Backlog: Year Five Begins
Friends: It's a new year. We're excited to be here!
Our tiny staff has moderately sized (read: big) plans for the next 12 months, which I mention at the risk of over-hyping ideas formulated barely two weeks ago in a single meeting. Even so, I want to kick things off by declaring Johnny "Number 5" Five, the protagonist robot of the 1986 cinema classic Short Circuit, the face of our "Year Five" festivities. Yes: We're entering the fifth year of Silicon Sasquatch in 2013. Word.
(Ed. note: Representatives for Mr. Five couldn't be reached to notify the world's most adorable automaton of our distinguished appointment. As a result, I'll be accepting the role on behalf of Mr. Five. I suppose that also makes me our Year Five mascot. I'm honored.)
Aside from bad humor, we do hope to make this year productive for our tiny corner of the Internet. In the coming months we'll be sharing our new outlook, posting fresh content, launching a redesigned image and announcing a major project. In lieu of unwrapping these exciting presents today, enjoy this week's double-stuffed backlog!
Doug, Nick, Spencer and Tyler indulged themselves during the holidays, and there's quite a lot to catch up on after the break. -- Aaron Thayer
Welcome to 2013! We’re back from the holiday break -- did you read our Game of the Year features? If not, go check them out now -- and get ready to jump into the new year.
This holiday break, I made my long-awaited (by my family, at least) return from Japan to the United States. Translation: my Japanese PS3 sat dormant while my Xbox 360 was pulled from storage and updated to the new firmware -- oh my god you guys, that Fall 2011 dashboard update is hot garbage -- and then I brushed the dust off my 360 collection.
It’s a pretty stark reminder of how little gaming money I had in early 2011. Let’s take a look at what I busted out to pass the time:
- Super Street Fighter IV -- Okay, this at least is relevant seeing as I’ve gotten into SSFIV Arcade Edition back in Japan.
- F1 2010 -- Oh god.
- NCAA Football 11 -- I mean, I don’t even...
- Tiger Woods PGA 10 -- Whaaaaat.
So, between now and when I leave Sunday, I’m going to try to fit a bit more time in two properly deserving titles: Bayonetta and Rock Band Blitz. The former I purchased digitally and downloaded ages ago but only got halfway through, so it should be fun to pick up mid-stream. The latter I purchased here instead of on my PS3. While I lack the extensive Rock Band library Nick has, I have enough cool, interesting music downloaded to justify making use of it. I totally get the charm, but it’s going to have to be a 360 exclusive for me.
Lastly, I have a good New Year’s resolution to try out. Considering I sang the praises of PlayStation Plus earlier this winter, I might as well follow my own advice: I’m going to forego buying anything brand new for the next three months (until March) and simply work through my ample backlog and especially focus on playing what PS+ tosses out at me. I might bend this rule for things that are old and Japanese, but no new current-gen games for a while.
It's been a pretty crazy week for me, what with 2013 beginning and me spending an entire day doing my best to get back to Austin in one piece and with some shred of sanity remaining. As a result, my Vita was my best friend on that day I spent in the gentle arms of the airline industry. I stuck to two games that, as far as I'm concerned, are required for any Vita owner. After all, what else are you gonna play on one of those things in 2013, anyway?
So let's talk about Persona 4 Golden. I sank another few hours into it since I sang its praises in my 2012 honorable mentions list and I'm all but convinced the Japanese RPG is alive and well. Persona adapts wonderfully to a portable, stop-and-go play format, and its design is surprisingly enduring for a game that dates back to the PlayStation 2 era. If you're new to the series (like I essentially was) it's highly accessible and very engrossing.
The other Vita game I found myself hopelessly sucked into is Lumines Electronic Symphony. Lumines was the sole reason I bought an original PSP, and Electronic Symphony brings the series back to its roots with an intoxicating blend of house/trance music and hypnotic, Tetris-like block matching. I don't think I've ever played a game that pulled me into a pure flow state so consistently and so completely; hours seem to melt away with each play session. With a good pair of headphones and a comfortable place to sit, Lumines is a transcendental experience. Electronic Symphony is the pinnacle of Lumines -- don't miss it.
Finally, I'm looking forward to getting to spend some long-anticipated quality time with XCOM: Enemy Unknown this weekend. The 1994 original, Microprose's X-COM: UFO Defense, is the game that made me into a PC gamer when it came out, and Firaxis' reboot of the series is a brilliant and finely crafted successor. I can't wait to finally give it the attention it deserves -- and to start collecting some dead sectoids. For research purposes, of course.
Never am I more thankful for having a handheld gaming device than on an international flight. Westbound Pacific flights are always longer than eastbound (by an hour or so) and when you’re already in the air for nine hours, you really feel that tenth. My PlayStation Vita was a boon coming back to Tokyo from Seattle.
Over the past couple weeks Sony has been discounting several games for the holidays. Thanks to these promotions my overpriced 32 GB memory card is nearly full (and my PSN wallet nearly empty). I spent the majority of my flight to the states playing Persona 4 Golden. I had hoped to repeat this because I’d invested a good amount of hours over the holidays. However, with the ongoing sales I ended up downloading Assassin’s Creed: Liberation (I’m eagerly hoping it proves to be a more fruitful experience than it’s console-based sibling) and Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational.
I didn’t expect to be grabbed by Hot Shots. I’d played its predecessors on the PSOne and its Nintendo doppelganger, Mario Golf, but I was never hooked like this. I’ve put a good amount of time into this innocuous, casual golf game and I’m having a bear of a time articulating why. The mechanics remain largely unchanged from previous iterations, it looks good but hardly stunning, but the game is just a perfect handheld experience. It’s easy to pick up and play, easy to break away from and it doesn’t demand your full attention. Perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t require any touch controls -- something that prevented me from enjoying Gameloft’s iOS casual-golf title, Let’s Golf.
Now that I’m back home, however, my Vita will unfortunately likely go ignored while I finally get a chance to play XCOM: Enemy Unknown.
Having spent the weekend with the latest Battlefield 3 expansion, Aftermath, I can finally say with certainty that I like it. The new maps are nicely varied between open and close-quarters play, and the new mode (Scavenger) is decidedly enjoyable. Plus they finally added additional modes for their Counter-Strike gun-game clone, “Gun Master” - it’s still not as good as Valve’s fully configurable mode, but a welcome change regardless. The last DLC pack for Battlefield 3, “End Game,” arrives in May. I find myself hoping the upcoming vehicles will be humorously exploitable.
A friend gave me a copy of 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors as a Christmas gift, prompting me to dig out my aged, weary DS Lite. Around the same time, I treated myself to a copy of The Organ Trail. Both mobile games are now taking up my away-from-computer time, as I pursue the recommendations that got thrown around during our Game of the Year debates. The former, though not my usual fare, is a compelling scripted story, while the latter is silly, nostalgic, and extremely emergent. The dichotomy of this year’s debate just won’t leave me be.
Finally, I’ve been nearing completion of the campaign in Far Cry 3, which will permit me to get back to the completely enjoyable sandbox play. The story hinted at in the co-op mode intro cutscene (think Left 4 Dead meets Guy Ritchie) seems loads more compelling than the single-player’s painfully brainwashable rich kid. (Ed. note: Yeah, he's even named Jason BROdy, of all things.) Hopefully some co-op sessions will see if that impression holds fast.