Friday, March 21, 2014

Another anime post


I have been playing some stuff, but nothing that I feel needs a writeup.  Except maybe Muramasa.

Hawken; Got back into this recently, perhaps as a result of playing Titanfall.  I’m pretty bad at it, but I think part of the reason why is because I’m still not sure which mech is right for me.  I’ve been using the Brawler a lot, which has a comparatively high amount of armor, but is also pretty slow.  I get out-maneuvered a lot in it.  They’ve added a co-op horde mode sine I last played, which is kind of fun but also kind of boring.  It’s not the sort of game I would write a review for.

Final Fantasy IV; I enjoyed FF4 when I first played it on DS many years ago, and always wanted to get back to it.  With a Vita in hand, I was finally able to with FF4 Complete.  I’m enjoying my time with it, but I’m not far enough in to write anything meaningful about it.  The random encounters can be a bit much, though.

Guild Wars 2; I really anticipated Guild Wars 2 when it first came out, but soon dropped out of it like I do with most MMOs.  Realistically speaking, I will probably drop out of GW2 again at some point or another, but I do feel like I’m finally starting to get some footing in the world.  I did learn firsthand that World vs World can be a real downer if you don’t have buddies to play it with.  I also have a small inkling that as far as MMOs go GW2’s endgame is lacking.  But considering I don’t have a single character at level 80 yet that’s not something that need concern me.

Muramasa; I’m surprised by how much I’ve been enjoying this game.  I didn’t really know what to expect going in, except it would maybe play like Dragon’s Crown or Odin Sphere.  It kinda does, but I actually think Muramasa plays better than both of those games.  It’s faster and more responsive, and every battle feels like a dance with death on Chaos.  My only issue is that I think it can be kind of…repetitive?  It’s structured like a Metroid game, but doesn’t really have the same robustness.  Woah, maybe I’m onto something for a review.

Super Metroid; I’ve been really curious about Super Metroid after playing the Prime games.  I had never played it before, but people speak of it like Kirby Super Star and A Link to the Past in the sense that it came from a time when Nintendo was at the top of their game.  It’s a really cool game, and especially for the era it was made in it’s surprisingly robust.  The amount of upgrades and stuff you can do and get in Super Metroid makes all of the Prime games combined seem trite in comparison.  My only problem is that the game is absurdly obtuse at times.  You often run into instances where there are blocks in the environment that can be destroyed (revealing the path forward or a powerup), but there’s no discernible way to know that because the textures on a destructible block are no different from the textures on a regular block, and even more than in the Prime games, what weapons can destroy what things is completely arbitrary and can only be discovered through experimentation.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to play this game as a kid with no guide.  Also the grapple beam is kinda not done well, but that’s a nitpick.

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy; This is fun and mostly feels like a straight up classic Ace Combat game in the vein of the PS2 trilogy.  Probably because it IS a classic AC game, being a loose remake of AC2.  It’s even better in some ways; you can choose whether or not to have a wingman, and you can upgrade and customize your planes’ performance.  There are some design quirks that did rub off on it from Assault Horizon, though.  Maybe I’ll leave that for a full post.

Titanfall; What can I say?  It’s the first FPS I’ve really been able to get into since Unreal Tournament 3.  I’m having a great time with it.  It also hosts some of the most fun I’ve had playing CTF in a good while.

These days I spend about as much time playing anime as I do playing videogames.  But while I’m okay writing and scoring games, I don't generally feel up to the task of reviewing anime.  So I just chat about it instead.

Recently, I finally put a cap on Minami-ke.  With four seasons totaling around 50 cumulative episodes, it’s been a pretty long road, especially for what is essentially a simple slice of life show.  It’s a good show that’s clearly had its ups and downs over the years.  Tadaima, the show’s fourth season, managed to put all that to rest and come out as the best the show has to offer.  Minami-ke doesn’t have enough of a plot thread for me to recommend starting all the way from the beginning and working your way up to Tadaima like I did, but having done so I felt like I had come a long way with these characters.  Though each episode is mostly self-contained, characters’ relationships and interactions slowly develop and morph over time, and by the end the cast felt like some kind of huge family (except for Housaka, who manages to miss the beat every single time).

