Let's discuss Avengers: Infinity War -- a movie BOUND to make you feel so good!

September 2, 2012

Let’s discuss a whole bunch of video games.

In the immortal words of Chef Gordon Ramsay, “I’m going to do something I’ve never ever done before.”  How often that’s the case is up for debate, but who am I to deride such a well-renowned chef?  And by the same token, a man whose rage constantly keeps him in Super Saiyan mode?

In any case, there are a number of things that I’m in the mood to talk about, but only tangentially; that is, I don’t feel like there’s enough meat right now to turn any one of the games into a three-thousand word dissection.  Plus I’m working on some other projects right now -- I Hraet You, The Manly Song Repository, and a “certain something” especially -- so I’d prefer not to get too distracted.

So let’s get this thing going, yes?  Expediency, ho!

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13!

Oh, right, this is also the reason why this post tackles five games instead of just one.  I’d heard that Squeenix was going to announce “the future of Final Fantasy” at their 25th anniversary convention thing, and all thoughts immediately flew to A) Final Fantasy 13-3 and B) no new news about Versus 13/telling us to wait patiently for Versus 13.  Both those assumptions were proven correct; Versus 13 is an all but certain no-show in any form at the upcoming Tokyo Game Show, while 13-3 has done a Matrix-style bullet dodging by being branded Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13.  I like how Squeenix’s takeaway from the failures of 13-2 is that they have to overcompensate by having you play ONLY as a pink-haired slab of wood Lightning, as well as practically screaming it in the title.

I was about ready to flip over an entire neighborhood at the announcement of this game, because at this point it just seems like Squeenix is trying to take the piss out of gamers (and they’re doing a fantastic job).  But a funny thing happened as I was reading about the game: I actually started laughing.  Not Joker-like guffaws, mind, but a noticeable chuckle.  I think that my rage reached such a zenith that it snapped me back into amusement -- that the company I once respected is so broken that they’re shooting themselves in the foot with a Gatling gun.  Even if Lightning Returns is a success in terms of gameplay (though it probably won’t) and a success in terms of story (though it definitely won’t), it’s still going to be a trainwreck in terms of credibility.  “Hey guys!  Remember that ability to slow down time that Lightning had in FF13’s announcement trailer?  Well, it took us about seven years, but we FINALLY put that into this game!  Third time’s the charm, right?”  Because if there’s one way to prove how far your series has come, it’s to ape a gameplay mechanic introduced back in 2001.

Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes!
(Or: Feels Like I’m Wearing Nothing at All!)

I’ve never mentioned it here on the blog, but I kind of like the Metal Gear franchise.  That’s not to say that the games are perfect -- the convolution is astounding, and I've actually fallen asleep during one of the cutscenes...only to wake up and have the cutscene STILL GOING -- and that’s not to say that I’m any good at them -- seems that stealth is not my forte -- but I like the ideas behind them, and they’re consistently enjoyable.  So even though it’s a surprise to hear that a new game is coming (especially in light of the near-definitive conclusion of MGS4), I can’t help but feel receptive.

That said, I’m curious about this game -- in both a positive and negative respect.  It looks like Old Snake is back in the saddle, in spite of him presumably being close to death at the end of MGS4…and you know, old.  And I can’t help but wonder if series mastermind Hideo Kojima is weary of Snake and company himself; I would have figured that after saying something to the effect of “This will be the last Metal Gear Solid game” or “This is Snake’s final mission”, he’d avoid not only making Ground Zeroes, but suggesting that it’ll tie in to MGS5.  Maybe he just can’t get it out of his system?  Maybe he’s stuck catering to fan demand?  In any case, I can probably expect some meta-subtext along the way…and given that the trailer released featured a loving image of Snake’s rain-slick, leather-clad ass front and center as he crawled about, it looks like there’s nothing to worry about.

