What game are you playing?

Got to the second… chapter(?) of The World Ends With You. After some initial frustration I had gotten a great handle on the initial combat system and was rather disappointed to see that it undergoes a big change in the second chapter.

It’s such a wild system - fundamentally it’s beyond what a normal human mind can do. Two different real-time encounters with different offensive combos and defensive strategies happening on the top and bottom screen simultaneously. People (mostly) can’t multitask. Even when I was “good” at it (setting myself to minimum level to amp up the challenge on Normal difficulty (because Hard was still locked)) I was mashing on one screen or the other. All I had done was figure out the optimal mashing strategy. But now I’m being asked to pay a lot more attention to the top screen and it seems beyond what I can do.

I cannot decide if making the combat more or less impossible for the human mind is good or bad design. On one hand it’s frustrating to not be a chameleon capable of stringing together sick combos on two screens. On the other the game is always frantic and high-energy in combat. So much so that I sought out lots of normal battles I didn’t need to fight. It was challenging enough to be fun. But now with this new nuance (I need to dodge attacks more frequently on the top screen) it feels like the thin line between “impossible and fun” and “just impossible” has been crossed. I’ll probably push through, but it really stinks to go from getting Star or A ratings after every battle to getting Cs and Ds.

Also ducked back in to Gravity Rush: Remastered after about 2.5 years of putting it down. The game has a lot more story stuff going on than I remembered, but mechanically I was able to pick it right back up. People talk about the flying in this game often - and it’s great - but I wish it got more hype for also being a wildly creative and bizarre piece of fiction. It’s got everything: Gods, ghosts, time-schenanigans, a big clown. Just got through an MC Escher-esque sequence that reminded me of Monument Valley. I do wish there was more platforming stuff like that in here because the longer combat sequences sometimes test my endurance.

5 Likes

Finished my XCOM 2 campaign today, which felt pretty fast! Judging by my Steam playtime, I think it took me about 25 hours — considerably less than my previous ones, which all took maybe 40-50 or so spread over 2-ish weeks of actual time. I’m not sure whether I was just taking less time on the tactical layer or if playing Ironman (something I will likely not do again) just cut out enough save-scumming that several hours evaporated from my playtime. Maybe that plus skipping cutscenes or something of the like.

There’s not much to be said about this game that hasn’t already been said around here, but I do have specific feelings about Ironman that are new. Mainly that it ended up not really fitting the way I like to play this game — which is to really shape narrative at every chance I get. However, I do think I enjoyed it more late-game when I was powerful enough to recover from mistakes — it became almost giddy then, when I accidentally popped a new pod with only two soldiers left and ended up wiping them out with some wild combinations. I think this was the first time I maxed out a Skirmisher also, and it was incredibly fun to just zip and zoom all over the map tearing things apart with Justice and Wrath. And my second Templar arrived with Bladestorm, so I got to have a bit of fun there too.

I also realized while playing that this was the first time I really played something on my PC since I moved — which is to say in almost a year. I think I’ve turned very much into a couch and console person, which was not what I ever expected to be.

6 Likes

A while back I realized I hadn’t finished a visual novel in a while so I started looking for one to get into.

Ran through a couple of options but ultimately I settled on the Danganronpa sequels I didn’t play. I’ve been deeply curious about them for as long as I can remember and I don’t really know too much about them, which is funny since the series is so ubiquitous, but I’d been hesitant to get into them since my lasting impression of Trigger Happy Havoc once I finished it has a bitter and mostly negative one.

Regardless, I still decided to get them but I had to force myself to get over several mental hurdles to start playing Goodbye Despair. This included getting all the achievements in Trigger Happy Havoc, which wasn’t especially fun but I’m glad I did it because it allowed me to reexamine a lot of things about that game.

Anyway, after knowing that I am now completely done with that first game I started playing the sequel and all I will allow myself to say about it at this point is that it’s a very interesting game with a lot of compelling characters and story hooks in it. I just got to Chapter 3 and the reason I’m writing about it right now is because playing through Danganronpa 2 has been causing me actual, physical despair.

