I've never been into the whole Kickstarter craze. This important to know, because Friday The 13th is the only game I've ever Kickstarted. I mean, it wasn't even a question. The only question was to what level do I back it? And how many copies do I want? I settled on one copy (for the time being) along with the soundtrack, because OMG Harry Manfredini!
My wife and I are HUGE fans of Friday The 13th. I don't know how to properly convey that. Many of our first dates involved rewatching those movies (in order) together. I can't even fathom how many times we've seen them all over the years. Heck, I can't even count how many times we've watched documentaries ABOUT the series. It's just a huge deal for us.
I played that original Kickstarter release back when it launched on PC and had a great time with it. It was one of my favorite games of that year. However, since then I've moved away from PC gaming and had been really hoping for a Switch port, which I thought unlikely due to licensing issues that Gun Media eventually ran into.
Well, my wish came true and I re-bought the game happily!
Though you could view Friday The 13th as just another asymmetrical game a la Evolve or Dead By Daylight - and that would be fair - it's a total love letter to the series. I had been following the game long before it even had the license. It used to just be called Slasher Volume 1: Summer Camp, and I was all for it as an homage. But being able to play a game where you actually get to explore locales from the movie is mind blowing for a fan like me. They totally nailed the feeling of the movies big time.
My wife generally hates any game where she has to play with other people online. She won't touch stuff like that as it makes her really nervous. But when I said "hey, play this Friday The 13th game," she was happy to give it a shot. What makes the game so incredible is that each 20-minute or so match feels like it's a mini-movie where you can relay the plot of what just happened. It's actually exciting.
For instance, I remember playing one where I teamed up with another player and we spent a good deal of time together finding weapons, setting traps, and making our way through the map. When Jason found us we were on a bridge so we jumped into the lake and tried to swim off. He followed us. Just as he got to us another camper showed up on a boat and I hopped in. The camper sped off in the boat leaving my original partner in the water as bait. I felt horrible, but it was memorable.
This is the sort of game that's as fun to watch as it is to play. As such, I'm having a lot of fun just watching my wife give it a try. She entered Camp Crystal lake an immediately was like "wait, I'm Shelly? He's the worst character in the whole series!" Haha. I never told her what to do - just watched. It was great. She made her way through some cabins, and found a weapon. She decided to go solo - like maybe Jason would go after the big group of teens and leave her alone. Well, no. He detected a straggler away from the group and acted as a true predator. But damn, this game is fun. The funny thing is that even after dying it's fun to watch the survivors and see what they do.
Seriously, I'm underselling it here. This game rules.
I went to the woods because it was hot out. I wished to escape my game room; to drink coffee in the gazebo while my wife read her book. The birds chirped around us. It was around this time last year that I first played Zelda: Breath Of The Wild - in fact it was the sole game that I bought with my Switch, back when finding the console itself meant calling multiple stores every day for over a week. At first I was in awe of the game, but after twenty-five hours I called it quits with a more sour outlook. Although I had enjoyed the visuals, the controls, the tone... I was starting to get frustrated with how difficult it was to actually progress. I found myself in a hurry. I just wanted to see the end-credits roll. I became obsessed with the destination so much that I wasn't able to enjoy the journey. I actually let all of this cloud my vision - proclaiming that against the opinions of all the critics out there, Breath Of The Wild was not actually the best game of 2017.
Looking back it was this kind of rush that is the antithesis of not only Breath Of The Wild, but of the escapism that games are supposed to offer us in the first place. So I went back into the woods because I was ready to get back to basics. Replaying the game this year I've learned just how wrong I had been. The game was never the problem - it was my own expectations with it. It was never meant to be a game with linear beats. I fire it up and I have no preconceptions about how much I should be accomplishing or even what I should be doing. Much like how my greatest moments of enjoyment in Grand Theft Auto V and Skyrim came from 'doing nothing,' I'm now learning that letting the current take you where it wants within Hyrule is the only way to play Breath Of The Wild. In forcing myself back to a simpler time pre-internet where I can't just look up solutions to shrine puzzles or even try to figure out where I should go next means that I'm just as lost as Link. And I'm in just as much amazement by each new minor discovery.
How does one survive Hyrule? First I must take care of the four necessities: food, shelter, clothing and fuel. Food is simple. It's everywhere. There's apples and bananas growing on trees. There's meat dropped by fallen foes. Of course I choose to make combat barely a priority. I hate stealth in games but in this game it simply means finding an alternate path. I try to put my Spirit Orbs into making my stamina wheel bigger which means that the world becomes far more vertical. I'm gonna climb some mountains to choose not to fight. Don't get me wrong - I will fight, but only when I have to. Part of that is because weapons break and I fucking hate that big time. It's my biggest pet peeve about the game. But the other more embarrassing reason is because I find the combat in this game truly difficult. In no other Zelda game are grunt foes so intimidating. Many can one hit kill you without a thought. You will die a lot in Breath Of The Wild. I hate to use the Dark Souls simile but man... that red GAME OVER font might as well say YOU DIED. Oh the other thing is that you have to learn to cook food - like recipes. I find that sort of a pain, but then again it's certainly helpful when I'm up against a difficult situation and find I have a meal that can keep me warm or prolong my stamina or refill my hearts fully. In a way this reminds me of Monster Hunter. It's no secret that BOTW borrows from a lot of games, and that's fine. Because it borrows really well.
Shelter is a different story. In that sense Breath Of The Wild truly does feel like a SURVIVAL game, y'know? The elements are really out to get you here. Rain makes it hard to climb stuff because the surfaces are wet. Lightning is attracted to your metal weapons so you need to unequip them and swap in wooden stuff. It's possible for environments to get too hot or too cold, depleting your life. You can use buffs to help you through this but damn. I never had to think about this stuff in Link To The Past or Wind Waker - my other two favorite Zelda games, so what the heck? It feels so harsh. And yet... I kind of need it.
