6Apr 12This blog is no longer private. I realized that it wasn't fair to everyone who linked to me, because suddenly their blogs made less sense. However, I can't promise I won't edit anything that seems particularly personal. Major personality changes are hard.
I've been blogging on Nail Bitting Combats in a very, very, very different tone than I used to. It's a lot of fun. Go read it if you want to. (The recent Super Metroid review is a big exception to the tone)
9Jan 12Plus a third "you can always read NailBittingCombats to read me complain about the same old BS"
Link number 1: A relatively new audio podcast called the Comedy Button, co-starring Anthony Gallegos and Ryan Scott from GFW Radio (with other new people I didn't recognize but now enjoy). It has nothing to do with games and is probably the dirtiest podcast I've ever listened to. But also the funniest.
Link number 2: An old video podcast called Consolevania is now on iTunes in easy-to download format. It's on a shoestring budget, and the accents are hard to understand, but it's funny as hell and there's some pretty solid game criticism underneath. The whole show is slowly appearing, which is okay because downloads from iTunes are slower than molasses on top of other slow things. This is legitimately the only gaming TV show I can actually say with a straight face I enjoyed. Part of it may be the reviews of games from 2004.
9Dec 11I'm on Blogspot now. I am funnier there. I regret nothing.
A few last notes:
-The Witcher 1 and 2 can be bought on GOG.com for about $24. Having played both, I can heartily recommend them to most people. It's an excellent, intelligent take on Bioware's linear RPG paradigm, and the second game looks fantastic. GOG.com has no DRM. I'm redownloading both and I'm pulling 10 MB per second at my deserted campus library.
-The best internet radio: Groove Salad
5Dec 11Gamespot is a house that I stand in and look around wildly as it falls apart, its ceiling caught on fire and chunks of wood splinter and crack. A shower of brick hits my audience. I'm feeling wildly disloyal to the Gamespot brand these days, particularly when I'm typing my massive, big time blogs like this one.
Moving along, I found myself contrasting the way in which I play games to others due to a certain purchase i made today, PN03. It's a Gamecube game, published by Capcom, breathed into existence by "Mr. Resident Evil 4" and "Mr. Vanquish" himself, Shinji Mikami. Trying to explain the good side of this game is difficult because like Resident Evil 4 the delights of the game are largely skill based - the real gem is getting into the gears behind the scenes and digging into what makes the game tick. The difference between PN03 and Resident Evil 4 is that the latter actually has a shirt on and tries to pretend it's a game in other senses, while PN03 is like a musical clockwork machine that leaves no suggestion to the contrary. Explaining why it works is really just explaining how it works and hoping your audience has an appreciation for its architecture instinctively.
But the way in which the two games approach certain things are definitely different, mainly in evolution of Mikami's design philosophies. And the eternal question for us is, "why do I keep playing?" Is it because I'm competitive? I've seen this answer appear a lot for others and i'm not convinced this matches my personality. I was that dork in high school Physical Education classes running about, spending more effort on looking like he's actually invested in the game than anything else. It's not necessarily a competition with anyone, nor is it a competition with myself. I think this is some people's motivation but it's not mine.
So then why did I continually go back to PN03 today even though it was kicking my butt? I think the matter is simpler than it appears: it's that I know the game will have an excellent payoff because I've seen what feats can be accomplished once the groove of the game is achieved. If you leave the game running without interaction on the start screen, it shows a "sizzle clip" reel of some fantastic gameplay footage. That's the sort of thing that teaches you what this game is supposed to be along with, in a subtle way, the opening cutscene. It's Rez without the rail; a game that leaves you to figure out that, yes, this game is a grand, throbbing machine, and it just so happens to operate on a musical timetable. But it never says these things outright, which is likely why it's misunderstood. And of course, it's fair to say that even if you understand the game's concept you still don't like it - I'm not suggesting that just because one dislikes PN03 necessarily means they don't understand it. But the two often go hand in hand.
But PN03 also got my attention because of lineage and bloodline - what Mikami was fooling around with on his way to Resident Evil 4 is genuinely fascinating to me. So it got me due to association. But what about Resident Evil 4 in the first place? My first impressions went from "This looks nice for the hardware its on" to "This isn't for me; weird controls, too hard, scary enemies and a bizarre mood" to "Maybe some other time." So then what made me finally give it another go? And how did I go from that to the frothing-at-the-mouth fanboy I am today?
This one is more complicated than PN03 because PN03 is actually using my Resident Evil 4 skills to a certain degree - so I'm already getting there, and have a leg up. Resident Evil 4 was a combination of several things, among them the way the game approaches Gave Overs. Not only does the game allow you to recover from a death pretty much instantly, giving you time to experiment and play around with different approaches, but deaths also lower the difficulty of the game. The game tunes itself to you. Having come from a background of gaming that usually avoids Game Overs, oftentimes using them as punishment and setting you back up to a half an hour of progress, I originally found them as a signal that I was being terrible and not doing anything correctly. But here, they're something to be ignored, or even pressed against for more resources like any other game mechanic. Game Overs are there you help you learn the game mechanics a little friendlier, not to slap you when you get the game mechanics wrong (for example, Call of Duty's Game Overs when you stray too far from the path).
In addition to this there was that grand NeoGAF thread called "Resident Evil 4 is still so freaking good" in which players discussed the aforementioned machinery and the way the game moved in ways I had never appreciated fully, in the same way I feel I would have ignored had I played PN03 a year ago. There's something to be said for the power of alternate interpretation. PN03 is hard to discuss because it has few peers - you have to string together vast swaths of gaming algebra (X plus Y minus Z) to approximate its tune. I think this is something unique about Mikami's games: he has a very unique stamp. Resident Evil 4 is the same way but because more people have written about it and shared their experiences (often in the context of "best game of all time") I think it's easier to find universal points of worthiness than it is for PN03, an older game that has been largely decried as mediocre from well-meaning but nonetheless incorrect game press.
So my drive to continue in Resident Evil 4 was built from first understanding this alternate interpretation (and not shrugging it off immediately as unapproachable hyperbole) and then seeing the enthused perspective that followed. Seeing page after page of similar results on NeoGAF made me consider giving the game another go. I'm glad I did. Once I got into the mechanics of the game, the promise of new content never became sweeter. One poster on there said the game changed his life. I'd say it certainly changed the way I think. I think about games a different way, certainly. But in some way, I feel changed from the experience. So PN03 is continued under the hope that it might do something similar. It probably won't, and I know that, but the promise is there. Besides, it was $3.
But if this proves anything, it's that my reason for playing games changes from game to game. Look at Metroid Prime 2. While each environment is a gameplay marvel, demanding more spacial and kinetic memory than any other game I can recall, I'm really playing it for the atmosphere, or the superficial content. Even the average worlds in Metroid Prime 2 contain more creativity and art design masterpieces than I've seen embodied in total on the HD twins. Single rooms take my breath away and make my mind race with interpretation. It's a truly beautiful game, like its predecessor.
Thinking about this is also suggesting other things, maybe not so flattering. Why do I play Half-Life 2 and its ilk? It's really because of the piecemeal story, which I fully admit to enjoying the presentation of above all else. Certainly the nice pacing of the other sections are nice and the puzzles are nifty, but to be honest I'm not playing the series for gameplay, unlike the Portal series. Those I play for laughs, but primarily for more gameplay content. So on a certain level Half-Life's drive comes from a place more superficial. It's not necessarily worse, as Metroid Prime 2 suggests, but it is more fragile in my wandering attention and demands a nearly unwavering perfection.
