Wednesday, March 31, 2010

He is the Kwisatz Haderach!

Bonus internets to anyone who gets the reference without the aid of google.

The border between interesting and boring is very thin in the world of games, and there is no DMZ keeping them apart. Titles move back and forth often, sometime from level to level, with nothing but misguided gamer trust keeping things moving through the worst of things. 'It will get better,' we hope, 'it must.' White Knight Chronicles, in the midst of its boring combat and repetitive areas, dropped me onto the back of a gigantic multi-legged worm that tore through canyons at breakneck speeds, avoiding bunny creatures who injure it to collect the gas it gives off. It was surreal, interesting, and most importantly different enough from everything else I have ever played to renew by flagging interest. If only it lasted a little longer; after about ten minutes I fought a boss (some bizarre thing growing out of its head) and it was done. Back to featureless canyons connected by equally featureless tunnels. I really hope this is done soon.

At first it wasn't so bad. Minor camera annoyances when switching to white knight mode, small variety of enemies to fight, cookie cutter JRPG characters, nothing unusual and nothing unbearable. Then the small itches moved on to the burning of single attack combat, long stretches of game where nothing happens, little room for equipment customization and useless features, but I kept on playing. The burning is much worse now, as my gaming self preservation instincts have kicked in, but I will persevere past the multiplayer only quests and wince inducing writing. I will ignore the mounting pain of a game that really isn't any good and make it through to the end. I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer.

If you haven't figured the title out by now, turn in you nerd card, then put your right hand in the box.

It's not so bad, as long as you aren't an animal.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

So tired.

Playing anything was a lost cause last night. I was short on sleep, short on food, recovering from Fosters, and didn't even get to my comfy chair until an hour after my usual time. I need to make a run at finishing White Knight Chronicles, as my interest is also waning. A quick check of gamefaqs shows me much closer to the end than I thought, which means the single portion really is nothing more than an intro to playing online. This actually worked with Guild Wars, but it was much shorter (and a better game). Here it has taken to long and I have fallen into the bad habit of letting my party take care of themselves, so I really cannot see coninuing on to online post play. Even if I had nothing else to play (which never happens) the combat is just not good enough to keep me going.

The Last Rebellion just arrived, a game that I will most likely not play much of. Reviews have been terrible, and a terrible RPG is much more difficult to take than a terrible shooter. It will get an evening or two, but little more, as I am intentionaly re-allocating my time towards actual Street Fighter practice. The Midwest Championchips are coming up in May, and I am putting serious thought to paying $20 to get my ass kicked. It will probably be worth it just for the experience, and I will get to spectate. Being in the great midwest, I have no idea if any of the big names are going to show up, but it is an Evo qualifier, so who knows. The fact that I never play against people in person is a huge disadvantage, but I do not know anyone to play with in person. Most people my age are either uninterested or terrible, and while it is fun to beat on them, I certainly don't improve by doing so.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Strange Tablemates

No gaming last night, it was Wrestlemania time.

I can muster interest in about two pay-per-views per year, this and the Royal Rumble, so it was good to get out of the house and witness said spectacle in the midst of a few hundred people who have had too much to eat and drink. There was yelling, screaming, me bribing people with beer to sit at their table; it was a good time. One of the strange fellows I shared a table was a gentlemen whose common sense had as many holes in it as his meth ravaged gumline. He was the kind of wrestling fan that makes me hesitant to attend more shows and admit that I enjoy watching sweaty men throw each other around. In the midst of the homo-eroticism I stopped to talk to my brother about videogames. He mentioned God of War 3, which is on my short list, and mister meth mouth perked up.

'You know what you need to play?' he slurred.

'No, what?' I was expecting MADDEN or Killzone or Tiger Woods.

'Heavy Rain, man, that shit is awesome.'

I was more than a little surprised, so I decided to test him. 'Indigo Prophecy was pretty good.'

'Yeah, man, but the end was screwed up.'

My goodness, he was being serious. Once again my limited vision of what a 'gamer' looks like and acts like has been shattered. My hobby is no longer my hobby; it hasn't been for years, and I have been reluctent to let go of what I no longer have. Either I come to grips with the fact that what I do for fun has become unremarkable, or I find something else to do with my time.

(time passes)

That took about 30 seconds to figure out. Back to White Knight Chronicles.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I'm sure it offends someone, but who?

Lego Indiana Jones 2 pulled out a few very good bosses before it was done, much more complicated than I would expect for a game clearly aimed at children (or parents and their kids). For example, the end of The Temple of Doom has Indy and Short Round fighting a giant Kali with Mola Ram riding on her head. Even after I stopped laughing it took a bit to figure out that I had to put of the fire on her toe, send Short Round climbing through her insides to knock Mola Ram off of her head, then pull off her arms one at a time with Indy. This is awfully complex for a game made out of Legos. Travelers Tales has packed a lot of game in here; I am almost want to go back to it and dig around in the hidden areas. Unfortunately, when the game breaks down to finding a Lego man with a book to unlock a door which opens up a new vehicle that costs a million studs to use it in a race that gets one of ten golden something or others, I loose interest. My tolerance for that kind of layered fetch quest is limited to RPG's, and even then I do not enjoy them.

Awesome.

Sunday mornings and afternoons usually find time for a little Street Fighting; even a few rounds keeps the rust off and the fingers limber. Today was limited to about a half hour, which would have be fine, if I hadn't gotten two calls just as a match was starting. Not while I was looking for a match, exactly after both players hit okay and it begins to load. Both times I stood there helpless as poor Blanka was used as combo practice. Neither person would have understood the urgency of the situation, so it was either lie about being on the way to the bathroom or lose.

I should have lied.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hey, who nerfed my toon?

Less than a month away from the release of Super Street Fighter IV and people are getting more up in arms by the day as they find out what has been done in the name of progress and generating sales. Several high tier (and one middle, poor Gen) characters have gotten significant nerfs, so much so that I almost feel sorry for people who play them. Almost because Sagat devotees deserve any and all misfortune that comes their way. At first I was confused by the sheer agony that some people appear to be going through. I fully understand why Capcom is making changes, and it is not just in the never ending pursuit of balance. Changes like making a tiger uppercut do less damage or taking away a trade into ultra are done to preserve replayability. At lower play levels (in which I include myself and 90% of everyone else who plays) it is possible to figure a character out and eventually become bored. This is of course not true for the pros, but if you take fifty scrubs and throw them into a room, eventually all of them will be playing either Sagat or Ken, avoid all the other characters, and become bored. Taking Sagat and Ryu (but not Ken, apparently) down a peg is a great way to get the vast sea of casual button mashers to try someone new. They put a lot of effort into the new characters and would like to see them used outside of tournaments and combo videos.

