It's Thanksgiving today! Or, the American Thanksgiving at least.
Another special day of the year to only think of video games. Because friends and family are overrated. You don't even always have them readily accessible via your living room TV or your pocket. Video games are always there for you. Really, life in general, for the most part, is pointless and inconvenient. Technology is the reason we're happy.
On top of that, video games pacify one's urge to kill. Admit it: You're thinking of killing someone right now. But, it's okay. Video games understand. I love them so much. One of them, more than any other.
Thankfully, I didn't have to do much thinking to nail down which game that is. It's a game I periodically find myself gawking over. Even when I'm not playing it, and even though it isn't necessarily my favorite video game (although, it is up there). It's just the one I can't stop thinking about. And to say that I, of all people, have happily beaten this game twice is saying a lot.
Is that what they call "love"? [He/She/It] might not be the best-looking [guy/gal/thing] I've ever seen, and [he/she/it] isn't perfect, but somehow... [he's/she's/it's] perfect for me.
That is how I feel with Alan Wake.
The moment I first started up a New Game, the game's main protagonist spoke and I was instantly hooked.
Alan Wake, voiced by the awesome Matthew Porretta and modeled after dreamboat Ilkka Villi, has a voice that is immediately likable, yet a voice that is without an equal. How this man sounded was an incredibly important aspect to nail given the game's focus on not only story, but narration. And they fucking nailed it.
He's no Nolan North or Troy Baker-type, he stands out. And accomplishing that with a voice that's also easy on the ears is one the game's many fantastic qualities.
Not to waste such talented actors on drool dialogue and/or amateur storytelling, every other aspect of Alan Wake's story is exceptional (a few minor missteps aside). It's filmic, yet, unlike a lot of modern AAA releases, it feels sincere. It had one hell of a story to tell, it likely had some very talented cinematographers on the team (I just love this shot, though be wary of spoilers), it keeps at a lovely pace (it's episodic format has been understandably praised greatly), and it's all up for interpretation to this day.
"Steven King once wrote that nightmares exist outside of logic and there's little fun to be had in explanations. They're antithetical to the poetry of fear. In a horror story the victim keeps asking why, but there can be no explanation and there shouldn't be one. The unanswered mystery is what stays with us the longest and is what we'll remember in the end." - Alan Wake
And, most surprisingly: It doesn't sacrifice the "game" in "video game" one bit.
People have often complained about the repetitiveness in Alan Wake's gameplay. However, even though it does become somewhat of a problem in the game's final couple hours, I am someone with a very high threshold for that sort of thing (I'm a huge fan of Serious Sam, Dynasty Warriors, Left 4 Dead, and Dead Rising).
At least they went through the trouble of having the game control brilliantly and keeping the combat engaging. Smooth movement, clean dodges, intelligent AI, great audio/visual punch, solid gunplay, an all-in-all very satisfying gameplay experience.
One under-appreciated aspect of the game throughout the last few years, I feel, has been the game's AI. It's ferocious, yet efficient with flanking. A good handful of the combat takes place in open forest, and they will either use the many trees, plants, and bushes to blend their dark bodies into the environment or simply take advantage of said openness with their nimble nature.
Even in enclosed spaces, groups hardly (if ever) come at you in a straightforward manner.
Alan, himself, ain't so nimble. And it's quite tense trying to juggle between 2 or 3 or more spaced opponents. Not because of the controls, but because of the AI and the player having to work alongside the game's sensible mechanics. Sometimes, especially on Nightmare difficulty, running is a valid option. So if even Nightmare difficulty can tend to overstock your ammo supply, it can feel very "survival horror".
But fuck those birds.
Another one of the game's most underrated points of interest has got to be the visuals. I've always felt that video games have hardly ever really nailed the "nighttime" look, often merely looking like someone just switched color palettes rather than it feeling like a natural change in light and shadow. Or it just simply looks way over-stylized.
This game still has the most natural-looking night visuals I've ever seen. The fog, lightning, clouds, shading, moonshine, everything looks just right. And it all lends very much to the game's occasionally very oppressive atmosphere. When that wind starts kicking up, and enemies begin to appear from nowhere out of the darkness glazed against the moonlight, it's something special man.
At the risk of sounding like a mass-friendly back-of-the-box quote, this game truly does feel cinematic.
Must I also mention the game's original music? Even the licensed stuff is all great and incredibly fitting. There's a whole slew of things to appreciate about this game.
Even American Nightmare, for all it's problems, is a game that I just can't, for the life of me, stop thinking about. It's Alan Wake. I'm always on the verge of either playing it or the original Wake. Though, legitimately, it has some amazing-looking locales very different from the core Alan Wake and one crazy awesome villain. And an arcade mode pulled off surprisingly well considering Alan Wake's usual focus on story.
Proving just how good Alan Wake's gameplay can be, and proving how strong the allure of Alan Wake is for me. Remedy could actively attempt to make a bad Alan Wake game, and it'd still likely be pretty alright.
"You wanna know the real difference between you and me? .... I'm not afraid to be the center of attention."
Props to the actors and the rest of the team for properly syncing up two acts for one character. And to Destructoid for making it into the video!
I'm trying to make this as condensed, yet informative as possible. To accurately describe why Alan Wake means so much to me. When, really, I guess it's just indescribable. Like love between two humans, I love Alan Wake even more than the sum of all of it's fantastic parts. I treat it as if it were more than perfect, yet I know it totally isn't.
I could keep typing about the game's individual qualities and why they're as good as they are, but there's an outer layer of appreciation that I can't put into words.
