It's been seven months since I last posted a blog, and a lot has happened. I don't know if anybody actually read any of my previous blogs, but I kept posting them primarily because they were a good way for me to vent. The last seven months have been hectic but good. In mid-September of last year I was hired at GameStop into the last year-round position they had. I quit Bojangles' in late October and have yet to go back (though I really should soon; the post holiday hours haven't been stellar). I love my job despite all the insanity of Black Friday and Christmas. It gives me a lot of glimpses of insight into the industry and I love helping the uneducated learn about video games and helping the educated become better educated still.
I've picked up a long list of interesting things over that period of time, too. We'll start with the electronics. I've picked up two new consoles: the Xbox One and the PSP. I got the PSP so I could play through the copy of Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions my younger brother left me before he moved. I played through it twice when he had his PSP and I've been enjoying this third playthrough. The Xbox One is a console that I was going to wait to get until my tax refund arrived, but...I just couldn't stop myself at release time. I, like every other Xbox fan on the planet, was furious during E3 and only mildly appeased thereafter. Microsoft nearly buried the system before it released and the sound-barrier breaking back pedaling they did only barely saved it. The sales numbers tell that tale more accurately than I ever could. That being said, I really love my Xbox One. The Kinect 2.0 is a bit unreliable, but it's still fun to manipulate your console with voice commands. The OS is sleek and the process of navigating the Xbox is very stream-lined. The first game I got for it was Call of Duty: Ghosts. I got it the day I got my console, and I have to say that I was mostly disappointed in it. The multiplayer had some fun new perks and other unlockables, and larger maps were a nice change. However, the maps seemed too big thanks to the match sizes being reduced to 6v6. The local multiplayer was the biggest disappointment for me, though. You can only play with two people locally in this iteration of the series, and that's hugely frustrating for me. I specifically chose Ghosts as my first game with the express hope of being able to show off the console to my friends by engaging in four player games of Call of Duty with them. I will say this, though: the Extinction mode is the best co-op mode in series. If you get the game for any reason, let it be that. Find a good friend and settle in on the couch for a marathon of that mode. It's hard to put down. Since then I've only purchased three other games for the system: Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare, Strider and Titanfall. PvZ is ridiculously fun. The gameplay is addicting and the unlockables are many and varied. Strider is one of the best games I've played this year. The combination of Shinobi-like combat and Metroid-like exploration make it really hard to put down. Titanfall is my current front-runner for game of the year (until SSBU drops). I was lucky enough to get in on the beta, and it left me drooling until release day. I've had plenty of time with the finished product and I love it. The base shooter gameplay is the love child of Quake and Call of Duty. It has the progression system and gunplay of CoD, but the pace and physics of Quake or Unreal Tournament. You have a number of parkour inspired moves at your disposal for navigating the large and detailed maps and the battles move at a frantic, highly entertaining pace. The Titans are the star of this show, though. Titans are mechs that function as a kind of killstreak reward. Your titan is on a timer which can be reduced by getting kills. Once the timer is up, you can drop it into battle and unleash all sorts of havoc. Titans are equipped with powerful weapons and abilities of their own, and each of them are a blast to use. You can choose to manually control your titan or set to follow you around as a massive body guard. As a fun side note, once you get to a high enough level you unlock custom Titan loadouts, so you can mix and match pilot and titan combinations to your heart's content. On the 360 I've picked up Crimson Alliance (great co-op dungeon crawler RPG), Grand Theft Auto V (awesome game), Puzzle Quest 2 (love the first, but this one has a lot more depth), the Streets of Rage collection (I love that whole series), and South Park: The Stick of Truth (great timing based combat, tons of stuff do and hilarious story and dialogue).
