Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Where did my good JRPG go?

Fetch quests in an RPG, especially one from a Japanese developer, are a given. Most RPG heroes spend a good portion of their time running heroic errands for inept townsfolk, and Final Fantasy XIII-2 is no different. While fetch quests are ubiquitous, there is certainly a right and wrong way to design them. Here is a convenient check list:

  1. The instructions should be clear and reviewable
  2. The destination should be marked on a map
  3. They should not require backtracking to the beginning of the entire game
XIII-2 has gone 0 for 3. There are all sorts of side quests, but they are not listed anywhere in a menu. This means that I talk to someone, start one, and then forget about it because aside from writing everything down there is no way to keep track of them. Not only does XIII-2 not track side quests, there is no way to review instructions for the main quests. This has not been a big deal up until last night as the main quest was moving along in a very linear way. Then I was sent off to retrieve six or seven doodads from six or seven different time periods, and I'll be damned if I remember which ones were listed.

When I finally got to the right time and place the only hint I received was the message 'Search for the magic macguffin!' No clue as to where it was, or what it even looked like. Did I mention that what you are looking for is invisible? That wasn't mentioned in the instructions, either. I need to go through this process five more times, all in levels that I have already been through.

This reminds me very much of a similar blunder in what was otherwise an excellent game. If I ask you want the worst part of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, what comes to mind? If you say the art style, then get out, but if you remember the final search for triforce pieces being game breakingly boring, you are not alone. It killed the pace of the game, just like all this backtracking has killed the pace of XIII-2.

I am also on a rather tight schedule. Street Fighter X Tekken comes out next week and I need to get in on the ground floor, especially since my go to character is a no show. Paul - Guile is a serious possibility; gotta respect the big hair.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

But wait, if I can go back in time...

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is already forcing me to eat my words. Not about the plot, no that is still bat shit insane (Change the future and you change the past, bleh). It has made a few steps in the right direction with the cast, reintroducing an older Hope, who is not quite as much of a wimp as before, and Snow, who has not changed in the slightest and was passing the time punching a flan the size of a ten story building. What I was wrong about was the difficulty of combat. The random encounters are still very easy, with the exception of the ultra-rare ones that you aren't supposed to fight anyway. But the bosses? They are take no prisoners motherfuckers that require planning, fast reactions, and make liberal use of the 'retry' option.

Fist of all, I was wrong about a third person entering the party in addition to the monsters. I was planning on making third a dedicated healer - tank, but since I am not getting that third person I have to rely on the monsters to do it. What that means for the moment is that neither of my main characters have any healing spells. Again, this does not affect normal battles because they are over so quickly (side note - not have magic points and hit points resetting between battles makes everything more fun), but in boss battles I bleed through potions very quickly. I was also wrong about the way the player characters learn skills. In XIII each role had its own grid, so going back later to grab some sentinel skills just for the hp boost was really cheap. Not so this time; each character has a grid and moving along it gets more expensive as you go regardless of what role you are assigning points to. Going back and getting the basic healing spells for Sarah is going to take a while.

Translation: I screwed up my characters and am only about eight hours in. There was a boss fight that killed me so quickly that I assumed I was supposed to lose. Nope, 'game over,' try again. I will recover. It will take some grinding, but all is not lost. Here is what matters: a Final Fantasy game actually has managed to throw in a surprise or two in the game play department, surprises of the good kind, not the 'why were you tripping balls when you wrote this' kind.

Friday, February 24, 2012

It's about time Aya got a real sequel

Yes, I know this came out for the PSP. That's why I said a real sequel. From the wiki:

Aya Brea
Voiced by: Maaya Sakamoto (JP) and Yvonne Strahovski (EN)
Despite being in her late thirties, Aya appears to be the age of 25 due to her advanced mitochondria. Because of this, she is also the only applicable candidate viable for the Overdive System. She has lost her memories as a result of unknown circumstances, which has led to a drastic change in personality since the first two Parasite Eve games: She is shown to be more vulnerable and fighting for unknown reasons. She has the ability to travel through time via the Overdive system, and also gained the new ability to body swap. She is the secret weapon for the human race in the fight against the Twisted. In certain trailers, she is shown wearing what might be a wedding ring.

