Category Archives: musings

Watch Shantae whip and save Sequin Land from evil pirates

gd impressions shantae pirate's curse

I’ve never played a Shantae game, so I thought that, naturally, the best place to start is with Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, the third game in the series. Naturally. Look, it’s the only one I have in my entire collection, and I’d rather start somewhere than deal with the silly impairment in my brain that demands I begin all videogame series at the very start and only play through them one after the other, completing each one as fully as possible to truly get the ultimate gaming experience. It’s an exhausting, never-ending battle that I’d love to watch crumble and blow away in the wind, but that day is not yet on the horizon. Or is it? I mean, this is a small chip in the mountain, but I am at least taking action.

The story in Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse sure is something, and I’ll do my best to get all the whimsical details right. So, Shantae is adjusting to life as a human post-genie, but wakes up to the sound of cannon fire one morning. Turns out, Scuttle Town is being taken over by the Ammo Baron, who, after a brief scuffle, reveals that he purchased the town from Mayor Scuttlebutt and is legally now its new mayor. Shantae’s arch-nemesis Risky Boots accuses her of robbing her of henchmen and other valuable items, but now they are teaming up to take on the Pirate Master, a powerful evil tyrant who is attempting to revive himself while simultaneously placing a curse on many of the world’s critters. Yeah, sure. To stop this all from happening, Shantae needs to destroy a specific number of dens of evil because videogames.

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is one of those Metroidvania, 2D action side-scrollers you have all probably heard about by this point in time, though I’m still having a hard time deciding if it is more Metroid or more Castlevania. Its whimsical story and goofy sense of humor makes it hard to place in either category, plus those sultry sprite animations. Instead of whipping a whip at enemies, Shantae whips her hair with extreme force. She can also jump, dash backwards, perform a super kick, and fire a pistol shot, resulting in a versatile action heroine capable of handling whatever is thrown at her, whether it be frog fish, wetmen, or cacklers. Basically, this is all one needs to complete dungeon puzzles and open up new areas of the world to explore. You also have an inventory, and this is where potions, monster milk, and bento boxes go, all of which are easily accessible via the touchscreen on the Wii U gamepad…though I prefer to leave it on the map screen for quick navigation.

So far, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is a good platformer that I am playing in short bursts, like between big moments in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or while waiting for that latest Nintendo Direct to start. There’s always progress to be made and, if not, I’m okay grinding for money so I can purchase new moves for Shantae. Though I am finding the number of enemies that magically pop up/appear right before Shantae and damage her to be ultra annoying. Also, in the second level, there is a sequence that involves carrying Shantae’s zombie friend Rottytops through a monster-infested forest where a single collision means death. It mixes up the gameplay, but the penalty for messing up and ramp in difficulty is surprisingly, especially so early on in the game.

I’ve put in under two hours so far into Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, and the Internet is telling me that it is about eight hours or so to complete the main campaign, with a few more to boot if one wants to gather all the squid hearts and hidden collectibles. Here’s hoping I stick with it a bit longer to see credits roll because I am enjoying it though it is not the second coming of Super Metroid. I’m not sure if anything ever will be.

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Get to ghostly work in Murdered: Soul Suspect

You might not have ever guessed it considering I’ve never really said a word about it, but Murdered: Soul Suspect is a game I’ve been genuinely curious about since its release. Which, um, was way back in 2014. Y’know, when cars began to fly, entire meals were in a pill, and aliens visited us peacefully to share all the knowledge of every galaxy ever. I remember it well. It’s got all the trappings that I often enjoy in my digital entertainment–ghosts, a murder mystery, lots of collectibles, an emphasis on exploration and not combat, and playing detective. It’s kind of like the Blackwell series of point-and-click adventure games on a bigger budget.

Murdered: Soul Suspect is all about once-criminal, now-cop Ronan O’Connor, who is killed off immediately at the start of the game–major spoiler alert!–as he hunts down the elusive serial killer known as “The Bell Killer”. The game takes place in a fictionalized version of the American town Salem, which is famous for its seaport and burning witches. Anyways, for some reason, Ronan returns as a ghost. His long-dead wife, Julia, also in spirit form, says that the only way he can join her on the other side is by solving the Bell Killer mystery. Sure, sweetie. Will do. I mean, that’s what I was trying to do before I died so I might as well keep on keeping on. Also, I might want to see what is up with that creepy ghost girl.

