Cube Swag++

So, confessions time: I’ve been a west coaster most of my life, and the US east coast scares the heck out of me.  I’m pretty sure that, if I ever happen to visit New York or Boston, I will be immediately detected as a rube from the sticks – and, to a New Yorker, I understand that everywhere NOT New York is, by definition, “the sticks” – at which point I will be immediately skinned and eaten and my remains fashioned into bootleg designer goods.

Sooooo… I’m probably not ever going to visit the Nintendo World Store, which is a shame as it is the sole place to get a ton of neat stuff.

And I like neat stuff.

FORTUNATELY, I happen to have a work buddy who knows I like neat stuff, and who had to put up with weeks of me extolling the virtues of being alternately a kid or a squid, AND who happened to be in the New York area on business last week…

…and now I have a very excellent Inkling plush to call my own.

My cube is so fresh, and I didn’t even need to get murdered for it.  Life is good.

 

 

Posted in random, WiiU | Leave a comment

Breaking out the Wiimotes

So, the Switch seems to be doing well at getting Japanese publisher support and I’ll probably wind up owning one in the next few months – especially with Tecmo slipping Fatal Frame references into Nights of Azure 2. 

But. I still have a bit over a dozen Wii games that are making me keep the WiiU hooked up, so I should probably play them if I want to get that HDMI port on the TV freed up. 

So far:

Nights: Journey of Dreams, the sequel to one of my favorite Saturn games and possibly one of the biggest disappointments. When I bought it in 2009, I put it in, played until I got to the first boss, got really frustrated and took it out again. 

This time round, I put in the disc, played for about 45 minutes until I got to the first boss, got really frustrated… wait, there’s a pattern here. It’s a pattern that says that this one is being retired from the backlog in disappointment. 

Madworld didn’t even last 15 minutes before suffering the same fate. It’s (a) a little too violent for me (you would think the guy on the cover with the chainsaw hand would have been a clue) and (b) the music was, err, painful is a good word for it. 

Also (c) annoying motion controls, but I knew I’d be hitting some of those so they don’t really apply solely to Madworld. 

One game that IS staying on the backlog, despite the motion controls, is Cursed Mountain. I love me a good bleak horror game, and CM hits all the high notes for my tastes. I started it up to see if it was going to continue the disappointing pattern I was seeing with Wii games, and then played it until I was forced to stop because the Wiimote audio was keeping my wife up and couldn’t be piped to headphones. I’m only about a third through but for now it is getting very high marks from me. 

After that, I put another three hours into Metroid: Other M, which I am happy to report seems to have a much more traditional control scheme. This is the first Metroid game I’ve played for more than about 10 minutes, so really all I know about the series going in was that the hot chick in the skin-tight blue suit was not, in fact, named “Metroid”. 

Other M seems tailor-made for me, because it opens with a huge info dump on Samus’s personal history and it seems like it is going to have a bunch more flashbacks coming to catch me up on the character.  I put about three hours into it, and my only real complaint is that it doesn’t really make it clear where I should be going next at any given time and the map is hard to follow.  

Also I had a hell of a time until I realized that your beam cannon could be charged while you were running. That’s not a game design issue, though, that’s just my not getting it. 

No idea what’s next after those. For now I just need to keep fighting off hungry ghosts and alien bugs, respectively. 

Posted in videogames, Wii | 1 Comment

Call of Damsels: Waifu Wars II

Sorry, wrong header.

OK, that’s better.

Valkyria Chronicles is a really good object lesson in why I shouldn’t pay full price for games before I’m actually in the mood to play them.  My sole justification is that I got conditioned, during the PS1 and PS2 days, to buy JRPGs the instant I saw them in the shop in order to avoid needing to pay collector’s prices for them later.

So, yes, I spent sixty bucks on the PS3 version, opened it to watch the intro, never actually started it, eventually bought the Steam release, and sold the PS3 version for, well, barely enough to cover the cost of the Steam version.

Then I didn’t play THAT for a couple of years, long enough to see a PS4 remaster released.  It was starting to get a little embarrassing.

Part of the reason for my reluctance is, well, while it’s a really pretty game – the pencil-shaded art style is unlike anything else – it’s also a strategy RPG and those scare me a bit.  I absolutely loved the Shining Force games, back in the Genesis days, but the genre is one that demands a ton of time commitment just to play through a single encounter and one where failing at a battle often means playing through the whole thing all over again.

This is your tank, the “Edelweiss”, and losing it in any fight means an instant trip to the Load Previous Save screen.  Unfortunately, the designer put a giant glowing weak spot on the back side, so you need to be sure that your ground troops prevent anyone sneaking up on it with a rocket launcher.

