Crappy online game restores faith in humanity.

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Recently purchased the newest "Tomb Raider" reboot by Eidos & SquarEnix. (review to come soon).

Now, while offering an immersive and robust campaign which may be one of 2013's best, the online component is horrid, and can only be described as a "broken mess". Its just awful. Unbalanced, poorly designed, poor gameplay, and some completely broken match objectives and tertiary features.

Now, three inter-related issues were at play here for me:
1) I'm not generally interested in online features, so it has to be great to hold my attention.
2) Some games (like Tomb Raider) force you to play the online component to get platinum trophy unlocked.
3) I like to get the platinum trophies on games where the campaign holds my interest.

and thus, I embarked on a journey to play "Tomb Raider" online multiplayer and grab the online trophies, even though the game's online component is a horrible mess.

and thats when something magical happened. matches in "ranked" modes were often barren, and it was difficult to even find rooms/lobbies with enough players to even get a match started. after sever failed attempts to pop the trophies for winning each match type, getting x number of turret kills etc, I messaged a PSN friend, goes by T-Prime, whom I met in the forums on this very site. He recruited a guy Alex from England Id'd "xavier shadow", and I convinced another player sitting in the lobby "Jaws_" to join the same game, and help each other pop the trophies.
and so we did.
and it was wonderful.

we took turns shooting each other in the face.
we took turns standing in front of turrets.
we took turns helping each other get the various kill and escape trophies.
we took time purposely loosing matches so others could get wins.
everyone co-operated, and nobody complained.
people messaged and spoke freely, "can you help me get rope escape achievement?"
one player noticed someone else didn't have a certain trophy and said "come over here and set a trap, I'll trip it".
nobody refused to help out, and fun was had by all.
we noticed that you got 600xp bonus for a double kill where both players die, and so we suicide grenaded each other en-mass.
all four of us now have the trophies, and everyone had a hilarious time dying 200 times.

So here we are, four guys having an absolute blast, playing a terrible online game, but loving every minute of it, not because of the game itself, but rather because there was a sence of community, help, respect and co-operation that you rarely find even in good online games.

T-Prime, Jaws, XavierShadow....
you are a fine collection of gents, and my online experience with you fine people outshone any online gaming experience I've had in years. Here's to you gents, and thank-you ever so much for your time and help, but thank you even more for reminding me whats good about co-operative gaming.
Cheers mates!

TKF.

Power-Up to the SHMUP (with my Top 10)

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I'd like to take some time here to honor one of my favorite genres; the SHMUP (shoot'em'up).

Though the genre has existed for a quarter century, it is probably one of the purest genres in terms of its execution. The games are easily identifiable and adhere to a fairly basic formula; typically, you play a lone warrior or vessel required to lay waste to an armada of enemies that come at you in hoards. Shoot as many enemies as you can, collect power-ups, kill the bosses. Its such a simple recipe, yet it almost always tastes great. These games harkon back to the glory days of the arcade, frustrate us with thier difficulty, yet remind us just how fun it was, and still is, to be the last soldier and blast through countless waves of foes.

There are staple series of the genre, and several notable one-offs, but regardless of their pedigree, these games are most notable for the manner in which they challenge the gamer. They are hard. Your thumbs may bleed. You may even rage quit. But you'll come back. And you'll love it.

I actually had a difficult time selecting my Top10, even to the point that I had to load up a few of the games to help me decide. I will caution other fans of the genre, my Top10 is a personal favorite list, and not necessarily the consensus "best ever". I felt the need to explain, as my list actually ignores two of the staple series in the genre, being GRADIUS and RAIDEN. Both series are wonderfull, yet no one game in either series was good enough to crack my personal favorites.

So friends, without further delay, here are myTop10 Favorite SHMUPS........

#10 "ABADOX: THE DEADLY INNER WAR" (NES)

Okay, I know a few of you are like "wha?", but this was my first ever SHMUP, and it will always hold its place in my heart. It was actually one of the first NES titles I ever owned, and I used to play it for hour upon hours. The premise at play here was a giant entity that you actually had to enter, and fight your way through. The first two stages were typical 2D side scrolling, but you'd soon enter the massive being and find top-down gameplay aswell, as you fought your way through this living creature. Certainly not the flashiest or best known title on the list by an means, but it squeeks in at number 10 simply because it was the game that got me into the genre in the first place.

#9 "REZ" (PS2)

Definitely the most unusual selection for the list, this rythm based SHMUP published by SEGA is noteworthy simply because of its uniqueness. Its still got all the typical staples of the genre including power-ups and boss fights, but the game also had a unique blend of sound and rythm to its gameplay. Its different, and certainly isn't for everyone, but fans of the genre should at least check it out, if for no other reason than seing the genre stretched in such a creative way.