The gameplay in Murdered: Soul Suspect is both simple and linear though there is some room to explore at your leisure, but that’s only if you want to find all the collectibles, which I totally did. You navigate ghost Ronan around town, and since he is physically body-less, you can pass through walls and other solid objects, so long as they aren’t blessed. There’s also some contrived reasons that Ronan can’t enter buildings with doors that are closed, but I don’t remember the exact phrasing. Your search to unravel the Bell Killer mystery will take you to a church, an apartment building, a graveyard, a mental hospital, and so on. More or less, you walk around an environment, looking for clearly identified clues, and Ronan has some ghostly abilities up his see-through sleeve to help in this endeavor, such as teleportation and possession. Each area has a specific number of clues to collect to progress through the level and the story, and they are found and put together in a way similar to L.A. Noire‘s investigation sequences, except you are not trying to catch people in a lie or hopping to and fro various locations.

The story is entertaining enough, but fairly straightforward, and that’s including the twists, which are not difficult to see coming. Ronan befriends a young, troubled girl called Joy, who is a medium and able to interact with ghosts, and she is, without a doubt, the best part of all of Murdered: Soul Suspect. Eventually, you’ll learn about why the Bell Killer is targeting his victims and how Salem’s history fits into everything. Much like an episode of Criminal Minds or Law & Order, the game steers you towards a specific person as your suspect right until the very end.

There’s been some talk recently about playing detective in games and what ways work and what ways don’t. For sure, Murdered: Soul Suspect does not work, but I’m not mad about it. I didn’t come to it for that one aspect. Still, honestly, the game constantly felt worried that I wouldn’t get the answer right, which occasionally lead to me overthinking things. Take for instance one of the earlier optional “Unfinished Business” cases in which Ronan helps a young female ghost figure out how she was killed and what happened to her body. I scoured the apartment of a cranky old couple until I found all the clues I could, but two of the clues needed to be drawn directly from the old man and woman, respectively, and to do that, you needed to select a clue you already found to influence their train of thought. I assumed the “gardening tools” or “newspaper clipping” would have sufficed, but all both needed was the initial inquiry about a missing girl that started this whole thing off. It felt strange and wrong and that all my years of watching police procedures was for naught.

Some other quibbles because I’m me. First, while I can’t resist picking up every single collectible shining on the ground, I do wish many of the item’s descriptions had voice-over work so that I could continue to explore my surroundings while learning about what I picked up. Instead, you have to read a small, somewhat uninteresting paragraph of text for each one, and I eventually stopped doing this altogether. Second, the game gives you a lot of tools, but not the freedom to do much with them, such as using poltergeist to affect tangible objects, but only when needed to distract a guard in one specific sequence. You can also possess a cat, but only when possessing a cat is vital to getting somewhere high up. Lastly, I too suffered from the “Investigate the War Room” bug, which stayed as my current objective until the end of the game, but thankfully I was able to remember where to go next as I basically played through Murdered: Soul Suspect in a few multi-hour bursts and it’s not too difficult to figure out where to go next.

I enjoyed Murdered: Soul Suspect quite a bunch even though it is far from perfect, but it does sadden me to know that Airtight Games is no more and so a sequel, a chance to improve on the lackluster detective work or zero-fun combat scenarios with demons. The only other game from Airtight Games that I’ve played is Quantum Conundrum, though I walked away from it once the puzzles became too complicated. Oh well. Not everything can be as easy as a ghost going into someone’s body, peeking at their computer screen, and then manipulating their thoughts based on this information to have them do exactly what you want to move the case forward.

Some collectibles are better than others, but these stink

worst collectibles to collect rain gd post

There’s no shame in saying it, but I like collecting things. Both in real life and via my digital, interactive entertainment. That’s not to say I’m a hoarder, but if you give me a list of items existing somewhere out there, I’m most certainly going to try my darnedest to find them all and happily cross each one off. This most likely stems back to my younger days, on family vacations in Avalon, NJ. Besides playing a lot of Yahtzee by the swimming pool, I signed up for every scavenger hunt offered by our hotel that I could, and these often involved finding innocuous items like a specific type of seashell, a pair of sunglasses, and so on. I have fond if fuzzy memories of running around the hotel grounds like a maniac, looking for things and screaming with joy when they were found.

That said, as a player of videogames, sometimes finding items is not fun. Yeah, I know. What a hot take. Personally, I don’t need to be told specifically where each collectible is on the map, like in later Assassin’s Creed titles where you can just purchase these waypoint symbols from a shop. I prefer discovering them myself, but I also like knowing, generally, how many are in an area or which ones I’ve already found. Some record-keeping is vital, that way I don’t need to take mental notes as I pick up each shimmery doodad. The fear of leaving an area for good and suspecting I missed something is enough to lock my feet in the dirt.

