Category Archives: randomness

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.

80,000 Gamerscore lies in the joy of achievement

Hello, my few dear readers. I’m sure you all realize that it’s been about eight months since I hit 70,000 Gamerscore perfectly on the head. Well, the good news is that I’m back with another ten grand. Go me, go my fingers and thumbs, and go creating a silly goal for popping these numerous Achievements, which, ultimately, in the end do not mean much. Eh, that’s okay. I’m having fun doing what I’m doing…if you need a refresher on all of the milestone markers I’ve touched during this journey of mine since early 2010, just follow this tag.

Anyways, videogames. I played them, they rewarded me with digital pictures and numbers, and now I have for you the latest tally hammered hard on the mark, in all its beauty and refinement:

Boom. Click the image if you want to see that number closer up. Getting this was a little trickier than expected, with only having 25 Gamerscore to work with. I thought, at first, I could pop this easily in Rare Replay, but was struggling with some of those Snapshot challenges. Those older games, like Digger T. Rock and Snake Rattle n Roll, are not the easiest to control. Which then lead me to dive deep into my Xbox One’s digital games library folder to see if there was anything easy in a new game to unlock. Such as “finish the tutorial” or “watch the credits” Achievements. I opened a bunch of games, such as Grow Up, The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, and Kameo: Elements of Power. I thought the former would work out since it is kind of a collectathon, but nope, too many Achievements with high scores. All of the Achievements in The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, which I do need to play sooner than later, were hidden, and I was too lazy to look up their descriptions. And that last one, that Kameo, seemed to have a bunch of Achievements worth 0 Gamerscore, which I will never understand the point of, but I’m no designer. But here’s proof I did open Rare’s launch title for the Xbox 360 and will now probably have to actually play some of it down the road:

Finally, after opening several more games and getting nowhere, I discovered an early Achievement in Super Dungeon Bros, which is a rock-themed dungeon brawler where a band of mighty rock bros must navigate the fantasy realm of Rökheim and its hellish dungeons. Uh huh. Deep breath. Right, the Achievement was for completing the your first mission in the game, worth exactly 25 Gamerscore, and 8.65% had already unlocked it. I only needed to be careful to not unlock anything else along the way. Which, naturally, I did. This thing, fortuitously worth the same amount of points, popped at the tally screen at the end of the level:


Time Management (25G) – You beat a level before reaching threat level 3

I was worried that hitting any more buttons would “complete” the first mission and ruin my perfect 80,000 number, so I quickly bounced back to the dashboard and closed the game before anything else could happen. I’m crazy, but these are the things I do for this fleeting moments of fun. I’m sure I’ll have another hurdle to cross to nail 90,000. I predict that I’ll be getting an easy 2,000 soon since Mel got me two LEGO videogames for my birferday recently, specifically LEGO Worlds and LEGO Jurassic World. And I always unlock everything in them. I’ll go ahead and be bold and make a prediction for hitting another ten grand, which will happen by…March 2018. Mel is going with April 2018. We’ll see.

And now, to stay on theme, please leave me either exactly 80,000 comments below or one comment with exactly 80,000 words. I’m fine with whatever happens first. You all now have the power.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #77 – Windosill

Leave eleven rooms
By clicking on all objects
To find that sweet cube

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

Marvel Heroes Omega’s squirrelly performance on consoles

I’ve long wanted to play Marvel Heroes since it came out in 2013, but after seeing just how large the download file was from Steam–somewhere over the 30 GB mark–I decided to hold off. Then I completely forgot about the optic blasted thing, even after its double renaming to Marvel Heroes 2015 and Marvel Heroes 2016, until Gazillion Entertainment announced that it was coming to consoles this year, still as a free-to-play beast (not to be confused with Beast, the NPC you need to speak to during one of the main story missions). Anyways, it is here, it is rebranded once more as Marvel Heroes Omega, and it is a good amount of mindless fun, with some technical issues peppered throughout the experience. Let me and my army of squirrels explain.

To start, this is Diablo starring superheroes, that you play with a controller. At least that’s how I’ve described it to others. I’ll go more into the gameplay mechanics in a bit, but let me sum up the story, written by Brian Michael Bendis and which would be right at home for a long-running Saturday morning cartoon series arc. Legendary no-gooder Doctor Doom obtains the Cosmic Cube, which is capable of transforming any wish into reality, irrespective of the consequences. He uses this device to incinerate the Watcher. On the flip side of things, Madame Hydra and HYDRA have facilitated a breakout, freeing several super-powered inmates. You, the player, whether you are everyone’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, Captain “The Captain” America, or berzerker claws-only Wolverine, must go on a series of quests to take these villains down and put a stop to whatever Doctor Doom’s end-game plan is. Total domination, I’m assuming. The story is told via text in mission logs and dialogue with other peeps, as well as stylized, hand-drawn cutscenes that make you feel like you’re right inside a comic book. One problem: so far, I haven’t see a single brown hair of Squirrel Girl, despite her being my main hero and almost level 40.

