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.” →  I’m readin’ here!

Review – Tyranny

Not long ago – it feels like yesterday – I put Tyranny on my New Year’s resolution list.  It’s still 2022, right?  I’m happy to report that I completed Tyranny.  I’m not sure I’m happy that I chose it for my list.  It looks unique, and starts out feeling different from other CRPGs, but by the end it feels like a reskin of other games.

Tyranny starts out on a high note – the animated style of the narration and Conquest portion of character creation mesh to give a very different feel from the typical beginning of a CRPG.  The backstory (fleshed out in Conquest), in which you are effectively middle management for the conquering despot Kyros, also feels fresh.  Not enough games have you start as middle management, assigned to a failing project and expected to turn it around.  →  Genghis Khan II: Clan of the Gray Post

Gacha by the Nostalgia – Fanservice, or Predation?

I’ve played Gacha games – only four or five total – off and on for years.  I’ve rarely spent money on them, but I know they are – by design – predatory.  I find them relaxing and they offer just the right level of engagement for 10-30 minutes a day – sometimes more, sometimes less.

On some level, I know it’s a bad idea to play them.  Having played for years, I know the feeling of spending all your “free currency” on summons and getting nothing of value (where value can mean either a useful unit or a favorite unit).  It was tempting to spend real money – maybe $5 or $10 – to “support the game” and try for one last chance to get something good,but I managed to resist the temptation.  →  I only ask one thing. Don’t read in my way.

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. →  How many games must a gamer play before you call him a gamer?

Switch Mario Party Games Compared by a Dad Who Would Rather Play Something Else

I’ve played Mario Party games off and on in the past. Sometimes I even enjoyed them. When you’re with a group of friends or family, and the down-time between turns and minigames doesn’t matter as much, they’re a great background game.

As a parent to a child who loves playing them, I have officially played enough Mario Party. The good news, for you, is that I have played enough Mario Party on the Switch to go in-depth on which one you should play, when you would really rather be playing anything else.

Super Mario Party

Although it’s a few years old now, there are several points in Super Mario Party’s favor. It has a large variety of gameplay modes – including 2v2 and 4-player co-operative modes, in case your gameplay companion is really insistent about winning. →  Start your journey now, my Lord.

Affordable GOG Game Recommendations Part 2

More GOG recommendations, continued from Part 1 here.

More Strategy games

Knights & Merchants: The Peasants’ Rebellion – If you’re into sims, this sure is a sim. When I had the time to play the original release (which had no fast-forward) I reviewed it. I find myself mostly agreeing with my earlier self; it’s an interesting game if you’re into the idea of building a supply chain from scratch, sort of like a peaceful, less dangerous cousin of Dwarf Fortress. I’d probably recommend the more recent Banished over this one, if only for the clunky combat K&M requires you to engage in – but if you want to build a medieval ant farm and then leverage it to crush your enemies, this might be your game.

Seven Kingdoms 2 – This is a deep, relatively slow-paced RTS that was largely ignored at release. →  Just read it.

Affordable GOG Game Recommendations Part 1

Since videolamer has begun the process of following in Buzzfeed’s esteemed footsteps, it’s only natural that we reach for the low-hanging fruit of picking out games we played and telling you to play them. GOG (www.gog.com), briefly branded as Good Old Games, is stacked with tons of games created by incredibly talented developers years ago, most of whom will never see any of the money you spend because the rights have been sold and resold dozens of times over. But at least if you spend money on these 20-year-old games, it will assuage the slight twinge of guilt you might have felt if you pirated them.

Many of these games are more than 20 years old. Some run in DOS/DOSBox, but many have fan patches available. Check the corresponding GOG forum first – there is typically a stickied topic for mods/patches. →  The Read Star

Last Minute Nintendo 3DS and Wii U Virtual Console Game Recommendations

With eShop purchasing for the Wii U and 3DS set to end next year, and the majority of releases for the Wii U coming out in the 2012-2016 timeframe, it seems appropriate to bring up the immense loss of availability that we’ll see once the eShop is closed.

Digital-only releases are already only available to those brave few that bought a Wii U. There are fewer systems and games available on the Wii U VC than the original Wii VC (RIP), so even what is still available until next year is a stripped-down version of what once was. But many of the games available on Wii U VC are still unavailable to owners of the Switch via the Switch Online apps – so once the shop closes for new purchases, the selection will be further stripped down. Given →  These are the games I know, I know. These are the games I know.