On the real, Thanksgiving is about appreciating your friends and family more and more each year. I don't get to see my family too often, so I'm looking forward to some conversation, a big dinner, and perhaps some fun with my ADORABLE little cousins. However, that doesn't mean we can't also say thanks for some of the things less meaningful to us that just make life a little more entertaining and fulfilling.
Alan Wake, more than any other video game, I just fucking love.
As I type this, I am still listening to the special track that plays at the main menu after completing the game. It's so goddamn hype. And it's the best way to type a review about Into the Nexus. Because, upon completion, no exaggeration... I had concluded that it'd been one of the nuttiest games I had ever played.
Granted, that impression is mostly based off the final sections of the game. Which are fucking nuts. In a good way. A mess. But, a lovely mess. A mess worth rolling around in.
But, I'm getting way too far ahead of myself already talking about how awesome the ending is. I need to take this step by step. I'm-... I'm just so excited to tell you all of this awesome game. So, siddown and listen.
Oh my god.
Okay. I've switched off the game, brought myself a little more down to our Earth, and calmed down. So that I can retain my journalistic credibility. Gotta have a lot of that.
I've been with the Ratchet & Clank franchise for a long time. I remember when Going Commando, the second Lombax -cross- robot outing, was a new thing that I had to have.
The first three were among my most played games of that era. It was all just shootin' stuff, but as an ADHD-ridden 11-15 year-old, that was just great. And, as a person who shall forever be young at heart, it's still just fucking great (because I can cuss whenever I want now).
Into the Nexus continues that trend of just shootin' stuff rather well. Most of what you'll find yourself doing is just shootin' stuff. Strafing, flipping, and.. shootin' stuff. It's all still very solid and responsive. And, in that respect, as well as many others, Into the Nexus feels like a very proper and welcoming return to form.
There's no tower defense. There's no lame co-op focus. It's just shootin' stuff.
Well, alright. There's some platforming as well.
Thankfully, whatever major changes that have been made are related to said platforming. The second-hand bit to your classic Ratchet & Clank formula. Although, that's not to say that it's ever been awful. You just mainly come for the stuff to shoot.
The modest, new Ratchet platforming gimmick works a lot like Portal 2's Excursion Funnels. Only here you can place multiple funnels, occasionally jumping in-between them. It's a fun little mechanic that, while seeming solely very "copycat" in the beginning, starting feeling more natural and interesting as the game went on (although, predictably, it's implementation is far less frequent, though never forgotten, towards the end).
Clank also gets a new platforming trick that easily becomes a respectable addition to the Ratchet & Clank spectrum. Like with Ratchet, these indie-styled 2D sections felt very derivative at first. However, they eventually got fairly mind-bending, going as far as to, cleverly, pop up even during the very final bit.
Still, even ignoring all of the initially underwhelming new gameplay, this adventure doesn't exactly start out on a high note. It was just for a short while, but it seemed as if the game was doomed right from the start.
It all begins on a big ol' space shuttle, with Ratchet, Clank, and two other robots (who I must've forgot about in these last 4 years without a proper, canon R&C title) escorting a dastardly duo of brother and sister villains.
As I am much better with faces and descriptions than I am with names, one's big and muscly, the other's tiny and magical. And they make for decent Saturday morning cartoon-esque baddies. They stand out, they look cool, they ham up a line or two, their grunts are disorderly and make you chuckle, it's all standable. Certainly at least better than the annoying Emperor Tachyon from Tools of Destruction.
But, what makes this introduction for Into the Nexus so underwhelming are the parts that you actually get to play, which, for the most part, feel very... "modern". In the worst of ways. Walk forward for a bit, trigger an NPC, then get slowly escorted through a couple sets of doors to a cutscene. Fast forward to me stopping in my tracks to watch a mega sweet action setpiece, and similar events happened several times.
This is fine for your Call of Duty's or even (I'll bite my tongue later) your recent Dead Space outings, but when you mix them in with a Ratchet & Clank game, you start to get me peeved. We're talking about classic, early-PS2, arcade shooting and platforming. Even the tiniest wiff of BRO(!)-friendly design is going to raise an eyebrow.
I half-expected to be required to reload my default weapon. God forbid if there were any QTE's.
Shortly thereafter, though, the game starts to really get going. Around 30+ minutes in, all of that nonsense disappears and it starts to show it's true quality.
I said that this was a return to form in more ways than one. Not just in it's treading of old formulas, but in it's overall aesthetic flavor and progression. You'll find yourself in a metro-like city, an evil-orange/red arena, an open swamp, and so on. The game's second planet, an overgrown future city with bright purple spirits flying about, is a good deal more interesting, but the majority of the game's aesthetics felt very olden Ratchet & Clank.
Some may find this aspect dull, and say the developers got lazy.
Personally, though? I loved it. Just imagine: We haven't had a true-blue Ratchet & Clank in quite a while, and even A Crack In Time didn't necessarily feel like your typical outing. It was on a much larger scale, with ultra fancy locales, and complex Clank puzzles (unlike these here Into the Nexus puzzles, which mostly revolve around quick-think platforming). Immediately after that, we had to endure seeing our heroes go through generally failed experimentation for 4 years.
A return to simplicity in all aspects, minus the hilarious and awesome new weapons (the Nightmare Box was an absolute joy to experiment with), was, I feel, exactly what this franchise needed. Like you and an old friend reminiscing about ventures had long, long ago.
Another surprisingly classic aspect was found in the game's challenge.
Even on Normal difficulty, it will get pretty damn tense. Several moments went down to the very last second, down to the wire. "WHAT THE HELL AM I GOING TO DO?!", "OH MY GOD EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING AT ONCE!", and "No. NO. BULLSHIT!" were among the many things I found myself scream as I attempted to blast through these often relentless waves of killer croc-things and Nether-mantas.
