Games Media 1

Platformers might just be the most satisfying game genre

One of the games I played this year in an on-going struggle to defeat my backlog was Vexx, an original Xbox platformer released back in 2003 by Acclaim. It’s a pretty obscure game at this point, too, so don’t worry if I totally lost you there. Here’s the Wikipedia page.

This is Vexx.

While Vexx definitely doesn’t rank on the difficulty scale alongside games like Super Meat Boy, it packs in plenty of challenge – most of which is optional to the player. Each world in the game has a number of wraithhearts to collect, some of which are simply found, and others that you’ll get after beating a specific boss or by completing a platforming challenge. There’s a set number required to unlock each level, but getting all of the wraithhearts in the game is totally optional.

But me? I decided I wanted to get all of the wraithhearts, and I set out to 100% the thing. There was no real reason for it. I just wanted to see how far I could push myself.

And, well… I pushed myself pretty far. For a game that offered no reward other than the feeling of basic satisfaction, I was pretty dedicated to getting every single wraithheart I could get my hands on. Eventually, I did – and man, was it satisfying.

More after the break.

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Backloggery Games Media

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…)

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Games Media

Autumn: The Season of Nostalgia

It’s hard for me to pick a dead-on favorite, but I really love the season of autumn. There’s more than a few reasons for this – the calm, wet, crisp, reflective weather, the collage-like nature of all the different falling leaves, and finally, the excuse to stay inside and play more video games.

But there’s another stand-out reason, and it happens to be an emotion – nostalgia.

I don’t know what it is about autumn, and later, winter – but they always seem to evoke such strong feelings of nostalgia in me. It’s probably because the last two major holidays of the year take place during these seasons, and they both openly embrace warmly staying at home with your loved ones and that sort of thing. Staying at home usually means video games, and Christmas means new video games plus more playing of old ones – so there, maybe I just figured it all out.

But yeah, autumn is a hardcore nostalgia-inducer for me, and it always has been. Not only for fond gaming memories, either – more like, well… everything.

The chilled weather and rainy days remind me of when the family and I first settled down here in Vancouver. Everything was fresh and new, and I remember going to my first day of eighth grade on a rainy day. Before I opened the car door all the way, I stopped and asked “Mom, are the days here usually this rainy?” To which my Mom replied in that sweet but brutally honest voice of hers – “Oh, yes. It rains a lot here.” I took another pause. “Good,” I said. “I like this kind of weather.”

I still do.

But every fall or autumn or however you say it, the rainy days bring back that memory. And we all know how growing up is – that was only six years ago, and yet it’s like I’m thinking about someone else’s lifetime. It’s a memory that although vivid, isn’t recent enough for me to revisit the same way it happened – almost like it isn’t mine. I guess that’s how I know that I’ve grown-up somewhat since.

Thinking back on the nostalgia-storm that is my collection of memories since coming here, that seems to be the one that stands out the most at this point in time. But there was one other. You see, back in grade nine around 2008/2009, something really magical happened.

I discovered World of Warcraft.

The World of Warcraft back in 2008/2009.

It’s so incredibly difficult to describe or even begin to summarize the feelings I had for that game, and it’s even harder to describe them now that they’re so distant. But know this – I had never experienced anything like WoW before. The world of Azeroth, although blatantly artificial, held so much warmth and comfort in its virtual walls. I remember distinctly how I felt when I stumbled into cities like Orgrimmar and Ironforge. The scale – the fact that I was playing in a world filled with other people and so many possibilities – I was beyond fascinated with it.

Naturally, school came first. I was always pretty good about balancing games and schoolwork. But still, I made the point of taking the game manual to school to read when I had free time during classes. Looking back on it, I seriously wonder why I felt compelled to read that thing. Reading that manual now is just not the same – it’s just page after page of information that I’m now very familiar with. Simple stuff – how the inventory worked, character classes, and races… you get the idea.  But back then, I was consumed with a passion for anything Warcraft. I ate up every word in that game manual, and it wasn’t just because I felt like figuring out how to play the game – I just wanted to know anything, anything at all about my beloved Warcraft, who was at home waiting for me to come play.