Specifically, it’s been the moments leading up to the investigations for me. Knowing that things will eventually go wrong and that someone will die and then someone else will be executed after that has been real rough for me. I get so tensed up that it feels like my torso is in a vice that constantly tightens and loosens as more information about each case comes to light. The second trial has been especially tumultuous for me because literally the only two characters I’ve been attached to have had mountains of suspicion heaped upon them.

I felt like I was going to explode as I slowly shifted from being confident that none of my faves were responsible for any wrongdoing to having that notion completely upended multiple times over the course of a few hours. Every time I felt that tension within me ease up even a little bit it would just come back because of a different revelation with an even greater intensity.

It’s been a uniquely taxing experience that I definitely don’t remember feeling for any trial in the first game (minus the second case, coincidentally) or in any other video game or piece of media period. I’m going to continue to put myself through it… I just hope I can at least ease up a little bit or I’m gonna have to really space out when I settle in to play it for the sake of my own health.

2 Likes

Ended up finishing Dawn of Sorrow. I put on a podcast and spent an hour or so grinding for money for the item that doubles the soul drop rate, and it was smooth sailing from there. In the end, I feel good about it, even though the middle part of my playthrough frustrated me to no end.

And now, since I still can’t be bothered to finally play RDR2 even though I own it, I’ve restarted Mafia 3. I’d started playing it on release but the combo of bugs, poor performance and required open world grinding had put me off, despite enjoying the story, characters and atmosphere a whole hell of a lot.

I found a mod that purports to reduce the grind (can’t say for sure yet because I’m still in the prologue), another that removes the yellow visual filter and makes the colors pop nicely and the art direction shine, and I can now brute force the performance with my 3080. Looking forward to shooting some racists in the face.

Played an hour of Cris Tales yesterday. I don’t have thoughts on it yet, but I will say this: It took me far too long to connect “Cris Tales” as “Crystals.”

5 Likes

Katana Zero The Game-y Bit: Some neat ideas but I could do without the forced stealth sequences, particularly with such miserable checkpointing.
Katana Zero The Soundtrack: 13/10 No Notes

2 Likes

I did not and possibly would never have made this connection. Perpetually slapping my forehead.

In the game, they use the word “Crystals” all the time, and it literally wasn’t until an hour in that I was like… “Crystals… Cris Tales… Those kind of sound alike… Oh, that’s probably intentional.”

I’ve actually wound up playing some things new to me:

I’m working my way through Disco Elysium (via Stadia, of all things), and it’s utterly engrossing me at every turn. Somehow, for the most part, I have been unspoiled on virtually everything about the game except its basic premise, so I’m stumbling forward and feeling it out as I go and it’s just…wow, way more than I expected.

I’ve also been dabbling a bit in Death Stranding on my PC, and I’m somewhere in Chapter 2. It’s…a lot, and in spite of a lot of its alot-ness I’m enjoying myself. I find I have to be in the right frame of mind to play it, though, so I’m expecting it to be slow going for a while.

Been playing a lot of Yakuza: Like A Dragon up to this point and I’m in Chapter 10. Been taking a little break from it though to work on these other things. I really enjoy it though! It’s the first Yakuza game I’ve tried that actually clicked with me.

And…I’ve been playing PowerWash Simulator, because why not? It’s just as weirdly chill and calming as I’ve heard. I’m into it more than I expected.

3 Likes

You know why my backlog keeps getting bigger? Because I do things like getting Game Pass, downloading every free thing I come across, loading my Switch up with random indie games that happen to be on sale, and yet it’s 2am on a Thursday morning and I’m feeling kinda weird and sad and in the mood for something toned-down and melancholy and not super intensive, and Loop Hero is just sitting there at the top of my Steam wishlist, and I realize that this would provide a great chance to break out my steam controller and test my TV’s steam link app with something my mediocre internet could definitely handle.

