in the same way, with even the same weights of Important -> Not Important (but you need to do some to unlock the next) -> Important -> Chapter Close.  There's still a little town that you can meet up with others in, you can still gamble with getting buffs before missions, you can still upgrade and create weapons and armor and while that all seems generic, it all has the same approach to it that the comparisons between both games are inevitable.

The weapons are different, at least in most cases, and they offer a suitable amount of variety for the combat to keep you switching up at the very start until one just clicks.  I myself really really wanted to enjoy the Gauntlets as I love punching people, but they're the strongest base weapons in the game which means they have to have a disadvantage.  Of course, that disadvantage (quite bogglingly so, really) is that they're the slowest weapons in the game as well.  So then I went to the other extreme with the Twin Knives which I believe (though I'm not sure) are the fastest, but weakest base weapons of the group, and I'm enjoying that much more.  I find that I quite like really fast combat as opposed to slow, but strong.  I imagine maybe the Katana and the Sickle/Chain will offer that as well, but I haven't really tried them out.  There's a lot of ground to cover in the demo yet, which is a good thing as it really lets you sink your teeth into what the game will have to offer.

All in all, the game seems competent enough, perhaps even -good-, though that remains to be seen as I am giving this my maximum amount of skepticism because KOEI and Monster Hunter are both involved.  I've yet to see whether or not the 'purification' mechanic is a game-changer - essentially holding R next to a fallen foe or severed boss part to rid it from the world and sometimes give you an item - but I can't really imagine it being so which is really why I didn't bring it up in any big capacity.  I pre-ordered it, as I'm wont to do with just about everything that has the KOEI name on it, and I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy it, but how much is what remains to be seen.  I'm hoping for "a lot" personally.

why would you fight with giant weights on your hands, that just seems silly

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Late to the Party - Red Dead Redemption

I understand that it's been a while since this game was released, but, well you know how it goes sometimes.  A game comes out and you decide to wait on it for a while and then a Game of the Year Edition is announced and you decide to wait for that and decide to wait for it to drop in price and sometimes you then wait for it to be gifted to you and basically there's a lot of waiting.  It happens.  And then sometimes you get it for Christmas and don't play it til almost the end of January because you suddenly have an urge to play a game that doesn't feature Winter in the slightest because you're in Winter and it's fucking cold, but it's nice because you like Winter, but it's still cold and cold is kind of bad and you try and warm up but playing games with Winter in them kind of doesn't help.  Even though you're not expecting something good, you pop in a game about being a cowboy in the desert because at least it's in a hot environment.

Then you discover, hey, this game actually -is- fun!

That has been my experience with Red Dead Redemption over the past couple days in which I've plugged in quite a few hours.  The bulk of it probably spent running around and hunting animals because oh man, hunting.  It's only when I run across it with a deeper mechanic than Tomb Raider offered - something closer to Far Cry 3 - that I realize how much I actually enjoy it despite the inherent 'issue' with it in that I'm not hunting for absolute necessity and/or survival, but for skins and such to sell.  But it's digital animals, so I don't -really- have to care too much about it.  No more than the people that I shoot, lasso, hogtie and drag around whilst on horseback are only digital people, thus I don't have to really care about them either.  It's just silliness in the desert.

As such, since I've spent the majority of the game dicking around, there's not a whole lot I can say about the game itself.  The story is something that's there, Marston is not the greatest character, but he's alright, and the mechanics are definitely from a Rockstar game, for better or worse.  I mostly just wanted to say that it's actually fun since I heavily doubted it beforehand - it was released close enough to IV that I worried it would be a bit stiff like IV was, not to mention the bad ideas from TLaD - and that I'm quite enjoying it.  And it is doing -something- for the perception of maintaining heat and such.  I mean, a space heater is probably doing the most of the heating task, but still.  Every little bit helps when your daily high temperature just barely breaks double digits Fahrenheit.

I kinda wish that the 'main encounter' would just happen already, I'm tired of doing side jobs for these ungrateful bastards

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bad/Dumb News Dump

There've been a lot of little bits of news here and there that fit the exact formula for a News Dump post - not enough of a thing that I can go on and on for a full post about it, but significant enough that I have to say -something- about it.  As luck(?) would have it, they also all have a fairly negative connotation to them, whether it's due to being unfortunate in the worst degree, or due to including a massive amount of what is colloquially referred to as 'dumb'.  While I'm admittedly a bit remiss to include the two together, it fits a theme and I like themes.  Everybody likes themes, actually.  So everyone should be fine with me condensing as I'm doing.

The first bit of news is the one that hits me the hardest.  While I'm not directly affected by it, it still hurts because it's a shitty, unfortunate situation and one that doesn't need to exist.  Rune Factory 4, which we've enjoyed in the states for a while now, was slated for a late release in Europe (like most 3DS games) and it was recently announced that it's actually not going to happen.  Without really listing a reason, Marvelous AQL Europe announced that their plans to bring the game to PAL-land have been canceled and they hope you look forward to more announcements on new titles (that may or may not actually see a release and if they do, you probably don't want them).  On just about any platform but the 3DS, this would be regrettable, but not -completely- irredeemable.  However, since the Region Lock thing persists on the 3DS (I'm not sure if it's something that can just be disabled, of course, probably not) it means that Europeans really have no means of playing Rune Factory 4 unless they also import a North American 3DS.

