Sunday, January 15, 2017

Games Done Quick 2017

From Sunday afternoon to Saturday night, the Awesome Games Done Quick event managed to raise $900,000 in charity for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. In one day... in ONE FUCKING DAY... the total blew past two million dollars and shot up another $70,000 immediately after that. All of this happened before the main event even began. Hell, as I'm typing this, the damned total won't stop rising long enough to decide on the winning name for the Fallen Child of Undertale. Toby Fox, by the way, personally donated ten grand towards "Bepis". Regardless, "Wubby" is just too far ahead to lose. It's worth noting Namco Bandai's contributions included a raffle for a Dark Souls III pack at $125. If you're curious as to what came with that pack, well...

Dark Souls III Day One Edition (PS4)
- 1x 15.5" Lord of Cinders Statue (~$400)
- Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 (PS4)
- God Eater 2: Rage Burst Day One Edition (PS4)
- God Eater 2 Fleece-Lined Hoodie (Event Promo Only); x1 each; sizes L and XL
- God Eater 2 Leather Jacket (Promo only; only 10 in existence, ~$1,400); size L
- Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization Collector's Edition (~$120; PS4)
- One Piece: Burning Blood Collector's Edition (~$100; PS4)
- Tales of Xillia Collector's Edition (~$120; PS4)
- Tales of Zestiria Limited Edition Retro Keychain Set
- Tales of Zestiria (PS4)
- Tales of Zestiria Artbook
- Teepo Plushie
- Rollo Plushie
- Ni No Kuni Wizard's Companion

To no one's surprise, there were A LOT of $125 donations.

Another contributing factor always involves the most popular bid war for opting to either save or kill the trapped animals of Super Metroid. That typically earns well over $200,000 ($793,706 for this particular night), as many will throw several $1000 - $10,000 bids all within the run itself. This speaks nothing of the numerous smaller donations that are read aloud all week long towards that bid war. If you're ever curious to check out one of these two events each year, that's likely to become the one confusing aspect of it, so here's your explanation now.

The other factor for this year's AGDQ is that Undertale is the main event, and people have donated shit-tons of money towards bid wars involving whether or not to spare the true pacifist and genocide bosses. I can't remember a single game having this sort of positive effect on the audience, and the only reason it was never showcased before now involved Toby Fox's direct refusal to allow for spoilers. For those who still lump this game together with the fanbase and label it all as cancer, this sort of generosity not only proves otherwise, but considering where the money goes, and the continued reaction of the Twitch chat as the speedrun progresses, the label is about as wrong as wrong can be. Hell, Everdraed, the programmer who specifically assisted Toby Fox with the Photoshop Flowey battle actually called in during the run to express how amazed he was at the response towards the inclusion of this game.

As things have finally slowed down (I'm actually flipping between this and watching the run itself), the tracker has managed to reach $2,100,000. The most GDQ had ever brought in prior to tonight was under $1,600,000. The runner, TGH, is actually a replacement for Kaizen, who recently learned that he, too, has cancer and felt it was important to step down from participating. He, did, however, called in during the run to express his gratitude for the love and support shown tonight.

By the way, everyone in the crowd and on the Twitch chat is chanting "Hug the goat!" as I type this, and at that very moment when he did, the tracker surpassed $2.2 million. If that wasn't enough, another $13,000+ in donations accumulated as things wrapped up with the final boss of the genocide run being allowed to peacefully rest, as I really need to do now, considering I have work in a mere three hours.

Overally, yeah, I'm trying to sell you on the game again. If you haven't played Undertale by now, then what the ever-loving fuck is wrong with you? More importantly, however, is that this is my little part in trying to encourage you all to participate in future GDQ events. They are typically held on January and July, last all week long, and are further supported with deals on shirts, baubles, and video games from an assortment of sponsors. It's amazing to see somebody fly through a game of Donkey Kong Country in under an hour or Super Mario Galaxy in under three. I highly recommend it, so, if possible, take the week off, donate what little you can afford, and help spread the word about all the good video games can do. ...or call me an emotional little bitch. I'm fine with that.

Either way, have a good night, unless you're reading this during the day. Then, uh, accept a generic "thank you" from me, instead. I don't know. I'm tired.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Fallout from the Switch Presentation?

Thursday night was the presentation of the Nintendo Switch. I'm fairly certain it was directed by Toei Animation, since it played out like an episode of One Piece. The thing was an hour long, but half of it was a combination of what we had learned through previous announcements and the reveal trailer.

For starters, Switch was said to contain the DNA of all the previous systems, like shoulder buttons and a joystick. Yeah, while that's all technically true, having to mention it in such a lengthy manner was completely pointless. This occurred again in a cringy skit near the end with the revealing of Zelda's release date. Here, we see the game's creator, director, and Nintendo's biggest meme responding with, "I don't know the release date. Ask this guy!" "Oh, I can't answer that, either. Why not ask that guy?"
Then we're sent back to the stage, which follows into another trailer of the game. Fanatics of the series were overjoyed to see new footage, though a handful bitched about the English voice acting. Then we got to see the big reveal - Zelda is a launch title. *inhales* Yeah, I thought that was obvious. Didn't you think that was obvi... wait, nevermind. You're probably not here with me right now. I'm too lazy to turn around and check. If it wasn't, what would that have left us with, huh? Skylanders, Just Dance, and an uninteresting variation of Wii Sports? That trailer, too, by the way, was stretched out in the beginning. Within seconds, we got it. We understood what was going on, but, still, we had to sit through a western-styled gun duel that took roughly ninety seconds to finish. Ninety fucking seconds to finish. That's an awful lot of build up for reiterating motion control gaming, and, after a series of other dumb examples, the only thing we can take away from all of this is that you now look at the other player, rather than at a screen.
Why was this necessary? Were screens even an issue among gamers?
When people create these things, do they actually tell the actors, "Hey, really ham it up, guys! That'll totally convince the viewers that this isn't cheap and terrible to play!" The vast majority don't fall for that shit anymore, so stop it. If anything, seeing that sort of window dressing will raise more flags than the tired concept itself.