So yeah, I played some late night Loop Hero. I think I’ve completed four… runs? Not sure the correct word for one that ends in retreat. I’m playing cautiously (I think) and hoarding resources, and I’m already seeing some of those cool interactions that happen when certain tiles are placed in certain arrangements. It also works surprisingly well with the steam controller — after a few minutes, the trackpad felt pretty natural, and I was really enjoying its pretty, stylistically grainy (for want of a better word) pixel art on a big screen.

4 Likes

Went back to Boomerang X for a second time. Okay. I admit it. This game is starting to open up a bit more and I’m starting to get it’s hooks in me. I unlocked the long ranged needle weapon that basically is the rail gun from Quake 3 but you don’t have to be as accurate with it. If there’s another enemy some distance away from you, you can just blast him. I’m also fighting giant frogs and sharks, this weird shielded moth/mantaray thing that summons a white ray of death. I’m staying airborne and basically flying around the arenas. I’m on one level that has poison goo at the bottom and spikes on the ceiling. I love the music, and the sound of your boomerang hitting an enemy it’s kind of a “thwick” noise. This game rules. I have a feeling it’s going to be short though…

Have to say, getting flashbacks of Summer 2018 with all the quality indie titles I’m currently absorbed within. Loop Hero, Griftlands, Boomerang X and Death’s Door certainly putting all the triple A stuff to shame. Not that it’s a contest or anything…

Also been playing Skyward Sword remaster. I don’t have much to say about it, though I think it’s unfairly criticised as being one of the lesser Zelda games, or the one that made Nintendo go back to the drawing board to make the much better Breath of the Wild. A lesser Zelda is still charming as hell, and I much prefer it to Twilight Princess. I love the big birds too. I remember thinking in 2011 that the whole link and zelda dynamic felt very weird, but now I’ll just take the romance, literally any romance to be honest, they seem to like each other. Good for them.

I do remember when the first one came out in 2011 I worked at GAME (basically Gamestop in the UK). Still remember the special edition of the game coming with a golden wii mote. I much prefer using the right analogue stick to direct my sword than the motion+ controller. I like cutting the individual strands of the spider webs. Just ooh… lovely feeling game design.

When is the remastered Wii U Windwaker coming out on the Switch? I’ll buy it again. So help me God.

For the record let it be stated, that I’m on the cusp on unlocking the Rick skin in Fortnite. I don’t know if it’ll replace me using the xenomorph skin. Because the opportunity to see a xenomorph run around with an assault rifle or dance to Gangham Style or even the new Fortnite exclusive ska ‘Aliens’ song (which slaps very hard), will never stop being funny.

2 Likes

I will take any opportunity to shake my fist impotently at Nintendo before begging for them to re-release Wind Waker and Twilight Princess HD. My last hope is that people who’ve suggested “Nintendo is waiting until the Skyward Sword release is out of the way before announcing any further re-releases during this 35th anniversary year” are correct.

Given Nintendo’s very poor history of making previous titles accessible, I more or less feel if they don’t re-release them this year, we won’t see them in the foreseeable future, but a mirror of the Mario anniversary with standalone releases of WWHD and TPHD with an outside chance of an Ocarina of Time/Majora’s Mask N64 collection doesn’t seem completely out of the question.

1 Like

Beat the first boss in Loop Hero — I think I’ve got the basics down, though I’m guessing the game will keep layering more mechanics on for a while. Finding synergies organically (like the Mountain Peak) has been a pretty neat experience, and I’m hoping that that’s something that starts to snowball as I get farther in. Right now I’m just trying to put things next to other things to see what happens, and getting a little ding or visual sting is always fun. It’s also turned out to be a very good laptop game, which I’m always happy to find.

From these first few runs, I’m getting a kind of boom-or-bust impression from the builds in this game — either I struggled to get past a few loops and quickly retreated, or found myself becoming practically invincible (mainly with vampirism builds), which then results in more cards, more buffs, and even better items. It’s a satisfying loop (ha!) — and coming to this fresh off an XCOM run, the resource-collecting/base-building aspect of it is satiating the same kind of itch. Looking forward to diving into this a couple of hours or so at a time over the next few weeks.

