Backloggin’ – 02/07/2012

The fantastic, statistical/social addiction that is The Backloggery continues to motivate me as I work through my collection of unfinished games. Seriously, I have never felt so compelled to finish every game I own. There is something so satisfying about changing a game from “unfinished” to “beaten” – or possibly even “complete” if enough time was put in – and seeing your overall backlog percentage shrink. And those medals… so, so shiny.

I thought about how cool it would be if The Backloggery actually sold stickers of the game status medals so you could slap a B or C on the physical boxes of games you own, just to make yourself feel even better about your virtual accomplishments. But then I realized that I absolutely despise having stickers on any of the physical copies of games I own – peeling them off is often a sticky, frustrating chore, as I was quickly reminded today after picking up a used copy of Space Invaders Extreme 2 for the DS from EB Games. So… um, yeah. Never mind.

I could go on about how supremely awesome The Backloggery is, and how it has become my favorite website as of late – but I kinda already did that in another, earlier post. Oh, and since that post, I ended up adding every game I currently own, which brought my total amount of games unplayed /unfinished to something slightly more worrysome.

Before…
…and after.

But hey, at least my totals and stats in general are more accurate now! 116 unfinished games is certainly a lot though, but I’m determined to slowly work my way through them all. Which brings me to the purpose behind this post – updating myself and whoever actually reads this blog on not only what I’ve been playing, but also what I think about each game. The Backloggery allows you to attach short comments to your games, but I felt blogging about it would be a lot more ideal. So, here we are! I’m going to divide each post into three categories – unfinished, beaten, and completed.

 Xenoblade Chronicles — This one will most likely be on here for a while. It’s a JRPG – a genre I usually tend to stay away from, but damn is it good. I’m only about 11 hours in to what is easily a 90-hour experience, but I’m enjoying every second. Think of Xenoblade as a single-player MMO, as Dean from Multiplaying put it – it’s a giant, beautiful and varied game world with tons of monsters to kill, sidequests to complete, and loot to obsessively collect. The combat system is also reminiscent of MMORPGs – it’s real-time with autoattack and hotbar abilites, but it’s a lot more engaging that most MMOs are. You do lock on to enemies, but from there you’ll have to move around them and position yourself differently to maximize your abilities since some attacks have secondary effects if you hit enemies from behind, for example.

The story here is what keeps me coming back, though. It’s unfolding quite slowly, as I would expect considering the game’s length – but I absolutely love the game’s world. It’s pretty unlike what I’ve seen before, and somewhat hard to describe. I guess I could say it reminds me of Studio Ghibli’s various films – Castle in the Sky because of the giant robot enemies, Howl’s Moving Castle because of the war-time setting, and Nausicaa for the general expansive feel of the world. That may be because I’ve been under-exposed to anime and those types of recurring themes are more common than I think, but I’m definitely reminded of all three when I play Xenoblade.

I can’t really go deeply into why Xenoblade is such a fantastic game without rambling on, but as a game, the sum of its parts – the world, the music, the combat, and the story – all come together so, so nicely. It’s pretty hard for me to not recommend this to everyone, even if they’re the type of person that would usually shy away from JRPGs. I am seriously enjoying it – more than I have with any RPG in a while, although I did have to switch the voice acting from English to Japanese because the battle cries started to get rather repetitive. Switching it to a foreign language definitely helped, though – I can’t say it’s repetitive when I don’t know what they hell they’re saying!

Thanks, really awkwardly-worded Metroid ending-screen! I’m all about the true peace in space.

 Metroid (3DS Download) — Metroid has always been my favorite Nintendo series ever since I fell in love with Metroid Fusion as a kid. It’s arguably Nintendo’s darkest franchise – the environments featured in Metroid games are regularly deadly, dark, intimidating, and lonely – hell, Other M is the first game in the series I can think of where Samus actually meets other humans during her mission. Other than that though, I love the sci-fi elements of Metroid, especially the obvious inspiration from the Alien films. Despite my love for the series, I had never actually finished a Metroid game. So, I decided that over the summer I’d try and beat all the Metroid games I own, starting with this one – the one that started it all.

Metroid is a bit behind today’s standards – there’s no map system, so it’s easy to get lost wandering through the game’s many areas and eventually lose track of where you are completely. The game’s learning curve is also deviously misleading. Samus starts the game with only 30 out of 99 energy, which equates to death after a few enemy attacks or misguided lava pool dives. Sure, you’ll pick up more than several energy tanks which significantly boost Samus’s health – but for a good duration at the start, I died a lot and Metroid frustrated me. Things get so much easier later on, but man, does the game deceive you with the difficulty. I’d argue that the first two bosses – Kraid and Ridley – are an easier challenge in comparison to the first hour or so of Metroid.

I had to use a walkthrough, and I made extensive use of the 3DS save-point functionality which lets you “quick-save” anywhere in the game – but I beat it. The last boss – Mother Brain – is quite the pain in the ass. It’s not Mother Brain herself that poses a threat, because she’s a immobile push-over – just pump her full of missiles and you win – on no, the real challenge are her defenses.

The room you’re surrounded by is full of turrets and these little flying donut things that, upon impact, knock you to the left or right. This gets really annoying because all you’re trying to do is shoot missiles at the squishy, cybernetic mess before you – but these laser donut things have a tendency to knock you straight to the floor – which in this case, is made of lava. If you have the ice beam – you can freeze them, delaying them a bit so you can have to time to fire more missiles at Mother Brain herself. This doesn’t always work out though, because the turrets end up getting in the way of that strategy, as they continue to shoot away in various directions. The overall boss-fight experience – when it was going frustratingly poorly – was like being a pinball and getting knocked around by a bunch of bumpers.

I ended up audibly yelling at my 3DS a few times, yeah. But hey – I beat it. I didn’t get the best ending – hence no completed status, but that’s fine by me. The important thing is that I enjoyed Metroid – I think the platforming and shooting are very well-done. Just maneuvering around the various environments and collecting upgrades while blasting away at enemy obstacles has some serious appeal. I find it weird how the game is structured – explore, explore, explore, and then three bosses more or less in a row – but it’s definitely enjoyable the whole way through. Well, maybe not the whole way through. Mother Brain is still an ugly bitch and her home defense system can go suck it.

I actually ended up buying the ever-so-expensive, rare compilation that is the Metroid Prime Trilogy off eBay this past week – so that’s next on my list and next on Metroid’s official chronological timeline. I’ve never really been fair to the Prime games – I’ve owned the first since 2004 or so, but I never really got into it. Time to change that.

So, that’s my Backloggery update for this week. Hope you enjoyed!

-rav4ge

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