I died several times, and I realized that making full use of your extensive arsenal was sometimes the only option. The Nightmare Box to scare your foes (even the bosses) stiff, trusty Mr. Zurcon to back you up, and bouncing between 2 or more other wondrous toys to deal most of the damage.
And there are still plenty of out of reach collectables, crates and environmental props to destroy for bolts (or health/ammo)... folks, this is a motherfucking Ratchet & Clank game.
With plenty of reasons to keep playing beyond the main 4-6 hour experience (the arena, swamp planet sidequests, the addictive upgrade system that carries into the game's NG+, etc.), a classic vibe, lots of reckless destruction, and instances of hilarity (in context and gameplay), this is one fun time.
It may not be the most inspiring Ratchet & Clank, but it's exactly what fans needed to see: Another one done right.
When I tell people I think video games are only getting better, sometimes they disagree. I'm told how much better we had it in the 80's. Or the 90's. Or basically any point before the point we're presently at.
Call it looking back with rose-tinted glasses, but, in some ways, they're right. There was a time when we didn't have to worry about publishers/developers doing anything other than releasing more rad to the max video games. Now, they'll brake apart the latest releases into various DLC updates, get way too ambitious with their budgets, or sorely mishandle our favorite franchises for the sake of mass appeal.
Or maybe they'll do all three, all the while publicly saying something really stupid. Shifting blame for their mistakes, shooting for a future nobody wants but them, etc. More than once. Maybe a third time. Or perhaps they're still grasping for some common sense.
But, while everyone had been hunkering into their fallout shelters of hot pockets and dedicated Valve servers, cursing EA, Activision, Ubisoft, Capcom, and the rest of that dastardly bunch of bum-whiffers, I was not only enjoying the much-praised indie releases, but many of the AAA releases that I bought into. Some of them even far exceeded the quality of my most favored games of the masterful PS2 era.
We've made amazing strides in storytelling and building interesting mechanics, we've (sometimes successfully) explored new ways of marketing and distributing, going indie is just a little bit less scary, and we now, more than ever, understand how the industry works and how even we can improve it (mostly by screeching at community managers).
I proclaim that this generation has been the best yet. We may've had to endure some real deep bullshit, but, when you get down to it, for all the other better parts of these last 7 or 8 years, the most important aspect of defining a console/PC generation is in the quality of it's games.
That's why we're all here, ain't it? Unless you've found yourself here by accident. In which case I'm flattered you're still reading this.
This blog is brought to you by mountains of classic Halo 3 Mountain Dew GAME FUEL
Uncharted 2, Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, Rock Band 2, Twilight Princess, The Stanley Parable, The Last of Us, Persona 4: Golden, Flower, Castle Crashers, Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, Super Meat Boy, Grand Theft Auto IV: Ballad of Gay Tony, Grand Theft Auto V, FEZ, Binding of Isaac, Borderlands 2, The Darkness, Mass Effect 1 and 2, Dead Space 1 and 2, Thomas Was Alone, Portal 2, Lone Survivor, Call of Duty 4, Deadly Premonition, Shin Megami Tensei IV, Alan Wake, Catherine...
I'm drooling. So many gems. So shiny.
And before I realized how much I loved Saints Row 2, GTA: San Andreas was my number one. San Andreas doesn't have in-depth character customization, Johnny Gat, FUZZ, Johnny Gat, mission replay, or Johnny Gat.
I loved so much of what I played during this generation that I would hate to imagine not having it at all.
Me and two friends pretending we can play Minecraft
This was also the first generation where I spent a hefty amount of time playing online. It's where I came to find most of my bestest of friends, and it all started with a couple rascals named Seth and Jordan in Rainbow Six Vegas back in March/April of 2008. From there, I was quickly introduced to several others.
Over the next 5+ years (mother of God, there's no way it's been that long already), we would continue playing Rainbow Six Vegas, then move on to Gears of War 2, Left 4 Dead, Minecraft, as well as the occasional passing fancy. We would bond over playing co-op, as well as over competition. We've had our legitimate quarrels, but we don't think much of it in the grand scheme of things.
It's amazing that a bunch of dudes who I've never actually met can mean far more to me than most of those in real life that I once called a friend. I guess such things can totally happen when you grow up in the age of the Internet (not to undermine it's significance). And it's safe to say that my time without work or school wouldn't have been anywhere near as meaningful to me without them.
At this point, we've, of course, ventured into more than just this generation's video games. And while that is what's most important, we should also look into another one of the more positive aspects of the last generation.
I shouldn't need to mention this if you've already clicked any of the above links, but YouTube has been rather important to me probably ever since a little bit after it launched. I got caught up in the Halo 3 machinima craze of 2007-2010, I made my own (somewhat successful) series of MP videos, I've done YouTube poops, I've done Gmod videos, and I've even done Let's Plays.
When it comes to gaming, I've done a little bit of everything. Only because I love it all so much.
This was the generation when I officially gave up television for Netflix and YouTube.
With people able to, within reason, create and upload anything they want, YouTube, over the years, has grown from a simple video sharing service to a legit business for some people. Something people are passionately involved with.
It's an Internet giant. And it's awesome.
Most of what I've found myself watching has been gaming content. Two Best Friends Play, Game Grumps, JonTron, kitty0706, GameTheory, TotalBiscuit, Cr1TiKaL, etc.