What bothered me the most about this presentation is how elementary the explanation for the system became, especially involving the joy-cons.We can see the buttons and joysticks. We know how they work. The rumble feature has been around for a few decades now. Look, the reveal was heavily praised, because it told consumers everything without talking. Here, it's the complete opposite, and a viewer had to wade a whole bunch uh nuthin' just to get a few morsels of something fresh. Way to hold my attention, Nintendo. Even if this is directed at investors or whomever might not have seen the reveal video back in October, one could imagine they can look at this thing and figure out how to use it for themselves. If not, link them the friggin' video! It's still there, and on the same channel as this presentation. Why would they even want to invest in something if they don't know the basics about it already?
Thank goodness we can now count how many cubes of ice are dropped into a virtual glass of water.
Welcome to the future, folks.
I'm glad region locking isn't a thing with Switch. I really didn't care, but I've read enough whining from those who do, and it's primarily by those who see the Japanese version of anything to be superior, even when the only difference is the language, and, frankly, that should just be an expected option nowadays for players to change at will... except through indie titles, of course. Limited budget, and such. All I want from them is a functional experience. Super Comboman is currently not doing that for me, but having just finished Hotline Miami 2, my tolerance for pain at this moment is fairly high, so bring on the softlocks and iffy controls, you lousy, fuckin' sticker-collecting platformer.

Battery life and pricing were important for many, and I was a little curious, but it wasn't going to affect my decision all that much. (I seldom leave my home, and I never expect this stuff to be cheap.) If the lowest is going to be two and a half hours of power, then I'll typical plan for that on all games. I'm guessing the six-hour limit pertains to classic titles, which will be available as freebies each month through a paid online service. I'm fine with that. Others are not, but that same crowd believes all video games should cost $5, so it's best to ignore their existence.

At $300, I'm fine with the initial cost for the console. I'll likely want an additional controller, and that's another $70, $80, along with $90 for another dock. By the time I actually have a desire to own the thing, it'll probably drop in price anyhow. If not, I won't complain. I'm sure Nintendo will deserve it by the time Mario hits the shelves. Typing of which, there's games. Not a lot of them, but stuff is in the works.

Mario Kart 8 is being ported and bringing the world of Splatoon along for the race. There's also Dry Bones and the feather item, if you care. I don't, but since I never bought the game for my Wii U, this will be on my short list of purchases.
Another obvious choice is Super Mario Odyssey, where Bowser and Mario are traveling around the globe in spiffy hats. I get some first-season JoJo vibes from Boswer's little Speedwagon attack, and one can only hope that Mario's sentient cap is less obnoxious than FLUDD. Granted, I didn't mind the thing. Sunshine is my favorite of the Mario titles, after all (with SMB2 being a close second), so I must like FLUDD at a subconscious level. When it was first shown during the Switch's reveal, I was really hoping Mario was traversing the realm of Samba de Amigo, and that the premise involved him in the world of Sega's library of gems. Yeah, I know. Ha-ha. Fuck you. Let me dream... preferrably in NiGHTS.
Already saw an awful lot of mocking in ARMS's direction, but I'm a fan of quirky one-on-one titles. Plus, Ribbon Girl will certainly inspire a superfluous amount of porn, so there's that to look forward to. I'm not a fan of blondes, so I'll have to settle for whatever it was recently made about Mario and his sentient cap. (Yeah, that's a thing.)
I do believe I've seen this combination of Puyo and Tetris before, but I welcome it all the same. This is especially because I don't currently own a previous version of it, though I do have some variation of both separately. Plenty of different Tetris games, and I actually have the best version of Puyo Pop. I should be content, but this is far more eye-catching, and I'm all about that excessive use of colors.
Puyo Pop at its dankest.
As far as Tetris goes, I imagine every version is the best, so long as it doesn't deviate from the seven tetriminos, and isn't an abysmal mess, like that atrocity Tetris Ultimate was by Ubisoft. Seriously, how does one mess that up? You'd have to actually put time and money into achieving such a feat. Alternatively, I guess one could be like EA and charge a monthly fee to play it, but let's hope none of that nonsense worms its way into this collaboration prior to the release.
Konami is releasing something that might actually qualify as a playable video game. I wish I could type that it couldn't get any worse than Act Zero, but this is Konami, and I'm sure they'll find some way to disappoint me and all the other hopefuls awaiting more information on Super Bomberman R. Now, a moment of silence for Hudson Soft.
You will always bee in our hearts, Hudson. Much love. Such Bonk.
There's a handful of JRPGs making their way to the console... Dragon Quest. Shin...Chan? I don't know. I don't care. Also, Fire Emblem is taking over for Zelda in the form of Dynasty Warriors. As long as Hector and Amelia are available, I'll be happy.
I may not like blondes, but I do love seeing an unstoppable tank single-handedly wipe out an entire army with brute force.
While I won't be touching any of this March 3rd, it will maybe be interesting to see how launch plays out. I'm guessing there will be unjustifiable shortages and a Youtube subscription feed littered with Zelda gameplay and impressions. Won't matter to me, since I have plenty to finish on Steam right now, and Wii U games still in their wrap. Actually, I also own brand new copies of Wii and Gamecube games still in their plastic covers. I am so far behind.