Just from that I am pleased that I never played it. Reminds me of what was done to Samus in that last Metroid game.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I'll enjoy half of it

I am not quite sure how to react to Final Fantasy XIII-2, and I am the one person out there who freely admits to enjoying the shit out of Final Fantasy X-2. X-2 worked because Yuna was (more or less) an interesting character and finding out what happened to her after Tidus ceased to exist made for a good story. XIII-2 makes a mistake right off the bat by focusing on a character that spent a good chunk of the first game as a statue, and even when they got her out he personality stayed the same. They got the wrong sister; Lightning has somehow ascended to god-hood and Serah has spent the intervening three years pouting on a beach. Snow is gone, too, so there is no personality there to hold down a plot that is already ludicrous, and I have only been playing for three hours.

But the combat.

This is a wonderful amalgam of many, many other games. The paradigm shifting in XIII was already an adaptation of X-2 outfit system. It had only a few flaws, the worst being the battle ending if the party leader died. XIII-2 has fixed that, gives you ample phoenix downs to avoid embarrassing losses to random encounters, and throws in a touch of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. If that doesn't get your attention then go buy Nocturne and play it, without stopping, until you begin to bleed from the eyes and ears when every other encounter kicks your ass. Yes, it is just demonic Pokemon, but adding a little bit of monster collection to the paradigms opens things up. I just got a monster last night that heals. That is all he does, but it allows me to take my other two (eventually three, I assume) characters and use them for attacking, buffing, or defense. You can also have up to three monsters in reserve at a time and they be brought out by changing paradigms. The only thing that XIII-2 wont do is be as difficult as Nocturne was.

For the record, I have never played and I doubt I will ever play an RPG as difficult as Nocturne was.

This combat is so wasted on a bullshit time travel story that it makes my teeth hurt. I don't know when Square went off the deep end, but I hope they make it back. They just need to remember that a story being complicated and difficult to follow does not automatically make it good.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Someone invent teleporters already

I want to go to Evo.

There is no good reason for this. Even if I played nothing but Street Fighter between now and July I would still go two and out. While I do learn new games a little faster than average, Street Fighter X Tekken will have been out too long for that to be an advantage. Honestly, I am not even sure I want to participate in the tournament itself, I just want to be present for it. I want to stand shoulder to shoulder with all the other fans, get hyped at the good matches and boo the bad ones. I meet up with people that I have played against online and out a face to a screen name. Watching a stream all by myself at my desk is no substitute.

But flying to Vegas costs money and driving from the great midwest would cost even more. Staying in Vegas also costs money, to say nothing of the time I would lose to it.

In case you can't tell, I didn't really play anything last night. All I had time to do was drop in the http://www.twitch.tv/couchtech lobby and get bodied twice. That was interrupted by a call from the guy renting my old house (yes, I own two houses, this is not a good thing) that the basement was flooding. Cure packing up my shop vac and driving there at 9:30 PM. Not exactly a fun evening. I am sure this urge will pass as the date grows closer, and if not there are plenty of other games to distract me. I am about to play Final Fantasy XIII-2 on the 360 of all places. Seeing the logo on a non-Sony system just feels wrong.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The third act collapse

A game losing its way towards the end and tripping over the finish line is nothing new. It happens for all sorts of reasons, some of which are truly not the developers vault. Money running out, deadlines and people leaving the team are all possible reasons, but every once in a while an otherwise excellent game takes such a hard left turn that I have to wonder what exactly happened. Perhaps all the programmers started smoking something, or perhaps the all stopped at the same time. Maybe the Taco Bell down the street burned down, or the testing team started a riot, or the pizza place stopped delivering. Whatever the reason, a few of these third act collapses have always stuck out as particularly egregious, and a new game was added to their number last night.

It should also be noted that they all come from the same two developers, so there just might be something to that illicit drugs being the cause idea.

The game: Far Cry
The offender: trigens

Might as well start with the king. The final third of Far Cry set the bar by which all future blunders are measured. Far Cry was an excellent open world-ish shooter that favored stealth over direct combat. I spent many, many hours crawling through the underbrush waiting for just the right moment to take out an enemy. It was tense, very well put together, and most of all fun. Then these monsters show up and everything that made the first two thirds of the game enjoyable is thrown out. This is going to be a common thread for all the game I am going to verbally assault: moving away from what made the game fun in the first place. Far Cry came out before every shooter required a cover system, so you have to make your own, hiding behind rocks and trees and anything else you could find, hoping you were ducking down low enough to avoid losing the top of your head. This worked because the enemies had both a sense of self preservation and were smart enough to flank you if you sat behind  your rock for too long. The trigens did nothing of the sort, charging at you head long, eventually learning how to wield rocket launchers of all things and one shotting you from across the map.

