Let’s play catch-up!

February 21, 2010

I just punched God into the sun with my hair.  This game (Bayonetta) is nuts.  Also, awesome.  Also, completed.

Lots of other new games added to the list (and crossed off!) since last I deigned to show my face ’round these parts… Perhaps I shall discuss them!

Holiday haul netted me Batman: Arkham Asylum, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time, and Muramasa: The Demon Blade.  Separately, I also picked up Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes, and Demon’s Souls: Where’s My Freakin’ Subtitle?

So far, all but Demon’s Souls have also been crossed off the list, as well as Valkyria Chronicles, which had been stubbornly holding on since last winter.  It was actually one of those situations where the game was good enough that I didn’t really want it to end so as I came to the close, I kinda set it down and went on to other games.  Same sorta thing happened to me with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Final Fantasy XII.

Speaking of fantasies final, I picked up Dissidia: Final Fantasy over the summer when it came out (it’s not on the list since it’s not really a plot-driven game, although I have defeated Chaos a few times with various heroes), and it sent me on a total FF kick.  Unfortunately, it didn’t really do what I needed it to.  Rather than spurring me on to complete Final Fantasy IV on the DS (which it did drive me back to playing for a short while, although I had to start my game over for lack of remembering WTF I was doing), or driving me to finish Final Fantasy X-2 (which I did fire up again, only to be truly disgusted with the voice acting, music, “plot,” setting, theme, and just overall tone of the game… although godDAMN does it have a fun battle system)… No, instead of sending me down a productive path (in the sense of knocking some stuff off this list), it kindled a nostalgia for Final Fantasy IX, XI, and XII.  Now, IX was an incredible game, and is locked in a death struggle with XII to be my second favorite of all time (Final Fantasy VI is perched safely atop that particular mountain… fired it up via Anthology while I was on this FF bender, too, but that’s neither here nor there), but I’ve already completed it, well before this project had even begun.  XII suffers the same problem… I’ve already finished it (as seen in The List… XII didn’t get completed until this project was underway), so while playing it again would certainly be fun, I’d feel a little bad (just a little… I’ve obviously not got too big of qualms about ignoring this thing for months on end ;)

Final Fantasy XI, though… Okay… I picked it up back in The Day when it came out.  And it was awesome.  Like, totally awesome, as in I’m not sure I remembered a time (at the time) when I’d found a game quite as awesome.  Loved the graphics, loved the art design, loved the setting, LOVED the job system… it was just fantastic all around.  Too fantastic.  I ended up spending all my free time playing it.  I’m sure there’s some World of Warcraft addict reading this right now, nodding his/her head and thinking “I feel ya.”  And aside from the fact that I was losing all outside contact to the game, I was hitting a point where the actual playing wasn’t really fun anymore… I usually prefer to be able to solo in MMOs (yeah, yeah, missing the point, etc, but if I’m paying a subscription fee, I shouldn’t have to waste hours waiting for someone else to validate my playtime by stooping to joining a party with me, but that’s going off on a tangent), but FFXI absolutely demands grouping at a pretty early point in its character progression.  I finally decided that between the lack of life outside the game and the annoyance of dealing with grouping in the game that it was time to quit, so I did.  Skip ahead a few years now to last fall, and I’m going through that massive Final Fantasy bender, and thoughts of XI take root in my head… They grow and grow and just won’t go away until finally I couldn’t take it any longer, I grabbed the 14-day free trial (new email address, credit card, and address since I last played means they’ve got no idea I’d already been a subscriber before), soloed for 2 weeks (the game’s become much more solo-friendly in my absence), and then had to fight the urge to actually subscribe once it was over.  I succeeded, though, although the release of the Final Fantasy XI Ultimate Collection at EXACTLY the same time was really not helpful (nor was Steam’s discounting it during the holidays).  Anyway, this is all just to take up space say that I kinda dodged a bullet there, as if I HAD fallen back to XI, I kinda doubt I’d be posting here at all, even as late as this.