And it suggests that games like Crysis 2 don't even stand a chance, when I dread the next superficial scripted sequence and even the most enjoyable gameplay segments are all candy shell and no chocolate inside. Why do I want to keep playing this? The answer is that I don't, and that $10 purchase languishes. It's a poisonous question in many ways, one that few games stand up to in my increasingly dour perspective on the industry. It's fair to say my new perspectives paint me as a negative sourpuss, but I have good reasons for being one. If my purchases on here start to sound a little more random, it's more because I've started to understand exactly what catches my attention in some games and not others.
It's also made me appreciate games that otherwise didn't attract my attention. I used to be under the impression that Legend of Zelda games were not for me. The problem was that I was looking for the wrong reason to play. I wanted to be rewarded, when I was younger, with cinematic bravado and grand, epic exploration. My interpretation of Ocarina of Time influenced this. It was one of the first to attempt both "epic" and "cinematic" in 3D and it succeeded on that in many ways that we now feel throughout the industry. But the series builds itself on gameplay mechanics most of all, seeing that its a Nintendo game. If you're not pressing on, looking forward to the promise of a new dungeon with new puzzles to figure out, you're probably not getting the best of the series. I'm now under the wing of Skyward Sword and definitely enjoying it beyond what I previously thought the series was capable of producing inside of me.
If I sound like I'm speaking in absolutes, I'm not. I'm just finding my perspectives and interpretations of games so compelling that it's hard to give them up. This new way of thinking about games feels good. I'm enjoying the games I have more than ever before, and its opening new doors while avoiding disappointments. So my excitement is communicated in more confident statements. The world of gaming never felt so open to me, even if it sounds like I'm hatin'. The real question is, what will tomorrow bring?
2Dec 11Nintendo confirmed it. It's exclusive to Nintendo.com and Gamestop for $50, in April 2012 Pre-orders on Nintendo.com open mid-December here: http://store.nintendo.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Xenoblade?storeId=10001
If Skyward Sword wasn't so good, and I didn't have finals, I would be playing this. It's a fantastic JRPG, and a definite contender for game of the year, if not RPG of the generation. My impressions of the game's PAL version: http://www.gamespot.com/users/~self/show_blog_entry.php?topic_id=m-100-25961138
This is huge and exciting news for Wii owners, and the way in which its being doled out indicates to me that this will not be a very large release. It reminds me a lot of Metroid Prime Trilogy, which is pretty hard to find for a decent price these days. So, if you want it, reserve it now, even if you don't have a console for it at the moment!
Take this, console fans: Crysis 2 at minimum on a PC, 720p resolution, keyboard and mouse, a frame rate somewhere in the 50's, and an extra mod that adds about 500% more particles flying everywhere (just because I can). Still looks much better than the PS3 version.WHATCHA GUNNA DO WITH UR LOW RESOLUTION AND SUB 20 FRAME RATE? LOLOLOL
Sorry. I don't know what came over me. I'm sorry. To be fair, this game kind of brings that out in me.
I have yet to play the original Crysis, which I do intend to pick up eventually (I would like that purchase to lack DRM, but I don't think I'll get that pleasure) but I do know that the second game differs from it in some pretty huge ways, most notably in scope. Crysis 2 is sci-fi Call of Duty 4, with maybe a little Halo in the aftertaste. It deviates in subtle ways that do make the game feel different, but in the end it's like the difference between two flavors of ramen: underneath it all it's really just salt and noodles, neither of which are good for you.
Crysis 2 manages to stand out from the pack by being pretty and throwing around chaos. Thankfully it does both in tandem and it's particularily good at both - while the PC version lacks the fine grained options of the original and has some smeary textures here or there, it's hard to argue when the overall art design is so stunning and cohesive. It's indicative of modern big-budget movie design, in fact; Crysis 2 isn't two steps away from Transformers 3. Associations in this case aren't flattering for either party, but Crysis' chaos tends to be more manageable and definitely more fun. Where the Transformers franchise eventually diluted its grand battles by cluttering up the screen with extra explosions and ridiculous convoluted action sequences, Crysis 2 remains understandable and capable of delivering the underlying goal: the flavor of the day.
The flavor of the day, it just so happens, is ultra linear shooter topped with a delight in scripted sequences and a cacophany of screamed orders, a storyline that's READ TO YOU IN CAPS LOCK EXCLUSIVELY with quick cuts and no character development, and a roller coaster pacing. Crysis 2 is a slight mix of the flavor of the day, giving some bigger areas between the rails and some more shootery options within the confines of orange balls of fire, but the entire experience feels so heavily controlled the little grams of freedom the game offers come off as grudging obligatory inclusion rather than actual experimentation. The game almost feels animosity towards its own predecessors and comes off as a moaning teenager if anything: "So why do I have to let you run around again? Fine."
The reason for this is the way the game is paced. The game opens with sequences that can barely be counted as interactive, and while it shows off Crysis 2's fantastic graphical applications, it's also pretty dull. Maybe if I were five years younger and hadn't played Goldeneye Wii, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 1 and 2, and the Half-Life series I would find these sequences entertaining, but these days what passes of interactivity is really grinding my gears. Everybody's done it better and the whole thing just feels routine. The mere fact that the sections aren't skippable pervades the experience with a sense of an alien, burgeoning ego. It's there just to remind you that while the shooter bits are fun, the game is actually EXTREME and FAST and PACED BRILLIANTLY. At least in this game you're allowed to be the main character for once, right Call of Duty?
So the game ebbs and flows between some nicely done open areas with cool flanking options and environments that surprise the player with traversal options, but gums up the in-betweens with dull cutscenes with green military readouts flying all over the place (trying to give you the illusion that there's anywhere to go other than forward), the occasional dramatic scene with awful animation and script, and some seriously limited linear segments where the game feels more like a cheap, uninspired rail shooter than a full-fledged FPS. And the game doesn't even trust itself to leave the player alone for a few seconds in open combat, with a special button that shows the player where the enemies are and then offering to tell the player what to do if they're scared of the openness. Hell, it's not like we don't have the vastly popular sandbox genre or anything. Thankfully the game doesn't hamper you with much AI to worry about on the ally front, giving it that Halo feel.
This is in addition to how much interface stuff they shove onto the screen. The HUD and health meters are ideal, but must we always have a glowing dot telling us where to go next? It's not like it's ever some big secret. How would I have ever known you're going to use the "lift up door like strong man" animation again? On that door right in front of me that looks like the door a hundred feet behind me? I couldn't see that one coming. And the game is constantly pestering you to move forward, not letting you stop and smell the roses. I mean, sure, Half-Life is just as linear as this, if not more so in the earlier iterations, but at least it let you look around and get your bearings now and then. Perhaps the game fears that I will look behind the cardboard cutouts, so to speak?