Hours upon hours of insight and hilarity. It's been a daily routine. I can't live without my YouTubes. One might even say it's "addicting". There's always someone else awesome I've yet to discover and all my favorites are always uploading more shit for me to watch!
The Internet's golden age has yet to pass. And may it never end. For at least as long as YouTube is around, I will happily be pouring many more hours into it by supporting the best channels and making my own crap.
Whether it's the rise of YouTube, the progress we've made with understanding how games are made or how they can be made, or the amazing friends I've made, I can point to any one single good thing about this last generation and think to myself "It hasn't been that bad at all.".
Not even considering all the wonderful games that have come out in just the last couple years.
Also, this was a thing.
I think some may not fully realize just how long we've been in this 7th generation of video games.
Since late 2005. It is now late 2013. I've, personally, been gaming this generation since the very start of my late teenage years. I'm now about to turn 23. How in the hell, am I right? My best teen years, my entire adult life, has been spent with this here 360, PS3, Wii, and gaming notebook.
Mother of mercy! AND it's far from over! My newfound sense of a decent budget and my backlog have made sure of that.
Oh, and this is the first generation that I've actually had a legit backlog. Thank you, everlastingly short attention span!
Halloween isn't the time for spooks, candy, and frilly costumes. It's the time for extra precaution.
Here are some unsettling truth bombs: Candy causes cavities! When was the last time a real good scare didn't dramatically increase your heart rate? HEART ATTACKS! And you don't know who's under that costume! Could be a friend or neighbor... or it could be someone trying to gut you and then take your wallet. Rolling in your cash and credit cards, pissing on your driver's license, and laughing at your stashed condom wrappers.
Picture that for a second. It disgusts me more than it disgusts you. The world is so condensed with menace that I wonder who in their right little head could enjoy the "spirit" of Halloween so much. Or even at all!
... soooo, what? What now? It's the next big holiday and you think you're left with nothing to do? That is why I'm here with this shitty blog for you to enjoy somehow.
It's time to coooool off and have a truly Happy Halloween. With VIDEO GAMES!
If this were a 10-1, worst to best countdown, any random Katamari Damacy title would easily be there at number one. But, something like that would require a lot more thinking, and thinking isn't my forte.
The entire franchise is stupendously happy. Happy music, happy art style, and never a dull moment either. One minute you're rolling up thimbles and lipstick, the next you've stuck Zeus and Gigan.
Yeeeeah! Now it's a party!
So, why single out Katamari Forever? Simply put: It's the most definitive of the bunch.
Katamari Damacy is a lot like Pokemon. It's never been about reinventing itself, it's been amount giving you the same shit over and over and you loving it! With it's latest console outing, Katamari Forever, it took just about anything the series had even dabbled with thus far, nostalgia'd it up with classic music tracks and stages (or so I recollect.. but, you can never trust my memory), slopped in one or two minor additions, put it in a slightly prettier package, and put it behind some really awesome boxart.
NOW SING FOR ME, YOU PIGGIES!
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Animal Crossing is like that wonderful, perfect life that we all wish we could have. Good neighbors. vibrant locales, easy money... sure, you get some unfriendly bees dropping from trees you attempt to ransack for loot every now and then, but it's mostly all good.
I had only played the original Animal Crossing before New Leaf, so it was real nice to already be doing far more than I'd done in a month with the original in just a few days here. The now visual splendor that is the aquarium made catching all the kinds of fish especially addicting.
The game still is designed around short-burst sessions, though. So, if you're in-between games and/or need a good "on the crapper" experience, why don't you give either this or Wild World a shot? I can at least guarantee that it will make you smile. If it doesn't, feel free to call me names.
God of War
Blood explosions, breasts, and a brutally epic orchestral soundtrack. Hundreds are slaughtered. Thousands are slaughtered. More than any Gears of War, Call of Duty, or Duke Nukem.. moreso than all of those games combined, God of War is the ultimate male power fantasy. Just wreck shit, have sex, become a god. All without wearing a shirt or hardly anything below the waist.
Now, consider main man-god Kratos. His only emotion is pure, unadulterated, vicious, primal, RAGE. Anger is all the dude knows, and he takes it out on everyone and everything in his wake. Whether it be with his dick or his wide assortment of mythical weapons.
His infatuation with white hot frustration could easily be considered "perverse". To that end, despite his very shaky past, and depending on how you look at things, he's quite possibly the happiest man to have ever lived! Yes. Under those gloomy color schemes, uber serious tones, freaky beasts, blood, and guts...
God of War is one happy video game.
In McPixel, you play as a guy. Let's call him "McPixel guy". McPixel guy is always finding himself in some pretty tight, though wacky situations. In order to escape these screwy scenes, McPixel guy must do.... something. It can be anything, really. It's usually something that can only make sense in McPixel.
Unlike games that bother advertising choices that really matter, every choice you make in McPixel matters a considerable amount. Because about 95% of the time you do anything in McPixel, it causes a tremendous explosion! Everyone is dead! TRY AGAIN!
What's so happy about that?! That's terrible!
The game carries whatever consequences you experience in such a lighthearted, Looney Tunes-type fashion, that it doesn't matter. You fail, and it's "Lol. Alright. Maybe next time.". I mean, if you enjoy this sort of humor, the game's pretty hilarious.
And the only command that you'll really need is your left mouse click. So just grab a drink, sit back, lay your mouse into your lap, tinker, and laugh at all the crazy things that happen and all the innocents that die in the name of stupid video games.
There's nothing much more obnoxious in gaming than a shitty video game with a preachy message (see: PETA's mock-ups of Mario, Pokemon, Cooking Mama, and Super Meat Boy). And while Flower may, arguably, have a preachy message, it's at least one wrapped up in a straight-up beautiful and technically sound game.
