Tag Archives: Sly Cooper

A broad array of PlayStation characters are ready to fight

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This past Sunday turned out to be “download all those new PlayStation Plus freebies for the month” day, which saw me adding Hoard, Sportsfriends, and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale in one big gulp to my ever-growing list of untouched games. I glanced at the first two after installing them and decided that, before I get back into some lengthy Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty sessions, I should try out PS All-Stars and see what all the hubbub was about.

First, my history with these kind of all-out rumble in the jungle multiplayer mayhem games: I’ve never, ever ever played Super Smash Brothers. In any form. And I don’t see that changing any time soon, even with the newest ones looking stock full of franchises I adore, like Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Fire Emblem: Awakening. Oh well. I’ve also never touched Power Stone or Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring. They’ve just never really appealed to me, and I can’t exactly pinpoint why because I do enjoy Nintendo and its characters, but I guess I felt like the fighting overall appeared rather superfluous and it was simply a bunch of fan service. Plus, considering how bad my eyes are, I’m not a big supporter of when games pull the camera back really far, making it hard to see your character and the supposedly cool fighting moves they are done, something that PS All-Stars definitely does frequently. Especially when there’s four mascots fighting at once.

So far, I’ve run through PS All-Stars‘ story mode once and immediately picked Sly Cooper as my man raccoon of action. His story mode has you playing through several fights as you try to figure out who stole some pages from the ancient family heirloom Thievius Raccoonus. Some fights were one on one, asking you to get the most kills over a three-minute time period, and others task you with being the first player to reach three kills first. Eventually, you get to the story reveal, which is that Nathan Drake stole those pages. Sure, you might see the connection that both Sly and Nathan are thieves, but it’s even more ironic when you realize that Nolan North voiced Le Paradox and El Jefe in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. Anyways, you battle him, and then you battle Polygon Man, the original PlayStation mascot. I did not find any of this challenging at all, but it is fun pulling out multi-kill specials, especially the level 3 one; for Sly, Bentley hooks you up with some kind of missile launcher, which you target opponents with via a first-person mode.

As you play–and win–battles, the chosen character levels up, unlocking various things, such as new backgrounds, icons, titles, belts, minions, and costumes. I can now happily dress Sly Cooper in his Arabian outfit. By the end of the Story mode, Sly was something like level 11 or 12, and it seems like there’s plenty more to unlock and see for him alone. I guess I can either replay the Story mode (most unlikely) or take the character online. We’ll see. There’s really only a few other PlayStation characters I’m interested in playing as, and they are as follows: Jak and Daxter, Parappa, Raiden, Ratchet and Clank, and Sir Daniel Fortesque. Sorry spiky-haired dude from Ape Escape, but I never got to play you way back when. Also, sorry everyone else, but you’re either too new or too dark and brooding to care about in this goofy, carefree brawler.

I suspect I’ll play this a few more to see what some of those other characters can do and some more of the zany, always-changing and interactive backgrounds. The fighting doesn’t feel 100% great, but maybe that had more to do with Sly, who can’t even block (he turns invisible for a bit instead). I can appreciate the idea behind this game, but I think Sony missed some chances to really include a few larger known entities than Fat Princess (pun intended), such as Crash Bandicoot, the robot bunny from Jumping Flash!, old-school and super pointy Lara Croft, and maybe even that dude from Wild 9. I don’t know; the inclusion of two versions of Cole from inFAMOUS  2 seems a bit uninspired.

At least I got another good–if extremely minor–dose of Sly Cooper, Murray, and Bentley. Really, you can’t go wrong with that trio. Sly’s level 2 special tosses Murray out at enemies in this sliding body slam, and it’s a great way to clear the path before you with the click of a button. I ended up using it more than his level 3 special in the end.

Who’s your favorite character in All-Stars? Again, it’s free right now for PlayStation Plus subscribers, so grab it, and maybe we’ll play together some day down the online road. Hint: I’ll be the raccoon hitting you on the head with a cane.