Marvel Heroes Omega is without a doubt an action role-playing game, or ARPG for those that like to keep things short. You can tell immediately by looking at it and seeing the camera perspective, as well as the UI that puts a number of spells that once called numbers on a keyboard home now associated with the A, B, X, and Y buttons. It’s also a free-to-play game, but unlike Candy Crush Saga and Final Fantasy: All The Bravest, there’s no energy system that restricts how long you can play for, nor do the microtransactions seem to get in the way or block people from playing most of the game. Many of the superheroes cost a high amount of real money bucks or special currency, but you can grind out the latter as you play through the single player content and other modes. I think all the alternative costumes are in loot boxes, but I’m not certain of that.

Here’s what you do in Marvel Heroes Omega: beat up baddies and gain levels. In short, kick butts and eat nuts (only if you are Squirrel Girl, which, thankfully, I am). As characters gain levels, they gain passive stat increases and power points, allowing the player to further define the abilities of that character, and each character has three power trees in which they can spend points. These focus on a certain mechanic or play style, such as melee, guns, explosives, ranged, or special ranged. Currently, I’ve unlocked an ally for Squirrel Girl named Tippy Toe, who wears a pink bow and does some series damage. Also, I can shoot a squirrel like a machine gun. Without paying any money, you can play every single character in the game up to level 10. Then you must unlock the character to continue gaining levels and powers, which I did for Squirrel Girl, and I’m currently saving up special currency to buy Iron Man for Melanie so we can continue playing this together.

It’s not a perfect launch, which is somewhat disappointing, considering they’ve had years to work on at the very least the foundation of this game. The concrete floor, the support beams, the installation–that stuff. I’ve had Marvel Heroes Omega crash a handful of times already, dumping me right back to the start menu with little explanation. There’s insane slowdown when things get crazy with a bunch of superheroes all unloading on a single group of enemies at once. Also, if you try to move ahead in the level before it has finished loading, you hit an invisible wall until the game catches up with you. Not total deal-breakers, but irksome issues regardless.

I’m a couple chapters short of finishing the main campaign for Marvel Heroes Omega, but that doesn’t mean this adventure is over. Far from it. After that, I’m curious to see how my Squirrel Girl will grow as a character via other modes, and I do want to see how other heroes play, such as Gambit or Kitty Pryde, but probably only to level 10. I don’t think I myself have enough superpowers to grind out special currency for another character unlock after Iron Man. I’ll never say never, but I also won’t say likely. Also, at some point, I need to give at least one of the following three titles–Marvel Ultimate Alliance, X-Men: Legends, and X-Men: Legends II – Rise of Apocalypse–a shot, all of which entered my gaming collection some years back and remain untouched, cases on a shelf.

If you wish for peace, be ready to wait in Battle Ages

battle-ages-xbox-one-gd-impressions

One of my more fonder early gaming on a PC moments was the time I spent in Age of Empires, a history-based real-time strategy video game developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft. Yes, despite my natural disdain for the majority of RTS games out there, save for things like Kingdom Rush and the random run of a Command & Conquer: Red Alert skirmish, I did have a good time with that one, as it was a much more methodically paced foray into building up your camp and defending it when deemed necessary. It was definitely more Civilization than Warcraft, and that’s probably why I did better at the whole goal of trying to maintain peace for years on end. I’m into peace, majorly.

Anyways, Battle Ages is without a doubt no successor to Age of Empires, but it tries to guide the player slowly through different historical ages and creates one-off scenarios to do battle with other players’ camps or in-game missions. The problem is, right from the start, it’s a free-to-play game, and that means progress barriers for those unwillingly to pay money to knock those walls down. Like me. I started playing Battle Ages back in October 2016, and I guess I’ll consider myself being done with it as of this month. There’s still a new age to reach, as well as four seemingly unattainable Achievements, so I’m ready to uninstall the whole thing as soon as this post gets posted. Boom.

I’ve dipped into Battle Ages almost daily, whether to collect coins or begin researching a soldier or upgrade a building, because all those things are important to growing a strong, survivable settlement, as well as heavy on time. Naturally, the timers begin short, with some ranging in the 15-30 minutes range. A few, such as for upgrading landmines or walls, are instant, so long as you have enough free workers available for the job. By the end though, you’ll be waiting up to 5-6 days for some processes to complete. You could, of course, use money to bypass these timers via the use of jewels, the game’s special currency, but you don’t need to, if you are patient enough to wait. You will earn some jewels as you play, and I ended up burning a bunch to instantly have enough coins to push my civilization into the next era.