Some Favorite, Disappointing, and Interesting Games from 2017-2021 Part 3

Jay

Night in the Woods: This is part of a trilogy (in my mind only) of left-wing games that also includes Disco Elysium and Kentucky Route Zero (Cart Life and some others would also qualify). It may be a little twee at times but the darker themes give it an actual edge that separates it from normal precious, hipster writing. Writer Scott Benson has criticized other games for using political stuff as background scenery for games without actually saying anything meaningful in the specifics of the game. On the other side of that coin, how many times have EA or Ubisoft developers created something that is plainly political in some way and then in interviews explicitly stated the opposite? Even the Fallout creators took this publisher approved position while doing the PR rounds for Outer Worlds. →  One must imagine video games happy.

Some Favorite, Disappointing, and Interesting Games from 2017-2021 Part 2

Chris

Pathfinder: Kingmaker: In many ways Pathfinder: Kingmaker is like an ultimate successor to Baldur’s Gate – it adapts a well-known, popular tabletop system, has a wide-ranging campaign, lots of side areas to explore, companions to recruit, and the now-typical CRPG base building is present (thematically a main focus, in this game, although your interactions with your kingdom may feel pretty stilted).

At release it was notoriously buggy.  When I played a few months ago, it still ran slow, but I encountered only a few crashes.  I like Pathfinder: Kingmaker a lot, but the vast variety of classes, feats and spells available, to say nothing of all the magical artifacts, is positively intimidating.  And that’s as someone who ran through this module in an actual tabletop setting, so I already knew the mechanics and part of the plot.   →  Videolamer does what IGNotDoes.

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. →  50 Cent: Readproof

Some Favorite, Disappointing, and Interesting Games from 2012-2016 part 3

In this final part (part 1 here, part 2 here) of this series looking back at the years videolamer spent wrongfully imprisoned over a trumped up jaywalking charge, I look back at the many games that left an impression on me. Just not enough of an impression to have more than a few paragraphs to say about them.

Virtue’s Last Reward

Virtue’s Last Reward disappointed me on multiple fronts. The tone of the game is different from its predecessor 999’s because, according to an interview, the overt horror theme hampered sales in Japan. And so VLR tones it down. This is a big blow to the game; 999’s plot is stupid bullshit, yet it managed to be compelling because of the palpable tension. People could and did die in the game, including your character on most paths, and that made the game thrilling despite the paranormal pseudoscientific plotline and anime tropes. →  Final Post VII

Rare Loot: The Games We Treasure – Pat Edition

Welcome back to Rare Loot where I quiz the ancient beings that rule over videolamer land about the treasured gaming stuff they’d sell their own children and or body parts for. The inaugural Rare Loot was with videolamer’s own Captain Picard, so it made sense to pick on a bearded womaniser next. Say hello to Pat who has beamed in from a planet made purely of pocket lint to tell us about one of his treasures.

Cunzy: Before we start proper, how would you identify your collecting habits? We know from Jay’s rare loot you co-own the Library(tm) but does this extend into trading cards, full body pillows, and giant Pokemon plushies?

Pat: The vast majority of my collecting energy and money are dedicated to games themselves. I am passionate about a few series and developers and might pick up a Special Launch Edition of a game with all the crap that comes along with it. →  Imagine all the gamers playing for today

Exclusive Details on Rumored, Still Unannounced PlayStation Plus Tiers

Sony’s recently announced changes to their Playstation Plus platform was met with mixed reaction by industry analysts and gamers. The service will be available in three tiers: Essential, Extra, and Premium.

Luckily for those of us unenthused by these announced tiers, the rumor mill is abuzz with likely extra tiers Sony will be making public some time this week. It is unclear if these additional tiers were always in the cards or quickly developed to save face after a mediocre showing last week.

Rumors for additional tiers are flying quick and loose but we stake our reputation as a news outlet that at least all of the following tiers of PlayStation Plus will, in fact, be rolled out this year.

PlayStation Plus PM – This tier replaces the Essential tier’s two monthly games with a single, rotating free title from storied developer Polygon Magic. →  Read, you fools!

Final Fantasy VIII is a Weird Game

There are countless examples of games that were trashed at release, only to have their reputations rehabilitated years later upon being (re)discovered by retro game enthusiasts. Usually this is because the game in question was misunderstood or otherwise ahead of its time, both revelations which are only revealed with the hindsight and context provided by the future.

On the flip side, there are games that were beloved at release, only to be trashed years later as retro gamers discover that it didn’t age well, or that launch-day opinions were misinformed, or whatever the case may be.