In other news that nobody cares about, I finished Fallout 4 and its DLC. Not everything, but I did manage 70 of the 84 achievements, so that isn't bad. Bethesda did a better job of cobbling this one together, as I was able to start the game immediately after downloading it.
Don't kid yourself! There are still plenty of bugs.
He was like this when I fast traveled here and completely disappeared once I entered the ship. This weird shit happens.
Fallout 4 managed to do the improbable by being a relatively stable experience, even with its own programming issues, and only about a fifth of its quests would glitch out and require an override through the console. In fact, the only major problems I found involved using the interface for customizing settlements, and the strong lack of personality from the base game. Everyone outside of your companions is negligible. At no point did I care to learn more about anyone who wasn't offering a perk as a reward. Even the game's DJ, Travis, is an unlikable shit.
"Hey. Uh I mean, I mean. Hi... again. Uh... hi? Hiii..."
(He won't be missed.)
You can boost his confidence, or have him replaced with an arrogant brat. Either way, you won't feel compelled to listen to the radio. Three Dog, he ain't.

As many have stated before, Fallout 4 is a far prettier experience, and the combat is fantastic, but it's more of a FPS than an RPG, and if you're not playing survival mode, then you're not really going to care about what happens as a result of your actions. I didn't. For example, I became a part of the Brotherhood of Steel.
Stay strong, squire.
Then, I killed'em all, except for Danse. He won't talk to me anymore.

After that, I became the leader of the Institute.
And there it is! Take a picture!
I found more joy in the DLC of Far Harbor and learning about Valentine's past, or, at least, until I had to do a series of tower defense, Minecraft-like quests.
Hope you like blue!
(I greatly dislike blue.)
The Mechanist DLC offers up the enjoyable opportunity to battle goofy-looking machines alongside Ada, a customizable companion who went apeshit as I was exploring the Mechanist's hideout.
Note: All these pictures of Ada are while standing in the same spot. 
Not only did Ada spaz out and fly around the place, she/it went headfirst into the Mechanist as we were reaching a peaceful understanding and caused the NPC to go hostile. On the plus side, I got a new settlement (because I really cared about all the other ones I won't bother to defend), and a new costume for my companions to share.
I made Cait wear this throughout Nuka-World.
Nuka-World was my last stop, and while I enjoyed the festive change in scenery, I zoomed through each park and guzzled soda throughout the entire thing. There's an achievement for collecting 100,000 tickets, and it's easy to do, but, really, why? You can also customize a group of raiders to take over your own settlements, because everyone likes taking over settlements (again).

Yeah, this review is just a half-assed excuse to post screenshots, but many tell me they only look at the pictures anyhow, so this is for you bunch of losers. I can call you "losers" because you won't read this anyhow. Look, here's another picture featuring a pile of teddy bears and bullets!
I'm a post-apocalyptic Santa Claus bringing joy to The Commonwealth. 
If you were wondering, Prime does make a return in Fallout 4, but I never got to see him in action... because I killed the folks rebuilding him. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ "Oh well!"

Overall, this is going to appeal to the gun nuts, modders, and the RPers who are just going to kill everything, change everything, or conjure up their own story. Not so much to people like me who were hoping for a similar experience to what made Fallout 3 and New Vegas amazing. Granted, I know there are plenty of those who love being able to build their own vault and various bases, but doing so is frustrating. It really is a shitty interface, and Bethesda ought to feel embarrassed for it. Plus, Preston will never stop bugging you about them. The only real benefit I found was in setting up several shops, because vendors never seemed to have enough caps to pay out for all the crap I had accumulated during my travels.

Lastly, here's my character and wasteland waifu, Sumbich.
I don't actually indulge in the idea of a waifu, but I do like making female characters and naming them Sumbich. It amuses me, cause I'm immature, and the structure of this post would infuriate an English professor, but, hey, why read this when there's one more picture to look at, instead?
Give her drugs. Discover your future.
Happy New Year everyone, and good luck to those of you also in participating the upcoming Four in February. So far, I've only decided upon Bastion. I have roughly half a month left to figure out the other three. Wish me luck, or read this after February and not think about it anymore.

Keep your expectations low, people. I'm pretty sure 2017 is going to suck as much as 2016, if not more.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Prepare for Boreding

I did say that I was going to post about this after I was finished, and I did. I just kinda held off on doing so until I played all of those other video games for my October post. Also, I'm not sure if I actually posted I would blog about this after I was finished. I don't believe I did. What I do know is that I held off on it longer by fooling around with notebook drawings and more video games throughout November. No one is eagerly awaiting my next post anyhow (not even me).

I loved Steamworld Dig. Blogged about it nearly a year ago. Nobody else read it. Nobody reads anything. (Fuck you people.) So, now there's Steamworld Heist and it's so much more amazing than Dig that I'm going to blog about it. Nobody else will read it, because nobody else reads anything. (Fuck you people.)
For starters, Piper's a female robot. You Steam users wouldn't know this, however, because, apparently, she doesn't qualify for the tag of Female Protagonist. Then again, nor does Space Channel 5, and, if you combine the ladies of both games, you're left with Piper from Fallout 4, because the logic in that conclusion is sound and unquestionable. SOUND AND UNQUESTIONABLE! Ahem, to further derail this nonsense, Piper Faraday is the only one of the three currently not affected by Rule 34, but Arcee is, so don't think robots are excluded from that part of the Internet. I checked. Twice. Don't judge me!