Five ice stages actually worth playing

most memorable snow levels GD copy

On Monday, February 17, I left the house for the very first time in five days after getting seriously snowed in. I mean, yeah, we live in the middle of the Pennsylvanian woods, so this was bound to happen eventually. And yes, the above picture is the actual abode Tara and I live in, and that’s her Jeep there, stuck in the middle of the driveway. Anyways, she was able to eventually get out, and after some more shoveling, I too got my lackluster and turble-in-da-snow Chevy Cobalt out and was able to reconnect with society for a brief moment before returning home with plenty of yummy groceries. Alas, it was not meant to be because, while I was able to get down the snowy driveway just fine, getting back up it was another mess. Flash-forward two hours, and all is well, but now I’m thinking about ice stages in videogames that I actually enjoy spending time in, unlike real life.

Onwards, with the five chilliest places I don’t mind getting stuck in…

The Ice Caves (Spelunky)

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During my early days with Spelunky, getting to the Ice Caves was a big deal. It meant mastering the Mines and Jungle levels well enough to hit a series of levels as unlike the previous ones as possible. In the Ice Caves, you can slip and slide on blocks of ice, and so can gems and items and enemies, making it dangerous and chaotic for all involved. UFOs, yetis, and mammoths guard their territory aggressively. Also, the entire level takes place over a dark, endless abyss, meaning if you fall incorrectly, you might not ever hit ground and get back up. It’s not quite as deadly as the Temple levels, and I actually find the Ice Caves to be much more relaxing than any other section in Spelunky. Much as of that is due to the snappy, jazz-fused soundtrack, but I also think it has something to do with its unconventional openness; if you have the jetpack equipped, you can fly to and fro and see all that it has to offer, with few threats in your way. Perfect for ghost mining, too.

World 4 – Gorilla Glacier (Donkey Kong Country)

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With great snow comes low visibility. Pretty sure that’s a famous quote said to Peter Parker. And that’s what I remember most about the Gorilla Glacier worlds from Donkey Kong Country–a lot of snow, blowing this way and that. Now, the levels don’t start out that way. In fact, you begin in Snow Barrel Blast, which paints a pretty picture of a clear sky and a lot of snow on the ground. As you progress, snow begins to fall and intensify, to the point where it becomes difficult to see. Toss in some hectic, heart-pulsing music, and this is starting to sound like a nightmare–but it’s strangely not. I remember it so fondly as a sign of the power of videogames, the power of the SNES, and when the snow would start to come down heavy many, many years later in games like Skyrim, I always knew where that technique–for me–started.

The Colder Climates (Journey)

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I will keep this as brief as possible, since the snow levels arrive late in Journey‘s journey, right in spoilery territory, but man…they are something special. Especially if you are able to have a nameless co-op friend at your side, like I did my single time floating through the game. You basically have to traverse through the blinding snow, trudging up white hill after white hill, all while avoiding some big baddies soaring overhead. The controls work really well here, as it is actually so much harder to move in the snow than the desert sand, hitting home that you are in one bad place. That said, it’s gorgeous and gorgeously orchestrated. I played with another player, and we took turns checking to see if the coast was clear before chirping that it was time to dart back out into the blizzard.

Winter (Animal Crossing: New Leaf)

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There’s a surprising amount of things to do in the winter in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and that’s all on top of the general number of things one can do as mayor of a village full of spunky animal residents. Building snowmen and snowwomen opens up chances for new collectibles; the snowwoman will give you special ice furniture for bringing her a certain number of snowflakes, and the snowman plays a game of Bingo with you for as long as he is standing. But walking around is nice and peaceful, the soft crunch of boots on snow peppering the soundtrack. Plus, I’m not as distracted as much as I am in the spring and summer by a dozen different bugs and butterflies to chase after. You still gotta watch out for those dung beetles though.

Canada (Sly 2: Band of Thieves)

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The Sly Cooper franchise has a serious affection for snow levels. No, really. They are the one constant across all four titles. Here, have some proof in the form of a very direct sentence using a number of semicolons. In Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, you go to China; in Sly 2: Band of Thieves, the gang ventures to Canada; Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves has them moseying back to China; lastly, in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, the trio find themselves lost in time, stuck in the bitterly cold Ice Age.

