I've been playing video games since as long as I can remember, cutting my teeth on great arcades and the Atari 2600, then moving my way up through the 7200, the Commodore 64, the NES, and so on and soforth. I like to play video games as much as time allows (I'm a workin' man) and I guess now I'll try to blog about it for the reading pleasure of whoever happens to be wandering by.
For about 7 years now, I've been working in retail and while I don't work for some major, corporate video games outlet, video games are a significant portion of the business in my store, so I have all the wonderful experiences of retail hell that most people who work in those environments have.
Current systems I game on:
iPod Touch (Which I guess technically counts since it has quite a few games and is becoming quite the little platform)
I don't own a Wii or PS3 as neither of them really interest me at the moment and I wouldn't even remotely have enough time for all these games to justify the purchase.
I still have my DC from way back when and I still have massively fond memories of that console. There was something about the DC that was special, and I think a lot of it had to do with the massive leap in technology it represented. It had amazing overall graphics and functionality for the time and, of course, internet access (though limited). For the first time in a long time, gamers were getting honest-to-god arcade perfect ports (Soul Calibur and House of the Dead 2 spring to mind) and so many of the titles were so solid. Yes, there was plenty of crap, but hey..you're going to get that.
For me personally, though, the DC holds a special place in my gaming heart if for no other game than Phantasy Star Online. I wrote about this briefly in another blog post, but basically PSO really changed so many things about my gaming life as well as altering things about my life in general. The game itself was very good as a nice, sci-fi themed dungeon crawler, but getting online with it was exhilarating. For a lot of people, this was their first massively multiplayer online title. At the time, my PC couldn't run any of the few online RPGs starting to come out for computers and being able to log-in and game with hundreds and thousands of people, even from other parts of the world was a pretty damn radical concept for a lot of people at the time, especially on a 56k connection and on a console. I have so many fond memories of the online gaming world of the Dreamcast, mainly from PSO and then Sega's last, great online multiplayer title, Alien Front. But PSO sticks with me because of the dynamic community and those great people I would game with until the wee hours of the morning. Times where we would just stop playing and chat for awhile and share items and just "hang out", finding a weird common ground with one another. All of these things are fleeting, forgettable things for most people today in our world of instant communication and massively online games, but back then there was still this "holy shit, you're doing something fresh and new" feeling to so many things about the DC and the balls that Sega had to do so many odd, niche things with the console.
I don't want this to go on too long, but I will say that I had some supremely fond gaming memories on the DC. It brought me a tremendous amount of joy for years and I am always grateful to have lived through that era of games. In fact, just talking about it gives me the hankering to hook up my DC and maybe just take a brief spin with PSO. Just a few levels. No wait...lemme get to level 10....20...30!!!
So one of today's XBLA offerings is Defense Grid which I immediately downloading being horribly addicted to tower defense type games. I found myself getting it because it's hard to resist a good game in this genre, especially one like this.
It might not be clear what's going in this image, but trust me, it involves shootin' things.
So, for those few of you out there who may not have played a tower defense game, basically various bad guys walk a path through the screen which you must then defend by setting up gun towers or various types along the route. As the baddies move along, the towers blast them and, hopefully, make sure they don't escape. The trick comes in tower placement, tower type, and how you spend your slow increase of resources to build and/or upgrade your defenses. It's sort of like a real-time strategy game where all the enemies come to you and all you have to do is worry about how best to spend your money on structures without having to worry about all the other clicky stuff.
Defense Grid is similar to most tower defense titles only it has two key differences: 1. There are limited slots where you can place towers, you can't just put them anywhere around the enemy path, and 2. Rather than enemies coming in and trying to get to the exit, most of Defense Grid involves the enemies trying to get to your "cores" (little glowy things) and making off with them back the way they came which means on most of the levels the enemies will be making two trips through the path, leading to all sorts of different strategies compared to most TD type games. The game uses the basic tower types: machine guns, single target lasers, stuff that slows down enemies, continuous group damage guns, etc. It makes no real major revolutions in the tower defense genre, but instead just strives to be a very solid, well-developed addition to the crowd. The graphics are great, the music is nice, and the controls are wonderfully simple and highly functional (I especially like how you can target an enemy and keep it's stats on the screen as long you like, which is VERY useful for keeping an eye on boss monsters). The game's storyline is not exactly in-depth, but it's presented in a clever manner. Basically, as you defend what's left of Earth from the aliens, you're guided by an old computer who used to be a human being. While his voiceovers can be a little annoying, they do admittedly help as he alerts you when certain types of enemies are coming and when cores have been taken, which helps alot during the chaotic moments.
