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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