Monday, May 26, 2008

A Sea of Gamelessness

Today might have marked the last day my consoles get used for two weeks. I will be attending a workshop starting tomorrow, and as soon as that is finished, the wife and I will pack up Nomad (our other car -- stop laughing) and head to the beach for a week-long vacation with my family. In all honesty, I should be able to get some gaming into my nights before bed, but one never knows how things like this will unfold.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

About Time, I Suppose

After two consecutive nights of not gaming due to fatigue and Unbeatable Banzuke, my wife and I finally got around to firing up Tomb Raider: Legend today. You heard that right -- my wife and I play games together. They are out there, folks; refuse to settle for less, and you will find what you seek. She tends to go for role-playing games, but the adventures of the esteemed Ms. Croft caught her attention.

My overall impressions of the game at halftime: my friend was right. While there are occasional camera issues, and I can tell now the game will be quite short, I have no regrets on my purchase. The gameplay makes me recall the saga of a particular parachute-panted member of Middle Eastern royalty . . . except this time the protagonist is an English supermodel in outfits which are more of a theoretical abstraction than actual clothing. The acrobatics, the chatter while wandering through the stage, the simple yet entertaining combat -- all I need now is a rewind button to avoid load screens and a wicked dagger.

To be honest, a short game might not be all that disadvantageous. I think I can enjoy multiple playthroughs, since the platforming makes me feel like a rock star. Also, I need games I can complete in a few evenings to counterbalance all the role-playing titles I have in progress at the moment.

Well, back to scouring the first couple of stages for the loot I missed. Have a good week; may your analog sticks always be calibrated.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Weekend Hijinks Are GO!!!

I had a little free time this afternoon, and I also needed to hit up an auto shop for some oil for my beloved Saturn, Wayfarer. What -- you think my car's name is funny?!?

Anyway, I managed to find a new copy of Tomb Raider: Legend at a local GameStop while out and about town. Unbeknownst to me until now, the game had Lara Croft's name appended to the title -- I suppose to take advantage of the 'success' of the Angelina Jolie films. Since, you know, tons of folks buying the game would mistakenly associate Samus Aran or Chun Li with tomb raiding otherwise. Although, now that I think about it, action-adventure gameplay with Lili or Milla from Psychonauts would rock. Somebody get on that now; Phil demands it!

When I got home with my shiny new Xbox 360 disc, what do you think I did? Exactly what any red-blooded American guy would do -- I popped my copy of Neverwinter Nights into my computer and created a new character. Once I'm done typing this, I will finally take my new game for a spin.

Hold on . . . where did I put Tim Schafer's phone number . . .

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Screwing with What Works

Note: The following post contains spoilers, albeit for a game from two console generations ago.

Last week, I was playing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which I had downloaded from Xbox Live. As you can tell from my all-time favorites list, I have played the PlayStation original quite heavily. In fact, I think SotN is the one title I have played to completion most often (save the NES Contra, which is somewhat silly to count, since in my heyday, I could finish the game three times on one set of thirty lives). After Alucard dealt the deathblow to his father for the eleventy-first time, I set down my controller -- and heard the wrong song during the credits.

Apparently, a recent update to the game replaced "I Am the Wind," the original closing theme, with a remix of classic Castlevania tunes called "Admiration of Clan" or something like that. Now "I Am the Wind" is by no means a legendary musical composition, but I cannot figure out why the good folks at Konami would bother to change the ending music a full decade after the game's first release. My best guess is rights issues, but that just sounds too much like the Game Show Network dropping Card Sharks from its lineup because someone wants too much money for the rights to show thirty-year-old reruns. It just seems silly, in my opinion.

In other news, I actually learned something new about a game I have been playing for over ten years. In my pesky quest to fill in the whole map, I needed to hit some underwater areas in the inverted castle (which, by the way, are not present in the original castle's map). I did some searching on GameFAQs, and it turns out that you need to transform into Alucard's wolf form while in the water and swim through the areas in question. For years, I had always assumed that transforming was a no-go underwater, since the bat and mist forms -- you know, the useful ones -- are unusable when moist. Who knew? Well, a whole bunch of people not named Phil knew, but you know what I mean . . .

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Evening Activities

Lately, I have been kicking around Fable: The Lost Chapters on the original Xbox, mainly to give my poor 360 a break. I picked up the game some time ago, but I never really fell in love with it. Make no mistake -- the gameplay is solid, and the world actually feels pretty real. My problem is that my character feels, well, out of place in the game world. The game's quest structure does nothing to make me feel like part of what is occurring around me. At the very least, I have fun teleporting behind fools and slashing them with a katana.

When the Government Gives You Cash . . .

Thanks to the good folks in Congress, we received our economic stimulus funds last week. Most of the money went into savings to cover our potential adoption expenses, but I received a decent portion for personal spending pleasure. My problem now is, what am I going to do with it? Simply put, I haven't really had this much spending money since before Christmas.

I know the answer most of the gaming populace would give, and I honestly have no real interest in Grand Theft Auto IV. For once, my lack of desire for the game is not a result of my inner compulsion to walk the road less traveled by. I have never really wanted to play any title in the series; I am simply too lawful good to get excited about mass criminal activity. This may sound rather self-contradictory, since my current characters in both Morrowind and Oblivion are members of the Thieves' Guild. However, I joined the factions in those games due to the Robin Hood nature they exhibited, and I get the feeling not a lot of that will occur in a GTA title.

Anyway, I spent forty bucks on a sourcebook for my (hopefully) upcoming role-playing campaign. Back around January, I contemplated purchasing one of the Tomb Raider games for my Xbox 360. I have never played a game in the series, and I heard good things from a friend whose opinion I trust about the new control scheme. However, actually finding a copy of either has been . . . problematic. Feel free to let me know if you have any ideas.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Things Have to Start Somewhere . . .

My wife, Sandi, started a blog recently to keep our family and friends informed about our lives, since we have moved several hours away from them. While I can post stuff there, one of my truest passions feels more than a little out of place . . .

I am a gamer -- a big-time gaming dork. I have been ever since my mother gave me a copy of Chutes and Ladders and my father got an Atari 2600 from someone or another. I tell my students at the beginning of each semester that I have played somewhere between five hundred and seven hundred different games during my lifetime. That is most likely a slight underestimate, but it gets the point across.

These days, my options for gaming have been more than a bit restricted. I had a regular group which got together whilst I was a graduate student, but they are now a couple of hours away, and gas prices prevent me from getting up there too often. That leaves me with my video game systems for the most part, which is more than enough to fill my time. Apart from the lack of interaction with other people, that is. I am working with a former student to assemble a gaming group here; hopefully, that will coalesce into something soon.

In a perfect world, I would be able to pick up every hot title which rolls out to market. Student loans, however, demand payment, so that is not likely to happen. I consider myself blessed when I can free up a ten-spot for an Xbox Live or Wii Shop download. My posts here will be primarily about my choices in game-related entertainment. I would write more, but I want to get some gaming in before bed. Take care.