There are decisions that I do not understand, like nerfing a seldom used character like Gen or letting Guile suck for another game, and I may be overestimating what the truly casual will notice. The people making the most noise, though, I suppose I do identify with (a little, because aside from an iffy new ultra, Blanka got a boost). Most everyone has a main. When something is taken away from that main, the player sees it as not only an attack on the character but also as an attack on themselves. This change will make it more difficult to win, so obviously they will not be quiet about it. I am guilty of this myself, having avoided Blanka at the launch of Street Fighter 4 because he was not as good as the HDR version. Clearly I came around, as will everyone else who actually cares about the game. In the mean time I would avoid the SRK forums, they are going through some serious drama right now (if they are back up, that is).

Friday, March 26, 2010

The brick time sink.

It's time to take another break from my single player MMO and what better way to do it than by seeing that last terrible Indiana Jones movie get all the respect that it deserves. I like the Lego games because they can be played in very different ways and are still fun. You can just run through them, see the sights, chuckle at the off beat humor, and be done with it in a few days (this is what I do). Or you can spend hours upon hours unlocking every last little figure and vehicle, revisiting old levels ad nasuem in pursuit of that illusive 100% completion. I certainly don't have the time for this, but if I did there would be no shortage of content to keep me busy, and there being unlimited lives to do it in would certianly help. Lego Batman is easily the best that this formula has produced, but Lego Indiana Jones 2 is still pretty good. Each set of levels has its own little hub world, and these hubs have more to do than the previous games. It is not going to win any awards for creativity or presentaion, but how can you look at Lego Mola Ram and not laugh a little?

ha HA!

I rest my case.

PAX east starts today, and I really should have gone. I can make all sorts of excuses (job, family, etc) but it comes down to laziness. I could have afforded the ticket for a weekend pass and a hotel. Driving to Boston from where I am is a bit long, so a plane ticket would have been required. Again, nothing that would have broken me. It was laziness and humbuggery that did me in. Such a trip requires planning and networking, actually talking to people to set things up, something that after work is done I am loathe to engage in. Still, I am ashamed. A great big nerd convention is occurring closer to my house than anything of the sort has for years (GENCON left my town in 2002) and I should have made more of an effort to be there. I can't even blame it on getting old; the goddamn hosts are the same age as me.

A quick note on the lack of reviews of late: As soon as I manage to play something current, I will write one. Perhaps White Knight Chronicles, though I would only be reviewing half of the game.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A plot twist?!

No, not really. One or more of the characters in my party may be a bad guy, or they may just be hiding something, or they may just like casting furtive glances back and forth while the protagonist happily mauls monsters like a puppy with a chainsaw. I have come to expect ham fisted story telling from my JRPG's, but I will still give White Knight Chronicles a few points for trying to not be completely obvious about what is going on. Apart from this little bit of party infighting nothing else has really happened. Twice now I have found myself within a few feet of rescuing the princess when the game pulls a Mario and spirits her off to another castle. If the characters stopped talking for just a few seconds after a battle and made a run for her this would never happen, but no, the villians have the nerve to steal the prize while I am leveling up and changing equipment, thus pushing everything forward to the standard climactic final battle.

Why do RPG's alway end with the climax, anyway? Peter Molyneux asked this very same questions when talking about the upcoming Fable 3. While everything the man says should be taken with a gigantic grain of salt, he does have a point. The little follow up bits during the end credits are always fun, so why not let the player control the denouement? This is exactly what the new Fable is going to do. Big boss man will be killed right in the middle of the game, but the game does not end. Instead it follows the character through their delinign years. This should prove interesting, especially after the awful things I did with my Fable 2 character after the game was over. For many, many hours he was a pritine example of a hero. Then, when there was nothing left to do, he took a wife, had a kid, took a mistress, killed the wife, killed the mistress, then when on a rampage when his son was taken away by protective services (I am not making this up). Making this part of the game proper instead of post story sandbox flailing is only a good thing.

But don't trust Molyneux, the whole thing could end up being a Rayman reboot. Which I would be okay with.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Three very different encounters.

At the risk of this becoming a Street Fighter centric blog, I have three matches to talk about, since this was all I played last night.

Opponent #1: Ryu, the ducking jabber.

It is quite common for people to see me chose Blanka, wait for the round to start, then immediately crouch and mash out jabs. This Ryu was no different, but he was also smart enough to ducking fierce me out of jumping attacks, not throw fireball at an unsafe range and retreat when I start getting too close. It was an effective turtle Ryu and I was at a loss of what to try. After dropping the first round I stopped playing my game and resorted to his, sitting just inside the range of Blanka dunking fierce (his best normal, in my opinion) and sneaking hits in between his jabs. I got in one or two, then ran away myself. He tossed full screen fireballs that I ducked under until there was about 10 seconds left, then panicked and attacked, thereby eating an ultra. Round three was incredibly tense, with a whole lot of down back on both parts interrupted by big damage combos. I came out on top (barely) and sent the guy a message thanking him for a good game. It was an unusual Ryu and beating him really felt like a getting past a plateau, which brings me to

Opponent #2: douche bag teenage Ryu who has watched a lot of videos and knows just enough to be dangerous.

I had my mic plugged in because the groans of 'I hate Blanka sustain me through difficult fights. This match started the same, but as much as this guy hated Blanka he knew the match up well enough to stuff me in the first round.

'Seriously, learn to play.'

This was no good. Some snot nosed teenager just threw down, so I did the only thing I could: cheesed him with cross over combos and throws for a second round win. There was even a dizzy involved, which are always satisfying. He got quiet for a while, until he started heaving fireballs in the third round at an unsafe distance.

'Ha ha! I'm just throwing fireballs and there is nothing you can do about it!'

Cue river run. It was a good match in spite of his mouth and I once again came out on top (barely). The last hit was a river run under an EX fireball. I was all worked up because shit talking like that pisses me off, but I had yet to say anything back. Maintaining my composure is what kept me from losing in the first place.

'Man, that's junk, my shoryken didn't come out.'

After all that, after listening to you talk about how I didn't know what I was doing for three rounds, then beating you after you made a clear and obvious mistake, you make excuses? Gah, this is why I am not a teacher, kids are all fucking retarded.

Opponent #3: a tournament level Abel

Wow.