I also watched A Certain Scientific Railgun S, which kind of dampened my interest in the franchise.  I’ve never really had much patience for the world of Index.  I think it’s a huge mess that’s not really worth my time.  I enjoyed the first season of Railgun not only because it did an excellent job separating itself from Index and its trifles, but because it featured a better and more entertaining cast of protagonists.  Uiharu and Saten are neither here nor there, but Kuroko is worth several Indexes and I would take Mikoto over Touma any day of the week.  Railgun S messed with the previous season’s winning formula by doing away with a lot of the central character interaction in favor of a long and drawn out arc that intersects directly with Index.  This hurt the show in a number of ways.  Most importantly it brought it closer to Index, which damaged Railgun’s own sense of identity, but it also revealed to me that Mikoto’s simply not a good enough character to carry the show on her own.  It makes a decent comeback toward the end once the Sisters arc concludes, but by then it felt like the damage had already been done.

On a whim, I decided to give Buddy Complex a shot.  I don’t generally watch ongoings, because I prefer to watch shows at my own pace, but I burned through Majestic Prince (which by the way is perhaps the most I’ve had watching anime in a long time) so quickly that needed a quick alternative.  Buddy Complex starts a bit slow, but I’m surprised by how engaging I find it.  It doesn’t feel like anything particularly fresh, but it’s fun to watch and the cast is generally good.  The only issue is that I feel like the show is paced like they have 20+ episodes to burn, when I was under the impression it was only going to be 12-13.  However, this being a mecha show from Sunrise it’s not only possible but perhaps likely that it will get a second season, and in truth at this point the show’s ultimate length seems to be up in the air.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Tales of Xillia


Tales of Xillia takes place in a world where humans are able to perform magic by subconsciously interacting with, or channeling spirits.  Some are better suited to it than others, however, which leads to the development of technology known as ‘spyrix’ that allows even people without channeling talent to perform magic.  The difference here however is that this technology kills spirits instead of simply channeling them.  Enter Milla Maxwell; otherwise known as Maxwell, the Lord of Spirits (series veterans might recognize that name).  Investigating spyrix, Milla takes on a human form and travels to the city of Fennmont, where humans are said to be developing a massive magic weapon that uses spyrix on a large scale.  It’s here that she encounters Jude Mathis, a young medical student.  Milla fails to destroy the weapon however, and both her and Jude are ousted from Fennmont.  Her resolve is unshaken however, and with Jude accompanying her, the two begin their quest to stop the spread of spyrix technology, encountering a host of companions along the way.

Xillia is interesting in that it features two different characters sharing the protagonist role: Jude and Milla.  When you first start the game, you’re asked to choose between the two.  This might give you the impression that you’re in for two entirely different stories depending on who you choose, but don’t be misled; for the most part, Xillia only has one story to tell.  The choice is less about picking a story and more about picking a perspective.  Because Jude and Milla begin their stories at different points, it does dictate how you’ll spend the first couple of hours, but throughout most of the game Jude and Milla are in the party together, and thus their ‘stories’ progress in parallel.  In a way this makes the choice of who to choose feel superficial, but there are points when the two are separated, and there’s just enough content such as this exclusive to each character to make it worth playing through the game a second time if you’re invested in the world of Xillia.  And if nothing else, it’s an interesting design choice.

I usually look forward to meeting party members when I play a Tales game, but for the most part the core cast of Xillia didn’t stick out for me.  Jude is, for the most part your average Tales protagonist, though I’ll give him credit for being just a bit more intelligent and levelheaded than many of his predecessors.  Jude’s biggest problem however is one you might have guessed at while reading the premise of the game; he doesn’t have a good reason to be on this journey.  He latches onto Milla initially out of some naïve crush, but for the first two thirds of the game if you were to ask him why he was there, he wouldn’t be able to give you a good answer.