I was so fascinated with Warcraft’s world that I created a character of every race just to see what new exciting areas I could see. Back at school, another kid I knew who played WoW laughed at me – “Dude, you’re still so low level!” But I didn’t care. It wasn’t about leveling, or progression, or any intended goal for that matter. It was about me and this world – this enticing, beautiful world that was quite simply the best thing I had ever seen.

I could go on and on about my memories with WoW, but it’s probably best that I don’t. If you played WoW yourself, you probably know that warm, nostalgic feeling I’m trying to get at here. You probably know it all too well.

Since then, though, my relationship with the game has slowed since – like an old friend you make an effort to check in on every once in awhile. However, gaps between communication seem to grow and grow in length, and eventually you’re so far apart that you both know it’s over. You’re left with fond memories, however – the kind you’ll think back to time and time again.

One of my daily blog readings today involved, of course, The Ancient Gaming Noob, who has been detailing his adventures on a vanilla-WoW private server called Emerald Dream. I’m tempted to check it out for myself, but at the same time, I’m reluctant to. I know I’ll never seriously play WoW again, nor will it ever capture my attention like it once did. Hell, no game may ever be able to do what WoW did for me.

It’s a lot like visiting an old childhood playground. You can go back and see the playground again for yourself, sure. But the memories, the experiences you had, and the warmth that you feel when you think about how much you loved those times – that all comes from within you. The playground is nothing more than the stage, the setting. Memories – no matter how vivid, no matter how much you truly want to revisit them – will always be a thing of the past.

And you know what? I’m okay with that. Maybe I don’t want to go back, maybe it’s best if I don’t. Instead, I’ll just hold onto those memories fondly. Always, and forever.

Every autumn.

-rav4ge

Media TV

Nick’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles impressions

Oh man is this post long-overdue, but here goes:

Like I last posted about, Nick’s new TMNT show premiered a few Saturdays ago on Nickelodeon in the US and on YTV here in Canada.

I actually had to wait until Sunday (which was painful) to see the episodes since I bought the season pass on iTunes and episodes are released a day later on there. I suppose I could have just found it online somewhere, but I’m honestly glad I waited. The episodes look great in 1080p. So far, I’ve seen the first four episodes that have been released, so I figured I should do an impressions post.

So, how is it? Short version: friggin’ sweet. Long version? Keep reading.

I wasn’t sure how they were going to introduce the Turtles in this new show, so when I was watching I had next to no idea of what was going to happen. But in the end, “Rise of The Turtles” parts 1&2 are just excellently done, and easily defeat both pilot episodes of the 2k3 series.

Part of the reason for this is that in the 1988 and 2003 show, the Turtles are shown to be somewhat familiar with the massive, sprawling metropolis of New York that sits just above their native sewer habitat. But in this new show, we get to see them explore the city for the very first time. Not only that, but we get to see them discover pizza after previously living on a sole diet of algae and earthworms. I won’t ruin anything, but it is easily my favorite scene of the episode and possibly the whole series so far. Yeah, it’s that good.

One new aspect of the show I didn’t really foresee until I actually watched it is the anime-style expressions. This is a totally new thing, and admittedly it kind of works. At first I found it kind of forced, especially since Ninja Turtles has never previously incorporated this sort of thing as far as I know. But like anything, after watching a few episodes it started to feel more normalized and I now I can legitimately see why they decided to include them. There’s a focus on more character expression than usual in this new series, and this just adds to that.

As for the Turtles themselves, they’ve undergone a few changes. Leo is as loyal and courageous as ever, but the first two episodes make it clear that he’s still figuring out the whole “leader” role, which I like. There’s a whole scene where he tries to use overly-complex hand-signals, to which the other Turtles just go “…what?” They figure out the system later, however, but I just thought it was interesting to watch them evolve as a team.

Raph – my favorite turtle by far – gets a rightful role in this new series as the best fighter among the turtles. Usually Leo is seen as the strongest, hence his leadership role, but here Raph is announced early on as the most capable in combat. This is a welcome change, because why shouldn’t he be the best fighter? It only compliments his arrogant and stubborn nature more if he is the best and knows he’s the best. One notable change to Raph this time around is that he no longer talks with a distinct New York accent – something some might applaud, but that I personally liked in past TMNT incarnations. I guess it makes sense that he doesn’t have an accent – after all, that would mean he’s been spending a lot of quality time around other New Yorkers, which he hasn’t according to this new canon storyline. I do kinda miss it though, it only made the gruffness of his character more believable.

