Gamespot said that 2008 was "one of the greatest years ever for video games." Yet I'm sure they said that about 2007, and 2006, and 2005....exactly what does "one of" mean? Maybe Gamespot believes that every year is better than the last, but I can't imagine how one would justify that view, particularly given the continued standardization of the game industry.
So I've been playing Valkyrie Profile on the PSP for the vacation. The game is very distinctive and does a lot of things differently from a typical RPG, and this makes it interesting. Unfortunately, it has a number of flaws, most of which come down to the same problem: a lack of information transmitted to the player. At some level, all gameplay revolves around making strategic decisions. The player is given information, and uses that information to choose a course of action that will be most beneficial to them. But Valkyrie Profile does not give this information to the player. One example is artifact collection. At the end of each dungeon, there are a few artifacts, which can either be kept or given to Odin. The player cannot keep every artifact he finds, so he must make strategic decisions on which to keep and which to give up. Yet the player is given no information on the items until AFTER he has taken them; and even then, sometimes the usefulness of an item does not become apparent till much later in the game. The end result is that there is no strategic decision; the decision is somewhat random, and this leads to frustration. For instance, in one dungeon there was an object called "fairy bottle". I choose to give it up. It ends up that this item is necessary to get all the good weapons in the game, and so I've made the game considerably more difficult for myself by not getting it. This is another problem. A single small decision should not have a huge impact on the game unless it is made clear to the player that it will. Otherwise, the player just feels screwed over. I could go on, but this is representative of most of the problems with the game; it's as if it was designed to be played with a guide at your side. To get a decent ending, you have to do a bunch of semi-random and unintuitive stuff. The entire battle system is never properly explained, nor are the stats on the weapons. This game makes me want to be a playtester. If I had been testing this, I would have caught all this stuff; I can only assume that either the playtesters were incompetent, or the developer chose to ignore them.
[x-posted from Livejournal this time] Every year or two, there is a surprise game - a game I get or play not expecting anything great, but just fishing for greatness. One year it was Ace Combat 4. This year it was....Final Fantasy VIII. Now, one would think that a game I'd already played 1 and 3/4 times wouldn't exactly be a big surprise. But I played in back in 99/2000. I was different then. After playing FFX and various other console-style RPGs on the Playstation, I came to the conclusion that I had grown out of the genre, and couldn't take the derivative filler repetition anymore. I was wrong. Sorta. Because I decided to replay FF VIII, and I love it. So much, that I was logging 10 hours a day, a couple times playing till 2:30 at night. For the record, I don't think I've EVER played a game that late before. It's fantastic. I've written a lot about all the flaws of the game - and there are a lot - but while playing it they just don't seem to matter. It's more than the sum of its parts, and what's more important, it's FRESH - more fresh than it was when it came out, because at that point the genre was still exploring what it could do with 3D. Now, its been stuck in a rut for the better part of a decade, and going back to a game that did everything different makes me realize there IS hope for the genre. I could write about why I like FF8, but I'm not gonna. Everyone reading this A. Has played the game, and already has formed opinions on it B. Hasn't played the game, and doesn't give a damn C. Hasn't played the game but might be interested in my ramblings anyway. Unfortunately, said ramblings might involve spoilers (when I get to the plot), and for gameplay mechanisms, well, there are plenty of other analysis (analyses? Analysises? How do you say that in plural?) out there. Mine would be different...but eh, I feel like debating FF8 is like debating the Iraq war - at this point, people are very unlikely to change their minds and there isn't a lot of point. Anyway, played that at Whidbey. Came home. Got Front Mission 4 in the mail. Got Paranoia Agent Disc 2, and the first few episodes of Deadwood to watch. Just met with a friend. Have bowling and movie nights to schedule. Gotta finish my book. And on Monday, I can call Blue Highway Games and *hopefully* get a job or at least some volunteer work there. Hooray!
To make a potentially super-long entry into something short: Instead of making any progress in God of War, I opted to play the other scenario of Front Mission 3. When that got boring, I decided to replay FF VIII - despite the number of serious problems with it (I pretty much agree with Gamespot's review of the PC version), it has a lot of heart/soul, and so I'm excited about replaying it, even if it would make more sense to replay something else - or make progress in God of War. But honestly, just like the similiarly titled Gears of War, I'm finding it quite boring. Kill stuff, kill more stuff, mash button mash button...I dunno, I guess there's just something that bothers me about brutal violence, and I get no rush from it.