I never did finish Far Cry without turning on god mode.

The game: Crysis
The offender: whatever those damn flying alien things were

Strike two for Crytek. Crysis was a game about killing North Korean soldiers. Then these guys showed up:

They have exact same problem that the trigens did. Crysis worked because you felt like a badass, switching abilities on the fly, effortlessly moving from target to target, and generally thinning out the communist population. Then the aliens show up and none of the abilities that you have honed matter anymore. You can't sneak up on them, they fly most of the time. You can't throw exploding barrels at them, they are too tough. And you can't get into melee with them and punt them into the distance because, again, they are flying most of the time. This is not as bad of a collapse as Far Cry because it comes much closer to the end, though the zero g sections are almost as annoying as the similar sections in Unreal 2, a game that just barely avoids this list (because the rest of it wasn't very good, either).

The game: Uncharted
The offender: whatever the hell these things are

That's right Drake, you're fucked.

These guys might as well be trigens again. What I got from the wiki (because I remember very little about the first Uncharted) is that they are monsters created by a virus that was contained with the El Dorado sarcophagus. They break the game in a very similar way: Uncharted was a cover based shooter. This only works when you enemies take cover as well. The descendants (again, from the wiki) come at you dozens at a time in a rush worthy of the zerg. The shooting in Uncharted was already paint by the numbers, but at least it was funtional. Taking cover while these guys were rushing you just meant dying with your head between your knees.

The game: Uncharted 3
The offender: you name it

While Uncharted 3 didn't radically change the rules of the game in the final third, it did manage to trot out several things in a row that weren't any fun. Right before Drake took a pointless pirate killing detour he was drugged and spent about twenty minutes running through cramped streets, unable to distinguish what was real from what was not. It was a neat effect, but it went on a bit too long. Not wanting to waste all of the time and money they spent on the effect, Naughty Dog uses it again for the last level, only this time I was forced to shoot things while Drake couldn't walk straight.

And the things I had to shoot all looked like Ghost Rider, took several clips a piece to bring down, and gained the ability to fire rockets from their fingers when close to death. Their series of encounters was so annoying that I almost put the game down. It sounds cliched, but who play tested this? I'm not talking about bugs, I just want to know who played through this and said, 'Yes, this is still fun, it is a good idea.'

Honestly, that should be the only test that matters. Give the game to someone who hasn't played it before and ask them 'are you having fun right now?' If the answer is no ask them again in five minutes. Two no's in a row and that section of the game, especially when it is an action game, needs to be fixed. Watching Drake wander around in the desert was interesting, and the sand looked amazing, but after the first five minutes I was done with it. After ten more I was bored.

It's a shame, really. Uncharted 3 was very good, but all I am going to remember about it is how little fun it was to get killed over and over by Nick Cage's comic book wet dreams.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Indiana Jones, minus what little tact and subtlety he had

I have come up with the perfect game: remove Batman from Arkham City and drop him into Uncharted 3. He wont need any more move moves, nothing out of character like guns or swords, nor would he even need to be voice acted or have anything to do with the story. Drake can still be there; he can be Robin.

Let me explain: Uncharted 3 has incredible linear levels with an almost open ended way to get through them. That Tomb Raider style platforming is still about as complicated and a kid's connect the dots picture, but that is because Drake is a mere mortal and does not have all of Batman's wonderful toys. The ship graveyard level I played through last night was just screaming for a grappling hook and the ability to glide. When the combat does kick in and the player is supposed to be stealthy Batman would again come in handy. He would have the sense not to stick to the wrong side of cover and take a shotgun blast to the chest, anyway. The weakest part of Uncharted 3 is Drake, and since Bruce makes everything cooler...

