Monday, December 31, 2012

Don't Let the Door Hit You, 2012

2012 sucked.

Yeah.  There were good things.  Great things, even.  But the majority of them were in gaming, which in of itself is not a bad thing, I suppose.  The Vita came out which might be the single most high point of the year in terms of gaming (for me), and I guess if it's your thing, the Wii U came out too just recently.  Beyond that, the year saw the release of such wonderful titles as Sleeping Dogs, Lollipop Chainsaw, the surprisingly fun Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale, Gravity Rush, Persona 4 Golden and a handful of other great titles.  Playstation Plus hit its stride, coming out as the bonafide best deal in gaming, with the implementation of the Instant Game Collection not only for the Playstation 3, but the Vita as well.  And did I mention Persona 4 Golden?  Because Persona 4 Golden.

Everything else, though, pretty much sucked for me this year.  Between suddenly becoming single (officially), health issues for myself and my family and a bunch of other stuff, it's been a stressful year.  One that I'm not too happy with and one that I'm certainly not going to miss.  I could always hope that 2013 will be better, but considering that I'll be spending New Year's Eve by myself with only my Vita and some carbonated beverages to keep me company, combined with the fact that I am positive I'll be getting some bad news fairly soon after midnight, I'm certainly not looking forward to it, either.  But it's just something I've got to soldier through, I suppose.  Or at least something I just can't let bowl me over whilst I drag myself through it, is more appropriate.  Since I'm not too optimistic.

As such, I'm not going to do a big stats post tonight.  I could - I have the time, but the desire just isn't there tonight and I don't want to force it.  I can say that I'll probably do one tomorrow, but I don't know the truth in that statement.  And I really do need to finish the series of 999 posts - had I realized that it was literally this close to New Years (I don't know why I didn't think about it) I would've started it after the new year.  Live and learn, I suppose.  Apologies for kind of wobbling that one, folks.

And with that, I have some social links to build up, and terrible soft drinks to consume.  For Auld Lang Syne indeed.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

An Intermission of Demon's Souls

Remember all those times when I said "I'm going to play Demon's Souls soon"?  No?  Because they were a long damn time ago?  Yeah, I hear you.  Under the weight of my new PS3 games that I got for Christmas, I felt something of an....well, not an obligation, but a want to clear off a few games from my backlog that have been sorely neglected before I leap into the new.  At the urging of a good friend (well, she was on my back about playing the game for a couple months....a couple months ago) I decided it was finally time to step back into the stone halls and stunning terrain of Boletaria to attempt to conquer the seemingly-insurmountable challenges the small kingdom has to offer me.  Even with something very much like hesitation, wariness, I trudged in to face the dangers head-on.

Compared to the last time I 'played' Demon's Souls, I can honestly say that I have been playing Demon's Souls this time.  Actually playing it.  Actually understanding the nuances, the methodology to it and the caution that one must take to actually enjoy the game.  I rolled a new character - rather a new attempt at Mikhail Metzin(g)er - as a wizard build, understanding that magic would be an invaluable tool and set upon the task of getting settled.  The tutorial section re-familiarized me with the controls of the game and dumped me unceremoniously into the lair of the Vanguard who killed me with a single swipe before I had a chance to do much else but let a flaming shot loose which did a respectable amount of damage nonetheless.  Dropped now into the Nexus, I did what I must - spoke with the folks there before I took the Archstone to the Castle for my real reinitiation.

The beginning section was familiar to me in a hazy sort of way and as the shambling undead rushed at me, I was able to take them out handily enough.  Their ambushes, slight as they might be, were still etched into my brain so not a one of them was successful in surprising me.  In fact, my first demise came after I had explored a goodly bit of the whole area - my only ways 'forward' ended in Dragons or a Red Eyed Knight with a Shield and Spear, both of which set off warning alarms in my head, thus giving me cause to search elsewhere.  I just so happened to fall off the side of a wall into a pit of no less than four rather nasty looking enemies - at least one of which was a Blue Eye Knight, and I discovered that being surrounded had a direct impact on my health and ability to survive, especially when I dodge-rolled directly into a wall.  That's a reasonable thing, I should think, so I made my way back there with great haste, retrieved my souls and added a little fire to the equation to even the odds.

The second time I met my death was when, frustrated by a lack of a clear path (believing that I was in no way able to outrun the Dragon on the bridge - you know which I'm I'm talking about), I decided the Red Eyed Knight was the foe I had to slay to advance.  How hard could he be?  After all, he just seemed like the other enemies I fought, just with red eyes.  So I advanced to his perch and rushed in, swinging the Scimitar I had acquired in my pit of death at him.  The damage was minimal and I rose my shield to block his incoming strike.  Not -only- did it eat the rest of my stamina, but it took off all but a sliver of my health.  Panic gripped me for the scant few moments I had left as I rushed back, switched to my wooden catalyst and threw a fire spell at him.  Surely, he just blocked the other attack, that's why the damage was so light.  But no, he shrugged off the fire as if it were nothing and completed a charge by skewering me through.  I had been bested and for that, I meekly returned to grab my souls and be on my way.

Getting across the bridge was dicey, but I learned that it was the necessary thing to do and I moved on, eventually finding myself at the entrance of the Phalanx's lair.  I put down my first message, the stand-by "I'm in trouble - please recommend this message!" for what it was worth and stepped through the fog to meet the blob of black and spears that was the Phalanx.  For being rather unimposing, it did have a sort of creeping doom feel to it, one that hit home as spears hit me from all directions, chipping away at my precious, precious HP.  When my MP reserves were well and truly depleted from the Fire Tossing I'd been doing, I steeled my resolve and rushed in, attacking the fleshy underside of what was once a black ooze of a behemoth, finding it a rather simple affair now that most of the Hoplites that had been adhered to it were defeated.  Applying a little turpentine to my blade, I slashed again and again, finally rending the foe for the last time, and just like that, I had won my first boss fight.

A tension that has not gripped me since I played Dead Space last had a firm grasp on my chest and after doing a little more advancement - finding the lone knight in the catacombs of the castle wall for a second time and dodging the Dragon's assaults until I found yet another fog wall - I was done.  Rather, I couldn't continue playing, for there was a weariness settling in after the pure adrenaline and focus that had been pumping through my veins had finally left me.  I returned to the Archstone, learned a little history from the last Guardian within the Nexus and buffed my stats a little thanks to the now-present Maiden in Black.  While I did go out and test them out, I eventually returned once more and ended my journey for the day.  If nothing else, Demon's Souls makes it feel like an accomplishment when you realize you've only died a few times playing it, and I look forward to challenging the next leg of the journey.  I suspect I might be shooting down a certain dragon if just to make my life a little easier.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Describing 999's Best Ending - Part 1

999:  Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors was a weird one for me, all told.  I played it.  I enjoyed it.  I got the True Ending and suddenly I didn't really care for it, despite liking it while I played it.  This has happened before and it's a weird feeling, a feeling that I do not understand the source, nor the reason for it.  If anything, I imagine I was left wanting a little more, perhaps, or I felt a little jilted with what's there.  Also the True Ending has....a bit to it that kind of wrecks the mood.  However, soured a little by that, I proceeded to talk to Haplo about it in a non-spoilery way for a while and then he told me, "Look, I'm probably not going to play the game, so go ahead and spoil it".  And I said, "Well, to understand the True Ending, you have to get another ending first."  It's a weird concept to be sure, but it's there for reasons I will not divulge right yet.  A strange thing happened when I started telling Haplo of this first ending.

I really got into it.  An excitement for the game I didn't know existed started welling up in me, burned at me as I explained subtle nuances of the game, things it made sure you knew at this point and that.  I fell in love with the game for the first time because I found an intense verve with which I began telling the story of this ending.  Rather, this playthrough the leads to the ending since the ending doesn't make sense, or an impact on its own merits.  The story took a good few hours at least to tell, which is rather astounding (even with a bit of audience participation, as it were) and before I knew it, it was a wee hour in the morning and I hadn't written a blog post here.  (Of course, the previous lack was because I was entranced with the game, steeped in finding the final ending)  So I was thinking about it today, a way to make it up, and I realized "Well, I really enjoyed telling I'll tell it again!" except I'll tell it here and tell it better since I admittedly did a poor job at times with Haplo.  To save myself some trouble, I'm going to be doing it in a few parts.

I believe it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway.  Beyond the Page Break (which is right after this blurb) are MASSIVE 999 Spoilers!  If only for this ending, I recommend that you play the game yourself rather than take my account as your exposure.  Because it is rather fantastic.  I will, however be explaining it rather thoroughly (hopefully) so if you must read this rather than play the game yourself, I do hope you'll be able to appreciate it.  Still, a spoiler warning is a spoiler warning and thus you have been warned.

