Monday, December 23, 2013

State of the Onionne and Games that I need to play during Christmas Break

at 5:00 PM
Okay. I am off work for the next two weeks. I do not have a ton of stuff I need to do, except that I need to try to unwind. That means the blog will be on semi-vacation as well. Thanksgiving was not a very relaxing time, it was like five days of stress attacks and brain tumors ("helping out", "spending time", etc.). The main big breaks I've had this year involved doing stuff or having medical problems like tonsillectomy and tonsillitis-con-mono. Hey spellcheck, and by extension Google, who I assume controls everything computer: why the fuck do you know "tonsillitis" but still try to call my mom and issue a three day out-of-school suspension every time I write "gameplay", "sidescrolling", or "platformer"? I realize that the Doctor's Association of America probably has a better dictionary lobby (to... Google?) and is slightly better-respected than Game Informer, but we're talking about a jargon that is going on forty years old. It is older than spellcheck

The big problem with this blog at the moment (from my perspective - I doubt anyone on the outside notices our subtle shifts from "really crappy" to "mostly crappy"), particularly since November, is that I haven't had time to play games. Hence any free time spent writing is less time gaming which is less rehearsed material to write about which is less well-considered posts which is a viscous cycle which results in a lifestyle where I neither get to play games nor produce work that I consider worth my time or worth your time. I've somewhat deflected that with substitute material like Godzilla and It's Always Sunny, but unless you want to start reading about my job or my way-too-dramatic-for-a-25-year-old friendships or coping with a newly quadriplegic father, I can't write unless I get some time to play games. I love games, critical theory, and vain stabs at comedy - not being an autobiographer. I'm surprised how much I've enjoyed working on this blog considering that I hadn't written shit since college. It's a legitimate creative outlet for me and I have no intention of stopping... at least until my life reaches a stable enough point that I feel comfortable committing to a game project - as intended earlier this year, before Events. 

Anyway, I'm taking two weeks off work and only about half of those are committed to other things, so that's sevenish days to play games (as fucking if - I guarantee I get no more than 24 hours - still a luxury). Vacation time is typically great for finishing games - I even go to the extent of setting aside certain games I enjoy so much that I'd rather save them for an "off" time when I can give them the attention they deserve. When I was a kid they were "summer games" - Skies of Arcadia, Ocarina of Time - games I didn't want to play during the school year because my schedule prevented me from bingeing as their quality demanded. Since I don't have a tenth enough breaks for all the games I'd love to binge on these days... well, a lot of them go unfinished (The Witcher, Dark Souls, Dragon Quest IX) or I gradually pick through an hour a night as pains me to do (every modern Zelda, XCOM).

Okay. As the great Hulk Hogan once said, "Enough is enough". Here are some games I need to, as the great Hulk Hogan once said, "take care of". I will be posting sporadically, but mostly reruns, during my vacation while I enjoy these games. When I come back, whoo boy will it be a delight updating you on how much I've accomplished of what I said I would have accomplished.

DEFINITELY FINISH Mark of the Ninja. Been working on this on and off since the Spring I think. Always great fun to jump into a level, and the later levels even start getting more obnoxiously platformy (in a good way, with moving obstacles and timed jumps and stuff). It's neat that this is a stealth game that has multiple selectable characters (a mechanic Greg and I recently discussed in platformers), though they need to be unlocked, making them feel more like Castlevania's bonus rounds with Julius, Richter, Maria, et al. It's still pretty game-changing to have, for instance, a character who is completely silent but also can't attack. I need to explore this some more.

DEFINITELY FINISH Phantasy Star IV. I set this aside after my big initial run took me three quarters of the way through the game. That was the beginning of my JRPG kick - I ended up splaying off and losing focus between Radiant Historia, Dragon Quest IX, Denpa Men 2, roguelikes, etc. I'm almost at the end - I need to finish the side-quests which have been a cute bit of exploratory fun and see the final boss battles, as the game definitely excels (as did Overworks' later RPG, Skies of Arcadia) at tough fights.

DEFINITELY FINISH Capsized. As I mentioned in my initial impression of Capsized, it's a bit rough around the edges - when the game gets hard in the later stages it occasionally feels cheap because of weird physics-induced deaths and kludgy "puzzles". This is particularly frustrating as these stages can run for 20+ minutes and are played with limited lives and ammo - one or two bullshit deaths can severely fuck a run. That aside, Capsized is a great game. The shooting is satisfyingly visceral - thanks in great part to those physics - but kept frantic by aggressive enemies more reminiscent of Geometry Wars than Metroid. Combined with the maze-like environments, the hard survival action conjures a DOOM-meets-Dead-Space feel. It's worth gritting my teeth through a few botched runs to see what the final levels have in store.

PROBABLY FINISH but at least play P.N.03. This is probably the last Gamecube game I ever bought, back at a time when I was catching up on both Shinji Mikami and Hideki Kamiya games (the respective masterminds between Resident Evil 4 and Devil May Cry, the two have frequently collaborated and nearly everything they produce is pure gold... or pure platinum). I grabbed both P.N.03 and God Hand (both directed by Mikami) at the same time - the games shared a similar fate on release (misunderstood by critics who couldn't learn the mechanics and too obliquely marketed to appeal to the public... I mean what the fuck do those titles mean to casual Joe gamer) and perhaps fortuitously shared a similar fate in my catalog: I stumbled through the first hour losing countless lives until the mechanics finally clicked and I realized what original and fun games I was playing, then I set them aside to be finished later... and haven't gone back. In the case of P.N.03 that meant coming to the realization that the game was not a cover-shooter but a rhythmically-driven classic shooting gallery (a la Wild Guns) based on timed dodges and aggressive combo-focused offense. I dropped it after one out of eleven levels just because - too many other things to play, nothing against the game. So I really need to go back and see if this 3D shmup gameplay is developed in an interesting way (as it later was in Vanquish).

PLAY Link Between Worlds. Hard to say I'm going to finish this when I don't have a good guess at how long it's going to be, and I definitely don't want to rush it, but Link Between Worlds deserves some good, honest attention. I'm not sure at this point that it's quite as open-ended as someone would have you believe (the puzzle-solving/pathway-opening capability of items seems to be downplayed now that they're readily available), but since I just got to the Dark World, I really can't say. The next few hours - choosing which order to attack the seven dungeons - should be interesting.

There are of course many other games I am playing and hope to have time for, but I won't put my foot where my mouth is and promise things I can't promise. Besides, I'm also trying to get back into reading Guardians of the Galaxy and maybe start watching Mobile Suit Gundam

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