Not Finishing: Forza, Hitman, and TMNT

I’m still taking advantage of Game Pass here and there, playing bits and bobs of various titles when the mood strikes.

No, seriously, I’ve started and stopped a whole bunch of different games. And it feels …. great?

It’s been happening a lot to me over the last year or so. I’ve gotten so much better at putting down a game once I’m no longer enjoying it, or when I feel like I’ve seen enough.

It’s not necessarily something I do consciously. Sometimes I stop playing a game for a week or so, and rather than add it to the mental checklist of “games you need to go back to and finish,” I eventually realize that I’m just done with it, and proceed to uninstall. This is very much a good thing – that mental checklist used to cause me more stress than I care to admit, and that’s just not something I need anymore. →  The Last Readment

Retro Games, Presentation, and Gatekeeping

For those of you who are white collar workers, imagine the following scenario. It’s happened to me more than once in real life, and perhaps it’s happened to you too …

A new bit of jargon recently crept into your industry. For now, let’s just make up a word, like … “scropely.” 

Everyone starts to use it, slowly at first, but it quickly builds momentum. At first you think you understand what scropely means, but then a few people use it in a new and seemingly contradictory way. Now you’re back to square one.

At some point you’re in a large meeting. The new jargon is being tossed around freely – everyone is talking about how something is or isn’t scropely. At some point it’s your turn to talk, and you bravely (or foolishly) state:

“I’m not sure about you folks, but I honestly don’t know what it means for something to be scropely.” →  Xenoblade Articles X

Nier Automata is No Nier Gestalt

Folks, I tried to play Nier: Automata. I really did. But I don’t think I have it in me to finish it.

As someone who counts the original Nier as one of my favorite gaming experiences of all time, I’m as disappointed as anyone that the sequel to that experience fell short, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Here now are some of the problems I had with the game:

The Intro is BS

The introduction to the game can take up to 40 minutes to get through. At no point during those 40 minutes are you allowed to save the game. If you die, you start all over again.

The saving grace is that you can adjust the difficulty at any time, so there’s nothing stopping you from dropping to easy mode just to breeze through it all (easy mode lets you “auto battle,” where the game will automatically dodge and pick the best attacks for you). →  NiGHTS into REaDS

Awful Boss Fights

What do Wolfenstein: Young Blood and Halo: Infinite have in common? If you guessed that they’re both mediocre games, you’d be right, but that’s not what I was thinking of.

No, what I was thinking of is that they both have similarly terrible final boss fights.

The basic rules of each fight are as follows:

  • They both take place in a vaguely circular arena. You’re exposed if you go into the center, but you can find some protective walls if you move toward the outer edges
  • The boss flies and/or teleports around hurling projectiles at you, some of which can be difficult to dodge when you’re also trying to shoot back
  • Multiple waves of enemy mooks spawn in to try and distract you
  • The boss has multiple phases

It is uncanny how similar (and similarly terrible) these fights are. →  Final Post VII

Gamifying Exercise – An Exercise in Patience

Like a lot of middle class white collar workers, I should exercise far more than I do. It’s a  challenge that my spouse and I have been trying – and failing – to conquer for years now.

I’m not going to go into detail about why it’s challenging. Anyone with a modicum of empathy, with a modicum of experience with the stressors of modern life, and who isn’t an Instagram fitness influencer will understand that finding consistent time, motivation, etc. with which to regularly exercise is easier said than done for a whole lot of people (and if you have established a successful routine, it was probably really challenging to do so, regardless of what Survivorship Bias might tell you).

(For better or for worse, I’m also not one of those white collar workers who is obsessed with endurance sports because it’s the only way they can feel alive in their otherwise soul sucking existence. →  Read Danger!

What to Do with my Apple II

I have an old Apple II. I got it years ago at an antique store, for much less than the seller could have asked. The only problem is that it was just the Apple II, without any disk drives, and no software. That means I could do absolutely nothing with it.

Eventually, some family members got me a (single) disk drive and a copy of Apple DOS for Christmas. I eagerly plugged it all up, only to have it go up in smoke. Turns out that when the power supply gets old enough, it can’t really handle the extra power draw from the floppy drive(s). I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sight of blue smoke (or the smell of it) coming from inside the box.

So now I have a broken Apple II. →  Xenosaga 2: Jenseits von Gut und Pöst

My XCloud XPerience

As part of my recent foray in Game Pass Ultimate, I was able to test out Microsoft’s XCloud streaming tech.

To be honest, I didn’t even know it was available on PC. I don’t think MS did a great job with messaging about XCloud. Based on my (admittedly limited) perspective, I think it was originally only available on a handful of mobile devices, and then went into limited beta testing for PCs. I’m honestly not sure when it became generally available, but whatever. It’s here now, so let’s check it out.