As far as clothing goes, you can obviously buy some in towns. But like in any RPG (yes, I'm calling Zelda an RPG for the sake of this writing exercise - just go with it) I'm very careful with my rupees. So mostly I just stick to what I NEED and mostly what I need is whatever I happen to find. To me that makes the game feel unique in the sense that I'm not just buying the best shit. So my gear is what I happened to come across. In a weird way that makes it feel closer to a Rogue-like or something. Kind of. One of my favorite moments of this replay was being in the right place at the right time to witness a falling star that led to a Xenoblade 2 helmet. I mean that's pretty cool right?
I don't know what to say about fuel. Wouldn't't that be food? I'd think so. Unless it's the Spirit Orbs which mean either extra hearts or extra stamina. And I already addressed that. I'm focusing on stamina for now. I'll swap in one heart every eight orbs. But I fear that makes me timid. Then again, I am trying to live off the land here. I'm at the mercy of mother nature. There's no reason for me to be overpowered.
Okay and when all that is said and done - I kind of have to talk about rupees within the economy right? Well here's the deal: they're not as abundant as in EVERY other Zelda game. Instead it's all about selling shit that you forage. Which is fine because I mostly hate crafting in games. For the most part I pick up EVERYTHING and just sell the majority of the stuff I don't think I need. I hang on to all the ancient parts for now because I know they come in handy later. Though I actually forget how or why.
The first couple of hours or so (or more, depending how you approach the game) are spent on The Plateau. Despite what you may have heard, there is far more here than a bucket, mop and illustrated book about birds. In fact depending on how much exploring you want to do right off the bat, there's probably HOURS of material to dig into here even though this is kind of sort of the tutorial in disguise. Mere minutes after beginning your game you will find yourself atop a hill looking out over the kingdom. And this first section is really the only time that you will be completely kept at bay from the rest of the game. Once you make it off The Plateau, the entirety of the world is yours. But for now we start small. It's just that small in this case is rather big.
As a tutorial, the game is subtle about its nudges. For instance some smoke in the distance will probably pique your curiosity, which will lead you to learning about cooking food - which is of course rather important. You'll learn to climb - because you have to. You'll discover a recipe to keep you warm in the cold and you'll chop down a tree to create a bridge. But nothing forcefully pushes you into any of this. It's all so gentle that you'll forget you were playing a game because games more often than not treat us like we're idiots.
Because the prerequisite for getting off The Plateau is completing the four shrines on it, you'll soon learn how to track them, be rewarded your various skills (bombs, freezing time, magnets, ice...) in order to tackle each of the Plateau's shrines. The fact that each one of these four puzzles are solved using one of your new skills is the most straight-forward and traditionally "Zelda" part of the entire game, really. So don't get used to that, because again all of this is just to show you what's possible; how things work. But after that it's all up to you to use how those things work to your favor.
I'll be honest, I've never really needed much story from a Zelda game. A little lore peppered in here and there? Sure. But as far as story goes, really all I need to know is that Link should probably kill Ganon. Y'know? Although that's not being totally truthful because actually Majora's Mask has an incredible story - enough so to make it way more compelling than Ocarina in my little opinion. But whatever.
The beauty of the story of Breath Of The Wild is that it's here to the extent you want it to be. Since the game is (basically) non-linear the storytelling isn't going to be traditional compared to a classic Zelda title. And outside of some major plot points, the story isn't even forced upon you. Really it's up to you to CARE enough to want to talk to NPC's to get more background. So it's up to you. I'm kind of half-and-half, where sometimes I'm interested in learning more but other times I kind of like knowing less. It leaves some level of mystery. Like I'm just out here in this harsh world trying to survive and trying to rescue Zelda from Ganon and what else do I really need to know? The motives are pure and primal.
I say it's "basically" non-linear because obviously main story quest B isn't going to trigger until you've completed main story quest A. But then again, even much of the main story quests are ones you can tackle in any order that you choose. Like, there are the four ancient beasts or whatever they're called and all four quests are put on your map at once. So I guess it's the one you get to first that you'll be working on first most likely.
The sound design of Breath Of The Wild is well done, tasteful. The music is sparse, oftentimes leaving you with just the sounds of the world. Which I mean - look at the game, that's exactly what it should be like. When I'm swimming I want to hear the water, not a score. When it's raining I want to hear each droplet hit the ground. I don't need a bombastic orchestra to punctuate lightning strikes; lightning strikes do that on their own! The wind in Breath Of The Wild is just as much a part of the score as anything that was specifically composed for it.
The music that is present is fitting for sure. Mostly it'll kick in when you're caught up in a battle and this actually does add some excitement. And of course there are those jingles when you find a shrine or solve a puzzle which are mostly there for nostalgia. But it works.
Perhaps the best thing about Breath Of The Wild is everything that happens in between: the moments between action or discovering new shrines or advancing the story. It's those meditative moments where nothing much is happening and you can just listen to yourself breathe. There have been countless Holy Shit moments I've had with this game that had nothing to do with anything that would actually be considered progress. The first one happens mere minutes after starting, when you first leave Resurrection Shrine and look down from that high hill. Later moments include sitting on a cliff and watching a green dragon twist his worm-like body as the game's night cycle ticks by slowly. I've waited out thunderstorms in a little nook in the side of a mountain because I knew it'd be too slippery to climb. It took all in-game night, but required me to sit there listening to only the heavy rain for ten or so real time minutes.
Getting around Hyrule is a treat and more often than not I do so not knowing where I'm even heading. It doesn't matter. Putting Spirit Orbs towards the stamina wheel helps as I love looking at mountains in the distance and saying "hey, I can go climb that," or knowing I can hang-glide to some further off place, or at least swim without drowning!
Breath Of The Wild is a lonely game but it's a certain solemn loneliness. It's like one big zen-garden. You could make a complaint that the enemy placement is too sparse, yet that never bothers me. If it weren't for loot-drops there'd be even less reason for them to exist anyway. And like I said, I prefer sticking to the shadows anyway. I'm happy to be alone in this game; happy to not see anyone else. Sometimes I mark towns and stables on my map from afar but don't feel like actually going down and connecting with any NPC's.
I'm not alone in Hyrule, though. As much as I enjoy staying to myself, and while there are long stretches of seeing nobody, I'm not alone. First there are the NPC's, and while many of them stick to towns there are sometimes travelers that I come across on various paths. Of course these can be good or bad meetings. I've met a gentleman selling items, an odd woodland creature who would make my inventory larger if I gave him seeds, some kind of weird demon disguised as a hiker who attempted to kill me for not joining her gang, and everyone in between.