Well, the game has nothing to fear there. Mechanically and graphically, this game shines like a champ. The controls are flawless and the combat itself is extremely satisfying, even without the graphical veneer. The suit powers are a nice upgrade from the usual "disposable soldier grunt" Call of Duty paradigm, and while the gun and suit skill trees aren't particularly deep, they're certainly functional and beneficial on some level. Some of the music's pretty, while some of it is annoying (like that main menu BUUUUAAAAAAAAHHHHH "orchestra" noise). I added the mod that makes explosions huge and more particles every time you shoot your gun, because I feel like the game should have been that way in the first place. Looks fantastic and hilarious.
But this is the problem I have with these games, and they're dime a dozen this time of year. They're so interested in making you breathless with their PACE and EXTREME that the mechanics suffer even if they're completely solid. Perhaps this is why modern shooters have eschewed quality campaigning for the usual multiplayer bonanzas: pace is largely dictated by skill in that arena and is exclusively powered by the mechanics underneath. And hell, it's hard to make a quality game of decent length and have it move this fast. So why don't we slow down, open 'er up a bit, and quit with the barrage of BS. Because I am having fun with this game, it just gives me a bloody headache.
Zelda? Xenoblade? Bah. Now that I have been immersed deeply in the bountiful waters of Metroid Prime 2, I would like to discuss what each game does better.
I'm halfway through Metroid Prime 2 and I've been told the best is yet to come (notably Sanctuary Fortress), so I'm plugging on.
-Has anti-aliasing, in some fashion. Oh yes. You could tell me Retro managed to super-sample this game on the Gamecube and I'd believe you because these developers are gods among men.
EDIT: I went back to try my Gamecube copy, and there appears to be more anti-aliasing on the Wii version (probably due to leftover power - the first has simple geometry), but there's still something. Not sure what. If I can find a technical answer I'll post it.
-Sure it has the ice level, the lava level, the grass level, but you really have to admit the color palatte shifts are nice.
-A really nice, distinct alien world. Still incredibly detailed, and not even for its time.
-A lot more well rounded and mainstream. As much as I'm about to heap praise on the second, it really is an extension on the first and as such they kind of are part 1 and 2 of the same experience.
-Less of a focus on combat when exploring.
-As awesome as the new stuff is in Echoes, the fact that there's really only one type of ammo to manage (Missiles) is a nice thing. Sorry Echoes.
-Came out first.
-The Gamecube version has the original Metroid if you beat and sync Metroid Fusion. Oh special!
Metroid Prime 2 Echoes
-Looks better. The art design? Oh my god. I mean, hell, I have never seen a game with better art design. In this game, every single bloody room is a treat. The enemies are so creative. Oh man. This cannot be on the Gamecubeor even the Wii. I'm playing on Wii and widescreen 480p puts a sacred look on my face every time. Sorry Resident Evil 4, I found a new pretty face. Even the most boring rooms with simple elevators or mechanic puzzles have some sort of brilliant twist to look at, some sort of visual feedback that was entirely optional for the developers to include and yet is perfect for the setting. I don't even mind game-overs because the game over screen is so cool looking.
-Sounds better. The composer just went all out. Listen to how well this song sets the mood. Perfect. On point in every aspect. The monsters also sound just as good as, if not better than, the original. I want to go buy a surround sound system just for this.
-Spacially demanding. I have to play this game for three or four hour chunks because you lose the spacial layout of the environment if you take too many breaks. And yet I also find little issue in tracking down what I need to do next, even in some of these gigantic spaghetti levels, just because the level design is so accomplished and it's so much fun to explore. But the individual areas are bigger, better connected, and there's less of the "Phazon Mines" sort of thing the first sometimes fell into, where it was largely a linear gauntlet of challenges ramping up to a new gameplay mechanic. Those were okay, but they were Prime 1's weakest moments. The second, in comparison, is incredibly dense, packed with tons of things you want to take care of, and you're constantly reassessing the priorities of things.
-The bosses are even more creative than the original and tend to be tougher. The Wii release lowered their difficulty in some cases, which I think I'm appreciating, but even then they're a sweaty struggle. Common enemies are also full of quirks to exploit and learn.
-Level design even in a room-by-room basis is amazing. It's clear the developers just threw off their limitations from the first game and went crazy. Sure, it is a step up from the first, but the payoff is worth it. It's breathtaking, some of the things they've come up with. The game deluges you with upgrades and then strings together rooms with ways in which to use the upgrades that is just brilliant.
-Apart from the first thirty minutes of the game, most of Prime 2's mechanics are communicated purely through the strength of the level design. Sure, there's some text when you first go to the Dark World for the first time, and there's the item jingle where it tells you how to use an item. But this game is such a switch from Skyward Sword, whose verboseness is still its biggest weakness. Prime 2 just sits back and lets its strengths take over.
-The atmosphere, I would say, is better because it's more varied. Each of the game's distinct environments is unique in certain ways, but once you get to the Dark World all hell breaks loose and you're just trying to manage so much at once. It's broody, ominous, depressing, everything you want from a sinister world. It feels so evil and well crafted. You don't want to be there. Nothing about it is inviting. Game mechanic wise, graphics wise, sound wise, nothing about it is comforting. But it still looks and plays amazingly well and so you keep pressing on, through this foreboding landscape, trying to make things happen.
-The scans are better across the board. Some of the space pirate text is genuinely funny.
What they both do
-Exploration is just as good in either.
-They both run at 480p with 60 frames per second, which is more than you can say about most games in the HD era. As good as Resident Evil 4 looks, Metroid Prime beats with with a higher frame rate, better resolution, and whatever minor anti-aliasing magic they used.
-The Wii controls make the game move so quickly. Like buttah. Exploration is no big deal when you can spin and turn and twist with nary a pause. Echoes in particular really works with this because of how easy it is to activate the Dark World's safe-light-dome things. In addition, the widescreen presentation is a godsend, and when you install it to a USB drive there are absolutely no load times. I do not exaggerate. This goes for both games.
-If Metroid Prime 2 continues to be as good as it is, if not better, it may even trump the first on my "favorite games ever" list. However, they are both high up and I love them. If you don't like them (particularily the first one), it is probably proof you aren't human.
-Too verbose. Across the board. Everything from tutorials to normal dialogue.
-Aliasing. 24-bit color. Dithering. Go Wii.
-Occasional "these controls aren't listening to me" moments.
-Anything and everything related to the controls outside of the small exceptions above. Flying is perfect, and don't listen to anybody say otherwise.
-The tone. Sense of humor. Character design. World design. All of these: very cohesive, well done, and creative. Oddball.
-The graphics, apart from the Wii limitations. Breathtaking sense of scope and brilliant animation.
-Dungeon design. Aside from the fairly simple first dungeon, this is really quality stuff. They use your arsenal quite extensively.
-The inventory system, allowing for a bit of choice in what to upgrade, buy and use.
-The music, when it's not just ambiance.
-How much there is to explore when you're not just battering your head against the dungeons. It's not too broad, and you won't get lost in it, it's just nice to have some side stuff to do and try.
-Characters! Each and every one has such unique design and feels like a real person. I'm not getting the "anime trope" criticism here.
-Being hypercritical of this game. What's the point?
-Getting distracted by Metroid Prime 2 Echoes. WHY HAVE I NEVER PLAYED THIS SERIOUSLY WHAT
-Metroid Prime 3 is foul. Yuck yuck yuck.
-New Humble Indie bundle also distracting me.
