Although I had been playing games since I could remember, I think I officially became a gamer in the summer of 1998 when I used my birthday money at Wal-Mart to buy Resident Evil: The Director's Cut (I was 10, and my mom told the clerk it was ok). It was unlike anything I had ever played, and changed my idea of what a video game could be with it's (at the time) insanely realistic backgrounds, horrifying monsters, and (keep in mind I was only 10) engrossing story.
My favorite franchises include Max Payne, Warioware, Rock Band, Dead Space, Uncharted, Pikmin, Silent Hill, and of course, Resident Evil.
What is this? Week 4 of my backlog quest? Yes, it seems to still be a thing. Impressive (at least for me, considering I have a habit if not finishing things)!
A whole month has passed and I haven't purchased a single new game. Scoff if you must, but for me, that's an accomplishment. It still seems surreal, and even impossible, that I'm attempting to go a whole year without buying any video games. Other than The Evil Within and Hotline Miami 2, it seems my biggest temptations are (luckily) for a console I don't even own: the Xbox One.
Dead Rising 3 is a no-brainer for me. The upcoming Quantum Break (from the people who brought me me what I consider the best Microsoft exclusive: Alan Wake) is looking tasty, and Sunset Overdrive definitely has my attention. Though I'm not really interested in the game, that Titanfall special edition console is my strongest purchasing temptation thus far this year. Seriously, it's one sexy machine. It's a weird, almost nostalgic feeling: being excited by Microsoft exclusives.
Not to sound crass, but this Sexbox is giving me a Xbon-.. oh, nevermind.
So what did I play in the last week? I beat Limbo (finally, after starting it twice since it first came out on 360; the third time's the charm, I guess). What can be said about that game that hasn't already? It's a masterwork, as far as I'm concerned, and one of the most memorable of the past generation. Why did it take so long for me to finish then, you may or (probably) may not ask? The game always seemed to fall victim of wrong place, wrong time with me, as I always ended up being too busy or distracted to stay with it through the end.
I also played through Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. For all intents and purposes, it's more of the same Metroidvania, but I'd hardly consider that a bad thing. The game play formula of uncovering more of the map and finding the next creatively gruesome boss is as addictive as ever. Blown up on the screen via my Gamecube's Gameboy Player, the game looks surprisingly nice; only a few steps below Symphony of the Night.
So I managed to play through 7 full games in January. For February, I'm shooting for 8. What have I started off this month with?
Prince of Persia: Warrior Within. I think I'm over half way through now, and I'm finding the game to be a bit of a bummer. From a technical stand-point, everything is better. The controls, the camera, the graphics and ect have all been improved (though not perfected) from the previous game, but I'm finding the SUPER EXTREMNESS of the game to be very off-putting. Going from the light-hearted tone of Sands of Time to a level of violence that would almost make Kratos blush in Warrior Within has left me scratching me head with confusion and left me a little bored. Where's the charm? Where's the likability? What was the point of changing the voice actor?
I still have The Two Thrones to play, and from what I've read it tries to strike a balance between the tone of the first two games. I'm really hoping when I get to playing it, I can experience the good vibes, at least somewhat, of The Sands of Time again.
Three weeks into my resolution to not buy any video games in 2014, and instead focus on my backlog, and I can say things are still going strong! Oh sure, that Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is tempting as heck (despite me playing the hell out of the original release last year), but I probably would of waited for a price drop anyways (maybe).
Thankfully I have Playstation Plus, which allows me a handful of new games for free (free games don't count for this resolution). If you haven't played Don't Starve yet, I highly recommend it. I don't think it's quite as brutal as some people (I made it to around Day 20 on my second try), but it's definitely a relaxing time sink for when I don't feel like doing anything else.
In the past week I played through Ghostbusters: The Video Game and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time HD.
Ghostbusters was a bit of a drag, to be honest. I'm not a super-fan of the franchise, but I did enjoy the movies. I thought the environments were pretty cool, and it really felt like a new chapter of the movie with all the original actors involved. Also, destroying everything in the environment was a ton of fun.
The actual game-play, however, was very bland (with the exception of the ghost-capturing bits). It felt like a pretty standard third-person shooter, but only rated PG-13 (a majority of the enemies in the game weren't ghosts, but were actually just weird monsters that didn't needed to be captured). The ghosts themselves had way too much health; they weren't hard to capture per se, it just took a long time, and it began to feel tedious after awhile.
Overall, you could do worse, but hardcore Ghostbusters fans would get the most out of this one. I give it a C.
After that I played Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time HD.
Never mind the numerous technical issues with the HD version (horrible sound issues, freezing upon start up that forced me to reset the PS3 at least a half dozen times through my play-through), there are plenty of issues that are inherent to the original game. It feels like your in a constant battle with the camera, as you never have the level of control that you really should; it's constantly getting stuck on walls, and combined with the at-times locked “cinematic” angles that seem to only serve to make the game more frustrating, you might find yourself wanting to throw your controller through your TV screen.
