A Visit from Master Chief

September 25, 2007

‘Twas the night before Halo when all ‘cross the land
The fanboys lined up, pre-order slips in hand;
Their cash was laid down, receipts guarded with care
In hopes Master Chief soon would be there;
The noobs, though, were nestled, all snug in their beds
While visions of Cortana danced in their heads.

There would be more, but I fell asleep trying to write the rest late last night after finishing Gears of War. Given that it’s no longer the night before Halo, I figured I’d just go ahead and post what I have and move along. I didn’t pick up a copy of the game yet, but I fully intend to just as soon as I get out of work this evening, and then it’s Covenant-smashing time!

What with all my complaining in my last post, I didn’t get around to pointing out that the completion of Metroid Prime: Hunters actually pushed me over a milestone. That game was number 21 out of the 81 games that are currently on the list, putting my percentage at 25.9%… I’m more than a quarter of the way through! Gears of War, then, just puts me that much further up, bringing the percentage to 27.2% ever so briefly, before I grab Halo 3 tonight, which will bring me down a bit to 26.8%.


Over-underrated

September 23, 2007

If you’ve ever taken a look at a listing of underrated or overlooked games recently, there are a couple of titles you’re bound to come across: Psychonauts and Beyond Good & Evil.  One of these games was a wonderful platformer with an inventive premise, a genuinely funny sense of humor, and about five people worldwide who were willing to buy it (including myself).  Psychonauts is an example of exactly what should be included in those underrated game lists.  Beyond Good & Evil, on the other hand, is crap.  I realize there’s a decent chance that I will be vilified, maligned, and otherwise bad-mouthed for saying it, but it’s the truth.  If you had asked me a few days ago, I would’ve given you a completely different answer… one more in accordance with the blind adulation that gets heaped on the game by anyone who fancies themselves a connoisseur of video gaming.  Then again, a few days ago I hadn’t touched the game in over six months, and had completely forgotten most everything about it.

Earlier this year, before I began the One Hundred Percent Completion project, I had started over from scratch on Beyond Good & Evil after having made no real headway in the game a few years back when I originally picked it up.  I made some decent progress this time and I recall having been enjoying it for the most part, but for some now-forgotten reason, I set it aside (as is my wont, obviously) and essentially left it for dead.  Move forward seven months or so: after completing Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, I decided to move on to Gears of War and Beyond Good & Evil, with the idea that I didn’t have too much work left on either of them, and it would be nice to knock ’em out before Halo 3.  As it turns out, I wasn’t really that far into either of them, although Gears seems short enough to finish quite quickly regardless.  The real surprise, though, was not my lack of progress on Beyond, but rather the sucktasticality of it.  The controls are much looser than I recall from before, making it difficult to move through the game properly; the performance of the game was lackluster, with lot of hiccups and slowdowns, as if the PS2 couldn’t handle what are, really, some unspectacular graphics; the camera gets stuck in strange spots rather easily, preventing me from telling where I was or what I was doing.

I’ll be the first to admit that the storyline is quite interesting, and the setting has a lot of potential, but during this third attempt of mine to get through this game I’ve realized something that many people seem to want to deny, which is that a good story cannot truly save a bad-to-mediocre game. The fact is, I’m actually rather pissed off about this whole situation, as I had fond memories from my run at the game earlier this year, and I was looking forward to getting in and finishing it up.  Turns out, it’s going to be much more of a chore than I had initially expected.

Speaking of partly-brilliant but tragically-flawed games, I finished Metroid Prime: Hunters this afternoon.  While I understand that Nintendo was trying to use Hunters as a bit of a spin-off from the main-line Metroid games, allowing them to utilize the DS’s wifi for an unprecedented portable multiplayer experience, I still feel like I kinda got ripped off on the single-player aspect.  The game is a wonderful showpiece for the DS, illustrating just how powerful and versatile the little machine can be.  When the only upgrades available in the game are new weapons, however, it quickly stops feeling like a proper Metroid.  Where’s my Space Jump?  My new visors?  My new armor suits?  Instead of these items allowing for more interesting explorations, Hunters only offers six special weapons to find, giving Samus a total of eight weapons (the six special weapons plus her trusty Power Beam and Missiles, of course), more than in any other Metroid before or since.  This is great news for multiplayer, as more choice means more fun, I suppose, but given that I tend to dislike playing multiplayer, and given that Metroid is traditionally a single-player game, I find Hunters to be a disappointment.  Anyway, here’s hoping for a proper Prime on the DS in the future.  In the meantime, I believe I’ll switch my focus back over to the PSP, taking on either Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters or Killzone: Liberation.


Scurge: Hive

September 20, 2007

I completed Scurge: Hive this morning before work. I was able to get the list updated during the day, but couldn’t find the time to post properly about it. The game was short (a little over 12 hours), but it felt wretchedly long. The problem is that there isn’t a lot of variety to the game. Every area you enter, you have exactly the same goal, which you go about in exactly the same way. If I wasn’t on a mission here, the game would’ve been ignominiously relegated to the never-to-be-finished stack with nary a regret. Which, as bad as this all sounds, is not to say that it’s a bad game. In fact, despite some pretty hefty swiping from the Metroid series, it still seems to have a feeling of originality to it overall. I was particularly fond of the weapon system, wherein each enemy type (biological, mechanical, and energy-based) was weak to one weapon, but would receive a boost from another. For example, mechanical enemies will take extra damage from the EMP beam, but if you hit an energy-based creature with it, not only will no damage be dealt, but that creature’s speed and attack power will increase. There were quite a few spots where swarms of all three enemy types would come at me, requiring some pretty nimble weapon switching.  I suppose given the low cost and relatively quick boost to my percentage, Scurge was worthwhile… but I won’t be clamoring for a sequel.