Every opening I left, every mistake I made, every time I telegraphed a move, every time I got pretictable, every time my focus drifted for just a few frames I was punished. I only gave up one perfect round, but the closet I came to winning one was a blown ultra for chip damage (I flubbed an input and walked forward into jabs). Every round was still fun, though, because I was learning a great deal and he was a nice guy. There was not mocking, shit talking, or yelling and screaming, just general banter and encouragment when something I tried went well.

After beating me five matches in a row he switched to Zangief, a matchup that I know very well and have a definate plan for. I won, but it was still not easy. Why can't live be full of guys like the first and third one? I swear, the internet should have an IQ requirement.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The dreaded quadruple boss.

Final bosses going through several versions without the opportunity to save or heal in between is nothing new. I remember Ultimecia from Final Fantasy VIII taking me several hours of fighting, though I was seriously under leveled for the encounter. These boss gauntlets are less common right in the middle of the game, especially right after picking up a new character that hasn't even been used yet. White Knight Chronicles pulled a rather unfair move last night, stringing together four separate bosses with no break. While it did me the kindness of healing the team between each battle, the final fight forced me to go it alone with a character who I had equipped but never used. Ordinarily this would not be a problem, but this game does not use a shared inventory system between characters, so while this poor slob had a nice new spear and armor, I had not given him any items with which to heal himself. It was a close one, but I still managed to lose and I have to do them all again. This also means that it will be getting a day's break to cool things off. I hate redoing things, especially when the failure wasn't really my fault.

Replaying an entire game is something that I will never really understand. Part of enjoying a game for me is not knowing exactly what is going to happen next. This sense of discovery is entirely lost on a second (or third) play through. Even games that are designed to be played through multiple times hold no interest for me once the story is done. I hear of people taking a trip through a game once a year or re-installing Deus Ex just because someone mentioned the name and all I see is time wasted that could have been used for whatever is next. This is probably not a healthy attitude, as I know that I miss a lot the first time through, but the only thing I can see changing this would be the early onset of Alzheimer's or if I start drinking as much as when I was in college. (Note: the odds of both are not as bad as you might think). Street Fighter and music games are the only exceptions, though even Rock Band doesn't really count. I buy some new songs, play through them once or twice, then never look at them again. Perhaps this is some sort of unconscious pay back for the years of my childhood when all I had were one or two Atari or NES games and had to milk them for everything they were worth. I can have a new game every week now, sometimes two. Yes, it does make me sound a bit like a Tiger Woods of electronic entertainment. Only unlike Tiger's predicament White Knight Chronicles isn't going to beat the snot out of me with a broad sword when it finds me cheating with Lego Indiana Jones II.

But only because they never hang out together.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Because it's Japanese.

Anyone who has played any JRPG has played White Knight Chronicles. It it rife with eastern cliches, something that Dark Clouds 1 and 2 were as well, but is missing any of their charm. Dark Cloud 2 is an example of a complex game where all the parts are important: re-building towns correctly netted bonuses, any and all weapons were fusible and netted something better (or hilariously useless) almost every time, and combat required slightly more dexterity than shuffling through menus while watching a timer tick down. White Knight Chronicles has all these things, but they have all been pushed aside in favor of online groups. I just unlocked weapon fusing last night, but instead of allowing me to take any two old weapons and mash them together it is restricted to specific recipes that must be unlocked through overly generous 'donations'. I assume that georama is restricted to the online component, which is a shame because I will never see it. Honestly, I was looking for Dark Cloud 3, something that even Rouge Galaxy didn't manage to do, and it is not here. I suppose it is closer to playing Everquest II solo with bots, not that I would know anything about that.

Nostalgia is a funny thing. It blinds most to the fact that very few games age well, especially when stepping back to the dawn of 3D. Old 2d games are fine, as long as they were well drawn and animated to begin with they lose nothing. For example, I view Super Mario Brothers 3 to be the finest game ever made, and the prettied up version from Super Mario All Stars is something I would still be able to play today with little, if any, visually induced pain. Step back to early platformers like Tomb Raider and Super Mario 64 and the story is much different. What I see is not what I remember, so often times it is best not to go back at all. As fond of my memories of Dark Clock, Summoner, and other early PS2 games are I will never look at them again, lest the foggy visions of old gaming days be tainted with expectations of 60 frames per second at 1080p.

Time: the greatest anti-aliser.

And just because I mentioned Summoner:

Sunday, March 21, 2010

This post in irrelevant.

Sundays are the worst days to try and come up with something interesting to say, especially when I am playing a game in which nothing changes from session to session. Plus there is no news to pad out an otherwise boring post. I was trying to come up with something interesting or funny to talk about, and failed, so here is a picture of a bunny with a pancake on its head.



Note: I do not understand why the search items 'Blanka' and 'Pancake' turn up porn by the sixth picture. Don't do it, I don't want that on my conscience.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Re-grinding.

I am used to having problems with Xbox 360 consoles. I am on my third one, after having sent two back for repairs and eventually purchasing a new one in spite of my growing concern over their quality. The same was true for the oXbox, the first of which died right after I gave away two new oXbox's that I got for free. Sony, on the other hand, has always been good to me. I understand that this is an extreme rarity, but I ran a launch PS2 from day one all the way to the launch of the PS3, putting more hours on it than was healthy (for me or the hardware). I felt like I was selling an old friend when the time came to let it go, but it's bigger, shinier offspring would serve me just as well, right?

My PS3 sees little use, so I was quite surprised last night when it locked up on me during White Knight Chronicles. Of course this happened forty minutes past the last save point. Forty minutes that had been little more than grinding my way through the obligatory desert area on the way to obligatory desert town. I was sorely tempted to walk away for the evening, but I re-ground my way through with the assistance of a good irish beer and lack of motivation to do anything else. The combat is not great, but it is not terrible either; it is just barely good enough to keep me going to the next area. I have given up on any sort of completionist goals with this game; the online requirement for quests is a big turn off. At this point I just want to see what there is to see, which demotes White Knight Chronicles to the game I play when there is nothing else to play.

Which makes redownloading Torchlight an incredibly poor decision.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Are you even trying?

Rogue Warrior came to an underwhelming conclusion. No boss fight against a giant Russian soldier who sported a burning effigy of Ronald Reagen in his curly mustache. No final encounter with a giant tank or helicopter or hover craft that becomes a symbol of 'merican might triumphing over Russian weakness. Just one last corridor of bad guys, some final cursing, and the credits. The last thing I expected Rogue Warrior to do was go politically correct on me, but the lack of any sort of racially charged (and quite possibly offensive) ending was disappointing. At least it was over quickly. I do wonder if I would have found anyone playing the multiplayer, but I was not curious enough to bother trying.