Friday, December 28, 2012


Today was just kind of one of those days.  Nothing in particular happened that was negative, but it was just one of those things where....well, it just wasn't good either.  I'm sure I don't have to explain just what one of 'those days' are like, as I'm sure everyone has had them.

I started the first post of a two parter about 999 in lieu of reviewing it, and it's in my saved posts, but I don't have the drive or the excitement to continue it tonight.  So I give you sad Mog, some explanation and a link to that fantastic Lightning gif from a few posts back.  And the promise of a neat couple of 999-related posts, I suppose.  Good night, folks.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas of Nines

If there's anything that I honestly didn't need this Christmas, it was even more games, but you know what?  I like gamesI wanted more games.  And thus, so it was that I got some pretty great games for Christmas - some surprising ones even.  I think one of the stand-outs (the other of which I'll probably speak on tomorrow) is that my parents managed to do what I haven't been able to in two years, in finding a copy of 999:  Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors.  I mean, yes, I could have always gotten a copy online or something, but that's no fun - the hunt itself is a thrill and being able to taste the fruits of that effort, so to speak, is a wonderment all its own.  It's not enough that they managed to track this down for me, but when I unwrapped it and saw it - the first thing I noticed was that it was a copy that had the original box art and not the new art that re-brands the game retroactively as a part of the now-established "Zero Escape" series, of which 999 and Virtue's Last Reward (For 3DS and Vita) are now a part of.  I don't mind the new box art at all, and it wouldn't be a deal-breaker one way or another, but regardless, I thought that was pretty neat.

In actually playing the game, I have found it to be something of an actual treat, which surprised me a little.  I worry about the learning curve in games like these, but so far, it's been kind to me I believe.  At least, I haven't had to look up a guide yet, though I'm not sure at all how far into the game I am.  I expected something rather lengthy, but if the pace is anything to go by, then I'm actually drawing near to an ending, of which there are many.  I figure this can't be, and that something will reveal itself, but I'm not quite sure really.  It's still too early to tell, of course, and I'm really just more concerned about the -game- and the story than the ending(s) for now.  Since, I mean, it is a visual novel/old-style adventure game, so there's not a lot else -to- do but worry about the story of it.

I did mention that the puzzles haven't been especially hard, but I will say that they've been clever at points.  One such puzzle took me to peaks of frustration as I tried to figure it out, and when I was tempted to give up, I thought about it for just a few extra moments before that "Aha!" moment hit and it clicked.  It's honestly very, very difficult to actually make things so you'll have that moment since it requires a delicate balance that few are able to implement.  It's either too obscure so that you can't honestly be expected to figure it out, or too easy that there's no challenge to it.  Being just tricky enough that you force somebody to wrack their brain, looking at the details and realizing that there's a -reason- they don't add up, that's some sort of talent right there.  Because when you figure out which detail it is that doesn't fit, that's just wrong in the context of the situation, it pushes on that spot on your brain that feeds on the 'smugness' you get when you figure things out like that.

I do worry somewhat about just how fleshed out the characters will get before the end of it however.  Like I said, I don't quite know how far into the game I am, but I've played for a good clip and some of them are still a bit thin.  The logical part of my brain understand that there are reasons why the characters haven't been explored really, but at the same time, that doesn't preclude being able to develop them in ways that aren't subtle personality quirks and the like.  I want a little more from them as a cast, because if something were to happen to somebody, I feel like it would help if it actually meant something.  Since I mean, you put people into a gauntlet of traps and 'games' where losing means your death, you sort of -expect- for there to be some casualties.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm just guessing.  I might also be being intentionally vague and/or flippant or misleading so as to not spoil things for others.

Regardless, it's been a good trip so far and I'm quite happy that I did finally get my hands on a copy of the game.  I always figured I would, since there's not been much of a price hike ever since the reprinting, but the comfort in having the game, being able to hold it and watch it and play it is nice all the same.  With any luck, I'll like it enough that I'll want to pick up Virtue's Last Reward, which I totally can on my Vita and have that to hop into afterwards.  Of course, after I beat that, then there'll be a long, long wait for the next game in the series, but at least I'm set for the near future if nothing else.  And man, am I ever set for the near future in terms of games.  That, however, is a tale for another night.  In the meanwhile, I just hope everyone had a great Christmas, because hey, I actually did too!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Eve!

As I have sort of inferred before, and I believe even outright stated a number of times, Christmas is a time of year where I get overwhelmed with all sorts of pleasant feelings.  As I have said, they are the 'fuzzies' and they're wonderful and sometimes it's not only those fuzzies that make the Christmastime great, but even still, the fuzzies are strong.  This year, it's more than that, which I have also alluded to, but I won't go into detail because when do I ever go into personal detail?  Never.  And just considering that now, it's kind of incredibly rude to bring it up and not say, but whatever, maybe some other night.  When I'm clutched by the fuzzies and such, unfortunately, words don't flow like normal, is what I'm trying to focus on, so when they reach critical levels at Christmas Eve, there's not a whole lot I can do except be very very excited and happy.

I guess that's not a wholly bad thing.

So, much as last year, this is a short post, but it's a heartfelt one in every sense of the word.  Hopefully you're spending the holidays with someone you can really say you love, and if not, then may you be so lucky next year.  In any case, to anyone reading this, I hope sincerely that you have a Merry Christmas.  I think that I just might be able to, myself.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I Tried to Celebrate The Season Today With Games

Last night, for reasons unbeknownst to my own mind, I went to myself, "Self, you know what you really need to do?  Download the Metal Gear Solid 4 patch." and so it was.  Truthfully, I'd been -wanting- to do just this since it was announced and much more when it was actually released, but I've just never gotten to it.  And while I have other games I -need- to play, I figured it was a good time to catch up, what with REVENGEANCE on the horizon and all.  So I downloaded the patch last night and, since there was other stuff to attend to, I simply turned off the PS3 when it was done.  "Tomorrow is MGS4 day", I said, fully intent on realizing that goal.  I started wondering to myself just how far into the game I was going to make it today, feeling confident in my MGS abilities to kick ass, take names and speed through.  Then I played today, only to find a rather startling revelation that shattered me to my very core.

I was terrible at MGS4.

I didn't use to be.  In fact, I would say that I use to be pretty good at Metal Gear Solid games.  Peace Walker saw me as a pretty formidable foe, I should say, as I would go through entire levels without regard to anything resembling a problem.  I was one with the CQC and the Fulton system and through it, entire armies trembled and wept at my feet before being judged worthy of my ranks.  I have fond memories of Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 as well; most notably being the accomplishment of sneaking up on The End for his camo.  So, again, I should say that I have been a good Metal Gear Solid player in the past.  Perhaps it's just rust, perhaps it's that I simply don't like the Chapter 1 area, or perhaps I just wasn't feeling it today.  It did get to the point, unfortunately, where I was so frustrated with my lack of cohesive ability that I simply decided to move on to something else.  Perhaps I will try again tomorrow or so, restart and just get a feel for the controls, the style again, hopefully awakening my abilities.

In the meanwhile, I thought "Well, what the hell am I going to do now?", and for a moment I pondered.  Then it struck me.  "Self,"  I said, "Self, you have just the game for this occasion and you've actually been saving it for this time of year!"  Indeed, I had truly forgotten all about it and it was just happenstance that I remembered today, but I did, and I do believe that's the point that matters.

Way back in October, when the Halloween PSN Sale was in full swing, one of the heavily discounted items was Costume Quest, specifically as a full bundle.  This bundle included the original game, but it also had the only DLC pack that came out for the game, titled Grubbins on Ice.  Where Costume Quest as a basic experience was themed towards Halloween (hence its inclusion in the sale), Grubbins on Ice was billed as a more Christmas-themed romp which, having never experienced Costume Quest before I played it, let alone the expansion, seemed just fantastic to me.  I mean, I've said it before, but I -love- Christmas things in games and whenever someone is willing to include them, I'm more than happy to enjoy it.  So even with the tepid response I held towards Costume Quest, which I attributed to a sour mood, I venerated its expansion as a thing that I wouldn't partake in just yet.  A present to myself to be opened at the appropriate date, if you will.

Upon opening that present, I found that I was greeted with the equivalent of socks, possibly basic white, though I suppose they just might have been a fancy black pair.  They were socks, nonetheless, which basically means it was not what I was expecting at all, wasn't very exciting, nor satisfying.  While I can't bring myself to say that Grubbins on Ice was a disappointment, as that feels akin to punching a small child with puppy dog eyes, I'm not going to say I was enthralled, nor could I even muster up a basic interest in it as I played.  Betrayed once again by expectations, I suppose, but in this case, my expectations weren't exactly unfounded, nor were they outrageous, and it's a little disheartening that my meager hopes for the title couldn't have been met.