3 Likes

I’m playing Morrowind again. I finally figured out why Oblivion and Skyrim were lesser games: the severe lack of colored lighting. Give me all them red and blue candles and lanterns and I’ll build cathedral made of bisexual lighting full of shrines dedicated to my daedric weapons.

I forgot they didn’t put needless physics on all the trash populated in the world, so it’s a lot easier decorating your home. Game’s still really great. The combat is not good and never was (except when you break it with alchemy and enchanting) but the fantasy you engage with in each of the factions is top-notch.

7 Likes

As I wrap up Link’s Awakening and don’t quite want to commit to Skyward Sword just yet, I’m bouncing from game to game.

After swearing off Red Dead Online for its excessive load times and enduring bugs, I wandered back in to have a look at the new content added last week. Blood Money seems like a decent small expansion: repeatable missions with a bit more variety and complexity than most of the non-story content, and blessedly appear to all be instanced rather than in the open world where grief-prone players can cause havoc with my chill cowboy times. At least a couple of missions revolve around train robberies and those are always fun (even if one time a ladder bugged out preventing me from progressing down a moving train, so I had to jump off, get on a horse, ride up past the offending carriage, and back onto the train. Which looked cool but was exactly the kind of silly bug I wish RDO had fewer of).

Continuing the western theme, I also finally booted up Desperados III (on Game Pass). If you’ve played Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun or any of the old Commandos or indeed Desperados games, you know the drill. Real time tactics/stealth from an isometric perspective with a small cast of characters all with their own abilities. I really liked Mimimi’s Shadow Tactics (even though I never got around to finishing the last level - maybe I’ll go back because I think they’re releasing an expansion this year) and given my love of westerns I was happy to see them get to play in the old Desperados sandbox. If they could do a Commandos sequel/reboot, I’d be a very happy man. Anyway, after the tutorial and first mission it very much feels like more of the same, but it’s a niche genre I like a lot so I’m not complaining at all.

2 Likes

Yeah, I’ve played RDO since the launch and the Blood Money stuff is pretty good. It’s more of something for new players to play to get all that sweet money and gold rather than folks who have been playing a while and already have all the money and gold.

I hope they add more weapons and whatnot and give something big to work towards like heists or something. But the game’s my comfort game that I play all the time to unwind so whatever they add I’m pretty happy with, honestly. Best implementation of the battle pass stuff too. I normally hate them because the time commitment to complete them is absurd but Rockstar made them really breezy to get through, which I greatly appreciate.

1 Like

So I was a bit incorrect in my description of the time period/location of Shin Megami Tensei IV. Whoops! Although I knew there would be a location change, I did not expect Mikado to just be above Tokyo. They began to hint at it a few floors down into Naraku, and it became obvious that my preconceived notion was wrong, but it’s still a jarring revelation.

Before getting to Tokyo there are 2 roadblock bosses: Minotaur and Medusa. They’re tough! Minotaur took a little longer for me, what ended up working was the evasion spell so that his critical hit attacks would miss and he would lose his turns, then attack buffs and hitting his weakness. For Medusa it was a matter of buffing defense and changing out party members as they were close to death rather than healing.

Now for Tokyo. Spoilers if you haven’t played the game but want to at some point?? I’ve read a lot of people have a problem with Tokyo. They say it’s disorienting and not fun. I agree, but that’s what I love about it! The main characters are thrust into a cruel, harsh world populated by demons and gangsters. The world is rough, unforgiving, and evil. NPCs are indifferent to the main characters and expect them to die soon. Everyone uses proper nouns that don’t make much sense, and yeah it’s hard to understand, but it also is for the main characters! It’s a really cool bit of worldbuilding that I’m absolutely in love with.

My eyesight has changed -0.75 in both eyes from the current glasses I’m wearing. I’m waiting for new glasses in the mail, but because of the drastic change I’ve had a hard time seeing the subtitles in Yakuza 0 on my tv. I’ll be back to it soon!