Enough fantasy. Uncharted 3 is not at all that bad. Naughty Dog has created set pieces worthy of the most outlandish Bond movies and then set the player free (more or less) to play in them. There are still ridiculous difficulty spikes, especially when the first batch of bad guys is dead and the second wave that was hiding in their back pockets all jump out at the same time. The stealth sections are still weak, but not because moving around unseen is difficult. There is no feedback on what your enemies can see (Metal Gear has spoiled me) and if you are discovered then the hired goon closet opens up and the number of bad guys to kill triples. There always seems to be one right way and innumerable wrong ways to handle any given encounter. Finding the right way means dying a whole lot, but the game has a very liberal checkpoint system: Naughty Dog knew when they were about to pull some serious bull shit so that dropped a save point just before it. How thoughtful.

Nolan North has polished off his already excellent voice work making Drake a very believable... believable what? I believe the term is 'flaming douchebag.' Drake is just not a likable character. He uses and abuses his mentor, drives away woman, tries to taunt like Spider-Man and sounds like an idiot doing so, and in general is just a selfish ass. The voice work from all parties is excellent, with banter that feels both unscripted and realistic, but it all just servers that fact that Drake is not someone I would hang around with. Naughty Dog is aiming for an every man Indiana Jones but they missed and hit Jersey Shore instead. No one wants The Situation: The Adventure Game, in which The Situation tries to score with the honies whilst managing a raging case of pubic lice.

Damnit, I hope no one from EA or Activision sees that steals the idea. To the copyright office!


And just because I need to post this every time I talked about Naughty Dog: remember this game?

I owned that game.

Friday, February 17, 2012

I am going to pout and watch Mask of the Phantasm

I was so dissatisfied with the ending of Arkham City I almost went back on my word and bought the Catwoman content. Not because I cared about her, but because there just had to more to it. It was all a plot by Ras, Talia dies and then surprise Clay Face appears for an uninspired boss fight. Only after I was done playing did it become interesting, in an out of character, Batman would never do this way.

For starters, Batman kills Clay Face. It isn't explicit, but Clay Face does get knocked into a Lazarus pit, something that I can't imagine would be good for a being made out of a soluble material, and Batman did it on purpose and made to effort to save him (or even acknowledged what he had done). Secondly, Batman lets Joker die. He doesn't kill Joker, and it really is Joker's own fault, but after it is clear that he is not going to survive they have a heart felt conversation, share a joke, and then Batman carries him out of Arkham City and drops him on the hood of Gordon's car. Even this new grimdark Batman would have at least tried to save him instead of watching him expire on the floor.

That last ten minutes really soured me on the game. Most of the side quests sat unfinished, but even after the credits rolled and I was dumped back into the city there was no indication of where to go next. Guided exploration is fun, but pointless wandering through areas that I have already been through several times is not. There was even on last kick in the nuts for not buying the extra content: on the edge of a building there were several cats. I walked up to them and a prompt appeared: press X to switch to Catwoman. I pressed X. Sorry, you either purchased game used or rented it, therefore you do not deserve the full experience. Fuck off an die.

Or something to that effect.

I have a hard time blaming Rocksteady for these things. They smack of publisher meddling, and meddle they will as long as there is more money to be made. Well, I didn't spent the extra $10 on what should have been on the disc, so nyeh.

...still the best Batman move.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Yes! No! Yes!

This is both incredible and terrible news.


If this actually happens, if Guild Wars 2 comes out on your friendly neighborhood console, then it's over. That's it. Guild Wars is my World of Warcraft. It sucked up time so easily, so completely, and with no resistance on my part that it being available on a nice big screen sitting in front of my cushy love seat is frightening. They did so many little things right that I am still surprised that I managed to stop playing and skipped on the third expansion. A quick example: I played a warrior for the original release. When the first expansion came out I moved over to an assassin before anyone realized that they were terrible, but I never deleted my original characters. Months later I logged in with him again, and as a thank you for keeping a character for so long it game me a pet. It was a rather rare pet that I promptly sold for items. Just when I thought I was out, they sucked me back in.

I do have doubts that it will work very well without a keyboard to choose skills with, but there are plenty on buttons on console controllers. Hell, they could let me actually use a keyboard (which never actually happens). Excited, yes. But nervous. Very, very nervous.