And then there are the Guardians - easily the scariest creatures in any Zelda game. The Guardians are these automatons with metallic tentacles that move like slow spiders. They are terrifying and their attack beams are devastating. There is a way to deflect them with a shield, though I'm not confident that I can pull it off consistently so I just try to stay clear for now. I hate these things but I also think they're awesome. The Guardian is my number one most wanted Amiibo right now.
Enemies in the game are much more formidable foes than you'd expect from a Zelda game. They hit friggin' hard, and they fight well. Actually the AI in general is impressive in this game. Things like seeing a lookout catch a glimpse and begin blowing in a horn to alert the others. Actually the other night I saw something the blew my mind... I was swimming as stealthily as I could into a little fishing camp that was loaded with those lizard creatures. Right as I got to the shore one of them noticed me and starting freaking out. He charged at me but in his haste he clipped a lit lantern.... And caught on fire. He charged at me ON FIRE and dropped to a pile of ash before he could hit me. It was amazing.
Some of the shrines aren't puzzles at all, but rather tests of strength. I'm not a big fan of these shrines. Basically these are just single rooms where you must survive a battle against a pretty vicious automaton that wants to kill you good. They are fast and they have huge blades and stuff. It's tough. So mostly I just mark these as spots for fast travel and then get out and figure I'll come back to all these later. Of course those swords they drop are cool. Oh well.
Similarly I came across an island recently that I'll have to come back to for similar reasons. It was kind of a survival game I guess. When you get to this one island all of your gear is taken away and you're tasked with stealing three orbs from three colossi who can one-hit kill you without much thought. I'll pass for now.
Sometimes I head into town, but it's rare. Obviously I'll do so for a quest, but when I'm just out exploring I tend to stay away. I mean what do they have there that I can't handle on my own? I'm trying to master the art of self-reliance within Breath Of The Wild. Though at times I fear I may be going insane like that dude from The Beach. Just kidding.
But really what do I need from a town? They've got food but I can hunt and gather my own. I can cook it in a fire that I've built. And I don't need an inn as I could just sleep by any fire. They've got weapons and tools, but so far I've done fine with what I've scavenged on my own. Enemies drop weapons and shields; the stray treasure chest contains them now and again. I guess armor's the one thing that I could see the benefit of buying, although in the dozen or more hours of my current replay I've not bought a single piece of armor or article of clothing. I've got over a thousand rupees and they're not burning a hole in my pocket. Finding that Xenoblade 2 gear was actually a lot more rewarding than just going and buying something anyway.
There's also stables, though I've not utilized those either. I suppose I should try to catch and train a horse now that I think about it. Although the slow nature of travel throughout the land is part of what makes the game feel so relaxing to me to begin with.
The first time I found a raft sitting on a shore it seemed like a worthless construct. I stood on it and nothing. I tried to push it into the water and nothing. I waited for the wind and finally gave up. But sometime later I used my little glider to get to a small island and found a big leaf and it turns out you can use those to create a gust to power the sail of a raft. Off to the seas I went. And actually I'd like to take a brief moment to talk about how lovely the water looks in this game. The way it moves, the way it reflect and morphs your submerged body. It's impressive stuff - especially when I remind myself that I'm playing on a handheld device!
As far as I can tell that leaf will not get damaged since I'm not using it as a weapon so it makes sense to keep it forever. Just the ability to go out and ride around through the waves is relaxing. And taking a raft out to the middle of the ocean nowhere to just sit and drift is really something.
Part of what makes Breath Of The Wild so successful to me is the persistency of its systems. I can draw parallels to Spelunky - a game that I've spent so many hours playing, reading about and discussing over the past five years. What makes Spelunky work so well is that the game basically just tells you: Look, there are lots of rules, but they are strict. Learn the rules and you learn the game. So for instance physics are global. If you understand the physics of yourself in the game, the you understand the physics of your enemies and can start to exploit this.
Breath Of The Wild is very much the same. The more you play the more you understand the physics of the world, and the way the AI reacts to everything. If you're patient you can use bombs to take out clusters of enemies while you remain safely up on top of a hill. You just need to know how long it takes for them to give up looking for you before you let them regroup and detonate the next one.
One of my absolute favorite moments in Breath Of The Wild was due to learning one of these global rules. I was in a particular shrine that involved electricity. The goal was basically to create a very long circuit throughout the dungeon to get electricity from one end to the other. You were given these metal objects that you were tasked with moving around strategically to complete the circuit. Seems pretty basic, right? Well at one point I ran out of these metal objects and was SO CLOSE. IF ONLY I had just one more metal piece to finish this puzzle. And that's when it hit me... actually that's when the GAME hit me... I had a bunch of metal objects in the shape of swords and shields and so on. I opened my inventory, highlighted a cheapo sword and hit 'drop.' The sword fell and became the missing link in the chain. Because you see it's not just the metallic items in the shrine that conduct electricity; it's EVERY metallic item in Breath Of The Wild. If you know how one metal object works in this game, then you know how they all do. And that's what makes a sandbox interesting enough to spend so much time within.
I've never played any of the Far Cry games. I admit that Blood Dragon looks like something that would appeal to me, but as for the main series I've always been turned off by the emphasis on killing animals. Maybe that's not so much what those games are about, but it's what I assume and it doesn't interest me. I remember a single mission where I had to hunt some deer in the Tomb Raider reboot. I wasn't crazy about it, but it did feel inline with the tone of the game. There was no glorification or anything. It was just there to show part of the difficulty of survivalism.
Likewise, I've stumbled upon a hunting side-mission in Grand Theft Auto V and just walked the F away. And those Cabella games? Forget it.
Look, I'm not a vegetarian or anything but I just don't want to see an animal harmed. It's just not something that appeals to me. There's a line, and I think it falls somewhere between the Tomb Raider reboot and what I presume Far Cry games are like. As for Breath Of The Wild, well animals are everywhere which assures you an endless menu. That said, my Link has been running on a hearty diet of apples and bananas for the most part. He's no vegan, though. He's bought some meals and even found some meats that were already dead. But I've personally not found a reason to waste an arrow by aiming it at any of the wildlife. Now if a bore attacks me then I'm going to defend myself and dine well that night. But I'm not going to start any shit.