Steamworld Heist takes place in the lots-of-years-after-Steamworld-Dig future, where the sci-fi western theme of the series has turned into a sci-fi sci-fi series involving fictional science, like that of space travel, aliens, laser weapons, non-laser weapons, non-aliens wielding laser weapons, and fly-lookin' hats.
But no roads. They weren't needed.
As captain of this small group of pirate smugglers, it is your job to slowly recruit a diverse team of teenagers with machines to ensure equality within the workplace. This mindset is most definitely not shared by the enemy forces, as bots are discriminated by their fuel consumption.
Some of your crew mates will, first, need to be rescued, while others must be convinced, but my favorite of the bunch is pay-to-play. Hell, it's even in his name!
(Yeah, I'm not all that good with drawing on a tablet.) 
It's worth the hassle to set up a proper team before each stage, because most of them will be randomized, and there are plenty of situations best handled by the unique abilities each member brings to the party. For example, if you find yourself constantly being swarmed, let Sally run Mad Dog for a turn or two. That butterfaced bot is the only one capable of clearing a room on her own. Meanwhile, Ivanski not only makes full use of heavy firepower, but he also tanks far better than any other. Granted, some items provide similar abilities, however, you're only allowed to carry two on each character, and with that strict limitation, why rely upon second-rate strategies?

The big deal surrounding this game is that it's a turn-based strategy that relies upon the player's ability to properly aim. Unlike Fire Emblem, Advance Wars, and, my personal favorite, Shining Force, Steamworld Heist doesn't hit your target for you. That's your job, and rightfully so!
The weapon's damage is provided, of course, but if you're not using a sharpshooter, there's a strong chance for something to go wrong. You might ricochet a bullet into an environmental hazard, or, as I've done numerous times, mistakenly blast one of your allies to pieces, and, boy, will they explode when you do!
It's extremely satisfying when an opponent goes all over the place, and those pieces don't just disappear a moment later, either. I once opened a hatch to reach a better aiming position and some of the parts from a defeated enemy just fell past my crew mate as he was climbing the ladder. Zero fucks given by the guy. I mean, it was beautiful. I'll recommend this game just for that reason alone!

Thanks to New Game +, along with a Casual setting, it's fairly easy to obtain most of the achievements. Then, there's the ones involving hat combinations.
Look at those percentages!
If you're an achievement completionist, you're going to absolutely hate collecting those hats. There's a lot of them, and it's far more enjoyable to swap them out between battles than doing so has any right to be, but several of them are only obtainable IF an enemy is wearing one, and only IF you can effectively shoot it off the bot's noggin without killing him in the process. Then, you gotta remember to pick it up before leaving. I've actually failed missions, because I allowed an enemy to score numerous unanswered shots against my team while I was struggling to retrieve one of those things. Still, if you're interested in obtaining them, Woudo currently provides a decent guide on Steam. Good luck to you!

Lastly, I would like to call attention to the game's soundtrack. It is significantly better than SW Dig's and this is primarily thanks to the talented bunch known as Steam Powered Giraffe, whom you might remember from Battleborn, because they're also responsible for Montana's theme song. Actually, that's a crock of shit, because nobody has played that fucking game ever, so no one has a flippin' clue as to who the fuck Montana even is! Still, they did that, so maybe give it a listen, along with some of their other albums. 
The band is also featured several times throughout the game.
Image & Form is a socially-friendly indie developer with a bunch of dorks for employees.
There's absolutely no subtlety in these references.
The CEO himself, Brjann Sigurgeirsson, frequently participates in announcements, contests, and Q&A videos on Youtube in a similar fashion to how Iwata used to host Nintendo Directs, though I doubt I&F can afford to create videos that grandiose. Still, I'm a subscriber, because I'll support anyone who believes in running a company by making an effort to reach out to his consumers on a personal level. As for recent Nintendo Directs...
They still have their moments.
I can't wait for the next project Image & Form has planned for the Nintendo Switch. They haven't provided any details as of yet, outside of there being a major project for the upcoming device. I'm sure it will be impressive. Maybe it'll bring back Rusty from the previous game. Why not, right? Until then, go get yourself a copy of Heist. It's frequently on sale, and I bet it will be again during the next major Steam event. Don't forget to add the The Outsider DLC to that, because I've played it, and Fen is just a really neat addition to the crew. Also, there's more hats and levels. Once you get into it, you're going to want more of all that anyhow, and I wouldn't be surprised if that was also reduced in price during the winter sale. Once you've finished playing, I hope you'll provide better fan art, because that Payroll I drew is kinda sorta most definitely... sad. It's sad.
Anyhow, thanks for reading... as if anyone does.
(Fuck you people.)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Beware the Bloggedy Man!