But there’s a third option as well, one in which the initial impression of Game X was accurate, and remains accurate once it hits retro status. In my (admittedly limited) experience, this is the rarest take of all. →  Reading. Reading never changes.

Games As Work

One thing that’s not so much changed in the last ten years but has certainly been amplified is the popularity of games that, for lack of a better phrase, “feel like work.” Games that focus on things like:

  • Getting loot
  • Playing through the same content to get said loot
  • Being at the mercy of some random number generator
  • Aren’t really about skill, strategy, creative thinking, teamwork, etc. and but rather repetition and memorization
  • Require the player to spend lots of time (on the order of hours or days) doing these repetitive tasks in order to get a reward of questionable utility (due to the RNG)

There used to be a time where this kind of style was almost exclusively the realm of Blizzard games like World of Warcraft. But with the rise of Live Service games, this approach to design is everywhere. →  All this can be yours, if the read is right.

Review – SaGa Frontier Remastered

The SaGa series has been on a remaster/remake/rerelease kick lately – in part because the series seems to have strong advocacy within Square Enix because of a successful mobile game (Romancing SaGa Re;Universe, which pains me to type) which helps cross-promotion, and likely in part because it makes money. While the cynic in me would say these are probably low-effort cash grabs, so far these games have been more accessible and better than the originals. So this is at least a medium-effort cash grab. Not bad!

Just like the good old days.

I’ve mostly been a “SaGa-adjacent” RPG player, primarily because many of these games didn’t make it over.  The ones I did play either didn’t have the SaGa label (Final Fantasy Legend), or were among the few that made it over during the golden age of RPGs – which is, of course, when I was mature enough to enjoy them and had the time to play them.  →  Onimusha 2: Samuread's Destiny

Rare Loot: The Games We Treasure – Jay Edition

Despite much of modern gaming firmly being digitally entrenched, there’s a large chunk of gaming still very much locked in the physical world. From companies specialising in limited physical runs of digital-only games to statuettes and steelbooks, from luxury vinyl soundtracks to custom arcade sticks it looks like physical gaming stuff (A.K.A. pile of plastic tat) will be with us for years to come. In this column I interview gamers about a much loved, maligned, or sought after item from their collection. Welcome to Rare Loot!

This week’s looter(?) is videolamer’s own Jay. He asked me to write for the website a while ago. He likes video games. He’s sort of the Leonardo to the mutated reptile videolamer crew except he doesn’t lead, or have swords. He can be found dreaming of deeply obscure 90s Japan-only releases whilst secretly playing Souls games again like a proper Chad with painfully mainstream gaming tastes. →  Europa Universalis IV: Articles of War

2022 Gaming Resolutions part B

Continued from part 1 of our 2022 gaming resolutions, which are completely a real thing.

Cunzy

I took a long hard look at my Backloggery progress from last year and was once again upset (-34, 14 games beaten) despite firmly deluding myself into believing that I stick to ye olde rule of “I only get a new game once I ‘beat’ a game I already own.” ‘Beat’ here, meaning hitting the credits for the first time. This year, and perhaps a pseudo-public declaration might help me stick to these resolutions, I want to, have to, must to beat these three games.

Ghost of Tsushima: A beautiful game and one I was trying to play in the spirit of an old samurai movie. Taking the time to pose against sunsets, stare wistfully over sea sprayed cliffs, and gently mosey along roads on my horse. →  Read or die.

From did not consider what I want from a game when creating Elden Ring

There is something to be said that the best part by far in my over 30 hours of Elden Ring has been rummaging through a large castle. Why the area is significantly more fun is plainly apparent – level design. Reminiscent of the amazing Boletarian Palace from Demon’s Souls, this demigod’s castle is quasi-linear. Complex webs of horizontal and vertical paths cross, interlock, and overlap in one of From’s most satisfying stages. This area also highlights what I think is wrong with Elden Ring (or maybe all open world games).

The nature of an open world is to be large and expansive. Core strengths of the Souls games are level design and atmosphere. This style of game is at odds with From’s compelling design tenets. Wandering around to find points of interest (the damning-with-faint-praise term people use to discuss open world games) like the giant archer from Dark Souls, the fire breathing dragon from all Souls games, the mining guys from Demon’s Souls, the poison swamp from all Souls, the rot swamp that’s entirely distinct from the poison swamp, the giants pulling some treasure, the resurrecting skeletons from Dark Souls, five giants hanging out on a plateau, another dragon, etc. →  Rayman Reading Rabbids