I bring this up because of the dragon that flies in the sky at night. Technically I guess there are three but I have only ever seen the green one. As much as I try to avoid spoilers in this game, I did manage to read something about the dragons... apparently you're supposed to try to shoot them with arrows and they drop special loot. Well I would have never known that because the thought of shooting this dragon never crossed my mind. Like in my example with the bore above - if something isn't fucking with me, why would I fuck with it? Honestly, I think that dragon is one of the prettier things in the game. He just appears in the sky sometimes and flies around gracefully twisting himself into a pretzel. Sometimes he dips down into the water and reminds me of Nessy. When he appears I've never thought about attacking him. I have spent lots of time trying to grab cool screenshots of him. And one time I attempted to ride on his back (bad idea).
I should note that my time with Breath Of The Wild is not totally just me being a hermit and avoiding progress. It's actually the contrary: I totally WANT to make progress, I'm just not forcing it. Everytime I boot the game up it is my intention to find some new shrines to conquer or towers to open up the map some more. It's just that I'm doing so leisurely, and enjoying everything that goes on in between those points.
But the shrines are plenty fun for the most part. And there are definitely puzzles that make me mumble to myself, "you are the smartest man alive." I mean let's be real here, this is the age of the internet. Nevermind those pricey strategy guides you could get, but I'm certain that within a day of the game's release there were already Youtube videos that showed you how to solve each shrine. But that's not for me. The fun of those shrines is figuring them out on your own. Some I've cracked in just a couple of minutes, while others I've walked away from and come back because I just couldn't wrap my head around what I had to do. But that's cool. The shrines (and there are A LOT of them) are like a book of brain-teasers that you might flip through and pick and choose which to attempt and when.
I'll say this: I prefer the ones that don't kill me. The shrines that involve trying to manipulate boulders as they come crashing down an incline at me? Those I don't love. But the ones that are classic brain teasers are great.
My copy of Shining Resonance Refrain just showed up (on a Sunday - three days early, no less!) so my attention will now shift to that game for a while. But I'm not done with Breath Of The Wild. Not by a long shot. And replaying however many hours that I have this year have made me realize a couple of things about the game. First and foremost, I was lying to myself when I said it wasn't my favorite game of 2017. I mean really, I played a lot of great games last year but I don't think any of them made such a lasting impression. I don't I'd be as quick to replay any of them from the beginning. And it all comes down to expectations; I was simply playing the game wrong last year. I was expecting one experience and getting another, which made it hard for me to grasp just how much better the experience I was getting really was.
Also there's this: Breath Of The Wild is like Skyrim for me. Or Grand Theft Auto V. It is not just a game, but rather a world that I enjoy exploring and experiencing stories within. I played GTA V on and off for over two years before I finally got around to actually beating the actual story mode. And as for Skyrim I'm not even sure how many hours I've played - first the original PC release, then the remastered one, and yet I've never beaten the story. And that's fine. I'm in no rush. It's all about going back to that world for me. Truth be told, when I get the itch to play Skyrim again, I'll no doubt pick up the Switch copy because the allure of playing it in handheld mode far outweighs my desire to see the end credits anytime soon. So with that said, I'll pick up this writing exercise again sometime in the future. But no rush. And I mean that in a good way.
I tried BOTW in VR over the weekend. Really only had time for a quick demo of it, but I like what I saw.
I want to start by reiterating that I've played lots of things in Oculus Rift in the past, as well as in Samsung Gear VR. So with that in mind, I feel like I knew what to expect (something closer to Gear VR, really) as far as experience/visual quality goes. As such, I wasn't disappointed. But I feel like my expectations were in check, so there's that.
Yes, the resolution is going to make the game look a bit blurrier and all. But that's to be expected going in. It is an absolute MUST that you turn on the aim-with-motion option. This is what will make your head become the camera, and actually give it a proper VR immersion feel, rather than just sort of floating around behind Link all the time. (I'd wager that NOT using the look option would also result in motion sickness as your head tries to understand why the visuals aren't matching the head-turns).
At any rate, diminished resolution fidelity aside, I find this a really interesting game to use in VR. I mean, it makes the rather cheap point of entry of the basic Labo kit worth it to me.
I started my demo just standing on the side of a mountain. So yeah... I jumped. Soaring down and looking around as I made way down felt great. When I got to the bottom a thunder storm started up. Those lightening strikes feel intense when you're like "inside" the game world. As did my attempt to steal a sword off of a sleeping giant.
As you might imagine, using the Joycons connected to your head isn't the most comfortable way to game. It's not actually as bad as I figured, but not ideal. I have to imagine that someone is working right now to make some 3rd party plastic headset that could replace the cardboard Labo kit. Though, I also saw someone selling straps for the Labo headset on Etsy for like $18 which isn't too bad an option for now. I think having the ability to truly wear the headset and play with a Pro Controller would make a world of difference.
If Overwatch is my self-proclaimed Game Of The Decade, then BOTW must be #2 on that list. (Maybe I'll make such a list once the decade is done...).
Not since Link To The Past has a Zelda game kept me continually coming back to it. Most Zelda games are just like an adventure that I want to beat. BOTW is one where I just want to keep going back and exploring the world in tiny little increments. I almost don't care if I ever beat it.
I've been watching this IGN stream called Linked Together and it's been giving me the itch to fire BOTW back up. So I did so this weekend. As usual, I've got nothing planned. I just pick a direction to start walking and see what happens. I NEVER use fast travel. I'm like this about favorite open worlds. I beat Skyrim without fast travel, dudes. The world was too awesome to miss anything.
Anyway, I knocked out a couple of shrines and then found this awesome fire sword that I'm really excited about. One of these days I should get back to the main quest. I have like 20 hours into this playthrough and I've barely started the actual quest which is kind of funny. But then again, it's also how I tend to tackle open world games that I adore. It's nice to know the main quest is there waiting for me should I ever feel like working on it. For now, I'll just relax with the game.