So, October rears its intentionally ugly head for another disappointing build-up to a dying holiday. Shame about that, too. You know I received no trick-or-treaters last year? Not one, which was how many I received the year before. I provide the good shit, too. I mean, I love candy corn and Smarties, but I understand that they're unpopular. Instead, I buy name-brand candy bars, M&Ms, Skittles, and even Reese's cups, though I run the risk of being left with them at the end of the night. (I'm not a fan of peanut butter.) Disappointing turnouts are actually the third sign of decline that I've noticed, following a lack of enthusiastic home decorations and decent television programming. Christmas still airs all of the classics. Halloween now settles for b-rated horror films, straight-to-shelves sequels of popular horror franchises, and television specials that shows everybody doing all the great stuff that no longer happens, because "it's not safe!" Basically, they're rubbing it in and that pisses me off a little, with exception to It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. That one's a sad tale, if not a strange Christmas special.
Many years ago, I indulged in Monsterfest on AMC, and that felt amazing. Classic horror followed by classic horror, and even a few that I had never seen before would just line up to remind me of how enjoyable this season could be. It took my mind away from shows like The Halloween Tree, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow...
I love listening to Bing Crosby sing about the Headless Horseman, too.
...and even Witch's Night Out, which I used to search for through television guides in hopes of planning my days around them. The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror became a tradition, along with any sort of historical programs about Halloween, haunted locations and attractions, and the origins of various well-known monsters. Television used to bring me so much joy. Now, Monsterfest has been watered down to Fear Fest, featuring pure garbage surrounding the Halloween films (most of which are just as awful); obligatory Halloween specials for regular cartoons and sitcoms are commonly aired in standard rotation all year round; and genuine seasonal specials, such as the Great Pumpkin, continue to dwindle. I'll still watch a historical/educational piece, but those are not enough to bring back my enthusiasm. I had to find a new outlet of celebration.

In 2009, or maybe 2010, I tried thumbing through horror anime. That was a total bust, since the only shows to illicit any sort of tension were either ruined with halfhearted explanations, or were just plain dumb from the get-go.

The first arc of Umineko no Naku Koro ni did a magnificent job of unhinging me, but this quickly turned to shit as things were repeated for different, incoherent scenarios. Then, I checked out Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, and it took things one step further with an entire season of terrifying occurrences that left viewers unsure of what was going on.
This is terrifying in a different way.
After earning itself a follow-up, along with another memorable opening, that scare factor was completely obliterated with an unfulfilling explanation that included time manipulation and a horned loli. OVAs were eventually created to rub salt to that wound by dropping the suspense and horror altogether in favor of catering to the otaku bunch with all of the trite ecchi nonsense one might expect.

Other attempts at horror included Hell Girl, which also suffered from additional seasons of unnecessary explanation, though it did so with far more dignity; Gantz, a stunning anime that was too busy being badass to properly live up to its horror tag; and Kakurenbo, a one-shot with eight masked children running through a bunch of ruins to convey the negative effects of technology and development upon their games and happiness. It's a specific message, certainly, and one that I believe is skewed by the creator's nostalgia. Regardless of the environment, kids will find a way to have fun and make up their own games doing so... unless that environment kills them. That's the obvious exception I must still point out lest somebody else does so, because we can't be fucking adults who simply understand that common-knowledge exceptions exist in life, can we?
"There’s nothing special about being born. Not a thing. Most of the universe is just death, nothing more. In this universe of ours, the birth of a new life on some corner of our planet is nothing but a tiny, insignificant flash. Death is a normal thing. So why live?"
There is one overall decent attempt at anime horror, and that's Monster, a fairly long series that revolves around the potential consequences of making the "right" decision to save the "wrong" life. The setting is about as close to reality as a cartoon is going to become, and the possibility of something similar to this happening does a fair job of causing unease in the viewers (including myself). Go check it out, if you haven't already.

With Monster being the only exception, I realized anime was clearly not the way to go. Still, if you're curious, I will recommend Shiki, Yami Shibai, and Shinsekai Yori. They likely won't give you many chills, but each represents the horror genre in an interesting manner.

Since then, I've spent a few years casually looking around for tracks to add to my Halloween playlist, because I know won't always be around to satisfy that craving, and I've started indulging in a handful of video games with appropriate themes for the season. Last year, I squeezed in Bioshock, though I never got around to typing about it, and, if you remember (or cared), I blogged about Dead Island the year before that. This time around, I've managed to complete a small assortment of games, despite having to run myself ragged trying to maintain the deli/bakery that currently lacks a department head. Six-day work weeks? Yep. Eleven-hour shifts? Twice, and neither with a moment to rest. Call-outs galore? Oh, most definitely! Still, I have found the time to not only play, but to provide you all (Me. Only me. I'm the entire audience of this site) with this needlessly lengthy post about them! You're welcome. I'm sorry.
To start off, I installed SOMA, a title I received through the Humble Monthly bundle, but I can't get it to properly run on my PC. After I made sure to update everything, I was finally able to get it to STILL NOT DO A FUCKING THING! I settled for a silent, single-video playthrough on Youtube, and it was... rather boring. How am I suppose to feel scared when the protagonist, Simon, is more annoyed than frightened by his situation? Also, the guy's pretty dense. Like the main character of a harem, he never really connects the dots until the very end, and I wonder if that's suppose to be part of the impact I'm expected to feel with the game's conclusion, because it's sad, and I guess it kinda made me think, but I had already experienced similar thoughts while watching Ghost in the Shell on Adult Swim, and, again, I find it to be quite annoying that Simon doesn't "get it" until then.