Most of the others fill general character archetypes for me.  Leia is Jude’s energetic and upbeat childhood friend.  Rowen is an old, retired war strategist who is wise but can also be a bit perverted at times.  Milla is a woman on a mission, and thus tends to come off as all business, but she has a playful side and can be surprisingly narcissistic, particularly about her hair.  Alvin is just a bad character, for reasons I shouldn’t spoil.

On the plus side, I did grow to like Elize quite a bit.  A young girl with a tragic past, Elize is shy and well mannered, but that’s in sharp contrast to Teepo, her talking, floating doll.  Whereas Elize is polite and even withdrawn at times, Teepo is brash, talkative, and completely tactless.  The two are an inseparable pair, which makes for a fun and often-hilarious dynamic.

Though I wasn’t impressed by Xillia’s party members for the most part, the supporting cast is surprisingly strong.  Eventually Jude and Milla find themselves clashing with a man known as Gaius.  Though he is essentially the antagonist of the game, Gaius is not a bad person, much less evil.  A king trying to unite a world threatening to destroy itself, his goals are noble, and at times you might even find yourself wondering why you’re fighting him when you could be working alongside him.  Jude certainly does.  Gaius’s chief underlings, known as the Chimeriad, are also an interesting bunch.  From Jiao--a big man with a good heart--to Agria—a young girl who’s seen more of the world’s terrors than anyone her age ought to have—they’re even more diverse and generally better written characters than the core cast is.  You’ll meet others as well, such as Driselle and Gilland, who the writers seem to have given almost as much devotion as the protagonists.

Progression in Xillia is handled by a large web called the lilium orb.  Akin to Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grid or even Final Fantasy XIII’s Crystarium, you unlock stat gains, perks and new artes on the lilium orb using points gained by leveling up.  The open-ended nature of the lilium orb does give you a good sense of freedom, but each character’s lilium orb is tailored in such a way as to encourage the prioritization of certain stats over others.  For those that don’t want to be bothered at all, you can set the lilium orb to automatically develop itself as you level up.

Xillia’s themes of duality extend to its combat.  The game’s battle system--known as the “Dual Raid Liner Motion Battle System”—integrates the CC system used in Tales of Graces (and Eternia) into the more traditional TP system that the series typically uses.  What this means is that each character has a certain number of ‘AC’ (Assault Counter for those that care) to spend on attacks.  This is in addition to TP, or mana that fuels their special attacks, known as artes.  Every attack, whether it’s a simple physical attack or an end-game arte, costs one AC to use.  Once you’re out of AC, you have to wait a second or two for the counter to reset before you can start another combo.  What’s interesting however is that for the first time to my knowledge, physical attacks are now completely interchangeable within a combo with artes.

In previous Tales games that used TP systems, the basic idea when attacking was to soften up foes with basic physical attacks, before finishing with an arte that consumed TP.  Fighting efficiently, the sequence was always physical attacks followed by artes.  That doesn’t have to be the case with Xillia.  Here you can use physical attacks and artes in whatever order you please.  Artes are still limited by TP, but now you can start a combo with them, or pepper them throughout your combo, rather than simply waiting until the end.  And because AC fully recharges instantly after a moment of inactivity, you never have to stay out of the action for long.  Xillia adopts specific mechanics of both the CC system and TP system.  Physical attacks restore TP, allowing you to do more artes.  Hitting weaknesses and playing well nets you a temporary boost to AC, allowing you to carry out longer combos.  It’s a beautiful fusion, where the two systems meet and feed into each other in a smart and natural manner.  And the result is you have a combat system that is, in at least some ways, more flexible than ever before.

Xillia also introduces the Link System, which allows two characters to link up and fight as partners in the heat of battle.  Linking with characters has a variety of benefits.  Characters linked with you will generally stay close to you, and will either cover your back (especially useful for casters) or join you in combos.  They’ll also give you a friendly wake up slap if you find yourself stunned.  In addition to the general benefits, each character has a unique link perk.  Rowen, for example will automatically guard you against magic.  Leia will steal items from enemies that you knock down.