In Band of Thieves, Canada plays home for two separate, but subsequent episodes and is visually depicted as large expanses of snow, tiny mountains, and ice-covered walls. There’s also moose carrying flashlights, but I think that’s based on actual findings, what do I know. The first Sly game was very linear, but the second outing began to open things up more, offering a hub and a larger area to explore at your leisure. And you could pick between any of the three heroes, and each traversed the snow differently. Aw, this was back before Bentley ended up in a wheelchair, too. My bad.

Well, that’s five really cold, frigid places that I’m okay getting stuck with. Do you have any others to add to this snow pile?

2013 Game Review Haiku, #61 – Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time

2013 games completed sly cooper thieves in time

The Cooper fam book
In peril, time-hop to fix
Collect those bottles

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

Must repair the Thievius Raccoonus in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time

sly 4 early impressions woo

When I got my PlayStation 3 earlier this year, it was mostly because of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, a game I’ve dabbled in here and there, but just don’t have the time to commit to properly. However, all along, I’ve had my sights on Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, the long-awaited fourth game in the comically colorful sneakfest franchise that I’ve ate up since the PS2 days. Well, it took me some time, but I finally ended up nabbing a copy, along with Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection, several weeks back for a pretty good deal from GameStop, but I told myself I couldn’t play until I at least put Primal to bed. And lo, that also finally happened.

Right, okay. Thieves in Time picks up immediately after the final events of 2005’s Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, so you best brush up on that game’s story details or you’ll be a bit confused as to why Penelope is not hanging out with her new boyfriend Bentley. Anyways, something is wrong with the Thievius Raccoonus, a book containing all Cooper history and secrets; words are just vanishing from its pages, forcing Bentley to get the gang back together and uncover who is behind the wrongdoing. This eventually leads to them using their iconic van, which can now travel through time thanks to some nifty enhancements by Bentley and Penelope, going back to different specific periods to rescue some of Cooper’s ancestors.

I’m actually burning through Thieves in Time as I’m wont to do with these types of mission-based collectathon sneak-platformers, now just starting in the third world, which is stuck in the cold, frigid Ice Age. There’s dinosaurs and penguins, so it’s pretty much like Pennsylvania right now. The previous two worlds were set in the Wild West and Feudal Japan, and you are basically given a large hub world to run around, collect things like bottles and Sly masks, return treasures to your HQ, and pick up missions. Or you can also just kind of run around and explore, which I like to do for a little bit before starting the first mission. Get a lay of the land, y’know. Find as many clinking bottles as I can because I must have all the bottles.

The original PS2 games were developed by Sucker Punch Productions, but the company eventually moved away from the master raccoon thief to shooting aliens with guns and men with superpowers. Thieves in Time was developed by Sanzaru Games, the same company that previously ported the original games into HD versions for a special PlayStation 3 collection. I might have to get those one day, despite already having all the games. Grrr, but Trophies. Hmm. Anyways, Sanzaru Games seems to have the right touch, as one might not even realize the switch in developers, as Sly Cooper runs, talks, and plays just like he always has, with a bombastic story, zany, anthropomorphic characters, and goofy one-liners and puns that many might sigh at, but I enjoy greatly.

Other than lengthy load times, I’m loving everything Thieves in Time is throwing at me. Well, maybe not the Grizz, just yet. But the missions are varied and short enough to gobble up quickly, and I can’t truly express the joy I feel when Sly jumps in the air and I press the O button and he instantly lands on a roof edge or wire or pointy thing. Sneaking is fun, as is pick-pocketing. You can go out into the hub world as Sly, Bentley, Murray, Carmelita, and one of the Cooper ancestors, regardless if they have a mission to attend to, and they all play very differently. Maybe, if anything, there are too many different special moves to remember across the slew of playable characters, plus Sly can put on time period costumes to perform additional actions. I like the jailbird outfit, because he can roll around on the ball and chain.