4 Likes

I’ve been balancing my playthrough of FFVIIR when I’m home, a bit of Battletech since I never finished it, and then some FFXIV when I’m feeling a more fantasy vibe.

I’ve been looking for another good mecha game that will hit me in the right way. I love Gundam Battle Operation 2, Battletech, I didn’t like strike suit zero that much or the Gundam Cross gen games… May try to replay Zone of the Enders on steam since I haven’t played that since my PS2 days! If anyone has any recommendations for good mech games, I’m interested!

Finished Judgement.

The good.

When I saw how small Kamurocho was when I started I thought it seemed like a pretty good size for a starting area, and I looked forward to seeing what the other parts of the city were like. How wrong I was. Judgement’s greatest trick is using repetition to make this sin city feel like home. I looked forward to the next time I’d visit each little restaurant. There’s almost no vegan fare in the game, so I couldn’t live vicariously through the menu very often, but the character of each spot made them worth revisiting all the same. The way the story, friend events, and side quests layer all contribute to this sense of being committed to a neighborhood.

Second, the core cast is amazing, and Judgement makes what I think is a really wise choice. It doesn’t voice everything. Incidental and side dialog is just text you can scan through quickly, which means most lines that are acted are acted with care. I chose to stick with the English VA’s, largely on the strength of the voices behind Hamura, Yagami and Kaito.

The bad.

Unfortunately, this is a video game. It’s a video game about crime, and it inherits problems from GTA and the noir genre it cribs from. Its female cast are treated as accessories at best. The attempts at humour frequently punch down. At times it is (CW -isms) homophobic, fatphobic and racist. And it’s not the just characters themselves exhibiting these qualities: it’s in the way the game frames these situations.

The game has a lot of systems, and they are all paper thin. Combat doesn’t feel satisfying: it merely functions. The same can be said for the investigation system (a pixel hunt) and the tailing system (forgiving to the point of ridiculousness). And these three systems make up the bulk of what you’ll do in Judgement.

The in-between:

The story. The main story is a mixed bag. Morderate spoilers. I won’t get into detail, just the shape of it how things play out. The initial pacing is really good. You learn how Yagami is, how he fits into the world, and what his fundamental regret is. Then you settle into some investigation and courtroom drama and it seems like the game is going places. And then the pace settles into a drawn out, drip feed of plot. I really enjoy the way the chapters have “recently on” style recaps, but the problem here is that there really isn’t much actually going on in the main story. You understand just about everything that actually happened at somewhere just past the halfway point of the game. And then it’s a slow grind to get evidence to prove it. IMO, this is actually an interesting statement about criminal justice and detective work, but it turns out that I would have also liked to see at least one more twist in the narrative: and it never came.

Wrap up:
I have a lot of criticisms about this game, but I want to emphasize that overall, I enjoyed my time with it. The good, the feeling of inhabiting a virtual space is very good. Kaito and Yagami are buddies in a way that draws on Noir, Kurosawa and Cowboy Bebop. There’s a side quest that is just a straight up nod to Phoenix Wright. It’s a game worth playing, but be prepared to forgive it a lot of missteps along the way.

P.S. Definitely don’t go in planning to 100% it. I finished it after about 30 hours, and I’m apparently only at 25% completion overall. I can only imagine how tedious it would be to complete.

4 Likes

Recently, I’ve played a couple games! First was Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It was alright!

Second, and more recently I have been playing Cruelty Squad, which is excellent! It’s a more action/gunplay focused Dishonored set in a geocities inspired near future where violence is constant and people augment their bodies in disgusting ways. Visually and aurally, it’s aesthetic violence. It’s often hard to look at and harder to listen to. It’s hideous, and that rules!

Mechanically, it’s an immsim light, with stealth, character progression and economy elements. The shooting is really good, with a good variety of weapons that all feel different and have different strengths. It plays like a dream honestly! From the recent crop of boomer shooters, this is the one that has fit my sensibilities the most. It’s great!

4 Likes