Most importantly however, linking gives access to Link Artes.  Every character pair has a set of artes that, when used together, allow them to combine their abilities.  Leia and Elize can combine Cure and Nurse—two powerful healing artes—to use Revitalize, which bathes the entire arena, curing every party member of any ailments and healing them to maximum health.  Jude and Milla can team up to use Ruination Fangs, an aerial combo where the two attack in fierce tandem.

The Link System isn’t without its drawbacks, however.  Most notably, the number of link artes that can be performed is drastically skewed towards Jude and Milla, who share more Link Artes by far than any other character pair in the game.  This is especially noticeable when most pairs that don’t include Jude or Milla only have three Link Artes, whereas Jude and Milla share nearly a dozen.

Further, the Link System simply doesn’t work in multiplayer.  The AI will always control link partners, so linking to someone controlled by another player will actually force the AI to take control away from them so they can follow their routine as a link partner.  This means that you outright can’t use the Link System with four players, and with 2-3 you’d be stepping on each other’s toes.

Overall, Xillia’s combat system feels smartly designed and fun to play around with.  More than ever before I find myself experimenting with every character because each one of them is fun to play as in their own right.  Milla is perhaps the coolest implementation of the traditional ‘magic swordsman’ (a la Zelos/Kratos or Richard) I’ve yet seen in the franchise.  She has a number of offensive spells, but she can convert them into melee attacks to use in tandem with her other artes.  By carefully timing his dodges, Jude is able to sidestep enemy attacks and move behind them to deliver fast combos that hit hard (think of it as being similar in concept to Star Ocean 4’s Blindside system).  Rowen is the party’s black mage, but he’s able to modify his artes after casting them, making each spell a tiny minigame.  Elize uses powerful crowd-control spells in addition to being the party’s main healer, but can defend herself at close range using Teepo to chomp on enemies, squash them and blast them away.  And there have been smaller, subtler improvements as well, like the way the characters control on the 3D plane relative to the camera angle, or the ability to swap characters out mid-battle, like in Star Ocean.  The weakness system is also improved from Graces.

For all Xillia does right in the combat department, the game is held back by inconsistency.  I already mentioned how you can see this is in the number of Link Artes (or lack thereof) available to some pairs, but you can also see it in the environments, and even in how the characters play.  There are some areas in Xillia that are genuinely beautiful, such as Fennmont.  But there are plenty of others that are bland and completely uninteresting.  It’s also easy to see that characters like Alvin and Leia didn’t get nearly as much attention as the others, with Alvin’s link ability being rendered obsolete by the existence of artes such as Beast, and Leia’s combat ability simply not being followed through on, to say nothing of how she’s completely outclassed by Milla as a fighter and by Elize as a healer.

The game is also simply not paced well, both in terms of story and gameplay.  The plot meanders for about two thirds of the game before suddenly kicking into high gear and stuffing most of its grand twists and developments into the back third.  The combat’s basic mechanics are interesting, but not to enough of an extent to keep you engaged until you unlock your second lilium orb—where you’ll find high-tier artes and abilities that really make the combat shine, as well as mystic artes—which doesn’t occur for quite some time.

There is clear evidence that Tales of Xillia was rushed out the gate.  It is inconsistent at times, poorly paced, and could have done with a bit more time in the oven.  But in truth, the fact that Xillia is not without its significant faults is about par for the course for a Tales game.  But generally, Xillia gets it right where it really counts, while making many positive contributions to the core series formula.  I play Tales games for the combat and the characters, and in my mind, Xillia gets above average marks in both these areas; even if the characters I ended up caring about weren’t the ones I was expecting.