But First, Stadia

I have some previous experience with Google’s streaming service, Stadia. I played Assassin’s Creed Odyssey as part of their initial beta test, and I also played Destiny 2 for a few nights back when they had a free trial period in the height of COVID. →  Romance of the Three Articles IV: Post of Fire

Thoughts on GamePass Games like Wolfenstein: Youngblood and More

Microsoft must really want people to buy Game Pass subscriptions. Not only do they keep putting it on sale (sign up for 30 days for only $1, even if you already previously subbed!), but they keep allowing for all sorts of hacks that allow you to extend a Game Pass sub for less than face value.

In fact, they’re not just allowing it, but enabling it. If you buy three months of Xbox Live Gold, you can convert it into 50 days of Game Pass Ultimate. So when I found a place selling 3-month codes for Gold for only five bucks, I managed to land myself a little more than half a year’s worth of Game Pass Ultimate for less than the cost of a single month.

Sounds like a dream come true, except it’s not. →  Read more? No, I’ll read it all.

Resident Evil 3 Remake Review

The 2020 remake of Resident Evil 3 is one of the most disappointing games I’ve encountered in years. It is the very definition of a cash grab, and now that it’s out, it’s doubtful we’ll ever get a version of this game that reaches its full potential.

But before we get into the game proper, we should start with a little history lesson.

A History of Stalkers

The original Resident Evil 2 not only featured two playable characters, but also two different story scenarios. In one of the scenarios, the player character is stalked by a Tyrant popularly known as “Mr. X.” He’ll show up to attack you in certain rooms, and is both stronger and faster than regular zombies. However, just like any other enemy, he can’t follow you through doors. →  Densha de Read! Shinkansen

The Last of Us Rereleases and Remasters

I’ve seen some … complaints about the fact that Sony is planning yet another re-release of The Last of Us.

To be clear, I get it. On the surface, it does seem nuts that a single game would get three different releases, across three different consoles, in less than a decade. And these are distinct products – with their own unique changes, features, and additions – rather than straight ports of the original code to new hardware.

At a certain level, it feels bad. Maybe you consider it a cynical cash grab for Sony to do this. Maybe you think it points to a general lack of creativity and new ideas. Maybe it seems bizarre because the original, PS4-based remaster works on PS5.

However you feel, I get it. But – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – I also get where Sony is coming from, at least in regards to this new, upcoming release. →  Ring of Read

Aesthetic Gachaism

Here’s a pretty cool post from indie game developer Keith Burgun. It’s about a concept he labels as “aesthetic gacha-ism”, which he describes as follows:

The core of my conception of aesthetic gacha-ism is the commodification of games: both in how they are produced, the rules, the experience, the way it’s talked about. At nearly every level, the experience of games gets put more and more onto an assembly line, alienated from human experience, connection and meaning.

He then goes on to list some of the core tenets of Aesthetic Gacha-ism:

  • Extrinsic-reward driven (AKA “the metagame is more important than the base game design”)
  • Elements feel copy-pasted a lot, and/or “subdivided” to increase length
  • Compulsion-driven design
  • The (dreaded) crafting system
  • Commodified quests
  • More and more things “level up” in some way

(The author elaborates on all of these bullet points within the actual piece, so I encourage you to read through it.) →  Theme Postital

Review of Samus Returns for the 3DS

Samus Returns is a game that wants to be something, but can’t. After all, it is a remake of an existing game, Metroid 2: Return of Samus. On top of that, not only is the original game a beloved classic, but it’s also very old, and runs on a piece of hardware that was outdated even when it was brand new.

All of these factors work to dictate what a game like Samus Returns can and cannot do. By the rules of Modern Videogame Design, the following elements of 1991’s Return of Samus are unacceptable:

  • Its stark, mostly-black backgrounds.
  • It’s creepy chiptune music, despite the fact that it helps to create a certain mood that is absolutely perfect for the game’s setting.
  • The fact that the planet is mysteriously drained of deadly acid as you kill Metroids.
 →  The only thing we have to read is read itself.

Out Run, I Mean Outrun Culture

A few months ago I found myself buying (and playing) the Sega Ages version of Out Run on Switch. It’s a great port with some interesting new features, and it made me appreciate the game all over again. Eventually I found myself doing some historical research on the game to learn more about its development and legacy.

Unfortunately, this was easier said than done. My search results were dominated not by Out Run, but by …. Outrun.

As far as I can tell, “Outrun” is the name of both a subgenre of synth music, and a surrounding subculture. According to the Outrun subreddit’s description, Outrun is:

Dedicated to the synthwave music scene, a revisionist 80s music style of synthesizers and pulsing beats, and the retrofuturist 80s aesthetic of fast cars, neon lights and chrome. →  Onimusha 2: Samuread's Destiny

Review – Ys IX: Monstrum Nox

So I just beat Ys IX. It was… better than I was expecting, but not as good as it could be. It takes nearly every feature and system from Ys VIII – features and systems, mind you, that were new and specifically built to work in that game’s very particular setting – and brings them whole hog into this new game, with a very different setting. Suffice to say that it doesn’t really work.