I probably will end up going back and playing some XII again at some point in the near future, though.  The impending release of Final Fantasy XIII is making me think back to the last entry and just how good it was.  Probably won’t be able to resist that for long.

Alright, so let’s get back on topic here.  Batman: Arkham Asylum.  Great game.  We need more games like this, in the 3rd-person Metroidvania milieu.  Everything that everyone has said about it truly being a Batman simulator is exactly right.  Not really sure I can add anything more to the discussion of this game than what’s already been said, so on to…

Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time.  Another great game, and although it’s taken some hits for not really bringing enough new to the series, I would argue that a series that’s been honed as finely as R&C has doesn’t really NEED too much new brought to the party with each iteration.  The Clank puzzles were pretty fun and there was just the right amount of them.  I could see an entire game built around the mechanic getting annoying very quickly (sorry, Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom… your demo was fun and your aesthetic is right up my alley, but I can’t help but think you’re gonna run out of good times pretty early on), but A Crack in Time moved away from them just as I was starting to tire of it.

Muramasa: The Demon Blade.  Gorgeous.  Just a stunningly beautiful game.  Only wish it were on the 360 or the PS3, as it took absolutely NO advantage of the Wii hardware, and would look about a hojillion times better in HD than it already does in SD (which is truly saying something as it’s already jaw-dropping as it is).  Gameplay’s pretty fun, too… feels very vaguely like Metroidvania-lite, and you all know my penchant for Metroidvanias.  Played this one through all three endings with both characters… just couldn’t get enough.  It also gave me a taste to go back and try again on Odin Sphere, being by the same developer and having a similar graphic style what with the hand-painted 2D look and all.  I dug Odin Sphere back out of my closet after finishing Muramasa, but I haven’t yet fired it up, so we’ll see how that goes…

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes.  I’m not always the best at puzzle games.  Timers tend to annoy me rather than instill a sense of urgency and thus fun.  I DO like RPGs, though.  So when Infinite Interactive released Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords a couple years back, I snatched it up and found it awesome.  (I also grabbed Puzzle Quest: Galactrix upon its release, which was decidedly less awesome, but still had its moments, but I digress).  Clash of Heroes falls firmly in the puzzle/RPG genre that Infinite Interactive started… It’s a ton of fun, with a puzzle mechanic I haven’t come across before.  Not really a whole lot more I can think to say about it…  Could’ve used a bit more single-player, I suppose, but whatever… I’m not really complaining.

Demon’s Souls.  Ah, Demon’s Souls, the big gamer bogeyman of 2009.  Everyone tried to scare each other with tales of its difficulty and how harsh is the penalty for dying in it, etc., etc.  Well, everyone’s right.  It’s really tough, and when you die, it gets tougher.  But it’s also a LOT of fun, and if you’re careful and methodical, the difficulty is more than manageable.  Now, keep in mind, I haven’t finished it yet, and in fact, I’m not even super far into it, but I have taken out three bosses or so, and really only had trouble with one of them.  Big recommendation on this one.

Bayonetta.  And so we end where we began.  Bayonetta is a weird game.  Like, super weird.  As my wife put it, it looks like it was designed by either 13-year-old boys, or drag queens.  Possibly both.  But hell, the weirdness is the point.  Well, that and the awesome combat (even if it did take me until the second-to-last chapter to figure out how to change my weapons).

