Backloggin’ – 31/10/2012

I seem to start a large majority of these posts with “so, it’s been a while since my last backlog update” – and it truly has been a while since my last update. Over a month now. So new backlog update, INITIATE! As always, here are my current stats:

Compared to last update:

The juicy details being:

  • Beat percentage up 1.9 percent (7 games beaten)
  • Unfinished total down 1.7 percent

So overall, some good progress. But being that it’s been over a month, I’m not about to bust out champagne and declare this as a monumental moment in my personal backlogging history or anything. I’m saving that celebration for something like the upcoming holiday break, or even just summer during which I’ll know I’ll have plenty of time to get shit done, which in my case pretty consistently means video games. Duh? But still, seven games beat is pretty good. Less impressive once you look at the length of the games themselves – they’re all on the shorter side – but hey, numbers are numbers. I’ve been caught up with school and now work so lately shorter-sized games have kept my attention better anyway. Let’s get to it – there’s a lot to catch up on, so I’m going to try and make things brief (emphasis on try).

(Click the “read more” button to continue reading…)

Metal Gear Solid 2 (PS3)

Goddamn, this was a good one. Having never previously touched the MGS franchise, I played through the first Metal Gear Solid this year and absolutely loved it – especially the story. While the gameplay doesn’t exactly hold up extremely well (a lot of the mechanics feel rather clumsy), it works well enough. Then there’s those clever fourth-wall-breaking moments that really made me smile – if you’ve played it, you know what I’m talking about. But where Metal Gear Solid really got me was the excellently paced, compelling plot. This is the kind of storytelling that keeps you engaged, thrilled, and legitimately interested. Needless to say, I beat MGS within two days of starting it.

Naturally, I wanted more. So one relatively quiet, rainy day at the mall, I dropped the $40 plus on the MGS HD Collection. A good investment, for sure, even though I have yet to play the other two included titles.

Metal Gear Solid 2 definitely sticks out as the most radically different of the series. There’s two reasons for this, the first being that you don’t actually play as Snake for the large majority of the game, you play as a new character, Raiden. I find it pretty funny that none of the fans knew about this change until they played the game, because Konami had kept it completely secret. Oh, how devilishly power-embracing of the devs that was. Imagine booting up Half-Life 3 overwhelmingly excited to be back in the shoes of Gordon Freeman, only you’re not playing as Gordon. Instead, you’re playing some currently nameless black guy (no, not Morgan Freeman) who also has very long, flowing, feminine hair. That’s basically the main criticism against Raiden, and where presumably all the backlash came from – he looked like a girl, something not entirely embraced in Western society. I’m convinced the hate comes from the combo of his girl-like appearance plus his rather high-pitched voice, but it doesn’t matter to me. I liked Raiden. I thought his approach to combat differentiated him enough from Snake (cartwheels!), and his cautious, overly-inquisitive nature fits well into the story.

I liked the game a lot, too. I don’t think on a level-to-level basis that it matches the quality pacing of what MGS pulled off – the environments are hardly as varied and the boss battles just don’t feel as memorable or inventive. The gameplay seems some improvements in the form of a first-person aiming system, which is a welcome addition – but ultimately it doesn’t stray from the original formula. So what is stand-out about MGS2? Well, the story – once again – kicks ass. Again, upon the original release there was a lot of criticism about the story being overly-complex. I kind of agree with that, and the game does throw a lot at you story-wise during the last third of the game. But I loved it. Again, Kojima deviated so far from what’s expected of a military action game in terms of storytelling, that it just left me in awe. We’re talking plot-twists of the best kind here. Mind-warping, character-bending twists that you could only ever find in either a Metal Gear game, or a crazy anime. By the end, I was so full of “what the hell” that I needed a day or two to process everything. It was a similar feeling, the same one I got from playing through Xenoblade. Without spoiling anything, just know that this game embraces your naiveness as a player to create some of the best, most memorable closing moments of any game ever. It made my head spin, but in a very good way – and I love it for that.

So better than Metal Gear Solid? That’s a tough one. I’d have to go with a tie between them for now, just because I love how crazy things get in the second.

Kirby’s Dream Land & Kirby’s Adventure (Wii) Not much to say here. I hadn’t previously played Dream Land – although I was somewhat familiar with Adventure having played the GBA port back in the day. It’s interesting, though, comparing the two. Very little of Adventure seemed to spark any recollection of the GBA version of the game, possibly because graphically the two are very different.

Case in point: comparison between the original Adventure and Nightmare in Dreamland

It’s pretty much more or less the same game, though. Nightmare is still one of the creepiest bosses ever. I think the fact that he never says a single word during the game only amplifies his mysteriously ominous nature, especially because of how they chose to reveal him. The other thing is, the main boss in the Kirby games is usually a fat penguin with a hammer, so it’s not like Nightmare has much to compete with there. During the whole final boss sequence, all you can think is what the hell am I fighting?! And soon after, kill it, kill it with sparkles!