The Street Fighter itch was upon me, so I spent the last hour of my evening getting killed. My skills are apparently so tenuous that a single beer ruins them, but I suffered through the beatings because learning to be calm is just as important as learning how to combo into an ultra. After over a year of playing I received my first bit of hate mail, which is a sign that I am doing something right. It was a long, boring fight with Balrog, as Balrog vs Blanka matches usually are. It really is a bad match for Blanka, but I have played enough Balrog to know that once he has an ultra I can no longer jump at him, lest I suffer the easiest ultra setup in the game. (Note: deep, late cross ups actually beat Balrog's should charge. The more you know) I had a life lead in the last match, so I backed off and sat there. He sat there waiting for me to jump at him. And then we both sat there until there were only about 10 second left on the clock. He panicked, charged at me, I got one more hit and ran away for the win. It is not often that I maintain my composure this long, so I was rather pleased with myself. Then comes the message:



Seriously? That's the best you have? Not even any punctuation? I shouldn't have answered at all, but I did.

'Are you hitting one me?'

Other options were 'No, I do not have a cigarette nor a bundle of small sticks' and 'I know you are, but what am I?' but mine was good enough. Verbal fights over xbox live are just like the special Olympics.

No, I am not going to finish that joke.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Next on the comeback tour.

I am not going to talk about how bad Rogue Warrior is, because it is not the worst shooter I have ever played, it is just terribly derivative and linear. I am not going to talk about how it looks about two years old in spite of coming out recently, how the music is good the first time, then repeats over and over, or about how the silenced pistol (in a possible nod to Halo) is the best weapon in the game and has unlimited ammo. I am not even going to talk about the incredibly filthy language. I am not one to shy away from the occasional f-bomb for emphasis, but they lose their impact when they start coming out at the rate of several minute. What does interest my is how in the world they got Mickey Rourke to voice a grizzeled old navy seal, based on a real life military man who has an extreme talent for exageration. Was this before or after his career was resurrected by The Wrestler? If it was before I can understand; a man has to eat. But after?

'Mickey, this is your agent. Some no name video game developer called and wants you to swear into a micophone for a few hours. The pay? Hookers and blow. You in? Excellent'

Big budget titles are consistantly saddled with third tier voice acting, and this little shooter that went through two developers and still managed to be worse than 90% of the other games out there lands an oscar nominated actor? The crazy thing is he's actually pretty good. If had an actual script to work with, not a list of things that middle school kids think are funny to say all strung together in run on sentences, it would have been really good. I know why this doesn't happen more often. Screen actors want crazy things like being credited and residuals (they have agents), voice actors are content with paying the rent and buying filterless cigarettes. Someone at Bethesda must have a really hot sister (or two) and some good connections.

Or Mickey was just really drunk and thought he was in a movie about impoverished voice actors trying to reclaim their past glory days.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Roughly equivalent.

In a moment that was terribly out of character I made my personal avatar in White Knight Chronicles a straight white mage. All he does is heal, buff, de-buff and whack things with a curved stick for minimal damage. I rarely control him directly, as healing really doesn’t need that personal touch, but he does a good job. Once I found out that the quests are either online with strangers or your character all by himself without the help of his party, I realized that I had made a terrible mistake. The quests are balanced for parties of four, so going it alone is already difficult; accomplishing anything with my Ghandi character is just impossible. I understand that they are trying to force people to *gasp* work together, but I would have liked the option to schlep along my AI companions who I have designed to work as a group with me as the healer. I have no plans to actually take anything online at this point, so I am effectively locked out of large portions of the game; if I really wanted that I would load up Guild Wars again and see if my useless assassin from Nightfall was still around.

I am going to have to resort to playing more than one game at a time to get through my list, seeing as I have no idea how long White Knight Chronicles really is and I would like to get to games that are actually good sometime soon. Tonight brings up Rogue Warrior, a shooter that if the reviews are to be believed will rival Darkest of Days in terribleness. Thankfully I just picked up a six pack of Smithwicks with which to celebrate the evening (alone, in my basement). It should make a fine companion for foul mouthed first person man on man action, which is exactly what I would see if I went out to a bar tonight, so I call it even.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Stranger in a strange land.

The Playstation 3 cross media bar, if that is what it is still called, feels foreign and sparse when compared to Microsoft's dashboard. It is much more utilitarian, spartan perhaps, but it does a pretty good job of keeping things that I don't want to deal with (like Home) out of my direct line of sight. If I turned the thing on more than once every few months I would be much more familiar with where everything is hidden. As it is now I have to power it up the day before I want to play a game to make sure all of the required updates are installed. Add to that the mandatory install of White Knight Chronicles and it feels more like a Windows box all the time. And to think I was once seconds away from installing linux on it; the world may have ended right then and there.

White Knight Chronicles tries very hard to feel like an MMO, right down to real time combat that is not really real time: you choose an action, wait for the cooldown, and it kicks off with little interaction on the players part. I remember this from when someone talked me into trying Everquest years ago. It wasn't very exciting then, either. Still, there are plenty of skills to choose from, every character that gets added to your party is a blank slate that can be pushed into almost any job, and it was made by the same people who did the Dark Cloud's and Rougue Galaxy, so it gets a pass on a few things. I am curious as to how much of the game I will be able to accomplish on my own, as I understand the online portion grows in importance as you move along. This is not the psuedo muliplayer that Demons Souls used to share the misery, this is real raiding with parties and instances and camping mobs for phat loot. It would remind me of Guild Wars if it were prettier and the character designs were more interesting.

What I have played of the single player so far was a little slow moving. After three hours the introduction ended and I got the opening credits, so I have no idea how much game I have ahead of me. I remember seeing shots of this almost two years ago and being blown away. Now it is no better looking than anything else, its luster lost to time spent in development and translation. This is a game that I want to enjoy, so I will find something in there to latch on to. Maybe spheda will make a trimphant return, but I doubt it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Skill Gap.

Disconnectors in Street Fighter drive me crazy. If you are getting beat, take the beating and learn from it, or at the very least don't drop out before the last hit of the last match. Last night I had worked an Able right down to the last hit. He was pretty good, but did not know how to deal with Blanka silliness, so when things started looking dim I got cheap and started to hop over him and throw him from behind. It wasn't graceful, but a win is a win. I had whittled him down to no life, and as usual had gotten far to defensive when going for the last hit, when he landed his ultra. It didn't kill me and I was all set to throw out a ball to chip him to death when he disconnected. Usually I will let this go, as digging up their gamertag takes a whole three button clicks and then I have to dig out my keyboard, but this was pretty blatant, so some shit talking was in order.

