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Special Edition Swag

August 15, 2014

DeathsmilesI needed to fill a couple of hours before bed last night, but didn’t want to jump into any game where I might still be stuck in the tutorial when I needed to wind it down for the evening.

It turned out that “Deathsmiles”, Cave’s goth-loli-themed bullet-hell shooter from a few years back, was just what I needed. If you don’t mind hitting the continue button when you die, you can blow through it in 45 minutes or less, which means that I actually played through all four main characters’ stories and will go back tonight to play through them a second time to see their other endings. I may even try to 1cc it, because I felt like I was actually getting better on each run.

I did find a little bit of shame on what was in the big Special Edition box along with the game, because, well, it’s a replacement Xbox360 faceplate, covered in cute anime-style girls, that only fits an old-style 360. This thing is probably the least-useful swag I’ve gotten in an SE ever, and I pray that I didn’t include it in my purchasing decision back in 2010, because that would just be embarrassing.

National Pride

August 14, 2014

So, it doesn’t take very much anime and manga to realize that your average Perfectly Ordinary Japanese Schoolgirl is, honestly, a force to be reckoned with.  As a class, they live one dimensional portal or talking cat away from being forced to take up arms, put on some high heels, and start fighting demons, overthrowing kingdoms, defending the universe from aliens or just generally kicking arse.

They’re the world’s equivalent of special forces, with frilly skirts.

Silent Hill 3, then, represents the western world’s best response, despite being a Japanese game.

Heather Mason is 100% not Japanese.  You could not get a less Japanese person.  And, while technically maybe a little old to be called a schoolgirl – she’s 17 – she could maybe still be a senior in high school so I’m going to say that she counts.

Within minutes of starting Silent Hill 3, Heather finds a pistol – and not a girly pistol, a Beretta 92FS, made popular throughout the world by Mel Gibson’s characters in the Lethal Weapon movies – and uses it to put six bullets into a nearby monster.  Over the next few hours, ignoring the whole bouncing back-and-forth-between-hell-dimensions thing, she puts together an arsenal of the aforementioned pistol, a shotgun, a submachine gun that looks rather like an Uzi but which IMFDB assures me is a Mac 10, a katana, a 2-handed mace thingy, a switchblade, and – for good measure – a three-foot length of steel pipe, all of which she uses to brutal effect as she slaughters her way through hordes of bizarre flesh-eating monsters on her way to kill a God.  And she doesn’t even need to put on high heels in the process.

There is a skirt.  It’s not frilly, though.

Now, her dad DID have some inkling that Heather MIGHT have some rough times in life, so it’s possible that he, you know, took her to the range a couple of times as a kid or something.

But, still, as the toughest ever fictional representation of a Perfectly Ordinary American Schoolgirl, I think we should take some pride in being able to call her our own.

Pies, ranked:

August 14, 2014

Any serious discussion of pies must first acknowledge the issue which is presented by restaurant-specific and/or regional pies. For example, Shari’s serves a “Caramel Pecan Crunch” pie, unique in that it is the only pie to date where my wife and I have found common ground, and Sweet Potato Pie, which should by all rights appear high on this list, is rare outside the American south.

With those caveats, the list:

1) Pumpkin (October – December) / Coconut Cream (Jan-Sep)
2) as 1) but reversed
3) Banana Cream
4) Pecan
5) Apple

Finally, while allowances can be made for most lesser pies, at least as long as you can cover them in vanilla ice cream, it is questionable whether even the most forgiving soul could find a place in their heart – or on their plate – for Rhubarb.

I feel this very strongly.

It’s a good time to be a nerd

August 12, 2014

So, went to see Guardians of the Galaxy last weekend, caught Captain America 2 in the cheap theater as my wife hadn’t seen it, and did a marathon session of Agents of Shield to round out the week, so I am officially caught up on the MCU and ready for more Shield or Avengers 2, whichever one happens first.

As a DC fan, it depresses me a little bit that they seem to have no idea what to do with their characters. I find that I walk into any recent Marvel studios movie with the mindset of “how awesome will this one be?” whereas my reaction to DC announcements is pretty much dread.