My plan is to get all the way to the final world and its final boss mission, and then go back to all the previous worlds to collect the remaining treasure, bottles, Sly masks, and locked safes. I collected all the stuff in the previous games despite not having Trophies to prove it, but I swear I did, and this one must follow suit. Perfect for putting on a podcast and just collecting leisurely. I suspect I’ll get there soon enough, as Thieves in Time does not appear to be very long considering I’m already halfway through it, but that’s okay. Quality over quantity, really. And the quality here is strong.

inFamous 2 is decent fun, but no shock to the system

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So far, inFamous 2 really makes me want to go back to free Nazi-controlled terrain in The Saboteur or stop kicking dirt around and finally pick up Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, y’know, the game I more or less got a PS3 for. Well, that and Ni no Kuni. That’s not to say that inFamous 2 is not worth playing, as it totally is…it’s just that the best elements within itself are the ones I’ve already cherished and loved in other videogames. But before I get to all that, I have a wee announcement.

I got a new TV. Now, now, hold on. I have to assume that, for many of you, the TV I got will be No Big Thang™, but you have to realize that all my teenage-into-adult life I’ve learned to live with or live without, and so I’ve been using a large, clunky television from 2005 that does not have all the fancy features one can get with stuff being made some eight years later. And because of this, many videogames I play on it suffer from tiny text syndrome, and unfortunately, that’s going to continue to happen. See, I didn’t get a replacement TV for the living room; instead, I got a wee 19 inch flatscreen for my art studio, which is set up next to where I draw and use my laptop. So now I can watch Netflix while I forever tone bad comics. However, since Tara and I don’t have cable, I needed to move the PS3 over to my new wee TV for all that hot action, which has a bonus effect in that I’m using it a lot more now. I mean, now it just sits there, looking at me, demanding I turn it on and play. Which is probably a good thing for my PlayStation Plus backlog.

Anyways, this is what my new wee TV looks like:

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I’m pleased to say that it does the job more than adequately, both for streaming movies/TV shows and playing games. Well, at least the handful of games I opened on it to see how they fared, which consisted of Joe Danger 2: The Movie, Ni no Kuni, and inFamous 2. At some point, I want to switch the PS3 and Xbox 360’s places, to see what Torchlight and Dragon Age: Origins look like, as they were the games I found to have the smallest text in my collection. No real rush on that though.

Right. So, inFamous 2. Never played the original, but it always looked neat, like a modern dark spin on being a superhero, with legit superhero powers. Lightning bolts a-way! The second game seemed to sum up a little from the previous adventure via some cool comic book cutscenes, but it’s not all really clear to me. Something about a Beast (or maybe it’s The Beast) hunting Cole down…I don’t know. I just like climbing buildings, collecting blast shards, and squirrel-gliding from roof to roof like a kid with no restrictions. And you can totally do that, for as long as you want, which is really nice. Morality-wise, I’m going down the righteous path, though I have–on accident, I swear–murdered a few civilians while trying to stop attacking monsters and such. Because it can get hard and chaotic and somewhat confusing once the lightning and bullets begin to fly. Basically, any time there are four or five enemies at once, Cole goes down fast, and I don’t know if it is my fault or not. I’d like to believe I have a decent handle on firing shock grenades and tossing cars, but maybe I don’t. At least the checkpointing is very forgiving.

But yeah, climbing up those towers reminds me of the clunky, but still satisfying climbing from The Saboteur. The way Cole just kind of magnet-like sticks to poles and ledges gets me all jittery for more Sly Cooper tales of thievery (old and new). I’ll probably burn through inFamous 2 rather fast over the next few nights–as I previously mentioned, now that the PlayStation 3 sits right next to my work desk, I’ll be more inclined to use it–but maybe then after I’ll dip back into some old favorites. We’ll see. Probably not. I guess I just like dreaming about this stuff openly.

Top five E3 2011 announced games that I desperately do want

I’ve never really paid too much attention to E3 in the past, but this year I got the itch, and I actually watched some of the press conferences live over the Interwebz as they happened and, thanks to the killer kids at GiantBomb, listened to many podcasts and interviews, as well as devoured every bit of data put out there. And there was a lot to be put…out. Um, that sentence didn’t work as well as I’d have liked, but whatever. Let’s move on.