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Distractions Abound

January 27, 2009

After a couple of weeks of searching the local GameStops for NHL 09, I finally decided to just go ahead and pick up a copy at Best Buy a couple days ago (Sunday, 1/25).  I’m figuring there’ll always be something else to pick up at GameStop so I’ll probably finish up the couple bucks I have left on my gift card sooner rather than later.  In the meantime, the hockey game itch just became too great and I had to do something about it.  Turns out the game’s just as cool as everyone makes it out to be.  Skimming over some forums it sounds like the online play is riddled with cheaters, but that’s the case with damn near every online multiplayer game since the dawn of time.  This doesn’t bother me, though, as the only game I play online (Team Fortress 2) has been cheater-free in my experience (I’m sure there are cheaters, I just haven’t run into ’em in probably something around if not over 100 hours of playtime, nor have I really even heard much about them).  Anyway, I digress.  One of the coolest things about NHL 09 is the “Be A Pro” mode, in which you create a character and start him out in the AHL and have to work your way into a stint in the NHL.  It’s a pretty interesting mode, as you’re literally playing that character only.  When your shift is up you skate back to the bench and watch the action from there.  When you take a penalty you’re staring through the sin bin glass back at your team’s defensive zone hoping that you didn’t just cost a goal.  There’s no switching control to another character, and trying to be a hero will only end up keeping you in the minors as your coach is not going to be pleased by your lack of teamwork.  Honestly, I haven’t played anything but “Be A Pro” since I got it and so I can’t really comment on much else.  There is an interesting feature in which you can save and upload videos and screenshots from your instant replays to be viewed on EA Sports’ site.  You can see my character Turd Ferguson‘s first goal here.  Not very impressive, I know, and it goes too quickly to even properly see me one-time it in, but I wasn’t interested in actually providing a quality video… I was interested in getting the 50-point Achievement for simply uploading any video.

Now, none of this directly helps or hinders my progress, since as I mentioned before, sports games don’t go on the list in the first place, but it’s probably dangerous to have such an awesome game around to suck up time that could be spent on pieces of crap like Hotel Dusk that I really need to get cleared off my list.  I decided the other day to give that game another shot and immediately regretted it.  I bought into all the hype around Hotel Dusk when it was coming out.  Everyone said “oh, it’s great!” or “the story’s so good!” or some other crap like that.  I like a good story in a game, so I figured I’d pick it up and see what everyone was talking about.  I played it for literally half an hour back then and couldn’t take any more, closing it up for about two years before attempting it again now.  The problem here is that with all the hype, everyone forgot to mention that it’s boring as hell and all the characters are unlikable.  I’m gonna have to just slog through, but man is it gonna be tough to put up with this for however many hours it’s going to take.

Back to news unrelated to the project proper, a writer on Tor.com is running a bloggy re-read (Warning!  Thar be spoilers!) of the entire Wheel of Time series in anticipation of A Memory of Light‘s presumed Fall release.  I read the first three installments of this re-read (well, I didn’t quite get through the third part at work today, but close enough) bringing the recap up to about the mid-point of The Eye of the World.  The thing is, as I was reading through this I started to get nostalgic for the time when the series wasn’t terrible (which I suppose isn’t really fair… the most recent book, Knife of Dreams, was actually really good).  So I started discussing the series with a friend at work who brought up the game and immediately set about trashing it.  I had very fond memories of that game and put up a spirited defense.  Regardless of how the conversation went from there, the final result was that I ended up with a serious jonesin’ to play it again.  Once I got home from work, then, I did some digging for the CDs, installed it, and started playing.  Being based on the original Unreal engine, the graphics obviously don’t exactly hold up, but I was impressed to find that it was more than willing to display at my monitor’s full 1680 x 1050 resolution, as a lot of older games tend to balk at widescreen settings.  I didn’t get far into the game with the little bit of playing I did tonight, but it’s a nice thought that I can fire it back up any time.  Just like with NHL 09, it’s not going to do my List any favors, but hey, this blog’s about games, which are about having fun.  There are enough games on the list that are going to be a chore to trudge through (I’m glaring at you, Hotel Dusk), it’s only fair to my sanity that I throw in some extra fun bits like this.


Less Castlevania!

January 18, 2009

Finished up Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia last night.  Truly finished it up this time, with the proper ending and 100% exploration, which is a nice feeling.  This was kind of an odd entry into the series, story-wise.  No Belmonts, no Morrises, no whips, even, but it was pretty damn good regardless.  As I mentioned in my last post, it was quite a bit harder than I recall the others being, but that’s alright… that’s what GameFAQs is for.