SOMA is well made, which puts it several notches above the bulk of indie horror. Most of those don't even have you interacting with other characters. At best, you'd end up with Spooky telling you a few things before floating away and having you run from a chasing enemy for another fifty, same-ish rooms. More often, it's just a terrible-looking monster whose only scare factor is to create a Game Over screen when you turn around. I'll give SOMA credit for creating real interest in playing. I just wish there was more to do than wander around empty locations and solving puzzles that seem out of place, simply because... well, would researchers realistically set something up like this?
Maybe I'm overthinking it.
I wanted to know what happened next. I was enthralled with the storyline gradually being fed to me, yet I would sit here for long periods of time yawning, because it was only gradually being fed to me. I'd recommend the game if the pacing was better, or if you haven't seen GitS. Of those two options, I rather watch the anime again, but that's just me, and I'm not worth giving a shit about, amirite?
Pony Island became my second choice, and it's totally about ponies. And Satan. You're trapped in an arcade limbo of terrible programming, and the only way out is the rework the coding in your favor. It's not a challenging game. It's short. The achievements are not all that difficult to obtain. Pony Island is a strong, intelligent example of comedy horror. I didn't enjoy playing it enough to retrieve all of the achievements, but that's primarily because I had two more games I want to finish, along with this post, before October 31st, and there's also a pair of neglected handheld titles that I really oughta wrap up shortly after this. (Not making any guarantees!)

I finished up the month with two titles from Double Fine. Well, it's a title and a sequel to that title, so it's technically, TECHNICALLY, two games that are not all that different from one another, and the story between them is shared. One could bundle them and call it a single game, and there would be no hiccups in the transition, BUT this is two games, which is fine. It's fine x 2, so it's double fine, and there's the full circle. Not a moon circle, because I haven't finished Castlevania yet, but that's down the road... and it's not really a lot of fun going back and forth between rooms, killing the same worthless bunch of trash mobs to collect their souls, and realizing that the strong majority of those souls, even some of the extremely challenging ones to obtain, and fairly worthless. Konami really made that series into a grindy shit experience during the early 2000s, didn't they? A lot of people enjoy doing that. Those same people also enjoy collecting all 700 and something Pokemon repeatedly, earning the reputation of pirates by killing NPCs through the course of several months, and pooping into an empty snack bag they were too lazy to properly throw away. To each their own, even if it's wrong by definition of what I believe to be right, because that's the only definition that matters, so fuck you.
Plugging my ears to the sorrowful aria emanating from the cartridge of my damaged DS, I finished up this month's spooktacular and terrifyingly great... game stuff with Costume Quest, a turn-based RPG adventure that specifically centers around Halloween (and some time during the winter, too, but that's an expansion, and you still do all the Halloween stuff during that time Shut up). Apparently, the idea of granting super powers to children based upon what they dressed up as was something thought up by Tasha Harris, who left Double Fine roughly a year after finishing CQ to return to Pixar. Through my limited experience, I credited the idea to Witch's Night Out, since the children are actually changed into what they were dressed as, because their masks alone were unable to scare the neighbors. It's a concept I saw again in an episode of Rugrats, The Fairly Oddparents, The Simpsons, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Goosebumps, Kid Chameleon, Majora's Mask, and, obviously, playable characters in the Super Mario universe commonly inherit abilities based upon the outfits they wear throughout the game, though that's not really Halloween-themed, but this shows that the concept of Costume Quest is far from being an original one. It's definitely the most focused effort on the subject, however, and embodies several other aspects of the holiday along with it.
The game begins with you choosing between the twins Reynold and Wren, embarrassing the non-playable as candy corn, while you go out stylin' as a robot. Monsters kidnap your candified kid, because they're idiots, and you gain the ability to turn into an actual robot with chest rockets. You go door-to-door and are greeted by either a monster or a treat-giving resident, with a slow-opening front door sequence to really put you on edge, or kinda put you on edge, or to just have your quietly wishing for it to be a normal person, because battles do become rather boring in each section of the game, though obtaining new costume powers and dealing with new enemies now and then help to keep things somewhat interesting. There's plenty of humor, the achievements are easy to get, and bobbing for apples is a simple mini-game that does just enough to help change things up. There's even a bit of self-promotion in the DLC, though I had played and typed about that long before touching this.
With the sequel, our heroes now get to work together. There's a time-traveling dentist, borg versions of the old enemies, an improved battle system, and, my favorite, age progression in the forms of a super hero costume and getting to see your friends in the future. Don't judge me! There's even some challenge to it, as one of the achievements requires having candy corn participate in every battle. It's a passive costume that absorbs hits. A delicious shield. I strongly recommend giving both games a try. They're certainly the highlights of my October gaming, and one of them even offers an achievement for playing it on Christmas, so it's not even a bad idea to put these on your December playlist. If there's a third game in the series, it'll probably just end up revolving around a pair of morbidly obese children surrounded by a bunch of lazy adults standing near their cars in a local church parking lot to celebrate Trunk-or-Treat with slow-opening car doors revealing either a trove of sugary delights or a spoopy clown promoting the latest flop by a musician turned director.
Looks like this adult chose 'Trunk'.
Ok, so, yeah, I know that neither CQ, nor its successor have even the slightest ounce of horror worth mentioning, but if that's all you're wanting, stick to something like Fatal Frame, Eternal Darkness, or Alan Wake. I wanted a nice blend of fear and fun, which better represents my viewpoint on the significance of Halloween. No need to concern ourselves with the pagan roots of the olde days, unless it's to satiate your historical curiosity (and I support that 200%). Just use this time to be something different for a change. Maybe do something to playfully confront your fears. At the very least, use it as a flimsy excuse to have fun with your friends, family, or whomever, because once Christmas rolls around, that's when things get really scary.
No wonder everyone else hates you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Another post Bound for failure.