Flower is coming to the PS4, but, at times, it already looks about as impressive as your better looking PS4 titles like Second Son or Deep Down. And, just like McPixel, it has a very very simple control scheme: Any one face/shoulder button + Sixaxis. It works amazingly well as far as non-conventional control methods go (Wiimote, Kinect, Eye, Move, etc.).
Not necessarily a "happy" experience, but it's got to be the most relaxing piece of media I've ever purchased. I'll tell ya, the first time you play Flower, you will be so well at ease. You would have never thought a game about collecting flower pedals as some vaguely personified gust of wind would be, dare I say, fun until playing this.
Fantastic music, stunning visuals, and easy-going controls. I just love games that you can play with one hand!
Legends was one of those games I played through and was consistently amazed at how lovingly-crafted it was. The music, the art, the controls, the level design, all the awesome extra content, and so on.
Some may not agree, but the delay did this game good.
If you're like me, and most of what you've played in the last several or more years as far as platformers has been Mario, you might find yourself having a bit of trouble with this or the original Origins. These aren't games that hold your hand or give you a lot of room to correct your mistakes.
Enemy and platform layouts are just as carefully planned out, but not quite as forgiving. Especially with how different the game controls. It feels as if you're always at the tipping point of a potential mistake. Mistiming a punch/kick or jump, experimenting with a new baddie... and it's all the more satisfying for it.
Mistakes have very rarely ever happened with me and any Mario game since 64. But, here, mistakes were fairly often and hardly (if ever) felt cheap.
An extreme amount of passion oozes out of every part of Legends. More than any other on this list, this game deserves your time and money. And while the game's lighthearted, funny nature, alone, will make you smile, the obvious care and attention from developers happy to give you something spectacular will extend said smile from ear to ear.
Kirby Super Star
In one of the most exorbitantly cute games to have ever released, it's impossible not to understand the appeal. It's Kirby! He's round, pink, and is just begging to be cuddled. And he wouldn't harm a fly, unless it were big enough to be one of the almost as cute baddies that cover the strikingly vibrant and varied locales around Dream Land.
This particular iteration nets you a whopping 2 or 3 full games, along with an assortment of fun mini-games such as dueling, racing, and quaffing. That's what I call over-delivering value!
Going through Kirby Super Star is like taking a tour through a moderately dangerous candyland. It sounds weird, but anything (be it natural, man-made, whatever) just looks so delicious. Fire reminds me of Red Hots, the cannonballs look like jawbreakers, and Kirby himself looks like he'd taste a lot like one of those pink Peeps.
God, I'm so hungry. But, also, so very happy.
In the same vein as Flower, Proteus is more relaxing than happy. Everything just has an "Ah. That's nice." quality about it.
What's interesting about Proteus (among it being one of the very few games out there to solely focus on open exploration) is that much of what you see in Proteus reacts to your presence in the form of various sounds or melodies that add to the overall audio composition of the game. Almost as much as the game controls the music, you do. In that regard, it's a lot like a rhythm game. Just without the rhythmic input.
Surprisingly, not the PC version, but either recently-released console version, whether it be PS3 or Vita, is the definitive version. While I haven't had more than maybe an hour's worth of time with them, I'm already noticing some nice little changes here and there. The awesome gyro controls (and I've never had the chance to say that about any game), the occasional touch interaction, the tweaked "phases", etc.
It's a real pleasure to have an updated version of this on my Vita, complete with headphones. I'd even go as far as to say it's the Vita's most essential release since Persona 4: Golden.
Oh yeah. I went there.
Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale
You may not already know this from that Gigan reference up top, but I'm a gigantic fan of Godzilla. I collected every VHS I found over a course of over a year from this place called Suncoast, which was the only place around here which had that kind of stuff that didn't just shove whatever little they had to the corner somewhere.
This is the main reason I bought into AOTFM. It embraced the niche media that I grew up with or looked upon with great interest. Godzilla, Gamera, Ultraman... this kind of stuff should be way more popular than it is.
Regarding the game itself, it's mostly exploring a 1970's small town in Japan. Talking with NPC's and collecting "glims" in order to unlock monsters to use in the game's card battle mini-game.
I say "mini-game" because it's such a non-essential part of the experience. You'll play it a couple or more times, but it's hardly used after just a single point in the game. Thankfully, it's not a total waste because it is pretty competent/fun and you are given the freedom to play it basically whenever you want. It just feels as if the game pushed me more to explore and discover the story than to play cards.
While one would likely expect more action and monsters from a game entitled "Attack of the Friday Monsters", it was a very charming little tale nonetheless. It makes you feel good, and how it brings you down to a child's state of mind is seamless. You start falling for the story, even if it is wholly mediocre.
Super Mario Land
And, finally, speaking of games with tons of charm, nothing is more charming than the innocence of a solid as fuck Gameboy launch title.
It reminds you of a much simpler, happier time in gaming. When we were all friends, we didn't have to worry about DLC or season passes, and we banded together to play couch co-op rather than to "troll" or outsmart someone's review score.
It is an absolute crime that people still talk about the original Super Mario Bros, but I've hardly ever seen anyone bring up the superior Super Mario Land. It's more interesting, it's got better music, it's still challenging, it's still got solid level design, and it still controls just as fluidly as SMB. It's on the 3DS Virtual Console, so you 3DS owners... go and get it RIGHT NOW. I can't stand it how you look at me and assume that I am steering you wrong. It's awesome, I tells ya!
So, all I'm gonna do from now on is totally steal others' ideas?