The apparent news of MGS going open-world is a surprising one, but one that I’m receptive to.  One could make the argument that MGS3 -- with its sprawling jungle -- was open-world in its own right, just given focus thanks to the nature of the narrative/mission structure.  So essentially, Ground Zeroes will be like that, but taken up a notch; a sneaking mission taking place in one huge playground, or at least several sizable ones.  So yeah, I’m looking forward to it…just not the inevitable “someone pees himself” scene.

Chrono Trigger!
(Or:  Blink and You’ll Miss It)

On a whim I decided to fire up my DS copy of Chrono Trigger.  I’d already beaten the game once before (thanks to my mighty team of Frog, Robo, and Ayla), but the prospect of a New Game Plus with my characters fully-leveled and my equipment in place seemed tantalizing; I was in no mood to trade in the godhood I’d earned last time.  Also, I love sprites. 

So I played a bit of it for about an hour or so…and I have to say that at a glance, it’s withstood the test of time (fitting, considering the theme).  But what’s most surprising to me is how fast-paced everything is; I don’t think it even took me an hour to go from Crono waking up in the morning to getting Frog and preparing for a boss fight.  That’s not to say that what’s happened so far is meaningless or unaffecting; all the emotion is there, but it doesn’t spend all day trying to convey those emotions.  For example, early in the game you trek through the Millennium Fair with Marle, exploring and seeing the sights and such.  You go dancing, you fight Gato, you ring the bell, you eat candy, you have a go at a drinking contest…all of these are events that can take as few as ten seconds to complete, but flesh out the event and help build a bond between Crono and Marle (as is the standard in JRPGs).  And when it’s time for the quest to start, you can start it.  No gimmicks.  No hand-holding.  No waiting.

It makes me realize that JRPGs today -- many games today -- have a serious problem with, for lack of a better phrase, time management.  Kingdom Hearts 2 takes three miserable hours to get anywhere meaningful, because there’s a crap-load of meandering, heavy-handed cutscenes weighing you down.  Cutscenes used to be a reward for doing a job well done in a dungeon or finishing a boss (especially FMVs), or for conveying information necessary for moving to the next point.  But now?

I miss the nineties.

Persona 4 Arena!
(Or: Why I Don’t Often Play Fighting Games Online)

Given that I’m an unabashed Atlus slut, it should be no surprise that I like Persona 4 Arena.  I’ve had a chance to play through the story mode some more, and completed the paths of ever member of the investigation team.  That leaves the P3 characters (and Labrys and the true ending, no doubt), but I took a break from the story to indulge in online battles, at my brother’s suggestion.  I went all in with the swordsman of swag, Yu Narukami -- and in spite of it being my first online foray, I did pretty well.  I had some losses, of course, but I walked away having defeated my fair share of foes.  Even if there are players who’re a little too eager to mash A, all it takes is a rudimentary defense to frustrate them.  And of course, exploiting their antsy nature.

So a couple of nights ago I gave online play another try.  “It should be fine,” I said to myself.  “I did pretty well last time.  I should be able to handle myself.”  And I did…to a far lesser extent.  I won a good number of matches and came close to ranking up (or at least ranking my brother up), but a string of bad luck got in my way.  And by bad luck I mean Elizabeth players.  It didn’t take long for me to go from a near-rank up to a depressing rank-down.  And so I spent the next few hours trying desperately to regain that rank (and my honor), with mixed results.

My ultimate conclusion is that online play is for masochists.  It seems like it’s impossible to walk away with anything less than a headache if you dare venture in.  Players that mash and mash and mash, and end up becoming untouchable because of it.  Players that use the most frustrating characters with almost gleeful pride…and with it, the most infuriating tactics.  Players that refuse to learn, and can win a match solely because of one lucky hit.  Players that leave you asking “why would you do that?!” as the bell rings and the match goes to them.  I wouldn’t mind playing online if I was losing to good people (and there are good people; I got wrecked by a Shadow Labrys player), but there’s so much muck that it’s not worth waiting for the one person, the diamond in the rough, who knows what he’s doing.

…I’ll probably play again later today.  