-I hope that console games quickly realize that you cannot compete with iCrap on a pure content level. "More content" doesn't mean "better" in all cases. However, Ridge Racer Vita is not acceptable.
There's a growing sentiment that the gaming industry has moved beyond Zelda games. For example, VentureBeat's review, which reads more like a screed against Nintendo's lack of forward motion. This confuses me greatly. Every Zelda game feels different from the rest, and Skyward Sword is no exception. Dare I say it feels the freshest of all.
The tech press has become fashion press. They don't necessarily discuss qualities of games in meaningful terms, but rather judge things on a "coolness" barometer. Motion controls? Those are not cool. Nintendo? They are not cool. They're quality, they're serious and neat, but they're not cool.
I know I'm painting a broad brush across many sites, some of which are much more engrained into this sort of thinking than others. I know it's also kind of a silly thing to say the tech press doesn't think Zelda is cool, considering the notably high 95 Metacritic score for Skyward Sword. But the growing sentiment almost feels that the game got that score in spite of the fact that it's a Zelda game. This runs counter to the newest edition of Elder Scrolls, where the press was almost lapping at the feet of the series, just waiting to bestow great scores and only holding back a few points begrudgingly due to the inevitable bugs and wonkiness present.
VentureBeat's review seems to signify this, if only because it lacks any sense of subtlety or grace. It seems almost proud of what it percieves to be its counter-culture opinion, when in reality I feel like Zelda has been largely maligned by the press and only covered because, well, it sells and it's a good game I guess.
It's also worth wondering about the opinion itself. Why have a person who doesn't like Zelda review Zelda? Sure, the opinion is valid, but is it useful? If someone literally dislikes everything about Zelda and wants anything but Zelda, which is clearly the case for those calling for Zelda to become more like Skyrim (which is, arguably, an entirely different genre), what use is their opinion to the rest of us who harbor less extreme opinions? As much as my hyperbole is fun to write about Resident Evil 4, I won't pretend it's useful to most people.
This perception could be way off. But it's a theory nonetheless.
The Game Itself
I bought Skyward Sword day one. It's the first Zelda game I have ever done this for. This is because I have finally "figured Zelda out," so to speak. And really, the game's closest peer is probably Portal 2.
I feel like the game takes many cues from Portal 2. They're both linear puzzle games (Zelda less so due to the item-based focus, but still). It shares the same tone: surface level is lighthearted, but underneath there lies uneasiness. In terms of plot alone, the formula's execution calls for not only a routine "this again" but also a bit of self awareness. And Skyward Sword is very possibly the funniest Zelda game, with amusing character designs and, very, very rarely, laugh out loud dialogue. I wonder if this was inspired by Portal 2, or merely a tonal shift.
The motion plus combat is one of many improvements to the Zelda series, and it's hard to understand complaints against them. They're, without a better word to describe them, perfect for Zelda's combat. Zelda has always has combat but it's never been quite right with the rest of the puzzle structure. Here it feels cerebral. The game demands quick thinking and matching motions to each enemy. This is not just some fluff piece - this is beneficial to every part of the experience. On a technical level, they're quick and responsive.
Other improvements to experience in the opening: genuine uses of rupees (you get a ton of them as usual, but you spend it on almost anything) coupled with what feels like a real inventory system, making the game a bit more dynamic in terms of combat possibilities. In addition, the sound and visuals got a great upgrade. The orchestrated soundtrack is mesmerising and beautiful, and the graphics are expressive and beautiful. Its strengths are in animation and emotion, using these as focal points for combat, cutscenes, and everything in between.
I haven't played enough to get a hold on anything that may potentially annoy me later on, but the game's scope is certainly wide and as delightful as I could have hoped. I was expecting less than I got, and it's a pleasent surprise. I've played for about three hours.
I expected Xenoblade to overshadow Zelda, and to be honest it's a little annoying that such a thing didn't happen. Now I have to choose which to play more. Ugh. How irriating.
The Symphonic CD
A nice, pretty set of tunes. A bit over 40 minutes.
If I have any complaints, it's that the song choices don't always seem to take advantage of the symphonic orchestra - you would want arrangements that amplify either the pure emotion and expression, or aim for bombast. Some of the songs are just like, "hey it's Zelda but live! Pretty cool!" And other songs are absolutely incredible. Wind Waker's whole movement is like this. The series has some great music and even if some of the symphonic stuff isn't quite as well chosen as I'd like it still flows like a quality "best of" Zelda music disc.
I'd say it's good enough to get the game ASAP to get the disc, particularily because the game is so good. But if not, go listen to it on Youtube. Worth a listen at least once.
Several things happened since my last blog.
Number one: I hacked my Wii. I did this because there are many games I want to import in 2012, and some other added conviniences. The LEGAL, PIRACY-FREE benefits of doing this includes running games I LEGALLY, ALREADY OWN off of a USB hard drive (which eliminates load times, except for a notable exception below, but entirely in Metroid Prime Trilogy) and being able to run homebrew applications, of which there are plenty of legal ones. Plus, I own Quake 1, and there's a version you can play on the Wii. That's cool.
Number two: I made a few new friends, which I've been alluding to for a few blogs now, and one of them owns Xenoblade Chronicles in the European PAL edition. So, I made a nice little copy of the game on my USB hard drive, which I intended to delete after I gave the game a nice, lengthy go just to see what us Americans are missing out on. And you know, I think I'll have to keep that disc image on my drive a little longer. Just for, yennow, safe keeping and all.
I have so much to say about this game that this blog will be really long. Ready? Let's go.
The fact that it's a Wii game with a 91 Metacritic score is notable. The fact that it's a Wii JRPG with such a high score is even more notable. Not only is the platform working against it (most reviewers find the Wii's limited hardware a detriment) but the genre has been battered to heck and back in the past generation for one reason or another.
But suffice to say, the game lives up to such a noble calling. How could such a game manage critical acclaim? By being the best JRPG I've ever played. My only bit of unhappiness with the game so far is that every other game in the genre isn't retroactively tweaked with the things Xenoblade does so absolutely well, making Xenoblade without peer. How depressing. This game is so forward thinking it makes pretty much every other JRPG worth a little less in my mind. Possible game of the year, contender for game of the generation, option in game of the genre.
The reason is simple. This game is solid. It doesn't cut any corners. It's got a great story, a fantastic sense of what it wants to accomplish and the addictive gameplay to get us there. It tries many new things with the JRPG genre, which flawlessly work together to make a fantastic journey the likes of which we have seen so little of this generation. It's the peak of the PS2-era JRPG design, both evolving them naturally and making new innovations the likes of which inspire a genuine sense of wonder in my heart. Nintendo, you dirty scoundrels, localize this bloody game.
The game looks unimpressive at first, mostly because the game starts out with some very close-up shots of models looking like they were slapped together using slobs of clay. Kind of reminded me of Timesplitters 2. However, it quickly becomes apparent that this was a distinct choice - that the game is using the lack of detail in a single, significant way. It's something Xenoblade does incredibly well, and it's across every facet of the game: consistency.
Apart from some slightly better animation in certain cutscenes, every single scene in the game is rendered using the same engine. The same beautiful 60 FPS, 480p Wii graphics engine. From the bogglingly busy opening cutscene, which has what I could only estimate at many dozens, if not up to several hundred independent units running about, locked in broad-strokes battle. And this is why the consistency is so breathtaking: Xenoblade is goddamn epic.