Also, while not required, I greatly enjoy when the collectibles contain something else to them other than being a thing you gnab, such as some bit of additional in-game lore. Like in Tomb Raider and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, you find a thing, say a rusty knife, and that’s a collectible for sure, but you also have to interact with it and discover a hidden symbol to bring out story details. The collectible becomes more than just an object to pocket. Heck, at least collecting all those miscellaneous gizmos in Tom Clancy’s The Division got me some sweet, colorful outfits.

Because of recent actions, I’ve decided to put my brain to the task of coming up with a bunch of collectibles that absolutely stink. These are either not fun to find, do nothing for the player in the end, or maybe cover both of these issues. Regardless, boo to them, and boo to me for attempting to collect (some of) ’em. It’s a skill in others that I greatly admire, the ability to walk by these shiny sprites and polygons and not even care. Teach me how.

Gears of War – COG tags

COG tags are a mainstay of the Gears of War series, but they only become easier to track and find starting in Gears of War 2, which introduced the war journal, a sort of in-game notebook for keeping tabs on a number of things. However, for the first Gears of War, all you get is an X out of Y line when you pause the game. That’s it. I beat the game back at the end of 2013, with something like one-third of the COG tags found.

Recently, I glanced at the Achievements list to see if there was anything I could potentially pop before deleting the game from my Xbox One for forever and saw that two were related to finding the rest of the hidden thingamajigs. Alas, I basically had to follow a video guide to find each one, level by level, because I had no memory of the ones I had already picked up. Also, barely nothing happens when you bend down to grab these COG tags save for a less-than-impression sound cue. Obviously, this was early on in both the franchise and console generation, and figuring out how to implement collectibles was still in a nascent stage.

L.A. Noire – golden film reels

I’d have to go back and confirm this, but for some reason I feel really strongly that I only ever came across one of these 50 gold film canisters scattered about L.A. Noire‘s sprawling Los Angeles. They all contain names of films from the 1940s and 1950s. That’s cool. However, the problem is that they are extremely well-hidden. Maybe too well. In my search for hopping into the driver’s seat of every car in the game, 95 in total, another stinker of a collectible of sorts, I thought I explored a good chunk of the map. I guess not. I have no idea if finding all 50 golden film reels does anything for Cole Phelps and his ultimate destiny. It’d be cool if you could take these reels back to the police station and watch a few scenes during your coffee breaks, but I’m sure the licensing around something like that would be nightmarish.

Rain – lost memories

This blog post’s origins began with Rain, a game I completed on the first day of 2016. The collectibles in Rain are in the form of lost memories that the player can find to learn more about the young boy’s past. That’s fine and dandy, and there are 24 in total to collect, but here’s the sick kicker–these only are available to find after beating the game. Also, these only appear once you are in the exact location, which means you can’t spy them off from a distance; you have to know exactly where they are to start.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I burned my lunch hour to collect them all of them in a single go, following an online guide and abusing the checkpoint system so that I did not, in fact, have to play through the entire game again. Sorry, Rain–you have some great things going for you, but you are not that amazing or varied of an experience to go through again simply to now be able to collect floating orbs that give you the slimmest of slim story details to a story fairly slim on details to begin with. Ugh.

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga – Blue Minikits

Speaking of ugh, LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Here’s the thing. I’m totally and 100% completely used to collecting a number of things in all the LEGO videogames, from red bricks to gold bricks to characters to studs and so on. That’s just part of the flow, of going through levels and seeing what you can’t grab just yet, returning with the right characters/powers to pave the way. It’s been like this since day one. However, recently, Melanie and I worked our way through LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, and it truly was like going back in time.

As part of our climb to hit 100% completion, we had to find 10 blue minikits in every single level. Sounds tedious, but not tough. Except it is because there is a time limit, and sometimes missing one blue minikit means replaying the whole thing over. You are also not able to use any cheats, which means having to deal with enemies while frantically scouring the scene for blue minikits. Most are hidden somewhat in the open, and others are dastardly wedged behind objects in the environment. The hardest level, without a doubt, was “Speeder Showdown,” where you kind of need luck on your side to progress swiftly and the extra five minutes was not enough. Took us multiple attempts, but the job is done, and, as far as I know, this type of gameplay hasn’t shown up in other LEGO titles.