And yes, Valkryia Chronicles is no exception to either rule, though the ability to save mid-battle does ease some of the sting of defeat – and I did see the GAME OVER screen a lot, including during some very early missions.  The difficulty curve is all over the place, and it’s reflected in the achievement percentages for the game – barely 20% of owners on Steam even make it to the half-way mark.

It’s a more dynamic game than a lot of strategy RPGs – while you are still basically moving counters around a hex grid, with movement distances and firing arcs and terrain effects and so on, the Avalon-Hill-esque underpinnings are cunningly disguised by being able to move your troops in real-time third-person view.  Each of your soldiers also comes with a ton of background and advantages and shortcomings – you don’t have Scout A and Engineer B, you have Nancy the Scout, who grew up on a farm and is extra effective when fighting in natural settings, but also clumsy to the point where she frequently drops grenades and Ramsey the Engineer who is a daft hand with machines but is terrifically lazy, to the point where she will occasionally get an enemy in her sights and then just say “meh, whatever” and not bother shooting them.

Clumsy or no, glasses AND pigtails?  She goes in the squad.

They’re also all individually-voiced and the voice actors do a great job of putting personality into their mid-fight chatter.  Well, the Japanese voice actors, anyway.  I can’t speak to the quality of the English dub.

I use Nancy and Ramsey as examples because, well, the army in this barely-veiled World War II analog is very egalitarian, and my deployed troops in any given mission tended to be about 70% women.  It would have been 80%, but I had a soft spot for Oscar the sniper who was drafted despite being 15 and who has a scar on his forehead from roughhousing with his brother.

…I may have gotten a little too into my squad.

Despite the pastel colors, Valkyria Chronicles doesn’t hesitate to hit you with some very heavy topics.  One of the game’s major themes is racism, and your tank driver is a member of a particularly-maligned minority – which would be bad enough, if you didn’t also have some troops under your command who hate her for that, and other troops whose personality traits include lowered combat effectiveness if they’re forced to fight near someone they hate.

And you’re the good guys, because at least you’re not rounding them up and putting them into concentration camps to be worked to death.  There’s some stuff here that wouldn’t be too out-of-place in Spec Ops: The Line, is what I’m getting at.

Anyway, if you can deal with the inconsistent difficulty and the occasional emotional swings, it’s a heck of a game and you should probably buy it on one of the many systems it has been released for.  I recommend Steam, because it will probably be on sale for five bucks or so at any given time.

Posted in PC Gaming, ps3, PS4, videogames | 3 Comments

I have kitty cat paw print analog stick covers on my Vitas.

Just look at these things.  They’re glorious.

 

Also, considering how slippery the Vita’s analog sticks are, they’re way more practical than they have any right to be.  I wish I’d gotten these a few years back.

Low effort post is low effort post.  I’ll put more effort in to the next one.

Posted in videogames, vita | Leave a comment

Is it still OK to save princesses?

I have a weird relationship with most of Nintendo’s big franchises.  I started gaming in arcades in the late 70s, bought my first home computer in 1982 or so, and completely failed to notice that there WAS an industry crash – if you were a PC gamer, the American console business almost completely disappearing barely registered.

So, the NES phenomenon more-or-less completely passed me by, and I didn’t actually own any Nintendo hardware until I bought a SNES so I could play Street Fighter II without it eating quarters.  I eventually bought an N64, and the Big Franchise games for that system, and I didn’t play them, and then I bought a Gamecube and more or less did the same thing.

Anyway.  To get to the point here: despite a gaming history going back four decades, I’d only ever finished two Mario platformers.  Still, my most recent 3DS purchase came with Super Mario 3D Land installed, and I got a birthday coupon for 30% off a selection of Nintendo games including New Super Mario Bros. 2, so I figured I would give those two games a play-through.  I confess that this was at least partially motivated by recently reading a heartfelt essay by someone who felt very strongly about the problematic nature of a game in which the object is to rescue a damsel in distress, and I am nothing if not a fan of problematic games.

Now, I have a policy on this blog – I don’t say anything negative about Nintendo, ever, because the one time I DID write a snarky blog post about a Nintendo game, I wound up with an inbox full of vitriol and a dawning realization that, while I may not have grown up with Mario as a father surrogate, there are a lot of people who did and who take their close personal relationship with Nintendo very seriously.

So, I cannot say much about New Super Mario Bros. 2, other than that it is a video game and that I was able to play it from beginning to end credits without it crashing even once.  It has graphics, and sounds.

