Quick Zelda Thoughts

As I mentioned a few days back, I’ve never been able to get into any of Nintendo’s “The Legend of Zelda” games, despite numerous attempts.

Still, the hype around the most recent has been pretty nuts, and this has been a year where I’ve played my first Pokémon and my first Metroid games, so I figured, you know, what the hell, and I ordered the “Explorer Edition” to give it a go. I wanted to get a physical copy just in case the seventh Zelda game I tried playing suffered the fate of the first six, so I could sell it on.

As an aside, the Explorer Edition Guide is kind of a waste of paper. An awful lot of it is dedicated to pointing out all of the stuff you can get in game if you shell out a lot of money on various amiibo. On the other hand, it did point out that I’d missed the opportunity to get a warm jacket with cold resistance from an NPC, so I went back and got that. So it’s a little more than a glorified catalog for plastic tat, but not much.

Also, the Zelda cart included in the Explorer Edition is still a 1.0.0 cart, so I needed to download an update to bring it to the current (1.3.4) version. A little weird, all things considered.

So minor griping about the package contents aside, I gave the actual game a try and it made three hours vanish in remarkably quick fashion. There’s a LOT of Skyrim in this game, with the extra spice of the survival system to add worrying about freezing to death etc to the list of things that can kill you, and a lot of Just Cause 2 – not just for the infinite magical parachute, but also for the very real delivery of the “if you can see it, you can go there” promise that open-world games make but rarely fully deliver on.

It also solved one of my biggest complaints with previous Zelda games, that there’s never any real reward from fighting anything other than bosses. With no leveling system, enemies are annoyances rather than juicy sacks of XP, and respawning enemies are just there to add tedium.

Breath of the Wild has actual reasons to fight things, and I had a great little mini-story where I chased down a ram, killed it, got raw meat, realized there was a little goblin camp nearby and they had a cooking fire, and murdered them all so I could cook my raw ram meat with some acorns to add flavor.

I should feel bad about that. On the other hand, steak.

The much-maligned weapon durability system was a pain for about the first 30 minutes, but since then I have been drowning in new gear and I don’t really care that swords in Hyrule appear to be made out of very brittle plastic.

Still, two complaints, minor as they are:

First, while the climbing is neat and all, Link must be part gecko with his ability to cling to concave surfaces. It’s a little immersion breaking to see yourself completely ignoring gravity’s harsh-but-loving embrace at times.

Second, while the art style is beautiful and goes a long way to covering this up, there are some really low-resolution textures and some instances of draw-in that just scream “launch title”. Mostly I’ve noticed it when running forward and seeing the engine frantically trying to draw shadows on the ground, so really I should probably just stop looking at my feet.

So, it looks like this may finally be a Zelda game that I can get along with. It’s only taken 30 years. 🙂

Posted in Switch, videogames | 2 Comments

You may need to clear some time in your holiday schedule.

I try not to get TOO hyperbolic about any particular game, because I know that being too much of a fanboy can be super annoying to, well, everyone.

That said, I wanted to draw some special attention to the impending shutdown of the Demon’s Souls servers, for any of my readers who’ve yet to play the game.

The short version is that, as of about 3 months from now (Feb 28th, 2018), all of the online servers for Demon’s Souls will be taken offline.  The game will still function in single-player offline mode, but multiplayer (both cooperative and PvP) will be shut down, you won’t see the ghosts of other players wandering around or bloodstains where they died, and you won’t get to read the messages left by other players, generally saying things like “this is a safe spot to stand and shoot the boss with tons of arrows” or “there is hidden treasure directly below this point that looks like a bottomless drop to your death”.

Those latter types of messages are generally lies, btw.

Anyway.  While the game will still WORK after next February, a lot of the charm is about to poof into the digital ether.  If you have never played it, this would be an excellent time to buy it and push it right to the top of your backlog.  Do not be put off by its notorious difficulty level, because it is hugely overstated.  Just buy it (if you don’t already own it), start a new character, pick the “Royal” class (this gives you a spell that is almost a one-hit kill for all of the early enemies, and a ring that regenerates your mana), and give it a shot.

I originally gave the game a try just because it was super cheap on PSN and because I thought I’d get repeatedly killed and could get a funny blog post out of it, as I am not a super hard core pro video game guru and all of the online chatter around the Souls games implied that you needed to be a super hard core pro video game guru to succeed at them.

