Backlog: Frozen Over Edition

Image courtesy McD22

Image courtesy McD22

Fall appears to be taking a short break from beautifying the Portland area, which is experiencing its first cold snap of the season. As I look out my office window, it's with sadness I notice the vibrant autumn foliage has vacated the tree branches. That sucks, man.

On the other hand, winter is a great time of year for boots, scarves, wool jackets and blockbuster videogames. Some of the best titles of the year sneak out in proximity to the titanic holiday shopping days of Thanksgiving and Christmas. And, as is tradition, several holiday Steam sales (warning: Reddit rumors) will pound your savings account into submission by January 1st.

Oh, and lest we forget: the Xbox One officially hits the street today. For the Sasquatch crew, it doesn't mean much. As was the case last week with the PlayStation 4, none of our crew braved the midnight lines for Microsoft's latest hardware. Aside from my fervor over the latest Wii U software (which I'll get to), the staff is maintaining a wait-and-see attitude with the next generation's offerings. Listen to our latest podcast, "The Winter of Our Discontent," for elaborated musings on the topic.

What are you playing this week? If it's cold in your area now's the perfect time to warm up in the Caribbean waters of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, which, to my surprise, isn't shitty. -- Aaron Thayer

Aaron

Hipster evidence: I play consoles that you *probably* haven’t heard of

Hipster evidence: I play consoles that you *probably* haven’t heard of

Aaron-Backlog-Tiny.jpg

I'll make this brief because people say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the above image says more about my "allegiance" in this new generation than a few choice paragraphs could.

So yes, I'm investing in the Wii U -- a year after its release, to be fair. I binged on Amazon this week and picked up two special Wii MotionPlus controllers with Mario and Luigi ornamentation, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD and Pikmin 3. Not pictured are my additional pre-orders for Super Mario 3D World and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. And I can't forget Pokémon Y, which completes the holy trinity of Nintendo releases this year (Mario + Zelda + Pokémon = ZOMG).

Based on the proven lineup for 2013 and the potential releases in 2014, I honestly believe the Wii U succeeds where both Sony and Microsoft stagnate. Second only to my PC and the 3DS, the Wii U has slowly become a focal point for entertainment in my house. My girlfriend Megan loves the Wii U too, and every time we have friends over they want to play a Mario-type game rather than some shooter.

So laugh at me and call me crazy. I don't believe every Nintendo game is perfect -- they're just undiluted fun in a deeply satisfying way.

Oh, yeah: Assassin's CreedIV. I'll talk more about it next week, but I'll leave you with this: Black Flag is the game that Assassin's Creed III should have been.

Doug

Is it really the 3DS’ fault that the XL (at left) does everything so much better?

Is it really the 3DS’ fault that the XL (at left) does everything so much better?

I may have made a terrible mistake this past summer.

No, it’s nothing awful or life changing. This is Silicon Sasquatch, we don’t go that dark. But when I went out and got a Nintendo 3DS this summer, I did so while ignoring one of the real primary reasons the 3DS XL has done so well: battery life.

When I first got my 3DS I thought it was really well built, a nice size, and that the screens were nice and sharp. When I saw Tyler’s 3DS XL, the fidelity difference and how stretched the size became stood out to me -- I loved the sharpness on the smaller screens. It was new and I was happy and Animal Crossing: New Leaf was a brilliant game that I loved playing everyday. Life was simple and good.

Well, now that I’m playing a lot of Pokémon Y, I realize that what I need more than a perfect screen is battery life. Simply, the battery life on the original small 3DS is awful. And the battery’s internal gauge is difficult to read as well -- especially if you’re not quitting to the main menu all that often. Ah well, it’s a nice problem to have; now I just need to be patient, find a nice special-edition 3DS XL (LL here in Japan) and figure out the transfer procedure from 3DS to 3DS. Oh, and don’t forget my 3DS charger, either. That’s important.

Regardless, Pokémon Y remains brilliant. I’ve taken down another gym, which feels anticlimactic, but I think the story has finally started taking off as well (for how much that matters). If only I could level my Pokedudes even faster…

Spencer

I should probably just come out and say it: This is What My Life is Like Now

I should probably just come out and say it: This is What My Life is Like Now

My life of late has been a haze of bus rides to job interviews, which is taking its toll in a few ways. One is that I can barely tell what day of the week it is. More importantly to the Backlog, it means that my gaming has been curtailed somewhat.