As negative as I sounded about Arkham City two days ago, I look forward to sitting down in front of it every night. My blinder have been finely tuned, to the point that the glowing green question marks no longer make an impact. Missions where my destination is 'somewhere in this big circle' are still annoying, but gliding from rooftop to rooftop as Batman is still fun. I was really hoping that it was not going to fall back on the Joker as being the final boss again, but after Ras killed himself (by trying to stab Batman through his own body while falling from the tower that had just exploded) he was the only one left. Freeze has gone soft, Two Face is probably reserved for the Catwoman sections that I will never play, Penguin is locked in a display case in his own museum, Zzazz went down without a fight and Bane is locked in an elevator (seriously, at his size?).

Azreal is floating around, I haven't caught Deadshot yet, and if I remember correctly Hush is in here somewhere. It certainly cannot be said that the is a dearth of content here, I just will not have the patience to see it all before moving on to Uncharted 3 and Final Fantasy XIII-2.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

But he might sashay

My enthusiasm for Arkham Asylum could be described as gushing. I like Batman. I like adventure games. I like Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill; their voices are what I hear in my head when I think about the characters they play. It was a perfect storm by a developer who never put out a game of note before. A sequel was both inevitable and anticipated.

And here it is.So why am I so underwhelmed?

Arkham City starts out by punishing people who are not the first purchaser by removing finished, single player content from the disk and forcing secondhand buyers (or renters) to lay down 800 MS funbucks for it. I could not care less about Catwoman, but it is part of the game that I will not get to play because I refuse to endorse such behavior. This was chosen because there is no multi-player to take away, so removing the character with the most cleavage was the next best thing they could think of.

There is also a bigger emphasis on collecting Riddler's green question mark, to the point where there are side missions locked behind finding enough of them. Doodad collecting was my least favorite part of Arkham Asylum; I thought it needlessly pulled the player out of a very carefully crafted world. Now it is nearly impossible to glide from room top to roof top without a glowing green question mark mucking up the view. Other side quests are much too vague about what triggers them. Finding Zzazz would be cool, if only I know why the telephones he calls stopped ringing. Deadshot is in town, but I have no idea where the rest of his missions are. Arkham City assumes that you are going to wander around the map, stumbling onto ambiguous triggers. Batman doesn't wander. He doesn't mosey, saunter, stroll, or mince either. He moves from place to place with purpose, kicking ass along the way.

Combat, especially against armed foes, is more difficult. As much as I would like to complain about getting killed for the tenth time on a stealth section, when it is because the enemies are acting the way people actually act there is no one to get upset with besides myself. When you disarm a bad guy, surprise, he runs for the weapon and picks it up again. When they figure out that Batman has been using ceiling perches to hide they start to blow them up. If one turns around just as Batman is about to hit them from behind they shoot, and those bastards can actually aim.

The story, so far at least, is a mess. Joker is there, but he is dying. He infected Batman with whatever is killing him to force Bats to help. Joker had commissioned Mr. Freeze to create an antidote, but Freeze was captured by Penguin, who is in a turf war with both Joker and Two Face. If that is not complicated enough, the League of Shadows just happens to have an underground base there, Ras is actually present along with Talia, and this is all happening under the watchful eye of Hugo Strange, who knows Batman's secret and has been smuggling weapons into Arkham City for reasons that haven't been explained yet.

And then Robin actually shows up and the game loses a million cool points.

Arkham Asylum may be an impossible act to follow. Take Arkham City out of the shadow of its predecessor and it is a damn fine game. Leave it there and it is the nothing more than a side kick with a silly name.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fights you cannot win

I suppose I should offer up at least some bit of explanation regarding my abject dismissal of the 'Xbox Tablet' beyond Mr. Horse. To do so I am going to need to reference one of the greatest (fictional) scientists of our time: Dr. Ian Malcolm.

'Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.'

God help us, we are in the hands of engineers.
Video games have a long history of trotting out new ideas before anyone bothers to think about how much fun they will actually be to use and if they will add anything to the experience. Nintendo specifically is more willing to jump out on a financial limb with new, bizarre products. Sometimes it is an absolute flop.

Sometime they are more middle of the road, only finding a modicum of success after a hefty price correction that screws early adopters.

And sometimes, well, they hit the jackpot.

I will never fault Nintendo for trying new and crazy things, mostly because I am not their target audience and will not be subjected to their arrogant flights of fancy. Their success, however unpredictable and fleeting, draws imitators. Sony's Move was a laughable Wii ripoff. At least Kinect tried to be different, but I maintain that all of this technology is still not ready for the prime time. It adds nothing to a game beyond calisthenics and Facebook black mail ammunition. The lack of true, real time one to one movement recognition and any sort of physical feedback relegates all of it to gaming sideshows. 