Hey, you. The one who's judging me right now. When whatever you post is just one of 2 or 3 possible blogs, things start feeling a little cluttered. In your mind and behind that "your blog" button. Gets pretty annoying. I suppose that's why I no longer post like every other week or two. I now only post when I feel especially inspired to write.
Well, now I've been especially inspired to write. My recent commitment to take part in discussions a little more, Shade's latest blog (THAT I RIPPED OFF), and Andy's magnificent post on why we need to start just fucking having fun again sparked up some part of brain, which relayed information down to my forearm and then down to my wrist. Resulting in a compulsive, self-inflicted slap to the face.
I fell to the floor.
But, that slap then awoke something else in me.
I need to start fucking having fun again.
So it begins
I am excited about things that are, to me, worth being excited about. Because that makes sense, you see. There have also been some other things, already a reality, that I've been wanting to shout to the world about from the rooftops of my apartment. If only there wasn't always somebody out there watching, making sure I don't hurt myself.
Well, they can't get me in here. In here, I may have only a finite amount of control... but some control, nonetheless. Because, as humans, we demand a little control, compassion, food, drink, and, above all else...
1. Playing Pokemon catch-up
A wee lad, I was, when "Pocket Monsters" came waddling out onto the scene at my local mall. No, not the video games. Can we not talk about video games for just a second? For they were the Pocket Monsters trading cards. They were called trading cards because nobody actually battled with them.
No. We liked the pictures. Especially the holographic ones. And we liked the monsters. Some better than others. So, we traded. The idea of getting all the best Pocket Monsters was so enticing that we would even trade with complete strangers.
I will always remember my first trade. On the very first day the cards hit the market, at North Star Mall, I got several packs of them. I was only aware of Pokemon through reputation as what was likely going to be the next big thing from Japan. Sure, I didn't know why I wanted them beyond knowing that everyone else would have them, but as an impressionable young boy, that's all I needed to know. I just had to have them.
I must've not been too fond of at least one of my cards, because I was desperate for a trade. So, I ran towards a kid in the nearby Gap store. No longer innocently shopping for clothes, he was about to come into a deal.
My [insert whatever card it was here] for his "Magmar".
He was the one that brought up this "Magmar". A cunning move. Handing off such a card for just about anything would mean profit for him, instant regret for the suckered in receiver.
Fucking Charmander with a duck bill, in a clown suit. Great. "Dirty barnacles!", I said aloud. "What the hell is this?!". At 7 years of age, I finally knew the true meaning of bullshit. Of being bullshat.
Soon, though, the Pokemon video games would release. And I would eventually get into the anime. I loved both, and the rest is history. Adventure, discovery, bonding with passerby's and friends alike. On the bus, in the cafeteria, in class, at home, in the car. Pokemon as a portable experience was fucking genius. It's easy to see why Game Freak still retains the core iterations as pocket-able affairs.
So, what does this all have to do with whatever it is I'm excited about?
The thing is, right after the Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald era of Pokemon games, I, for a long time, lost interest in Pokemon.
Even if I still bought the games (I bought Poke'Park for Christ's sake), the spark wasn't there. It wasn't that I thought Pokemon were just starting to have questionable designs (case and point: Magmar and many others), it wasn't that I thought the core games were getting stale, I just couldn't find it in me to care as much anymore. I would continue to look back very fondly on Pokemon, talk about it with friends, even dabble in a card pack or two, but I guess... for while, it seemed as if I was almost growing out of them.
Then I played X. And for as underwhelming as it was, it reinvigorated my love for the franchise. The 3D battles made me squee. Not since Pokemon Colosseum had I, personally, seen anything like this. But, this time it was faster and attached to the core Pokemon experience. When those battles were over, I continued on-foot through various towns, tall grass, and dark caves.
It was like I never left.
However, because of my disappointment with the game otherwise, there needed to be an alternative. So, I took to Pokemon SoulSilver. And it's still fucking awesome.
Once I'm done with SoulSilver, I will continue from where I left off. With Diamond and Pearl. My enthusiasm for getting the chance to give 3 other core Pokemon games a proper run is through the roof. Everyone can see it, and the neighbors are starting to get uncomfortable.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go buy an umbrella.
2. Not giving in to temptation
The next generation of gaming is only a little way's away. And I'm just sitting here playing my DS.
That's right. IDGAF.
For as promising as the next generation is, I've learned, especially with my Wii U, that almost no console is worth purchasing at launch for people like me. Or anywhere near launch. 350 bucks (plus games) for what? I've spent more time this month with plastic spoons than I have with my Wii U.
And that's not just because my Gamepad is busted. Thankfully, it did give me enough time to finish up The Wind Waker HD. But, if it had been working past that, I would've still gone over to some Wii VC games, to then go straight to Pokemon. And the Pokemon train ain't stopping anytime soon.
Here's the problem: I don't have a Wii U backlog. The same cannot be said for my DS, 3DS, Wii, PS2, PS3, 360, Gamecube, Vita, PSP, PC.....
You get the picture.
The same will happen if I get a PS4 or an Xbone. In order to justify my purchase, I'll buy and play any exclusive that I even sort of want, beat it, then be back to square one with my backlog.
I can't believe I'm saying this, but...
I DON'T NEED ANYMORE VIDEO GAMES!
A man can only handle so much vidja. I'm probably sitting at well over... actually, I don't even wanna think about how many games I've been wanting to play and plan to play, or the many classics that I've missed out on and really need to play.
I'll be good for a long long time. You guys go and have fun. I'll keep generation's 3-7 warm for ya.
3. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn's too-cute pets
They are so fucking cute.