To say that Grubbins on Ice is a Christmas-themed expansion pack to Costume Quest is to say that a taxi cab is a perfect vehicle for jumping a shark pit.  Depending on the framing of the situation, yes, you are absolutely right, but it violates the very spirit of what you're trying to say, because you know damn well it's entirely too vague to sustain itself.  Grubbins on Ice has snow.  It has a sort of kind of maybe Yeti-themed Christmas-like thing that is barely touched upon.  And it has....uhh....did I mention it has snow?  No lit trees, no wrapped presents, no sleigh, reindeer, or elves.  Nothing you commonly associate with Christmas is present in the expansion, and in fact, it simply relies on the exact same Halloween mechanics from the base game with not even a little bit of deviation.  You don costumes, none of which are Christmas-themed (the expansion adds Pirate, Yeti and Eyeball(?!) costumes) and you trick or treat while performing little quests around town.

Thee hours later, if that, I had beaten Grubbins on Ice and was no richer for the experience.  I believe I can safely say that, for all its charm, Costume Quest was only decent at best, and it squanders all the things it does well against the things it does mediocre.  It's unfortunate, and while I can't say I regret the purchase or the time spent, I can say that there was quite a lot of possibility there and it's a real shame it didn't end up better than it did.  Now that that's conquered, however, I'll have to find a new way to properly celebrate the season, as, well, I really want to.  It's been a good few days and I'm fully in the Christmas spirit with the fuzzies and all, so I want to make the most of it.  It only comes once a year, after all!  Now...what to play that has a Christmas theme...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Just So Much Persona

There's just so many screenshots that I've taken of P4G.  It's that good.

Lately, if I've been thinking about anything it's been...well, it hasn't been Persona 4, but if it's been the -second- anything, it's been Persona 4 Golden.  Which is to say that it is effectively second-place in what I've spent all my time thinking about, which is to say that I have been spending a lot of time thinking about Persona 4.  It is not unwarranted, of course - Persona 4 is every bit as amazing as I've been lead to believe it was, which is nice.  For once I go into a game with everyone telling me it's going to be great and then it is.  I don't have to wonder if there's something wrong with everybody, something wrong with -me- or just if there's just something that has gone awry with matters entirely as I have wondered in the past.  Since it is a valid concern to have, I imagine.

Come Game of the Year time, using the thing I go by, I won't be able to vote for Persona 4 Golden as a Game of the Year since it is a remake of a game from years past.  That restriction, not being able to include remakes or re-releases, has never been a problem for me until this year and specifically because of this.  P4G is every shade of wonderful, and if I'm being honest, it would have a very real shot of being in my top 5 list were it able to be.  It's honestly going to be a little painful to not be able to give it that recognition that it actually deserves, but I'll suffice for using this post that is gushing about it to do that.  It is close enough, at least, I should say.  Since there is honestly not a negative thing I could say about the game - even the parts of it I don't care for (the dungeon crawling, basically) are manageable at worst and I'm completely indifferent to their issues as a standard (the last dungeon I was in began to grate on me...then it was over.  So that was good.) so it's of no concern.

In fact, Persona 4 Golden is so good that it's in fact making me like Persona 3 (Portable, since that's all I played) even more than I liked P3P when I was playing it and beat it.  Admittedly, I took issues with some things in P3P, but it's a solid game overall, and like I said I'm being reminded of that by playing P4G.  I am retroactively liking P3P more and more as I play P4G.  You can ask me how that works, but my response will be "I have no idea" because I really don't; I just know that it is a thing that is happening.  As I'm playing P4G, I find myself thinking about P3, thinking about the characters and the story of it and it's all just fantastic.  Admittedly, part of it is me comparing the games to one another which is an unfair thing to do, but a lot of it is just good old fashioned reminiscing and it honestly is probably enhancing my playthrough a little bit because of it.

I think the thing about P3 that has stuck out the most as a result of all of this is probably what I like most about the game and is one of the only things I think it does better than P4, is the characters.  Now before you start, just hear me out, alright?  I haven't beaten P4G yet, nor do I think I'm that close - at the most I'm 3/4ths of the way through - but by this point in P3, the characters had all developed entire arcs, changed dramatically before the players eyes, and that was all done in the main story.  That is not to say that P4 doesn't do that, but if you take the likes of Junpei from P3 and Yosuke from P4 (the obvious equivalent) and put their character arcs (main story only) side-by-side it's no comparison.  That might be an unfair example, however, as I've considered that they sort of...well, not have the same arc, but really similar ones, but they're told in entirely separate ways over the course of the game.  Both have a loss aspect to their arcs and while Junpei's has a build to it, Yosuke's loss is almost immediate and the rest of the game is the after-effects of that, where Junpei's loss is his endgame.  So perhaps it's being able to see Junpei for so long before it, see what he's like before he deals with that, that makes it so different and so dramatic a change, but it's there nonetheless.

Of course, there's a trade-off to all of that too.  Persona 3's strength is in its characters, so much so that it overshadows the narrative, but Persona 4 does not have that problem.  Persona 4's main story is all about that and it's a compelling ride because of it.  It's a give and take thing as I sort of inferred because I don't think P4's characters are quite as developed as P3's, but they're entertaining all the same and their real development comes, unsurprisingly, from spending time with them one-on-one in the social links.  Because of that, I cannot say fully that they're not done well, nor would I suggest it, but I'm just saying that, well....I think you know what I'm saying, really.  Persona 3 was character-focused, Persona 4 is story-focused and they're both great.  It's all about build, about tension and drama and it's all about development in either case, so it's subjective to say the least, but to me, both games are just really good at what they attempt to do in their respective approaches.

In any event, playing P4G has been nothing short of a pleasure from start to where I am now, and I doubt that that is going to change in any facet.  I look forward to seeing the story continue to unwrap as I honestly still have no real idea of how it's going to end and that alone intrigues me.  I suspect it's either going to be a situation where I go, "Well, I couldn't have guessed that" or I'll say, "Oh well, -now- it makes sense!" instead of dreading that it will turn out one way and being frustrated that it did.  Because, usually, when I figure on where a thing is going and I'm right, I'm a little disappointed because as we all know, I am pretty bad at predicting things.  So if -I- can predict it, it's probably not all that strongly written.  Maybe I'll be able to develop theories closer to the end, but so far I've really got nothing and I like it that way.  No matter the case, I'm having a hard time imagining P4G leaving my Vita for the rest of the year (okay yeah, it's not that long but still) and that's saying something.

Okay, awesome, I made it the whole post without saying I miss Yukari

wait shit

Friday, December 21, 2012

I'm Looking Forward to 2013

So, now that we officially know the world isn't going to end in spectacular fashion at a time where many thought that it might and thus we're back to just wondering when it's going to happen, I think it's appropriate to look to the future.  You know, the future that is going to be there definitely for sure unless something happens that -nobody- expected, because I guess that is still a possibility or something.  Regardless, 2013 is going to be a thing, and from what we've seen already, what we know to expect from the year, it's going to be quite something to anticipate.  Here it is, only the end of 2013, and I already know of quite a few big games that will make 2013 a rather big year for everyone, which is saying something to be sure.  Not even just games that I am personally excited about, though there are those, but there are things that are just going to duke it out for GotY - that much is clear already.  If you think about it for a moment that right there in itself is fairly remarkable.

One such game of that caliber will assuredly be the above-pictured The Last of Us from everyone's favorite developers with the magic touch, Naughty Dog.  Boasting some of the best graphics that you'll ever see on a modern console and gameplay to match if the Uncharted games are any indication, TLoU is certainly going to be a ride unlike anything else the year might have to offer.  From what we've seen, it does seem to scratch the same itch that an Uncharted game might do (which is just as well, seeing as we likely won't see an Uncharted title in 2013 unless Bend Studios makes a Golden Abyss follow-up.....which I would adore) but it'll do much much more than that which is enough of a hook right there, personally.  That's no surprise, I'm sure, since you all know of my absolute love of Naughty Dog, but that adoration is well-earned and what I've seen from TLoU promises that my faith, my excitement, is in fact well-placed.

Something else rather tantalizing that the game adds to the mix is a focus on survival that hasn't been absolutely explained just yet, much like a multi-player aspect that is similarly vague.  Parts of me hope that this is, in fact, because they are going to share aspects - specifically that there might be a survival focus on one of the Multi-player modes because that could be really really fun and interesting.  Part of the survival bit is a little crafting system with which you can make some weapons and, presumably, medicine and other helpful things, not just destructive things.  From what I can tell, it's not the most advanced system, but neither does it need to be, and I'm sure it'll be robust enough to play a vital part in the game as a whole.  Really, there's just a lot to like here and I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on my copy of the game.

Another game that is probably on top of most of the 2013 wish-lists or what have you that are out there is the recently explained Grand Theft Auto V.  Not only because of its pedigree which is quite extensive as we know, but because the scope of the game, as it has been detailed is huge and promises to really change what you might expect from a Grand Theft Auto game.  Whether or not they'll be hugely successful with the execution remains to be seen, as Grand Theft Auto IV was quite ambitious itself and, depending on who you ask, it didn't really live up to the expectations or the franchise in many many ways.  While it is hard to think of a game like Grand Theft Auto V possibly being something even resembling a disappointment, it certainly wouldn't be the first time, nor the most recent time, where a hugely-anticipated game turned out mediocre or otherwise disappointing.