So I'm at Whidbey. EB/Gamestop had a good deal on used games, so I get 2. One (God of War, which I'm finally playing despite major reservations) does not run on my PS2, as it is all scratched to hell. Maybe it will run on a brand-new PS2, but not mine. Which wouldn't be their fault, except they sold the faulty used PS2 to my mom in the first place, so it is. So, back it goes, and hopefully they'll be nice enough to give me a relatively clean copy (they had 5 used copies - ONE of them should be in decent condition). Honestly, what are people doing, using the discs as a nail file? Other game I got was Bully. It's good. Not great. Not bad. About what I expected. It's one of those games where I one could write a perfectly legitimate review that gave it a **** score for its various faults. Gameplay recycled from GTA + storyline/characters that resolve entirely around stereotypes and such easy jokes at various cliques that it can barely be called satire. "RICH PEOPLE ARE SNOBBY AND INBRED HAHAHA", stuff like that. But it's fun in spite of itself. But my main addiction is Front Mission 3. I was 49 hours into it when I stopped like, 5-6 years ago. So of course I completely forgot what was going on. But there are two scenarios, so I just started with the other scenario. It has plenty of faults, but instead of listing them, I'll just say that it's maddeningly addictive. If the battle sequences were skippable (as they apparently are in Front Mission 4) it would be that much better, but it's still good. Apparently, while Front Mission 4 is regarded as the black sheep of the series, as it retains the basic gameplay while only adding a single new feature, and yet strips out a few others, has a storyline riddled with plot holes, and completely retarded AI. Front Mission 5, however, seems to be considered by many to be the best yet - it ties all the stories together, adds many new features while at the same time streamlining things and reducing unneeded complexity and crazy-menu-overload. No more "90 separate menus for customizing your Wanzers" apparently. But Squeenix decided that instead of bothering to translate it and release it in the US, they'd focus their efforts on driving other established series into the ground (see: Dawn of Mana). JACKASSES. I'm sure FM5 wouldn't be a super-hit, but it almost certainly would have made a profit given that the game is already done, so the expenditure wouldn't be that much. Plus, the series has a hard core fanbase that will guarantee a minimum number of sales, and good reviews could help introduce new people. But NOOO. Addendum 1: Finished FM3, Alisa scenario. Wooo. Addendum 2: Coming up next: Why are modern GOTYs all violent, heavilly-scripted action games?
Avatar Story: This little dude, appearing next to my comments and (I think) these posts, is the Master Chief. Some of you may have heard of him. A long time ago, in a physical location very close but in a mental state far away, I worked on a little Halo fan site, called The Cole Protocol. This was before Halo Fever had set in - I worked on it in the post-launch period, so Halo certainly wasn't an obscure game or anything, but it was yet to become a cultural phenomenon - few people owned an Xbox in 2001, hence few people actually played Halo, despite the press. The art dude for the site created a good 70 halo avatars or so. I licked this one, and used it as my avatar. Eventually, the site folded, as fan sites based upon a single thing are wont to do. I kept the avatar. As time passed, Halo became more and more prominent. People stopped thinking it was of some guy from Quake 3 and started recognizing it as the Master Chief. This presented a problem. I had been using the avatar for so long, that I had long stopped identifying it as anything other than "my avatar". I'm currently at a crossroads - get a new avatar? And if so, what? I love the little guy, but honestly I'm not much of a Halo fan these days and it feels kind of awkward advertising myself thus. This post was brought to you by sleep-deprivation and the letter C.
Should I: 1. Collect some game posts from the last year or so that are in my LiveJournal, and paste them here, to give a foundation, or 2. Start fresh.
I was just thinking about this blog. Gamespot has been my game site of choice, and my homepage, since Daily Radar collapsed. Yes, I loved Daily Radar. When I was, like, 11-13. Cut me some slack. I've always had issues with it (the "WE ARE THE BORG" reviewing mentality foremost among them - one day I'll paste here a marvelous post on the subject I found years ago in the forum), but I've always respected them for putting forth the effort to not just be a decent games site, but also to meet the highest of journalistic ideals, something IGN & co. make no pretense of doing (for better or worse). That said, with my membership now at $40 a month, I am questioning as to whether I should renew. I have yet to see anything to justify the price increase... If I can get into this blog, maybe I'll stay. I need gaming buddies:( On another note, I just bought a new monitor - the Samsung 206BW - for gaming and movie-watching. Hooray.
I'm putting this here to make a promise to write a gaming post in here relatively soon. Heck, I write em all the time, just forget to post em here. So, see you soon! Maybe I'll even write a soapbox editorial one of these days:)
So yeah, I never post in this thing and hence no one reads it, but I am here! Heck, I have a lot less time for gaming than I used to, and fewer new games I want to play, but it's still my homepage! I've always been quick to defend Gamespot while also quick to criticize it, and...uh...where am I going here? If this was an essay I'd do some real editing but it's a blog post, so screw it. Basically, I wanted to say that Greg K was the #1 reason I hung around Gamespot. Which doesn't mean I'm jumping ship or anything, but he's just such a good guy and while it's sad to see him go, I'm happy that he's pursuing his dream. Yeah, sounds mushy, and I never do that, but I have emotions and ideals too! Really! Anyway, other than that, I'm still here, and I'm still updating my livejournal (aerothorn.livejournal.com) for anyone who wants to keep in touch. If you ever just want to talk games, I'm happy to do it. Till next time I get around to posting in this thing - ciao! P.S. For all its flaws, Chibi-Robo is a real gem of a game and is some of the most fun I've had in 2006. Considering that you can pick it up for between $10-$20 these days, I highly recommend that anyone looking for good, charming gaming, and willing to play a game that doesn't involve things blowing up, check it out.