And what of Donatello? I guess you could say he seems a lot younger and less experienced in general – but so do all the Turtles. He’s got a squeakier voice in this one which I kinda like, since it better establishes him as the “geek.” As far as subtle design changes go, he’s missing one of his front teeth, probably to make him look younger or something. It works, but the first time you see it (or rather, don’t see it), you kinda go “WHOA!” Subtle, but unexpected.

Oh, and Mikey? He’s changed quite a bit from the 2k3 character. In that show, the writers had a tendency to write him in as sort of a pansy, something a lot of fans didn’t like. They’ve done away with that aspect since then, though. Mikey this time around is more about being expressive, energetic, and generally high-energy. He hasn’t really been established as a “party dude” quite yet (do the Turtles even know what a party is yet?), but I’m sure that’s something we’ll see later on in the show.

I wrote last time about how I really liked the new CGI look of the show, and since finally getting to see some full episodes, I can’t say my opinion has changed – the majority of the CG looks really damn good. Unfortunately, I was lead to believe from the theme song that the show would be heavily stylized all the time, when it actuality it really isn’t. The only time the awesome stylization kicks in is when the Turtles go into fighting mode, during which their pupils disappear, people get smacked around, and you forget all about the goofy nature of these characters. It’s just total badassery for about a minute or so, and then it’s back to Turtles with anime eyes. It works, yeah, but the show definitely looks the most impressive during these fight sequences – almost so good that when they go back to standing around I started to realize how awkward they looked. Each episode as a whole though is full of visual splendour – I absolutely love a lot of the color choices here. The Kraang, especially (Kraang is now a reference to the entire alien species, formerly “Utrom”) look vividly detailed and wonderfully shiny in their robotic suits. By the way, why the hell did they all decide to wear the same exact human skin? If I saw two or more of the exact same person anywhere, I’d flip shit. Isn’t that a dead-giveaway that they’re aliens? I think they need to work on that.

But overall, this new show is really damn good. It’s got much more flair and personality than any TMNT show before it, I’d argue, and the CG look definitely makes for some great-looking animation and fight scenes that I doubt could have been created equally using 2D methods. I was unsure at first about it, but now that I’ve seen the show, I’m all for the new CG look and feel. If you’re on the fence, definitely give it a watch – the trailers and such don’t really give the show enough justice, but the first two episodes definitely will.

-rav4ge

Life

Some ninja-like ninja changes

You might be wondering, “whoa, what happened here? Where’s One Click Pony?”

Well, to put it simply, this is OCP. I just changed the name, domain, and made some appropriate theme changes.

Why? Well, I’ve realized something since starting this blog. I said when I started it up that I wanted to focus on ponies and video games specifically on this blog, but since then I haven’t had a single post about ponies. I know, right? Sad.

Um, hey Fluttershy..? I’m really sorry, okay?

It’s not that I don’t have anything to say about ponies. It’s just gaming is usually on my mind, and therefor what I end up blogging about. There’s just a lot more writing potential there, I find. Since MLP season 3 isn’t out yet, I haven’t been absorbed in the show like I was while going through seasons 1 & 2, which is to be expected. There’s the whole online pony thing, but I’m not one to dabble too much in that. I just really like the show, and since it’s not currently airing new episodes – I don’t have much to say. So having a blog with the word “pony” in it that didn’t have any pony-themed posts didn’t really make sense to me.

That being said, I do have pony posts I planned on making. It’s just a matter of sitting my ass down and doing it.

But then there’s this other show that’s filling the gap for me quite well that I’m also really passionate about and one I’ve been following since the 3rd grade. That’s right. Ninja Turtles. Since the new Nickelodeon show is really doing it for me – in fact, it’s miles ahead of the 2k3 series from what I’ve seen so far – I decided I should make that the third focus of my blog, because I know I’ll be posting about it. Hell, I’ve already written one post and I have another one in the works.