With three different protagonists who all have been suggested to have their own 'lives' when you're not controlling one, the game is really breaking new ground in more ways than one.  It's also the biggest source of possible apprehension that I find with the title since I just have no idea how that's going to affect the overall game.  I believe sources indicated that the three would share assets (somehow) between them, so the reason to switch between them is really only to utilize their individual skill sets.  We don't know what those are just yet, but all three characters will be their own character fully and completely, thus giving you a reason to -want- to play as them, if only in theory.  I assume it will also affect other things, possibly contacts and the like, but the reason -is- there at least.

The part I worry about, however, is how three characters is going to affect the game overall.  The main reason that the three protagonists are like this is...well, actually it's to try and bait you further into the game, playing you against two of the other protagonists to urge you to find a 'favorite' of them to feel more of a connection with the game, ensuring you'll play it longer and more intently.  But the other reason is that three different characters have been created, have been developed and thought out by the teams and they want to make damn sure you play all three of them.  So to that end, I worry about how the story will be - will all three characters get their own 'story' told through a series of missions that end up coinciding at certain points?  Or is it just that you can play any mission as any character, but they're very clearly designed towards one character or another?  It's a hard balance that Rockstar has to draw with this set-up, and I can only hope that works well for them since GTAV has ever opportunity to be pretty fantastic.

Metal Gear Rising:  REVENGEANCE will allow me to cut all most of the things.


Yeah, that's it, really.  I mean, yes, there will be the special brand of Kojima crazy to it assuredly, as well as the Platinum crazy on top of that, and the game will be action-packed and wonderful, but I really, really just want to play with the Zan-datsu stuff.  And the rest of the game. 

But mostly the Zan-datsu stuff.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg here as there's all -sorts- of other things to be looking forward to in 2013.  DmC:  Devil May Cry, Ni no Kuni:  Wrath of the White Witch, Dead Space 3, Tearaway, Sly Cooper:  Thieves in Time, God of War:  Ascension, Killzone:  Mercenary, South Park:  The Stick of Truth and Watch Dogs among many, many other games are all slated for the year.  And that's just what we know about.  There's still plenty of time for things to get announced, finished and released before the end of next year, and at least a couple of those will likely be wonderful in their own right.

So while 2012 was a really fantastic year for gaming (if not much else for some of us), 2013 is shaping up to be quite a contender in its own right.  Just when you thought it was safe to bring your wallet out in the light again.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lightning Returns Trailer Goes Out Early

So, this is a thing that technically happened yesterday, but, well, so did something else, so I talked about that instead.  Since THQ filing for bankruptcy is kind of a bigger deal than a leaked Squeenix trailer or a trailer that Squeenix released early because it doesn't make any sense and thus makes perfect Squeenix sense.  If you were not aware or have forgot forced it from your memory, the next game in the Final Fantasy XIII series is called Lightning Returns™:  Final Fantasy® XIII and it is....well, it is a thing.  A thing that probably shouldn't exist because it only exists to finish XIII-2 which was a tacked-on mess which I assure you that I am still working on reviewing it to let you know the extent of that.  Lightning Returns is also something that is completely not what I expected going off the trailer versus what we were told in the 'announcement' of it.

As a refresher, Lightning Returns was sort of introduced as a more Action-RPG hybrid game in which Lightning is out to single-handedly save the world because she is so special for reasons that are inherently unapparent.  Don't get me wrong, I -like- Lightning, I'm just saying there needs to be more to a whole "Savior" angle than "Well, she got picked to be a Guardian for something", and I don't care if that -something- was important, it's still kind of dumb that there wasn't really a lot of backstory about it.  Presumably that will be -in- Lightning Returns, or maybe they'll just run with it still and we'll just figure the reason is "The creators of the games really liked Lightning", since that's as good an explanation as any.  The main theme to Lightning Returns is that, basically, 'Time is of the essence' in the most literal way possible because it is a malleable thing for Lightning at least, which, as I said, sort of gives it a Majora's Mask feel to it.

The similarities end there, however, especially since this trailer has come out and shed a little more light on the battle system.  Now, you see the way it was described gives you an inkling of something a little more....well, like I said, Action-y than RPG which we're all pretty much used to by now.  The pessimistic part of me looked at Dirge of Cerberus which was meant to be an action game and despaired and then looked at Crisis Core and only felt the barest bit more comfortable with the idea.  Still, there was a chance that that sort of thing could've been cool - I don't know how it would've worked magic and paradigm switches but I would've left that up to Squeenix.  You'll notice that is all in past tense and that is for a pretty obvious reason if you looked at the video (provided it's still up, I'll try to replace it with a new one if it gets taken down) and this is the point where I urge you to test the video and, if it works, move on to the next paragraph.  Of course, if it doesn't, move on to the next paragraph anyway.

So yeah, that is definitely still a turn-based battle system.  It does look like, indeed, there is more direct control over Lightning with it, but it is still Turn-based and that is positively worrying.  Even though I liked Final Fantasy XIII, the battle system was -only- good when you had three characters in the party, which is to say nothing of XIII-2 which spent most of the game having three characters in the party and -still- ended up being terrible.  To say that I can imagine a single-player version of either system being fun is a stretch that I'm not willing to make and while I'm sure it will be more tailored to the single-character experience, I cannot move away from being skeptical at best.  I mean, unless they throw a good portion of the battle system and encounter design out the window, it's going to be a rather large annoyance and I don't think Squeenix is actually -capable- of balancing the game properly to keep the experience fun but challenging.  Hell, I don't think they can manage just making it -fun-.

Honestly, there's not a whole lot in that entire trailer that instills me with anything resembling confidence.  Lightning's new outfit is stupid - it's backless with all sorts of poofy things that flap in the wind as she walks and jumps around, generally just being superfluous and adding a lot of area to her character which is unnecessary.  The game itself as it's shown in the trailer has to be alpha footage because it's...well, it doesn't look very good.  And the animation is a bit choppy looking.  Which begs the question "Why did they release a trailer that looked like that" and the answer is 'Nobody knows!'  Hopefully some follow-up trailers paint the game in a more positive light, but, well, the whole 'skeptical at best' thing.  If there's one positive that came from this whole thing, however, it's that this gif came from it.  I mean, just look at that gif.  How can you -not- love that?

But no, seriously, that's about it for positives.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Okay Fine, I'm Sorry THQ

I complain about not having anything news-wise to talk about and THQ goes and files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.  Possibly -only- to make me feel bad.  (Or try to, but the Christmas Fuzzies are still in full-force)  Or you know, possibly as an attempt to get out from the crushing debt the company was under.  That is the more possible reason, but I'm not putting anything past them.  This is, obviously very big news and while I honestly -could- write about other things tonight, it probably wouldn't be in my best interest to do so because this is like, front-and-center material right here.  Strictly from a "I need things to talk about" stand-point, this is a thing that doesn't happen very often and, dire as it is, it is certainly -something- that should be talked of, if only -because- of how dire it is.

Well, perhaps dire is pushing it just a little, but this is as much of a bad thing as it is a good thing for THQ and it's sort of a thing that you have to wait for the dust to settle on before you can really call it.  While it does indeed say Bankruptcy, which probably evokes images of chaos and such as people jump from the sinking ship, it's not quite like that.  Chapter 11 Bankruptcy is just a restructuring phase which companies can, and oftentimes do, work through and come out on the other end as a healthy, profitable business again.  Businesses that you might never expect to have -needed- Chapter 11, even, so it's not necessarily a mark of death or even something to fully worry about.  I know the first instinct is to take the news, look at the games you have with a THQ logo on them, or even games that are so close you can almost taste them and despair, but you might not have to do that.  Honest.

In fact, in a direct message to all of us from Jason Rubin, President of THQ, we are assured that this is the -opposite- of the truth of the matter.  I'll cherry-pick a few quotes here before I sort of explain the contents of the article for those who don't want to read the whole of it.
Today THQ announced that it has secured an investor, a private equity firm named Clearlake Capital Group, who is interested in purchasing most of what you think makes up THQ:  the teams that make the games (Relic, THQ Montreal, Vigil and Volition), THQ’s Intellectual Property (titles, source code, etc.), THQ’s contracts (like the ones with Crytek, South Park Digital Studios, 4A games, Obsidian, and Turtle Rock) and the support staff that are required to help the teams succeed. 

In fact, Clearlake is even providing the company the money it needs to keep working on the products as the process plays itself out. And importantly, when the purchase is complete, Clearlake has committed to invest additional ample capital to let us finish the games we are making and continue making games going forward. [...]
[...]The most important thing to understand is that Chapter 11 does not mean the end of the THQ story or the end of the titles you love.  Quite the opposite is true, actually.