Then I wound up falling in love with it and playing through the entire game.

For the love of God, I play Hidden Object games.  If I can beat Demon’s Souls, YOU CAN.

Posted in ps3, Souls, videogames | 3 Comments

Insanity, Defined

There’s a popular quote, frequently attributed to Very Smart People (Albert Einstein is a favorite), that goes something like this:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”

Now.

I have owned six games from Nintendo’s “Legend of Zelda” series, and I’ve never finished a single one. To be quite honest, I’ve rarely made it past an hour with any of the games I’ve tried. And, Lord, I’ve tried.

But.

People will not shut up about the Switch entry in the series, and I realized today that I could stack Amazon credits with some discount offers and get it shipped to my door for a little under 16 bucks. Yay for Cyber Monday.

So, I’ll give it a try at least. It sounds like it’s basically a combination of an Ubisoft-style map with towers to climb and Elder Scrolls-style narrative freedom, with just a touch of Just Cause 2’s Magical Parachutes ability, so it should be “here are some things you like, now with a Zelda skin” and maybe that will be the secret formula to get me through it.

Or at least through the tutorial.

Posted in Switch, videogames | Leave a comment

Nights of Azure: A Girl and Her Demon Pals

I do a lot of playing games after the sequels have already been released, and Nights of Azure is no exception to this – it originally came out in March of 2016 and its sequel has been out for over a month, so talking about the original game now is pretty much the definition of Old News.

More embarrassingly, looking at my Amazon order history shows that I bought this in May of 2016.  At least it had already been marked down significantly by then and I got it for over half off retail, but still there’s a little shame there.

Leaving my lack of promptness aside, I think it’s best if I address the elephant in the room before moving forward.  This is a Gust game, and that means that it features cute characters in incredibly elaborate outfits showing a lot of skin and bouncing at the player.

And good morning to you, Lilysse.

Miss Arnice is the playable character, a half-demon fiend hunter cursed with the usual stuff – immortality, blood lust, being used as a cat bed…

Cat owners know this feeling well.

There are also a couple of men to round out the cast, and they likewise get really neat outfits.

I’m not sure I could pull off the green, but damn that’s sharp.

I will never look this good.

Fashion aside, there’s a moderately depressing main story that involves a sealed demon king who can only be kept sealed away by periodic human sacrifice, and naturally your girlfriend – Lilysse, up top – has been chosen as this decade’s lamb for the altar.  Also naturally, you are not a big fan of the idea and set out to find a way to NOT have Lilysse throw herself to the figurative wolves, a task made somewhat more tricky by her frequently-stated firm desire to find the wolves and get throwing.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though, and it’s full of quirky little one-off plots, like discovering that Lilysse speaks cat.

Or a plot touching on the military potential of really bad cooking.

And a full-blooded demon who shows up occasionally to offer snark and advice.  She’s not entirely keen on the notion of the demon king getting off his leash, because she’s rather fond of human stuff and doesn’t want to see the world engulfed in endless night.

And hrrrrrrngh another cool outfit.

I’m starting to feel a little guilty about the number of screenshots, but this is really a game you play for the art style.  There’s a lot of running around dimly-lit mansions and subways and opera houses and fighting fiends of various sorts, but the combat never really clicked with me; there was a lack of weight to it that’s hard to define but left it fairly unsatisfying.  It doesn’t help, in that regard, that most of the actual work is done by a collection of NPC buddies that you accumulate and level up to fight with you – you can have up to four of them out on the field at any given time and they’re fairly competent at mopping up any opponents that aren’t part of a boss fight.

I didn’t choose this name.  Spam the Spider Fiend was a valuable companion.

On the negative side, I felt like the game had a few too many systems in it for a fairly short action/RPG title, and some of them hadn’t clicked with me by the time the credits rolled.  There’s a whole complicated system around leveling up and enhancing your squad of demons, and I didn’t really get it and missed out on seeing some things as a result.  There’s also a day/night cycle where you need to decide how you’re going to spend your days doing things like baking and shopping, which builds up skill points for your combat abilities, and a really out-of-place system where you hire trade ships to go to distant lands and bring you back stuff.