At some point during my journey to earn more gold so I could upgrade quicker, I broke some sort of peace treaty. This meant that, while I wasn’t playing Battle Ages, other people playing the game could attack my settlement and steal my hard-earned coins, as well as deplete my stock of soldiers. Boo to that. There were times that it felt like I was going nowhere, earning just enough gold to repair my bombs and restock my army tents. You can also go through a number of campaign missions where you attack a settlement and try to utterly destroy it, and these range in difficulty, but the most annoying thing for these is that, after you do one, you need to restock your army and call-in help before doing the next one. I eventually stopped doing these early on and stuck to timers for earning money and fame…which is probably why it took me so long to reach the Industrial Age.

So, with all that said, my time with Battle Ages has come to a close. I don’t see myself acquiring the four following Achievements left unpopped on my account:

  • Moving on Up (Acquire 2,500 trophies in battle)
  • Sticky Fingers (Steal 1,000,000 coins from the enemy)
  • Hold the Line (Achieve 250 defensive victories)
  • For the Win (Achieve 250 offensive victories)

If anything, Moving on Up seems permanently glitched, having been stuck at 40% for me since last year. Unless I’m doing something wrong. Either way, whatever. No Achievement for lowercase trophies. Well, when I get that next free-to-play, lots-of-timers itch and Fallout Shelter isn’t doing the job, I also have Battle Islands: Commanders from the same publisher 505 Games to get into, with that one focusing on World War II.

I’m floating in a most peculiar way in Jetpac’s space

Y’all should know by now that I’d  do nearly anything for a free game. Some things I won’t do include swimming with sharks, eating an entire jar of mayonnaise, or going on one of those roller-coasters where you are dangling in the air from shoulder straps, your feet inches away from smacking into something solid and breaking into a thousand pieces. Otherwise, so long as I don’t end up in a lot of physical pain, I’m game.

And so, during this past week of E3 2017 shenanigans, there was a chance to earn Rare Replay, No Time to Explain, The Final Station, and a bunch of other digital rewards for zero dollars by simply watching Microsoft’s press conference live through Mixer, its streaming service formally known as Beam. Alas, I was too late to catch the conference, but there were other chances to participate throughout the week.

Of all those goodies, Rare Replay is the “game” I was most excited to receive; it’s a big collection of Rare’s history, a company that, after reviewing its portfolio, I have actually had little contact with, but appreciate their humor and love of colorful graphics from afar. I think I have only ever played one Rare game found in the collection, and that was Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Outside the collection, I’ve enjoyed Marble Madness, Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (sorry, not you, Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!), and that opening level repeatedly on an emulated copy of GoldenEye 007 (please don’t arrest me). So there’s a lot to try out for the first time in this collection, and I have no intentions of playing through it in chronological order, but I did start it all off with Rare’s first game Jetpac, back when the company was called Ultimate Play the Game.

Jetman’s plight in Jetpac is one that pre-dates Groundhog Day, the film, by about ten years, but surely was an inspiration to anyone thinking about what it meant to be stuck in a time loop, repeating the same day and tasks again and again. Jetman must assemble his rocket (which spawns in installments scattered around the map) and fill it with a select amount of fuel before taking off to the next planet. This procedure is then repeated, over and over, with no end seemingly in sight. In addition to this, Jetman has to defend himself from the planet’s native aliens, which a varied and have different attack patterns. Some move diagonally, and others lock on to the tiny astronaut and follow him around the screen. He’s got a ray gun that shoots horizontal lasers for defense, and things like gems can be collected for bonus points.

By and far, my favorite thing about Jetpac is its wraparound world. You go to one edge of the screen, cross over, and appear on the other side. This is extremely handy when trying to avoid a group of enemies or make a shortcut to the rocketship. I’m sure this wasn’t the first game to do this, but I’m too tired to look up when Mario Bros. came out versus this game. Regardless, it works, and I have to say that, some 34 years later, the game plays pretty great. Jetman is pretty quick to move around, and the only problem I had was with collision on the platforms, which made him bounce back, often right into an alien enemy I was trying to avoid. The repetitious gameplay gets old, but one has to remember that this came from an era of high scores and bragging.

Thankfully, Rare Replay throws in some additional things to do, both in their milestone quests and snapshot features. Milestones are things like “kill X number of aliens” or “fill your rocketship up with fuel X times” while snapshots make things a little more tricky. One took away Jetman’s laser gun, forcing you to maneuver on your own quick wits, and another tasked him with completing five wraparounds in a row without dying. I happily completed all of these and popped every Achievement related to the title.

There are other games in the Jetpac series left to try out in Rare Replay, but I don’t know what I will tackle next. I suspect I’ll save some of the collectathons for later in life, when I have the time and am in a find shiny things kind of mood. Either way, I highly recommend you check out Jetpac and to not be put off by its age or graphics, of which I think the latter is pretty cool. The sound effects department is lacking, but I absolutely love the bright, crisp colors–the blurry screenshot above doesn’t do it justice, I know–and there’s a surprising amount of strategy and skill involved in bringing canisters of fuel to and fro. Certainly more than I expected when first launching it, and it’s always great to see where a company started. Here’s hoping Sea of Thieves incorporates some elements from Jetpac, like bringing bits of grog back to your ship one glass at a time until there’s enough to get the entire crew wasted and off to some other island.