Chapter 11 is a safety net for U.S. companies. American Airlines is currently in Chapter 11 restructuring, yet I flew back and forth on that airline when I visited Volition two weeks ago.  Donald Trump and his companies have been in Chapter 11 four times.  You can add to that list household names such as Macy’s, Eddie Bauer, the Chicago Cubs, Chrysler, Delta Airlines, General Motors, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Marvel Studios, and MGM, among many others.

MGM filed Chapter 11 two years ago, and this year it released “Skyfall” and “The Hobbit,” two of the biggest titles of the year. That’s what I mean when I say new start![...]
[...]Whatever happens, the teams and products look likely to end up together and in good hands.  That means you can still pre-order Metro: Last Light, Company of Heroes 2, and South Park: The Stick of Truth. Our teams are still working on those titles as you read this, and all other rumored titles, like the fourth Saints Row, the Homefront sequel, and a lot more are also still in the works.
From what I can tell here, the basic gist of the whole thing is that THQ filed for Chapter 11 so that somebody could come in and run some money into the company to keep it alive while it puts out product that will, presumably, also bring in profits.  I might be wrong, and in fact I probably am, as there's likely a little more to it than that, but this isn't a deal where some company (or multiple companies even) get to come in and buy this and that so that THQ can throw a little money at the pit of debt it'll face beyond its demise like some sort of Yard Sale.  Clearlake Capital Group, whoever they are, seems poised to 'buy' THQ so that THQ can resume doing what it's been doing.  And when I say what they've been doing, I mean the positive direction they've been moving in in the previous few months.  Kind of.  Pretty much just the positive direction that involves releasing South Park:  The Stick of Truth and confirming that another Saint's Row title is in the works.

There is a very real possibility that THQ is going into this with us all feeling doom and gloomy about it and will come out of it on the other side as a company like we haven't seen them be before.  As Jason Rubin said it, several businesses that are big deals out there have gone through Chapter 11 before and are still around, and in a big way, so this is likely not going to put a dent into anything you're expecting from THQ in the near future.  That alone is a strange thought but, as I said, with South Park:  The Stick of Truth on the horizon, it's a comforting one as well.  THQ does make some good games, which I think we might forget sometimes, and if the situation were any worse of one, it'd be a real blow for the general landscape of gaming as a whole.  We can only really hope that this thing is as positive as we're being led to believe, since if it is, it could really simply save the company and let it keep putting out those good games.  Like possibly Darksiders 3.  Maybe.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Personal Post - Christmas Fuzzies

This is not my house.  It is fantastic, though.

It has finally hit - the aforementioned Christmas fuzzies that have warmed my heart and just made me feel a little bit more at ease which has been very appreciated.  Again, without too much detail since I don't need to bore you with personal issues, it hasn't been too great and in truth it still isn't, but at least I'm managing to deal.  Thankfully, I have a little help with that, and I think that's really what helped get me into the Christmas mood.  Maybe she'll read this sometime and get that she's really been a help and hopefully that won't embarrass her too much.  Or maybe it will.  That's adorable too.  Regardless, it just really sank in tonight and I can' help but have this overwhelming sense of...calm and content wash over me which is good, of course, but it's also kind of a problem when I am trying to summon up venom to properly explain a game in a review. As I intended to do tonight.

Really, the Christmas fuzzies, nice as they are, aren't very helpful for writing much of anything which is the dilemma I found myself faced with tonight.  With any luck, I'll find some time today to do something -interesting- and that way, I'll know, something to write about tonight.  Since there's apparently not going to be anything that's approaching news-worthy, because why would there be, that'd just be too easy.  Since I haven't done enough in Persona 4:  The Golden to update on that (except get to a boss and whittle him down to being literally dead in one hit and then getting sucker-punched to death) nor have I thrown something new into the PS3 (because, again, fuck trying to Platinum FFXIII-2, goddamn slot machines).  There's just -nothing- going on except me feeling all warm and happy and fuzzy inside because of things.

So, that's what I wrote about. not a lot to say about it, I found.  Oh well!

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Perilous Power of Preconceptions

To say that I go into every game with absolutely nothing to sway my opinion of it, positively or negatively, would be an outright lie, as it is an impossibility.  To say that I try, however is not a lie at all, but just how successful I am at it is..well, probably suspect.  The last two games I have played have probably been victims to this and the next one I am looking forward to playing will likely fall into it as well.  At least, the next game that I am looking forward to playing outside of things that I might expect as gifts or something.  Basically, the next game that I am looking forward to purchasing and popping in the Playstation for a play is the game that I worry I will not be able to judge objectively because of what I already know of it.  What that could mean means that it is, indeed, a very valid concern to have.

The game I'm talking about, of course, is the above-pictured Far Cry 3 which just got a rather glowing review from Chance that is, in fact, entirely responsible for my desire to pick it up.  I had absolutely zero interest in Far Cry 3 prior to the review, which is unfortunate, since I just saw another FPS, but I am assured that it is quite more than that, something much bigger and much better than that.  In fact, what I have been promised, by Chance, is that the game is a tantalizing package of fun that offers things that I -want- and things that I cannot get in other games.  The prospect of a compound bow, of complete stealth in a FPS setting, of situations where I can make my own 'stories' of conquest as it were is almost mouth-watering and by the end of the read, it was all I could do to -only- put the game on my "Dear Mogs, you have to buy this, Love Mogs" list, rather than try to figure out the easiest way I could go out and purchase it -now- (or the best equivalent to 'now' which is generally 'tomorrow'.)

I am excited for Far Cry 3 and that is a dangerous scenario since I was also excited for Final Fantasy XIII-2, having been assured by the echo chamber that is the internet that it was 'the fun one', and overall a 'better game' than XIII.  While I tried to stay impartial, I was -hopeful- to say the least as, even though I liked Final Fantasy XIII, it had its many, many flaws, and to say that I was disappointed with XIII-2 is like saying The Big Bang was kind of a thing that happened.  It is infinitesimally understating matters and when I get around to reviewing the game, I imagine I will make that much clear.  However, in a similar fashion, I went into Final Fantasy XIII expecting something bad, indeed almost feared playing it, yet managed to walk away with a net positive feeling of the game.  That's the rub of it all, really, we color our experiences of a game, the end result of it, by what we went in expecting and, in general, I don't think it does a -lot-, but unfortunately when it does, you can't help but wonder what could have been if you just hoped for something different.

The difference in the scenarios, I imagine, is that what Chance has offered with his painting of Far Cry 3 is something that is tangible, where Final Fantasy XIII and its sequel were always unknowns.  Hearing of sneaking to the tops of towers and shanking a guy before clearing a base with a silenced sniper rifle or, indeed, a compound bow is something that I can quantify enjoyment out of in just theory.  Basically he is describing things in a positive light because they are inherently positive, with not much left up to 'opinion' as it were.  Final Fantasy XIII's battle system, on the other hand, is more objective in that someone can basically love or hate it for the -exact- same reasons, and it just has to be something you accept and/or enjoy, or something that pushes you away completely.  I'm sure it could be argued that Far Cry 3's activities have the same propensity, but look, you know what I meant, damnit.  There just seems to be something of a thrill to be had with Far Cry 3's offerings, simply as they are, where FFXIII could always have been something that just wasn't 'for' me.

Whatever the reason, I think it speaks volumes that it took just a well-written review to put a game directly on my radar, and towards the center of it no less when I had previously intended on giving it no other look than the one I had given to acknowledge it existed.  Yet it is always those experiences, -those- stories that seem to be the ones that end in a complete high note or an unexpectedly low one simply because the amount of pressure the game actually has on it is palpable.  I am confident in Far Cry 3's ability to deliver, however, and when I pick up a copy, likely post-holidays, I cannot wait to delve into its delicious-sounding offerings.  Of course, you know that means that you are totally on the hook, Chance.  So if I don't like the game, that's squarely on your head for making me so excited for the game.  Because I am so very excited for it if that wasn't completely and totally obvious.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

So, I'm Sick Again

This is me.  I am Yosuke.  Minus the need for a stomach pump.

I have yet another sinus thingy going on, and whether it's a sinus infection or just general wonkiness -with- my sinuses is yet to be established.  Like, drastic temperature/climate changes throwing me off.  It doesn't really make that much of a difference (and honestly, I'm leaning towards the latter since I do not have common infection things) because it is ruining me all the same and that's a shame.  When I'm coughing hard enough to make my back hurt and sniffling five times every twenty seconds, it's pretty much all the same thing no matter the root cause and it sucks pretty direly.    That I don't have a fever and the stuff that I am hacking up in mass quantities is clear is of little solace since I have everything else and it is terrible and I am actively miserable.