Battlefield 4 (as purchased for me by Aaron [You're welcome, bro. -- Ed.]) has seen fit to consume those remaining hours I have without ceremony nor kindness. It'd be fair to call the game "Battlefield 3.5" -- honestly, when taking the screenshot for this article, I could barely tell the shots of the current game apart from those of its predecessor. This isn't the classic "fresh coat of paint," this is pretty much a map and vehicle pack for BF3.

I wish that I cared.

BF4 is as fun as its predecessor, and that's what really counts here. Pouring hours into it without a second thought is unhealthy at best (and causes my eyes to ache, at worst), but as I never got tired of BF3, it's kind of a foregone conclusion. I play online with friends, I play at LAN parties, I shoot the guns at the mans. Because, as a wise man once told me: "Mans mans guns mans guns (insert "America," "China," or "Russia" in here as appropriate)."

My journeys into Half-Life 2 and its episodes finally prompted me to install a graphic mod, and with some finagling I got FakeFactory Cinematic Mod working. The Cinematic Mod is a very interesting combination of items -- it combines beautifully re-made Half-Life 2 maps, spruced-up gunplay, and about fifteen new models of Alyx as a hideous doll-like sex toy. For all their hard work, I just can't fathom the amount of time these guys have made into creating so many Alyx variants, all equally problematic, all equally hideous, to replace the game's default model. To the team's credit, one can select whether they want to use the new models or the originals on a case-by-case basis. Eli's daughter remains mercifully un-revised, while I shoot at high-resolution Combine troops.

Nick and I have been teaming up on a few projects since he's moved to the Emerald City. One of the results of this absurd collaboration can be found in the form of the Annualizer; mostly Nick's work, with me contributing a few choice lines. Show your friends!

Next week is Thanksgiving, which means making Tordoff Bread. The weekend after that is LANsgiving, which means playing a troubling amount of Freelancer. But I'll tell you more about that later.

Nick

Waggle-based swashbuckling at its finest

Waggle-based swashbuckling at its finest

Like Spencer, I've been living life in a nebulous haze of job applications and interviews, but more and more of my time has been siphoned into what I'm gonna call "accidental entrepreneurship." I'm at a unique point in my life right now where I have the opportunity to kick-start a couple of significant, potentially career-changing projects, and that's as much exciting as it is terrifying. One of those projects hits pretty close to home for all of us here, and one of them has to do with pursuing a lifelong dream of doing the work I'd always dreamed of. They're both exciting as hell, but as with anything really worthwhile, they also amount to an incredible amount of work.

So where does this leave gaming? It's hard to say. I finally had my first real experience with Battlefield4with Aaron and Spencer earlier this week, but I haven't been back since. As someone who's largely been absent from the series since the misunderstood and underappreciated Battlefield 2142, it's actually shocking to me how much of an advance there's been in the graphics and world-destruction technology. That being said, the core appeal of capturing points and loading a bunch of friends into a vehicle of mass destruction is still unmatched. I'm hoping this weekend will leave us with ample opportunity to hop into a boat and rain down destruction while enjoying some sweet yacht rock jams.

The majority of my gaming this week was focused on a Wii game, of all things: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. I played a fair bit of it back when we nominated it for our Game of the Year Awards, but I still only saw a fraction of the game. Before I move on from the last generation entirely, I want to make sure I give some older games like this one a fair shake. So far, the game's unsurprisingly slow to start (I'm on hour four of the introduction) but the MotionPlus control scheme speaks for itself. Fluid, intuitive and responsive, your swipes, jabs and parries are easily translated into Link's motions. It's the sort of design that reinforces my hope that innovative and well-designed motion controls won't be swept away into obsolescence.

But the games I'm most excited for arrive today, straight across the lake from Nintendo: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and Super Mario 3D World. I've always been a staunch believer in Nintendo's first-party games and based on what I played of these two at PAX, I won't be disappointed.