The Backlog: Triumph Over Adversity edition
Things don't always go right in life. Hell, they rarely do. But this week in the Backlog, we have to pat ourselves on the back for getting over some issues in gaming. Aaron and Tyler have each crafted ingenius methods to deal with PSN being down, while Doug has continued to play old games because that's what you do with limited resources. Of course, this being life, not everything has gone perfectly well, but to say any more would spoil the fun!
And with that, to the Backlog!
What a week. I had a schedule shift at work, which meant that I had three days off, worked two days and then had another three days to relax. I love it when computer-based schedules cause strange occurrences like that.
I've been in a holding pattern with Portal 2, mostly due to the ongoing PSN debacle. Eventually I will finish the singleplayer game I began on my console, and even though nothing involving the mega-hack is preventing me from doing that I just don't feel like turning on my PS3 right now. When I look at that console, I feel very let down.
Yet I haven't stopped playing those silly ol' vidyagames. On Tuesday I picked up DJ Hero 2 at Toys 'R' Us for $19.99. What a beautiful deal — it even came with the turntable!
So far I'm very impressed at how the second DJ Hero is presented, which is as an accessible and polished rhythm game not caught up in the overburdened feature set common to the contemporary Rock Band and Guitar Hero titles. I'm not an expert on a lot of electro/trance/techno-pop, but the soundtrack is diverse while being recognizable. It's also an easy-to-learn-yet-nigh-impossible-to-master experience for the halfhearted fake music game enthusiast like myself.
And in an astonishing newsflash filed under "Aaron is fucking stupid," I fell asleep this past Monday evening all delicately (and dare I say sexily) sprawled on my bed, unaware of the mischief that would soon ensue. At some point during my slumber I managed to roll onto my Xbox 360 controller, turn on the console and, using some unknown appendages, purchase Section 8: Prejudice from one of the dashboard's promotional windows.
I woke up an hour later and heard the console purring away — the hard drive processing all its new, bullshit data. When I saw my 1600 points had dwindled to 400...I flipped. Then I tried playing the game, and flew into a deeper rage. Apparently no one told all of the bromigo fans of Halo and Call of Duty that they shouldn't waste their years studying programming and game development to make a horrible, bastard clone of said franchises.
Section 8: Prejudice is so, so bad.
Most of this week's contributions can be found here, in the LIGHTNING ROUND *thunder clap sounds* Retrospective Overdrive article. I plan to do this at least once more, FYI, so please send any suggestions you may have in to the proper authorities. I don't want to be too redundant but man, the early Sonic the Hedgehog games are still damn fun to play. I may love Sonic 2 over the others thanks to nostalgia, but they're just flat-out great games. Hard to complain there.
I'm also making good on the promise to finally legitimately dig into Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Now if I can only survive making a run through the East Palace I'll be farther into that game than I've ever been. It's a fantastic playing game so far, I can't imagine how fun it will be once more abilities open up.
However, this week has also been a bit frustrating. In doing research for that article, I surfed my way down a k-hole and wound up trying to set up MAME on my computer. Or, rather, to get MAME to behave on my computer. I'm hardly inexperienced running emulators, but this felt like trying to work on an Italian car or something else that blends frustration with confusion. To finalize the comparison, I think my computer even had an electrical fire.
Okay, so maybe that's a lie. But still, once I figured out what the stupid thing wanted me to try and do things got a bit better, but then the emulator wouldn't read some of my games? Oi. I've since thrown all those files in the bin but I'd like to start fresh again eventually.
Lastly, in further news regarding frustrations, I tried to get a copy of the Utopia boot disc for Dreamcast working. All I succeeded in doing was turning three perfectly good CD-Rs into coasters. I know there are some tricks to doing this via OS-X, but dang, I just want that to work. If anyone can lend some expertise, I promise this is for a good (and legal!) cause. If you know your Sasquatch history, you might be able to figure out why I'd be looking to get this working...any help will be repaid with effusive praise for your efforts on our site.
There was a good five years of my life I might have classified myself as a ‘PC Gamer’. I built my own machine, went to LAN parties (remember those?) and preached the superiority of mouse and keyboard controls over joypads. During that same period, however, in my vocabulary RPG still referred to Final Fantasy and while I experimented (like we all do at that age) with Forgotten Realms games such as Icewind Dale, none of them really stuck with me. My friends and I mostly rotated between Counter-Strike, Unreal Tournament and the occasional game of Starcraft. Unfortunately, I’m terrible at real-time strategy games in general so my first exposure to Blizzard’s triage of PC franchises left a sour taste in my mouth so I stayed with shooters.
The last time I lived in Japan was the end of my PC gaming days. I couldn’t afford to keep my machine up to date with the latest parts and games, and I needed a laptop for a summer study abroad program I was enrolled in at Nihon University in Tokyo. A friend was nice enough to loan me his Powerbook G4. For those unfamiliar with Apple's history, this was before they switched to Intel processors, so Boot Camp and Windows were not an option. My only gaming outlets for that summer were my Gameboy Advance SP and the Blizzard games my friend had previously installed on his computer. This is where my love for Diablo II began.
In retrospect, I think it might be the same factor that hooks me in achievements or trophies badges that appeals to me about the Diablo style of games. It is of course naturally dependent on how you play and on what difficulty level, but these games are never about story or strategy. Watching someone else play, it appears terribly tedious. It just looks like you’re clicking the mouse...a lot. No, these games are all about one word: loot. Most of it’s imitators adapted the Diablo-esque color-coded system of item classification: common drops are white, enhanced are green, rare are purple and uniques are orange. Similar to Sony’s tiered trophies and Microsoft’s point-value achievements, it’s easy to deduce value. It becomes even more rewarding when you can see the equipment on your miniature avatar slicing or spell-casting their way through the hordes. These are constant reminders of your progression. Once hooked, a player can spend literally hundreds of hours playing through these games and never feel the tedium because of that constant sense of achievement and the thought that you’re always just five minutes away from finishing a quest, leveling up, or getting enough gold for that next weapon.
With the PlayStation Network down, rather than rage against Sony, hackers and the world *cough* Aaron, I took the opportunity to jump into some old Steam-Play games I have on my MacBook. Runic Games’ Torchlight is the latest Diablo-style RPG to sink it’s teeth into me. Though to call it Diablo-like is being modest, Torchlight is essentially bargain-brand Diablo. Granted, it at least has authenticity as original Blizzard team members started Runic, but the title’s imitation could not be more blatant. With no release date currently given for Diablo III, however, I don’t mind the plagiarism; in fact I welcome it. Torchlight scratches the itch for a loot-focused RPG cilck-a-thon in all the right places. The only ways it is lacking should be fulfilled in the sequel, which is set for release this summer: these shortcomings include co-op play, new classes and some more variety in towns and characters. I still hope the troubles facing PSN will be adequately resolved soon but in the meantime I just need one more level before I can equip these boots.