Monday, May 22, 2017

Limited updates this week

I am going to be out of town on 'business' for a few days which will give me an opportunity to the Switch for more than a underpowered console. Previous attempts have caused physical pain but I hope that Shovel Knight's 8bit-ness will forgo the right analog stick in favor of the buttons.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Solo heroes

In order for me to invest time and effort into a fighting game there has to be at least one character that I really enjoy playing. Sometimes this character is a holdover from a past game and other times I find him or her by chance but if this personal investment is missing my interest in the game falls off quickly.

Just because I like making lists: Street Fighter IV - Blanka, Mortal Kombat 9 and X - Kitana, Killer Instinct - Thunder, Guilty Gear - May, Injustice - Green Arrow, Tekken - Nina. Notice that Street Fighter V, King of Fighters and Marvel vs Capcom 3 have no favorite character. I landed on Necalli in SFV by default but I don't really like him, King of Fighter requires picking three characters and I don't like anyone other than King. The same is true for Marvel.

Green Arrow was found by chance in the original Injustice. I wanted to try out Scarecrow this time around but he is, for lack of a better term, really weird to use, so I have have returned to old habits. The story mode is incredible, the game looks very good and the voice acting is of mostly high quality (Harley is a little cringy) but I do not see myself playing it much online, if at all.

I do not think I have, or rather, can make enough time to not be terrible at Injustice 2. NRS games have a very specific, juggle heavy, staccato feel that I have a hard time adjusting to. Kitana in MK works for me only because I have been using Kitana on and off since MKII. Injustice is further complicated by being the one NRS game without a block button and a control layout that favors a controller over a stick.

These are not (just) excuses and it is a shame because, if nothing else, the game is interesting to look at. Character faces actually look like people, levels are alive with movement and damage, even the trademark terrible NRS animation is a little better here than usual. I just don't feel the urge to play it online, against people. I want to get back to my mediocre viking Diablo clone.

It has finally happened - my hermit-like ways have migrated to my online persona. I don't even leave the basement virtually anymore.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

It's not the same

Yesterday was in interesting day. Phantom Dust dropped with little warning, for free, and Injustice 2 came out. I was at a bit of a loss on which to play so I decided to let the consoles decide. Phantom Dust was a 9 gig download. Injustice 2 had a 950 meg day one patch. Both machines are on the same network, plugged into the same switch, and were downloading at the same time.

I cannot wait to be done with PSN. Phantom Dust was downloaded in about an hour and a half and the Injustice 2 patch took significantly longer. Take me home, Scorpio, take me home.

So I played Phantom Dust, a game whose pending arrival I have talked about several times on the podcast in glowing, slightly creepy terms. It is exactly as I remember it, to a fault. It really is an oXbox game resurrected to run at modern resolutions, a not insignificant task undertaken by a small team with a passion for a very niche game. I should be thrilled. But I am not.

It is not that I did not enjoy myself, I did, but my memories of playing Phantom Dust are tied to who I was playing it with. Being a semi-professional asshole I assumed that this was secondary to what I was playing and that throwing glowing balls of energy at randoms would have the same effect. It did not. It was honestly a bit hollow.

Getting into multiplayer games was on the difficult side and the total lack of voice chat outside of the party app is a significant loss but the rest of the game remained intact. From the outset you can download a free starter pack of skills. This allowed me to skip the single player portion entirely, a good thing, as it has not aged well at all. I made it through about a cutscene and a half before turning it off.

For the impatient there are all sorts of micro-transactions, ranging from in game currency to unlocking one copy of all 300 skills. It was so tempting but I did not do it. Instead I parlayed my winnings into junk packs, collections of five random skills. Cheap loot boxes purchased via in game funds. I am nobody's whale.

I will play Phantom Dust again but it is not return of a long lost love that I predicted. She's back, still looks good, still quirky and flexible, but I have changed, and I am not sure I have time for her anymore.

...

The last house I lived in before getting married was a double wide trailer inhabited by four guys, all of whom were eager to not live at home or at school and be able to drink as much possible at any time. It was a good six months, the end of which saw me move back home for six more while student teaching.

During a break from school I went back to that double wide trailer and tried to return to the old ways. A great deal of vodka was consumed, I blacked out, and the next hazy image was of me on my side and a good friend sitting in a chair next to my bed, making sure that I did not choke to death on my own vomit. Satisfied that I was out of danger, he rose and headed back to his room.

'You never can go back, can you,' I said.

He stopped, turned half way back towards me and shook his head.

'No.'

I learned then a lesson that I keep learning, that living in or for nostalgia is cowardly and disappointing. There is always more that will be than has been. Time to play something new(ish).

Monday, May 15, 2017

It worked for me and that is what matters

I promised to talk about Sniper Elite 4 and now I finished it and I don't want to say about it. It has been years (YEARS!) since I attempting to write up honest reviews. One site folding and another just kicking me to the curb tends to dampen one's enthusiasm. In defense of the second site, I went back and read some of what I wrote for them and it was all shit. I deserved to get kicked to the curb. Due to either lack of skill or discipline I am not much for long form, in depth, 'informative' reviews. I am more of a hot take kind of guy (lazy) and have much more fun picking on bad games than extolling good ones (asshole).

This means that when I come across an OK game, a serviceable one that passes the time without raising my blood pressure, I don't know what to say about it. Sniper Elite 4, more so than its predecessors, is exactly that kind of game. The previous games managed to wear out their welcome before ending and this one did not. It was precisely the correct mix of sneaking and shooting, at least on the Normal difficulty, and was entertaining all the way to the end. That's good, right?