I just have a sense that there was a meeting where a guy named Phil (let’s ignore that this is a Japanese game and there probably was nobody named Phil) anyway, Phil stands up in a meeting and gives an impassioned speech about how the trade ship side events are Crucial To His Vision and the Heart Of Nights of Azure and he will walk Right Out That Door if they’re not left in, and everyone else sighs and the project manager writes a little note on his pad about “keep trade ships” and the QA team gets ready for another week of late nights making sure they work.

It seems to me that I have spent a lot of time griping, and that’s unfair. I did have a lot of fun once I’d finally figured out the systems and had a little plan where I’d do some horseback riding in the morning and follow that off with some gardening in the afternoon and that would give me the skill points to finally get the ability to equip another equipment slot and…

…look, once you get into it it’s kind of addictive.  It just took me a while to remember that I needed to set up my day planner for tomorrow every time I came back from an evening of fighting demonic creatures from the nether realms.

I mentioned that it was a fairly short game, and this is the case.  I spent a lot of time doing side quests and optional events and still hit ending credits about 20 hours in.  There are about half a dozen boss fights during the “build-up” part of the story, and they’re fast-paced affairs with all sorts of mid-fight power-ups and one particularly memorable boss who turns into a giant cannon and covers almost the entire arena in “stand here and die” as a last-gasp attack before dying himself.

Big dude, big health bar, let’s do this thing.

It makes the bit at the end where you need to fight them all again to unlock a Big Dang Door to get to the final boss really quite enjoyable, a pleasure rather than a slog.  It’s maybe a little lazy on the developer’s part but I didn’t at all mind paying them a second visit.

Speaking of the last boss – pardon the amateurish censorship work here, her name and dialog are huge spoilers – she’s yet another cute girl with yet another amazing outfit.

Looking at this again, I’m not sure where those wings attach.

She also represents the first actual challenge of the game, and it was a bit of a shock to actually LOSE to a boss fight.  Twice, even!  Let’s just say that she has one attack that you really want to learn the tell for, AND she heals to full multiple times over the course of the fight, which was a real “oh, COME ON” moment the first time I had her do it at me.

So, sum up, who should play this game?

If you’re into cosplay, YES.  I don’t think real belts work like this, though.

If you like cute girls kicking demon butt and don’t mind occasional weird shifts in tone, also YES.  I’m not going to guarantee that you won’t often want to smack Lilysse when she has yet another attack of “welp, going to go die for the good of humanity now”, mind you.

If you want Souls-style slow tactical combat, or if you roll your eyes at heavily-pandering character designs, then NO.  This is a button masher and the main characters are here to appeal to the male gaze.

I figure I’ll get around to the sequel in 2019 or so.  I should probably buy it today so I’m ready for that.

Posted in PS4, videogames | Leave a comment

ReCore: A Girl and Her Bots

I must start with a disclaimer: I have done a great many years of technical support in my time, and ReCore is a game in which you play, basically, a technical support engineer.  I am thus rather predisposed to speaking well of it.  It’s also the first Xbox One game I’ve played on the console I bought a few months ago, so there’s a heavy purchase justification factor at work here.

The gist of the story is that, in the not-too-distant future (Next Sunday, AD?), humanity is ravaged by a virulent outbreak of some sort of flesh-eating virus.  A scant few people make it off the planet in big arks, heading for a new home.  The problem is, it’s not exactly a paradise planet, so most of the survivors stay in cryogenic sleep in the arks, in orbit, while the terraforming machines and a bunch of robots do their job to make it less of a desert hell-scape and more of someplace you’d want to settle down and get to rebuilding the human race.

Your job, as a technical support gal, is to fix the machines when they break down.  So, you spend most of your time in cryogenic sleep in a big Damnation Alley-style crawler on the planet’s surface, being woken up when something needs to be worked on.

Oh, and you have a robot dog, who serves both as a combat buddy and who helps you find buried things.  Later you get a few more robotic companions – there’s a robot ape, who can smash things, a robot spider, who can climb things, and so on.

Light spoilers here, you get woken up at a time when things aren’t exactly going humanity’s way.  It turns out that some of the robots that were supposed to be terraforming your new home decided that, while the humans were all asleep, they were going to set up their own robot homeworld and that it doesn’t have room in it for any squishy fleshy types.

There was also a robot rebellion, where robots loyal to humanity fought back.  More on that in a little bit.