Then there is the combat, which almost hits the mark, but can become brutally unfair when you have six hulking enemies on all sides of you, who take shots in rhythmic succession so as to make it impossible for you to get back up.
Controls can be a bit imprecise, making simple acts like running up a wall or pulling a switch more effort than they should be (think back to the original PS1 Tomb Raider games, and how it was such a hassle to align Lara with certain switches or jumps).
I think it's a real testament to the core game-play that, despite all these issues, the game is still an absolute blast, and some of the most fun I've had playing a video game in awhile. The swift, acrobatic platforming, while not always too challenging, never ceases to be fun. The story, while starting off weak, grew more involving as the game progressed, and by the end, I was left eager to see what happens in the next game. Overall, I'd give it a B+.
That's all for this week. I started playing Limbo yesterday and should finish it today, and I'm thinking of starting Sin & Punishment: Star Successor after that. Should be a good time!
Fatal Frame Xbox Release date: November 22nd, 2002 Start date: January 15th, 2014 Finish date: January 19th, 2014 Completion time: 7 hours, 38 minutes and 14 seconds (not counting deaths or reloads) Length of time in my collection: About 7 years
In Fatal Frame you play as Miku, a young women who sets out to find her brother that has gone missing. You track him to the abandoned and dilapidated Himuro mansion. Surprise! The place turns out to be haunted. Like, major wowie zowie haunted. These nasty little spirits like to hurt anything living they come across, and now they got you trapped in their own little hell hole. How do you fight back? With an antique camera that possesses the mysterious ability to hurt them when their picture's taken.
This is all really happened, too...
...at least according to the part on the box where it proclaims that Fatal Frame is "based on a true story". I sure as hell hope they dramatized the shit out of whatever really happened, because damn... this is some messed up stuff.
The game has you exploring the mansion, solving puzzles, finding keys, and fighting enemies. Sound familiar? It is, for all intents and purposes, the J-Horror equivalent of Resident Evil, right down to the "cinematic" camera angles and clunky controls.
Naysayers of the dreaded "tank" style controls perpetuated by the Resident Evil series will be happy to know this game uses a more intuitive full-3D way of moving. Just press a direction on the stick and BAM! Miku moves that way. So why are the controls still janky? The direction you move is in relation to the current camera angle, so when the angle switches, so does the the direction you need to hold the thumb stick. Miku will keep moving without interruption through angle changes as long as you keep holding in that direction, but lift up for a second and the controls reset to the current angle. This will time and time again cause a temporary dis-orientation that will occasionally lead you straight into the icy cold grip of your spectral pursuers.
This is exasperated by just how slow Miku moves. When she runs, it's as if it's through a puddle of molasses. At best, you will become mildly annoyed by this, at worst you'll be screaming "Damn girl, run for God's sake!" like you're watching a slasher film. It's most insufferable when you're just trying to explore and figure out where to go next, as it can take seemingly forever to get there.
On top of that, the game seems to suffer from a strange glitch where you keep running into invisible walls. There are times when you'll be running for your life and you'll come to a dead stop for no reason what-so-ever. It's never game-breaking, as it's fixed simply by letting go of the buttons for a moment, but there are a couple rooms in particular where this problem becomes extremely grating.
The combat is the star of the show here, as it's arguably one of the more unique systems in gaming. When a ghost is in your proximity and somewhere in front of you, the music will change and a little indicator on the bottom of the screen will light up, which is your que to switch into viewfinder mode.
There is a small circle area in the middle of the screen that, when focused on the ghost, will begin to charge. The longer you let it charge the more damage it will do, and the closer you are to the ghost the faster it will charge. Most ghosts don't simply stand in one spot waiting to be snapped, though. They bob-and-weave, disappear and reappear, and sometimes materialize right behind you (better make use of that quick 180 degree turn button).
The fights are intense and nerve-racking, and only become a bit of a drain during some of the tougher ghosts later in the game, where you'll become trapped in a endless cycle of stop, take a picture, run away and stop again. Combine Miku's lack of mobility with these ghouls penchant for cheap, out-of-range hits, and there where a handful of times I could be heard shouting "What?! Are you serious?! Asshole!" at my TV.
Every ghost you best nets you experience points, with certain skill shots earning you a tidy bonus. These points can be spent on upgrades for your camera, like increasing it's charge speed or making the capture circle larger. Additional auxiliary functions can also be unlocked, such as freezing a ghost for a few seconds or pushing them back to give you some breathing room. Each use of one of these auxiliary features requires a spirit stone. These are scattered throughout the mansion, but they're scarce, so they're best saved for the more challenging foes.