That means this blog is a video-gaming-pony-watching-ninja-turtling thing now, which pretty much makes it the most niche thing ever, I’m sure. But whatever, I’m not about page-views and commonality here. I just wanna say what I want to say and have a place to do it.

Starting today, TMGP is that place.

…besides, it’s not like anyone’s gonna notice anyway. I still have that early blog advantage, oh yeah.

-rav4ge

Media TV

New TMNT show premiers in 2 DAYS!

20120927-110632.jpg

That’s right! Two. Friggin’ days.

I’m not sure if everyone is aware just yet, but Nickelodeon’s new Ninja Turtles animated series is debuting this Saturday on TV and on content providers like iTunes.

This “new show” is a reboot of sorts, but it works on a different level than the previous TMNT 2003 animated series. From what I can tell, it still closely follows the original Mirage comics, but there are more than several key differences that separate it from previous incarnations.

The first is the animation itself. This time around, TMNT is being produced exclusively using CGI, following in the footsteps of the 2007 movie. The second, is that instead of the questionable look of the 2007 movie, TMNT 2012 goes for a more fun, well-rounded brightly-colored look. Don’t be fooled though – it still looks to have the same dark undertones and accompanied stylizations that make this feel like a show that’s really about Ninjas. If you watch the trailers or any of the clips in general, you’ll probably notice the abundance of shadows and darkness in general. There is bright lighting where appropriate, but it’s clear that they’re going for the visual tone of the original comics and 2003 show. I’m more than okay with this, because I don’t like how the 1987 cartoon made them out to really just be superheroes when really, they’re supposed to be all sneaky and ninja-like. Makes sense to take this new show in the original, opposite direction, so I’m incredibly glad for that.

Still, this new show isn’t quite like the 2003 one. The characters and style in general seem to be a lot more expressive, and there’s also more stylization to be found in the anime-esque expression scenes they have (see this video for example). I’m really liking this approach so far, because while I’m all for a darker setting, the Turtles are supposed to be fun dudes, and that wasn’t really captured as well in the 2003 show. This new direction though is looking just right. A good balance between serious and silly. I like that.

I also like the character designs and general aesthetic in general. When I found out the new series would be produced in CGI, I was kinda skeptical. However now that we’ve been able to see more than ever about the show, my fears have been put at ease. In fact, I love this new style. It’s 3D, yes – but there’s this focus on simple 2D backgrounds and backdrops which just looks great. Watch the theme song and you’ll see what I mean. The 3D on 2D contrasts so well, and the whole thing just oozes style and flair. That’s another great attribute here that the 2003 series (and 1987 show, actually) lacked – flair. This new show captures that look, that gracefulness, that flair that I think should always accompany anything Ninjustu. I’m just so impressed with the focus on that sort of thing with this new show, especially because I think CGI cartoons I’ve seen in the past have always looked so awkward and artificial, unnatural even. I’m glad to see the Turtles in this incarnation sport more energy and expression that ever before.

And what of the theme song? Theme songs are key for TV shows. It’s a make or break sort of thing, since you basically have one song accompanying every single episode. In a nutshell, it better be damn good since your viewers will be listening to it every time they turn on your show.

The challenge here is that the TMNT theme song – y’know, the 1987 one – is friggin’ classic. It’s like, one of the most memorable theme songs in the world. So how do you approach essentially re-making something that has already been perfected and deeply saturated into pop-culture?

Well, the 2003 show did it well. Still catchy, wonderfully upbeat, and overall, much more energetic accompanied by some great visuals. Ultimately, it gets a little tiresome though, since the singer kinda overdoes it for my tastes. Don’t get me wrong, I still love it. But while watching two or more episodes in a row, I almost always skip it – something I don’t usually do for other shows.

This new TMNT theme though is actually really well done. It’a a very similar upbeat feel, but framed as sort of a rap type-deal and with much less over-exaggeration in the lyrics. Sometimes I feel like the guy singing it actually should be a little more into it, but honesty it works really well as it is. It also wonderfully showcases what the show is all about, as well as giving you a good, brief look at the stylized nature of the show. So put simply, yeah – I dig it.

I only have one complaint about this new show so far. I really don’t like Splinter’s new design. The amount of contrasting colors on his face takes away from the fact that he’s a rat. And that mustache – um, what? Why is that there? Who put that there?