The Last of Us – All of Them

Amazingly, there are four types of collectibles to hoard in The Last of Us. Specifically, 30 Firefly pendants, 14 comic books, 85 artifacts, and 12 training manuals that improve your crafting skills and such. I’m pretty sure only the last set has any impact on gameplay, and the remainder are just things for Joel to bend down, pick up, and pocket away for no other reason than to give you something to do in-between moving from a safe space to an area full of Cordyceps-inspired monsters. A few help flavor the world, for sure.

Okay, I just loaded up the game–evidently, I found 95 of 141 as of when I last played, which is way more than I initially assumed. Not sure why it felt so low in my mind, but maybe I was thinking of Trophies, which the game is stingy with. Oh well. Either way, these are pretty obscurely hidden throughout the game, and the artist in me really wanted to be able to open the comic books and read a few pages instead of just staring at the covers.

I know for a fact there are many more that I’m not touching on, like the flags from the original Assassin’s Creed, score pieces from Eternal Sonata, and kissing 50 women from The Saboteur.

That said, I’d like to know what collectibles gave you the most grief. Join the conversation below in the comments.

My Laptop Hates These Games – August 2017

Hi, everyone. One of my goals for 2015–yup, sadly, still working on promises from yesteryears because that’s the kind of special slacker I am–was to come up with a new feature for Grinding Down, and it only took me about eight or nine months into 2017 to figure out what I wanted though it does kind of go hand in hand with resolution #3 for this year about clearing out some of my Steam backlog. Either way, I done did it.

Welcome to My Laptop Hates These Games, wherein I take a real short glance at games I tried to run on my less-than-steller ASUS laptop from 2010-ish, which is totally not built to play big games, but has, in the past, been fine with things like Broken Age, Transistor, and Gone Home. I was even able to run meatier operations like Red Faction: Armageddon and Bulletstorm, just with the settings turned super low. Some games operate better than others, and some simply don’t run at all. At least through this feature, I’ll find out if they work or don’t work sooner than later, and my goal is to present to you the exact experience I had, from hitting the executable to deleting all the files.

Okay, let’s dig in.

Maui

I’ve never even played a single second of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker–I know, shame on me–but I already completely understand that this is the look and feel Maui is going for in its execution. This is a free action-adventure game based on Hawaiian mythology, which is something unique to the videogames playing field. I got through the tutorial just fine, learning how to switch my faith to different gods for unique powers, but then the mission where you need to find a banana brought everything to a crawl stuck inside a glacier covered in molasses. Unfortunately, there are no settings to change things, and so this got deleted without ever finding that lost banana.

Escape the Game: Intro

Another freebie on Steam that I probably installed because it kind of looked like Thomas Was Alone. Unfortunately, I can’t say if Escape the Game: Intro played the same way or not because, after seeing the title screen and clicking start, the game does a fake crash à la Fez…ironically leading to a real crash to desktop. I was able to replicate this three times before I gave up. I guess in my own special way I did manage to escape the game.

My Time at Portia

My Time at Portia looks real fine. My love and fascination for quirky farming simulations continues to grow, having enjoyed Stardew Valley and Slime Rancher a whole bunch recently, and this one looks to be almost a mixture of the two styles. It’s set in a post-apocalypse setting, but a splashy, kaleidoscopic one. The player starts a new life in a town on the edge of civilization called Portia by building a workshop and creating helpful items with relics from the past. The goal of the game is to make the workshop as big as possible…I think. Even with the graphic settings turned to “fastest,” this was next to impossible to play. I knew I was in for a rocky time when the in-game cutscene staggered forward at a crawl. Gaining control of the main character was worse. Here’s hoping that this too comes to consoles like similar titles as of late.

My Laptop Hates These Games takes a quick look at the titles that kind of, only sort of run or don’t run at all on my ASUS laptop. Here’s hoping that some of these, specifically the ones that looked interesting, come to console down the road. Y’know, those gaming machines where nothing ever goes wrong and every game runs perfectly without ever crashing or freezing or glitching out. Maybe I’ll play these there or in 2056 when I get a new laptop that is, even at that point, still somewhat obsolete.

Regency Solitaire’s prim and proper patience playing

I first fell into a Solitaire hole back in college, when I was working at Rowan University’s art gallery, which basically boiled down to me making sure nobody stole any pieces of art. Occasionally I had to throw down spackling paste to cover up some holes in the wall when an exhibition was over and we were prepping for the next one, but I mostly sat at the desk next to the front door, did homework or studied, and played time-killing games to kill time. Namely Snood, the board game Life with a co-worker, and…well, Solitaire.

