Backlog - Saturday Morning Cartoons Edition
I'm gonna be real with you, readers. I've been watching Adventure Time. A lot of it. It's goofy, delightful, occasionally disturbing - like the manic-depressive counterpoint to Invader Zim's sociopathic bent, in the realm of "children's cartoons that probably shouldn't be shown to children." I mean seriously, you guys. Seriously. This stuff might have fucked me up as a kid. Mixed messages for days.
As an adult, though, Adventure Time makes a good palate cleanser from House of Cards, an incredibly compelling series that threatens to unseat both the traditional network broadcast model, and my calm regarding the state of American politics. And it has Kevin Spacey, if you're into that.
But I digress. This isn't Televised Sasquatch, so of course we've been playing those vidya games. The whole gang has chimed in this week - let's see what we've been up to. - Spencer Tordoff
First, remember the Japanese KanKen DS2 study game I was talking about last week? I got started on it this week. My Nintendo DS has been packed along in my work bag all week, and I’ve used it to study at work at lunch. It’s fun -- it’s simple to start it up and do a few practice lessons. Next step, reading practice via manga. Guess I’m getting nerdier by the minute!
Next, I finally got around to starting Ryu ga Gotoku 3, aka Yakuza 3, this past weekend as well. One of my friends (who is much, much better at reading Japanese than I am) came over and we tried to get into the game. It seems really, really cool -- wandering around the game’s simulated Tokyo felt pretty true to life, if not in complete accuracy then at least in the feel. And the game’s opening scenes down in Okinawa helped capture countryside life pretty well too. I’ll try to soldier on, but man is it difficult -- if it was fully voiced it might be easier for me to follow the story, and if I could read better, I would understand more of the menus, too. I’m not sure I want to plow through the game without understanding it, but I'm also not sure if that's a personal mental hurdle or not. We shall see.
While my friend was over, we took a quick look at a few different games. One he hadn’t seen at length was Jet Set Radio, and I figured the trip down memory lane was worth the time. It was -- I’m hooked again like it’s the year 2000. First, you have to remember this is one of my absolute favorite all-time games. It’s not one of the best-made games ever, but it had a pretty strong impression on me. While the gameplay might not hold up to modern standards -- my buddy was struggling with the game’s camera and graffiti controls, and the map and checkpointing for missions isn’t as friendly as current games -- the game’s style and soundtrack definitely resonate still. It’s an excellent soundtrack but it’s also distinct; I’m not sure anything else comes close. As well, the cell-shaded graphics have translated decently to the HD era. Textures look okay, but some of the character and background models could use work. I’ll keep picking away at this in my free time. However, I did just get to the chase-down-the-gang-members levels...which are notoriously about as fun as slamming a door on your hand repeatedly.
One last game for today is Dishonored. I really, really want to like this game. The style is great, the themes are great, I even like the stealth action. I’m just godawful at it. Maybe I lack the patience, maybe I’ve gotten too used to games that feature a stronger safety net for when things go sideways, but I’ve been stuck on the first mission for a couple hours of play-time and it’s making me want to go back to it less and less. It doesn’t help that when I tried to go back to it first a few weeks ago, the system locked up. I didn’t lose much progress, but it was discouraging. It’s a more unforgiving sort of game, and that’s fine, but it may not be to my taste. I may switch it out for something else sooner than later.
So I’m playing Skyrim again.
After 200 hours spent with the PC version (for those unaware, I’ve played close to 60 hours of my character on the Xbox), much of that due to the wonderful and insanely prolific modding community, I thought I’d slain every dragon and picked every lock. And then this week Bethesda released their newest DLC pack, Dragonborn, on Steam.
Except I haven’t even taken the boat to Solstheim yet, which is the new content’s exclusive location in greater Morrowind.
Instead of seeing what’s new I’ve taken to working through the Dawnguard quests with my beefy Redguard warrior, Alsir. For the sake of full, humiliating disclosure: I’ve already beaten Dawnguard on the Xbox as my nimble Bosmer (translation: Wood Elf), Hagulu. Yes, I’m replaying the same content on another platform. Insanity.
Except while I now own both Dragonborn and the home-building, child-adopting DLC Hearthfire for Windows, I don’t have either piece of content on the ol’ Xbox.
It’s all very confusing and expensive, so I made a handy flow chart:
When I wasn’t playing Skyrim for the thousandth time this week I could be found powering on my 3DS XL to have another go at Pokémon Black 2 for, well, the thousandth time. My Ditto is whoring itself out to lay dozens of eggs, which means I’m closer to completing the Unova Pokédex.
What’s sad about my repetitive behavior is that I have several new games just gathering dust! Hell, I’m still only a few hours further in Ni No Kuni than I was two weeks ago.
YOLO, and whatnot.
