The Backlog: The Gang's All Here edition

We're baaaaaaaaaaaack. Aaron's returned from a summer sojourn spent in the woods, and we felt "hey, we haven't done a real good Backlog in a while" — nevermind one with the full crew. So though Nick has been criss-crossing the Pacific Northwest, Aaron has just come back to civilization, and Doug has been tangling with the local wildlife, there's still plenty to talk about. Aaron needs some more time coming to grips with working Internet and electricity, but we do have a contribution from Tyler, our contributor and friend of the site who's currently living la vida Nippon in Japan. Backlog agents! Are! GO!

Doug

College football season is less than a week away, and I've been playing quite a bit of NCAA Football 11. I've been playing on my own, leading my Oregon Ducks to glory, and I'm also involved with an online dynasty where I'm using Mississippi from the Southeastern Conference. The game is still a very good improvement on years past, but I've got one pretty big complaint.

The AI is a bastard about going into God mode. I was playing against one of the better teams in my Oregon save recently, went up 28-7 early, then had my game fall to pieces. Shockingly, after this, the CPU starts destroying me — and stupid things start happening to my players, like fumbles. EA Sports deciding that I am going to do nothing but lose is really frustrating, but fortunately, it doesn't happen too often. Shutting out Boise State in the BCS National Championship game is also a nice way to counterbalance that frustration, too.

I'm almost finished with Red Dead Redemption, too — it's been an interesting, curving plot so far, and seems much longer than the 20 or so hours I've put in, but strangely it seems to me that the gameplay and missions tend to run together. Far too many missions have you clearing out an enemy stronghold, especially when you're in the Mexican section of the storyline. I also have wandered into my first ninja cougar attacks, too, which are definitely interesting.

I could keep going, but I want to play some more of my old Dreamcast games in anticipation of the system's U.S. launch anniversary coming up, and I need to start God of War for PS2, which I picked up used earlier this week.

Nick

The books adorn my shelves in numerical order. The movie ticket stub is still sitting out on my desk. I even paid a dollar so my Xbox avatar could sport a swanky Sex Bob-Omb t-shirt.

So yeah, I think it's fair to say I'm a pretty big fan of Scott Pilgrim. And fortunately, it holds the rare distinction of being excellent in all its incarnations: The books are great, the movie is a fun adaptation and the game is exactly the kind of game Scott would want to play. By combining the adrenal thrills of old-school beat-'em-ups with some smart persistent character progression features, the Scott Pilgrim game has been an absolute blast to play. And although I've mostly played it alone, I can't wait for some four-player action next week...

...when I go to PAX. Although most of the Sasquatch crew has to sit this year's expo out, Spencer and I are going to be in Seattle for the full three days of the convention. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll just say that I'm mostly going with the hopes of doing some good old-fashioned networking and hopefully getting a little closer to finally landing a job in the games industry. But I also can't wait to check out the games on display, so if anyone wants to hear my impressions with Kinect or Rock Band 3's pro instruments or the Nintendo 3DS (I hope it's there...) just drop me a line. I'm happy to share as much as I can.

Tyler

As part of my Japanese indoctrination, I’ve been playing through Persona 3 Portable, the PSP port of Atlus' PS2 JRPG. Though I’m a little over sixty hours deep at this point, I fear I may only be about 80% through the game.

The gameplay has certainly been streamlined from Persona 3 & 4 on the console, which is probably why I’ve invested more time in this title than any other Shin Megami Tensei-series game I’ve ever played. Fun fact: at one point or another I have owned Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, Persona 3, Persona3: FES, and I still own Persona 4; I haven’t finished a single one of them.

The changes Atlus made to the interface for P3P greatly appeal to my ADD sensibilities. Moving from area to area outside of the dungeon and working through your social links, a process that I found incredibly tedious in Persona 3, now simply requires navigating a menu rather than moving your protagonist in the game world. Reviews have compared the game to more of a visual novel with dungeon crawling segments; I’d be inclined to agree with that assessment, and it’s likely the perfect format for a modern JRPG. You get all the wacky anime-style drama and twists and turns without the massive amount of fluff and tedium generally seen in these games.

It’s easy to see why developers like Square-Enix are focusing on portable systems for their RPGs. If Final Fantasy XIII is any indication, I don’t have much desire to play a JRPG on a home console these days. The long hours these games require work so much better in smaller, more accessible doses.

A quick iOS recommendation: Monster Dash from Halfbrick (Fruit Ninja). It's a great variation on the “run-to-the-left” style of games made famous by Canabalt.