No surprise here, but I have no memory of when Regency Solitaire from Grey Alien Games appeared in my Steam library, but that’s okay. I’m sure it came from a bundle. Anyways, after somewhat playing through Dark Heritage: Guardians of Hope together, I was on the search for something similar that my girlfriend and I could play together and thought this would be a good fit because it is both traditional enough for her tastes–a card game–and have modern videogame mechanics for me–buying upgrades, stacking combos. Plus, there’s a story. Yup, Solitaire with a story. That’s something you don’t come across every day.

Here’s that story, as best as I can sum it up–help Bella take charge of her own destiny, create the ballroom of her dreams, and fall in love with the better chap who is not named Mr. Bleakley. You’ll tour historic London, Brighton, and Bath in hopes of *ahem* playing your cards right and earning money to purchase vital upgrades, like fancy window curtains or a new fan to wear with that stunning blue dress. Also, you need to reclaim your family’s fortune or something. I don’t know. You play Solitaire with some twists, watch a static cutscene full of posh dialogue that isn’t too far off of a Downton Abbey episode, and repeat the process several more times. It’s not the most captivating tale ever spun, but I appreciate it being there nonetheless.

The Solitaire part of Regency Solitaire isn’t exactly one-to-one with the standard version everyone’s either played in real life on their bedroom floor or on computer, just killing time. Also, it’s not three card, spider, yukon, or any other crazy spin-off style. Instead, you have a small deck of cards and one card revealed to you. You can then either match it with the card above or below based on what is shown in the level, and the levels vary in terms of card placement and other issues, like some being hidden beneath a lock that will only go away if you find a key card first. If you can continue the string, say matching a six to a seven to an eight and back to a seven, go for it, because combos mean multipliers, which affects both how you do in the level and how much gold you earn at the end. To help with this endeavor, the game provides multiple power-ups, such as cupid’s bow, which can eliminate a single card on the playing field, and “wild” cards to help fill the gaps in combos without breaking your streak.

Each chapter is a total of ten hands long, and there are always specific goals to try to hit by the end, such as uncovering a hidden item, hitting a large combo chain, or getting three stars in a number of hands. Thankfully, if you aren’t happy with how a hand went, you can hit retry at the end and give it a go, something Melanie did often in her journey for perfect rounds. Oh, right–did I mention that she loved playing this? I think she might even go back through it later on the harder difficulty. Fine by me, because it’s on my profile, so I’ll get to enjoy all those hard-earned Achievements.

Look, Regency Solitaire is not going to blow your mind, but it’s a fun, often relaxing, often tense experience wrapped around some high-class dialogue from a stereotypical cast of opulent characters. It’s easy to just get lost in the Solitaire aspect, trying to keep those combos going and immediately jumping into the next ten hands to do even better or see what new twists are thrown your way. A glance at Grey Alien Games’ other titles show that they are mostly match-three puzzle games, so if you want something unique, by all means, start here. Just be prepared to lose several hours trying to find a six or four to clear out that final five in your hand.

Hot spots only for Lilly Looking Through

Look, it happened. I previously mentioned Lilly Looking Through in the post about Windosill in hopes that it would stay in my mind and get me to play it sooner than later, and I ended up playing it sooner than later. Woo, go me. Alas, that trick doesn’t work every time–sorry, games like Silent Hill 3, ???, and ???. I guess it doesn’t matter how many times I type your names. Sigh. Anyways, I probably don’t have too much to say about this Kickstarted point-and-click adventure game from Geeta Games, but I want to give it its spot in the limelight regardless.

Lilly Looking Through tells a somewhat straightforward story the basically boils down to an adventurous childhood day gone tipsy-turvy. Lilly is playing in the woods with her younger brother Row when, suddenly, he gets tangled in a strange red piece of fabric and is whisked away on an extremely strong breeze. Armed only with a pair of magical goggles, Lilly must make her way past crumbling bridges, pitch-black caverns, and deep, icy lakes to rescue him. See, when Lilly puts on the goggles, she is transported backwards in time, with her surroundings revert to their former state. By affecting things in the past, she can change the layout of the future, and get to where she needs to be.