'Nice disconnect. Was that a link or did you mash it out?'

I thought this was rather clever, then went on with my evening. About ten minutes later he messaged me back blaming his connection, then asking me what mash it out meant, so I had to explain my rip to him, which made it no longer clever and amusing, it was just dumb. Serves me right for actually interacting with random xbox live-ers beyond fighting wordlessly in the streets.

Speaking of doing what it takes to win, I caught the tail end of a tournament via stream last night. Justin Wong had been knocked into the losers bracket by an amazing Viper. This same Viper then got knocked down by a Balrog, setting up a rematch. Justin stuck to his guns, pulling out Rufus again, and promptly lost the first two matches. I thought I was about to whitness history; aparently Justin almost never loses when Daigo isn't involved. Justin, however, would have none of that, and counterpicked Balrog, stomping his way back for a win from a 0-2 deficit. I was impressed, to say the least. I can barely play one character well enough to not embarass myself, but to have multiple characters at tournament winning level is astounding. Of course, Justin Wong does this for a living, so he has all the time in the world to practice. If I got paid to practice links I might actually take the time to learn them.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Too thin.

While I do not expect an excellent story to accompany my ultra-violence, a little narrative to tie things together never hurt anybody. Having audio logs that play back during the game has been a good solution, dating back to System Shock 2, and it is a great way to disseminate information without interrupting when everyone is there for: shooting people in the head. Army of Two Two has these, but you have to go digging two menus deep to find them, which means that I never actually heard any of them. By the time I was done I still had no idea why Taiwan had been bombed back to the stone age, why there were several thousand mercs wandering around the city trying to kill me, and who the refugee from 24 was that had orchestrated the whole thing and supposedly hid a nuclear bomb in the city. The murder simulation was still fun, but there was no reason behind any of it, so when it ended after about six hours of play that was okay.

The actual game was a bit easier this time around. I remember the first Army of Two punishing me for playing it by myself; this one was almost condescending. 'Oh, I see you have no friends, I'll just make this a bit easier for you.' The last level managed to kill me a few times, usually by spawning giant armored shotgun dudes behind me, but it was not worse than the last level of any other shooter. It seems that EA back peddled here. It's not Army of Two anymore, it's Army of One and a pretty good AI companion. At least the game allowed for local co-op, which is a rarity these days.

White Knight Chronicles should arrive tomorrow, which has mediocre reviews, and Rogue Warrior should be coming shortly thereafter. This may be far too much awful to take back to back, so a trip to the local brick and mortar may be in order. Who knows, I may actually purchase a game.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

An out of house experience.

I found myself in a movie theatre last night with cheap 3D glasses on my face for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. The 3D was more annoying than anything, and Burton doesn't know how to direct a battle scene, but other than that the movie was not offensive. Depp chewed up the scenery as the mad hatter, but the story was not about him, so he was off screen more than he was on. A little Depp goes a long way and a Depp overdose is no good for anyone.

While the movie itself was a solid 'meh' I was really disappointed by the 3D effects. This is the first 3D movie I have seen since Captain Eo at Disney, so I assumed there would have been improvements. There really haven't. The feeling of depth is certainly there, but all detail is lost. Perhaps the glasses did not agree with my coke bottle bottom contacts, but all the edges were fuzzy and it was often difficult to focus on anything. There was a lot to look at, much of it intentionally obscured by objects whose only purpose to to scream out 'Look! This movie is 3D! It's totally worth the premium ticket price!'

3D video games have met with similar lackluster results. Remember 3D Worldrunner? Yeah, it was a head ache in a box, and definitely not the way to handle 3D at home.

Now this:



This is what the Wii should be doing (and quite old, but it blows my mind every time I look at it). I would own three of the damn things if they made my TV look like this. But no, we get another Mario Party instead.

Friday, March 12, 2010

About what I expected.

Army of Two: The 40th Day is not a game that I expect a great deal from. I played the first game solo, missing the entire point, but it was a reasonable shooter and good while it lasted. The second will also be played all by my lonesome, again missing the point, and what I have seen so far is exactly the same game with slightly better graphics. They are trying to destruction on a massive scale, and in a pre-Uncharted 2 world it would have looked amazing, but after seeing large portions of a building fall apart while I was fighting in it with nary a frame being dropped anything less is no longer surprising. The 40th Day doesn't have the same detail or impact, possibly due it its multi platform focus.

Sometimes I wish I had never played Uncharted 2. In many ways it is the best action game I have ever played, and it has effectively ruined me for anything else. This is of course not fair, but tell that to cynical little bastard who lives inside my head and shits on anything that doesn't live up to his impossible standards. Uncharted 2 did not just raise the bar, it is the bar, and nothing since has come close. It was proof to me that the PS3 really was capable of more than the 360 can do, but only if you take the time and money to do it, and only if the system is your only focus. The coup of Final Fantasy XIII had me briefly confused. On one hand I love achievements, on the other hand I love 1080p cinematics and would feel just slightly wrong playing the game anywhere else. Part tradition, part resolution whore, the choice was unavoidable. If more multi-platform games had this clear of a distinction I would be happy.

Just as long as Sony never makes me log into Home again. Microsoft finally forced me to create an avatar after assigning me a random female one during 1 vs 100, but there is no way I am going into Home to set up a virtual barbie of myself.

Again.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Depth of my Psychosis.

A small window into my world:

I am about six months to a year behind on movies that I should/want to see. Netflix is a wonderful thing, but when there is a competition for my time between interactive and non-interactive entertainment, button pushing always wins. Last year, after seeing a few trailers for the Star Trek reboot, I decided that I would never, ever see it, as it was an affront to what Star Trek is, was, and always should be. Then I went out and bought season one of Old Trek and got my space bell bottoms fix. A year later and Star Trek arrived on blue ray after being added to my queue in a moment of weakness or self loathing. I am between games, so last night I decided that it was better than nothing, and made an attempt to watch it. After about twenty minutes, I turned it off.

This is bad, even for me, but watching it made me angry. I was uncontrollably furious at what I was seeing, and I knew it was ridiculous to feel this way, but there was no avoiding it. I don't know what I saw last night, but it was not Star Trek, and hearing them use the names of characters that I grew up with was just wrong. The last thing I saw was Kirk, if that really was his name, hitting on Uhura in a bar. This was after baby Spock kicked some older vulcan kid's ass for saying his mom was a whore. This was also after baby Kirk drove a car off of a cliff while listening to Beastie Boys (note: this is not a knock on Sabotage). This was sci-fi 90210; beautiful people doing beautiful things in the most annoying way possible. To put it another way: we all know that Twilight is bullshit. Vampires do not fucking sparkle. Ever. The Star Trek reboot is the Twilight of sci-fi, and I hate it much more than is healthy.