There's no understating how huge TMNT was for me back in 1987. I mean, even to this day TMNT is pretty huge. But by the time this NES game rolled around in 1989, the Ninja Turtles were the biggest thing on the planet for me. So having a a Nintendo game to play was kind of a big deal.
This was one of those games that "everybody" I knew had a copy. Heck, I had it on NES and somehow we also had a DOS copy on our PC back then as well. It was one of those classic games where you'd tell your friends on the playground all the tips and tricks you figured out. I guess all I'm trying to say with all this is that the NES TMNT game was a bit hit with my circle of friends. And as a fan of the franchise to this day, the game still means a lot to me.
And yet I recognize it's not perfect. It's actually far from perfect. I could sit here and nitpick it all day. It's that far from perfect. I could talk about the weak range of Raphael and Michelangelo's weapons. Or the crazy slowdown that results from Ultra throwing a million enemies at you at once. Or the poor hit detection. Or certain jumps that require such precision that you'll have to retry them over and over. But alas, nostalgia blinds me on this one. And I'm willing to let that happen.
I've been using a SNES controller to play games on my Retron 5 lately, and this feels really good on old NES games like this. I love that overhead map music in this game by the way. Sorry, random. Anyway, I pretty much coasted right on over to the dam level and then of course I hit a wall. Ugh. That level's always been brutal for me. There's one part where I can't seem to make it through without touching the electric grass stuff over and over. It's bad. I had just the last bomb left to defuse - I could SEE IT - and zap. Ugh.
That's my biggest takeaway from the original NES game. The game is damn difficult. Like probably unfairly so at times. But I really do still enjoy it and appreciate it. Don't get me wrong, there are far better Ninja Turtles games out there. But also, there's way worse ones. Or at least less interesting ones.
The original Luigi's Mansion was definitely fun for me. But it was also very much a part of a place and time. Meaning, it was a great game to show off the launch of the Gamecube. It was different, and had great lighting and use of transparencies. In many ways, it sort of felt like a longish tech demo. And most, it was a fun but shortish game.
Nintendo has always been smart about this kind of stuff. The idea is so simple: Take a successful game and totally Nintendofy it. IE: Make it fun and family friendly and not overly challenging. So back when the Gamecube launched we got what was effectively the Nintendo Resident Evil game. And oh yeah, it also aped Ghostbusters pretty hard. But it was fine. It worked. It was a goofy and unique game that didn't overstay its welcome. I enjoyed it then, and I enjoyed it years later when my wife and I revisited it.
Now they've gone ahead and announced Luigi's Mansion 3, but I realize I skipped 2. Or what would have been 2. Instead it's called Dark Moon. And I found a fairly cheap copy so here we go.
Having played a couple of hours now, I'll say that I'm not really hooked. I don't know if Luigi's Mansion needed to be a series. It worked great as a one-off experiment. But this sequel feels like they just took the original game and made it way WAY bigger. Depending on your take, this is good or bad. For me it's like... eh, did they need to? Do I NEED to play another Luigi's Mansion game? I don't know.
The first two hours have been slow. There's very little challenge. Very little in the way of puzzle solving. And worse - it's so guided. I feel like every few steps I'm getting a call from the professor to tell me SOMETHING else about how to proceed. Given what I've seen in the first couple of hours, I'm nervous that this game will be nothing but a very long tutorial. Oh, and yeah it's super long apparently. Like six times longer than the original game. The original game was known for being very short, but y'know what? That's okay. I often like a nice compact experience.
So here we are. Dark Moon seems fine and all, but also kind of unnecessary to me. I'm not sure how much more I'll play. It's not BAD by any means, but it just has a very rehash feeling about it, at least so far. Maybe it's a slow burner? But even if it is, I have a lot of other games I'd probably want to get back to sooner. I still haven't finished Resident Evil Revelations that I started earlier this month.
Okay so THIS is what I love about Nintendo handhelds. As scrutinized as console libraries are, it always surprises me how many cool overlooked games are out there on portable systems. In fairness, Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is an easy one to overlook. For one thing, the title and cover art make it look like any number of Ghost Recon games. It would be easy to assume that this is just a generic 3DS third person shooting game. IT IS NOT!
Back in the day I was thrilled to find that Julian (X-COM) Gollop had created a GBA game called Rebelstar: Tactical Command, that was for all intents and purposes, a new pseudo X-COM. Well let's call this deja vu, because the man was commissioned by Ubisoft to create a new game for the Ghost Recon license and guess what he did? He went ahead and make a 3DS X-COM game.
I remember IGN's review of the title saying that it was a really fun tactical game, but that the Ghost Recon name really had nothing to do with what was contained on the cartridge. The writer compared the characters and story to something cartoony and stereotypical in the vein of GI Joe. I don't disagree. But in my mind, this is actually a plus. I'll be honest, had this been licensed as GI Joe: Tactics, I would have bought it years ago. But again, that title and cover art just made it look so generic.
But friends, I tell you this - here's a hidden gem on 3DS. Let's say you've already played your Fire Emblems and what have you and you want something else to scratch that strategic itch. Here you go. It's not quite as deep as a FE game, but it's got plenty to keep you interested. The missions are mostly "kill all the enemies," but do offer up some additional objectives. The characters and story ARE cartoonish and silly, but in a fun b-movie sort of way. And gaining access to new soldier roles along with the ability to upgrade them (and upgrade points are depended on difficulty level of missions - which you can replay to achieve better rank) gives the game a fair amount of replayability.
I've only just started the game myself. I'm about an hour in. But man, I am GLAD I finally picked this one up as it's been on my wish list for years.
I'm so tired. Last night I stayed up late playing Lightseekers, which has become a pretty regular thing lately. Actually last night I played until the battery in my Switch warned me that it was time to quit. The game has only been out on Switch for a few weeks now and I've racked up over thirty hours. I like this game. A lot.
I'm a sucker for digital card games. I liked Gwent more than The Witcher 3. I played Poker inside of Red Dead Redemption for far longer than I'd care to admit. Card Fighters Clash was probably my favorite Neo Geo Pocket game. I spent a couple of years glued to Hearthstone and have tried many of the free-to-play games that have come out since like Duelyst and Elder Scrolls Legends. But I tell you this: I am hooked on Lightseekers.