Of course the second best selling game for the holiday season last year was Just Dance 3, which puts a great big money hat on my argument and sends it to the corner. Seriously, who plays this stuff?

The next generation of hardware is much closer than I want to admit and it remains to be seen if this is the generation that finally deserts the main stream. It should be noted that the numbers one and three games of the same time period were Call of Duty: Again and Elder Scroll: Skyrim. I am probably worrying over nothing.


Microsoft has already hinted that their new hardware is going to come packaged with an updated version of Kinect. The definitive version, actually. It will be what they wanted Kinect to be in the first place but no one would pay for. That's fine, I can just not use it. As motion centered as the new dashboard is the controller still works just as one would expect it to. It is the leak of the tablet controller that has me the most worried. First off because it appears to be once again chasing Nintendo, and secondly, because this has already been done, at least to a lesser extent. Remember these?

Used for about two or three games, most notably as the health meter in Resident Evil: Code Veronica. Sounds good at first, it saves screen real estate for other things. If you think about it just a little harder, and realize that seeing how much health you have requires you to look away from the screen where zombies are trying to kill you it suddenly is not that cool anymore. The Wii U controller and Microsoft's Xbox tablet are high resolution VMU's with touch screens, both chasing a market that they have no reason to chase and have no chance at putting a dent into, anyway. Yes, I am talking about Ipads.

Ipads a little more than toys right now, but they won't stay that way. They are already capable of putting out graphics on par with the current systems. Who knows what the next ones will do. Making the same thing just a bit better is Apple's game, they have made billions doing it, and now Microsoft and Nintendo are trying to get their piece. 

What the gaming companies should do is to continue to put out dedicated gaming devices capable of running games that look and play better than the games running on non-gaming devices. What they are actually doing is taking their dedicated gaming devices and making them look less like what they are, blending in with the smart phone and tablet competition instead of highlighting what makes them different and what they can do better. I don't want to play Angry Birds (or Just Dance, for that matter) on my dedicated gaming machine. I want to play things that won't work on a phone or tablet, things that benefit from big ass televisions and over priced sound systems. I want to play epic games that take hundreds of hours to complete, games that are so strange that I do not want to be seen playing them, games that just don't work when viewed from the palm of my hand.

I am not afraid of change, I am just not a fan of change for its own sake, especially when it doesn't improve on what I already have.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

You can't always get what you want

Ezio is quite the hypocrite. A few days ago he was yelling at a younger assassin for killing the wrong person because he was not patient enough, and what did he do last night? On the word of an eighteen year old kid who just happened to be third in line for the crown he killed a friend of the kid's father for smuggling weapons and generally going against the will of the sultan only to find out that the weapons he was smuggling were going towards the templar resistance. Whoops. He felt a little guilty, but moved past that and right on to finishing the dead man's missions. Killing hundreds of men makes the odd innocent one a little easier to deal with.

This mission was the first mandatory sneaky one, resetting immediately if a guard sees you. There is also the 100% sync requirement of not killing anyone, but that only made it through the first few attempt. A guard can't see you when he's dead, so I left a path of corpses on the roof tops. After all this skulking around Ezio kills his target by jumping from a platform thirty feet above his head and crushing him, all while he is surrounded by thirty plus guards. Time stops, they talk, and then it is time to run for your life. It was a missions very reminiscent of the first Assassin's Creed, and I am both glad it was there and relived that it has been the only one. Strict mission requirements suck much of the fun out of things. I prefer to have to deal the situation that I have created, not have the game reset because I didn't meet its lofty expectations.


I watched all of these:

and could not help but be disappointed. Ono has been carrying around that damn Blanka toy for months, I thought the final best troll would be for Blanka to show up in the game.

A little, yes. But they are still going to get my money.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

When did this happen?

No gaming last night, spent the evening pulling myself up imitation rock walls instead.

Ah, the spectacle of youth. It is not a secret that I am aging quickly. My hairline, graying sideburns, slight double chin, lack of energy and pitiful alcohol tolerance all point to an inevitable and possibly precipitous physical decline. About the only thing I have going for me is a physique inconsistent with a person who spends most of his day sitting in front of a computer and is eating his seventh Twizzler while typing this. My only point is that I am getting old, at least in body (but not in mind).