This brings my recently-battered percentage back up to 33.3%, I’m again a third of the way through my plan.  Next up, I believe, will be Valkyria Chronicles, as it continues to dominate my console time.  It truly is a wonderful game… highly recommended to anyone out there with a PS3.  On the other hand, I’m also considering picking up some new games, too.  Moon for the DS is on my mind, as I enjoyed Metroid Prime: Hunters and would love to see more FPSs on the system.

I’m also eyeing NHL 09 as I’ve been really getting into this NHL season, what with the local team not stinking up the joint anymore and deciding that it’s a good idea to actually broadcast their home games.  I’ve always been a hockey fan, especially via video games.  I learned an awful lot of what I know about hockey in general from NHL 96 on the SNES; I broke the crap out of NHL 98 on my PC (apparently there were issues with scoring over 100 goals in a game… tended to make it crash… a lot), and NHL 2001 was among the first games I bought with my PS2.  I haven’t bought another one since then, however.  I did play NHL 2K4, but that was my wife’s game.  I’m thinking it’s finally time to see what the current gen systems can do for the game.  I’ve checked out the demos on XBox Live and have been generally pleased, but never decided to go through with it.  So perhaps I’ll go with that for my next purchase.  It won’t hurt the ol’ percentage, as sports games are not really there to be finished (I guess you could say winning the Stanley Cup would work, but I’m going for plot here), so it’ll be a perfect addition to my library.


More Castlevania!

January 8, 2009

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia came out at an inopportune time.  Released the same day as Fable II and a mere week before Fallout 3, it totally fell off my radar.  Perhaps “totally” is the wrong word there.  I had been anticipating it for a while, but somehow managed to miss the release date.  It wasn’t until I was trying to find something to finish off a GameStapo gift card earlier this week that I noticed it had actually been out for a few months.  As both of you who’ve read this blog for a while can attest, I find it difficult to pass up a Castlevania game, even having played (and enjoyed!) the 3D iterations on the PS2 (although Castlevania: Judgment for the Wii looks bad beyond what even I could stomach).  So as soon as I spotted this lapse in my Castlevanity, I immediately rectified it, picking the game up just a couple of days ago.

So far it’s just as awesome as all the rest of the Metroidvanias have been, but they did happen to change one thing.  The game is hard as frak!  Well, okay, maybe that’s going a bit far — it’s no Ninja Gaiden — but I definitely got my rear end handed to me WAY more often than I’m used to in these games.  Now notice how I just used the past tense there… I just “finished” the game, having apparently defeated the main bad guy, but as seems to be the case rather often in this series, I suspect I’m not REALLY done yet.  For starters, I didn’t actually fight Dracula himself (no more details to avoid spoilers)… plus, the “ending” consisted of a single shot of one of the NPCs, a couple lines of dialog from another one, and then the exact same “Game Over” screen that you get when you die.  Not satisfying.  As soon as I’m done with this post, I’m off to GameFaqs to figure out WTF I need to do to get a proper ending here.  Until I achieve that, this game is NOT getting crossed off the list (unless it turns out that what I saw WAS the actual ending… in which case, shame on you, Mr. Igarashi… just… shame.).  Either way, I’ll be sure to let you know how it turns out.


A New Challenger Appears!

July 8, 2008

Another long drought in the beleaguered land of OHPC-istan is interrupted by the life-giving rains of my prose.  Yes, I bless you all again with my presence before I most likely scuttle back under the rock from whence I came.  As always before, I didn’t actually intend to go so long without posting, but after finishing up the classes mentioned in my last post, I’d just sort of been out of gaming too long and didn’t really know where to start in order to have something to post about.  To be fair, I also had a hell of a time trying to get back on the horse as far as my comic-reading went, as well…  In fact, I still have a bunch of issues of DMZ to catch up on.  So anyway, excuses, excuses… back to the title of the current post.