I knew I was in trouble about a week ago when I caught myself checking local stores for actual physical Lightseekers booster card packs. You see that's one of the interesting things about this game - it's based on an existing card game and you can actually scan in your physical card collection to add them to your digital collection. Pretty awesome.
The game itself is great, though. It's like Hearthstone but different enough to feel unique. Other card games I've played recently have had one of two issues... Elder Scrolls Legends felt TOO MUCH like Hearthstone for me to get into, while Duelyst felt TOO DIFFERENT for me to really ever get totally comfortable with. This game is a nice blend but has some very unique things going on as well.
Instead of having a set number of heroes, the decks are built around classes of heroes. So for instance, a Nature deck will let you pick from either the starter hero that you earn from doing the tutorial, or about a dozen other Nature heroes that you might end up with later. Each hero has very unique abilities that can take advantage of the various action cards you'd include in your deck. There also exists rarer heroes who can actually blend two classes. I just happened to open a booster pack that included a Nature/Tech hero for instance. And this is where the deck building can get very deep.
The deck you build will consist of 1 hero, 5 combos and 30 action cards. The action cards are further broken down by Attack, Defend and Buff designations. You can pick any thirty of these, so it gets interesting. Do you want an aggressive deck, or one that uses a ton of buffs? There's also action cards that can be used by ANY class. The possibilities are staggering and I believe there are upwards of 900 cards in existence. I assume expansions come regularly given that this game has existed as paper cards for a while now.
This is how I know I really like Lightseekers. Even when I was super into Hearthstone, I was pretty bad at even thinking about deck building. I had one deck for each hero and that was it. I barely tweaked them. I never bought cards. I never looked up new cards. But with Lightseekers I'm finding myself researching cards; crafting new ones that I want or constantly swapping things in and out of each deck, attempting to find something that works well for me. I love my current Storm deck, and I'm pretty happy with my Astral deck right now. The others all need work, but I'm having so much fun figuring out how to improve them.
I also barely played ranked mode in Hearthstone - and never in any of those other competitive games. But in Lightseekers, it's basically all I've played for the past two weeks. I use the casual mode as a way to test new decks, but that's it.
Oh! And I forgot to mention the single player content of which there is plenty. There's rotating campaigns that have unique circumstances and will make you really think about deck composition. Beyond that, they also grant you new cards. I don't see myself being done with Lightseekers for a long time. This is the first great game of 2019 for me.
Oh man... so back in February I declared Lightseekers to be "the first great game of 2019," and not long after Tetris 99 came out which would be "the second great game of 2019." Unfortunately, T99 pulled away my attention and became my go-to game for when I had twenty minutes to unwind before bed. As the year starts winding down, I thought about revisiting Lightseekers. And so much has changed.
There was a huge recent update to Lightseekers. Not just a gigantic card-dump. I mean the whole meta is different. There were a bunch of cards retired, which means that all my built decks from before my hiatus are no longer legit. This is both cool and not cool.
I remember getting to a point of frustration with Hearthstone. It got to a point where too many decks were the same. The big winners were using a lot of the same over-powered cards. And I didn't have the motivation to get those cards, nor did I want to feel like there was a "right" deck to be using. Retiring cards definitely kills that whole thing. It means that you need to stay current and continue to tweak your decks. In means that things will remain new and interesting.
On the flip, here I am - I can't even use ANY of my decks. It's like starting all over again. Which I probably will do. I truly do love Lightseekers. But my tenacity has been diminished. I'm not in the same rush to get back to the game now because of the work it will be to do so.
On the upside, I was given a free deck to start with that includes nothing but allowed cards. So that's fun.
Some years back, I was pretty into collecting for the Neo Geo Pocket Color, and my favorite game, hands-down, was Card Fighters Clash. That's right - a system pretty much known for its arcade translations and insane fighting game library - and my favorite game was a card game that seemed to draw heavily from Pokemon TCG. Weird, right?
I didn't even know I was into card games at the time. I stumbled upon this one by accident and got HOOKED. And then over the years I got drawn into stuff like Hearthstone and most recently Lightseekers. I'm the type of dude who downloads any and every free-to-play card game on Switch now to give it a try and see if it gets its hooks into me. (So far, Lightseekers is the clear winner by the way).
With this in mind, Card Fighters DS has been on my want-list for YEARS. I mean, damn... an update of that NGPC that got me into the genre to begin with. But on DS! Oh baby.
I finally found a cheap copy and was super excited to start it up. Over the years I'd heard that it wasn't as good as the original game. And that there was a game breaking bug on early copies. But still. I was excited. And when I booted it up on my New 2DS XL I was thrilled at how pretty it looked. (There's not enough nice things I can say about the 2DS XL by the way. That is one of the absolute finest handheld gaming devices ever created. It's just perfect).
But as for the game itself... Card Fighters DS is... not great.
One of the things that made Card Fighters Clash so compelling to me was its ease of entry. There was a beautiful simplicity to that game that made it really easy to get into; really easy to learn. It was tough to master! But it was easy to learn.
Gone is the simplicity, friends. Instead there's layers upon layers of talking anime heads and overly complicated systems. I fumbled may way through a few rounds never really understanding the systems in place. There are gems of different colors that you accumulate... somehow... and you use those to play cards or whatever. And there's "Force." And there's different kinds of Attacks. And I don't even know.
It's just all too much. Maybe this was the Card Fighters game that someone wanted. Maybe someone who REALLY mastered the original game and wanted something deeper. Maybe. For me it seems like they tried TOO HARD to make it deep and something got lost in translation. The fun! The fun got lost. Bah!
I'm bummed to say I'm not enjoying this one. I want to. I want it to be good. But I mean... I'd rather just go back to Lightseekers at this point.
I've been a pretty big fan of the Resident Evil series since 1996. I say "pretty big," and what I mean is I'm actually one of those dudes who gets excited when a new RE movie comes out; I often wear an Umbrella Corporation shirt; and I tend to go gaga over these non-numbered spin-off games. As much as I love the mainline series, I find that the spin-offs tend to be more experimental in nature. These experiments can turn out good or bad, but they're always interesting to me to see what the series tries.