I mean, he looks okay, but I don’t think I’ll ever learn to like this new design. Everyone else transitioned well – Shredder looks as badass as usual, April looks, well, young, but that’s the point, and the Foot Soldier design is a good throwback to the 80s movies. But Splinter? He sticks out like a sore thumb.

Other than that though, I am pretty excited for this new show. The last time I saw a new Turtles show premier on TV was back in 2003 when I was in the 3rd grade, so this is pretty exiting stuff. More thoughts to come.

-rav4ge

Backloggery Games Media

Backloggin’ – 16/09/2012

Figured I should probably throw up a new backlog update post since it’s been almost over a month now since my last one, and I’ve made some good progress. Here’s how my stats are looking now:

The thing I’ve been pretty good at lately is keeping myself far away from the temptation and allure of buying new games, even with titles like Darksiders II and Sleeping Dogs releasing over the past month or so. I’m really happy with this, because it’s something The Backloggery itself has helped me overcome. I actually just shuddered at the thought of how many games I would have bought over the past few months had I not been introduced to BL, especially because I’ve had the largest sized disposable income of my life lately. So thank you, for that, Backloggery! Your addicting numbers and statistics somehow are hindering my gaming purchases, which is saving me a lot of money. And in turn, I’m focusing on what I already own, which is great.

So here’s what I’ve been up to. I’m going to keep each title summary brief because things would get a little overwhelming otherwise. Click the “read more” button there to jump into the juicy details…

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Uncategorized

I made a comic about Mario

I made a comic about Mario

Yeah, it’s been a while since I updated this blog. Have a comic strip. Backloggery updates will return again soon, and I have some posts about ponies I want to write. That’s right. Finally some pony-action on what is more or less a pony-themed blog, and man does that sound dirty.

Accidental sexual innuendo? That’s my cue. I’m out. Enjoy.

-rav4ge

Backloggery Games Media

Backloggin’ – 19/08/2012

Oh yeah, big accomplishments since my last update. I knocked out the biggest and baddest contender on my backlog, which I’ll get into in a bit. But first…

Hard Difficulty / ~3 hours played

Rage (or is it RAGE? I can never tell with these stylized logos) is one of the few remaining FPS games on my summer to-do list, that is, if you don’t count Metroid Prime as one, which I certainly wouldn’t – it’s definitely more of a first-person-adventure type thing.

I started Rage on the 360 close to when it first came out, just to get a taste for it, since my Dad decided to pick it up. I decided later though, that playing it on PC would be the only way to go – this is an id game, after all. Gotta represent the PC master race, y’know how it is. So after the summer steam sale hit, I grabbed it, and just recently started it up.

Before I go anywhere else, the PC version of Rage is easily the worst PC version of a game id has put out. The texturing system they used to make sure the PS3 and 360 versions could pull of the sort of highly-detailed world they desired doesn’t really translate so well to PC. There’s tons of noticeable texture-pop-in and incredibly low-res detailing – which really takes away from the experience. The problem here is that PCs can and should be able to pull off a game like Rage without any such hiccups – but that’s the thing. Rage wasn’t designed for PCs, in terms of how it actually runs. The result is a game that just doesn’t take advantage of a modern-day PC as it should. Which is a major bummer, because from at a distance, Rage’s world is really quite detailed and impressive. It’s a seamless transition from conceptual art to game – only it’s pretty low-res if you get too close.

Actually, reading complaints from gamers abroad upon Rage’s Steam release on the forums – the loveliest of places for post-game launch criticism, for sure – was absolutely hilarious. Threads and threads of people print-screening low-res textures in the game and demanding their money back. It’s rather silly, of course. But I almost think the complaints are somewhat justified. I mean, this was a game that came out near-end 2011. And textures like this – however minor they may be, don’t blow over well with PC gamers.

“WTF id SHIT IS SO LOW RESGUBOLUTION. MONIEZ BACK PLZ. MY EYES ARE BLEEDING FROM THE TERRIBAD.” — A somewhat common complaint about Rage’s lower-resolution textures (since somewhat remedied).