Tales of the Abyss!
(Or: The Joy of Sidequests)

I’ve done everything I feel like doing in Tales of the Abyss; all that’s left is to trek back through the final dungeon and beat Van, and the game is over.  Theoretically I could start writing something about it now, but I’ll give the game another shot at wowing/disappointing me in its final minutes.  At a base level, I say it’s still a solid game…not nearly as good as I thought it was, but nowhere near abomination-levels.  I’ll write something about it soon, I think.

For now, I want to make a complaint: I think I’m REALLY starting to hate doing sidequests.  I say “think” because I can’t be too sure; it may just be that I hate doing Abyss’ sidequests.  See, I’m the kind of guy that likes murdering every extra boss at least once, given the opportunity, and I figured I might as well do so here.  And while I was at it, I’d grab some of the extra costumes.  But doing the sidequests necessary requires such an absurd amount of work, globe-trotting, and nigh-clairvoyance that it ceases to be fun or rewarding and just becomes irritating padding.  And if there’s one thing Abyss DOESN’T need, it’s more padding. 

Let’s say you want to get one of Natalia’s unique costumes.  To do that, you need to go to Nam Cobanda Isle.  Cool.  But you can’t.  Even though you have one of the only two planes in the world, you can’t fly there because you’re hammered by fireworks if you try to approach, nor can you go by sea because it’s surrounded by whirlpools.  So (after doing the Mushroom Road sidequest, where you get the Greater Flightstone -- which in itself is easy to miss if you immediately head for the dungeon’s entrance) you think “Oh, I need to get the Refined Flightstone.  No problem, I know where to go on Mt. Roneal.”  Except it’s not that easy.  You have to have all the Sorcerer’s Ring upgrades -- and I mean ALL of them -- to even attempt it.  So how do you get Mieu Fire 2, which will immediately solve your problems?  Well, you need to head to Keterburg to talk to Shiba, who’ll give you an item to throw into a volcano to freeze the magma to head down a sealed-off path to get the upgrade.  

But before you can do all that, you have to head to Aramis Spring because as it turns out, he got trapped there.  So you save him and head back to Keterburg, but he’s not there.  Because apparently, you HAVE to have Mieu Wing so that when you go to the volcano and try to get Mieu Fire 2, a cutscene referring to Mieu Wing makes sense.  So where’s Mieu Wing?  You have to go to Tataroo Valley and smash a rock face with Mieu Attack to open a path to a hidden part of an already-visited dungeon.  You get the upgrade, head back to Keterburg, talk to Shiba, go through the volcano to get Mieu Fire 2, then head to Mt. Roneal, making use of several alternative entrances to put an improbably-designed series of door-opening torches in place to open a door to a different part of the mountain that’s unapproachable by air to find the Refined Flightstone, so now you can go through blizzards and sandstorms and whirlpools…but ONLY if you’ve built up enough speed to power the force field that appears (why the force field can’t be active all the time so I don’t have to back up halfway across the world to charge it is one of the Seven Mysteries of the World).  So once you have that, you can go to Nam Cobanda and talk to a boy in a cow suit to start a sidequest that’ll give you Natalia’s costume…but only if you find the cow-kid’s brothers.  So you head to Baticul’s port, then head to Engeve, then BACK to Baticul’s port (woe to you if you think you’re supposed to go back to Nam Cobanda) and trigger a cutscene so that the cows will finally go back to Nam Cobanda, so you talk to the first cow kid and get the costume.

The good news is that once you get the two flightstones and all the Sorcerer’s Ring upgrades, it’s possible to do the rest of the sidequests.  The bad news is that there’s still a lot more bullshit to go through if you want to do the rest of the sidequests and kill the super-bosses.  You can scour the world for some ancient super-weapons, which is the only way to access one boss…or you can go through another sidequest (with a tenuous connection to the actual sidequest) to allow access to a secret dungeon that not only saps your wallet dry as you progress, but requires you to avoid combat…in other words, you’re punished for actually trying to play the game.  But the bigger problem here is the sheer amount of work required to get anything accomplished.  If you get even one event in the sequence wrong, you can’t progress.  There’s no hint that Shiba’s trapped in Aramis Spring, or that there’s another sidequest you have to do involving an emergency animal rescue, or that there’s even a secret dungeon to begin with; nobody except the people that are actively involved in the sidequest give you any useful information.  Unless you do some fantastic guesswork, there is no way you’re getting anything done without a walkthrough -- and if your game requires you to have one eye on the screen and the other on a GameFAQs page the entire time you’re playing, then I’m pretty sure that there’s been a developmental fuck-up somewhere along the line.   