Monday, November 11, 2013

XCOM Tips Because I feel like it

Lately I've been playing a lot of XCOM.  You could say it's because Enemy Within is coming up, but honestly I've just been in the mood.  I started playing on Classic, with Marathon enabled.  Initially, I also had the Slingshot missions enabled, but I found that they actually make the early game harder without what I consider to be a worthwhile payoff.

Anyway, because I've been playing a lot of XCOM, I've been thinking a lot about XCOM.  And how I can play better.  This is some of the stuff I've come up with.

Don't let the loss of a few countries deter you.  Losing a country is heartbreaking,  because you often feel like there's something you should have been able to do to prevent it.  After losing a couple of countries I started to think about quitting and restarting.  Don't let the loss of a few countries throw you into despair!  Remember that the only way to get a game over in XCOM is to lose several countries (8, to be precise).  Even with a few gone, as long as you continue to expand your satellite coverage you'll still get the resources you need to keep going.  Just do your best to prevent it from happening again.  Which brings me to my next, contradictory point....

Do everything in your power to prevent countries from leaving.  Loss of a country is permanent.  Once they're gone, they're gone and there's nothing you can do to reverse that (except for reloading a previous save if you're not on Ironman).  The loss of money and resources is one thing, but losing a country also locks you out of getting access to that continent's collective bonus (like "All In" or "We Have Ways)".  Council missions and terror missions both typically reduce panic (terror missions in particular can really turn things around for you if you ace them), but your most reliable method of suppressing panic will be to build satellites.

Prioritize satellites.  The game doesn't quite convey how important satellites are to keeping things under control.  Satellites are extremely important, and you should devoting as many resources as you can spare to getting more of them up as soon as possible.  First of all, as soon as you launch a satellite, though it takes a couple days for it to be operational, the country you launch it over will immediately lose panic.  Second, each satellite adds anywhere from 70 to 180 credits (depending on the country) to your monthly stipend, as well as more staff (either scientists or engineers).  Having full satellite coverage of a continent nets you that continent's collective bonus.  Finally, satellites detect UFOs (which is why you're launching them in the first place).  Sometimes they'll be in flight (you'll need to shoot it down), sometimes they'll have already landed.  Either way, you'll want to send a strike team to kill any aliens in detected UFOs.  UFO missions are lucrative because they not only present a prime opportunity to capture aliens (including certain special types that mostly only appear in UFOs), but they're your main source of alien resources such as alloys, Elerium, and power sources.  You'll also often end up with damaged resources that can be freely sold on the Gray Market for some extra pocket change.  So, in short, more satellites = more money, more resources, and more perks.  Get them in the air as soon as possible.  If that means having to build workshops for more engineers and power generators to support the addition of more uplink, so be it.  Also, don't wait for more uplink to buy more satellites.  Each one takes about 20 days to build, which is quite a long time.  There's no consequence for having ones lying around that you don't have the uplink for, so as long as you can afford to, you should build them ahead of time so they can be ready to launch when you DO have the available uplink capacity.  It's also worth noting that satellite coverage cuts down on abductions.  Once you have full coverage abduction missions become extremely rare.

Prioritize weapons.  Armor is all well and good, but even with the best armor in the game your soldiers are far from invincible.  Dead aliens from more potent weapons are a much safer proposition than fighting live aliens with better armor.  I would recommend at least pushing for laser weapons as soon as possible.  If necessary, plasma can wait, but the conventional bullet weapons you start with simply do not have the killing power to effectively deal with Mutons and Chryssalids, two enemies you'll start encountering fairly early.  After satellites, weapons development should be one of your top priorities.

Stay together.  The average alien is significantly more dangerous than the average XCOM recruit, and aliens rarely travel alone so you shouldn't either.  Don't stay too close together, as that leaves you open to Thin Men poison clouds or worse, getting blown to hell by grenades.  But it's important that everyone stays close enough together to be able to tackle threats as a team.  Even as a Colonel, units shouldn't normally be expected to go toe to toe with some of the tougher enemies by themselves.  Eventually you'll have the killing power and squad size to split up into three man fireteams and generally still operate effectively (and in the case of larger UFOs this is probably the recommended course of action), but I wouldn't splinter the group any more than that.