Anyway, enough about graphics. Rage is pretty enjoyable to play. It’s a sort of mish-mash between Borderlands, BioShock, Fallout 3, and some sort of nameless all-terrain vehicle racer, due to the emphasis on driving and sometimes racing. Unfortunately, it never really feels as much fun as any of those three, because there’s never a dead focus on any of the things that made those games great. Borderlands had an addicting looting system, which isn’t really present in Rage since looting is very limited and isn’t very exciting – you sort of just pick up things because you can, not because you shouldBioShock had a great narrative that pulled you in from the very start, but Rage’s is significantly less compelling – at least so far. And as for Fallout 3 – which is easily one of my favorite games ever – Rage’s world exploration feels incredibly limited in comparison. There’s invisible walls aplenty and you never feel like you’re really able to go wherever as a result.

I’m still liking Rage though, that’s for sure. The first two hours or so aren’t really anything special, but I’m already starting to like the game more as I progress. I just sort of passed the point I had reached in the 360 version, so from here on out it’s all new to me. I’m thinking I’ll be able to finish it before the end of next week, easily. I’m having a good time with the races since the vehicles are actually quite enjoyable to drive – especially after getting those turning upgrades. The other thing is, you acquire quite the arsenal within the first few hours of the game so killing stuff, bandits or otherwise, is still pretty enjoyable.

Anyway, time to address the elephant in the room. You might have noticed a certain title is missing from the “unfinished” list this week…

Time: ~71 hours // Level: 79-80

Oh yeah. At 71 hours for my rather limited completion, Xenoblade is quite the elephant. In fact, it’s the longest friggin’ game I’ve ever played, and the only JRPG I’ve ever finished.

Quite simply, it was great. It kicked my ass pretty hard towards the end – there was one boss in particular that took me about 20 tries at least to overcome – but then I realized this was an RPG, grinded out a few levels, and returned for that sweet victory. From there on, it was more or less smooth sailing with a few deaths here and there.

But goddamn, was this game good. I was never really enthusiastic about it in my previous posts though, as you may have noticed. I mentioned how the pacing was slow and how the story was really taking its time in getting good. Once it did though – which was about halfway through, I really pushed myself to finish it. The story really takes more than several crazy twists, and the overall story line concludes in such a satisfying, genre-bending way  that it easily bests Mass Effect 3, the other big-name RPG I played this year. And I don’t just mean the ending, either. I mean the whole thing, from start to finish. Looking back once I had finished it, I actually appreciated Xenoblade’s humble beginnings, because when things get crazy, it really catches you off guard. Like I’ve said before, playing Xenoblade is like watching an anime series from start to finish. Things start small, but once they get good… they get really good.

Yeah, so you live on those guys. Cool, huh?

I really only have one gripe with this game – but everything else about it is done exceptionally well. Xenoblade’s world is imaginative and vividly created – I mean, what other games take place on two giant, immovable titans separating the organic life from the mechanical? Not only is the whole concept incredibly enticing, but it’s executed so well. As you travel through Xenoblade‘s many varied landscapes, you’ll feel like you’re standing on some part of these giants. You’ll see mountains, massive structures, and hills that actually form around the arms and legs of these massive, mysterious beings. Environmentally, MonolithSoft was able to get a lot out of the Wii’s hardware – and the results are rather incredible. Sure, the view-distance is limited, but this is very much a game world that is created for exploration. There are no cheap tricks or invisible walls here – Xenoblade’s world is a vast, varied, beautiful accomplishment , and one that begs to be explored. For the most part, any area you see while roaming about can usually be reached. It’s an amazing sensation, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Then there’s the music. Xenoblade’s soundtrack is large and memorable, with night and day variations on each zone’s unique tune. Each track is distinct, memorable, and often captivating. I’d be surprised if someone who played Xenoblade from start to finish didn’t download the soundtrack immediately after – this is a soundtrack that brings the game and it’s emotion, it’s characters to life. I can’t count the number of times I got goosebumps after listening to the whole thing, track by track. Xenoblade’s soundtrack is a definite reminder of the power and influence a great soundtrack can add to a game experience. It’s easily one of the best OSTs I’ve heard in all my years in gaming. Yeah, that good.

