Thursday, October 2, 2014

What I'm Playing, September '14

at 6:00 PM
In this feature, we commemorate games I have for the first time started and finished in the last few highly variable time units.

Here's a crazy thing I came up with that I probably won't follow through on. Starting now (now being when I had the idea, mid-September) I'm going to have a fixed length queue for games - that is to say, I'm not going to start a new game until I finish one I have in progress. I've listed out at least 120 games I currently have in progress, so it's no big deal. But from now on the Finished/Started lists should be about the same length.

Because of that, I'm adding a new category called One and Done for games I played but have no intention of completing.

By the way, we're now up to date! After two weeks of constant What I'm Playings, there won't be another til the end of October!

Special Recognition for Starting and Finishing:

Azure Striker Gunvolt (Nintendo 3DS)

They[who?] said Mega Man was dead, but Inti Creates here proved there are still different directions to take the concept for unique gameplay that isn't nearly as redundant as screenshots will make you think.

Actually this screenshot doesn't make it look all that redundant.

Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge (Xbox / Xbox Originals)

One of the best flying game I've ever played, replete with unique enemies and obstacle-filled environments - Pilotwings 64 meets Rogue Squadron. High Road to Revenge never languishes in endless dogfighting, keeping the gameplay mixed up in each mission even as it iterates over the same styles of aerial strikes, escorts, races, and of course dogfights. The game keeps interesting by introducing a more complex setting every couple missions, from the mountainous island of world 1 to a full-on metropolis and finishing with underground caves and ruins. Each style of gameplay takes on a different character dependent on the environment it's set in.

Devil May Cry (PS2)

I'd say Devil May Cry holds up really well, but I never played it back when it originally came out, so all I can say is that were it released today it would still be one of the best action games on the market. In fact, it's particularly refreshing to visit a game that is a.) short (4.5 hours on a first run), b.) mechanically simple, and c.) focused almost entirely on mini-bosses and bosses. The most interesting takeaway for me is that the game feels more like Ninja Gaiden than Devil May Cry 3. While the former goes for environmental variation, wild enemy variety, and challenge through survival, the latter is more about mechanical variation, enemy volume, and challenge through style/score. In fact playing Devil May Cry made me realize Ninja Gaiden is not as original as I originally thought, though that's hardly a bad thing - I only wish there were more action games that took their approach.

Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight (NES / 3DS VC)

If it wasn't for the inappropriate name, I wonder if this Alien Soldier-esque boss rush game wouldn't have a cult following, particularly thanks to its consistently unique approaches driven by variations of enemy movement patterns and environmental properties. The game provides infinite continues, so with save states to keep a session going victory is just a matter of mastering one stage at a time, making it a perfect handheld experience. The controls are on the complex side for an NES game and the end-lag on most moves takes some getting used to, but it's all very precise once you get your bearings and every attack will eventually be revealed to serve some purpose.

Games Finished:

Mario Kart 7 (Nintendo 3DS)

I only had this because it came with my 3DS, but it's hard not to enjoy such a perfect game design, even if it's becoming impossible to tell the difference between new courses and repeats. This time around I was most fond of the SNES courses, as they've benefited the most from mechanical changes in the series - taking the continuous 90-degree turns of Super Rainbow Road as one giant drift is really satisfying and not like anything else in the game.

Games Started:

Dark Cloud 2 (PS2)

This is like a treatise on the subject of crafting, skipping traditional character-based role-playing for two separate systems of item customization. The supporting world-building side-game isn't really a sim (there's no passage of time / interaction of creations) so much as it is another free-form crafting system that lets you play in a sandbox and earn points for making things that look cool/balanced. That is to say, it's more like house decoration in Animal Crossing than city building in Sim City. While it passes its time with dungeon-crawling, at its core this is a game about manipulating numeric systems to accelerate progress. If my post about New Horizons didn't make it clear, I enjoy maximization/minimization problems far more than traditional puzzles, so this really works well for me.

One and Done:

Wizards and Warriors 3 (NES)

Played this for platformer-of-the-week night with Greg L. (possibly an upcoming feature? who's to say?!). Wander around a light-on-content world and find self-contained platforming challenges - WiziWar 3 is what you'd get if you took Wonder Boy 3 and cranked up the size of the hub town and downsized the dungeons to 60-second runs. The "guilds" (dungeons) make for neat obstacle courses that iterate over a handful of themes, but they are so hard to find and brief that the game ends up mostly as bland wandering, far more reminiscent of Ufouria than Castlevania II. If you like exploring without much challenge, you might enjoy this, but it's not too satisfying as a platformer.

Super Smash Bros. Demo (3DS)

Who cuts the options screen out of a demo? The default controls are NES-style instead of SNES-style (weird for a diamond layout like 3DS) and I just want to fix it! Mega Man is pretty cool and the AI is still such a joke that I beat a level 9 computer on my very first try at the game with a character I had never played before and controls that were super annoying. Most importantly, when unleashed from an assist trophy, Knuckle Joe still shouts his trademark "KNUCKLE-EEE!" I only listed this because I'm pretty positive I'm not going to get Smash on 3DS - I'm a series fan but it's too intense a game to play on handhelds and I'm happy sticking to Brawl until whenever it is I buy a Wii U.

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