Speaking of miserable, I beat Final Fantasy XIII-2 and when I can form entire sentences of vitriol I will review it.  Spoiler:  it is terrible.  I don't want to say a lot about it here because I'll feel like I'm reiterating during the review proper, but that's a thing that's going to happen, so be on the look-out for that sometime this week hopefully.  With any luck, as the weather normalizes over the next couple days, I'll even out and feel less like death warmed over.  Until then, though, I probably won't be able to write a whole lot because even doing just this is kind of a...not a chore, but it is not pleasant since I just sort of feel wooden in my head and I worry that is translating into these words and sentences.  Also I keep losing my train of thought and it keeps getting replaced by new things which is not very good for 'flow', as it were and I like flow.  I like flowing things together.  It is a neat thing.

I'm going to try to at least type -something- on these nights where I feel terrible since it has been happening a lot lately and it's bugging me.  I used to think that a post of mine wasn't a good one unless it was at least four paragraphs, and I realize that it is silly to gauge things by that so I'll stop doing that.  Just going to type until I am done typing.  And I think I am done typing tonight since that's all I really wanted to say, and my brain is already attempting to form things for the mentioned XIII-2 review and it is just not going to happen tonight, nor should it.  But some night. Some night soon.  In the meantime, I finally get to play something else since I am not going to try and platinum it, even out of spite, because there is a goddamn trophy tied to slot machines and the winning at them and that shit just ain't happening.  That -never- happens.  I don't understand why game companies keep doing that.  It just makes people hate you.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Apparently, This is REVENGEANCE'S NA Box Art

That is what Joystiq has told me today and that's...that's pretty cool.  Box art has been kind of a thing lately, what with the Bioshock Infinite situation and such, so I guess it makes sense to make something of a deal about it for a little while until things sort of taper off and we all go back to not really caring one way or another.  More so than just about any other game I can think of, however, REVENGEANCE'S cover will probably be the one that'll cause the last few ripples if only because it is the cover art for the game that I figure will still end up being even more polarizing than your normal Metal Gear game for the simple fact that REVENGEANCE is not your normal Metal Gear game.  I will never get tired of people who complain about things never changing, everything's a sequel, blah blah, and when something different happens, the same people whine because someone is 'ruining' a franchise by doing something different.  It is the height of silliness, to be sure.

That's pretty much where we're at with REVENGEANCE (no, I am not going to not cap it because it is that awesome) and I don't see that changing....well, ever.  That's kind of a good thing, though, I guess?  If nothing else, it'll keep people talking about it since, if there's something the game will need, it'll be exposure and word of mouth.  Metal Gear Rising won't have the full audience that a Metal Gear Solid title can expect because some of that audience is part of the group all in a huff because it's so different and is ruining the sanctity of the entire franchise and blah blah blah.  To top that, the group that will latch on to this game simply because it's from Platinum Games probably won't be enough to bring it back up to how popular it could be -expected- to be.  So really, the box art here is a lot more important than one might assume from just not really paying a lot of attention to box art.  I know I certainly don't unless I just see something that -really- pops and that's not really a concern lately.

I'm trying to be objective about the cover and I just can't tell if I am succeeding or not, because I just think it's really damn cool looking and I am also fighting off a little sinus trouble or a cold that has my mind all muddled.  It conveys the message that had been broadcast loud and clear since the name "REVENGEANCE" got put at the end - this is an action game about cutting shit.  Like, a lot of it.  In awesome ways.  Like a goddamn Ninja.  Which, coincidentally, Raiden -is-.  I mean, I know that I am biased, which is why I can't say for sure that it's a -good- cover, but I know that I like it and despite being the target audience anyway, I would probably pick this up off a shelf if I saw it and knew nothing of the game.  Hopefully that happens, because I want this game to succeed.  It's one of the handful of games I'm already hyped for next year and that's only going to grow and grow as it draws nearer and nearer.  And as I wonder if I'll still be able to switch my pre-order to the Limited Edition with the lamp.  Because goddamnit, I am making money and I am allowed to be a whore.  So whoring it is!

Wait, shit, that didn't come out right.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Okay, I Really Like Persona 4: The Golden

There's no real qualifiers here, nothing I feel I need to clear up lest I say something wholly positive, and nothing that I feel is muddled in that statement.  I just really like this game.  I can't quite place the why per se, but there is something that is undeniable about Persona 4 that has drawn, kept and cultivated my enthusiasm for the game in a way that Persona 3 just didn't manage to.  I had expected it would, but certainly not to the degree that it has, considering the version of Persona 3 that I played, (Persona 3 Portable) incorporated a lot of improvements from 4 into it.  I had thought that, on a functional level, it would be roughly the same or a similar game at least, and that it would really be up to the story and the characters to sell it to me, but there's entire oceans of depths between the two games in some respects.  That alone is fairly impressive, but it's really just the game itself that has taken me aback.

There's so many damn little touches here and there that improve the overall experience that I can't actually imagine the game, any game like this, without them.  Especially the features in The Golden, as I find myself using Voice and SOS a lot.  For the former, it's good to kind of know a general idea of what might be a good thing to do if I'm not really too up on doing the same thing again and again, or I don't want to 'waste' an afternoon by idly hanging out with someone so that I may hang out with them -again- to actually get a boost.  Whenever possible, I like to make use of the times when I can't gain a rank, but can get some points regardless because there is something in me that desires to maximize my time with the game, even though there is a very real possibility that I will play it again in NG+ the full way through instead of like with P3P where I start one and ragequit because goddamnit Elizabeth, fuck your stupid time-sensitive quests.

The dungeon crawling, which was my most hated part of Persona 3, is much the same in 4, but it manages to not be that bad yet.  I'm not quite sure if it's because the actual dungeons aren't that big themselves, or simply because the design of the levels are a little more interesting uniformly and aren't things that you'll see for forty goddamn floors at the start.  Probably with the later dungeons, but with the first two being 8 and 12 floors respectively, that's certainly quite a short bit of crawling.  Beyond that, the Card Shuffle bit sometimes offers Cup Cards which restore HP/SP and if you're using SOS like I am, you stand to keep your vitals up to an acceptable level without doing too much actual work to do that.  Not that it's easy, of course, as there are still enemies who will wreck your shit if you're unprepared (Goddamn Dice with their Last Resort attack) and the amounts of HP/SP you gain through the mentions methods are drops in a bucket, in all reality.  They help - they don't scratch the itch completely.  Eventually you're going to have to suck it up and down an item or just head off for the night.  But, well, it feels like to me that I get a little bit more accomplished per dungeon trip than you would think, and it never feels really overlong, so I suppose they did something right here.

Beyond that, the characters are actually really enjoyable.  I'm not sure if I prefer anyone on this cast to Junpei and Yukari from 3 (both of whom I have discovered I hold a lot of enthusiasm over only after thinking about 3 because of 4) just yet, but there's nobody I actively dislike aside from the obvious character who I don't even have to name because you know who he is and he is meant to be hated.  Also King Moron.  (You see the joke is that I was obviously referencing him and then suggested it wasn't actually him.  It's bear-ly a jo-goddamnit Teddie)  The scenes so far have all been entertaining in their own right and I haven't really had a "hurrrrgh, just shut up" moment or anything like that.  Really, I'm just kind of waiting on when I'm going to find something in the game that I just hate.  I feel like there -has- to be something, but so far, I'm honestly just turning up nothing.  That's.....that's uncommon to say the least.  But Persona 4:  The Golden is an uncommon game.  Uncommonly good game.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

So, I Caved and Subscribed to Music Unlimited

For the last few weeks, a fairly tantalizing offer has been sitting in the windows of the Playstation Store - a rather steep discount for Sony's Music Unlimited service.  When I say steep, I mean steep, in that a year usually costs $60, yet under the sale, a year is going for $12.  Twelve dollars.  Without sounding like a shill, that is a dollar a month for music that I would otherwise likely be too lazy to look up and listen to by other means, as well as being music that I can theoretically 'keep' on my Vita for the next year thanks to the Offline Mode, but I'll get to that in a moment.  As you know, I am a sort of person who often talks himself into spending money on 'value' specifically because lookit dat value and it has backfired in the past, but I don't exactly see that happening here.  At least, not from the very limited exposure I've received today since buying it before the store updated.  (Dunno if it's still available, actually, but I was indeed worried about missing out on it from hm-hawing about.)

I am a man who enjoys his music, I think I have well established that.  What's more is that I believe I have established myself as a man who likes what he likes in music, but certainly isn't averse to looking into things that others may find....questionable at best.  In a sense, just having a whole bunch of music that I haven't particularly listened to in any way at my finger tips seems like the perfect thing for me, or at least, that's what I've thought.  I've just been too lazy, really, to look into anything of the sort, but this was the urging that I needed for that it seems as, even now, I'm listening to the album from The Lonely Island that I haven't gotten around to buying yet simply because I came across an Akon song in one of the Top Lists.  While that's not -exactly- the progression they expect to happen, it did and helped prove the worth of the selection for the month, I suppose, since I am certainly getting more than $1 of enjoyment.