#8 "RAY CRISIS" (PSone)

Working Designs, known most specifically for thier fantastic work localizing and publishing many Japanese RPGs in north america also dabbled in SHMUPS from time to time. Thankfully, somewhere in between localizing such RPG notables as Lunar, Alundra, Dragon Force etc etc they were kind enough to give us this wonderfull gem on the PSone. Just looking at this screenshot makes me cry, as I've somehow lost my copy of this game, and its replacement cost on ebay is ever climbing. I need to find this game again. Anyone have a spare copy? I didn't think so.

#7 "DARIUS GAIDEN" (SEGA SATURN)

Darius Gaiden makes the list due to two distinct features; incredibly odd large bosses, and its non-linear progression. The bosses in this game are great, in that "what!?" sorta way. You're flying a heavily armed but diminutive space ship (surprise, surprise, lol) but as you proceed through space you encounter......yup, giant, mutating, mechanical fish. Well, space is an endless ocean is it not? As for the progression, you actually get to choose which path you take through the game, as opposed to always replaying the same stages. Everyone plays the same first level, but from there, you have branchingroutes to different levels, so the game has some great replay value to it.

#6 "SILPHEED: THE LOST PLANET" (PS2)

Another great SHMUP published/localized by Working Designs. Again, your typical scenario of a lone ship against an invading space armada, but this one went to more effort to portray story than most others. Its got great gameplay, some very powerfull upgrades, and an interesting combo bonus system for gamers who love thier point totals and high scores. It also had some voiced story segments and cutscenes that were very cool. It also stands out because it loves to throw bosses at you. Many stages not only have a final boss, but also several sub-bosses to boot. Maybe not the most unique or original, but overall, a very solid effort.

#5 "SOLDNER-X: Himelsturmer" (PS3 via PSN download)

The genre lives on!! This PSN download gem is a must hve for any fan of the genre. Thankfully, the developer resisted the urge to use "modern" technology to make the game 3D, and instead created a wonderfull 2D experience, granted with the very best in graphics and sound. Its essentially the best of the old, meets the best of the new. Oldschool side-scrolling progression, but tossed in are some collectable items which open up a secret level, and a wonderfull combo system in which you not only collect power-ups, but "chain" your upgrades and weapon swaps together to open up even more powerfull upgrades. Huge bosses, stunning visuals, and damn, just so much on the screen at once! Being a newer release, it also has trophies to collect, and online leaderboads for you sadists who are sick enough to play this thumb-bleeder long enough to earn a top score on the harder difficulty settings.

#4 "R-TYPE FINAL" (PS2)

R-TYPE has always been a staple series of the genre, but this edition, by far the best in the series, is a whole new level of awesome. 100 customizable ships. 160 weapon and power-up combinations. Still one of the most gorgeous SHMUPs in terms of visuals and color. Huge, diverse bosses. 2D gameplay, blending with 3D rotations that squeeze an added element of depth from the stages. Oh, and its got 100 different customizable ships and weapon combinations. Uses the weapon "pod" feature (you can release your weapon pod and place it to the rear of your ship, to shoot backwards) to add a layer of difficulty and depth to the action. And its got 100 different ships and weapon combinations. You can also charge your weapons for devasting attacks. I mentioned the 100 different ships and 160 different weapon combinations right? You need to play this.

#3 "PANZER DRAGOON ORTA" (XBOX)

Its both sad and unfortunate that the greatest game of one of SEGA's greatest franchises didn't get released on a SEGA console. But alas, Panzer Dragoon Orta became an Xbox game as the DreamCast was lost before its time. I simply can't say enough about the series in general, as all three Saturn releases (including the RPG version) were wonderfull, but this is definitely the highpoint of the series. Its technically a rail shooter, as you generally follow a set path, but the game has so much diversity to it that you almost forget its linear. You can shoot to your front, rear, and both sides, and you don't feel nearly as restricted as you do in most other shmups. The graphics are fantastic, the gameplay is tight, and the game just oozes beauty at every turn. And lets be honest, there's something just inherantly cool about riding a mystical dragon into action and shooting from atop its back. My only complaint is that the game wasn't ported to the GameCube and PlayStation2, where it would have garnered more attention and allowed more players to experience the pinacle of Panzer Dragoon.

#2 "RADIANT SILVERGUN" (SEGA SATURN, JP only)

Sadly, this is the one game on the list I've never actually owned a copy of. It almost pains me to have to admit that, as any fan of the genre simply needs a copy of this game. The problem? It only got a JP release on console. A few friends had modded Saturns back in the day, and the odd time I've come across it playing in local gaming shops, so I've thankfully been able to experience this title, granted never to the extent that I'd like. Still, its place is secure in the upper eschelon of SHMUPS. I don't mod my systems, but I'm considering picking up a second (modded) Saturn for this game alone.