Eight Twizzlers.

A climbing gym, from my limited exposure, is a subset of a normal gym. Translation: there are no fatties and the average age is significantly younger. It is just easier to balance on a quarter inch toe hold when you weigh seventy five pounds soaking wet. This has been the first time in about two months that I had gone and actually climbed and most of the runs had been redone. There were a few insane, near inverted sections that looked impossible to me. Of course some ten year old kid scrambled up and dangled upside down for much too long trying to pull his feet over his head to grab a heal hold that he could not actually see. Just about everyone who wasn't on a wall stopped what they were doing to watch. Rank amateurs like myself, experienced hipsters, super human sixty somethings, we all craned out necks toward the ceiling to see if he could do it.

He never did, but he gets quite a few points for just trying.

It is a strange feeling to be intimidated by someone who probably hasn't even gone through puberty yet. I shouldn't have been, but I was, and it made me feel old. It is probably a good thing that I cannot see who I am playing in Street Fighter, as there is no doubt I have had my ass kicked by younguns' before and will again. Age should not be an issue.

But my back hurts. And my feet hurt from the shoes. And I had to go to bed earlier than I wanted to because I had to work in the morning. And working for a living sucks, no matter how you slice it. Getting old blows.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Aiming for Bethesda's crown

I finally got that last templar bastard last night. An unrelated mission dumped me out on his doorstep. He was right there, and I still almost let him get away. Too much time wandering around in the sewers for Ezio, that bastard could smell him coming several blocks away. Speaking of killing people...

Assassin's Creed Revelations is lacking something very important, something that one would think would be present, given the actual name of the game. I have yet to get an actual assassination mission. Sure, I have killed people by leaping from roof top to roof top, plummeting down upon them from an impossible height with an impossible number of pointy objects. This is not the same as being assigned some prey, stalking them, observing them as they unknowingly wander through their final moments, then casually walking up from behind and sticking them with the hidden blade. Ezio is a busy guy, I understand that, but he is still an assassin, he should get to assassinate someone once in a while.

The Desmond's Journey sections are, because I despise mincing words, bull shit. Directionless first person platforming with a dash of Tetris does not belong here, especially when it only serves to draw out the back story of the least interesting character in the series. I did not sit down in front of Assassin's Creed to play as Desmond, much less as Desmond's disembodied mind as it wanders thorough its own memories courtesy the Animus. How they got John de Lancie to do some voice over work in these worthless sections is beyond me, he is much too cool for this. They probably promised to never make him say 'PEE-card' or mention the letter Q.

Revelations is still fun, of course. It is the same game as the last two, just in a different city with a larger arsenal. It does seem a bit buggier this time around. Assassins's Creed has never been perfect (you are your own to do a you tube search. The first one I came across used Banana Phone as the music and I am not going to look again). For example, during a quest to poison a specific target the game marked the wrong person. I poisoned him, and it caught up and pointed me in the correct direction. After I killed the her, the first guy was marked again. I went back and sure enough, he was standing there again, this time locked in a loop of the 'I am poisoned and going to die' animation.

So I killed him again.

Every time I walked away he came back, sometimes standing over his own corpse. A glitch in the animus, right?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Revealing what, exactly?

It's amazing how much time you can put into Assassin's Creed games without actually playing them. There is just enough to do in their worlds that the game play is almost self sustaining. For example, for the past three days I all have been doing in Revelations is unlocking viewpoints, kicking the templar out of their dens, sending assassins to far away places to rob them of their gold, promoting said assassins to head up my dens, using the spoils of these conquests to purchase a stake in every damn shop in Constantinople, then going back to step one. When an open world can just be open and still fun to troll around in the game is doing something right. The tower defense segments are not good, however, which means that my purchasing of stores happens it spurts to prevent templar encroachment, so I do have to return to the story missions soon.

Also, there is only one templar den left. I have tried to kill the captain no less than four times, but that bastard is always hiding in a different place and runs away as soon as someone sees me.

Ezio has aged visually, but he certainly doesn't act or move any differently. I do get the feeling that Ubisoft is going to kill him off at the end, what with this being the last Assassin's Creed game in this time period, and that is fine. He has had a three game run and still works as a character. With one liners like 'I am the most interesting man in your life,' how could he not. Getting to play as Altair again is also a treat, though I am not really sure why. He only had one game, in which is didn't really change a while lot, but there is still a mystique about him. He certainly is an meaner, nastier assassin than Ezio. And his costume looks cooler from behind.

