November 28, 2013

That's A Wrap: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

warning: may contain spoilers 

So here's an excellent PS2 classic RPG, guaranteed to burn 100 hours of your life away: Dragon Quest VIII! I remember playing this thoroughly when it first came out in 2005 and loving every minute of it, so it was high time I revisited it. And it's as good now as it was then! A title more than worthy of its name, DQ8 is a wonderful fantasy RPG. It had some pretty ground-breaking qualities for its time, with its great big overworld (unlike so many others, it actually takes forever to get from point A to B), cool "day and night" effect and character interaction that wasn't very common back in the day. It was also the first Dragon Quest (or Dragon Warrior, if you prefer) to be released for the PS2 which meant it was another long-running title for fans to experience on new hardware.

And that meant shiny new graphics! Well, sort of. DQ8 is by no means the epitome of the PS2's capabilities but it's a very bright and colorful game that still looks stunning on my 50" Sony. The graphics have held up very well over the years and with the exception of miscellaneous characters, it loads quickly and painlessly. I think the thing that stands out most in DQ8 is the backgrounds; beautifully designed and detailed, varied... lovely. Well that, and that every character has my brother's haircut from 1996. Characters will look very familiar to fans of Toriyama anime and manga of the time.

The soundtrack for DQ8 is not exactly breath taking, but it does grow on you over time. It suits the game just fine, but it's just not as memorable as other soundtracks. The battle theme doesn't exactly inspire a fighting spirit so much as it makes you think you've signed up for some kind of timed cooking competition. I maintain the menu music is some of the happiest I've ever heard.

November 21, 2013

Backseat Gamer: Batman: Arkham Origins

I consider video games to be a very legitimate form of entertainment, and just like books, movies or music, some people are especially fond of them, and some just don't take. Video games are no different, and while I am absolutely a lover and player of them, some games just aren't for me. Fortunately, I've a few friends who feel differently towards these games. 'Backseat Gamer' will showcase the games that I was interested enough to watch, but just not cut out to play.
Case in point: Batman: Arkham Origins.

Let me start by explaining why I chose not play Arkham Origins, apart from having no time. I began this journey with my pal Brett (candidate for biggest Batman fanatic ever) who got the game the day it was released and brought it to a gathering for everyone to check out. We concluded that the game was reasonably similar to the previous 'Arkham' series Batman games. I should probably mention that I did play Arkham Asylum a few years back, and found it pretty difficult to stick to, but a decent game overall. Brett was with me for most of that playthrough as well and he really held my hand through it, and took over some of the bits that I was too fed up to continue through. This is what mainly fueled my declination of Arkham Origins. I find the controls are a bit too cumbersome, the mechanics a bit too dense, and I sometimes struggle to figure out what to do, as there is so much you can do. I'm sure, as with most games, you get used to it after a while, but with all the other games I have on my plate right now, AO just failed to present enough interest for me to insist on playing it myself. I'm glad I watched Brett play though! The game has a few neat features but the story only answers a handful of questions. I certainly found it enthralling enough to stick around for the day-and-a-half it took Brett to conquer it, but all in all, I'm not as enthused as some Batman fans.

November 14, 2013

Out of MP: Bioshock Infinite

I've chosen a very bad game to introduce this article type to you. Bioshock Infinite is not so terrible a game that I couldn't stand it, I just simply had no motivation to finish it. It just so happens I had some extra manpower laying around to take the reins after I gave up, so I still got to experience the game to the end, and I'm kind of glad I did. Out of MP blogs are meant to showcase terrible or misleading games I couldn't finish. Since I technically didn't complete the game myself, here it is. Bioshock Infinite.

warning: may contain spoilers

The very first Bioshock game remains to this day one of the very few First-Person Shooters I've ever felt compelled to play. I enjoyed it quite a little more than a bit and it has engraved, in my head, a mighty reputation for any title that begins with "Bioshock". Sadly, I am still waiting for a title that matches or exceeds the quality of that first game. But let's get to Infinite. Some pals of mine came by for what was supposed to be a game binge, before I got completely side-tracked by The Last of Us, and Bioshock Infinite was one of the titles we intended to check out as most of us hadn't yet. After my pal Simon made off with the copy of TLOU I had been playing, Bioshock was next on deck and once again, I got a bit carried away. I think I have both my expectations of the Bioshock series and the fact that I've been craving more action games lately to blame for that, but as I progressed into BI, I became more and more tired with it, and eventually didn't even care to play anymore. Since I was already a few hours in, my buddy took over, insisting we finish what we had started since we already put the time in.

November 07, 2013

That's A Wrap: The Last of Us

warning: may contain spoilers

I've detailed this story several times already but for completion's sake, I'll tell it again. In case it's not already clear, I seldom get around to playing games at or shortly after release. They often come out too quick, cost too much and my backlog is already so overwhelming that new releases usually just get added to the bottom of a very long list, and as such, I'm always late to the party. October of 2013 was a month in which I broke this "rule" of mine several times, beginning with The Last of Us.

Having seen the promos like I everyone else, I vowed to pick this game up some day, but with no haste. I had intended to have a small get together with friends and play some older games, as many of my game-playing friends don't often check out the older stuff. My friend Simon had flown in from overseas to visit so it seemed a perfect time to get everyone together. Simon is not someone who participates in gaming heavily, but every now and then something catches his eye and he feels obligated to annoy the hell out of us about it. In this instance, he brought a copy of TLoU and ordered us to "play the first 10 minutes, and get a feel for the game". All but one of us, apart from Simon, had not yet played the game, so I stepped up to bat and volunteered to give it a whirl...

...6 hours later I was in the middle of Pittsburgh hunting for ammo. If I had to sum up my first impression of TLoU in one phrase: blown the fuck away. I immediately fell in love, and as Simon took his with him when he left, I ran out the next day to fetch a copy of my own.
I guess it's worth noting that this doesn't happen to me very often, that I'm so engrossed in a game that I don't even notice the time, my phone going off, or the various people passing out on my floor at 5 or 6 in the morning. What's more is that in spite of having my own shiny new copy, I decided to put off the game until I'd finished my current endeavor. That didn't last long. The game nagged at me until I finally gave in and played it through to the end. And it's still nagging me! I still haven't stopped thinking about this game. It's been a very long time since I've been this impressed by a game, and an action game no less! I'm usually most drawn to RPGs, but here I am, raving about The Last of Us.