#1 "IKARUGA" (NINTENDO GameCube)

Similar to Radiant Silvergun on the Saturn, this title originally came out in Japan on the Sega DreamCast console, though thankfully it saw more localization support. It was ported to the Nintendo GameCube for its North American release, which any North American fan of the genre should be eternally greatfull for. Its also an XBoxLive download at this point from what I understand. It throws a simple, yet wonderfull gameplay twist at the player; the gameplay relies on a balance between white and dark energy, and the ship can be flipped to suit either. While the ship is white, the white energy cannot hurt you. In fact, you actually power-up your weapons by absorbing the energy! The trick is the tactical nature in which you flip your ship from dark to light to avoid taking damage and absord more power. This relates to the other added feature of the game, being the bullet eater challenge. Thats right, its actually worth bragging rights in Ikaruga to never fire a shot! If you can carefully manage to navigate the flipping of your vessel to stay alive, and simply absorb energy without firing back, you my friend, are a bullet-eater! By the way, this is also hella-difficult, with a rediculous amount of action on the screen and some of the smallest safe spots ever seen in the genre.

Well, there it is folks, my favorite SHMUPS. Hope you enjoyed the list, and please, pass along any of your favorite SHMUP achievements, stories, and fave titles, as I'd love to hear'em.

Peace for now, Cheers. :)

My Top 10 Favorite.......

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......numbers between 1 and 10.

Here goes:

10. NINE -c'mon, its a pretty lame number. I mean, what is it? Essentially just an upside down and flipped six right? They couldn't think of anything else? seriously? I mean, there's only 10 numbers which are then used to make all the other numbers, so how is it they couldn't come up with something other than just inverting a number they already came up with a few minutes earlier? Lame and unimaginative.

9. SEVEN - by far the most overated number. Lucky number 7 eh? yeah, well its never done a damned thing for me, so skrew it. You'd be at the bottom of the list if it weren't for the lameness of 9. And aren't there seven deadly sins? Doesn't sound so lucky to me. Just ask Brad Pitt. One minute you're doing alright, the next minute your wife's head is in a box. Good movie though, so I'll allow a little leway with seven if you want to move it on up your own personal list.

8. FOUR - I don't really have much to say about four, its just kinda there. Fairly generic, non-descript, primarily just a placeholder between three and five really, and even then, nothing overly special about it. Maybe its because I'm Canadian. Four quarters in a football game right? Blah, we watch Hockey in periods of three thanks. The 4th of July? Just another day up here folks, sorry. Four seasons? We don't have those either, we just have Winter, and thank-god-its-not-winter.

7. SIX - Six might rank higher if not for that bastard nine having stolen some of its wind. I feel kinda bad for six in that regard. I mean, nobody though it a good idea to make an upside 4 another number. Did they just flip over a 5 to make another number? nope, left five well enough alone. What about 8 eh? why not just turn 8 upside down? wait, thats still an 8. Well, you get the idea, why pick on six? and then you go and make 666 the sign of the devil? man, quit dumpin' on six.

6. TWO - it takes two to make a thing go right, it takes two to make it outta sight. And who the hell am I to disagree with Rob Base? It also takes two to tango right? well, I don't even like dancing, but I sure as hell can't tango by myself, at least not without crying afterwards. Two heads are better than one, thats what they say isn't it? sure, there's two sides to every coin, but I dunno, two seems pretty important sometimes.

5. FIVE - yup, lets just keep five right where it is eh? Sometimes a high five is just the right reaction. And 5/5 stars ain't bad right? you need five more reasons for five being here at number five? I'll give them to you! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Okay, that seemed much more intimidating if you could see me making a fist with my fingers, so lets just leave five where it is simply to mark the midway point between one and ten. Hell, I bet you're glad you're halfway done reading this blog! High Five! *slap*

4. EIGHT - its just a really fun number to draw isn't it? I think so, plus, if you turn it sideways you've got the symbol for eternity. Pretty cool eh? Eight is 4-ever. Get it? eternity, FOUR-ever, and its at #4 on the list? Yes, I've had a few drinks, eight in fact, maybe I should have 4-warned you? bwahahaha *cough* I'm sorry.

3. ONE - some would argue that one is the loneliest number, but I disagree. Zero is the loneliest number. Heck, its not even on this list, thats how lonely zero can get. But one on the other hand, well, one can be utter bliss. Numero Uno, number one champ, number one contender, number one in your heart. Its nice to be number one sometimes isn't it folks? Plus, one is the only number that appears on this list twice (as its a requirement of ten), well, unless you count that 9/6 debacle we discussed earlier.....

2. TEN - how can you not like Ten? Its perfect isn't it? ten out of ten, thats the standard is it not? You know when you do something that totally kicks ass, what do you do? Thats right, a high Five. But what about those momentus occasions when you do something that kicks even more ass than what would be the normal standard for such? Thats right, you double that up and give it a high Ten. Plus, its the very first number thats actually made up of two other numbers, so its like the best of two things. You follow?