I want one.
4. The next 3D Zelda
For me, 3D Zelda has been very inconsistent in quality.
I really enjoyed The Wind Waker, thought Twilight Princess was awesome, but I couldn't stand Majora's Mask or Skyward Sword. WHAT ABOUT OCARINA OF TIME??? Well guy, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. Although, more than I enjoyed it, I felt it was more of a "for it's time" kind of game. Fairly tame, but still (mostly) solid and inoffensive.
Now, I could easily make a whole 'nother blog on why I quit playing Skyward Sword, but that would be boring. I'm sure you've all heard the same "X reasons why I hate Skyward Sword" over and over again. However, as for Majora's Mask.... it was kind of a bunch of nothing.
- Go to the town
- Go to the fairy dwelling
- Go find the lost fairy and bring it back
- Play hide and seek with little shits
- Fail to find all but one little shit
- Little shits responsible for the killing of thousands
- Repeat 2 and 3
- Wait for a long time
- Go to the observatory
- Get thing for guy
- Go to the clock
- Intentionally fail the boss fight
- Walk to one of several locations
- Find self in some place
- Get jerked around
- Actually progress and find some other place
- Off to find a missing witch
- Follow monkeys through Not Lost Woods
- Walk back
Then I get lost.
I didn't even know if what I was doing towards the end there was essential or not. And how was I to know? It's not like anything else I had done was of much importance.
The very beginning was a glorious set-up to what seemed like what could be another Ocarina of Time, but infinitely more interesting. But, from what I played, I, mostly, got something different. Which is cool. But, what was different from what I expected didn't tantalize me for long. I kept giving it chances, and it kept wasting my time.
Did I quit too early? Arguably, no. First impressions are very important. If all the game wants you to do for the first 45 minutes to an hour is essentially walk to various places without much of any sense of progression (using the Ocarina to revert back to when you first entered the town didn't help), I'm gonna start getting a little bit impatient.
(I would never dream of giving my definitive assessment of the game based off just this. I will likely still finish the game at some point. Same goes for Skyward Sword.)
But, I have a great amount of respect for the franchise. Even for just it's 3D iterations, but also, of course, the rest of the family. Along with much of the other NES launch titles, the original Zelda is still really fun. And it takes a lot for a game from even less than a decade ago to not age considerably. Unlike Zelda II, which is, very much, a product of the 80's. Built for a generation of gamers with different mindsets and skills.
Or it's just not my thing.
I think, for Nintendo, 3D Zelda is still an experiment of sorts. Every one thus far has been entirely different from the last in some way. The developers trying to find the right progression, control scheme, graphic style, whatever. Lending more to this are my personal thoughts on it's inconsistent quality.
For them to perfect their 3D Zelda formula, and then work around that for subsequent iterations, that is what I hope to see in the years to come. Zelda is one of gaming's most important franchises, and I've never relished in it's missteps.
This section here was probably more cynical than I had originally expected, but, again, it's with all due respect.
Whatever they have in store for Zelda Wii U, I anxiously await it.
5. I really miss Shin Megami Tensei IV
Shin Megami Tensei IV is a long long game. 50-60 combined hours of some of the most satisfying gameplay ever (even if 15-20 hours of it didn't need to be there), which I, sadly, took for granted a little.
I decided to push through the main game as quickly as possible, while, simultaneously, pushing through as many sidequests as possible. Was that smart? No it wasn't. It was stupid and dumb, as I played much of the game while half asleep. And a handful of 5-10+ hour sessions later... I accomplished conglaturations. Only because I was sure that it was going to be the only way I would finish such a long game with my chestnut-sized brain and attention span.
I thought it was a great game, all the same. But, as I was going through some of the soundtrack and taking a gander at some boss run videos for my previous blog, I was reminded of how awesome a game it actually was.
The very best enemy/boss design I've ever seen, some fucking awesome music, an insanely epic (though imperfect) story, incredibly satisfying combat, an entertaining (and sometimes hilarious) demon conversation system, it's only real downfalls were it's overworld map display and it's padding towards the middle. But, once you start up that Ring of Gaea rite of passage, it starts getting interesting again on all fronts. Bosses become less exploitable, the story starts to ramp back up in pace, along with a few other interesting gameplay twists.
Seriously. Thinking about it, I'm pissed that I didn't take my time with it. I know it's awesome, but I had a backlog to attend to. I didn't wanna spend more than a week or two trying to beat this puppy. I most definitely beat that puppy. When, all along, I should've been giving it slow 'n smooth palm strokes.
I couldn't even end the game properly, I was in such a hurry. I got the dreaded "Nihilism" ending. I missed a lot of seemingly excellent content and exposition. I HATE MYSELF THIS MUCH.
So you know what I'm excited about? Finishing up most of my backlog so I can beat it again. And then for a third time on the higher difficulties.
Goddammit! I have so much to do!
ACK! I'm done with this blog already. I have to video games.
Most things intentionally frightening in video games usually don't do a whole lot for me outside a raised eyebrow. It's things, ironically, unintentionally frightening (or at least more frightening than they're made out to be) that seem to get me really upset or teary-eyed with fear.
One of the many things I've learned from the Internet is that there doesn't need to be a presence of horror for their to be horror. Even implied. And while this list will be completely free of any of those infamous "creepypastas", stuff like that has certainly inspired me to look at various things video games plug into my eyes and ears from assorted perspectives. To not always take things at face value or take a design choice as it was intended to be taken by the game's developers.
For example: Exactly what I am to think of seeing Luigi happily whistling to himself at his front porch, all the while his brother Mario had been missing for a week?