Anyway, being a good technical support engineer, you aren’t going to let a few genocidal robots get in the way of getting your tickets closed, so you get out of your crawler and start blowing up the machines that want to kill you and fixing the machines that will make the world habitable.

This involves a lot of running around the desert, finding ways to power machines, blowing up robots and scavenging their parts to upgrade your robot buddies, etc.  It pretty much follows the open-world template of “here are the main story missions, but you really need to go and do side stuff when you get stuck on the main stuff”, and this is a template that I have come to enjoy.  So far, we’re talking a game that is 100% in my wheelhouse.

That’s only about half the game, though.  The other half of the game is very tricky platforming sequences, and ones that get very weird.

Now, I will insert another disclaimer here: normally, I get frustrated by games with heavy platforming elements, and that’s not the reason I’m saying it’s weird. This one is exceptionally generous with checkpoints and you’re never more than a few feet back from the most recent time you fell to your death, so I don’t really have any complaints there.

The bizarre bit is that the platforming just gets really, for lack of a better word, “gamey”.  Like, it makes sense to me that you might need to jump and climb your way up a giant machine, avoiding hazardous bits along the way, but ReCore’s platforming segments have you literally dashing between free-floating Tron-style hard light platforms, often with laser beams traveling along them to kill you or moving hard light walls to push you off of them.  They’re very much 3D versions of old 2D platform games, back in the days when you didn’t really question WHY the thing you were standing on would regularly phase in and out of existence, and the dichotomy between the realistic overworld of ReCore and these platforming sections is pretty damn jarring.

And then we get to the Rollers, which are big balls covered in electrified spikes that serve as obstacles both in the game’s more realistic dungeons and in its abstract platforming stages.  They’re the sort of obstacle that made perfect sense – as much as anything needed to make perfect sense – in a SNES game, but which really stand out in a more realistic game.

If you’ve ever seen Galaxy Quest, it’s much the same feeling as the “Chompers” scene, with a strong sense of “why on earth would anyone put these rolling balls of death in the middle of a factory”.

It turned out, after a brief perusal of the in-game encyclopedia, that there was a perfectly good in-universe explanation for the Rollers: they are punishment devices used to discipline members of the robot rebellion I mentioned earlier.  Inside every one is a treasonous robot constantly being shaken about until it, presumably, repents or dies.

I am not sure, given this explanation, why the electrified spikes are on the OUTSIDE.

So, if you are easily frustrated by dying over and over while you try to make it through a tricky jumping bit, you may want to give it a pass.  I had one bit where my mind elected to simply break down as I constantly sent my character dashing off into the middle of a complicated series of death traps, only to get hit time and time again by one or another of the traps and fall to my doom.

There was a sound associated with this, something like the BOINK of a softball hitting an aluminum bat, and after a while I couldn’t stop laughing at the BOINK-splut-BOINK-splut-BOINK.  My wife had to come in and make sure I was OK, and I tried desperately to explain why I was nearly in tears but not actually mad.

Eventually I did get past the BOINKS of doom and finished off the final boss, striking a blow for technical support engineers everywhere and presumably saving the human race as well (it’s not made explicitly clear that you’ve done this, but there’s a short scene after the credits that implies that things are looking up).

All-in-all, recommended, especially if you have an HDR-capable TV.  This game has a lot of glowing neon bits and they are gorgeous in HDR.

 

Posted in videogames, Xbox One | 4 Comments

Taking Home The Bronze

I’m a bit of a comics nerd, though a lapsed one.  My favorite era is what’s called the Bronze Age, the years just before everything got grim and gritty.  It was a little more grounded than the comics of the 50s and 60s – comics were starting to address more serious topics, and both DC and Marvel had taken the bold step of publishing comics without the Comics Code Authority Seal Of Approval – but heroes were pretty much always The Good Guys and the laws of physics and common sense weren’t allowed to get in the way of telling a story.

This brings me to my evening’s movie-going experience.

Yes, I got suckered into the IMAX EXPERIENCE, mostly because I wanted to be able to reserve my seat and you can’t get reserved seats from the normal showings.  At least it was blissfully 2D and I didn’t need to try to make the theater glasses work on top of my regular glasses.

Justice League had a lot of the good feeling of a bronze age comic.  It had a moderately ridiculous bad guy planning to Destroy The World, it had a bunch of guys (and one gal) who showed up to stop his evil plans with a lot of punching and not a lot of brooding, and the characters were actually allowed to look like they were having FUN being heroes.