Still, pretty good time to be a nerd.

There may be something wrong with me

August 11, 2014


There are a few places in video games that I’ve seen enough times that they’ve become familiar places to me.  Most of them are in MMOs, of course, since you tend to run through the same bit of scenery enough times that it sinks in.  When I was playing EQ2, there were even a good number of places that were close enough to EQ1 to evoke that feeling of comfort that came from knowing the originals.

Outside of MMOs, the best example I can think of for this was starting Ultima V and realizing that the world was still generally the same world as in Ultima IV, even though it had changed in each of the three games prior.

And now I have a new example, because playing Silent Hill 3 shortly after playing Silent Hill 2 meant that I got to run through Brookhaven Hospital again – and, even with the blood dripping down the walls and the tortured screams of the dying and the killer nurses, I still got a comforting sense of being somewhere familiar.

Like I said, there may be something wrong with me.

I won’t say much about the game proper – it’s held in very high regard by fans of the horror genre, and I’m inclined to agree with that assessment.  I was playing it on Easy combat, which is basically God Mode, and I still felt genuinely threatened most of the time.

It was a new experience playing an entire PS2 title using PCSX2, and it’s something that I will be doing as much as I can in future.  The PS2 was a fine system in the days of square tube TVs with scan lines and S-video hookups, but PS2 games kinda look like ass now.  Running this in 3x resolution mode made it look like an entirely new game.



August 8, 2014

After finishing Lollipop Chainsaw, I was updating my Backlog Progress page and realized that I was staring at seven years worth of data that was just begging for analysis.

So I analysized, and I will just say that I am going to defend that particular abomination of a word to the bitter end.

It turns out that I’ve finished – which generally means “getting to the end credits of story mode” or “playing through every character’s story mode”, if the individual stories are very short – two-hundred-and-fifty games in the last seven years, which would be awesome if I wasn’t sitting on a five-hundred game backlog.

Granted, a substantial portion of that backlog is the result of buying game bundles, but even if we take that into account it’s pretty obvious that I’m overreaching myself just a tad.

But let’s set that aside, because numbers!

Unsurprisingly, I got the most games played during my first couple years of college.  I was attending classes part-time in 2007 and managed to clock 36 games, which increased to 48 and then 57 games during my first full two years.  Junior year?  Down from 57 to 29, and it just gets lower from there.  Last year I only played through 17 games.

Year-to-date I’m at 14, which puts me on a pace for the low 20s.  Not too bad for having a real job and bills to pay and such.  It’d be higher if I could stay off the MMOs.

75 of those 250 games were played on PC and 51 on various flavors of mobile device.  There are some weird trends in the systems I’ve been playing – for example, I played through 16 Nintendo DS games between 2007 and 2009 and haven’t played a single one since – my DS has literally been a kanji dictionary and nothing else for the last five years.  The PSP has gotten a little more consistent love, but it got completely ignored during 2012 and 2013 in favor of iOS games and a newly-purchased Vita.

After the PC, the Xbox 360 and original Xbox have gotten most of the love, with 36 Xbox 360 titles and 18 original Xbox titles.  It shows when I look at the shelf – I have a few that I haven’t played yet, but mostly import titles and stuff that I’m hesitant to start because I know it’s going to take ages.

The PS3 has been getting about two games a year, generally an Assassin’s Creed game and one other.  It had a spike (six games!) back in 2009 but that was the year I was apparently doing nothing but playing video games 24/7.

I haven’t touched the PS2 much other than to play mascot-based games, Ratchet and Clank for the most part.

The Wii and GameCube were my least-played consoles and honestly it’s a bit embarrassing to think of all the money I’ve sunk into them to play a handful of games.  I’ve played nearly as many Saturn games in the last seven years as Wii and GameCube put together.

Genre-wise, I play a LOT of 3rd-person actiony games, your Tomb Raiders and Assassin’s Creeds and such, and a ton of FPS titles.  Those two genres make up a good 40% of what I’ve played and rather put the lie to any claims of video game hipsterism I might try to get away with.