Some of you already are aware (since I know you in meatspace) and others of you may have spotted the super-stealth-ninja updates to the List (I’m sneaky like that) indicating that I am now the proud owner of one 80GB PlayStation 3 (this being the titular “new challenger”).  I had been holding off on the PS3 at first due to price considerations and general lack of interest in the system’s exclusive games roster.  Sure, the price came down with the introduction of the 40GB model, but given the pile of PS2 games I still have yet to complete, I’d like as much backwards compatibility as I can get my paws on.  The 60GB with the full backwards compatibility is, of course, discontinued and the prices are still way high on eBay.  The Metal Gear Solid 4 bundle with the 80GB system was the sweet spot for me.  With it being a limited edition, I couldn’t count on Sony making the 80GB system available ever again, so I pre-ordered the system from the Gamestapo and received it after a relatively-minor amount of drama with UPS.  With the new system come new games that need to be completed, of course, making progress on the original games on the list that much harder.

Two new games were added as a result of these goings-on: Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction and Resistance: Fall of Man.  “A-ha,” you may exclaim, “your schooling has failed you as you mistook the number 2 for the number 3!  You purchased the Metal Gear Solid 4 bundle and so I know you own that game in addition to the two you’ve named!”  You may at this point twirl your moustaches smugly whilst grinning triumphantly.  Or not.  Either way, twirling or no, I made no mistake in my previous statement as I do not intend to play Metal Gear Solid 4, and in fact will trade or sell it at the first opportunity.  Since the last Metal Gear game I played was the first Metal Gear Solid and I didn’t even finish that, I’m in no position to jump on board with the fourth installment.  Nor do I have any desire to play two and a half old games that I successfully avoided their first time around just to have the background necessary to watch play this one.

So.  Two additions accounted for… but eagle-eyed readers (you should probably see a doctor about that… or maybe a vet… not sure if having an animal’s eyes is really normal, but if it works for you, then hey… who’m I to judge?) will have noticed a total of three extra games on the List.  The final one being Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates on the DS, which I had been eyeing for some time and finally decided to snag once my classes had finished up back in May.

Through all of this, my overall percentage has, in fact, gone up.  From what, I cannot say off the top of my head, as I was too dense to note where it was before I started doing my sneaky-sneaky-behind-the-scenes-no-proper-posting List updating, but I suppose I could figure it out… [does some subtraction, some division] I’m gonna say 29.5%.  So from 29.5% up to 31.9%, the reason being that I finished every game I’ve added.  In some cases, multiple times (sort of).  Crystal Chronicles I played through a solo game in the multiplayer milieu first, and actually did so multiple times in order to get through all the difficulty levels… it was a pretty addictive game.  The single-player portion was tedious at best, however, with annoying characters and a storyline that I REALLY couldn’t have given a damn about, but a mission’s a mission and I soldiered through it solely to be able to tell you all I’ve done so.  Ratchet & Clank is another one that I played through multiple times, although the subsequent playthroughs were quick affairs of maybe two days or so, since it’s basically a New Game + situation.  I actually went through as much as I did to stretch the life of the game… it really is excellent, and with only one other game on the PS3, I wanted to make it last as long as possible.  I even went so far as to obtain every Skill Point in the game, despite my original assertions on this blog that I wasn’t going to do such a thing.  In truth, my original position is that I’m not going to require myself to hit 100% within each game, but as with Metroid Prime 3, if it happens, it happens.  Finally, then, just today (erm… yesterday, technically) I finished up Resistance with all its delectable alternate history goodness.  I may still go back through that one to get a few more Skill Points in there, although probably not all of ’em as some of ’em seem like they’re gonna be a lot more trouble than they’re worth.

And so, my updating duties completed for this quarter, I now take my leave of you.  I want to talk more about the PlayStation 3 in general, and so if all goes well, I should be posting my thoughts about the system in the near future.  I would’ve liked to go into it in this post, but the hour’s getting late, and the wordcount’s getting obscene.  Just as I mentioned in my last post, I want to get back to more-regular posting, but I make no guarantees so’s I can’t actually break any promises.


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.