I got a couple new games for my Nintendo consoles too. For the Wii U I picked up Super Mario 3D World. I can't say enough about that game. They took all the best parts of the previous Mario platformers and formed it into a glorious 3D Mario experience. The level design is fantastic, the controls are flawless and the new power ups are a blast. I'm particularly fond of the catsuit myself. Oh, and the music. Love the music. I wish Nintendo would release a multi-disc album with some of the best Mario music over years, but performed with actual instruments. Maybe get an orchestra and have Koji Kondo conduct! I've also reserved my copy of Mario Kart 8, and I can NOT wait for Super Smash Bros U to be up for pre-order. I picked up Pokemon X, Project X Zone, Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds and Legend of Zelda: Four Swords for my 3DS. Pokemon X is the upgraded Pokemon game fans have been waiting for since Diamond/Pearl. The Gold/Silver rereleases were great, but the Black/White series just fell flat. Personally, I only played the originals so I could snag legendaries to aid in completing my X/Y dex (and so I had a Pokemon game for my 3DS when I first got it). X/Y is fantastic, though. The new region is one of the biggest in the series, the new visuals are gorgeous, and the soundtrack is great. The post-game content is not, perhaps, as fleshed out as previous entries, but there's still plenty to do, and the online community and functionality are as robust as ever. Oh, and a new type was introduced. Fairy type was a monkey wrench (particularly to the powerful Dragon type), but the Fairy-type play style is a lot of fun to learn. Project X Zone is a tactical RPG which, while lacking in strategic depth, more than makes up for it in nostalgia and nice visuals. The core of the game is that's a massive crossover between Sega, Capcom and Namco. The worlds of characters ranging from Tekken to Darkstalkers to Shining Force are merged together due to dimensional shenanigans perpetrated by villains from each of the three companies. The roster is great, though Sega's contribution is highly disappointing. A lot of their roster choices are head scratchers. A number of them are from obscure DreamCast games or Genesis/Saturn games that never released state side, and some of them were just plain dumb. I sincerely wish that Sega had drawn from the old school Genesis or Saturn Shining Force games rather than the mediocre and ill-received Shining Force EXA (which was released on the PS2, for the record). The combat is fun, but the overall strategy element is a bit diluted. Positioning doesn't really matter unlike most TRPGs, but the abilities can really affect battle in a number of ways. The actual combat takes place in a side view (rather than the top down view) and is essentially like a fighting game. Also like a fighting game, you can build up a gauge and unleash some crazy powerful and crazy flashy super moves. Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds is simply amazing. It deserved the GotY award it won from GS. It's beautiful, the music is a loveletter for your ears, the dungeons are brilliant and the sheer volume of story line and side content will ensure that you're glued to your 3DS for a while. Four Swords came attached to the GBA rerelease of a Link to the Past and was the first ever Zelda mutliplayer experience. Despite the complication involved in setting up a four player match, it was a lot of fun and was briefly released as a freebie on the 3DS eShop. It's quite challenging and really enjoyable to play.
On the PC I picked up...hrm. I've picked up a lot.This is gonna be a long list. Here we go: from Steam I got Shadowrun Returns (the turn based combat was an adjustment after playing so much Neverwinter Nights, but I've been enjoying the story), Age of Empires II HD (Wololo), Terraria (Christmas present from my brother; been trying to make sense of it), Trine 2 (great physics based puzzles, but the combat is too infrequent), Borderlands 2, and CoD 4 (got both of these last two so I could play them with some friends); from GoG I got Stargunner, Tyrian 2000 (both excellent shoot 'em ups; Tyrian is my favorite of the two), Treasure Adventure Game (great combination of point and click adventure and action/platformer) and Warsow (a decently fun arena shooter, but the servers are barely populated); finally, I also picked up Diablo III and League of Legends. Diablo III went on sale for $20 just recently so I decided to grab it, and I've been loving it. I've been rolling with a Monk, and the addictive combat and loot whoring are in full form. League of Legends was a long overdue pick up. Awesomenauts got my friends and I into the MOBA scene, but League has been our game of choice ever since we downloaded it. We've had a lot of fun learning the ropes of a real MOBA and we've been getting online and enjoying ourselves despite the horror stories that circulate about the community. On that note, I'd like to announce that I have a Twitch channel. I've been using it to stream the PC games that I play, and I also have the app on my Xbox One, which means I'll be using it for Titanfall, Destiny and whatever else strikes my fancy. So, feel free to hit it up and take a peek at my friends and I as we game. One more MOBA related note: I'm super psyched about Blizzard's Heroes of the Storm MOBA. I'm hoping that Raynor and/or Kerrigan will be playable, and I'm hoping a release date is announced soon.
Wow, that's a lot of text. I sincerely appreciate it if you made it through all that and I hope that it was a least a little interesting. I'll probably start posting regularly again hereafter, so thank to anybody that read my blogs before and thanks in advance to anybody to starts reading them now.
(PS Just a quick note. I realized that I forgot to mention the interesting non-electronic stuff I've acquired, so here's a list: a 3rd edition boxset of the Champions table top RPG that I found in a thrift store for $15; two new board games: one a Cthulhu Mythos based game called Elder Sign and a Risk-esque strategy game called Smallworld; finally, I picked up six new books thanks to some gift cards I got at Christmas: two collections of short stories inspired by Lovecraft called The Book of Cthulhu and Lovecraft Unbound, a collection of Ray Bradbury short stories and three Stephen King novels: Dreamcatcher, Doctor Sleep, and Lisey's Story)