Still, the thing you have to wonder about with a Music streaming service is precisely what music is there to be streamed, since, as is the case with all these sorts of things, there will inevitably be something that you want that is unavailable.  As with Netflix all of one search in, I already hit a blank expanse of disappointment, but this is at least a -little- understandable.  I get that the service probably isn't going to jump on offering K-Pop* music and I don't like it, but I understand.  In all actuality, there is a -little- bit, though, as there's an album of Girls' Generation, as well as an album of like eight versions of "The Boys" which is a little much I think, and I saw a few other names, but the selection for them is barely there, so my intentions of using this as a K-Pop machine have gone up in smoke.  Sure, there's feasibly an entire year for them to partner with some studios and bring some music, but I'm just really doubting that's going to be a thing that happens.  It's a shame, but again, I at least understand this.

In terms of the rest of the music, I haven't sought deep below the surface, but there is at least an alarming amount of perceived content here, so I'm sure I'll find it rather difficult to truly be disappointed by the lack of something integral to me.  In fact, in the last ten minutes I have switched to the Rock & Metal Top 100 and have heard Black Sabbath, Journey and quite a few other bands that make me happy inside.  The few things that are 'obscure' that I know of, I checked and found albums for them as well, so I'm really not sure what to think in terms of holes.  I guess it's a sort of situation where you don't know until you start looking and wreck the whole house of cards, but I haven't done that quite yet and don't really intend to.  I'm much more enticed to simply enjoy what's offered as I further try to figure out the finer touches of the system.  It has only been a day, after all.

I wouldn't say that I'm wrestling with understanding how the whole thing works, but I will say that I'm not quite used to these things, so I am a little confused as to how I can do some things.  Like, you would think as a music thing that only streams music, it should be wholly possible to just back out of it to the LiveArea for it to continue playing music as the Music app does.  But that only works if you're in Offline Mode, I think - there were little hints and tips coming up and I kind of glossed over a lot of them which is proving to be not my finest move.  Still, that -is- a rather lovely thing that Music Unlimited offers - any song you listen to can be added to a Playlist that you can set to be "Offline" which basically means you can listen to the songs in that Playlist anytime.  Riding on a bus?  You can listen to it.  Stuck in some place with no wi-fi signal?  You can listen to it.  Your internet shit the bed because you have a goddamn awful ISP that you hate with a passion that burns in such a way that the heavens themselves shrink in abject terror?  You can listen to these songs.  More importantly, you're just doing other shit on your Vita?  Yeah.  Those songs.  You can listen to them.

I imagine there is also a way that you can listen to music that is actively being streamed maybe, but it's not so much a concern as you can just pre-load a playlist with things that you want to listen to and then...well, listen to those songs while you do whatever it is that would otherwise keep you from being inside the actual Music Unlimited app.  Something to note is that, despite saying "Music", there are other things that are offered on audio CDs, such as Comedy routines (Stand-up acts, I mean, live ones generally) from a few well-known folks such as the late George Carlin, Brian Regan, Chris Rock, (the also late) Mitch Hedberg and etc. etc.  That was a pleasant surprise to say the least and will likely continue to justify the cost of entry for quite a while.  Which, for what it's worth, I believe I've found my $12 worth here, so if you're interested in a music streaming service and want to attempt something like this, I'd certainly recommend it.  Hopefully I am not jinxing myself on it, but it's not really given me problems so far and has, in fact, given me enjoyment instead!

*yes, the first thing I looked for was something K-Pop.

shut up, Haplo

Monday, December 10, 2012

Well, This is Unfortunate

Apparently this has been a -thing- that the net has known about for a little bit, but I personally didn't really start hearing about it until yesterday, or rather this morning when I was laying in bed, unable to sleep despite it being three goddamn thirty in the morning when I needed to be up in mere hours.  I didn't think too much of it because surely, it had to be a silly, incorrect thing, right?  Something that is way beyond oversight as this to the point of being intentionally dumb can't actually be a thing, yes?  Well, it -is- a thing, but skimming under the surface shows that it's not completely 'intentionally dumb' as it is Nintendo being super-duper ultra-over-cautious as only Nintendo can be.  Or....just unfortunate as Nintendo usually is not.  I'm not quite sure about what's actually the case here.

'What's the issue already?', I know you're saying.  Well, the issue is that European Wii U owners can only download M-Rated Games in the middle of the night.  The whole of Europe.  The window is between 11 PM and 3 AM, and those are the -only- hours in a day that you can spend towards downloading an M-Rated (18+ Rated over there) game onto your shiny new Wii U console.  Given that said games are...rather large and that's generally not a feasible amount of time, it's a major, major problem for people who are looking to eschew disks in favor of over-large external hard drives that have to be externally powered or something like that - I don't remember but it's kind of dumb.  So, at face value, what that means is that in the entirety of Europe, you're only allowed to download 18+ games, such as ZombiU and Assassin's Creed 3 at those few wee hours in the dark of night which basically means unless you have patience and a super-duper internet connection, you're pretty much -not- going to get to buy and download those games.

That is, of course, really really bad.  The first instinct is to wonder just what the -hell- Nintendo is thinking with that one, and, well, they're thinking in terms of the law, which I guess is pretty smart.  You see, across the whole of Europe, there's all sorts of various restrictions on entertainment content, be it video games or movies or etc. and king of them all in terms of restrictions is Germany.  For years now, it's been kind of hard, if not impossible, to provide Germany with a lot of things directly, in terms of the digital space, and this is no different.  Still, those restrictions tend to just focus on Germany, since it's Germany's law, so what's the deal?  Well, the deal is that Nintendo of Europe operates out of, you guessed it, Germany.  The unfortunate matter of these types of things is that Law is generally sovereign based on where you operate from, if I'm not mistaken, which is precisely why the whole of Europe is affected.  Since Nintendo of Europe operates from Germany, it, as a whole, has to abide by Germany's laws, insanely restrictive as they might be.

In a sense, this isn't really Nintendo's fault, but at the same time, this is going to do only negative things for them overall.  The bare fact of the matter is that, basically, you cannot buy 18+ games digitally on a Wii U, which, given that this is Nintendo's attempt at appealing to the demographics that felt left out with the Wii, poses a real issue.  The big mainstream titles they're looking to pipe through like the mentioned Assassin's Creed 3 and other things like the various Call of Duty games are thus inaccessible to a percentage of the market which is something you don't want to happen.  Especially on the digital side of things since Nintendo and the various companies involved stand to make a little more off of those copies rather than the physical ones out there.  At the same time as this is just Nintendo adhering to the laws that they have to follow, these aren't new laws by any means, and you would think that at some point during development of the Wii U with its big, bad internet focus, they would...sort of think about this sort of thing at any point.

Overall, I think this is just telling of Nintendo's whole state with the entirety of the Wii U's launch.  You really get the feeling that they just weren't ready for this, and I worry that they actually rushed it out of the gate to ensure they got a head start on Sony and Microsoft.  The move will pay off a little simply for the fact that it's Nintendo, but it certainly is proving with each passing day that it might not have been the wisest move and will likely cost them a bit more than it could've gained them in the long run.  It's just been a rocky launch for the Wii U and it's all-but eaten away at Nintendo's perceived console durability since the Wii U is certainly not made of 'Nintendium' as it were.  There are more than a few flaws with the device, and more than a few instances of failures, both small and on the large scale (hardlocks/freezes to absolutely bricking in noticeably large quantities) and one can only hope that if they'd perhaps waited a little longer, it would've been a better machine overall for the short term and long term both.  I guess we'll never really know, and I just hope that Nintendo will be able to fix the issues that exist before it's too little, too late.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Last Of Us Has Confirmed Multi-Player

When you're announcing something, there's generally three ways it comes out:  1.)  You just say "Hey, this is happening" with some sort of aplomb or spectacle, 2.)  You -try- to say "Hey, this is happening" with some sort of aplomb or spectacle but some sort of promo material or leak steals your thunder or 3.)  You just sort of mention it casually, presumably with a little grin on your lips as you do so.  The third method is not often employed, and when it is, it's actually really kind of effective at disseminating a bit of information more than actually making a spectacle of it would be, since, with an off-hand mention, you're ensuring people are going to pick up on it more intently as if they've discovered a really obscure little fact or something.  I say all this because this is what happened with The Last of Us - multi-player was announced in the Playstation Blog Post that offers a new trailer, a re-affirmation of the release date which is May 6th, 2013 and the reveal of both pre-order bonuses.