So yeah, that’ll do it for now.  Hope you enjoyed this brief little post on some ga-

*looks at word count*

…Well, that didn’t go as planned.  Anyway, see you all around.


  1. Brad @ Cheap Boss AttackSeptember 2, 2012 at 8:27 PM

    I enjoyed fighting games a whole lot more when it was local play rather than online. It seems that with every new fighter released, a majority of players only play the cheapest characters for the sole purpose of ranking up or winning over and over again. I absolutely loved the new Mortal Kombat, but if I never play against another Smoke or Scorpion or (insert teleportation character of your choice here), I'll die happy.

    I still haven't talked myself in to heading back in to Tales of the Abyss. 20 hours later and I'm still hating Luke and the story is still moving along as a pace only rivaled by watching ice melt in a Styrofoam cup. Someday I'll give it another go, but for right now there is enough on my plate game-wise that I've thrown in the towel. With Borderlands 2 coming out, I don't think I'll see the outside world more than a handful of times over the next few months.

  2. Teleporting characters...don't get me started on those. I've played enough Marvel vs. Capcom 3 to hate those zippy SOBs with a passion.

    I'm with you on the whole offline > online play when it comes to fighting games (and to some extent, all games in general). At least when I play something like Marvel 3 with my brother, he's not only good at the game and the complete opposite of a "flowchart Ken", but in spite of his skills I find it easier to deal with him. He knows how I work, and I know how he works, and we can adapt to each other's strategies as needed without the online BS. (Though incidentally, my brother LOVES zippy characters as well. Good thing I've got Haggar on deck...)

    And frankly, I'm not surprised you're having problems liking Abyss. The game seems to be very divisive, but if I were even a smidgen less easygoing, I think I'd start hating Luke as well. He has his high points and his low points -- and those low points reach subterranean levels. And I'm starting to realize there's a LOT of low points. It's not enough to make the game intolerable in my eyes, but...well, the hatred has more than enough merit.

    Also, Tear seems to be a lot more bland than I remember. Just throwin' that out there.

  3. "and if your game requires you to have one eye on the screen and the other on a GameFAQs page the entire time you’re playing, then I’m pretty sure that there’s been a developmental fuck-up somewhere along the line."

    Tell that to whoever the hell designed the Agarest War series.

    (If you haven't played it, I'll be ranting about it fairly soon, so you'll get what I mean then. It's distinctively WORSE than Abyss about that.)

  4. Agarest War...I tried the hour-long demo for AW2 when it came out on the PS3. I...well, let's just say I won't be purchasing that anytime soon.

    But from the sound of things, you have some experience with the series. In which case, I feel no envy towards your endeavors. Respect? Yes. Envy? Far, far, far, far from it.

  5. That's what I love about Chrono Trigger, it has a really well-told story that doesn't overstay its welcome like so many other games do, like Final Fantasy. Speaking of which....

    I can see that Squeenix continues to suck its own d*** like an ouroboros and I feel absolutely no desire to play any of their recent games.

    P4A loos amazing, I've been meaning to get into the Persona series for some time now, just can't seem to find it anywhere....

    And as far as Tales of the Abyss goes...... Those sidequests sound like the worst thing ever. Between that, the constant midriffs, and that one green-haired person who I'm still convinced is a girl, I'm staying as far away from the series as I can. No offense if you take it, but I can think of so many better ways to spend my time.