Quips were quipped, even!

Thinking about it like a 70s comics even lets me almost overlook the ridiculous thing they put Barry Allen in – I mean, EVERYONE was getting silly costume revamps in the 70s.

I rest my case.

I mean, some of the point-A-to-point-B travel made me wonder just how close all the different parts of the world were to each other, and I’m sure that I will find a million tiny nitpicks to pick nits at after I mull it over some, but at this precise moment in time I still have a smile on my face thinking about it, and I have not been able to say that for any of the DC movies in the last, hmm, Batman Begins was in 2005 so… it’s been a dozen years?  Wow.

Posted in comics, movies & tv | Leave a comment

This is why I’m becoming more of a dirty console peasant

Woke up early this morning and decided to see if I could sneak in some gaming time without waking up my wife – and, since I have a really loud mechanical keyboard, that meant trying to find something in my Steam Library that I could play with mouse-only controls.

I love my really loud mechanical keyboard, by the way, and strongly recommend owning one if you do any significant amount of typing, but they do have some drawbacks.

Anyway, I first decided on 1C’s “King’s Bounty: Armored Princess”, which lets you play as a princess with a pet dragon.  Seriously, that was all the incentive I needed to pick it up in a Steam sale a few years back, but it’s taken a while to bubble to the top of the queue.

…apparently too long, because launching it just resulted in the screen flickering a few times and the game crashing.  I went to the Steam forums, found a few other people had a similar problem, tried the fixes they’d had work for them… it wasn’t working for me.

OK, sure, that’s a game from 2009.  8 years old.  Lots of stuff has changed in 8 years, and it’s not too weird that a game from then might glitch out on a fully-updated modern OS.

Next up was The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, which I bought a little more recently.  No princesses in this one, but it looked like an interesting Diablo-alike loot-heavy action RPG, and it’s from 2013.  Practically new, especially since I’m bad at playing games at release.

Launching THAT resulted in the computer just locking up, mouse pointer frozen in place.  No memory dump, no error message, just a complete freeze of the sort I haven’t had in years and a realization that I didn’t actually know what I might have had running with documents open.

A hard power off and on got me back up and running, I went off to the forums and found someone who’d had similar issues, implemented their fix for it, made sure nothing was running, and hit the Play button again.

Results were unchanged.

I may have… well, I didn’t shout at the monitor because, again, sleeping wife, but I sure thought “ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?” in very large capital letters in my head.

So those two are off the backlog in disgrace.

The solution is probably “Keep a Windows 7 PC around”, which is the equivalent of keeping a PS3 around in case I ever want to play Demon’s Souls again, but right now I am too annoyed to think about this clearly.

Also dropped from the backlog recently: Lucy – The Eternity She Wished For, because I got about an hour into it before realizing that, while I’d loved Planetarian and Chobits and Mahoramatic, I was just a little too burned out on Sad-Sack-Falls-In-Love-With-Android stories, and HuniePop, just because there was way too much talking and not enough actual playing of the fun Match-3 game.

But neither of those actually, you know, crashed.  So they get some points there.

I did finish a couple of short fun visual novels, however, “Space Live – Advent of the Net Idols” and “Highway Blossoms”

Space Live has a bizarre premise involving anthropomorphized web browsers facing off in an idol competition to determine which is the best, and your reaction to that premise will probably tell you whether it is your sort of game or not.  It’s got an interesting quirk in that the character sprites actually seem to live on multiple planes and have different view angles, so you get characters on a background plane being talked to by characters in the foreground, who you see from the back.  Also, there’s no first person narrator… this may, in fact, be the first entirely third-person VN I’ve ever played/read.

Highway Blossoms has a much less weird premise, being a romantic comedy involving a road trip across the American Southwest, a smidgen of angst, some wacky characters met along the way and treasure hunting for lost prospector gold.  I liked it a lot – it didn’t overstay its welcome, it had some really memorable characters, and it had really good music to go with the sweet-but-not-cloying story.

And, I guess, neither of those is available for consoles.  So I won’t be completely turning in my mouse and keyboard… just glaring at them a little bit as I walk past the computer to turn on the PS4.

 

Posted in PC Gaming, videogames, visual novels | 2 Comments