It’s a good mechanic, watching cause and reaction play out, and something that I fuzzily remember from that one time I watched a neighbor play Day of the Tentacle when I was just a kid, switching between different characters in various time periods to affect each other’s environments or help pass essential items to solve puzzles. Except one of the nice things about Lilly Looking Through is there is no inventory; you are not picking up every stick, rock, and piece of rope in hopes of using them either logically or ironically down the road. Instead, it is all about the hot spots and figuring out what order levers should be pulled in or if you need to pull that lever first in the older realm and see what it does to the current realm. Occasionally, there will be an item to pick up in an environment, like a flaming torch, but you will use it almost immediately and then be done with it, which is comforting.

Interestingly, Lilly Looking Through is able to establish a palpable sense of place, with next to no words or dialogue. For the most part, Lilly is alone and doesn’t have anyone to talk to or interact with. All you get are screams of surprise or the desperate call for her brother. However, as she explores and searches for Row, you’ll see signs of civilization are all around. Except there are no people, no leftovers lingering about, save for their creations. It’s a lonely experience, but I connected with it, as I often had a lonely childhood, wandering the woods by myself in search of cool bugs or a dirty magazine. There’s a lot to wonder about here, but the story is light on details, focusing rather on the task at hand and sprinkling story details on the sides.

Lilly Looking Through is a short, but enjoyable couple hours of clicking. There’s a limited number of areas, and each spot focuses mostly on a singular puzzle to solve, and none of them are too tricky. Even if they are, with enough clicking, you’ll power through them. I also really dug the bits of beautiful animation throughout, and the ending leaves our characters in a strange, new world, one that, maybe, some day down the road, we’ll get to explore. Until then, I’ll continue searching for hot spots, like the one that lets me make this blog post go live so I can start playing something else. I think it is…this one…right…here.

Adding to the Backlog – Three More PlayStation 2 Titles, Woo

I’m not out to collect every single PlayStation 2 game ever made, because they sure did make a whole lot of them, but I have a list of several titles that I missed during the console’s heydays and am genuinely interested in acquiring and, when the time is right, playing. Yes, playing, because I love games of varying ages, especially JRPGs from this specific era in the industry, for reasons I’m not totally clear on just yet. They don’t make them like they used to, and when they try, they don’t always succeed. Anyways, for a good while there, I was able to find some PlayStation 2 cases at my local GameStops, but they eventually needed more shelf-space for other things, like amiibos and virtual reality gear, and stopped stocking them.

Recently, at a comic convention last April, I was able to grab a working copy of Dark Cloud, which I once had and was actually the very first game I got for my system as a young boy with some steady income before being dumb and trading it in for something else. The game, not the system. I’m still rocking my original PlayStation 2 because I take good care of my stuff. Right, the last time I added a bunch of old-ish games in one solid lump was back in February 2016, with me stocking up on an astounding ten games for my collection; you’ll not be surprised to learn I’ve not tried a single one of them yet. Sigh. One day, when the world is full of free time and no consequences or guilt-laden clouds.

Over the weekend, while Melanie was taking a buttercream flowers class, I had an hour or so to kill in Somerville, NJ, and so I stopped in Retro Classics to peruse their wares. I’ve been in the store before, picking up PS2 copies of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and The Hobbit for my constantly growing assemblage of all things related to The Lord of the Rings, but the last time I went I forgot to bring a list and found myself second-guessing whether or not I had this or that copy of said title and was reluctant to make any purchases. It’s always good to be prepared, and this time I totally was.

Here’s what I got:

That might not seem all that exciting of a haul to you, but Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse is something I’ve never seen out in the wild, and my love for strange JRPGs from this era was too strong to resist grabbing a copy for around $15.00. Perhaps I now have more of a reason than ever to finally play through the first game, eating up those lengthy anime-driven cutscenes and e-mails and card-based minigames, knowing there is actually more to follow. The store also has a retail copy of Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra, but it was a little too pricey for me at the moment. You can see that I also nabbed Wallace & Gromit in Project Zoo, which pairs nicely with my case-less copy of Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and X-Men Legends so that I can go back to the beginning of when these comic book hero videogames became more RPG than mindless punching and optic blasting. I’m pretty pleased with the trio.

Anyways, that’s all for now. Alas, most of my list of desired PS2 games are really obscure beasts, like Summoner 2, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and Legaia 2: Duel Saga, and I just don’t think I’ll ever run into them at a store and I’m too timid to try and find them online for a “good” price and deal with trusting a stranger somewhere in the world to deliver on their promises. I’ll keep looking, but I won’t hold my breath. Because I’ll run out of air rather quickly. Until then, looks like I have some other things I can play. Y’know, when I find the time.