For some reason I never got around to playing the original Revelations. I did play the second one, however and loved it. Its episodic nature, somewhat lower difficulty, and excellent use of co-op made it the perfect RE game to actually play with my wife. And we had a blast a few years back with it. And so for a long time it's been in my mind that I need to finally get around to playing the first game.
Revelations is a lot like the second game, minus the co-op. It's still episodic. It's still very linear. And it's still kind of a throwback to the less-action more-survival horror of the early games. Because it was designed with the 3DS in mind, it's a totally solo experience. But y'know something? I'm having a really good time with it.
I say that it's "kind of" a throwback. That's because like those early games it doesn't rely heavily on shooting. Ammo is limited, so evasion is definitely helpful. But there are some big quality of life changes here - the biggest is auto-saving which I appreciate. You can tell me all day that ink ribbons heightened the horror, but as a new dad, being able to just suspend the game and not worry about losing progress is huge for me.
On that same note, it turns out that the episodic design really works in the game's favor considering my gaming time right now. It's much easier to sit down with a game like this and know that I can knock out a chunk of the campaign in 30 minutes and really feel like I've made progress.
And so I tackled Episode 1 last night. The first episode is like Jason Takes Manhattan in that it takes place MOSTLY on a boat. This deserted barge is actually an awesome setting. I really like the atmosphere. And y'know what? We could use a bit more nautical horror, don't you think?
I know that when the game was re-released on Wii U there was some disappointment about the graphics as it's basically just the 3DS game. Personally, I still think it looks damn good. And if anything, I'm amazed that this game was designed for the 3DS considering how great it looks. Playing on the Wii U tablet just makes me feel like I'm playing on an 3DS XXL, which is cool. Also, real analog sticks are obviously better than a nub.
There's also a small section that takes place on a beach where you need to research these infected zombie blob things. That part WOULD be boring if it weren't for the great setting which totally reminded me of something Lovecraftian. Sort of a reminder of how I can't play RE4 without thinking about Dagon.
Anyway, I'm early into this game - only one twelfth of the way in if the internet is to be believed. But so far, I'm super thrilled that I've finally gotten around to this one.
Episode 2 switches things up a bit initially. It starts out in some snowy area and you control Chris and his new partner Jessica. This part was... okay. There's a bunch of zombified wolves to manage. And luckily, it was a brief section.
Then, back to the ship! If I didn't mention earlier, the ship section has you controlling Jill and she's such an awesome badass in this game. I was thinking about this, and I think if I had to pick a favorite protagonist from all the RE games, I'd have to go with Jill "The Master Of Unlocking" Valentine. I mean, Chris and Leon are cool and all, but Jill is just the best. To me, she's sort of the face of classic RE.
Anyway, I digress. This section of the ship was AWESOME. It's the guest rooms area and as such, resembles a spooky mansion A LOT. I absolutely loved this section because it meshed the feel of Spencer Mansion with a boat. There's different guest rooms that feel like you're in that big haunted house, but then you've got these portal windows and you can see the fog and rain from the sea out there. Really a great setting that this game has.
I would normally hate this kind of section, though. It's one of those sections in games where your character is held captive and stripped of all weapons and items. Those tend to bug me. But hey, I got a little better at evasion because of it and met up with Jill's partner Parker and we found our weapon stash. So now we're armed to the teeth for Episode 3.
Y'know what? So far, I'm absolutely loving this game the same way I did Revelations 2. I honestly don't know what the critical consensus is on these spinoffs, but my guess is that they're deemed "pretty good." For me, I think they're "pretty great."
Around the middle of Episode 3, the cruise ship really opens up and you realize just how vast this thing is. I mean... when I said it's like being in a mansion in the middle of the ocean, that's true. Except this thing makes the Spencer Mansion look cute by comparison. My goodness.
As vast as the ship has gotten now that I've opened more areas up, I feel more like I know my surroundings. When I found a weird medallion thingy, I knew where to backtrack to so I could use it to access a new gun. So now Jill's got her standard pistol which has some upgrades on it, along with a shotgun and a fancy sniper rifle. Whoo!
Toward the end of the episode is a pretty tough boss fight. It was actually the first time I've died in the campaign, as I just didn't know what to expect. This dude is HUGE and scary and has a one-hit kill attack. Add to this that unending swarms of zombies or whatever swarm the whole time. It's pretty overwhelming.
I did eventually figure out a strategy that works - basically, I found a spot where two rooms were connected by a window, and found that hopping through the window kept the boss at bay. He couldn't come through the window after me so he'd instead keep going around to try to get me all the while me and Parker kept unloading on him from a distance. Good stuff.
The story holding all of this together remains utterly baffling. There's cut scenes between episodes to kind of create a narrative but I mean... if the mainline RE games are b-movies, then these spinoffs are SyFi Channel made-for-TV movies. That may sound like a knock, but honestly, it's part of what makes me love RE as much as I do.
Episode 4 was on the briefer side, which is fine. I like that there's variety to these episodes, both in length and content.
In this section we opened up a casino on the ship. Again - the ghost ship is such a cool setting because it allows for all these crazy inclusions. There were some zombie fish to kill in a fountain, and some slightly puzzling to do and then we went off looking for an access lift behind the scenes. Of course the key was missing, so I had to do a bunch of backtracking to find it on the corpse of a crew member from earlier in the game.
It wasn't exactly a shock to find that her body was gone and that there was now a new zombie boss to take on. However, this boss battle was COMPLETELY different than the last one as she hopped into some ventilation and I had to track her throughout the area as she'd continually pop out to attack and then retreat back in and go somewhere else. This made for a pretty exciting boss battle, and in true dramatic fashion I ran out of ammo just as I reached the room where my partner Parker was so I was able to use him as a meat shield as he finished her off.
Anyway, this game continues to be awesome. For those of you who played RE5 and 6 and felt like the series had run its course, you need to check out the Revelations games if you missed them at the time.
