The sincerest form of flattery

June 26, 2007

Looks like I should be honored. Apparently, the idea behind this little project has taken hold of Joystiq’s own South African dynamo, Ludwig Kietzmann, as he embarked today on his own journey to complete his library of unfinished games. The B[ack]log is Ludwig’s attempt to put away a game a week and discuss it a bit afterwards, which essentially differs from my own efforts in that he’s setting himself up for failure with the one-a-week deadline. Then again, his job is essentially to play (and write about) games, so he can actually take care of his while at work.

I’m just pissed that he’s got a better name for his project than I do.

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Invisible progress!

June 26, 2007

It’s been a while since I last regaled you with my tales of woe and tedium, but there’s a good reason: there’s been nothing of note to tell. I suppose I could have mentioned that I finally managed to make it past the mission from Hell, but I figured I had already bored you to tears with the play-by-play on that one. I considered writing an open letter to the ruffians, hooligans, bandits, and ne’er-do-wells of Ivalice, exhorting them to stop assaulting the areas I had previously liberated (there’s no chance they can withstand my might, and it’s just plain annoying to have to put them down), but I didn’t feel like explaining the underlying mechanics of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, which would be required to fully understand my frustration.

Since I’ve completed around 160 of FFTA‘s 300 missions (as of today’s lunch break), I could have written up a little something when I hit the halfway mark at 150. The problem with that, though, is that the total of 300 is including plot-advancement and side quests together. If I’ve completed half of the quests altogether, I assume I’m actually much farther than halfway through the plot (and I’d damn well better be… I’m coming up on 70 hours sunk into this beast); without knowing the exact halfway point, a post of “I’m halfway done!” would have rang a little hollow.

I could have posted about any of these things, and more (I’m sure I could find something to write up about Marvel: Ultimate Alliance… I’ve been rather quiet on that front recently), but I instead decided to just keep chipping away at the games. With luck, I’ll be able to cross a couple more off the list in the near future.


“Tactics,” my ass

June 15, 2007

Through a supreme force of will, I have somehow managed to keep from throwing my DS (and, more specifically, the copy of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance that’s currently residing therein) through the window.  While on the surface, this would seem to be a fairly simple task — akin to not jumping out of a moving vehicle,  not stabbing oneself in the eye with a fork, or not eating fungus-ridden diseased corn — the reality is actually more complex.

I see a bit more explanation is perhaps in order.  Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is one of the finest games available on the GBA, although it does have more than its share of drawbacks, foremost of which is a lack of an autosave feature.  Given the game’s mission-based nature, it would seem to be a trivial matter to add in an autosave whenever a mission is completed.  Now, sure, no Final Fantasy game before it featured autosave (to the best of my knowledge, at least), but none of them (excepting, perhaps, Final Fantasy Tactics itself) needed it.  Furthermore, while wandering the world map in the game, it is entirely possible to stumble onto Big Nasty Battles with absolutely no warning.  When you combine these factors with the game’s “Law” system (which requires that you abide by arbitrary rules in battle or suffer penalties that include having a character sent to jail in the middle of a crucial fight), you have a recipe for broken psyches and gaming hardware.

This is the situation I found myself in, then, last night, as I settled in for a bit of playing before heading off to bed.  I had managed to end up in the next big battle to advance the storyline without even being aware that I was entering it.  Consequently, I was completely unprepared and had to deal with a particularly pesky law that prevented me from taking any action that affected multiple squares (i.e., I couldn’t heal my characters, I couldn’t cast attack magic, etc.).  Now, despite the disadvantage I found myself at, I was able to persevere, and successfully fought my way to victory.  “Finally,” I thought, “I can save my game, since I didn’t do so before the battle.”  It was at precisely that moment that — and I swear this actually happened — a tiny little hand poked out of the cartridge and flipped me offTwice.

The game did not let me save after this epic battle that I had just scraped through.  Instead, it sent me through a lengthy cutscene and into a second battle, only this time, I was without my supporting characters.  At least my opponent in this battle was also alone.  Well, he was as alone as one can be while carrying a proverbial gigantic can o’ whoop-ass, which one imagines is quite the comforting companion.  Needless to say, this second battle did not go well, ending with me face down on the floor in a pool of blood and vomit.  My in-game character was knocked out, too.  After perhaps an hour to an hour and a half, I had absolutely nothing to show for it.  All that time wasted.

On the plus side, I found out what, exactly, I was up against, and I was better able to prepare for it.  I loaded up my last saved game, ran around a bit fighting some other battles and completing some other missions in order to beef my characters up some, in order to better handle the task at hand.  I made sure to enter the battle with favorable laws in effect so I wouldn’t have to restrict my fighting style.  I bought new arms and armor for my characters, and I tore my opponents to pieces in the first of the two battles.  Oh, what a difference a little preparation makes!  Confident in my new-found prowess, I sped through the cutscene and entered the one-on-one battle that had previously confounded me so.  It began the same way, with the enemy casting “Demi” on me (reducing my HP by half).  This was expected, as he did the same thing for the first three or four rounds last time.  If this kept up, he would go down easily with a new skill I had acquired in my preparations.  I smiled, and began my systematic destruction of him.  Someone forgot to mention to him that I was supposed to win, however, as he unleashed a previously-unseen attack that destroyed me two turns later.  It had just happened again.  Another hour down the drain.