Unfortunately, I never really paid much attention to what makes up a large chunk of Xenoblade – the side quests. They’re generic, mundane, and barely passable – but they sort of hold up just because of how much fun it is to explore Xenoblade’s world – and if anything, the side quests here are an invitation, an incentive to venture into the unknown. For me though, the most compelling part of Xenoblade was always the main story, so I had a hard time getting tempted to stay in one area when the story had already moved on to the next. But like I said, this was the only major complaint I have about the game.

If you own a Wii, this is a title you absolutely must check out. This is the first JRPG I’ve ever taken seriously, so don’t let the genre label scare you away – Xenoblade is incredibly accessible and easy to pick up. The combat system, while simple enough at first, has enough depth to it that advanced players will be able to appreciate the challenge of taking on higher-level enemies, while JRPG newbies will feel right at home with the difficulty that follows the main story line and most of the side quests. Remember, you’re starting the fights in Xenoblade most of the time – so it’s up to you to decide what you think you can handle. The game also lets you play as any of the members in your party, so you can explore the mechanics and positives of other class types as you see fit. And death – ha! Death in Xenoblade is nothing more than the game shrugging and telling you to try again – there are no heavy penalties or losses here, should you fall prey to an enemy, or several – which will happen.

Xenoblade has been a powerful, memorable experience for me, and it’s opened my eyes to JRPGs as a genre, something I thought would never happen. And at the end of it all, it stands tall as not only a great RPG – but a great game, and one that I’ll remember fondly. I cannot recommend it enough.

Next up…

  1. Metroid Prime
  2. Rage (PC)
  3. Assassin’s Creed II (PS3)
  4. Infamous 2
Backloggery Games Media

Backloggin’ – 03/08/2012

Okay, so here I am for this week’s update, on-time and on-top of things! Ideally, I’d like to put out a weekly update Friday or somewhat close to Friday, but I know I won’t always be able to adhere to that. But, whatever. Here’s what I’ve been up to in video games.

Time: ~26 hours // Level: 39

Yeah, yeah. Of course this game is still on here. At an average ~80 hours completion time, why wouldn’t it be?

In last week’s update, I mentioned I had kinda sort of lost interest in Xenoblade, but that was definitely not the case this week. I feel like the game has picked up considerably more steam since I started it – so with every hour I put in, the better and more epic things become. This is definitely one of those games that just requires a burn-in period before things really get good, so I’m glad I’ve stuck with it.

I made a good amount of progress this week (close to four hours alone yesterday), but I’m still nowhere near even the halfway mark, and that seriously still blows my mind, especially because right now the game’s story is already feeling pretty climactic and intense.

So yeah, still lovin’ this one.

I’ve always wanted to get into the Assassin’s Creed franchise of games, and oddly enough, the first game in the series was always the sole obstacle discouraging me from investigating this series. AC1 follows Altair and his fellow jugular-puncturing, rooftop climbing hooded buddies, although it’s mostly him doing all the work. Teamwork comes later in AC: Brotherhood (I’m assuming).

The first Assassin’s Creed is an odd game to write about, because although it was critically acclaimed when it first released in 2007, it’s now been totally trumped by the other games in the franchise – which was already easy enough to do. I still find the high ratings quite hard to believe, because this game is one of the most formulaic games I’ve ever played – but I guess at the time of release, everyone was so infatuated with the slick animations and open-world environments to care. Seriously, though. If you want to see just how repetitive a game can be, I’ll point you straight in the direction of this one. Here’s the game in a nutshell:

  1. Enter new town.
  2. Talk to Assassin Bureau guy
  3. Do investigation missions (minimum 3, all of which the core mission-type objective never changes)
  4.  Go back to Bureau guy
  5. Listen to what he says, blankly stare at the screen while the pointless dialogue continues, possibly mash the A button while you wait.
  6. Get the hell out of there and track down your target
  7. Kill him. (by the way, this is the only non-static part of the formula)
  8. Go back to Bureau guy
  9. Go to new town
  10. (repeat 7 times until the end of the game)

Despite the formulaic nature, I really wanted to finish Assassin’s Creed – because the most interesting thing about it is the sort of sci-fi mystery that unravels slowly as your progress through the story. You, the player, aren’t actually playing as Altair during his time period – but rather, re-living the past as his descendant, Desmond Miles. Why? Well, Desmond doesn’t really know either, he’s being forced to do so after being forcefully apprehended by a large electronics development corporation of sorts – and that right there is what kept me playing through this game. I so desperately wanted to find out just what the hell was going on.