Two Primes down, one to go…

September 16, 2007

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, while ostensibly the final Metroid game in the Prime series, is not the final Metroid game on my list. With yesterday afternoon’s completion of Corruption, that distinction falls to the sadly-uninspired Metroid Prime: Hunters on the DS. Metroid Prime 3, I must say, was great despite the low difficulty. There were some challenges to be had through the game, but nothing like the frustration of trying to track down the Sky Temple keys in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. In fact, this was the first of the Prime games in which I actually attained 100%, and I didn’t even consult a FAQ to do it. There are two factors introduced in this game that made such a feat possible: bookmarking and unlockable in-game, on-map item locations.

Honestly, it’s the little things like that which truly made Corruption as good as it is. Every time I would spot a missile expansion or other unreachable upgrade, I was able to highlight the room that contained it using the bookmark feature, making it a cinch to head back there when I had obtained the necessary means to reach it. Eventually I reached a particular room that allowed me to set up my maps to show each and every one of the expansions, as well as which ones had been collected and which ones not. Another cool little touch is an integrated Wiimote battery meter in Samus’ helmet. Take a look at some screenshots of the game, and you may notice some blue lights on the top of Samus’ helmet just above the energy indicator on the visor itself. In some of the screenshots there are two bars lit up, in others there are three. While playing through the game I had actually failed to notice these until I was down to one bar and it began to switch between yellow and blue light. I remained confused on the purpose of the lights until finally that last light switched to red and a message popped up on my visor warning me that my battery was running low.

Next up, then, is going to be either Beyond Good & Evil, as I believe I’m quite far into it and shouldn’t have too much trouble completing it in a fairly speedy manner, or Gears of War. With Halo 3 just around the corner, I’m hoping for (although certainly not expecting) another burst of completions like unto that which preceded the coming of Bioshock last month. On the portable front, Scurge: Hive is coming right along, and should be knocked out quite soon, freeing up my DS for Metroid Prime: Hunters, assuming that I can actually figure out what I was last doing in that game. I fully expect, however, to be confounded when I make my next attempt at Hunters, as there really is no mechanism in the game (so far as I recall, at least) to keep track of where I need to go next, and it’s been far too long since I last played it for me to remember.


One step forward, two steps back

September 4, 2007

And then a step to the side, just for good measure. I’ve been busy, lately. Too busy to update properly, in fact. I finished Metroid Prime 2: Echoes on Sunday night and immediately launched into Metroid Prime 3: Corruption without so much as an update to The List, let alone a full-blown post about it. I’ve actually zipped my way to 20% in MP3 so far, and have finally gotten used to the controls, which are truly exceptional. Seriously, the controls alone have already made this my favorite installment of the Prime trilogy. Perhaps the final 80% of the game will be terrible and change my opinion, but I wouldn’t wager on it.

Now, as to those two steps back. This past Thursday was the internationally-recognized* holiday known as My Birthday. Among the deluge of gifts that were lavished upon me by my adoring hordes, nestled between the life-size solid-jade likeness of me and the soft Corinthian leather tracksuit, was a gift card for the Gameslop, offered up by my wife’s most generous parents. Taking this treasure in hand, I bravely descended into the depths of the store, emerging several minutes later with copies of Killzone: Liberation and Scurge: Hive (which does, indeed, have just about the worst name ever). I had mentioned jonesin’ for Killzone: Liberation here a while ago, after having played the demo, but I’ve made no mention of Scurge until now. In truth, I hadn’t heard of the game when it originally came out, and only happened across it through some overlooked DS games list on digg a few months back. I read up on it a bit and it sounded rather interesting, but I didn’t feel the urge to upset my percentage with it before. Now, however, armed with free money and finding it for a mere $10, it’s on the list and after about an hour and a half of playtime on it, it seems to be worth it. Apparently, someone at Ninja Theory liked it, too, as they appropriated main character Jenosa Arma’s hairstyle for use in Heavenly Sword.
(* – Recognized by the Democratic Republic of Fredistan and the Commonwealth of My Apartment)

Finally, I suppose I should explain that “step to the side” I mentioned above. As I was poring over The List trying to get everything updated today, I paused for a moment to consider Super Monkey Ball. I then promptly deleted it. I had originally placed it on The List as it is a game with a finite set of levels that could, technically, be completed. What I failed to take into account, though, is that there is no plot in the game, which, for the most part, is a crucial criterion for inclusion in this project. In fact, depending on who you ask, the game is considered either a party game or a puzzle game, neither of which I keep on the list. Expecting to complete it would be akin to making an attempt to complete Mario Party or Tetris… it’s just not the point of these games. With that being said, Super Monkey Ball now has the distinction of being the first game to be expunged from The List altogether. I’ve got nothing against the game itself, but the more I think about it, the more I realize it just doesn’t fit in with the nature of this project.