I bought Earthbound for the 3DS Virtual Console the very day it was made available. I've wanted to play it ever since Nintendo Power featured that whole "Because This Game Stinks!" campaign that no one liked, except for me, because my opinions are commonly unpopular, which results in me being unpopular.
A combination of awful-smelling scratch and sniff images that I kept re-smelling, because... well, I'm not sure anymore, but it was either that I thought they would smell better the next time, or because I felt the urge to remind myself why it was a bad idea the last time I did it. I know it's one of those two reasons, but which one? Also, there were these wonderful, detailed clay models of several characters, which I loved to look at from a distance, on TV, in a magazine, on the computer screen, and anywhere else that wasn't actually near me, because inanimate shit with eyes and facial expressions creep me out.
Beware the trees, Ness. 
It was 1995, however, and I never had any money to spend. Ten years later, I still had no money to spend. A real shame about that. Thinking of now-rare items, like a physical copy of Earthbound, that I could have owned if I wasn't broke, though most kids tend to be. A real shame about my collection of Nintendo Power magazines, too. I'll likely die regretting I didn't take a picture of the whole collection for a background design, since the thought didn't occur to me until I was nearly finished tossing them out in small quantities each week due to their weight. That's why I threw them away to begin with. A bunch of heavy boxes taking up a considerable amount of space, and all they have are issues of Game Informer, Gamepro, Visions, Nintendo Power, and third-party help guides, like this one that featured generic cartoon characters (a big-headed midget thing, a car, a dinosaur) dodging bubbles. Bubbles. I don't know why. "We need drawings of whatever to decorate the empty space of every page, instead of adding more helpful information. Bubbles are deadly in a lot of games, they are quick and easy to doodle, and we're way too cheap to pay somebody to provide anything detailed and eye-catching, like, say, something else entirely." Then again, what should I have expected? I got it at a book fair at Melaleuca Elementary School. I still kept most of my player guides, as opposed to the magazines, because of whatever reason that my current brain cannot comprehend, but I bet I threw that one out. It caught my child's eye, so, obviously, I'm going to waste the money my parents gave me on that, because I was a kid, and kids are stupid. ALL kids are stupid. I'm still kinda stupid, so, maybe, continuing to be stupid is like eternal youth. Stay young. Eat glue.

Earthbound was a flop in the mid-90s, and it's not hard to figure out why. The game looked like shit when up against the visual gems of Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy III (FF6). The downgrade in appearance was intentional to keep the art style consistent with the original, but the problem is Mother never had a US release, so many knew nothing about the reasoning behind Earthbound's 8-bit adventure on a 16-bit console. You might remember the tremendous focus on graphics at the time, too. Something fun HAD to look amazing. It was like a video game law or something back then. Then, there's the cost of bundling each copy of Earthbound with a player's guide, and that aggressive two-million-dollar ad campaign. Like I mentioned before, I thought it was neat, and I'm sure there were others who felt the same, but the American market wasn't interested in Japanese RPGs until FF7 popularized the genre. Daring gamers not to pick up a copy was definitely the wrong way to promote this particular title. Now that everyone loves Earthbound (because many probably assumed Ness originated on Super Smash Bros.), Nintendo has performed an opposite fuck-up by refusing to release Mother 3 outside of Japan. Maybe that'll change in the near future. Still, Nintendo must really hate easy profit. Me, too, I suppose. I could be cluttering this blog with some cheap advertisement.

Considering the amount of effort put into the music, if Nintendo was going to bundle the game with anything, they really should have gone with the soundtrack. The full playlist is over three hours long, so, obviously, somebody would need to cherry-pick about a dozen or so tracks (though I bet a bunch of you greedy bastards would expect them all for free), but this would have still highlighted one of Earthbound's best features. Besides, the player's guide was an easy sale during the 4th generation of video games. If not that, then offering it as the freebie for a Nintendo Power subscription renewal might have sparked some curiosity.

Having recently finished Earthbound, I find the game difficult to recommend. The environments are cheerful; the NPCs provide humorous, fourth-wall-breaking responses; enemies are as goofy as they are varied; boss fights are challenging even though they are just as susceptible to status effects as Ness and his friends; the ending is not only amazing, but is practically guaranteed to make the player emotional; the odometer life bars and the guts stat that affects them is unique and keeps the player attentive during turn-based combat; Iwata, Iwata, Iwata; and, again, the music successfully brings it all together. "So why would you..." Shut up. I'm still typing. My beef is with the mechanics and how they sour every other enjoyable moment with exception to the last. I'm complaining about the grinding, the difficulty spikes, the limited space for inventory, sluggish travel (even teleporting can be a bitch), the constant drain on my psychic points to remove status effects from an unending slew of respawns, and the slow, cumbersome menu screens I had to deal with in order to organize, equip, and supply my party members for far longer than it should ever take to get back into the action. The only reason I can't gripe about the confusing "Now what?" portions of this game is thanks to the included guide provided physically for the original and digitally with the Wii U version. There's also the internet and its wealth of information (and porn) at my disposal. That practically excuses every developer from having to assist the player with progression, doesn't it?