  6. Fair enough in regards to Tales. Like I said, my opinion of the game isn't as high as it was before, and I can definitely see why people hate it. If it's any consolation, though, some of Luke's alternate costumes cover up his tummy-tum.

    That aside, it's surprising to hear that the Persona games have gotten hard to find. I got a copy of P4 when it came out, so I guess I was safe in that regard, but I grabbed P3:FES a while after it came out. I guess there was a (much-deserved) boom of popularity in the years since.

    And on the subject of Squeenix, I -- like a lot of people, I'd wager -- would be willing to have faith in them again if they'd stop faffing about and release Versus 13. Recent reports suggest that, now that Lightning Returns is coming, they have to pull attention away from Versus to work on that. (So yeah, Squeenix, GG. You're the best when it comes to development.) I'd also forgive them if Kingdom Hearts 3 was anything less than a blip on the horizon...but I'm wary of that as well. I want the talent behind KH1 to work on that, not the Squeenix who brought us FF13...or hell, even KH2. It's a shame, because I KNOW they can do better; they have the resources and prestige, but they need to stop all the garbage and get their heads in the game.

    Ugh...well, that's enough of that rant. At any rate, I thought I'd mention that I'm almost finished with an extensive post on Skyward Sword and why it's awesome. So you might want to stick around for a bit, if you're interested.

    In the meantime, mind if I drop a Bridget on you? You know, since you love Ion so much?



  7. Sweet, I had a hunch that was what that was. I'll keep tabs on it for the next week or so whenever it comes out, and...

    Oh no. Don't tell me, not her too...

    (looks up Wikipedia)

    As far as Persona goes, well P4A is on every shelf because it's brand new, so it's just a matter of me getting the money (and time) to play it. But yeah, I'm having the darnest time finding the other ones for some reason. And I don't like buying stuff online, I'm paranoid about my financial information, but I may be forced to do so if this local unavailability keeps up.

    For Square-Enix, the only thing they can do at this point to earn my trust back is to make another sequel to Chrono Trigger. Then again they may just screw that up as well, so I don't know what the solution to their problem is (other than maybe replacing their current management).

  8. "I'll keep tabs on it for the next week or so whenever it comes out"

    Yeah, about that...it's up right now. You can read it now, if you want. Have at it (at your earliest convenience)!

  9. Brad @ Cheap Boss AttackSeptember 5, 2012 at 11:42 PM

    Outside of Guy, I really don't care for anyone in Abyss. Guy's gynophobia makes the entire game for me and any moment when Namco fails to capitalize on this brings tears to my eyes.

    Back in the Street Fighter Alpha 3 days, I used to play the same friends over and over again that we all learned each others patterns and had to learn how to play new characters just to get away from that. Thankfully, I picked Dan because he's awesome and wears pink, and eventually he became my favorite fight of all time. I prefer the standard fighters over the superfast, air-combo, juggle cancels, frantic affairs of MvC or BlazBlue. I like both of those just fine, but nothing will ever topple SFA3 or Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition.

  10. Fair enough. Even though I can't say I'm good at either, I think I prefer the slower pace of SF to other fighters. It feels like I can take my time to understand an opponent and make the right choices in a fight (which is probably helped by the fact that I use Guile a lot). I feel like if I make a mistake in that game and lose, it's my fault, whereas in Marvel 3 I usually end up wondering "What did I do wrong?"

    ...Though to be frank, Tekken is my favorite fighting series.

    Honestly? I feel like there's a certain "futility" to fighting games; even if you've got all your training down there's still a depressingly high chance that you can lose to someone with half your skill and a quarter of the brain power. Likewise, it feels like no matter how smart your attack pattern is, you can win a match just by doing something random or getting lucky. Having played with my bro for years, I feel like I have a 50/50 chance of landing any given attack. Sometimes if I try to do the smart thing, I end up getting my ass served on a plate...and if I try to do the DUMB thing, I win the match. So yeah, you kind of know what you're getting into whenever you pick up Punching Man Tournament Arena: Calamitous Thursday 8.