Paper Mario - Luigi not giving a flying fuck
For a long, long time, Luigi has been playing second fiddle to his infinitely more popular and successful brother Mario. He's the taller, skinnier, greener, jump highier Mario. But, he's also, very much, a man-baby.
His most notable of very few solo outings, Luigi's Mansion, is literally about Luigi being frightened by everything. Everywhere he looks, he's petrified. Everything he sees makes him shudder and contemplate just perhaps leaving Mario behind in that lonely, dark, and dismal mansion. He probably even thought about burning that mansion, giving hardly a thought to Mario still being inside. End one life to potentially save several or more others, right?
But, he presses on. To eventually rescue Mario. To continue to live on as only somebody else's shadow. How depressing.
So, now we consider Paper Mario. During which, a little bit into the game, we see Luigi at home (which, by the by, has a gold-plated "MARIO" printed on the front), whistling to himself, without missing a beat, as he eventually utters, with a smile, "Hmm. I wonder what Mario's doing right now.".
You know very well what he's doing right now, Luigi. You know he's been kidnapped. You know he's in a desperate struggle. But... sure. Fine. Maybe you're just not worried because, ya know... it's Mario, afterall. He's always come out on top. Whether it be Donkey Kong, Bowser, or even his dear old brother. That's just what he does.
And everybody loves him.
So, then.. why do you bother mentioning, when you see Mario, immediately after the aforementioned scene, that you've been "so worried about him"?
Is that your idea of "worrying" about someone, Luigi? Happily whistling a lovely song on your front porch, enjoying the open air, and innocently pondering what your missing brother is up to?
It's almost like he was glad to have Mario gone. Mischievously asking himself "Oh, gee. I wonder what he's doing. He's probably off dead somewhere.". A world where Luigi only ever gets his own game is a world Luigi would probably rather be in. Luigi will always carry about him a very passive aggressive nature, as far as I'm concerned. He, even if he may not know it, hates his brother so much that he wishes he were dead.
Pokemon SoulSilver - "Noctowl! I choose y-..."
Hoothoot is goddamn pain in the ass to level up. On top of him being, somehow, very slow to progress, his attacks consist of tackling, pecking, missing at least every other attempt at firing out Hypnosis, and he can maybe see a few ghosts if you let him stay in your team, un-evolved, long enough to reach the 4th gym leader (also see: Foresight).
But, if you bother leveling him up to 20, he will evolve into a Pokemon far more of use to you named Noctowl. Or whatever you want. In my case, OWLBEBAWK.
However, it's at this point that Hoothoot becomes not only more powerful, but a LOT more creepy. And he loves exploiting that everytime you throw him out to battle.
Does he have to use the eyes? Those red eyes....
Shin Megami Tensei IV - WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!
For the sake of people sensitive to spoilers, I'm going to try and not go into too much detail about these boss fights. I will at least state that some of them were beyond just a little creepy. The most memorable of them, being the one pictured above.
His build-up and backstory made him feel especially intimidating. Even when all was said and done, he stayed so mysterious. Making him inorganic just made it all the more odd. And his voice was especially jarring. Not fitting to his appearance, but an appropriate contrast. Distorted, occasionally unnerving. Coupled with his look and his primal nature, it made him quite possibly my favorite fight of the entire game.
Oh, but to have experienced any of the three actual endings. I got the "Nihilism" ending, without putting much thought into why I was putting myself down that path. Boy howdy, does the game ramp up. And the boss designs just keep getting more terrifying.
Even if these particular boss fights were intentionally terrifying (unlike the rest of this list), I take any chance I can to talk about SMTIV's best aspects.
Rock Band - The Duke of Gravity's questionable due
Rockstars can sometimes get pretty nutty, to say the least. Hendrix playing a guitar with his teeth, Gene Simmons' upright bass "solo" blood strokes, Ozzy's appetite for bat noggins, or even what in the physical realm is going on with the Duke of Gravity's hair.
You've seen it. It's right there. Yeah. What is that? One of my famous bacon-bit brownies for anyone who can explain, backed with sources. Because I'm already finished here. The less time spent looking at and talking about... that, the easier a time I'll have forgetting about it for the time being.
Minecraft - EVERYTHING
Not literally everything, but literally everything in Minecraft is absolutely terrifying. This last section was originally going to just be about the spiders or the Endermen, but then I remembered that literally everything in Minecraft makes tears flow like waterfalls. And not in a TT's Walking Dead sort of way.
Among things like getting lost with no way back to your blood n' sweated homestead, dying far-off and having to remember exactly where in order to retrieve your dropped loot, or someone doing something you just don't like with your world is the most terrifying aspect of Minecraft:
Oh my god.
Those fucking spiders. They're so incredibly tricky to hit, they jump at you, they look really ugly, and they, no matter how appropriate it might be, sound like a spider put to a line of megaphones. Shit you're just not meant to hear so clearly.
The skeletons. Known for their crafty surprise attacks, it's often that you'll get hit before you hear their eerie clatters or see their dull white bodies jogging towards you in a surprisingly efficient manner for what's just essentially a mass of bones.
And the Endermen. Well, the Endermen are pretty self-explanatory.
But, don't even get me started on the gelatinous cubes. Sentient green or red jelly with FACES. Eyes, a mouth, everything. Are you kidding me? Who or what could create such a fearsome beast? No conceivable form of matter from this plane of existence, that's for sure. Wherever they came from, they forced their way into the game and nobody seems to know how they got in or how to get them out.
Look at 'em. It doesn't give a shit. Not even scared of the enclosed space or the fire. It's an intelligent mass of sticky goo with an intent to kill.