Camera film acts as the game's ammo, and you'll find boxes scattered just about everywhere. There are four kinds, with the harder-to-find ones being most useful for combat. The weaker film is best saved for the puzzles, most of which simply consist of finding a particular area to take a snapshot of which will magically unlock a door somewhere.
The one area this game truly excels in is it's atmosphere. Nearly hedging out Silent Hill for the moody tension it provides, Fatal Frame is remarkably creepy, with a perfect blend of stark, uninviting environments and chilling audio ques. Most games (and movies) emphasize an upcoming conflict with an increase in volume; this game does the exact opposite, often completely dropping whatever ambient music track is playing to complete quiet, before slowly rising to a nerve-racking monk-like chant (I hate using "nerve-racking" multiple times in this review, but really, it's one of the most suitable phrases to describe some of the best parts of the game).
Long time fans of survival horror will get the most out of Fatal Frame, as they are the ones the most likely to forgive its many shortcomings. If your looking for something that harkens back to the golden-age of survival horror, and are willing to put up with some frustrations, you could do a lot worse.
The second week No Game New Year (my resolution to not buy a single game in 2014 and instead only play through my backlog) was rather productive as I managed to play through two full games! Last night I finished up Fatal Frame, which I am working on a full separate review for, and before that I marathon-ed my way through Super Mario Galaxy 2.
If I've learned anything from my first couple weeks of doing this, it's that I need to pace myself a bit. The amount of time I've been devoting to games on a daily basis has sky-rocketed since I took this challenge on. This is namely because the idea of clearing out a majority of my un-played games before year's end, and being able to start fresh and not feel guilty about new purchases has me excited.
The increased gaming-time isn't necessarily a bad thing (because really, I don't have much else going on right now), but I find myself rushing a little just for the sake of getting to the next game. This wasn't so much of a problem with SMG2 as the quick pace and endless variety always had my attention grabbed, but the slower, at times tedious (but still very cool) Fatal Frame became a bit of a drag, and only when I stopped worrying about trying to finish it did I start and enjoy it more.
Although I'm working on a review of Fatal Frame, I decided to relegate SMG2 to a few brief impressions. Why? I just had a hard time being critical of pretty much anything in this game.
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Release date: May 23rd, 2010 Start date: January 11th, 2014
Finish date: January 15th, 2014
Completion time: 13 hours, 54 minutes and 24 seconds
Length of time in my collection: about a year
I'm not an uber Nintendo-head that gushes over every new Mario and Zelda that gets released. That's not to say I don't enjoy those games, they're usually great! I've just never felt the same level of genuine love or devotion that many others have for those franchises (I grew up with a Genesis and PS1, and mostly only watched Nintendo stuff being played by my brother).
With Mario in particular, I've just always kinda stunk at his adventures. The skill needed to master the platforming genre has managed to elude me most my life. Sure, I've definitely improved in recent years, but I still tend to be too timid, and I have a hard time grasping the timing and quick-reflexes needed to master the genre. This is why, though I own essentially all of Mario's platformers, I haven't finished more that a few of them (Super Mario Advance, Super Mario 3D Land and New Super Mario Bros. U, the latter of which was with the help of my brother).
Here we have SMG2: a game with a near-perfect difficulty level, at least for me. Although it managed to persistently keep me on my toes, it never made me want to strangle myself with my nun-chuck cord (with the exception of a couple later levels). Those who like a real challenge may find the game a bit on the easy side, at least if your playing straight through to the end without touching much of the extra goals. but for me it was just right.
Most of the fun comes from experiencing the variety in each of the levels. The amount of creativity here is absolutely staggering, and no two levels are alike. Of course there are some stages I like more than others, but not one of them is a dud. Each of the stages require multiple plays to get all the stars, but even then the levels get re-mixed enough so it never feels repetitive.
This also applies to the boss-fights. There are several bosses in each of the six worlds, and with the exception of one or two, every one of them is completely unique and requires a different approach. I managed to beat most of them on my first try, but they were still a heck of a lot of fun.
Then there are the hungry Luma's. These cute little guys grant you access to new areas or power-ups as long as you got the coin (or star bits). It never failed to amuse me when they'd squeal with delight as they exploded with satisfaction after blasting them with their desired "treat".
Please, someone buy me a Luma plushy; I'm sure they exist somewhere. These things are too cute.
This is easily my favorite Mario platformer, and my second favorite Mario game over-all (that award goes to Bowser's Inside Story). I'm also confident in saying it's one of the best and most memorable games of the last generation. If you own a Wii (or Wii U) it's a no-brainer, but a lot of you probably already know that.
Letter grade: A+
So what I am going to play next? I was thinking about Persona 3, but then I read it's about 100 hours long... so yeah, I'm gonna hold off on that one for a bit. After the crawl that was Fatal Frame, I'm thinking something fast and stupid would be good anyways. Perhaps Anarchy Reigns? I guess we'll see what I pull off the shelf when I go downstairs.