I haven't felt a deep set desire to explore a game world since my first few spawns in Minecraft. But where Minecraft started to grate due to the lack of inventive vistas, Xenoblade's scope never stops impressing. From the epic battles in the cutscenes, with characters reacting and emoting with brilliant facial expressions and relatively good animation, to the wide-open landscapes with dozens of enemies dotting the plains, the game's breadth is a sight to behold. So, sure, the individual models aren't that great, and there are load times (even installed to a USB hard drive!), but the game makes up for it by never wavering, substitutingfor a pre-rendered cutscene and introducing something that breaks the illusion. Even some vast, staggering sweeps and massive long shots are left rendered by the Wii's (apparently formidable) strength.
And this wouldn't matter an iota if the story wasn't interesting. And sure, the game falls into a few smaller anime tropes. But where it does so, it does with ingenuity, unexpected bravado, and amazing sty1e, and makes up for it by breaking expectations in other ways. Again, the scale helps. The stakes are well represented, and it becomes very clear what's risked in the opening act. And it all comes together with engaging characters and good writing.
None of the characters are anime tropes. They're all multi-dimensional characters with distinct personalities, combat attitudes and animations and facal expressions that reflect both. These are characters that seem to breathe within their confines of a game with ease, expressing their hopes, dreams, fears, and personalities through the well-written conversations that ensue. And the game doesn't waste any more time than the player wants to, with a storyline pace that I haven't seen quite this fast since Radiant Historia or even Chrono Trigger.
I suggest going into the story blind and letting it tell its own story, but this paragraph will sum up the gist if you like. The game takes place on the bodies of two gigantic monstrosities that battled and fought viciously ages ago. Now, the few remaining human factions (or "Mons") live their lives in fear of mechanized beings known as the Mechon. It's clear this world contains many secrets from past civilizations, as much of the environment is dotted with structures of unknown origin or use. A year before the game's true beginning, a man named Dunbar wields a sword named the "Monado," apparently the only weapon that can effectively destroy the Mechon. He fights off the Mechon force, but at a great cost to his body. A year later, the story follows the study of a boy named Shulk, who tries to unlock the secrets of not only the Monado, but the surrounding structures that the Mons depend on for survival. (That's about the first hour or so.)
The story clips by. Exposition is pretty reasonable considering the depth of the material, and if it's communicated at all it's usually shown through explosive, short and engaging cutscenes. Much of the game's world is left to environmental communication and player-initiated conversation. This makes for a very on-demand experience that feels fresh in this generation's reliance on linear funnelling and awkward sit-there-and-I'll-talk-to-you exposition.
And this feeds into how the entire game flows, because the entire game is on-demand. There are two principles to the game's general structure: one, everything is beneficial, and two, only the main story is mandatory. The non-story material, however, is vast. I cannot begin to communicate how much side-quest stuff there is in this game. You can get all of it in gigantic heaps and solve it all at the same time if you like. And again, everything is beneficial in some way.
It's crazy how much this game has been game-ified. You get EXP for almost everything. Found a new landmark? EXP. Had a conversation between units? EXP. Backtracking? You'll probably get genuinely useful items. Had some cool story-related cutscene occur? EXP. Probably. If not more. Finish a quest? Tons of stuff, with EXP, gold, and items.
And then the quests themselves. They run the full scale in what they demand, but they're usually bite sized and force you to go to places you would want to explore anyway. And the best part is that, unless there's a good reason for it, the quests are automatically managed for you on the fly. You got the conditions met? EXP and gold immediately, even in the middle of battle. If you're almost there, a reminder pops up telling you how far away you are from getting the conditions. And if it's something you're supposed to find or track down, usually it shows a notification on your map so you know where to look. It's streamlined, smooth, and utterly beautiful game design. Add to this the "everything is beneficial" mantra, and the result is so addictive and delightful I had trouble tearing myself away to write these impressions, as much as I wanted to. It's like it has beaten MMORPG's at their own game.
Non-Gameplay Mechanics (world, layout, etc.)
In addition to this, the game is designed so that you always have a few quests that are out of your reach, and a bit of the map that contains monsters too powerful for you to deal with yet. And if you find a monster too powerful that woops your sorry tush? You're set back a few minute's time, with a little EXP boost to make it worth your while and the ability to warp back to town to regroup. Yes, that's right: you can warp to any landmark you want. Though considering the rewards you'll find even on the most boring of routes, you may not want to.
You can save anywhere, which is great. And you find so much loot and random drops that you'll have plenty of wiggle room for customization for your units, even in the opening hours of the game. Meanwhile, the world is seamless save a few random loading times for interior dungeons, meaning you can waltz into and out of town with nary a pause. I only noted a few things popping in as I explored, which never impacted gameplay. World design is flawless, with nooks and crannies offering, if not interesting quest locations and cool items, at least a fantastic vista of the already incredible view.
I'll also note here, in the misc. section, that there are numerous options for camera control and other various tabulations to tweak. Everything from camera speed to subtitles. Also, Japanese is an option, but I'll get to that in a moment. In addition, once outside of battle, all of your characters' HP meters rise to full pretty quickly. Another interesting mechanic that really doesn't take anything away from the experience.
And then we get to the battle system. Is it too much to profess my undenying love for it? What introduces itself as a chaotic bunch of buttons flying about and combos randomly triggering QTE's for no-one to respond to, turns into one of the most engaging chunks of strategy I've found myself immersed in a long while. It reminds me of Sacrifice, in a strange way; that 2000 PC RTS game shares more than a few notable characteristics with Xenoblade, I must admit.
Basically, once battle has been triggered, your units will automatically attack with standard whacks of the sword. In addition to this, the player has little orbs on the bottom of the screen that represent various extra skills that, once triggered, have a designated "cool down" period in which they cannot be used. What makes this work is how these skills work together - or in certain cases, how they do not. Do something in a lame order and you've got to sit there and wait while your units smack the enemies with boring, normal attacks. But do it the right way, paying attention to your CPU-controlled friends, and you'll be rewarded with both Combo Attacks (an actual game mechanic where you choose every-body's next move and react to QTE's) and combo attacks (where you, on your own, merely string together attacks in a cool way that deals a ton of damage, inflicts statuses on the enemies and makes your cool down time more manageable).
Besides this, several other mechanics introduce themselves, such as party morale, an incredibly in-depth customization system, and the Monado itself. These all add up to, again, an initial mess that with practice starts to make sense and then starts to be genuinely fun when you can wield these strategies against common enemies. Plus, many enemies won't attack you first, and some only on eye contact, so if you don't feel like combat while you're hunting for something, it's relatively easy to avoid.
Pretty; vaguely European, and seems like it connects together in some nice thematic ways. Good range of instruments. Reminds me of Wind Waker, though time will tell if it's quite that good. I'm impressed so far though, and I like how it slowly transitions from track to track as you enter new areas.
The English voice acting is very English, in the British sense of the word. Lovely accents. If NoA has any decency, they will release the game as it is overseas with those great accents, because they're great.I haven't heard a bad voice so far. Well picked actors. Not quite as good as Final Fantasy XII, but reminds me a lot of that one. Shulk is a lot more interesting than Vann though, and the characters are in general a lot better than pretty much any Final Fantasy game.