Don't forget about your Interceptors.  The Interceptor metagame--the mechanic of building and maintaining an international air force capable of defending your airspace against UFOs--is expensive, and a real time sink in terms of in-game time.  And it will often force you to divert resources (particularly research) away from other important things to focus on it.  But it is important, and if you neglect it you'll regret it.  If you're going to launch a satellite over a new continent, be prepared to have at least one or two Interceptors transferred to that continent too.  After all, there's no point in detecting a UFO that you can't touch.  UFOs that are allowed to roam freely on your watch--either because you have no Interceptors in the area to send after it, or because the Interceptors you DID send after it were shot down--are extremely dangerous to your panic levels.  Often, letting a UFO get away will lead to that UFO directly causing an increase in panic in that country.  Occasionally, that UFO will shoot down a satellite, which in most cases will probably lead to that country instantly hitting maximum panic, and you being unable to build a replacement satellite in time to stop them from leaving.  I know Interceptors seem like something that's expensive and don't really pay off (and technically it doesn't directly pay off), but they are necessary to keep things under control.

Interceptors are important, but Interceptor weapons don't have to be.  With just the basic Avalanche missiles, your Interceptors will eventually be outmatched by larger and more advanced UFOs, but you can compensate for that by simply having more Interceptors.  UFOs keep their damage from each encounter, and three Interceptors can probably take down a UFO that a single Interceptor couldn't, even with Avalanche missiles.  This probably won't work forever, but it will work long enough for you to bypass a couple tiers of Interceptor weapons and go straight to Plasma or EMP cannons, which will carry you through the end of the game.  And I find it more resource-efficient to just buy and maintain more Interceptors than to divert research time and money to regularly developing and deploying new weapons and equipment for a couple of them.

It pays to capture aliens.  Though you'll be forced to capture a few specific aliens to complete the game, there's no need to stop with just the ones that are important to the story.  All aliens other than robots and Chryssalids can be captured, which allows you to interrogate them for benefits.  Sometimes it's a new item to be researched or developed in the Foundry, other times it's research credit towards a specific category of stuff.  For example, capturing and interrogating a Sectoid gives you research credit towards beam weapons research, which halves the time it takes for you research all laser weaponry.  Furthermore, any alien you capture will have their gun (if they have one) confiscated in one piece, and that gun can then be given to your soldiers to use after you research it.  This is a cheap (albeit risky) way to get plasma weapons earlier than you would normally get them.

Be aware that alien progression works mostly on time.  It's been said that the aliens have their own agenda, and the invasion will progress whether you're ready for it or not.  There are only a select few aliens whose appearances are tied to specific events.  Chryssalids appear for the first time in your first Terror Mission.  Outsiders appear exclusively in UFOs.  Sectoid Commanders and Ethereals also do not appear until specific story events occur.  All other aliens appear on a somewhat loose but fixed schedule.  You can expect Thin Men to appear within the first couple of weeks, then Floaters and Mutons a month or two later, eventually followed by Cyberdiscs, Drones, and more as time progresses.  UFOs also get larger and more difficult to take down as time progresses.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

