Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas 10075

I apologize for the title -- I have no idea what came over me.

I found copies of Mirror's Edge and the new handheld Castlevania title under the tree yesterday morning. I have spent more time with the latter thus far for a variety of reasons:

  1. The first-person perspective of Mirror's Edge would trigger Sandi's motion sickness within seconds;
  2. Our television was largely occupied with the copy of Boom Blox I purchased for Sandi;
  3. The Sci-Fi Channel has been showing marathons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Highlander for the past two days.

I have had to adjust to controlling Faith, as opposed to her puffy-panted inspiration. The ability to jump forward from a wall-run eluded me for the first hour or so, leading to many meetings with the pavement. I mistakenly assumed that a jump from the maneuver would propel me perpendicular to the wall, rather than wherever I happened to be facing. I suppose you live and learn -- and reload.

In the midst of surfing across my usual gaming sites today, I came across this little tidbit. While the game itself will be going away in a couple of months, someone looking for a roleplaying game set outside the realms of fantasy might find it worthwhile. I cannot say for certain, since I have not played the game myself, but Tabula Rasa seemed worth two months at some point. As is usually the case with me and PC gaming, my machine is about one generation of hardware beneath the minimum requirements, so the odds of my sampling the experience are quite low.

Game well this weekend, and may you find the time to enjoy everything that was in your stocking.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Awash in Metalloid Chivalry

Prior to a trip out of town last weekend, I put several more hours into Too Human -- an experience both exhilarating and exasperating. As a microcosm of the game's polarity, I went from cackling with glee as I bounced half a dozen robotic foes into the air to pulling my hair over a camera intent on showing me the enemy I ran past in order to eliminate his ranged support contingent. This shift in mood occurred within a single minute. I still consider the title's bright spots to outshine its shortcomings, but the spread in reviews of the game is more than understandable.

I finally took the time to begin another playthrough of Eternal Darkness while in North Carolina, and I am reminded why I put so much faith in the good folks at Silicon Knights. The sheer depth of the worlds these people construct boggles my mind. However, I ran into a bit of a snag while playing about the only horror game which has ever appealed to me. As I began one of my sessions, the opening screen and its timeless Poe quote was obscured by a disc read error. How long does one wait for a game known for messing with the player prior to punching the reset button?

In closing, I feel compelled to include this:

I wish I could explain why this song enthralls me so. Perhaps the fact that it took me weeks to actually hear the whole thing is responsible, or maybe the style reminds me of Michelle Tumes, for whom I always had a soft spot. Even with more remixes of this song floating through the ether than Square Enix re-releases, I keep finding myself returning.

Game well over the coming holiday, and may you always know when the game has started to play you.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Wacky Coincidence

Early last week, my dog yanked at his leash and jammed my left thumb into our porch rail. Fortunately, nothing was broken, but the bruising made manipulating a controller somewhat . . . uncomfortable. Working a mouse and keyboard was still painless, though, so my laptop got quite a bit of attention. Since I was not in the mood to root around my disc collection, I decided to take Guild Wars Factions for another spin. I had managed to miss playing the Ranger character class when I played the game before, so I have had a somewhat fresh experience. I like the different spin on traditional fantasy the title presents, and the lack of grind and monthly fees is also appealing.

In the process of playing the introductory portion of the campaign (which, incidentally, has gotten me more than halfway to the level cap), I have received several invitations to join guilds. The longstanding tendencies of my gaming life have driven my responses thus far, combined with a sense of doubt inspired by most of the guild names. I have no idea if I will ever take the plunge on that front, but something tells me I need to do it at some point.

Game well in the coming week, and may each pull bring you epic loot.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Return to Yore -- of Sorts

I had to attend a commencement ceremony this morning, so I took my Game Boy Advance (the DS batteries were dead) to bide my time awaiting the procession. I dug out my Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls cartridge for the occasion, based on the logic that I could slap around some random encounters and save when it was time to roll. I have spent most of the rest of the day with the gussied-up version of the title that launched a thousand airships. In the process, I noticed a glaring example of a fact which 'serious' gamers have been lamenting for years: stuff ain't as hard as it used to be.

I plowed through the first half of the Earth Cavern today (I think the statute of limitations on spoilers here expired while I was working on my master's degree), and the dungeon is decidedly less deadly than I recall. Rather than facing flocks of petrifying cockatrices and squads of insta-kill sorcerors (my increased maturity now recognizes those abominations as poorly-masked mind flayers), I fought a small army of divers and sundry snakes, with a few of the sorcerors' weaker antecedents sprinkled into the mix. I also noted that my NES 'default party' of fighter, thief, monk, and red mage were at about level twenty-four; if I recall correctly, the old Nintendo Power strategy guide for the game recommended characters at level twenty-six to tackle the final boss. These levels occurred without a massive amount of grinding on my part, aside from garnering the money for equipment upgrades. A part of me recoiled at the game's re-re-release when I learned the the D&D-inspired spell system had been replaced with a modern mana pool, and this does alter the experience.

Do these changes 'taint' what my memory considers the elegance of an old favorite? My heart says no, as I still had fun smacking monsters about the face-analogues and neck-analogues. Perhaps I should rephrase the question: is the maintenance of essentially ancient mechanics necessary to enjoy a classic game? Would I forgive a modern title which clings steadfastly to those same ideals of 'challenge?'

Oh, wait -- I already did.

Game well in the days to come, and may you figure out why all the high-level attack spells seemed so much more important back in the day.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Is Anyone Out There?

On the whole, my experience with video games has usually been an island -- John Donne be darned. As a teenager, I lived too far from most of my friends to regularly engage in gaming sessions; this might explain my bent toward primarily single-player game genres such as role-playing and platforming. By the time I arrived in the waters of college, I had lost interest in most sports titles and nearly any game with a multiplayer component whose name began with something other than Street Fighter.

The advent of the Internet had the potential to shatter my perceptions of my pastime, but that has yet to occur. I dabbled with some online games based on anime series, but my budgetary constraints kept me from ever getting hooked on EverCrack or World of WarMeth. I did buy Guild Wars Factions a couple of years ago, and I enjoyed the game. However, I again ended up spending most of my time in instances alone. The game still resides on my hard drive, sitting next to its sarcastic cousin Dungeon Runners and hoping it sees daylight once more. More than anything else, part of me still lives in my NES mindset.

All that text is a foreword for this; Microsoft is making an attempt at changing my worldview. While I appreciate the effort, the list of games available does not activate my salivary glands. I do not have the cash for Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix at present, despite its wacky trailer videos. Apart from UNO and the free Aegis Wing, I would have to pay for the games to partake of the experience. Had Carcassonne or Undertow (titles, I might add, which were made available to Xbox Live Silver users for free in the past) been part of the deal, they might have seriously piqued my interest. Unless I have missed several free downloads, they are charging players to play games online for free. I guess it is a slick marketing move . . .

Game well this week, and may you always pull a Draw Four when you need it.