After turning off the TV in disgust I put my new Sanwa buttons into my arcade stick and tried to funnel my rage into street fighting. It didn't work, but the buttons are nice.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pleasant and Unpleasant Surprises.

After three evenings Saw is finished and I was pleasently surprised by the entire thing. It was a movie game not entirely dependent on its source material. It was a puzzle game that avoided repeating itself too much until the very end (though sticking my hand into a toilet full of hypodermic needles lost its affect the first time, much less the fifth). It was a survival horror game that was light on combat and heavy on mood without resorting to demons, devils, or other supernatural hoo-ha. Imagine my surprise when I looked up Zombie Studios and found several Spec Ops games in its past. They really got a quite a few things right here, possibly for the first time as a developer, even if it did take Konami buying the project from the previous publisher and straghtening a few things out. Saw is not a game that anyone needs to own, but it was not a bad way to kill a few evenings while trying to figure out which verision of Final Fantasy XIII to play.

It's going to be the PS3 one, buy the way, but it's not going to be anytime soon. I survived for nearly six months after the release of XII before playing it with no ill affects. The Final Fantasy name no longer holds the sway over me that it did in my youth. I skipped class to wait in line for my pre-ordered copy of VIII, and it was worth it. Nowadays it it much more difficult to get me out of the house, much less to wait in line somewhere.

Watch this:



and be disturbed. The best description I have heard of Hakan is that he looks like an in shape Wario. So much about him is just so wrong that I don't know what else to say.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mass Effect 2 Review

Not my Shephard, but a nice gun anyway.

If ever there was a developer that could be described as 'magical,' it would be Bioware. They are are not infallible, but have yet to turn out a game that was any less than better than everything else out in the genre. I do not think of it as an exaggeration to say that I trust them implicitly with my leisure time, which of course leads to incredibly high expectations. After Dragon Age, which I think is one of their lesser masterpieces, I was ready to jump on the smallest problems in Mass Effect 2 and complain about them until I was blue in the face. There were plenty of little nits to pick, everything from silly plot elements to doors inexplicably sealing behind you to the terribly boring mining for elements game, but none of them mattered. Mass Effect 2 is space opera at its finest, with an almost episodic flow that makes it accessible to gamers with action game attention spans. A lot of RPG traditions have been stripped away, to the point where it no longer needs to carry around all the baggage associated with its Japanese cousins. The game is better for it, able to reach people would normally turn their noses up an managing a party. I do miss some of the hard core nerd aspects, but all was forgiven when my Shepard reappeared.

I knew there was a reason that I never deleted my saves after the first game ended, and it wasn't because of the promise of future DLC. Mass Effect 2 starts out with a seamless character import, pulling in all the important events from the first game. This does not include items, weapons, skills, or levels, which would have bothered me if Shepard had not died in the first fifteen minutes (don't worry, he/she comes back). It's a good hook; here is something that you care about, look at it, didn't you miss it? Now it's dead. I would have liked having the option of taking my super soldier right into Mass Effect 2's high difficulty level, but starting over is not the end of the world. Even with the import there is still an option to change class or appearance, so no one is locked into bad leveling choices from the first game. I stuck with a soldier, mostly because I like to shoot things from far away and let me squad worry about all that biotic silliness.

Nice cover, Shephard. Wimp.

Combat has taken one step closer to Gears of War this time around, and I mean that as a compliment. There really is no RPG left here; no comparing weapons trying to eek out a few more digits of damage or feet of range. No more buying new armor for the whole crew at each planet. Just choose a weapon or power and go. Enemies make fairly good use of cover and force the player to do the same, though the most challenging enemies are still the husks of dead humans that swarm by the dozens in later levels. Sniping doesn't do much good when there suddenly three monsters in my face, so it is a good thing that the other two members of the party can usually pull their weight. It is possible to direct them individually on where to go and who to incinerate, but I had enough luck with them taking care of themselves that I never bothered. For once, companion AI served the games immersion instead of destroying it, and that includes shaking my head at my test tube Krogan as he charged directly into his death for the second time in a mission. It fit his character, and he sounded a little like Leroy Jenkins when he did it.

Characters and character development have always been one of Bioware's strengths, and Mass Effect 2 does not disappoint. The cast of recruitable characters is large, almost to a fault. By the last few acts of the game my team was already well established. The new characters did not get the attention that they deserved beyond their individual quests. Every character has one request that needs to be taken care of before they become loyal, which unlocks further conversation options and abilities so it is always worth the time. These loyalty quests each have their own little plots completely separate from the main story line, and they are usually quite good (Tali's trial, a Bioware staple, being my personal favorite). This, along with the random events uncovered by scanning planets, give the game a much larger scope while making it playable in shorter bursts. Mass Effect 2 is not one thing, it an entire season of things with many individual episodes that work just fine on their own. The over arching story does suffer a bit, but if this setup allows more people to get to the end and see what Bioware has put together it is a sacrifice well made.

He is the very model of a scientist salarian!

In truth, I do miss many of the RPG pieces that have been stripped away in the name of accessibility. I like seeing little numbers float up after I take off somethings head from a football field away. I enjoy the agonizing over which weapon or armor is better, and I really miss experience being granted for individual kills instead of at the end of each episode. On top of that I frown on things being made more accessible just for the sake of selling more units. The difference with Mass Effect 2 is the quality of what is left. Yes, the stat whoring aspects of the combat are gone, but the shooting itself is right on par with any other shooter. Choosing which powers to level up for each party member is rarely difficult; there aren't that many to choose from, but they all immediately useful and Shepard himself can be respeced for a minimal fee at any time. What I perceive as missing was never really important in the first place, at least for what Bioware had in mind.

I have no idea if Mass Effect 2 will pull in the mouth breathing multiplayer FPS masses, but it should, and judging by the sales numbers it has at least begun to. RPG gaming is no longer a secret club filled with D&D refugees who refused to learn third edition and still have all their old books (not that I know anyone like that), it is open to anyone who can point a cursor, pull a trigger, and navigate the occasional sappy dialogue tree. Talking to NPC's is the one place that Mass Effect 2 betrays its roots. It is layered, well written, and sometimes wonderfully geeky. Paragon and renegade choices are still obvious, and there is no real way to play a Shepard down the middle and be successful, but when Shepard is being noble he is really noble, and when he is a douche bag he is an incredible douche bag, so being wishy washy is never really required. RPG is no longer an appropriate term. Call it a story based shooter, dialogue heavy action game, or a planet hopping inter species dating simulator, it doesn't matter. Mass Effect 2 is not a cross genre title, it is a game all its own, with more than enough to keep fans of it predecessor and converts from other, simpler games happy and waiting for the next one.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Saw not bad?