Japanese can be selected if you want it, which is cool, but the English is so good I stuck with it.
I would pay many, many dollars for a localized copy of this baby, Nintendo of America. No extra work, just this game, as it is, for NTSC consoles. I'd buy multiple copies.I may sit tight for 2012's initial plans, but I will own a copy of this game by next summer, imported or not. And I encourage everyone else to give it a go, if they can. This is worth your attention, no matter what the cost.
Operation Rainfall is not lying. This game is worth getting angry over. Play it. It's so good I will probably play it to completion on my friend's PAL copy by accident. Time just slips by when you play it.
Particularily if it's a good type of crazy?Game Impressions:
Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)
You know how focused Galaxy and Galaxy 2 were? Even more focused than that. Now in 3D, 30 FPS, slightly better shaders, and in smaller chunks.
I expected this game to be solid, but a little unfinished and lacking in content. I was wrong. EAD Tokyo, you are gods among men. The game comes with a staggering amount of post-game content and a delightful amount of challenges to keep anyone busy, with enough of a pace to let normal platformer Joe gamers see everything there is to see within a fairly brisk time period.
The game was very obviously designed to take advantage of the 3D. The two options let you choose where the screen sits: either on Mario, or as the camera. It's hard to describe, but basically one option has all of the 3D going into the screen, so that the game sets into the screen and it's like you're looking into a box, or some of the game pops out and Mario's level with the screen's depth. Some levels look better in certain settings. Either way, it's impressive. I can't play it without 3D. It's just too much extra information and pretty to ignore.
Like I said, I don't think this game is good enough to legitimize the entire 3DS platform, if only because the Galaxy games are still more creative (particularily in terms of visuals and scope). But this game is definitely their peer. Without a doubt. If you have a 3DS, you must own this, and if you don't, this is a damn good reason, apart from Mario Kart and the bombs dropping early next year.
Dead Space Extraction (Wii)
Listening to the usual hullabaloo following the newest Call of Dooty video game, I decided to fire up my roommate's sister's copy of this game, seeing as its largely in the same genre. First person scripted sequences with occasional shoot-at-the-bad-guys type thing. And you know what? This game is actually, like, really good. Games, why must you impress me so?
The story-line is genuinely interesting (though to be fair I was expecting Sci-Fi channel nonsense and this surely is not that) and the graphics are pretty darn impressive. The game plays like Doom 3 in a rail shooter format, and it's genuinely fun to play. It's intense, interesting, and oddly demanding for a rail shooter. More content than I would have guessed, and a heck of a lot more polish.
Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)
And then I wanted to play some game that was, like, cool. So I grabbed my new friend's borrowed copy of DKCR and had a blast because this game is fun as nubbins.
I also gave some time to Metroid Prime and it's amazing how well Retro introduces the player to new gameplay mechanics so seamlessly you don't even feel like you're being taught something new. It's brilliant. It's currently residing at the top of my Christmas list.
Metroid Prime Trilogy (Wii)
How could I have forgotten I owned this? Oh, yeah, because I bought it new for $50 back when it was out and I take things I love for granted. I'm laughing at you, yes you.
I'm pretty sure this has anti-aliasing, runs at 60 FPS, and maxes out the resolution of its respective console with widescreen (480p), making it better than anything else ever. It's a shame the third iteration felt the need to smear bloom all over the screen, or else I would be even more impressed.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)
I heard online that this game was out in Wal-Marts. Even though I pre-ordered at Target, I went to go look. No luck. Oh well. Sunday it is.
I'm going to have a good Winter Break.
Other things that aren't really good video games:
-My forehead is healing. Scabs are fun to poke.
-I'm presenting Wizard People, Dear Reader live on Sunday. Oh yes.
-SomaFM! Groove Salad!Heaven! How on earth did I forget about this?
These things happened:
-I played Mario. Still playing Mario. But that was at the end of the weekend.
-I got a brief bout of stomach flu.
-I got an extended period of extreme vertigo.
-I blacked out and woke up about an hour later (I think) with my forehead bleeding from a pretty deep and long abrasion of some sort. I was sitting in a chair and "came to" in the same position, as far as I can tell, so I have absolutely no idea what happened.
-I got my copy (finally) of Infinite Jest. The first few chapters amused me while I was in the worst of the above.
-I played a demo of Skyward Sword. It was pretty good. I like the controls.
-I sampled Donkey Kong Country Returns (I made a new friend and gave their copy a go). Retro Studios never disappoints. I was surprised as to how funny it was, but I wasn't surprised as to how good the gameplay is and how it's all communicated to the player flawlessly.
-I made new friends.
-I watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 twice. I finally realized DH's one flaw: it's where the series becomes too self-referential and ego-centric. Everything else is cool and beans.
So it's Tuesday and I'm still riding the wave this weekend made. Even more things happened than that (some things that might break Gamespot's TOS to mention?) so rest assured I have plenty of excuses as to why I'm absolutely crazy right now. Hungle giggle snaps.
--- Super Mario 3D Land impressions:
-Definitely in the ballpark of the Galaxy games, both in quality and level design. Which is a great thing.
-Feels like Galaxy remixed with New Super Mario Bros Wii and Super Mario Bros 3 mechanics.
-Looks fantastic. Particularily in 3D. I'm a fan of 3D, but this just makes me more so. It's more or less Galaxy with less of a draw distance and without the 60 frames per second (boo!) but with more advanced shaders. It really gives off a good idea of what the 3DS can do: a heck of a lot in the right hands.
-Music is pretty good, but limited.
-Lots to see and do here. Lots of post-game content and challenges for those who find SM3DL good enough to live inside of for a while.
-Easy at first, but the difficulty curve goes up pretty fast. Faster than Galaxy 1, but not faster than Galaxy 2.
--- Overall notes:
It's whooping my sorry little butt because I'm getting ambitious. I love 3D platformers like this (linear with the occasional open level or two) and this is the cream of the crop, so I want to excel.
If you don't have a 3DS, this will be one of the big great reasons to get one when the library is a little more meaty. Nintendo may have faltered a few times with the release of the system, but their software is as solid as ever.
There are other things going on, but I'll save them for another blog. If Super Mario 3D Land doesn't deserve its own blog, what does?
I kid you not, this is exactly what I found next to my bed this morning in my dream diary. Edited only for context.
Tuesday, Sept 08
-I miss smelly markers.
-Performed a rock opera for elementary kids and their parents live, the first act was ****ing awful, lots of shuffling and off lines, the second was really awesome, really felt it flow
-Goofy-movie-like film creation followed in the auditorium hall on campus. Used real people, no animations, which would have been very goofy
-The last Eragon book got really awesome reviews in a newspaper falling montage like in Citizen Kane, I was peeved because I would have to read it and I didn't want to
-Amon Tobin collaboration track (remix of Verbal), blows my brain
-I started a dream diary now that I reliably remember my dreams now that I take pills that make me tired. I haven't seen any patterns. However, on Monday I filled a whole page of notes and pictures!
-My day has been exhaustingly good.
Using confirmation bias rather than stupid olde-English to bring in the clicks. My I direct your attention to the Sin and Punishment: Star Successor review. The game is for Wii and I like it.
This blog would have been called, "Nintendo opinions" if I wasn't being ridiculous.
