The Backlog: Conventiontime Blues edition

I couldn't go to PAX 10. Neither could Doug. But Nick's there! He's also Internet famous now, thanks to his picture being taken at a Rock Band 3 event last night and then posted to Twitter. I can only hope that in his new-found celebrity, Nick Cummings won't forget the little guy. And by "forget the little guy" I mean I hope he invites us to really rad pool parties in Hollywood.

OK. I won't feel so bad about jumping right into the backlog now that my introduction is complete.

Let's do this.

Doug:

I feel like bowing deeply at the waist in appreciation to Nick for strongly suggesting I get Dragon Quest IX. I suppose it was only a matter of time; or, perhaps, I've finally stumbled upon something I like. But after 9 years of studying Japanese language and culture, it would only make sense to actually really dig into a JRPG, right? I'm not totally inexperienced — hello, Dreamcast fanboy favorite Skies of Arcadia — but games like FF7 have never really caught me.

Seriously, though — this game is good. Yes, it's certainly a Dragon Quest-ass Dragon Quest game — you fight slimes, you grind levels, and the character designs are by DragonBall creator Akira Toriyama. No wonder the Japanese gaming public bought roughly 3 million copies at launch last year. I'm not terribly far, but the world that's been created is captivating for both young and old gamers in the way the best Pixar or Disney films are; the religious overtones (and the Real Big Question I have regarding that) might go over kids' heads, but they still understand you are on a quest and need to do things. I'm glad I have reason to pack my DS along.

Adding to that is the copy of another Japanese RPG-ish thing, The World Ends With You, that I borrowed from Nick. This does such a good job of crystallizing contemporary Japanese tastes and trends (not necessarily down to particulars, but in how the Tokyo culture deals with them), and combines the aesthetic with an interesting story and combat. DQIX is going to be hard to displace, but this will try.

Of course, there's been more time in NCAA 11, Tiger Woods (picked up last year's game because I needed a golf fix), and Red Dead Redemption. I've almost finished the latter; hopefully that is wrapped up in a day or two. Pardon me while I go fight some more slimes, though.

Nick:

PAX begins in less than a day, and I'm already starting to worry about the long lines, the people with poor personal hygiene, and the overstimulating frenzy of the exhibition hall. But as exhausting as PAX inevitably is, it's invariably a hell of a lot of fun. So while I expect my next Backlog contribution will involve the new and unreleased games and technologies I'm hoping to check out over the weekend, this entry is mostly about wrapping up some loose ends.

I finally completed the God of War Collection last week after months of on-again, off-again play sessions. While I'd played the original around the time it came out in 2005, this was my first opportunity to get more than a few hours into the sequel. Five years later, the same strengths and weaknesses have stuck with those games. While the combat is relatively good (although maybe not as refined or technical as I would have liked) and the puzzles are clever, the writing is just so damn stupid that I could barely stomach it. I haven't played God of War 3 yet, but I'm eager to see whether they gave the script a little more substance for the finale; after all, haven't games like Uncharted 2 raised the bar across the board for quality of writing in games?

I also sank an hour into Shank's local co-op campaign. I haven't played much of the single-player game yet, but the co-operative mode has been a pretty good experience all around. I get the sense the game could have been a little better balanced in terms of how many times you have to stab the average thug before he's down, and timing windows on bosses could have been a little more generous. I realize those are time-honored traditions of the beat-'em-up genre, but when I look at games like Castle Crashers and Scott Pilgrim, they have enough little tweaks to the formula to avoid feeling like outdated concepts at their core. As it stands, Shank is certainly a pretty good-looking game, but it looks like the same amount of care just wasn't given to the actual play experience.

And if you're going to PAX, be sure to look me up! I'm hoping to see everything I can on the show floor and to attend a number of panels, but if I were a betting man, I'd look for me at the Harmonix booth. I'll probably be spending an unhealthy amount of time on mastering the moves to Salt 'n Pepa's "Push It" in Dance Central.

Aaron:

Honestly, I've been playing far too many games this week to feel good about myself.

Now that I'm back home I realize I want to play catch up and delve into all of the fantastic titles I've missed out on. And, as a new PlayStation 3 owner, I've had to go back into the PlayStation Network vault and acquire more than a few of the service's best games. Oh, and Metroid: Other M came out Tuesday. It's pretty damn great, and that's coming from a fair-weather Metroid fan.

So instead of trying to dress up this week's block of prose with fancy impressions about what I'm liking or disliking so far, I'll go ahead and gaudily disgorge my giant list of videogame preoccupations and be done with it. My criticisms (and, by extension, my witticisms) will have to wait until next week.

The List

Shank Dead Rising 2: Case Zero Flower FlOw Limbo The PixelJunk series(Eden, Monsters and Shooter) Monkey Island 2 Special Edition Everyday Shooter Noby Noby Boy Metroid: Other M