I know, I was surprised as anyone. My first surprise was that the game was published by Konami. While this is by no means a guarantee of any kind it is better than some movie studio self publishing a title, and Konami did put out the most frightening/depressing game of all time. Secondly, the game actually looks pretty good, using the Unreal engine with at least some skill and artistry. Saw is, at its heart, a puzzle game. Grotesque puzzles involving disfigurement, dismemberment, or play old disembowelment are thrown at you with no warning or explanation. Most have an obvious path to a solution, some do not, and at least one had me wandering around the room until that damn puppet showed up on a TV and started making fun of me. I have no knowledge of the movies (in truth, I avoid them because I am terribly squeamish) and I think that might actually help my enjoyment. To me it isn't a Saw game, it is a non-supernatural survival horror title with above average puzzle and the usual shit combat. At least there hasn't been much fighting yet, and setting up shotgun traps is quick and painful.

Speaking of traps, when are we going to get an new Deception? Not this misspelled Trapt nonsense, an honest to goodness Deception 4? That series peaked with the second game; I have never felt more evil than after catapulting an innocent woman across a spike filled room, landing her in a bear trap, dropping a giant flaming rock on her, then sacrificing her soul to a nameless evil. It was delicious, and it could seriously benefit from a high resolution make over. I'd post pictures, but PS1 games have not aged well, and I'm sure it looks better in my foggy, aging memory than it actually was.

Great, now that I said it out loud, it is going to come out on the Wii like the last Fatal Frame game.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Time Out.

Not much to talk about today. I spent most of last night trying to get my Windows 7 beta to upgrade to a retail build. I was, in the end, unsuccessful (it gave me an error message stating that I could not upgrade a windows 64 install to a windows 32, and I couldn't do a 32 to a 64) so I ended up doing a fresh install. Now I need to re-download all my steam games and hope the Street Fighter crack to open up all the characters still works. But hey, you have to love that new OS smell.

What was left of the night was spent in a codeine induced haze watching old Cosmos episodes on Netflix. I think Carl Sagan would approve. The opening credits, specifically the music, took me back to my childhood. Cosmos is probably to blame for most of my present day nerdiness. It instilled a sense of fascination with stuff in space that I never really lost. The series, apart from the special effects and Sagan's hair, has aged pretty well. It isn't really about facts and figures, anyway. It is about humanities place in the universe and what we are going to do with it.

Pretty heavy stuff, but better than playing Saw, even it does add to my billions and billions of gamerpoints.

Behold, the smartest pothead ever.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Technical Difficulties.

After finishing Mass Effect 2 last night (and watching Beowulf, which really wasn't that bad) it was time to dust off the arcade stick and actually play some Street Fighter IV instead of just talking about it. It is not unusual for me to go on an absolute tear if I have been away for around a week, and that is exactly what happened. I had an intense match up with a very good Viper who only lost because he didn't know how to deal with Blanka corner ultras (hint: don't let me know you down in the corner, wake up ultra still loses) followed up by a Blanka mirror match that went right down to the wire as well. It was in the second match that I noticed my heavy punch button not reacting quite the way it should. I dismissed it as rust, but it got worse. I was missing the timing on the river run (DF-FP), something that I never do. After losing to a mediocre Sagat by focusing on hitting the botton as hard as I could instead of, you know, not getting tiger kneed in the face, it was time to investigate. Practice mode proved it, my FP button worked about 25% of the time.

Curses.

I swapped the dead button out with one of the extra two (never used the 3-kick button anyway) but it still wasn't quite right. My links were shakey as it was, and now they were gone, so it was time for an upgrade. I am not going to run out and drop $150 on a new TE stick. Instead I bought eight new Sanwa buttons from Lizard Lick and am going to pretend to be handy. I do it at work all the time, might as well pretend for myself for once.

Oh, and the ending of Mass Effect 2 was suitable epic. I kept my entire crew alive, which was apparently not as easy as I found it to be. I think it came down to being dedicated to the paragon path and having plenty of conversation options, but sending a Geth to do hacking was definately the right call. Review pending (and unlike Dante's Inferno, this will actually happen).

Friday, March 5, 2010

A few too many.

The cast of Mass Effect 2 continued to grow right up to the quest based point of no return. It's nice to have a large cast, but the second half of them really get the short end on time. They still have their own quests to do in order to earn their trust, and they are creative characters, but the game is speeding downhill towards the mass relay of doom so fast at that point that I no longer cared about them; they were just more meat to put between me and the Collectors. The last companion, a Geth, is actually counterproductive. It turns out that there is a divide among the Geth: some of them want to kill all organic life and the rest don't really care. This Geth, whom the ship's AI dubs Legion, is the friendly kind. Legion is basically 7 of 9 minus the skin tight suits and with better writing, but he does feel tacked on and therefore expendable. I am right at the start of what I assume is the final push and I have had to divide my team into two pieces with on extra person pulled out for a solo suicide mission. Guess who got sent to his death, giving me a cheap way out of what should have been a difficult decision. I have nothing against Legion, but I really don't care if he lives or dies because there are millions more just like him.

It feels odd to complain about the game having too many characters, especially when they are all as well written as they are, but because there are so many none of them beyond the person you choose to romance gets much attention, and even then it's very little of substance. My teams varied on what I was dealing with: killing geth required Grunt (the Krogan) and Tali (the Quarian object of Shephard's affections). Killing collectors was better with Grunt and Mordin (a Salarian who give rock solid bedroom advice). General mayham runs called for Grunt and Jack (yes, she did find her way back into my team). I don't remember if Wrex was in my team as much as Grunt, but having Grunt around is a must. He serves as mobile cover, does a ton of damage, and has great one liners.

'Look at all those bodies. Is anyone else hungry?'

Yes, he is the opposite of a paragon Shepard and will probably turn on him as soon as the mission is over, but a little tension in a squad never hurt anyone. Mass Effect 2 will most likely end tonight and the wait for the third part will begin shortly there after. If Bioware's stripping down continues, it will be a space dating simulator with dialogue trees. Here's hoping that number three finds a happy medium between the first two.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Back on task.