My friends and I had an inaugural night in what is called the “90s Living Room,” which, upon completion, will actually encompass eras ranging from 1970 and 2002. My housemate’s Ataris started working after a bit of finagling, which let us play some very exciting titles including Space Invaders, Ms. Pac Man, California Games, Warlord, and Berzerk. It’s a whole different world, a world without analog controls, assembled of ragged old consoles and dusty cartridges - basically, everything I hoped it would be. Next systems are looking to be the Sega Genesis and Nintendo Gamecube, plus a desk for my iMac and G4 Cube - stay tuned.
I played FTL this weekend. Well, “played” isn’t the right expression. FTL shot through me like a temporal bullet, causing me to hemorrhage time out of the wound as I coughed and sputtered, struggling in vain to keep it from leaking into an ever-growing puddle at my feet. Hours disappeared. My first self-imposed deadline for this article came and went, I nearly failed to put in job applications, I showed up late to a pen and paper game session, it’s 1:30am on a work night and I’m just now finishing this article because I played the moment I got home oh god what is happening to me.
All this playtime resulted in some four unlocked ships, and no seriously never mind I can’t take it, no, I’m not playing this game anymore, not next week at least. God dammit, FTL. Nay, god damn you.
Hawken is still fun, and I stumbled into some competent, polite players that make for great, if challenging play (which is good, I was needing to cut my teeth). Oz_K remains my pilot handle, if any of you dozen readers want to give it a go some evening.
Some enterprising Germans copied Bridge Construction Set into Android, and while I’d rather that Chronic Logic made and sold the port themselves, the clone is competent. Same basic mechanics as the original, with some tweaks for simplicity’s sake, and the addition of all-pervasive mobile microtransactions. I’ve always enjoyed this kind of game - but, like RTS and urban management titles, it serves to place “architect” on the list of professions in which I would cause major disasters, along with “general” and “civil engineer.”
Soon, I’ll schedule an Artemis night for my friends like we’ve been doing on and off through the past few months. I apologize for nothing.
Over the last couple weeks, I spent another five hours with Assassin's Creed III.
Never in my life have I seen a game do so much but say so little.
I don't think I've ever been more convinced that the traditional $60 retail game model is doomed. I'm only playing through to the end because I'm driven by a panicked, desperate need to understand how this game ever came into being.
Other than that? I just haven't played much, to be honest. I've fallen in with the crew over at the 5by5 Minecraft server, which is where I've been retreating to after work these days to try to recover whatever sanity I've lost.
I had hoped to have finished Binary Domain by now, but alas, life gets in the way. Still positively loving that game, however.
I haven't had much time to actually play any games this week but I have had time to stay abreast of the latest in gaming news. Sony has seemingly reneged on CEO Kaz Hirai's claim that they would let Microsoft make the first move by announcing that on February 20th, they'll be presenting the future of the PlayStation brand. Granted, we don't know with any real certainty that this will be in regards to the PS4 (because c'mon, it's not gonna be called the Orbis), but it's likely given how many sources are claiming this device will launch in Q4.
As someone who has been an avid gamer since I still had deciduous teeth, I more than understand that these next-gen hype-trains can often be more enjoyable to participate in than the actual hardware launch. I highly doubt I'll be buying any new consoles later this year, but it sure is fun to speculate.
Oddly enough, rumors this time seem pretty negative; perhaps it's a sign of the state of the medium. I remember prior to the PlayStation 3 announcement that everyone was fairly excited, especially considering how crazy powerful the Cell processor was supposed to be and that Blu-ray discs were included (and that these were totally better than HD-DVD discs because... shut up, okay? They were!). Things didn't sour for Sony until then-CEO Ken Kutaragi got up on stage at E3 and told us it would cost an absurd $600.
Rumors this time around are less about what the machines can do and more about what they can't. Current talk around the Internet water-cooler suggests that next-gen consoles may not play second-hand games and may also require a persistant online connection. Both of these seem pretty far-fetched in my opinion simply given the economic climate of the industry and global infrastructure of Internet access.
In all honesty, however, if handled correctly these changes might not bother me much. The value I see in used games isn't so much cost as availability. All of the used games I've bought the past few years were titles I could not easily obtain new -- Binary Domain, for example. If all titles are available digitally next-generation, which is certainly the way the wind is blowing (especially on PlayStation), then this is much less of an issue. Price will still be a factor, but if publishers and platform holders can be more flexible on pricing, then that's another complaint brushed aside. This could especially be the case with Sony after how they've supported PlayStation Plus the past year.
It can be easy to be a pessimist, especially when you've been spurned before. I just can't help but find the anticipation exciting. It reminds me of why I like games so much to begin with.
I have no intention of purchasing any new gaming devices sight unseen. That said, given my precedent of owning each PlayStation device yet released (aside from silly accessories like the PS Eye or the Move controller), it's pretty likely I'll end up getting one eventually so I'll just go ahead and hope it's everything I ever wanted. My fantasy will most-assuredly be better than the reality, so I'll enjoy it while I can.