Okay, I am at work with nothing to do so I will force myself to dig deeper. Why did I enjoy Sniper Elite 4, an admittedly average game, and so quickly gave up on Hitman, an excellent one? Because Sniper Elite 4 let me play the way that I wanted to and when I fucked up, which was often, forced me to deal with the fallout and gave me the tools and leeway to do so. Hitman wanted me to play it like Hitman and when I was not good enough to play it as Hitman it killed me. No leeway, only death.

Hitman let me fail all over the place. It encouraged it. It even mocked me by extending a helping hand in the form of opportunities. The difference is that, when I made a mistake, the game ended. 47 cannot, be design, hold his own in a firefight. It is not that kind of game and will tolerate absolutely no foolishness on the part of the player. Learn by dying, noob.

Sniper Elite 4 had the same kind of hand holding in the form of targets on the map, only when I made a mistake, which was often, and all of the nazis in a quarter mile radius were alerted to my position, I was able to change genres, from sniping to third person cover based shooter, and deal with the mess that I had made. The game wanted me to play one way but allowed success in another just by making the shooting work (let's me honest, the actual shooting in Hitman is not very good) and by making the hero a little more robust.

This is a video game after all, not an assassin training simulator.

Hitman is a very good game if you want to play Hitman. If you don't want to play Hitman, or if you are not very good at playing Hitman, it could not care less. Sniper Elite 4 is a good enough game that will meet the player half way.

...

Viking is also good enough in that I have not played a Diablo-clone in a while. All mediocre games, all the time!


Friday, May 12, 2017

Lists are fun

Moviebob put out a list (in his Game Overthinker persona) of the top 10 home game consoles of all time. I was ready to disagree vehemently but it is a list that pretty much writes itself. I may take issue with the order, specifically the Wii should be 10th or an honorable mention, but the console hits and misses are not difficult to deduce. Strike that, fuck the Wii and replace it with the Gamecube.

So what is there to talk about? Why, how many of each did I own?

10 - XBox 360

  • Number owned - 3
  • Personal favorite games - Culdcept Saga, Gears series, Lost Odyssey, Forza series, a ton more that I am missing. For hours used this system is only surpassed by the PS2. 
9 - PSX
  • Number owned - 3 (I think)
  • Personal favorite games - Final Fantasy series (yes, even Final Fantasy Tactics), Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Tekken 3, Castlevania Symphony of the Night. I bought my first PSX on a whim while in college. The first game I played on it was a bad Street Fighter Alpha port. I also got a little too deep into game piracy on this system, something that I am not proud of, but this was before GameFly existed and I was fucking poor.
8 - Wii
  • Number owned - 0
  • At one point in time I trusted Nintendo. The Gamecube (which should be on this list) gave us Rogue Squadron and a new look for Zelda and Ikaruga and the best version of Resident Evil 4. The Wii gave use wonky motion controls and shovel ware by the boatload. For good or ill, gaming will never be the same.
7 - Sega Genesis
  • Number owned - 0
  • My friends and I were all Nintendo diehards. It was an era when you picked a team and defended it, irrationally, violently. This meant that I never got to play Contra Hard Corps or a good Sonic game.


6 - Nintendo 64

  • Number owned - 1
  • Personal Favorites games - Goldeneye, Doom 64, Conker's Bad Fur Day. I waited in line for an N64 (college again, what else did I have to do, go to class?) and bought neither of the launch titles. Doom 64 was the first, and for a long time only, game I owned for the system. It is a lost classic that needs to be remastered. Oh, and Goldeneye was a phenomenal drinking game, but you already knew that.
5 - Dreamcast

  • Number owned - 1
  • Personal favorite games - Skies of Arcadia, Grandia 2, Soul Calibur, Phantasy Star Online. My first console purchased as a grown up, released on my birthday. Also my first real introduction to online play. I actually had the SegaNet ISP. And two phone lines. For PSO. Don't judge.
4 - Atari 2600

  • Number owned - 1
  • Personal favorite games - Pitfall, Adventure, Combat, Starmaster, Kaboom. I did not get an Atari until the great crash was in full swing. Being a little kid, this just meant that there were a ton of cheap games in bargain bins. Yes, even E.T.
3 - SNES

  • Number owned - .5
  • Personal favorite games - Super Mario World, Super Metroid, Super Castlevania 4, Contra 4. I say .5 because this system was shared by my family and when I went away to college I left it to my brother and purchased a 3DO. One of us got the much better deal. My parents purchased the system without telling us just so they could get to Super Mario World first.
2 - NES

  • Number owned - 1
  • Personal favorite games - Tetris, Castlevania, all the standard games that everyone played. I remember more of the NES than the Atari 2600, everything from blowing in games to get them to work to breaking a window with a thrown controller because Jaws was just so bad. And password saves. Fuck password saves.
1 - PS2

  • Number owned - 1 (that's right, I had a launch PS2 that never stopped working)
  • Personal favorite games - Final Fantasy series (yes, even X-2), Silent Hill 2, Fatal Frame 2, Guitar Hero 2, God of  War, more than I can possible remember. The PS2 years were probably the happiest I have ever been as a person who plays video games. There was always something new and different to play. I was running an EB Games at the time so I was surrounded by games and fellow enthusiasts. More so than even the SNES, it was my golden era of gaming.
Remove the Wii because that system was a blight and replace it with the Gamecube and it would be a pretty good list.