1. THREE - its easy to like three, you just have to tri. See what I did there? Try-Tri? As in Trifecta! Or how about Triforce! Thats right, what good is a decent grasp of numbers without courage, wisdom and power? Aren't Triangles considered the strongest shape in engineering? Maybe I made that up, but it sounds familiar and reasonable. Or what about Trilogies!? Lord of the Rings? Star Wars? Alien(s)? Indiana Jones? And look what happens when you go past three, what do you get? The Phantom Menace and Crystal Skull folks, thats what you get, and then you'll wish they'd have just stuck with good'ol number three.

The Challenge of the Extras

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To anyone who's played "God of War", the title may sound familiar, as it directly references a "challenge" mode found in the games "extra features" menu. Well, simply put, its one of the absolute worst "extra features" modes I've ever come across. Its just horrid. The prize you seek is the unlockable costumes and skillsets for Kratos, the game's protagonist(?) which is something fairly standard for games, though it requires you to plow through 10 really boring and generic "challenges". The problem is, those challenges aren't really challenges at all, as there are 8 extremely easy ones, set amongst two that will have you pulling your hair out in clumps. The game in general, while good overall, is marred by one of the worst game camera's, which often make depth perception a chore, and since you don't have control over the camera (which randomly pans around at times) it means you can be bne killed by an offscreen enemy you can't see, and platform jumping is at times, trecherous, especially with moving platforms that don't behave properly with the camera.

Long story short, the "Challenge of the Gods" is one of the worst "extra" modes I've ever encountered in gaming. It strips the game of its puzzle elements and throws generic tasks at you, such as "kill 4 of these enemies without killing the others" (frustrating as hell since the "other" enemies constantly walk in front of your attacks, and often times the bad camera makes vision the biggest challenge), and the mundane "make your way across the moving platforms" type drivel. No thought or work put in here, just some extremely boring and lame mini-game type crap, a few of which are rediculously difficult to boot.

Anyhow, it got me to thinking about what the best "extras" have been in games.

There have been many different attempts at interesting "extra mode" scenarios, but personally, my favorite has always been the "Boss Rush", which allows you to replay just the epic boss fights of the game, whichcan apply itself to pretty much every genre from RPG, Shmups,Action or Platforming etc. Andcoincidentally enough, the "boss rush" would have been the best choice for a game like "god of war" which has so many great boss encounters. Others that I've seen are the "side missions" variety,in which you can go back and play a portion of the game from another vantage point, action based missions such as the "mercenary missions" found in Resident Evil games,and some allow access to replay key mini-games that were encountered in the game.

So, I'm just wondering, do you guys care about a games "extra features" and "bonuses"? Do you think they are relevant, or do you just skip them? What are the ones you either enjoyed or felt were lame?

Spring Cleaning

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Well, I'm not really cleaning anything, consider it more of a social cleansing, or more accurately, a "Culling" as some of you have termed it before.

My PS3 friends list, as well as my GS account are full of people whom I've spoken to maybe once, and gamed with even less (so many random adds from GS, as well as call of duty and such on PSN). Most of you who will actually read this blog are "safe" anyways, and those to be deleted, probably won't notice I've "unfriended" them anyways. That said, I do need some help to ensure I don't accidentally delete anyone whom I shouldn't, and this mostly applies to those of you whose PSNid's are different from your GS account names.

Two other things:

1) If you have a PSNid and we haven't added each other yet, by all means, please either send me a friend request, or list me your PSNid so that I can add you.

2) I have a few PS3 reviews up, maybe 15 or so, and if you've not stopped in to read any of them, I'd love any feedback and thumbs up you kind folks can muster. Feel free to disagree with me too of course and let me know why, I do love talking games with you fine people!

Oh, and sorry I've not been around as much lately, but its been final paper and final exam time at university, so I've been fairly busy (not to mention my recent dive back into the undersea utopia of Rapture - BioShock 2 review is up!)

Ignoring the Call & accepting the Participant Ribbon

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It's official; my addiction to online gaming has been curbed, and I couldn't be happier.

I'm not entirely sure when the transition happened, but somewhere along the line my gaming habits changed with the PS3. Prior to this generation, my tastes were fairly specific to role players, survival horrors, and the odd adventure game if it contained any elements of the two afformentioned genres.

But then I went online.

Over the last two years, primarily spent gaming on my 60gb backwards compatible PS3, I found myself logging online, and within minutes, recieving requests to play this or that, beit from close friends or just random gamers I'd met on various forums or games. Now, in no waydo I hold any ill regret towardssuch friends and requests, but somewhere along the linesa transition had takenplace; I was now playing what others wanted to play, as opposed to playing what I wanted to play.