And so you do, and then all is explained.

Borrowed it? He kicked his ass and then left him for dead! Whatever. All is well in Dreamland for now, I suppose.

So that’s Kirby’s Adventure. A nice, easy platforming adventure with some of the most charm in gaming. Kirby games are good at that. I think it’s the combination of the aesthetic and the music. Either way, it works.

Dream Land (it’s the old-school Game Boy version I’m talking about now) is a peculiar title for two reasons. The first is that it’s not often that you see a widely-popular character see their franchise start up on a portable system. The second is that you can’t acquire powers from swallowing enemies in Dream Land – that came later in Adventure. It’s weird to play through a Kirby game and not have the staple, now essential mechanic of the series there, though. It would be like playing Mario and not being able to dispose of enemies by jumping on them.

It’s still a solid platformer, though. Nowhere near as exciting as Adventure, nor as fun to play – but again, the charm factor is pretty high here, even for a game that’s black and white.

I’m hoping I can catch up on more of these Kirby games. I haven’t touched the collection since beating these two. They’re fun little titles to run through, though. And that reminds me – I still have to pick up Epic Yarn.

Okay, and one more game to talk about. I think I’m going to make a new rule for myself that I’m only allowed to post about a maximum of three games per update. Otherwise, these things will start getting really lengthy.

Torchlight II (Steam)

This was a fun one. The original Torchlight was one of those games that I enjoyed to some degree, but just didn’t hold my interest for whatever reason. Usually what gets me going in games is a strong story (remember how I praised the shit out of MGS2 in this post?) or thoroughly enjoyable, addictive gameplay. Torchlight seemed to have neither, and as such I only put a few hours into it. Besides, I’ve never been one to really enjoy dungeon crawlers.

When Torchlight II was announced though, I was kinda excited, which makes little sense considering my outlook on the first game. I’m not exactly sure what it was, but I think I just liked that Runic were taking a full-out approach to the sequel. One of the things that subconsciously bothered me about the original is that the whole game basically takes place in one giant, spiraling dungeon. So all they had to do was announce that the sequel would feature an open world, and I was in. Which they did.

Oh, and that art style always gets me, too. It definitely takes more from Warcraft than it does the Diablo games. I can’t put my finger directly on it, but I swear there’s also some League of Legends in there. But whatever, all you need to know is that it looks good. When transferred to actual gameplay, the game looks even better. The still-screenshots don’t do it justice. There’s bright, vivid colors aplenty in the various environments, and when combat kicks in, things get even more eye-appealing. Arcane explosions throw purples and blues all over the screen, lightening strikes from above, blood splatters from gibbed enemies, and the multitude of projectile attacks layer the floor space with traces of assorted color. It’s a really, really nice looking game.

You can’t really tell what’s going on here, but look at the colors!

Luckily, it plays well, too. There’s a better assortment of classes to choose from this time around, with an added emphasis on ranged characters. I went with the Embermage since I always play melee characters in like, every RPG game I’ve played ever. It was a good decision. I specced in the storm combat tree exclusively, meaning copious amounts of lightening bolts were being fired from my palms a good percentage of the time. Actually, it might have been a bit too frequently. I had filled up my hotbar with numerous electric-related attacks by the end of the game, but the first lightening bolts attack was still my most effective by far. This made the game play out as more like “1111111,” mana potion if necessary, repeat. Luckily, some of the other abilities mixed things up a bit. But largely, the good ol’ 111111 remained my most frequent and most effective tactic, since there’s no aiming required:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hAG77sdhyg?rel=0]

Where things kinda fell apart was the last series of dungeons. It reminded me of what Xenoblade pulled with the “factory” (no spoilers, I’ll leave it at that). Just the same environment randomized for one too many floors. Combine that with swarms of enemies and a lot of 1111’ing, and you get basically the definition of repetitive. I stuck with it though, put on some music, and pushed through.

The end boss was hardly satisfying, since the story provides you with so little to care about. One of those bosses where it’s like, “woohoo, I won. Yay.” Not particularly gratifying or anything.

But then again, if you’re going to play Torchlight, you’re probably going to be playing it for the gameplay – it is a dungeon crawler, after all. So it’s of no surprise that the story sucks, really.

So, overall? I’d really only recommend Torchlight II if you’re into dungeon-crawling RPGs, large numbers, stats, and obsessive loot whoring. Otherwise, it’s totally missable.

I do plan on continuing my time with the game with a hardcore (perma-death) playthrough, though. That could be some short-lived fun depending on how things go.

There you have it, a long-awaited backlog update, and on halloween, no less. I suppose I should be under fire for the lack of halloween-themed content in this post. So here’s a picture of Derpy apple-bobbing while Rarity looks at her disapprovingly. Have a fun and safe Halloween 2012!

Picture by willdrawforfood1 on deviantart.

Next time…

  • Skyrim
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns (maybe)
  • F.E.A.R. expansions

-rav4ge

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