The Backlog: Hey Ken, can I borrow that lawnmower? edition

Street Fighter season is officially back in full swing, and you know what that means: Ken jokes are in vogue once again. Whether you're poring over exhaustive guides to master Ken's deeply nuanced fighting style or just enjoying a brain-dead pun, there's no time like the present to dig into Capcom's latest fighter.

Of course, there are a whole lot of other great games you could be playing too, whether you're gaming on-the-go or squeezing every last ounce of enjoyment from a couple of recent big-name console games like a certain site editor. Anyone who can finish Mass Effect 2 on insanity is a stronger person than I.

Anyway, let's get down to it.

Aaron

What a low-key week for my gaming escapades -- let me tell you somethin'. I finally capped off my time with Mass Effect 2 by beating the Insanity playthrough I started last month. I'm glad to put that game to rest for a while, despite my adoration for it. Or I was glad: Word hit the blogs yesterday that another DLC mission is coming. Knowing that I'll buy this "Overlord" pack, even though I'm moving on to greener gaming pastures soon (Red Dead Redemption!), makes me a bit sad. What is free will if I choose not to exercise it?

Maybe I should have dubbed this Backlog entry "Aaron is a Hardcore Machine Fueled by Sex Appeal and Intelligence." Why? Well, in addition to beating ME2 on its highest difficulty, I also completed Splinter Cell: Conviction on Realistic, which is the pinnacle of Sam Fisher-ness. Yeah, I pretty much did it for the achievements. There's a bit less shame when I admit that fact to everyone.

Also, contrary to my statement above, I'm not a hardcore machine fueled by sex appeal and intelligence. I thought that needed some clarification. No, in reality I'm a soft-core primate fueled by carbohydrates and self-deprecation.

And on a final note, I'm receiving personal compensation from the insurance company from the accident I mentioned in the last Backlog to the sweet, sweet tune of $300. Because I'm going to be working this summer anyway, I've decided that this check will be used irresponsibly for the purchase of a new gaming console. Now I need your help in choosing either a PS3 or a Wii. I have my own pros and cons for each, but additional perspectives would be welcome. I'd like to read about why you yourself enjoy either console, and not such arguments as the following: "Lulz Ps4: it haz betur gaimms THAN teh Wii-nis!1111!!2

Doug

Sorry, too busy to write a Backlog contribution this week. Nah, it's not homework. Nah, not finals. Nah, not family.

What's that? Oh, sorry, was too busy playing Bejeweled Blitz to hear your question.

Yes. You may scoff; you may laugh. I am absolutely addicted to Bejeweled right now, and it's actually not because of the game. It is a well-designed PopCap game, this is very true. However, the reason why I'm addicted to playing the Blitz mode both on my iPhone and on Facebook is because of the meta-game that's been crafted.

If you tie in to your Facebook account, it will compare your score to your friends. The leaderboard resets every week, but amongst my grad school friends, it is a hotly contested timekiller right now. Yes, there is Bejeweled smack talk going back and forth, for what it is worth. I just know that I'm absolutely terrible and getting my ass routinely kicked by a group of Thai girls. My sense of nerd pride is somehow not okay with this.

I'm also still battling Nick and a few others on Words with Friends — still open to challenges! The more games of Scrabble, the better.

In more hardcore gaming news, I've spent some time again this week in Forza Motorsport 3 preparing for a racing series hosted on one of the forums I'm on, and also a bit with PES 2010. For PES, I'm still working on my Master League saves, but I'm also trying to go get some of the low-hanging achievements to help boost the 'ol gamerscore.

I've also been playing Super Street Fighter 4 some more as well. I tried going back to a little SSFIITHDR earlier this week (a friend in grad school wants to throw down on some old-school SFII) and it was very hard to go back to, simply because I feel like SFIV (and Super in particular) is such a great evolution of the Street Fighter gameplay style. I played for damn near an hour online with Nick last night, and though he kicked my ass most of the time, I was improving...and still having a ton of fun. What a game. It's well worth the $40.

Lastly, since Steam is now available for Mac, I've gotten my account set up and downloaded a few titles. Apparently I can't run Portal on my era of MacBook, which makes me sad...but at least I've got Torchlight! I need to spend some time on that; between class, SSFIV, and not bringing my wireless mouse with me, I haven't spent any time with it yet at all.

Nick

My mind may be working overtime to learn the nuances of Super Street Fighter 4, but my heart belongs to Demon's Souls -- and maybe not in a good way. I recently picked up a copy of the hard-as-nails RPG expecting to stand a fighting chance against its ruthless challenges and devious traps, but man, I really wasn't prepared. No amount of playing Diablo 2 on hardcore could have prepared me for the frustration that comes with losing half an hour's worth of progress because of one stupid misstep or late parry.

But the strange thing is that I love the game. It's got that sort of slow-burn enjoyment that requires a hefty investment into its learning curve up front, but after a few hours things start to click. You learn from all your mistakes, and eventually you develop the skills to explore and defend yourself without dying every few minutes.

After six hours of play, during which I started the entire game over with a new character three times, I finally took down the first demon and progressed onto the second area. If you make it this far -- if you stick with it, despite its valiant efforts to batter you into submission -- you're in for an absolutely top-notch game.

I also want to mention that I finally managed to get my hands on a copy of the English translation of Mother 3. It's been about 15 years since I finished Earthbound, and I never imagined I'd get the chance to play a game that maintains the same strange feel and wit that made Earthbound so distinct. Mother 3 is better than Earthbound, and if that's not reason enough to play a game, I really don't know what is. It proves that no story is too difficult to portray in a believable, immersive way on even the most limited hardware. If you have the means to play it, it's absolutely worth the effort.