Sure, thesocial dynamic of laughing and gaming with friends can be very entertaining and has certainly led to many a good night.Personal highlights of mine include countless games of "Call of Duty Modern Warfare" with my local friends, andsome hilarious romps through RE5 with GS user "Akhorahill", as we laughed and teased each other about the nature of our countless deaths.

Now, I don't regret those moments whatsoever, and I have fond memories of them that will remain cherished, but now, when I turn on my PS3, I find myself ignoring 99% of game invites. I'm honestly burnt out and sick of the "online experience." Theres just something to be said for turning on your console, putting in the game YOU want to play, and relaxing with a single player experience that you can sink into. I've found myself keeping my status "offline" and even gaming on my older PSone and PS2 units, even though I own a fully backwards compatible PS3.

The other aspect is the trophies. A few of my friends are fairly effective trophy hoarders, and I found myself trying to keep up with them, lol, in a vain effort to remain "competitive" in a trophy race I didn't consciously realize I'd entered. Sure, if I really like a game, and I'm going to play it a second run anyhow, I'll do my best to collect the extras I missed, but my appetite for trophies has drastically subsided.

Upon a recent reflection, it occured to me that with the time I'd wasted online with multiplayers and replaying games just to get one last trophy, I could have been playing some of the RPGs and Adventures I've been longing to play as they sit on my shelf unappreciated as of yet.

So I'm taking an Online/Trophy hiatus. I will not be answering the call of duty for a while, nor will I be trophy hunting. I will however, be finally giving proper due attention to the countless stories and adventures awaiting me on my shelf.

Long live the single player experience.

Do you actually play the games you own?

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I know, at first glance, that sounds like an odd question. That said, in many gaming circles, it is a relevant one. So quite seriously, my question is, do you actually play all of the games you own?

Recently, I began to take inventory of my game collection, and took notice that there was an abundance of titles that I've either not finished, or not even played. Some even remain sealed in their original plastic. I know I'm not alone in this phenomena, as I've conversed with many of you, and have read your comments such as "I still need togo back and finish ____", or possibly, "man, I haven't even opened _____ yet".

Hell, not only do I have several newer titles still waiting to be played, but I actually have retro games that I bought back in the 90's that I've never played yet! I wish I was kidding. I own a copy of "XenoGears" for the PSone that I payed $60 for a decade ago. I've watched the opening sequence and tinkered about the opening town for all of ten minutes.

I know for myself personally, it can be explained or categorized with a variety of rationalizations:

Firstly, the bulk of my collection is comprised of series and sets. When I really love a game series, its uncommon for me to be missing any of the games in that series, even entries that are less than fantastic. For some reason, probably OCD related, I feel the need to be a completionist and own the entire series. "Silent Hill 4:TheRoom" was terrible. But there it is on my shelf. "CastleVania Curse of Darkness" and "Lament of Innocence" are in my collection because I love CastleVania as a series,though neither game was impressive, and both remain unfinished.I absolutely hated "Major's Mask", but what good is a Zelda collection with one missing title in the set? Same pattern applies to the "Suikoden" series, which has been hit and miss, yet I own the complete set. The worst offender in my collection is probably "Final Fantasy". Love the series, but "FFX-2" and "Dirge of Cerberus" were laughably bad. Yet there they are on my shelf, placed chronologically accurate amongst the set. I even have a copy of "Final Fantasy XI Online" which I've never even played. I never even had a PS2 network adaptor! Yet I spent $15 on a copy just so it can take its place between FFX and FFXII.

Secondly, my appetite is larger than my schedule will allow. Even with countless unfinished, unplayed and unopened games sitting upon my shelf, I continue to purchase additional games. At this point there is honestly no possible way for me to catch up. If I played 15 hours a day, every day, forthe next three years, I probably wouldn't catch up. I simply own too many games than are humanly possible to play. Unless I drop out of university, stop working, and become a government cheese eating shut-in. Which actually doesn't sound so bad, except I'm still holding onto that glimmer of hope for a real job. You know, so I can afford to keep buying games.

Thirdly, with my two favorite genres being Role-Players and Survival Horrors, my tastes don't lend themselves well to finishing lots of games quickly. Most games I own are of the 40-80hour variety, with some RPGs even doubling that. I've logged almost 160 hours on "Oblivion" and have still not gone back to finish the main story arc. Even most of Survival Horros, such as Resident Evils or Silent Hills tend to have "New Game +" options, or in the case of say the original Silent Hill, upwards of 5 different ending scenarios. What this all means is that instead of plowing through several quick 10 hour action games, I mostly tend to get swept up in games that take me weeks or months, as opposed those that can be measured in days or hours.

Lastly, I've experienced three trends that have been a severe detriment in terms of me getting around to playing some of these stagnant shelf dwellers: 1) I've become a trophy gatherer, thus I've been replaying games 2-3 times to gather the trophies, as opposed to just beating a game once and moving on to another. 2) I've started playing online games, so I find myself spending time online with friends in multiplayer games, as opposed to actually finishing the campaigns or focusing on other single player games. 3) I've come to understand that I enjoy retro gaming just as much, if not more than playing recent games. So while I'm sitting there playing a wonderfull 80 RPG from 8 years ago or something, I'm still amasing new games that I don't get around to playing.