I’m going to give this one more shot, and if it happens again,  I will rend this cartridge to dust with the pure force of my rage.*

(* – This is a lie.  I will continue to try over and over again, because I’m a silly stubborn man.)


Danger at every turn

June 10, 2007

A little more than a month has passed, and I’ve been making some decent progress. I’ve knocked down 8 of the original 77 thus far, resulting in a 10.4% completion percentage. My eyes are starting to wander, however. It seems that there are new (and not-so-new, for that matter) games that I want all over the place.

On the PS2, for example, God of War II has been calling my name since it was released. I’ve managed to hold off on it so far, and expect I’ll be able to for a while longer, too. As popular as the original God of War was, I imagine GoW II is bound for the Greatest Hits collection, and will be a piece of cake to find a copy of later on down the line. Odin Sphere won’t have that luxury, I believe. It seems like a quirky, niche-y title that’ll get dropped from stores as soon as the first run is sold out. This troubles me, as I don’t particularly want to add to the list, but I don’t want to have to trek through eBay and deal with sellers’ obscene “shipping” charges.

The PS2 isn’t the only system that’s tempting me with its wily wares either, oh no! All else being equal between games, I tend to lean towards the Xbox 360 version these days (in theory… no game has really yet forced my hand) due to Achievements. With some few exceptions, Achievments are worthless in the strictest sense of the word. You don’t get anything out of ’em except for a bigger digital wing wong to swing about. You can’t spend them. All they show is that you either spent more time on a game than your friends did, or you’re slightly better at a game than your friends are. But honestly… who cares that they’re worthless? They’re FUN to get! They give you a sense of accomplishment when you obtain them. Anyway, this whole rambling paragraph is just to explain that while I already own the original Guitar Hero for the PS2, I’m jonesin’ for the sequel on the 360. Plus, with BioShock, Mass Effect, and Halo 3 on the way, my prospects of keeping the 360 list slim are going out the window.

The PSP is gunning for me, too, as I’ve recently become intrigued by the premise of the Killzone games, and the PSP iteration, Killzone: Liberation, is supposedly the best of the (admittedly small) series thus far. I tried the demo of it, and was quite pleasantly surprised. I’ve actually determined that it will end up being mine… it’s just a matter of when. The DS, on the other hand, is at least giving me something of a reprieve (at least until Phantom Hourglass gets here).

Even the PC is getting in on the act. While I’m not currently counting PC games in the list, I still play some on occasion (*cough*Mount&Blade*cough*). So even though picking up new ones won’t count against my list, it’s still bad form. It’s just that the demo for Space Rangers 2 was so much fun, I can’t help but consider purchasing it!

And then, to top it all off, I’m itching for games that don’t even exist yet. I’m not talking about games that are under development but just haven’t been released — I’ve mentioned some of those already — but games that have virtually zero chance of ever being made. Specifically, I’m thinking of Mouse Guard, the incredible graphic novel by David Petersen. I just picked up the hardcover collection of it a couple weeks back, and after reading it through, I couldn’t help but imagine a game in the style of God of War (for anyone who’s read MG, just think of the battle with the snake handled with GoW‘s presentational flair). Mix in a bit of TMNT for the multiple anthropomorphic animal characters with differing weapons to choose from while playing the game, and Pikmin for the sense of scale, and you’d have a serious winner on your hands.


Golden Sunset

June 5, 2007

Dear Golden Sun: The Lost Age,

It’s over. I know we had some great times — at lunch, in the evenings watching TV, spare moments spent together — but I feel it’s time to move on. Don’t get me wrong, you were a lot of fun, even if your puzzles were oftentimes obtuse and you basically required me to play through you with a FAQ. And I still find you beautiful; with those saucy particle effects and sultry summon animations, you far surpass any of those 2D Final Fantasy rehashes that have been hanging out on the corner of Old Street and Played-Out Boulevard.

Sure, things had been going great since we got back together, after about four years apart… but to be perfectly honest, I’m done with you. I want to play other games. Oh, yeah, and I finished your quest. See, it’s not you, it’s me. I’ve used you enough, I’ve taken the entire story you have to give, and I want nothing more from you. You’ll find someone else to play you, I’m sure!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a date with Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.

Sincerely,
Fred


One month already?

June 2, 2007

Well, okay, I missed the exact one-month mark, but still. Over a month? Seems like I just yesterday I was knocking out multiple games a day instead of slogging through two big RPGs at once. Speaking of which, I believe Golden Sun: The Lost Age is about to go down. I managed to get quite a bit of playing in yesterday and brought myself quite a bit closer to finally ending it. I love this game, but I’d be a liar if I said I’m not sorry to see it go. Anyway, it’s not dead yet (“I’m getting better!” “No you’re not, you’ll be stone dead in a moment.”), so I should probably stop yapping about it and make with the playing.