I'm particularily loving everything about Twilight Princess apart from the bad textures and the awful light collecting wolf segments. The dungeons where you play as Link are awesome. I dare say I like it more than OOT, which I could never get the logic down pat. But the wolf segments are making my playtime a little less enjoyable and I feel like I have to struggle through. Thank goodness for podcasts. I wouldn't game without them.
But the game is making me think about the WiiU and what's been up with that. It's really not an uncommon opinion that Nintendo's handling of the console has been poor thus far. We know a vague estimation of its power, and a vague idea of how it works, but nothing more. Right now they should be getting mindshare, riding on the cutails of the iPad and its competitors! I certainly have no interest in tablets but the DS showed me the innovation that springs from two screens, and a momentary imagination exercise makes me interested in what is to come.
My plan is to watch and wait. If the WiiU relaunch that Iwata promised is worthwhile and shows off some really great features, I may upgrade to it. It depends on price factors and how the 3DS does. If the 3DS goes nowhere I think I might just drop handhelds entirely and go console. Besides, by the time the WiiU is out I will be living alone and enjoying the subtle bliss of no people. Who needs handhelds then?
If the 3DS does okay and gives me a steady stream of releases to enjoy at good prices (none of this $50 nonsense, and a game every few months) then my interest in the WiiU may be less of a factor. But if both the WiiU and the 3DS fail to live up to my interest demands, then I may focus back into the PC again.
I'm excited to see what Nintendo does with HD but I feel like NoA has truely gone madly, intensely insane with their lack of legitimate games being localized. If they won't bring over games that have done well in other regions (arguably because people in the US imported so heavily) what's to say their focus will suddenly change? They claim to be interested in catering to all gamers, and yet, they aren't. Just because you say you will doesn't mean anything. The Wii drought has been not only a ridiculously arrogant move but also solvable.
I want to stick with Nintendo because they gave me what I felt the 360 (and probably the PS3) lacked - real quality software in a generation of mediocrity and lowered expectations, hiding under a facade of prettier explosions, louder kabooms and social interaction. And I'd like to keep sticking with them, because as much as I like the PC, sometimes it's a little less reliable than I'd like. I still don't have Bioshock's sound working, for example. So, I want to like Nintendo's stuff. They just have to show me what they've got. I've got my critic's hat ready for business, but it feels like a waiting game that's wasting everyone's time.
Nanrowrimo isn't getting done because writing reviews is more fun. Also, playing the games I'm reviewing.
Twilight Princess is still, like, the best. Oh my goodness. I am in love. I might review that in a year once I recall it well enough to write about.
-See title. Reflect. Stare at your screen for a moment. Move on.
-Carl Sagan's Ghost - Colonial Spa EP(probably a repeat, but worth repeating, because I haven't posted enough free ambient)
-Small Demons(I got in, seems pwetty fawn)
-I love you Nintendo.And whoever is running your press release headlines.
-I like Anathem by Neal Stephensen.
-I enjoyed Adventureland a lot.
-My alarm clock didn't wake me up this morning and I woke up five minutes before I was supposed to go to work. Despite this major catastrophe, work went by very quickly.
That's probably the first time I've ever mentioned my job on here. Did I mention that I sell paint? I know a lot about paint. For example, should you use a primer? The answer is yes. Additionally, I also cannot see red.
-Bon Iver's "Bon Iver" album is probably my favorite round plastic thing that produces music when you put it into a specialized device. Florence and the Machine's new album is worth a few listens if you like soul, you like really bombastic, epic and theatrical things, or if you are me/my clones.
-Twilight Princess is a fun game. Even with Wii waggle, which, need I mention, is not awful like Okami-Wii's controls. Soastic but responsive enough to be reliable. I like the pointer controls for shooting things as well.
-Mario Kart Wii is a fun game. It's better looking than I remember. I don't have Double Dash or DS anymore and this does not bother me. I don't intend to buy the 3DS one because the Wii one is sufficient for my demanding needs.
-Safari keeps on zooming out of webpages on me and I don't know why.
I pre-ordered Super Mario 3DS Land and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. I got them at Target, which means I'll get a $5 gift card if I follow through. OH HOW SPECIAL.
My hype level is in check. I am excited and looking forward to both, but I'm not looking for life-changing events (like Resi4 or Metroid Prime or something). It's like, I know that both will be incredibly fun games with definite things that will impress me (Zelda will be my first Motion Plus, Mario will have great custom-made graphics and levels in 3D). I'm not looking for it to validate my consoles, or my purchases, or anything. I'm just looking for fun. It's the perfect time for me to get these games, really.
It's weird because I've actually gotten more hyped for games that were established and I just hadn't gotten around to them. For example, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. When that came in the mail, it was huge for me. I need to get back to that at some point, I've just had lots of other things to play. And this summer when my views on the gaming medium stupidly hinged on the quality of Child of Eden. It let me down big time, but the more unhealthy view was definitely obvious.
And it helps that I have other games in the respective series' to play. Galaxy 2 doesn't have a clear save file on my new Wii yet and I played Twilight Princess seriously so many years ago I barely recall most of what happens. It's not like I'm hoping I can replicate the experiences with them, but I know if I feel the urge I have other things to play.
I've gone, in the past three years, like this:
Xbox 1, Gamecube, and old PC heavy
A brief diversion into Xbox 360
That transition has been pretty seamless. And now I'm happily riding out the end of the Wii era and it's been a good time. What happens next? Who knows? All I know is that I've been transformed personally as a gamer, and I'm a huge Nintendo fan now - generally due to the direction that the 360 and PS3 has been going, of which elements and games interest me but the general thesis statement is alienating. But I will most surely get into HD gaming eventually, and I full intend to sample the best of the 360 and PS3 eventually (hopefully much of it in enchanced PC flavour). I'm looking forward to the WiiU despite my misgivings and hope for the best.
Anyway, this is the climax of my gaming habits in the past year or so, and it's all very exciting. But I'm still mellow relative to how I felt about other games. This isn't Portal 2, for example (which lived up to my expectations but did not break them). I'm in media block mode and probably won't learn any more about the games until they're out, and I'm looking forward to enjoying them.
I'm interested in getting a few Virtual Console games. I'm hoping Nintendo will revamp their entire online when they do their redo of the eShop, but I'm not holding my breath.
I really want Super Metroid (now that it's on my family Wii, which I don't have anymore), Final Fantasy VI (known as FFIII), and Paper Mario. And I might like Chrono Trigger more on a TV. Not sure. But anyway.
It's been a while since I lost myself to ambient techno. And not just, like, put it on in the background and let it simmer and swell. No, really, just dive into it and let it be everything I am aware of. There's something beautiful about artistic creations, when your mind is allowed to stop and not be itself for a while, but just fill the void with suggestions from a beautiful connection, be it music, books, or whatever.
My favorite thing in the world to do, on rainy days like these, is to sit by an open window and create playlists in whatever music program is handy. These playlists are musicals. They tell stories. Some of them are loud and violent. One of the musicals I constantly go back to is one where two teenagers in a dystopian, Big Brother-esque world suddenly develop superpowers in various accidents, and unwillingly find themselves pulled together and wrapped up in the destruction of their flawed society. It's grand and sweeping and epic. I'm certain it will never be made into a movie, and I can't possibly communicate the story in any other medium. But I revisit that story often. Sometimes I even think of it as entirely external, like i'm remembering a movie I have actually seen that wasn't purely my own creation.