Videogames! They’re always coming out, and I always want ’em. And while E3 is usually about the big names, the same ol’ shooters and Kinect jazz hands and next iterations in the big name franchises, there’s also a lot of smaller titles there. Sure, they don’t get the same coverage and applause, but dang it, they should. A lot of them have potential, I promise. More so than the Wii U “experiences” at least.

Here’s the top five games that debuted or were announced at E3 2011 that I want to gobble gobble in the near future. Well, probably not the near future, as many of these titles are still a ways off, but a gamerboy can dream.

5. OverStrike

Insomniac Games is one of my favorite developers, and one of the big losses of choosing the Xbox 360 over the PlayStation 3 was losing access to the wonderful Ratchet & Clank series. So, when the rumormill started churning recently, and word was that Insomniac Games was going to announce a new multiplatform game, well…I got excited. Welcome, OverStrike! It’s not a shared Ratchet & Clank title, but it still focuses on crazy weapons, as well as class-based shooting. I’m usually not fans of these types of games, but knowing what kind of creative team is behind it is more enough for me. Okay, I’m in.

4. Luigi’s Mansion 2

The Internet has been quick to remind us all that the original Luigi’s Mansion was not as good as we are remembering it to be, but phooey on them. I thoroughly enjoyed Luigi’s Mansion, thinking it to be a great change of pace, giving the other brother some love. Hearing him call out for Mario always got a chuckle in the room. Plus, I believe in ghosts, and they should all be vacuumed up for being very real things that really scare me. Think this will be perfect on the 3DS; a little ghost-busting on the go. Okay, I’m in.

3. LEGO City Stories

An open-world GTA-esque game featuring…LEGO characters. Y’all know my deep love for the LEGO games, and y’all know my deep hatred for the majority of GTA-like games. Hopefully, this fusion will be a game-changer. Maybe because it won’t be so serious. The fact that it’s coming out for the 3DS is interesting; hopefully they can fit an entire seamless city on one of those wee carts. Okay, I’m cautiously in.

2. Rayman: Origins

It looks simply gorgeous, retains the same fun and strong side-scrolling gameplay, and is going to allow for user-generated levels. Okay, I’m in.

1. Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time

Sonofabitch, now I need to buy a PlayStation 3. Okay, after I rob a bank, I’m in.

What newly announced games are y’all excited for? Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension? Shame on you, Grinding Down readers.

30 Days of Gaming, #10 – Best gameplay

I’m used to doing the same things over and over again, in true life and in videogames, and this never-ending cycle is a big part of why Grinding Down is called what it is because grinding is the art of repetition. However, and I doubt I’m alone here, I always prefer variety to the same ol’ in the end. Especially in terms of gameplay. Videogames that are simply fetch quest after fetch quest after fetch quest—like the latest DLC from Borderlands—are beyond boring, and I guess I find many FPS titles to be of the same ilk. You just, uh, shoot things. Pew pew pew. Cue credits.

So, the best gameplay is potpourri gameplay. And the best example of this made-up terminology is Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves.

In his third adventure, Sly Cooper and his brainy pal Bentley are trying to open the Cooper Vault on Kaine Island, which is said to hold the entire wealth of the Cooper family. However, Dr. M built a mean lair around the vault as he has gold coins for eyes. Sly will have to recruit a whole gaggle of people to help out with this end-all, be-all robbery, some who are actually old enemies from the Fiendish Five. Each mystery person recruitment arc serves as a level, with it usually beginning on some light reconnaissance before the team whips up a battle plan and then acts upon it. Set in an open hub world, Sly and his friends will do more than just go from place to place; they’ll have to sneak on rooftops, win skyplane races, row boats through sewers, mess with security systems, lure animals and people around using multiple choice answers, climb windmills, successfully parachute to the ground, drive an RC car, shoot darts at incoming rockets, take pictures, steer a van, fire cannons, discover hidden treasures, recover sea-diving equipment, and more.