It's officially been one week since I started my year-long journey to clear my backlog and taken the oath to not buy a single video game. Whew! One down, only fifty-one more to go!
I did manage to make it a whole week without buying any video games (sadly, this could almost really be considered at least a mild accomplishment for me). It will be interesting to see how hard things get later on in the year, especially when certain anticipated titles are released, but as of now I'm still feeling pretty good about it.
As I stated in my first blog, over the past couple of years, almost every time I've contemplated buying a new game, there's a certain sting of anxiety the creeps over me. Will I enjoy this game enough to justify the price? Will I have time to finish it before something else comes out that I want? Even thinking about upcoming games I was excited for made me nervous. Should I start playing this game now? If I don't finish it before that game comes out I'll have to juggle multiple games, and I may not finish one or the other.
Now that buying any new games is out of the question, I feel a sense of relief from that anxiety. In addition to that, there's a new-found excitement for the games I have. The biggest thing I have to worry about is should I play Super Mario Galaxy or Clock Tower next.
With all that being said, my actual gaming for the first week was a bit of a let-down. My goal was to finish Heart of Darkness, Fear Effect and Metal Gear Solid (or start Mario Galaxy). I finished Heart of Darkness, but my time with Fear Effect was a bit of a disaster to say the least (you can read about it in my previous blogs). Then I've just been too busy to really play anything the past four days or so. C'est la vie, I suppose.
It's officially the new week though, and I have today and tomorrow off of work. What will I be playing non-stop? Super Mario Galaxy 2. Both Galaxy games are on my list, but from the little time I've spent with both, I can say I like the second one better, mostly because of the streamlined level navigation, so I wanna start with that one. I've also been slowly picking away at Soul Sacrifice on the Vita for when I don't have the time to invest in a lengthy game session.
I'll have more on those games whenever I finish them, of course.
I really gave it my all here, I want you guys to know this. I've spent the past seven hours or so playing Fear Effect and I cannot any longer. It is quite possibly the worst game I've ever played.
Fear Effect PS1 Release date: January 31st, 2000 Start date: January 7th, 2014 Finish date: January 8th, 2014 (the day I gave up on it) Length of time in my collection: 5-6 years
I remember when this game came out I was dying to play it. It looked a lot like Resident Evil; the camera angles, the obtuse puzzle solving, and of course it had "fear" in the title. This gave me the false impression that it was a survival horror game.
While it plays much like Resident Evil as far as the controls and puzzle solving goes, survival horror it is not (not that I'm holding that against it; there's plenty of other things legitimately wrong with it).
Things start off promising enough. Set in a 1990's version of what the future looks like, you alternate between playing as three mercenaries who are hunting for a teenage girl who happens to be the daughter of a powerful Triad leader in Hong Kong. Though some are better acted than others, each of the characters, including the side ones, are interesting, and help carry what is an otherwise run-of-the-mill techno-thriller. It is hinted that interesting things will happen later in the game, but as I can't continue playing, I won't get to see for myself.
No, literally I can't continue, not unless I want to restart the entire game. You see, I'm halfway through disc 2 (of 4), and my game is saved at a point where I'm one hit away from death, down to three bullets, and blocked off by enemies I can't kill with said remaining bullets. I have a knife, but it's useless unless it's used for stealth kills. I've exhausted every possible idea to get though this part and there just isn't one.
A little bit earlier I was at a part where I got a game over for just walking. Yep, didn't get hit by an enemy, didn't do anything to get killed, nothing. I was just walking along and BAM! game over, completely random. There was another part where I fell through the floor and had to reset my system.
Not taking those little snafus into account, the absolute biggest problem with the game is the difficulty. Oh my goodness gracious, this game is hard. It's positively diabolical. Now, you have to know that I like hard games; hell, I beat Heart of Darkness!, but this game is borderline masochistic. A lot of times you'll walk into a new room and die within moments, not given any time to react, or even understand what just happened. Sometimes you'll have to go through that routine a half dozen times before you finally do figure out what you're doing wrong.
There was one section where I was watching a cutscene and it switched back to the game without warning (since the gameplay is presented with bars on the top and bottom of the screen as well as the cutscenes, there really was no indication) and I died instantly.
Now, the constant dying might be mitigated by some sort of continue option, but there isn't one. Every time you die, you have to reload your save. I cannot stress how much of a pain that is. There where many times where I died, reloaded my save, sat through the 10-15 second load screen, and then died again within seconds.
I didn't want to do another write-up so soon, but the exhaustion and rage that this game filled me with needed to be dispelled. Since I didn't finish this game I won't call this an official review, but if I were to score it anyways...