Anyhow, I rather like my collection, and I'm sure many of my fellow gamers from my key unions (RPG Temple, ESHU Survival Horror Union) who have known me these past few years understand where I'm coming from. There just seems to be too many games, and not enough time to play them. And even knowing this, we still keep buying more games don't we?Even regardless of the stockpile already sitting unappreciated on our shelves?

So, do you play all the games you buy? Which ones are still sitting there unfinished? Do you trade in your old, unplayed, unfinished games? Or do you subscribe to the "I'll eventually get a'round to it" line of thinking? LOL, or are you like me, sick with the OCD?

Press X NOW! : The Quick-Time Event Needs To Go

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Have we hit a creative wall? Over the past two decades, video games have evolved drastically. Flat 2D environments have been replaced by fully interactive 3D gameworlds. Bleeps and bloops have been replaced by full soundtracks. Text scripts are now an archiac option used to support fully voiced dialogues. And of course, graphically, the colors and textures being used are infinitely superior to those old 8-bit styings and pallets. All logical and impressive achievements in game evolution right?

But what about gameplay? Has gameplay honestly evolved for the better? For the mostpart, I would argue yes. We can now do much more whilst in a game's environment, and today's gameplay includes a staggering amount of customization, options, and well, a hell of alot more buttons, LOL.

That said, there is one current gameplay trend that is becoming a plague; the "Quick Time Event".

These "Quick Time Events" (QTE's) are those moments when a game suddenly instructs you to "Press X Now!" either to avoid an attack, perform a jump sequence, or interact with an aspect of the gameworld. While timed or instructed button taps had been used before, the game that truly brought this gameplay mechanic to prominence was the immensely popular "God of War", which at the time was a fresh and entertaining experience. But it wasn't too long before every action or adventure game started throwing these moments at the player, even when they really didn't belong.

Remember the original Legend of Zelda? You had to actually manuever Link into position, avoid attacks, and hit Ganon with those magical silver arrows. It was 8-bit, it was oldschool, but damn, it was epic. And more importantly, it was fun. Now imagine if you didn't have to actually avoid Ganon's attacks, but rather just press "B" when the game flashed a B on the screen. And imagine if instead of aiming your shot, you just had to press "A" when prompted. Would that fight have seemed worth while? Simply put, in all the effort to make games look, sound, and feel better, we're losing something; gameplay.

Its obvioius what developers are trying to do; they're trying to engage the player. Unfortunately, they've forgotten that well designed gameplay can be just as engaging. I don't want to "press X now!" to avoid that attack. I want control of the character so I can actually dodge the attack myself. Performing manuevers yourself offers a sense of intensity and accomplishment. Being able to just tap a button when prompted is not engaging, its not interesting, and its not very fun. Usually, if you miss the correct button or sequence the first time, its just a matter of replaying that section, and that becomes even less interesting because you know when the QTE is coming. At that point its more of a hassle than anything else. Some games don't even implement them properly, and other games seem to just throw them at you like they're some kind of filler.

The worst offender in recent memory was "Resident Evil 5", which was absolutely littered with QTE's. Not only were there far too many QTE's in the game itself, but even the cutscenes were plaguedby them. Doesn't anyone want to actually fight or kill a boss anymore!? Or is simply hitting "X" good enough to give you a sense of accomplishment? During the final chapter of RE5, there are upwards of 10+ QTE's, one after another, and including the final boss. Even after you've killed the final boss, they just can't help themselves from cramming in one more lame and forgettable QTE in the closing cutscene. The worst part is, QTE's aside, the game had some pretty cool moments. Unfortunately, what I remember most is those damned QTEs.

The worst form of the QTE is the rapid-press, where not only do you loose control of the character and have to perform a button tap, but you have to keep pressing the button rapidly to get the desired outcome. So if I just keep tapping "X" quicker, my guy will run faster or be able to dodge an attack that I could have just rolled away from had the game allowed for some REAL gameplay. The wear and tear put on my controller is another negative QTE byproduct.

With all the production values and massive budgets going into games these days, can't we come up with a better gameplay device than pressing a button when instructed to?

BOTTOM LINE:

"God of War" was fun because it was different at the time. But its not now. Tapping a pre-set button sequence can not replace actually playing the game. Quick Time Events take the control away from the player, distance the player from the action, and completely eliminate any sense of accomplishment. Lets put full controll back into the player's hands. QTE's are lazy desgin, they're so 2005, and they need to go.

Long Live Gameplay.

When Christmas Came Early

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Christmas came early at the house of KungFool this year, thanks to a GameSpot memeber whom over the last few years has not only become a gaming buddy, but also a cherished friend.