E3 Thoughts

A lot happened.  Take a seat.
Microsoft
  • Xbox Live Gold is gonna be offering some free games for the time being.  Sounds like they want some of that PS+ pie, but with Assassin's Creed 2 and Halo 3, they're not off to a particularly great start.  But it's something.
  • MS whispered some poison into Insomniac's ears, and now Insomniac's working the other side.  Oh well.
  • Quantum Break could be really cool or really dumb.  Knowing Remedy, I'm prepared for the latter.
  • MS is getting rid of Microsoft Points for Xbox One.  Thank god.
  • Titanfall sounds really awesome.  I'm glad it's coming to PC, or I'd be pissed.
    • I'm guessing it's a timed exclusive.  When will MS learn?
Sony
  • They didn't seem to have much to say about the Vita, which is saddening.
  • Square Enix couldn't even be bothered to send a damn intern out to LA announce two of their biggest franchises?  A fucking video message, yeah I'm kind of annoyed.
  • Final Fantasy 15 will be excellent.  Given that SE couldn't even promise it would be out by the end of 2014 (remember this game was announced about 5 years ago), we also probably won't see it any time soon.
  • Kingdom Hearts 3 was a tease if I've ever seen one.  SE says it's coming.  I say it's coming in about 10 years.  Nice that they know what we want, at least.
  • Watchdogs looks alright.
  • The inFamous Second Son trailer was remarkably good.  It also looks like more inFamous, which is fine I guess.  I'm hoping it's a bit more evolved than it looked in the few bits of gameplay I saw.
  • Destiny looks really cool, though I guess I was expecting something a bit more revolutionary.
  • Sony kind of unloaded on MS when they got to the price and policies.  It was like watching a whole bunch of nuclear ICBMs leave their silos.  You knew whoever they were targeting was fucked.
    • Let's get this straight.  Sony made a superior machine (technically speaking) and is selling it for $100 less.
    • DRM?  No used games?  Online checks?  Pfft.  Only silly people do that, says Andrew House.
    • That's $400 with the Playstation Eye bundled in, just so you know.  No $450 "Pro" bundle.
  • Sony trotted a bunch of indies out on stage.  Some of their games, like Galak-Z and Secret Poncho looked really fun.
  • SuperGiant games announced Transistor is coming to Playstation platform(s).  Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it is a turn of events, given Bastion's appearance on seemingly every platform available EXCEPT for Playstation (and Nintendo...).
  • Driveclub sounds neato.  Apparently you get it for free on launch day with PS+, but they emphasized that it was the "PS+ Edition," which leads me to believe it will be at least somewhat gimped.
  • The Order looked interesting.
  • Maybe the Gaikai streaming thing isn't a pipe dream after all.  Sony's announcing it for 2014.
  • The Last Guardian never coming out is a legitimate possibility.  I think if I were Sony I would trash the project.  There's no way a game like that will recoup the costs it has no doubt accumulated over the years.
  • Looks like PS+ will be required for online play on PS4.  Sony's finally taken that step.  All things considered, it's a minor negative, but a negative all the same.  Sony's only doing it because they know that it's one con in a sea of pros, and it won't make them look bad against MS, who's been doing it forever.  Won't effect me personally for the time being, as I have PS+ through 2015 or so, but it is unfortunate.
  • They started backtracking a little bit the day afterwards on the policies thing.  Tretton says publishers can do whatever they like where DRM is concerned.  Yoshida assured the Podcast Beyond boys that DRM wouldn't be a thing on PS4.  Sony is dangerously close to making the same PR mistakes Microsoft did just a couple weeks ago.
  • The system itself looks pretty nice.  The back is all pretty much all ventilation, except for where the ports are.
  • HDD is user-replaceable, which I appreciate very much.
  • So it seems like the $400 price point DOESN'T include the Playstation Eye.  Unfortunate, but probably a necessary sacrifice to keep the price down.  If I were Sony, I might have considered offering a $500 SKU with 1TB of storage and the Eye included, but after the SKU mess they had last generation with the PS3, I can respect them wanting to just have one version for now.
  • Though it didn't seem to get a lot of attention on stage, the Vita does have more than its fair share of games to show at the event.  Unfortunately, most of them are either ports, indie games or sequels/expansions.  No big new IPs, like Gravity Rush or Soul Sacrifice.  I don't think anybody can truly say the Vita doesn't have any games, but without a few big, unique titles to tether the other games, I think it will continue to have perception issues.
Nintendo
  • Wii U still doesn't look like much of a proposition at the moment.  Wind Waker HD alone won't sell me.
  • 3DS, on the other hand, is looking like just the ticket.
  • Fairy type in Pokemon sounds incredibly dumb.  But I won't knock it until I see it in action.