Unfortunately, like the game itself, the conclusion is shallow. It’s just one final “LOLWUT” moment that feels like prep for a bigger and better sequel, which was Assassin’s Creed II – the game many consider to be the true, realized potential for the series. That one picks up right where AC1 leaves off, and I’m guessing provides some sort of kick-off finale to the first, which is what I was looking for. So, I’ll be starting that one up at some point.

Overall, though? Assassin’s Creed is nothing special. It’s overly formulaic, and what it does do well has been perfected by other games since – so by today’s standards, it really falls flat. If you can put up with it, though, I guess it would be the best place to start in the series – it is, chronologically the first game, after all. But I know many who would be quick to hit the eject button on their console of choice once they discovered Assassin’s Creed’s dark secret – and I can’t say I never considered doing the same while playing though it.

Next!

I finished up F.E.A.R. late last night (early morning, technically I guess), and overall I thought it was pretty great. It’s getting harder and harder for shooters to really impress me these days – but F.E.A.R. is an unmistakable gem, a shining accomplishment as both a shooter and a horror game. F.E.A.R.’s gunplay is easily some of the most satisfying I’ve ever played in recent memory. The game features a bulletime system known as “reflex mode” in which, as you might expect, things get slowed down, bullets become recognizable, and everything sounds so distorted and awesome, which is easily the best part of the combat. Without it, the guns feel overly spastic and enemies can take you down within seconds if you’re not careful – but activating reflex mode, turning that corner, and blasting your previously unaware foe with bullets is immensely satisfying. Shells fly, blood clouds spout, and screaming ensues – honestly, I had more fun with the bulletime in this game than I did with Max Payne 3. It just feels a lot more impactful, especially because most combat in this game is reasonably close-quarters.

And then there’s the scare-factor of F.E.A.R. – the thing holding the wonderfully satisfying combat together and sealing the deal. F.E.A.R.‘s empty office buildings and dark alleyways set the stage for some of the most frightening ambiance in video games. There’s no jump-scare tactics or BOO! moments here – F.E.A.R. is a game that embraces the psychological vein of horror, similar to what’ll you’ll find in movies like The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. The game takes a profound joy in just generally creeping you out and keeping you on your toes, simply by utilizing otherwise subtle atmospheric elements like audio-based ambiance and lighting. The game toys around with your mind, and you’ll very likely be in a state of, well, fear during most of it – but the genius of F.E.A.R. is that when you break down the number of scares during the game, the bulk of it isn’t exactly frightening – it just tricks you into thinking it is. Most of the time, you’ll be roaming around various environments, shooting possessed soldiers – who sometimes sound genuinely more scared than you – and occasionally investigating deeper into the story by finding voice recordings or data. Still, during the whole course of the game I found myself on-edge – simply because F.E.A.R.’s atmospheric tension wraps you in mixed emotions of paranoia and madness – up until I played this game, I never really thought about how creepy offices can be at night, once everyone has left for the day, once every trace of humanity has vanished. Eugh. Creepy stuff.

Just another day at the office.

F.E.A.R.’s story is an interesting one, but the way it’s told is rather shallow, and it’s possible to miss the whole thing if you’re not paying attention during voice message playback and data recovery – which is easy to do when you, the player, are extremely uncomfortable and paranoid of your surroundings.  The conclusion is pretty cool though, and the last two seconds of the game before the credits rolled cracked me up – if you’ve played it, you’ll know what I mean.

If not though, F.E.A.R. is more than just worth it to play through, and I’d definitely recommend it. It’s a great example of why I love first-person-shooters so much – F.E.A.R.’s twisted, chilling atmosphere just couldn’t be replicated to the same effect in any other genre.

That’s it for this week. These five still remain on my summer to-do list:

  1. Xenoblade
  2. Metroid Prime
  3. Rage (PC)
  4. Assassin’s Creed II (PS3)
  5. Infamous 2

-rav4ge