As some of you know, I lost my job last year and decided to go back to University, which has been both a mental and financial struggle to say the least. With exams doing thier best to moch me, and the process itself costing a small fortune, I've been much more stingy with spending this year, especially when it comes to gaming.

So, with a shelf full of older games more than worthy of a second playthrough, I had decided to cancel my pre-order copy of Modern Warfare 2, as it simply wasn't in the budget. Now, after having played so much CoD4 online, I was honestly shocked at the number of private messages and PSN invites I got asking when I'd have MW2 and when I'd come on line with it. Not thinking anything of it, I put what I figured was a harmless comment on my PSN profile faceplate saying "can't afford MW2 yet guys".

Later than night I recieved a message that I did in fact own a copy of MW2, and that it was on its way in the mail.

I won't reveal the identity of the user, as I know they did not do this for any kind of merrit or public praise, but I did want to share the story, simply because it meant so much to me, and though I know the person realizes my thanks, I don't think they fully realize how genuinely greatfull I feel to have such a friend.

Then, barely a few days after knowing MW2 was on its way, I walked into a Walmart with a $25 giftcard in hand, and was surprised to see Dragon Age Origins on sale as the door crasher special, reduced from $69.99 down to $38.88, and then less the giftcard. It was pretty ghetto, me paying for the door crasher special with a giftcard, two crumpled $5's, and ahadnfull of my last pocket change, lol, but the deed was done.

So TKF is heading into the holiday break from University with Modern Warfare 2 and Dragon Age Origins. I honestly figured I'd miss out on both titles, but now I'll be fraggin' folks and slaying darkspawn with wreckless abandon this holiday season, which has already been a special one to remember.

The PlayStation2: A Retrospective

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I had been putting off this blog until I figured the PS2 was finally gone from the shelves, but as the years drag on, so to does the life of the PS2, which refuses to go quietly into that good night. And justifiably so. It left the Xbox and GameCube dead in its wake, and continues to hold its place even still, after almost a decade. The full backwards compatability to the original PlayStation, which had helped Sony supplant Nintendo as the console champ, was a feature that would not only ensure the PS2's popularity, but become a standard expectation in future console generations. The GameCube and Xbox had their merrits and quality exclusive titles, but the PS2 would go on to outsell both competitors combined, and continues to build on those lofty numbers even today, with the system selling for $109.99 and continueing to be one of the best values in gaming, while its competitors have long since moved on.

Regardless whether the PS2 was your very first console, your favorite console, or just another console in a collection of many, there is no denying its success, its longevity, and the impressive quality of its unparalled library of titles. Hardware wise, the PS2 was equalled by Nintendo's Cube, and was overmatched by Microsoft's achievements in technology with a hard drive, superior online services, and graphical power. The PS2 however, would remain the top console based on the one aspect that truly makes gamers salivate; the games.

Without further ado, here are the highlights of my time with the PlayStation2, in the form of a Top 10 List.

NOTE: These are NOT suggested as "the ten best PS2 games ever" by popularity and ratings standards, but rather my own personal selection of those ten titles that made my days with the PS2 most memorable.

Here goes:

10. DISGAEA - Though Final Fantasy Tactics was at the time, the most heralded Strategy RPG to date, Square decided not to make a sequel for the PS2. This left the door open in what would become a niche but noted sub-genre for a new series to make it's mark. Though several other series and efforts tried, it was Disgaea that achieved top honors. Its mix of deep customization, strong anime elements, complex battle system and addictive replayability made it shine brightest amognst the plethora of other titles in what was now aquickly expanding genre. Phantom Brave, Stella Deus, Soul Nomad, Suikoden Tactics, LaPucelle Tactics and even Disgaea's own sequel gave decent to strong efforts, but they fell short of the wonderfully complete package that was the original Disgaea.

9. SILENT HILL 3 - I had originally given this spot to another game, but upon reflection after the blog was written, I realized that this game simply had to be on the list instead. I had chosen to leave it off due to its predacessor making the #3 slot and not wanting to fill the list with multiple games from the same series, but after thinking about it (and reminiscing with friend and GSuser Akhorahill) this game was defintiely one of my cherished moments with the PS2, and I just can't do the injustice of leaving it off the list. Like SH2, this game was frightening, intense, and such a memorable experience due to its brilliant atmosphere.For horror fans with a PS2, both Silent Hill 2 and 3 are must haves. After that, send your attention towardsthe Fatal Frame series.

8. FINAL FANTASY X -The first Final Fantasy title for the PS2 remains its most popular. Its somewhat linear and dated compared to some RPGs that came out in the latter years of the PS2's run, but this title was not only the most significant RPG of the first few years, but argueably one of the most siginificant games period. Sqaure threw alot of RPGs out during the PS2's run, but FFX remains the most popular and talked about, and to this day still stands as a flagship of the console.