For example, in Ys VIII it made sense to earn rewards for mapping out the island, since it was literally uncharted. But it seems insane to be rewarded for mapping out a centuries old city (under the guise of “finding the places that tourists would be most interested in”).

Similarly, it made sense to have a crafting system on an island with no shops, and a bartering system that allows you to refine low grade crafting materials by essentially trading for them. →  Rayman Reading Rabbids

Deep Thoughts on the Hotline Miami Series

I played both Hotline Miami games sometime within the last year and a half (my memory’s a bit fuzzy on the specific date, and honestly, it doesn’t matter).

Before I begin, I want to make one thing clear. These games are even more violent and depraved than I ever imagined, even after reading lots of reviews and seeing lots of screenshots. Much like with the show Squid Game, there’s a general sense among Extremely Online People that you simply must partake in these experiences that go out of their way to traumatize their audience.

I think that’s a load of crap. If you look at a game like this and think “that’s not for me,” I think it is absolutely valid, understandable, acceptable, and in no way worthy of judgment. Indeed, I wouldn’t be mad if you, dear reader, feel that reading this post isn’t your cup of tea. →  PaReader the Reader

Some Favorite, Disappointing, and Interesting Games from 2017-2021

Resident Evil VII

There is so much to love about this game. I love that it is an unashamed homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and to a lesser extent The Blair Witch Project and other “found footage” films. I love the RE Engine, which looks gorgeous while running well on all modernish hardware.

I love how it feels both new and old at once. The first person perspective and overall tone are different, yet it repurposes classic Resident Evil gimmicks (ie. the villain who stalks you throughout the game), and it is still plenty goofy when it needs to be.

RE VII was a sharp way to revive the series, pushing it in a slightly different direction that doesn’t abandon the series’ roots.

Fallout 76

This is probably my favorite game from 2017-2021. →  Today I consider myself the luckiest reader on the face of the earth.

Timely Thoughts on Mega Man 8

This is one of two mainline Mega Man games that got away from me (the other being MM10). This is the first time I’ve ever played Mega Man 8 in any capacity. And I’m here to tell you that it’s not all that good.

This game is very much a product of its time. The 32-bit console era was a period of great transition, as the industry not-so-gradually pushed into 3d gaming. When it came to old, existing franchises from the 2d era, this led to a bit of a crisis. As in animation, gaming had to deal with the fact that a lot of its audience quickly came to the conclusion that 3d graphics were better than 2d as a matter of course.

You could make a gorgeous 2d game on the Playstation (or Saturn) hardware with huge levels and interesting mechanics, and there would be a significant contingent of players who would simply refuse to play it. →  Apply directly to the forehead.

Final Thoughts on Final Fantasy VIII

In Part 3 of this 3 Part series about Final Fantasy VIII (that I never intended to be a 3 Part series about Final Fantasy VIII – Part 1 here and Part 2 here), I want to go into a bit more detail about my personal history with this game. I fully admit that this is more for me than anyone else, a sort of final bit of therapy to help me put it in the past and move on.

Final Fantasy VIII is a game I first played at launch back in 1999. I didn’t get very far.

I tried playing it again a few years later. This time I was serious about beating it. But I didn’t.

I tried again a few years after that. And again a few years after that. →  Game is dead. Game remains dead. And we have killed it.

Gran Turismo 7 is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

I don’t play Gran Turismo, but if you spend even a little time reading video game news, you’ve probably seen something about the game’s many post-launch issues. Things like the in-game economy making it difficult to purchase vehicles without ponying up real world cash, the online requirement even for single player, and the fact that in-game car prices are partially linked to and based on real world prices, at a time where all car prices are insane (meaning prices for cars that are old, rare, and fast are even worse).

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about these developments. The game is clearly trying to position itself as a Live Service (even if Sony doesn’t want to admit it), and they clearly want even the Single Player audience to pony up for some good old “Recurrent User Spending.” →  One must imagine video games happy.

Many More Thoughts on Final Fantasy VIII

I felt compelled to write a little bit more about Final Fantasy VIII. This is a collection of additional observations about its design, and some remarks on things I did like about it. I don’t have much of an overarching point for this piece, other than to perhaps reinforce my previous points.

How to get Magic

Let’s talk a little more about how to obtain stocks of your magic spells. As previously stated, there are four main ways to do it:

  • Drawing from enemies
  • Refining crappy magic into better magic
  • Modding Triple Triad cards (or items) into spells
  • Using Draw Points

Drawing from enemies is the most obvious way, but it’s a pain. The number of spells you’ll draw on any given turn is partly random, and partly based on how high your Magic stat is. →  Rayman Reading Rabbids