After that, I seem to play a bunch of RPGs, about five a year on average.  Almost none of those are traditional turn-based affairs – I simply don’t have the patience any more.  I also seem to be a bit of a sucker for puzzle games, at about three a year.

Between those and the single-digit genres, I’ve got 2D shooters (13), Mahjong (12) and Rhythm games (11).  That last is three Ouendan / EBA games, four Miku-centric games, and a few entries from the plastic-instruments category.

What I was most surprised by was the genres that didn’t even break 10 games.  I mean, I will swear up and down that I love me some horror games and some tower defense games, but the actual numbers say that I’ve only played 7 and 4, respectively, since I started keeping track.  Likewise, I feel a bit of fanboy shame at only having played through three visual novels.

It’s no real surprise that there aren’t any sports games on the list, unless you’re going to count Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball 2.  (I filed it under “Mini-game collections” as the least offensive category it could fit into.)  It’s a little more surprising that I haven’t played any fighting games in the last seven years, or at least I haven’t played any to the point where I’d consider them finished.  It’s just a genre that I’ve moved away from, I guess.

Finally, despite how often I include some version of “you probably wouldn’t want your mum to see you playing this” in my comments after finishing a game, only about 12% of the games I’ve played fall into this sort of questionable category.  I’m less of a terrible person than I thought!

Conclusions?  Well, when I buy a game, I should probably focus on actiony sorts of things, because they’ll get played.  I may secretly WANT to play cerebral indie darlings but they just don’t have a track record.  Also I appear to have quite the soft spot for the Xbox 360 controller.

And, yeah, I should just stop buying Nintendo consoles.  Fortunately the WiiU makes THAT particular decision easy enough, at least until Bayo2 comes out to tempt me.

Lollipop Chainsaw – Fin

August 7, 2014

I finished Lollipop Chainsaw last night.  I don’t have much to add to my comments from the other day – in general, it’s a pretty good brawler with a twisted sense of humor – but I wanted to point out two things in particular.

First, it’s pretty clearly telegraphed from the start that the five bosses you know about aren’t the REAL enemies, and that there was going to be a Super Big Bad Secret Boss after them.  This was not a surprise.  The NATURE of the Super Big Bad Secret Boss, on the other hand, was entirely unexpected and I am hesitant to reveal it for fear of ruining the experience for others.

I will say simply that it was pretty spectacular.

The Big Bad Secret Boss fight DOES end with a “press the X button to not die” QTE, and failing it makes you start the whole fight from the beginning, but I’ll forgive it because knowing what to do made the fight before the QTE much quicker the second time.

Second, the game has a “good” ending and a “bad” ending, and this is normally the sort of thing that makes me give a game very poor marks, because getting the “good” ending all-to-often revolves around doing stuff that is a pain in the arse at best and straight-up-artificial longevity at the worst.  Fatal Frame II, for example, even though it’s probably in my top ten games of all time, requires the player to finish the game on the very highest difficulty setting – which isn’t even available to you until you’ve completed the game a couple of times.

The “good” ending in Lollipop Chainsaw, by way of contrast, just requires you to save a few classmates from zombies over the course of the game, and I’d already saved all but one of them just as a side effect of playing aggressively.  Saving the one I’d missed was a simple matter of replaying the level I’d missed her on, rescuing her from zombies, and then quitting the level after the next checkpoint – I didn’t have to restart the game, or even replay the level in its entirety.

It’s a pretty short game – I doubt I clocked more than about 6 hours spread out over three nights – but does have some stuff you can do after the ending credits roll, if you’re in the mood to get more zombie chainsawing in.  I might have felt a little chuffed if I’d paid sixty bucks for it, of course, but looking at my Amazon history shows that it cost me a hair under twenty bucks, which is just about perfect for this sort of experience.

It also shows that I waited 10 months between buying it and actually taking it out of the shrinkwrap and slotting it into a PS3, but that’s probably a little better than my average, all-in-all.


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