I'd type that one would find just as much pleasure in watching a silent playthrough online, but thanks to a particular this and a specific that, I very much believe it is worth your time, money, and hassle to experience this for yourself. I only wish I could have enjoyed it twenty years earlier. The impact it must have had on the player at that time is something I can only imagine thanks to the efforts of inspired titles, like that of Undertale and Citizens of Earth. Both do justice to their predecessor, and both deserve the opportunity to further increase the size of this post, because the regulars who follow this blog (which consists of only me... unless I also count myself) would never expect otherwise. It doesn't matter either way, but I'll go ahead and start with Undertale, since that hype train has finally slowed down and the game is probably safe to type about again.
I was told to play Undertale by a co-worker, a co-worker's daughter, through several Youtube video recommendations, and by some guy on the sales floor who overheard my conversation about it with Paul and interrupted us with a fairly loud, "It's fucking awesome!" Having finally played it for myself, the sentiment is well understood, or relatively understood. See, I may have spotted several examples of genius detail work, but I still missed half (if not more) of them. It's not until after one has played through the entirety of the story, and/or watched it on Youtube, then further researched it on various sites (like I was doing for the sake of this blog entry), that you begin to realize the actual scope of effort put into this game. And it's for ten dollars! I just wish I could discuss it more, but, as many have said before, you have to go into it blind. If you're a fan of RPGs, then play it.

I will point out one thing. Undertale is not a pretty game to look at (most of the time). At first, I figured it was because of the small budget, the size of the development "teiam", and a lack of experience. (Other than this game, I only know of his Halloween hack of Earthbound, and the man has expressed dissatisfaction with how that turned out.) Again, it wasn't until I was in the middle of typing this that I made the possible connection of it mimicking the decision behind Earthbound's appearance. My only supporting logic on the matter is Dust: An Elysian Tail, another one-man job with a similar budget that looks astounding by comparison. It's hard to imagine so much would already be put into this game, yet Fox just decided to settle for a crude and unappealing presentation without good reason.

I feel somewhat uneasy about stating this, but I believe Undertale is a better game than Chrono Trigger. I know. I know. Blasphemy! Look, Chrono Trigger is the product of money, experience, and talent in large sums. It has everything one would expect of a JRPG from the nineties, and then some. Despite all of this, the one issue some have with the game is that it is composed of nearly every cliché in the genre. On the other hand, it utilized those clichés far better than every other JRPG, AND! it threw some unique and interesting stuff into the mix (the Millennial Fair thingy that I won't discuss further, for example). Square played it safe, and did quite well. Toby decided to be risky with his creativity, and still did quite well. With that in mind, which would you believe is the better game? I'm not asking for a literal answer in the comments. I know it's an opinionated decision. I was just clarifying mine. I still love Chrono Trigger, even if it lacks Katt, Raine Sage, and cold spaghetti.

By the way, Undertale's soundtrack is a must-buy item when getting the game itself. This is especially true with regard to the unique boss themes. Most developers won't put in that added touch of love to their work, yet Mr. Fox does so several times over with his own. The music just happens to be my favorite among them.

As for Citizens of Earth, this Canadian RPG failed to reach its Kickstarter goal by a devastating 64%, and was fortunate enough to have left a strong impression on the people of Atlus. Visually and mechanically, CoE is a far more literal nod to Earthbound with Eden Industries aping the sequel to Mother with several specific references, like that of its Eagle Land world, the protractor and ruler being used for battle, violent hippies, police brutality, and even avoidable or instant-win encounters...
 There's also a Loch Ness monster spotted near a bunch of campers
that your party uses for transportation.
You probably notice the influence of Pokemon, as well, such as the number of playable characters one is able to collect, the fact that the VP acts more like a trainer than a party member, and the existence of Eden Industries HQ within the game itself.
Nearly half the playables are female, and I spotted only a single (and fully clothed)
lewd image while researching the game.
I'm not sure if I should be proud of or disappointed with the internet.  
There are forty potential party members to recruit, and not only do they battle differently, each one provides a talent outside of combat (usefulness may vary), and most come with a delightful catch phrase either during a fight, or after leveling up. Unfortunately, many of them won't join you without completing a mini-game or a side quest. The most difficult among these include a sloppy rhythm game and a button-mashing headache over soda. Patient gamers will eventually discover a simple solution to both, but not knowing that ahead of time means frustrating, fun-souring moments, and those are especially terrible to have when one must suffer through numerous loading screens, a vague hint system, noticeable screen tearing (witnessed this most often in the graveyard), and glitches that can and will get your party stuck around obstacles. There's also moments of crashing, but the game saves automatically, so no big deal.

As one would expect, Citizens of Earth thrives on strong, humorous dialogue (supported by fantastical voice acting!), dumb situations, and bizarre enemies. Whomever is on your team during a cutscene will sometimes respond to the conversation in a unique fashion, which I find neat. It's a loving bit of detail, similar to the verbal tics of the Crono Cross crew (except Magus, who was just too complex), but it hardly encourages repeated playthroughs (even with a New Game +). Add to that, I don't believe any of the achievements are missable, so even completionists have no real urge to start over.

Citizens of Earth is looked upon by some as a mere rip-off of Mother 2, which I feel is both harsh and untrue. After all, its development is similar to that of Yooka-Laylee, which blatantly aimed to mimic Banjo-Kazooie, Bloodstained, which blantantly aimed to mimic Castlevania, and Mighty No. 9, which blatantly aimed to mimic Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero. (They even share a favoritism for blue.) All three of these came from developers who were finally free to create whatever they wanted. Anything at all! They all chose to make what people wanted most from them, and if Itoi has no desire to craft another Mother sequel, then there's no reason for the gaming community to insult indie developers willing to do it in his stead. The more, the merrier! Seriously, it's amazing to discover how many games were inspired by Earthbound, despite how few of them are alike as a result. If you're curious, some of the other more notable examples include OFF, Anodyne, and Lisa. I have Anodyne in my Steam library, but I'll likely add Lisa, as well, in the near future.

Hmmm. Maybe I'll update this garbage with more pictures at a later date. It needs more visual aid, don'tcha think? Eh, maybe not. I don't know.