I had heard that Mass Effect 2 was only around twenty or so hours from beginning to end. I suppose it could be, if you skipped all of the companion missions and never bothered to explore any planets, which would be missing the entire point. Side missions discovered by scanning solar systems are surprisingly interesting. While most are on the short side they are not just random dungeons with mercs thrown into them; they are just shorter episodes in what already feels like an episodic game. Mass Effect 2 probably could have been metered out a few hours at a time. Every mission is self sufficient with very little back tracking required. Experience is granted not by killing things but by finishing missions. This removes all grinding (beyond mining for raw materials), which keeps things interesting. It is a fine product and I am most impressed; a much better sequel than I am accustomed to being subjected to.

Even so, I am approaching a week and a half on it and am getting a little itchy for a new game. Nerd wanderlust, I suppose. Even the queue of mediocraty I have waiting for me (Saw and Army of Two Two) looks appealing. I will finish the game, of course, it is more than deserving of the attention. It does make me wonder what kind of foul magic was woven in Oblivion that allowed me to dump well over 100 hours into it. By the time I was done I was so attached to my dirty, stinking assassin that his loss by corrupt save prevented me from playing the expansion. This was of course after I had paid for it. I just couldn't see starting over; my character was just how I wanted him. Perhaps this attachment is the only thing missing from Mass Effect 2. I like Shepard, he is noble most of the time, mean when he was to be, and has a weakness for odd colored ladies. He is not, however, my creation. He is just one interesting character in a cast full of other interesting characters, none of which I own.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Relapse.

I think I have recovered from my console rant. Moving on.

Oh my god, what the hell is this?!

Okay, maybe not. I didn’t always loath Nintendo products. When the Gamecube and the Xbox were on the horizon I was firmly in the Nintendo camp when it came to choosing a second console. It had more than just the normal first party exclusives, the controller was a bit odd but certainly a step above The Duke that Microsoft crammed into system boxes, and most games just looked really good. The Gamecube held off the other consoles nicely in the graphics department; to this day I maintain that Resident Evil 4 was the best looking game of the previous generation. It was home to Metroid Prime, one of the most successful reboots of a series ever, Wind Waker, the most underappreciated Zelda game, and Killer 7, a game more bizarre than I thought possible. My Gamecube served me well, until games stopped coming out for it in favor of being held off for the Wii.

My suspicions about the Wii started early on. I worked for a certain large game retailer at the time and we had a shot at it long before the general public did. From the moment I held the controller I was underwealmed. This was it? This was the revolution? Graphically, the games weren’t any better than the oXbox (most demos running were just repurposed Gamecube titles) and the motion control was a mess. I tried Wii tennis and Wii bowling and Wii Metroid, and they were all terrible. Motion control offered no advantage over a standard controller. Indeed, it was a liability. I was pissed off for a while, feeling deserted by a company I had grown up with, until I realized two very important things. First, Nintendo had just saved me a good chunk of money. Second, their new system was simply not for me. As someone who has been gaming since the Atari 2600 I have come to accept, even expect, a certain level of complexity. The controller is a necessary barrier, one that I appreciate and enjoy learning the ins and outs of. Yes, it has always kept out the majority of people, but I never really had a problem with that. Gaming was a niche thing, and I liked it that way. Nintendo changed what a game is, simplified it to where flailing your arms like a drunken idiot would be a reasonable way to control what is going on, then unleashed the thing at a reasonable price point on the unsuspecting public. The Wii is absolute genius, in a business sense. It opened up entire new markets by marginalizing an old one, and the numbers don’t lie. The non-gaming public buys a lot of shit (and I mean that literaly) that no one else will ever touch.

So there you have it. I don’t hate Nintendo, I have the utmost respect for a company that can repackage their old product in Mac-esque box, add in a pointless innovation, and print money with the thing. They just wont be getting any of mine. And I really wish Sony and Microsoft weren’t following suit.

You, kid. Yeah you. Get off my damn lawn.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The thieves of time.

The PS3 only does everything, but it does not know that 2010 is not a leap year, so says this article. Old PS3's were coming up with all sorts of errors yesterday just because the day it thought it was didn't really exist. My launch PS3 whould surely had fallen victim to this, had I had reason to turn it on. The shiny black tower sits idle most days (weeks), being roused for its blue ray capabilities more than anything else. I have played most of the titles that Sony has locked down to one console (Heavy Rain is certainly on the list of things that need to be played in the near future, as is White Knight Cronicles), but console exclusives are so few and far between that I occationally question the wisdom of owning both consoles. When it was the PS2 vs the Xbox it was much easier to decide where to play something: the Xbox version almost always looked better. Now it is not so simple, plus I have fallen right into the achievments trap that Microsoft has so carefuly laid. I play games on the 360 because that is where I have played everything previously and I have a meaningless number to pad. Logically, it makes no sense, but there is no escaping it.

We're not going to talk about Nintendo. The last home console that they made was the Gamecube, as far as I am concerned. I have nothing bad to say about the DS; it is an excellent handheld, far and away better than Sony's offereing, but the Wii is a cesspool of third party shovelware and first party games that would have been good six or seven years ago. Only the downloadable retro games are worth the effort, but who has time for nostalgia when there are planets to strip mine and alien species to blow to pieces?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Begrudgingly social.

Super Street Fighter II Hd Remix got a lot of things right. The net code is far superior to anything that came before or has come after (yes, I know BlazBlue is really close, but who plays that?). Its small, almost quaint roster had no filler, with every character being of at least some use, including pink T Hawk and lime Ken. Most importantly there was a functioning lobby system which allowed up to six people into a good old fashioned winner stays, round robin match up. It was helpful to have an audience, both to critique your performance after an ugly ass kicking or as witnesses when you pull something off that no one will believe. For example, the coolest thing I have ever done in any version of Street Fighter came as playing Ryu in HDR. I was about to lose a round to Honda thousand hand slap chip damage. I jump straight up, Honda starts the slap, I landed between hits and dragon punched for the win, and I actually meant to do this. There was screaming, swearing, virtual jumping up and down; we got hype. As much of a hermit as I am, this little bit of interaction made the game more fun and kept me playing much longer than I would have otherwise. I have high hopes for Super Street Fighter IV; this mode is sorely missed and the old HDR crew has mostly disbanded. I don't want to hear about how complex the game is versus the old one, I just want it back and I want it to work, and I know I am not alone.

After a bit of google-ing last night I found that my assumption that there is no romance possible with Tali in Mass Effect 2 was incorrect. Kudos to Bioware, but now I feel a little creepy. Some of what I said was in jest, some not, and now I need to make good on my threats of three digited shenanigans.

It also doesn't help that I have never seen her face and that I have no idea what the universal age of consent is.