::deep exhale::

I wasn’t just saying and more to end the sentence sooner than later. There’s still plenty of stuff I haven’t even talked about yet. Like Gold Coins and Loot to spend over Thief Net or how, after you beat the game, there’s a master thief challenge to tackle. Yeah, there’s a lot of different things to do on top of my favorite for the Sly games: exploration. Sly Cooper is nimble and quick, perfect for running around a cityscape either noticed or unnoticed, and there always seems to be something to climb; he definitely gives the Assassin Creed games a run for their climbin’, and the open hub world is just so dang inviting. My personal favorite is chapter five, Dead Men Tell No Tales, heavy on the pirates and ships and booty. Each mission makes use of every place in the hub world, but it was always fun to go explore everything first, and then when it’s time to go back, I’d know what to expect.

For what could easily be summarily dismissed as just another platformer, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves is all about a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. It’d be hard to get bored with so many strikingly different things to do, even if some are not as fun as others—the RC car’s controls made for frustrating nights. That said, potpourri really is the best kind of gameplay. Go on, take a whiff.

Vaan doesn’t know the first thing about sneaking

Mission 3-2: Rendezvous Round Back in Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings really did a number on me. A bad number. Not necessarily 666, but something close to that in terms of cruelty and evilness. First, here’s the mission’s description:

After saving the aegyl, the party heads for the shrine holding the auralith, but a watch has already been posted outside! How does Vaan plan to sneak past?  

And the main objective:

Sneak into the temple; Vaan must survive!

What? SNEAK?! Am I playing Metal Wings Solid here or something? Don’t think so. This is supposed to be a RPG/RTS hybrid…you seen an enemy, you attack it until it is dead. ‘Nuff said. Anyways, Vaan is all alone on the map and must sneak past a good number of guards in order to make it to the shrine’s entrance. Okay, sounds easy enough. Map is pretty small. Nope. Took me FOUR tries to complete this mission.

First try, I walked straight down the map, hid behind a pillar, and, when the first guard was looking the other way, tried to rush past him. Got caught, started fighting him, died a sad, painful death.

Second try, did the same thing, but this time used some brains and applied Vaan’s spell Sprint to the equation. Made it past the first guard, hid behind a tiny airship before trying to sneak around another guard. Only when I went to move, Vaan went in the opposite direction I told him thanks to an invisible barrier and thus got some sword swipes to the face.

Third try, all of the above, this time waiting longer for the second guard to move away. Then it was a mad dash across the screen. However, greed took over, and I just had to open one of the numerous treasure chests on the map. Got caught, got killed.

Fourth try, repeated same steps as before, utilizing Vaan’s Sprint ability as much as possible. Skipped all treasure chests. Tried to sneak by two viera archers guarding the shrine’s entrance, but they discovered me, loosing arrow after arrow my way, and all I had at that point was adrenaline and speed…so I made a beeline for the flag, finally completing the mission with a sliver of health left.

Whew. Also: ASDFGHJKL.

This game was not built for stealth missions. The biggest hurdle is that, unlike in games such as Metal Gear Solid or Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, there’s no indication as to how far an enemy’s perception ranges. Can that soldier see me walking towards him? Can the viera archers view me from afar? If I crossed the enemy’s path here instead of here, am I less visible? It’s a guessing game, in short. Try to sneak by and see if you have the luck of the Irish. Another problem falls on the touchscreen controls and speed that units actually walk at, but that’s kind of a muffin in comparison to the lack of stealth-like details missing from this mountain. Heck, even a simple ! mark above an enemy’s head when they’ve spotted you would help; I just rushed past enemies and had to watch them closely to see if they were following after me or not.

So here’s to me hoping that this was the one and only stealthy mission in Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings

Sly Cooper 4…

…where, oh where, art thou?

Please hurry up and come into existence. It’s been way too long since I’ve played a really fun, stealthy platformer. I know there’s a new HD/3D package getting worked up for the PlayStation 3, but that doesn’t cut it for me. I want a new adventure; I want to get the gang back together; I want to tip-toe across city roofs in a gorgeous, expansive open world à la Grand Theft Auto IV or The Saboteur. I know it can be done. Especially with the cel-shading. I’m just waiting, waiting, waiting, and I’d like to think I’m not the only one here. Let’s go, guys at Sucker Punch Productions. Don’t make me get The Murray to come over and rough y’all up…