One has to wonder if this has anything to do with the shuttering of Neverland and the shaky future that the Rune Factory series seemed to have because of it.  This is certainly not a welcome follow-up to that case if it's connected (it would almost have to be, I think) and I can't help but just wonder about the future of Rune Factory all over again.  It's basically my favorite version of Harvest Moon now with the absolute abundance of things to do, and I really just want it to continue, since I know there'll apparently -always- be Harvest Moon games regardless.  I want to have both, basically.  Though, I'm sure Europe wants the same as well, and it just remains to be seen how things are going to go in the near future here.

If you've paid attention to the Mobile Games scene for the last few months, or hell, even just watched TV, there's a good chance you've heard of Candy Crush Saga.  It's sort of risen up as the second coming of Angry Birds in that sort of "Why do people actually like this game?" way.  It's essentially a Bejeweled clone with some different mechanics from what I've seen, and from that base, they've branched out into other games genres to spawn other games that make liberal use of the word "saga" (Bubble Witch Saga, Pet Rescue Saga, etc.) which is kind of the problem here.  Or, rather, half of the problem.  You see King, the developer of the Saga games, has decided to file a trademark for the words "Candy" for use on pretty much everything (games, clothing, etc.) and "Saga" for games primarily.  Even stranger is the fact that the application for "Candy" was approved.

Now, a trademark is not a patent, which is the thing people make money off of.  This is a point of contention that seems to be going around the internet, because people seem to think that King did this so they can extort royalties from everything else that dares use "Candy" in its title.  That's most certainly not the case, and even if it were, I'm sure Hasbro would have a very stern something to say to them about that  But it's okay!  King went on record saying that they 'will not enforce against all uses', just the ones that are clearly infringing on their branding and/or game.  Which is fine and all until you realize that they're not allowed to do that.  Trademark law requires that you -fight- to keep your trademark since it's clearly an important part of your business strategy in that case and allowing it to be infringed upon cheapens it and weakens your claim.  So....basically don't expect them to hold it for very long.

Now, about them 'not enforcing against all uses' where "Candy" is concerned, apparently nobody got that memo for "Saga", because they've requested legal action against Stoic for The Banner Saga.  The Banner Saga is a game that was Kickstarted for the PC and Mac, with other platforms in the works potentially (hopefully) including the Playstation Vita.  The Banner Saga is also not a game that has anything to do with King's works in anyway - there's no overlap because King works in the mobile space - and their complaint -solely- rests on the fact that their games entirely end with "Saga" and so does "The Banner Saga".  This is a -classic- Trademark infringement case, harkening back to the Scrolls debacle between Bethesda and Mojang where Bethesda had the absolute gall to actually request recompense as well.  As the 'Saga' trademark has not been approved, it's hard to say what the hell King is thinking at this point, but I can't foresee them getting away with this one.

Finishing up tonight's festivities is another heaping scoop of 'dumb' involving Alienware and the phenomenon known as a "Steam Machine".  Steam Machines are something that are still mostly nebulous in concept for me, in that I'm still hazy on how it proves to be a stand-alone box when a majority of its games (at the start at least) will have to be streamed through your Machine by your PC, thus only really granting the 'Living Room Experience' (take a shot) which can already be achieved with a normal PC and Big Picture mode.  But even I know that the main strength of the Steam Machine is its ability to meld the set specs and development consideration of a Console with the ability to be upgraded and customized as a PC.  I'm pretty sure -everyone- knows that, that that's pretty much the entire point of the machine.

Everyone except Alienware, apparently.  I'm, uh...I'm just going to quote this here.
"Lifecycle wise, consoles update every five, six, seven years. We will be updating our Steam Machines every year," Azor said.

There will be no customization options in Alienware's Steam Machines, Azor continued: "You can't really update it." Customers will have small range of configurations to choose from, such as more memory or a faster CPU, he said. Those who want to beef up their machines on their own are better off with a standard PC, Azor noted – after all, anyone can turn a PC into a Steam Machine by buying a Steam Controller and downloading SteamOS.

"If you actually want to customize your Alienware Steam Machine, maybe change your graphics card out or put in a new CPU, you would be better off with the standard Alienware X51. This particular product is restricted in its upgrade options."
This is honestly a little impressive because this is a scenario I never would have imagined possible.  It's something that shouldn't exist in nature.  You see, there's missing a point entirely, and then there is this, which grossly misinterprets every ideal that a product is supposed to espouse and it manages to appear as the sacrificial lamb to encourage you to simply buy their other products instead.  It's astounding.  It has astounded me.  I am properly astounded.

Yearly refreshes, non-customizable and spoken of as an inferior product by reference.  (Because seriously, 'if you want to mess around with it, just buy a PC' is not saying anything positive for this thing)  That's the triple play right there.  The Triple Play of "Who in the fuck taught you PR?"  I just....don't even know what else to say about that one.

this post was brought to you by the letter 'duuuurrrrrrrrrr'