7. GOD OF WAR - Though there were many great early action titles on the PS2, including such hits as Devil May Cry, Onimusha, Ratchet & Clank etc. this was the action game that would truly take the genre to new heights. Jaw dropping visuals, tight gameplay, and a new combat dynamic that would come to be known as "quick time" were the highlights of the title, though lets be honest, the violence and sheer brutality of the combat was truly inspired. Kratos would become an icon character of the console, and God of War remains one of Sony's highest rated and most anticipated exclusives.

6. METAL GEAR SOLID 2 - The original Metal Gear Solid was one of the best PSone titles, and there was little question we would see Snake in a sequel on the PS2. Kojima and Konami did not let us down. This game had all the best aspects of the original, and at the time of its release was one of the best looking console action games to date. MGS3 would also be released to high reviews and praise, and rightfully so, but personally, I give the edge to MGS2. Other tactical espionage games such as Splinter Cell would emerge, but they weren't memorable in the same manner Metal Gear Solid 2 was, and still is.

5. ODIN SPHERE - Role playing publisher ATLUS strikes again on my list, with this wonderfully crafted action-rpg that will appease fans of both genres. Graphically and artistically, it might just be the most beautiful game to have graced the system, but you would be unwise to dismiss it as mearly a visual achievement. The voicework and dialogue is wonderfull, and the addictive gameplay will keep you entertained for hours. Its not the deepest rpg by any means, but its definitely one of the most unique offerings.

4. OKAMI - Another title whose original appeal to me was purely based on its artistic merrits, Okami was a question mark in terms of my initial reaction. Simply put, it was kinda weird. It wasn't voiced, it has a unique but oldschool presentation style in terms of its opening sequence, and at first, playing as a wolf seemed a tad limiting. Give this game an hour, however, and it will marvel you, take hold of you, and eventually consume you with its deep action-adventure design and completely unique gameplay techniques. The best way to describe this game would be to say its the PS2's Legend of Zelda. That essentially sums up the merrits of its fantastic blend of action, puzzle, and exploration elements.

3. SILENT HILL 2 - The original Silent Hill was by leaps and bounds the best survival horror title to grace the PlayStation, so it came as no surprise to me that Silent Hill 2 would be my favorite PS2 survival horror. The genre itself would continue to rise in popularity, but many series such as Alone in the Dark and Resident Evil would trade its horror roots in favor of a more action-oriented approach, thus losing thier focus on a truly believable and atmospheric horror experience. Many other survival horror titles sprung up, including Fatal Frame, Haunting Ground, Rule of Rose, Siren to name a few, but the Silent Hill series remains the genre's best, and Silent Hill 2 slightly edges out Silent Hill 3 for "best PS2 survival horror" honors.

2. FINAL FANTASY XII - In my opinion the best RPG in the PS2 lineup, and I realize the wieght of that lofty statement. The PS2 platform was the home of the RPG and there are just so many great titles in the genre, but this was my favorite for several reasons. Firstly, its story was less cutesy than most JRPGs as it dealt with politics and turmoil related to war, but without some of the overly anime-esque aspects. It also had a wonderfull battle system, a hybrid of sorts between real time action and turn based. The characters were humanoid, and while noticeably less diverse than other casts in the series, fit the plot and style perfectly. It also had more free-roaming than any other Final Fantasy title to date, as you had multiple paths to explore and a wider, more grandiose feeling gameworld. As far as graphics and sound go, it was not only the best Final Fantasy game, but could arguably be placed amongst the best production achievements on the platform period. Finally, its art style and combat system was inspired by Vagrant Story (my favorite PSone rpg) so it hit a nostalgiac note for me onthat extra level.

1. SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS - Never before has a game given the middle finger to so many conventions and defied as many standards as this atmospheric adventure. It said little, but said alot by doing so. Its story was basic, yet poignant. There were no sub-enemies whatsoever, and no other characters to speak of, aside from a guiding voice. Aside from some platforming elements encountered on route to each battle, the game was essentially a collection of 16 boss fights, but those battles were the most grandiose and epic confrontations in all of gaming, possibly ever. Each boss was a behemoth easily 100 times larger than the character, and taking each down was an intense and wonderious journey upon itself. Those memorable encounters were beautifully augmented by not only some excellent graphical achievements and sound, but a sense of tragedy, emotion and melancholy that is rarely achieved in gaming. Sometimes, less is more, and nothing embodies that more than Shadow of the Colossus. (See also: "Ico")

Honorable Mentions: Ico, Fatal Frame II, Valkyrie Profile II, Gran Turismo 3:A-Spec, Ratched & Clank series, God of War II, Prince of Persia Trilogy, Shin Megami Tensei series (including Persona, Digital Devil Saga, Nocturne), Guilty Gear XX:Accent Core.