That's really the point when I become satisfied with my own work, really. When I can't remember making it, when I'm no longer the same person, then it finally becomes something I can respect. But then it doesn't even feel like mine any more. It feels like some sort of other canon that I can't touch.
Perhaps this is where my self doubt comes from. When I make a mistake, the mistake is always, forever, made by the present me. Even if I made it ten years ago. It isn't logical or even fair to say that I am responsible for a mistake I made even two years ago, considering the growth I've made. Yet I regret so many things as if I had done them minutes ago. From the biggest goof-ups in front of hundreds of my peers, to the stupid fanboy defense of Linux I typed on this very blog, arguing and bitterly raging at anyone who questioned my opinions. I no longer do either of these things. But I associate the mistakes with present me. But when I make something worth of praise, it's never connected to my self worth because it always feels external. The blog posts that I feel are the very best on this blog weren't written by me, they were written by someone much cooler. I'm only responsible for the garbage.
And yet, I press on. It's weird when I think about it. why do I continue creating things when they are often ignored, usually never really enjoyable to create, and sometimes even make me feel worse about myself? It's probably just a habit at this point. A habit that never stops. And it must be rewarding to me in some fashion. This blog is making me feel better right now, just because I like to think about my brain.
I think the internet has something to do with it too. It's becoming vaguely hipster to talk about the endless sources of attention consumption we have access to these days but it's also kind of true. There's so many methods of self expression but there's so many that are narrowly defined by certain constructs (mainly because we as a society cannot pay attention to every form of self expression, especially when it's on a vast scale such as the internet). I don't know, what does my Twitter say about me? That I'm funny sometimes? What does my Gamespot blog say about me? My Soup? I think my Soup is probably the closest thing I have to self expression even if it's through other people's content, because it's so vast and the combination of the images is definitely unique.
I also thing that self expression is very important to me. Perhaps that's why I blog. It's not necessarily that I can appreciate my own work, but that it's simply some form of expression. Even if nobody reads it, when was the case for a very long time and may become the case again, it's still some sort of communication about me.
Sometimes I wonder if what I blog isn't what I am, but what I want to be. Maybe when I talk like this, it's just me trying to pretend that my confusion and lack of direction is understandable and makes sense and can be explained at all. Maybe it's all just irrationality.
World of Goo
Looks like a Tim Burton production, plays like a clever indie puzzle game. It has a great sense of humor and is incredibly addictive to play during boring c1asses.
Super Metroid meets Ocarina of Time meets The Little Mermaid. The other games in the HIB's kind of out-pretty it, which is a shame because it's a real doozer of a game and is a lot of fun. Some of the art looks a little...how to say this...high school fantasy-art-obsessed student material? If that got touched up we'd be cool.
The weirdest 2D platformer I've ever played from a control perspective. You control a blob that you roll around on the screen. It seems like the sort of thing that 2D Boy would make with the World of Goo world were they lesser men. Not great.
Very bizarre, and to be honest requires a learning curve that I can't be bothered with. However, it shows genuine innovation and a nice world to explore.
Surprisingly decent first person adventure horror game with a well designed graphics engine. The precursor to Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and while it's nowhere near as fun or as scary, it's still a worthwhile play.
An oddball Flash point and click thing that reminds me why I am terrible at point and click games. The puzzles seem obtuse but the art and design of the world makes up for it.
A delightful puzzle platformer with nice graphics, gorgeous music (from Magnatune no less) and some random bits of poetry that some people really like. I'd say this game's closest cousin is Portal, just in terms of freshness and puzzle mechanics, though this is a lot harder. Or I'm just dumber in two dimensions.
Soldat. Still in alpha.
Again, another oddball, gorgeous and humorous point and click that I was able to fiddle with after I found a walkthrough. This one is just about the best looking and best playing of its genre, but its genre is too far out for me.
Physics based action puzzle game that's the biggest surprise of any of the games here. You are a single celled organism that eats smaller beings than yourself, pooping out parts of yourself to move, avoiding the bigger ones around you until you're big enough to eat everyone. Complicated by an in depth gravity simulation. Looks surprisingly good at 1080p even with the very simple graphics.
Revenge of the Titans
Tower Defense meets Real Time Strategy. It looks nice and plays like a TD game. I like those games. It uses Java which means it kills battery life as badly as Minecraft.
Crayon Physics Deluxe
There's crayons, with physics, and it's deluxe about both. Seems like the kind of game I lose my mind to if I let it.
3D puzzles involving motors and cogs and sliding tiles. Incredibly fun and deep. Probably the most underrated out of all of these. It was included in that Potato Portal 2 thing Valve did and I sunk too much time into this.
2D platformer with the graphics and sound of an NES game, and a simple but involving gameplay mechanic. You can move left and right, and you can reverse the flow of gravity (up or down) and that's it. It somehow manages to make this engaging for a couple of hours, and features some really, really hard reflex tests. People who like chiptune music will probably like the music a lot (I don't but hey).
Helicoptors with various weapons (mostly wrecking balls) smash into each other like poorly coordinated, flying sumo wrestlers. Once again, physics make things more fun than they should otherwise be. A steampunk aesthetic helps. Kind of hard, but still giddy delight.
And Yet It Moves
2D platformer that reminds me of Paper Mario (moreso Super) and Cave Story. I need to play this more.
Steel Storm: Burning Retribution
Top down arena shooter. Get ready to see this genre a lot. This one's in 3D and looks okay and things explode.
Atom Zombie Smasher
Blow up cities and destroy little dots, because those dots are actually zombies. Has more depth than my poor brain can handle for indie games. If there is a fair Time Fairy, she will give me time to get into this more. And also Frozen Synapse.
2D physics 3D action platformer. Reminds me of the puzzles in Half-Life 2, except with a scrap of some actual thought. Really nice, and probably the most polished game in any of the HIB's. If it worked with my ATI graphics card I'd be so over this.
Looks like an early Xbox game that's secretly just an upgraded PS1 game. Ugly, janky, and terribly written. Top down "horror" shooter thing.
More of the same, just a little less ugly and janky. If you want to play the genre, just go play Alien Swarm.
My favorite HIB game, no contest. Turn based strategy that revolves around little snippits of time that you plan out using a pretty nice interface. The cyberpunk helps. The amazing soundtrack makes it legendary. I haven't even touched multiplayer because other people are horrible, but the single player campaign is enough for me to put this on my "best of 2011" list without much second thought.
Flash live action point and click thingie. An utterly beautiful set of pictures and spoken words, with a bit of video. Weord and unsettling. Deep.
If I play this delightful puzzle game for too long, you can say goodbye to me forever. Does gameplay so well it doesn't really need to do anything else.
Top down arena shooter with voxels. Looks nice, plays well (except for the controls). Kind of an alpha, like Minecraft was an "alpha," so there's more to come. Did I mention I love the voxels? The destructable environments are great. When you die you explode everything.
The Binding of Issac
Top down shooter meets 2D Zelda meets roguelike. Fun. I hope Super Meat Boy gets onto the Humble train at some point.
Blocks That Matter
A cute, self referential 2D platformer with Minecraft-like mechanics and Portal-y puzzles. A lot better than I expected!