The games of E3 2017 that have me keyed up

E3 2017 is not technically over yet, but a majority of the big announcements and reveals have come and gone, with Nintendo swooping in yesterday to present a world where a hat can Mario-ize any object, living or not. It’s a fascinating gameplay hook, one that does now have me interested in owning a Switch far down the road. Forget vapor champers and 4K streaming and how good rain looks in your driving game–that hat is where it is at. Still, not a single one of my wishes was granted, and for that I’m a sourpuss. Just kidding, all–I love videogames, even the ones I don’t like, and there’s never been a better time to be playing these digital thingies.

The following is a list of the games announced at E3 this year that have got me all full of excitement and curiosity. They are in no particular order, and no one company “won” E3, especially not Sony, which definitely only won the “Did Not Win” category. Sorry, y’all, if that was confusing, but it’s true. Look into your heart, and you’ll see it’s so.

A Way Out

I enjoyed what Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons did, both thematically and gameplay-wise, and I think I’m going to dig A Way Out‘s focus on cooperatively escaping from prison. This comes from Hazelight Studios and will be published by Electronic Arts. Josef Fares, the game’s creative director, spoke about this project passionately and with excitement, and it is difficult to ignore that and not let yourself stir at the thought about distracting guards and crawling through a tunnel of poop in the middle of a thunderstorm to taste that freedom air.

Anthem

I’m glad there’s not a new Dragon Age game coming from BioWare. I’m still working on that last one, though I hope to complete it this year. No, I must complete it in 2017. For those wondering, I’m around 60 hours in, maybe three-fourths of the way through. Anyways, this, this Anthem, sure looks a lot like Destiny and Dragon Age/Mass Effect, but it’s third-person and seems more focused on exploration that bragging about some sick gun I found in a cave. I’m interested for sure, but if this is the kind of game that requires a full team of peeps all the time to enjoy…well, count me out. Either way, curious to hear more.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

I’ve watched a lot of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds over these last few weeks, fully understanding that I myself might never play this Battle Royale-inspired extravaganza. I don’t believe it requires that big of a machine to run, but now I don’t have to worry about even attempting this on my ASUS laptop because it’s coming, exclusively, to the Xbox One this year. I’m so ready to find a quiet, hidden hole and sit in it until the number of participants left on the island rapidly depletes and then stumble into a firefight unprepared and get killed unceremoniously. You heard it hear first.

Super Mario Odyssey

New Mario is new Mario. And this one keeps on surprising, with the reveal of Mario’s hat friend Cappy able to take over people and items in the environment for Mario to use. It instantly made me think of Brave Fencer Musashi and how you could steal abilities from enemies to help you on your journey. A Nintendo Switch is most likely a long way’s off for me, considering I can still get Breath of the Wild for my little used Wii U, but whenever I do eventually acquire the device, this will be an obvious purchase.

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions

I’m pretty sure I have a digital copy of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga on my Wii U. Let me go check. Yup, definitely do. I think I got it a while back by redeeming some Nintendo Club points before that system vanished. Anyways, naturally, I bought it and have not played it. Looks like I can continue to hold off because an enhanced remake for the 3DS is coming out soon, and that’s probably the better version to play at this point in time.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

The turn on Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle happened fast. It all started with people scoffing at the inclusion of guns on the hands of Nintendo’s sweet, innocent original characters, the absurdness of Rabbids wearing costumes to look like those characters, and the fact that no one really knew much else about the game other than its title and that Mario was ready to shoot something. Well, now we know–this is XCOM plus Nintendo silliness. I’ve always been intimidated by permadeath-driven strategy games, but this tone seems gentler and more fun, so I’m interested in seeing how it plays.

Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology

Sigh. Radiant Historia has long been a game I’ve put on my “I will play this game this year” lists…and have failed to do so. Boo to me. The thing is, I really like it, but it’s a game about time travel and manipulating past events, and at this point I’d be totally lost going back to my years-old save file. Might as well wait for Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology, an enhance remake for the Nintendo 3DS. I wonder if it’ll have any StreetPass functionality.

Well, that’s that. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few key names here–there’s been a lot to keep track of these last few days–and don’t be upset that Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Days Gone, and that new God of War aren’t here. The hard truth is that I have never been excited for them and never will be.

But that’s just me. Now I’d like to hear from y’all…what games are you most excited for, whether this year or slated for 2018? And on a scale of 1 to 100, how upset are you that Suikoden VI is still not a thing?