Now that I am done with the bomb making sections I have little interest in using them again. My tried, true, and exceptionally lame tactic of picking people off with throwing knives still works, and I don't even need to aim those manually. I can see caltrops being useful, but guards jumping up and down on one foot and stepping on them is so funny that I stop running away every time to turn and laugh at them. Then I kill them, of course.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Even the dead have a good side

Enough complaining about Dead Rising (it's done and I have moved on), here are a few things that it got exactly right.

Not everyone is a bad ass. During the first, best part of the game the victims are portrayed in varying states of shock. Some huddled in corners, other fought as best they could, and a few found a nice quiet corner for alcohol, drugs, and sex with strangers. All three are viable options. It breaks down a bit when people come out of their sobbing just long enough to send you on a fetch quest, but seeing people is a true state of panic, ready to bash your head in because you just might be infected, was more realistic than everyone picking up the nearest blunt object and attacking the closest zombie.

All the zombies used to be people. While the easy way was taken out and there were no child zombies, it is brought up several times that the woman coming to eat your brains was your sister or wife just a few hours ago. In the resort I can across a man sitting in a pool that had been turned red by blood, screaming that he had just killed his brother. 'What could I do?' he yelled, 'he was going to kill me!' There are recordings following a reporter who was infected early but did not actually change until he made it to the prison. He complained about getting hungrier and hungrier, then wondered why even his own son would no longer talk to him. There is a human part to a real zombie apocalypse than almost no on ever touches on because it is really heart breaking.

More than three or four zombies at a time are going to kill you. Taking on one or two is not a problem, but you cannot cut head off fast enough when they all lunge at you in concert. Any more than five in a group and I wasted my special attack.

Everyone who is a badass will most likely resort to asshattery to stay alive. The police station in town was taken over by gangs as soon as the crisis hit. The first thing they did, after they locked the doors, was blast a message from the loud speakers that they were not going to help anyone and that approaching the station would get you shot. Survival of the fittest, or those least inhibited by a stringent moral code.

All of these good things of course have nothing to do with how the game played. Dead Rising is a nice candy shell that has had the chocolate inside replaced with baking soda. It's not going to kill you if you eat it, but it sure isn't going to taste very good.


I am attempting to write a sonnet for valentine's day. On the record, fuck Shakespeare. This shit is hard. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

There is no evil monkey!

All I wanted was for a postmortem primate to come charging out of the bush, scaring the ever loving shit out of me. I wanted a surprise. There were odd noises heard, but nothing of the sort happened. Just more zombies, limited to one of four flavors with different skins. The scenery has changed, moving from the interesting beach to the less interesting slums to the boring jungle, finally to a prison that looks just like it did prior to the outbreak. Dead Island had one good idea, but instead of running with it decided to shamble off in the same direction of every other post-apocalyptic snooze fest.

I have seen the end of the world so many times that it no longer frightens me. Bring on the fire and brimstone, I welcome the living dead, the devil himself may walk down the street, alien invasions, devastating earthquakes, climate change fueled super storms, civilization ending resource wars, none of it will come as a surprise. The scariest idea is that the world just won't get around to ending, that people will continue on, ad nauseum, until we breed out all the smart people and only the ass holes are left.

Ah, Mike Judge. A prince among men.


Early reports from people whose opinions I respect peg Soul Calibur 5 as a worthy purchase. Net code is good, a little slim on fighters, but enough to keep everyone happy. I do wonder how Mitsurugi and Siegrfried has fared, but not quite enough to run out and buy the game. Soul Caliber was another fighting game that I thought I was good at. Then I played someone who actually knew what he was doing and I was destroyed. An entire evening was filled with weapon based ass kickings, and I did improve slightly, though my opponent not being able to see or breath due to severe cat allergies had more to do with that than my skill. I just bought a fighting game that I am not playing, and I will buy Street Fighter X Tekken with or without Blanka, so this is going to be a pass for now. The fighting scene is a fickle beast, jumping at whatever is new, but it always comes back home. So that is where I will wait, saving my hop shenanigans and scrubby mix ups for when the time is right.