Episode 5 was a bit on the shorter side, but it was also fairly varied. It starts by introducing a couple of new characters - Jackass (seriously) and Grinder (seriously). If you couldn't tell from the names, these dudes were in charge of investigating the crashed airplane and hacking the black box. Yeah. Anyway, this was a short section. Super short.
Then we get back to the good stuff: Jill making more progress in the ghost ship. Most of this chapter was a rather classic RE puzzle portion involving manipulating levers in different rooms to re-route steam out of broken pipes so I could access the room I needed to. And again, pretty standard RE fare like finding a missing gear to open a new door. But in the process I did find a cool new machine gun so that's helpful.
Oh, and now I've encountered these sort of swimming alien looking things that appear out of the water and have huge gross mouths. I have to be honest, these are the first creatures in this game to actually kind of creep me out. Good stuff.
I also actually took a bit of time to play a part of this chapter on the TV rather than gamepad and I must say I'm impressed with the visuals. I mean it's Wii U, but this game looks about as great as a lower budget Resident Evil game could look running on the Wii U. Certainly it looks much better than what I'd imagine it to look like on 3DS. And using a Pro Controller to play this one feels great.
This is such a solid game. I really think I'd go so far as to say I love this one. Like, in my mind I'm even thinking that once I finish it up I might still be in the mood to go back and revisit Revelations 2.
Episode 6 was cool. I mean the whole game is cool. I seriously wonder what the reception would have been if the Revelations games had been released as numbered title instead of the RE5 and 6 we actually got. Hmm.
The first chapter was a bit of Chris and his partner making their way to the ghostship. No big woop. But the second chapter was where the real excitement was at. It opens with Jill and Parker needing to make a daring underwater escape. Good stuff. And I'm happy to report that the swimming controls work well here.
Then there was some more exploration of the ship, culminating in a pretty intense boss battle that starts on an elevator and ends on the top floor. It was a pretty long battle as this huge zombie thing with some shielded armor had a lot of HP. But I'm happy to report we came out unscathed (and low on bullets).
OH! I wanted to point out that there's sections of the ship where elevator doors, or huge doors to other parts of the ship are seriously loading screens in disguise. As a longtime RE fan, I can't tell you how much this makes me grin.
It feels good to be halfway through the campaign, halfway through the month. As such, Revelations has turned out to be a pretty perfect Halloween game for me this month. It's not overly demanding of my time, with most episodes lasting somewhere between thirty and sixty minutes. It's exactly the kind of game that fits into my life right now.
Episode 7 was pretty cool... though not QUITE as memorable as some of the previous ones. Let's see... we had to make our way out to the deck and getting a little drone missile thing ready for launch. This was fine. But the end of this episode involved a ticking timebomb scenario. You know the classic countdown clock thing (think the opening of Super Metroid)? I like these kind of dashes of variance to the game. And the timer added some intensity to what was going on.
Also there was lots of zombies. LOTS of them. And Rachael - the zombie who had been running through air ducts earlier - came back and starting hunting me again Nemesis style. At one point I found a bazooka and hit her with it so I don't know if that'll do it. Probably not.
At any rate, it was a brief-ish episode but ended with a cut scene of a huge tidal wave hitting the ship which makes me think that I'm in for some more swimming...
Sometimes... I'm just not in the mood. I don't know. I just don't have the patience or the time or the whatever. And attempting to play Super Ghouls N Ghosts - this was one of those times.
I don't think I ever played this one before. It's different than the Genesis GnG game right? I mean, I've played the original Ghosts N Goblins plenty. And I kind of love that one but I also hate it hard.
Anyway, Super Ghouls N Ghosts is part of the Switch Online library of SNES games, so I have it for "free." I figured October would be a good time to play that one. Eh. Not so much.
Maybe I'm turning into a curmudgeon in my old age. But this isn't fun for me. It's just masochistic. Don't get me wrong - it looks great. And it sounds great. But it's not great to control Arthur in this game. His jumps are weird. And to be honest, these super challenging retro platformers just kind of annoy me nowadays.
Most nights - when I can find time for gaming - I need to relax. I don't want to be infuriated by difficulty! That's just not fun for me right now. It's just not. So I'll be forthcoming: I straight rage-quitted this game as soon as I got a GAME OVER. Which didn't take long, friends. I'm sorry. I'm just not hardcore.
When I was a kid I remember Contra being a pretty big deal. Y'know all the usual Contra memories - the Konami Code being passed along on the playground and so on. But oddly, I can't really remember playing the sequel which was stupidly called "Super C" instead of "Contra 2." I definitely played the heck out of Operation C (another stupid title) on Game Boy. But Super C? I'm not so sure.
So I went ahead and added this one to my Virtual Console library on Wii U. As much fun as collecting old carts can be, I must say that Wii U is my preferred place to play these old games. You can organize the games into neat little folders arranged by console; you can play them on TV or the gamepad; you can remap the buttons (something that the Switch's Online NES and SNES games still don't let you do!); and of course, save states.
The Contra games aren't exactly "horror," but their homage (read: ripping off of) the Alien and Predator series definitely feels like it brushes up against horror. So it felt kind of fitting for October.
I'll be honest, though... run and gun games really don't seem to scratch the same itch that they used to for me. So I put in the ten-lives code, and figured it'd be fun for a night of mindless shooting. And it was. Mostly. The running and gunning still play about as smoothly as I recalled. Deaths definitely felt like they were MY fault and not due to unfair game design.
But is it fun for me? Eh, just kinda. I just don't get the same thrill out of these games as I did when I was younger. It feels like I just don't really care enough to get good at this. So instead I die a lot. Because I AM NOT GOOD at this. So instead I'm stuck in this loop of (A) get power-up, (B) die, (C) lose power-up and have to play further under-powered. It feels kind of like Gradius in that regard. It would probably be really rewarding if I wanted to like, memorize the level layout and keep at it... but I don't.
I think I made it to the sixth stage with my three continues. Not impressive. Oh, but I did enjoy those overhead levels like in Operation C. Those were pretty fun. Anyway, chalk this one up to another old NES game that I respect and can have some fun with for a sitting, but it's not something I'm really into and would want to spend a whole lot of time with actually improving or progressing. Oh well.