Initially I was skeptical about paying $10 for this game but I am pleased to say that this is definitely worth it. The overall presentation and amount of levels (of which there are MANY more than what you usually get in TD games) easily sells it and the $10 is in fact cheaper than the PC version, which is interesting. I've played tons of these games and this is easily one of the best I've ever played if for nothing else than it's unique approach to slightly altering the tower defense strategy and amount of levels and awards to get. This really should have been part of the whole Summer of Arcade thing, but in a way, maybe it's a good thing it was spaced out some more.
Ok, cutting right to the chase: I'm a pretty big fan of the Phantasy Star Online series. Big fan might be an understatement, PSO overtook my life in 1999 when it hit the Dreamcast and to this day I can honestly say no other online experience has been anywhere near as much fun as PSO was. There was a pretty good community, a ton of people I knew online played it, and I could be guaranteed that almost any night I could log in and see at least a few people I knew playing. We had fun, I loved the game, offline and online, and it is probably one of the most cherished game experiences I've ever had.
Later I moved on to the Gamecube version, then the PC version (Blue Burst), then the fan servers when Sega asshole-ishly closed down the PSO servers, then to Phantasy Star Universe, the expansion, and then Phantasy Star Portable on the PSP.
About 3 or 4 months ago I stopped playing PS altogether because I sort of burned out on it. That time period is literally the longest I have ever gone without PSO being in my life in some form or another. I thought maybe I had taken that monkey off my back for good only to find out that not only is Phantasy Star Zero (the completely new PS title for the DS) coming out in a few months, but now another PSU-related title for the PSP is coming out in Japan, and most likely here in the states at some point in the future.
I CANNOT ESCAPE PHANTASY STAR!! In all seriousness, though, now the PSO bug is starting to bite me again and I will likely wind up getting PSZero since I heard it was pretty good. What's scary is that it will make almost 10 straight years of playing PSO related titles and I can't believe it's come to this point. I would have never thought back in 1999 PSO would have the lasting fanbase it does, but it does and it's both awesome that so many people, especially younger people, have created a community for it, but it also makes me sad that so many people I used to play with and obsess over the game with now no longer play it.
So the other day, like most people who bought Shadow Complex last Wednesday, I beat Shadow Complex. No, I don't have 100% or all the achievements but I'm pretty damn close. A few of the hidden things are kind of frustrating, but I kind of like how the frustration of having to explore the whole map is reduced to almost nothing once you have all the upgrades for your suit.
That final little cutscene is embarassingly awful, though. I thought about posting in regards to the ongoing controversy over the game's links to author Orson Scott Card and his political views, but I think many other bloggers here have said things about the issue far more eloquent than I. I will say this to those who haven't played Shadow Complex: regardless of your opinions on Card, it is important to note that the game itself is virtually devoid of politics. While the villains are the radical left-wing "Progressive Restoration" from Card's novel Empire, all of the significance of that is totally removed from the game, even the term "progressive", which makes me wonder why they bothered with linking the game to Empire in the first place. For me, personally, this is a good thing since I hate OSC's writing, but for those expecting something of a side-story to the novel, it isn't.
Putting all of that aside, though:
Like most people I was disappointed that the game was so short, but I also kind of expected it since it was an XBLA game. PROTIP: For those of you who enjoyed SC but have never played Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night, do yourself a favor and immediately buy it from the arcade marketplace. You will not regret it. (at least, I don't think you will, and if you do, you can draw a picture of me and throw darts at it for recommending it. Yes, I know you don't know what I look like, just be creative. I have dark brown hair, just be accurate to that)
So, I had my interest piqued in Wolfenstein since everything I had heard about it sounded cool and despite everyone bitching about the multiplayer, I didn't care since I enjoy well-made single-player FPS games moreso than the multiplayer aspect.
Long story short: GET THIS GAME. Wolfenstein kicks all kinds of ass. It's a very well crafted, well developed, super intense shooter that is probably one of the best single-player focused FPS titles I've played since Bioshock. It isn't perfect, but it's pretty damn close. It's been awhile since I have played an FPS where it felt like the developers spent weeks or months working on each level trying to make it as intense and involving as possible, not to mention atmospheric. (for example, the Farmhouse mission which is one of the first missions you can take after the initial intro portions of the game) It rejects being a "realistic" WWII shooter, obviously, in favor of taking the classic route of giving the Nazis supernatural powers and all sorts of crazy stuff, and it just makes the whole experience better. The decision to not have a traditional health system also really streamlines the pace of the game, while still making it challenging.