Publishers
  • Mirror's Edge 2; another tease.  EA knows we want it, which is nice.
  • Garden Warfare....you know what?  Might be cool.
  • I almost forgot they announced a new Battlefront game.  I should be overjoyed...but for some reason I'm not.  Maybe I need some gameplay.
  • I guess I'm kind of a sucker for racing games, because The Crew got my interest.
  • For all its new trappings, Assassin's Creed IV looks like more Assassin's Creed.  For better or worse.
  • Ubisoft didn't say anything about Beyond Good and Evil 2.  Very tragic.
  • Metal Gear Solid 5 looks awesome.  I can only hope it can live up to all that potential.
So in short.  Microsoft made a turn for the worse, Sony made a turn for the better, and Nintendo and most publishers played it safe.

Whatever.



I don’t like the idea of turning this into something where I just post random thoughts.  I started this blog wanting to focus more on long form writing, and that’s still what I want to do.  But I rarely have time.

What I hate even more than the idea of turning this into a game diary, however, is the idea of letting this blog sit and fade away.  So I will write.  It probably won’t be a review, or an editorial, or something intensive, but I will write.

Anyway, I'm playing a lot of games.


Ace Attorney HD Trilogy; Capcom was kind of enough to release all three of the original Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney games on iOS.  I'm replaying the first one on iPad now.  It's lovely.  The port isn't perfect--the UI could be better, and you can't fast-forward through text--but the ability to have all three games in one app running at Retina display resolution (complete with HD sprites) is worth any minor caveat.


Injustice: Gods Among Us; I bought this game on the cheap, mainly because I wanted to be awesome with The Flash.  To my surprise, while I still have the highest win ratio with the scarlet speedster, I'm having a lot of fun playing Hawkgirl and Catwoman, as well.  Still, having gotten into fighting games with BlazBlue, I have a hard time getting behind 3D fighters.  I don't dislike them, but they're just so...slow.  Injustice is nice for when I just want to sit back a little bit, but I'm used to every split-second being of vital importance.  Anyway, the story mode was also really cool.  It's kind of like a big, long, big budget superhero movie that happens to be interactive.  And they tease a sequel at the end!


Company of Heroes; I was excited for Company of Heroes 2, and resigned myself to the fact that I would end up buying it day one.  But then I booted up the original, and realized how little of it I had actually played.  I've played dozens of hours of Company of Heroes, but I never actually finished the campaign missions.  Considering there's like 40 of them, and each can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour, that's not crazy, I suppose.  But I'm not going to get CoH 2 until I at least beat the campaigns in the original.


Anyway, I really love Company of Heroes, even though I'm really bad at it.  It just nails the atmosphere so well.  When you have dudes yelling and screaming and running as the ear-piercing sound artillery shells slamming into the ground mingles with that of bullets whizzing through the air and tank engines humming away, you know you've got a birds eye view of a battlefield.  It's gritty, it's nervewracking, and it's exciting.


Sleeping Dogs; I bought this game some time ago, and never got around to trying it until now.  It's pretty good.  A solid 8.5.  There are some spots where you can tell that it's been to hell and back in the dev cycle (the dating mechanic is stunningly underdeveloped, for example), but overall it's impressive that it not only came out, but came out to be as good as it did.  The voice acting and writing is excellent, the story is engaging, and the gameplay is competent at worst and really satisfying at best.  And--at least on PC--it looks gorgeous.  Just like Not Ping.


Remember Me; I like Remember Me.  I think it's a solid game.  It's not without its issues, but most of those issues reside in its somewhat simplistic gameplay, and its underdeveloped mechanics.  The world it's set in is fantastic.  Not since Mirror's Edge have I seen a game with such an interesting and well-defined setting, and such incredibly strong visual direction.  Neo Paris is perhaps even more fascinating to me than Bioshock Infinite's Columbia, another world full of wonder and intrigue.  The gameplay is fine.  It has its moments of excitement and fun, but in general never seems to achieve greatness.