The first pre-order bonus pack, the Sights and Sounds Pack as it's called, is going to be available everywhere, it seems, and simply includes the Official Soundtrack (presumably as a download), a dynamic theme and two avatars, one each of our main characters Joel and Ellie.  The other pack, the Survival Pack you see above, is set to be a GameStop exclusive as a bonus to the Sights and Sounds Pack (so pre-ordering at GameStop nets you both) and focuses primarily on the not-yet-mentioned Multiplayer modes that...continue to be not mentioned.  From the items in the pre-order flyer, we can assume it's likely going to be something like the Uncharted MP, but possibly with less Deathmatch (or maybe the same amount of Deathmatch because squads of survivors are out there as trailers have shown) and because if it isn't broke, you don't fix it.  Uncharted's MP is certainly not broke and, if I had more time, I would likely spend quite a bit of time with it, but I just do not as I've lamented here several times.  But if you don't believe me about the MP just being mentioned off-handedly and don't care to click the link, then hey, here's a quote for you:
Multiplayer, wha? We’re not quite ready to talk about it yet, but stay tuned as we’ll be revealing more details on multiplayer before The Last of Us is released on May 7th, 2013.
That, of course, suggests that there just might be a little more to the whole MP onion than we know of, which is a really intriguing thing.  I could sit here and ponder of all the different things that could really be possible, but I'm not...not really going to do that.  Since there will either be cooperative MP against Platforming/Puzzles, Cooperative MP against waves of AI, or various modes of Deathmatch or some combination thereof.  We've really more or less exhausted the well of just -how- you keep people who are playing a video game on the internet interested in continuing to play a game on the internet, and those three options are pretty much the stand-outs.  Mostly because they are in every single game that has multiplayer in its own way, from Assassin's Creed which sort of re-invented the wheel to fit its own mold to Call of Duty which has turned it into a refined, near-game all its own, to Mass Effect which was sort of the last series you would expect to get MP within its casing.  What with being a Shooter-RPG with a single-player focus and everything.

If anything, it's just what 'twist' on the existing formulas the game offers that makes it something stand-out.  As stated, Assassin's Creed took it and ran with it in its own direction - giving you the single-player focused character feel and turning it on its head as everyone had that as well, in game modes that actively tried to get you to not act as you do when you play Single-Player.  You're still killing mans for points at the end of the day, but the line between Point A and Point B bends and swerves in all the different places than most others attempt, and that's what made it stand out.  Call of Duty's twist is that there really -is- no twist - it's simply meant to be a very polished, very refined experience and generally lives up to that with the odd exception here or there.  The line for it from Point A to Point B is very straight, but lined with all the best, so to speak, which makes it its own beast.  So, much as most things in life, it more or less boils down to what is essentially semantics - not what you say, but how you say it.

My own personal hope is that the game sort of takes a page from another popular game that I won't really mention because I am being cryptic or something, and focuses more on survival in its MP.  Not survival from enemies, be they AI or Player primarily, but simply survival from the environment I suppose.  The game has already shown off a crafting system to create a few things like molotov cocktails and the like made from random supplies and I imagine that could be extended to other things.  Things like torches and fires to keep warm, meals to eat and the like.  A multiplayer mode in which you simply try to out-live another individual with or without direct contact with them seems intriguing enough, really, and it would likely involve the trappings of enemies whether they're just scavengers or those strange mutants from the first trailer.  Regardless, I doubt I'll be disappointed by the MP because I'm not looking forward to it as much as I am the single player campaign.  That's what we know of and that's what's exciting and, for all intents and purposes, that's all I really care about.  May simply cannot come fast enough.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Technical Difficulties

If only this said Technical Difficulties instead of Art Director.  Would be perfect.  Is that bad?

So, I have been playing Persona 4:  The Golden lately.  I have been enjoying it a lot.  I tried to convey that in words tonight and it didn't work out at all.  In fact, I've tried to convey a lot of things in words here lately and just haven't been able to manage it.  I have no less than three blog posts in my head that refuse to siphon themselves through my fingertips and it's the height of frustration.  I'm trying to work through it, but it's not working perfectly just yet.  So with that, I'll just have to ask that you bear with me while I try to work through this latest funk in the series of funks this year has provided.  I'll figure out something here eventually and then everything will be hunky-doory.  In the meantime, friggin' buy Persona 4:  The Golden if you haven't already.  Seriously.  Believe the hype in this one, because it does not disappoint.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Early Persona 4: The Golden Impressions

I haven't played a lot of Persona 4:  The Golden, but that's mostly because the start of the game, moreso than Persona 3, I believe, is a lot of talking and cutscenes and making sure you go this way and that way.  The actual 'game' part, where you can go around and do whatever you want to do unrestrained, is something that I've finally gotten to a handful of hours in (admittedly some of it is idle time) and it's fresh and new, but familiar all the same.  Familiar even though I have not once played Persona 4 prior to The Golden, despite having bought Persona when it came out.  I believe back then I told myself I would only play it after I beat Persona 3 which I was going to play after I played something else, and well, you all know how that kind of thing goes.  It was only with Persona 3 Portable and my Vita that I was able to fell the JRPG beast that is Persona 3, and it's only fitting that I similarly tackle the new behemoth on the very same platform - especially with the enhancements The Golden has to offer.

Of course, having never -played- Persona 4, said enhancements are often fairly hard to spot and it's only with very careful counsel skimmed from the internet that I have a rough idea of what is new.  Aside from what is very blatantly new, of course, such as the SOS system.  It is blatantly new because, well, even though the PS2 had internet capabilities of a sort, I'm sure Persona 4 didn't make use of them.  I find myself wondering about the SOS system as well - it's neat in concept and theory and I'm willing to say execution as well, but there's still something off about it.  Basically what it is, if you haven't already experienced it or read up on it yourself, is whenever you're in a dungeon, you can hit the SOS button in the upper left corner of the screen.  Doing so sends a broadcast over the network that will, in turn, bring up help requests on the screens of other dungeon dwellers.  Those people can choose to tap the "Send aid" button (which is just there, doesn't pause the game or anything like that) and if they do that before you enter your next battle, you will receive a nominal HP/SP refill before it gets underway.  And I mean nominal like 10 HP, 8 SP total for a few people aiding you.  So don't -rely- on it for your HP and SP needs, but hope that it'll be a nice little bonus to help you out.

Similarly, the function that I believe is just referred to as "Voice" is an ability to get a little tip about where others who are playing the game have gone when faced with the same situation as yourself outside of a dungeon.  So, on April 21st, if you want to have an idea of some things you can do in the evening, you hit the voice button (where the SOS button is in a dungeon) and it'll bring up a mess of bubbles stating different actions.  Some people read a book, some people studied, and others just went straight to bed.  This is particularly helpful for someone who hasn't played the game before since, well, at times I've been informed of things I can do already in the limited experience I've put in the game.  "Oh, someone talked to Marie?  Yeah, I suppose I -can- do that, hadn't even thought of it."  "Someone studied?  Hrm....why?" and then I walked to the library, talked to the girl outside of it who informed me that studying on rainy days meant you could receive a higher bonus from increased concentration.  Seeing as I'd already read the "increase Knowledge gain from studying" book, that was a no-brainer (huuuurrrrr) and three Knowledge bonuses later, that little edging in a direction proved to be a good one.

Newness aside, The Golden feels familiar because it takes a lot from Persona 3 and refines it, not drastically changing a lot of it.  As Persona 3, you spend quite a bit of time -outside- of dungeons and what you do there matters almost as much as what you do in dungeons, if not matters equally so.  Social links are the name of the game, and you'll want to do whatever you can to build them up unless you're more interested in bettering yourself so you can, in turn, get -more- Social Links.  There's no wrong answer here - just whatever works for you since you'll inevitably have to do your heavy lifting on a New Game + unless you want to meticulously follow a guide to a T.  That's never much fun, so it's really not recommended of course.  I do see how experience with Persona 3 has affected my experience with 4 already, however as, even though a lot of 4's improvements saw their way into Persona 3 Portable, there's many more that didn't and I can appreciate those for what they are.  Beyond that, I'm familiar with how the game works, so I don't need to stress out over Social Links and such as I did with 3 - I can simply relax and enjoy the game as it comes.

At the moment, I'm simply interested in actually getting into the meat of the game as I'm still entirely too early on in it.  I've started unlocking some Social Links and exploring them and I have a renewed reason to dungeon crawl again after the initial on, but it's still all introductory.  The time where I find myself overwhelmed with choice still hasn't dawned and that's the point where I'm looking forward to it most, since it'll ensure that I don't have to worry about figuring out something to do, more that I'll simply have to decide what I need to do of everything available.  I want to find out what my protagonist (named Masamune Noboru btw, Last/First) is like after answering enough of the (sometimes silly, as you see above) social link responses and otherwise, and after enough of day-to-day activities.  Not to mention the learning of the finer points of the rest of the cast along the way since I'm assuming that's going to be 4's strength as it was one of 3's.  To that end, I think it's time to hop back into the Castle and slay some more shadows, as money for weapons and armor is not just appearing in my pockets any faster by not doing that.