Most mainstream reviews have bemoaned the fact that the multiplayer doesn't live up to the expectations of fans of Enemy Territory, and that alone seems to be getting the game lower than normal scores, ignoring just how solid and focused the single player is. I'm also puzzled by some of the mainstream reviews saying things like the game gives you the "illusion" of free roam, when it isn't. While, yes, Wolfenstein may not be as free roam as something like, say, Far Cry 2, fact is you still have options as you play. At any one time you have a choice between at least two missions (Sometimes three) and if you don't want to involve yourself in one of those, you can always kill some time looking for secrets in the city or going back into previously played missions to get all the gold and secrets you can. It may not be "Free roam" on a gigantic scale, but certainly it's nowhere near as linear as the average FPS. I think this game is not getting a particularly fair shake in the media, and Raven deserves a lot of credit for coming back to this franchise and trying something a little different rather than just a generic, bland FPS designed solely to cater to multiplayer gamers. So, I LIKES IT and there's a good chance that you might too if you're not already playing it.
My only gripe so far is the weird loading glitches when entering some of the interior locations like shops and safehouses. Many people are reporting problems with this and also crashes. I haven't had it crash, but on occasion the game will freeze for about 5-8 seconds when you go into certain locations, then keep going. There's already been one patch, presumably to fix online issues, but hopefully this will be addressed in a future patch.
I'm kinda a newbie round these parts, so I honestly can't give a heartfelt, impassioned letter to all the users out there that have made me a happy man, although the people I've run into since being here have been spiffy.
Actually, I know why I love Destructoid: So few people take things too seriously here. I spent years on Usenet before the advent of what we now know as WEB 1.0, and people were such fucking idiots all the time with their impassioned defense of their favorite consoles or games or whatever and if you dare pointed out a criticism they would threaten to kill your family or whatever. That shit got so old. I hate people who take games so seriously that treat it like some kind of damn holy and sacred institution that will utterly collapse into oblivion if it is not defended vigorously.
So, I guess thanks to everyone (well, most people) on Destructoid remembering they're just damn games.
So Shadow Complex came out and it doesn't suck. Not that I'm implying I thought it WOULD suck, just that, in point of fact, it does not suck. I told myself I wasn't going to buy it though and that I already had enough games on my plate what with Fable II and Prototype (by the way, fuck that bullshit where it's all OH YOU LOST UR POWERS SO SORRY PLZ TO BE DOING MISSIONS WITHOUT THEM FOR AWHILE), but after I played the SC demo I was friggin sold.
Shadow Complex is a very solid, atmospheric and well designed 2-D, "metroidvania" type game and if you're reading this, chances are you probably know more about the game than even I do thanks to the extreme pre-release hype.
I'm guessing about halfway through the game, maybe more, but my impressions are very positive, however I do think the game has a few flaws/worthy criticisms that most mainstream reviews kinda side-stepped.
1. No game ever, ever, EVER, EVER should have insta-kill. Never. Ever. This is not the quarter munching heydays of arcade machines and all that. Nothing in a game should EVER cause the frustration of an instant death or close to an instant death. Shadow Complex has a few insta-kill moments and I just want to take the developer's hands and slap them. NO! BAD DOG!! Now, the insta-kill moments do not ruin the game because they are purposefully placed, for the most part, in places near save points, but seriously people, fuck insta-kill. Especially when an insta-death means having to wait through a 15-20 second load time and then having to go BACK to where you were. Seriously, it accomplishes nothing other than frustrating the player. Again, SC does not abuse this to where it really effects the game, but the fact it's even there means someone somewhere at Chair deserves a mild spanking.
2. The game is a bit too linear for being something based in the tradition of Metroid-style exploration games. To much of the map is off limits for far too long of the game and basically there's not a whole of reward of going off the main path unless you already know where you're going because the map is, in my opinion, not really varied or open enough. Minor complaint, but still it's there.
3. The camera needed some work. More specifically, it was a bad design decision to make it so that enemies can shoot through doors but you can't see into the next room on most of the map until you actually go INTO that room. This isn't a game killer, but it certainly will be massively frustrating to someone playing the game on the higher difficulties where a few bullets from a guard can fuck your shit up and take you from 500 health to 80 in a matter of seconds. At minimum, the camera should have previewed the next room for the rooms where enemies were placed close to the door as it is possible, even sneaking, to get spotted just walking into a door and then getting holes put into your favorite clothes.
4. SLOWDOWN. Now, I'm not a graphics whore nor am I one of those who freaks out and goes madly posting on blogs and forums about OMG FRAMERATE DROP, however it does seriously effect Shadow Complex in a few places, most notably when it decides to rape you with tons of on-screen guards and missles and shit shooting at you. When this happens the game can go into a crawl that makes controlling things difficult and annoying. That should have been cleaned up just a little bit, I think.
Apart from those complaints, Shadow Complex is pretty damn sweet and easily one of the best XBLA offerings in some time. It's nice to see Chair doing some more cool shit on XBLA after Undertow and they are now officially a developer to keep an eye on.
Also: HEY NINTENDO WHAT WERE YOU SAYING 4 OR 5 YEARS AGO ABOUT YOU CAN'T DO A GOOD 2-D ADVENTURE GAME ON A NEXT GEN SYSTEM? WHAT WAS THAT?