I can say quite a bit more about Super Mario 3D Land, because I wound up really enjoying it.  I’m still dreadful at platform games – a side effect of mostly missing the 8-and-16-bit console generations, and the in-game counter thoughtfully reports that I sent Mario screaming to his doom a total of 144 times before I finally dropped Bowser into a lava pit and took Peach back home to her castle, presumably to give her a stern lecture about not getting kidnapped again.

That’s an awful lot of deaths for any game without “Souls” in the title, and I will not pretend that there was not the occasional slow intake of breath through tightly-pursed lips, like a reverse whistle of vexation.

The thing that kept me going through the frustration is that it is a ridiculously cheerful game, and designed so that any given level won’t take more than a few minutes to play through – assuming you don’t fall in to too many bottomless pits, of course, but I think that’s a given.  For those of us whose platform skills never developed, it has well-placed checkpoints to save you ever needing to replay an entire level, and will even offer you some ridiculously powerful buffs should you die 5 or 10 times in a level.  It’s rendered in a color palette made of bright, primary shades, the music is chipper almost to a fault, and everything has its own happy sound effects.  It doesn’t have any story to speak of, and doesn’t really ask you to consider WHY you are jumping on top of turtles; you just have turtles between you and your girlfriend and jumping on them is taken as a natural thing to do.

There are a couple of things about the game that I’d change if I had my preference, but I get that they’re mostly present for tradition’s sake at this point. Most games, for example, don’t really have a “lives” counter any more – but, without it, there wouldn’t be any particular joy in picking up a green mushroom or vaulting to the top of the end-of-level flagpole.

Final rating: Like eating cotton candy in electronic form, would recommend.  Problematic themes and all.

Posted in 3DS, videogames | 3 Comments

2017 is turning out to be a heck of a year

After playing “Horizon Zero Dawn” back in March, I figured that I had my personal GOTY slot locked down.

Then, I finally got around to playing Nier: Automata, and now it’s a little less certain.

I’ve never played a Yoko Taro game before, but I understand that he claims to make “weird games for weird people”, and Nier definitely hits the mark there.  It’s half super-gritty post-apocalyptic endless war ANGST DARKNESS EVERYONE DIES game and half surreal goofiness (moose wrangling!), with a fair bit of third-wall shattering and bleak-but-gorgeous visuals thrown in.

His previous games have a bit of a reputation for having great stories but coming up short in the gameplay department.  This one is a fortunate exception; it’s by Platinum Games and that’s a name that is pretty synonymous with super fast and flashy movement and combat systems.  Running around the ruins of human civilization and beating stuff up is an absolute joy, and I occasionally had to remind myself to get back to the, you know, plot.

It has five endings that you need to see to actually finish the storyline, and 21 joke endings that you can trigger by disobeying what the game tells you to do – for example, if your allies are making a huge heroic sacrifice to hold off enemies so you can get a door open, and you opt to fight alongside them instead of opening the door, it will eventually tell you that your attempts ended with everyone dying and roll end credits.  Another comes when an NPC asks you to eat a fish because she’s curious what effect it will have on you.

Spoiler: It’s not a good effect.

It’s pretty rare for a game to give you more than the illusion of choice, and I was quite tickled whenever I ran into one of these endings by accident.

But, back to the story endings – like I said, there are five, and this is normally a massive turn-off for me because games with multiple endings often make you play through the exact same events from the exact same viewpoints, satisfying arbitrary conditions along the way, just to see all the different ways the story can diverge in its last ten minutes.

Nier isn’t like that.  The first play-through, which took me about 13 hours, tells one story.  The second took me about six, and was split between experiencing events from the first through a different character’s perspective and seeing entirely new events.

Endings 3, 4, and 5, which come after the parallel stories of the first two routes, took me another ten hours or so.  It turns out that rushing the second story was a bad plan, because my character was woefully under level when starting the third story and I had quite a time just getting up to the point where I didn’t feel like I was made of tissue paper.

Anyway, if you like really pretty games with stylish action and swords and that occasionally switch into bullet-hell style shooters or abstract maze games with chiptune soundtracks, or if the thought of riding a moose or debating philosophy with a robot appeals to you, Nier will give you those things.  Set aside about 30 hours to see it all, though.

Posted in PS4, videogames | 3 Comments

Pink Wolf

Pink wolf.

PINK WOLF

PINK WOOOOOLLLLLLLLF

PIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNK  WOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLF

Pink wolf.

OK, that was worth a couple of nights of playing Kritika Online.

 

Posted in MMORPG, PC Gaming, Tera, videogames | 2 Comments