Monday, June 30, 2014

Postgame: E3 Predilections

If you were wondering why I haven't yet written a follow-up to my pre-E3 post, then you can fill the second half of this sentence with want, and it'll still be true. I could fill a graveyard with all the drafts I've started trying to make such a post, but I've been told I shouldn't do that anymore, so I won't. So, instead of doing that, I'm going to cannibalize some of the parts and stitch them up together with my inevitable post about the Summer Steam Sale to create a Frankenstein's Monster of a blog post. But not like the original Monster, who was eloquent and philosophical, but the more familiar one, who's more known for moaning and shambling.This abomination will begin as soon as I finish hooking up my computer to a lightning-rod and practicing shouting "It's Alive!"


It now occurs to me that I wrote the entirety of my previous post on E3 without actually explaining what E3 is. E3 is the Electronic Entertainment Expo, a yearly event where a bunch of video game developers meet up with a bunch of video game players to talk about video games. It's kind of like Comic-con, but with video games, instead of comics. And, much like Comic-con, it's moving away from its original focus, (video games, in this case) and towards a bunch of crap that no one cares about. (things that video game consoles can do other than video games, in this case)

Like dying, for example
Another fun fact about E3: It happened, like, a week ago, [hahahahahAHAHAHAHAHA -Future Thomas] and you already know everything about it that you care to know. But I'll recap Nintendo's stuff (i.e. everything about it that you care to know) anyway, because I don't have anything better to do on my morning commute.

Super Smash Brothers is the coal that keeps the Nintendo Hype train rolling. Nintendo understandably made it the centerpiece of their E3 showing, and it paid off. A concrete release date for the 3DS game was established, three new fighters were revealed, and demos of the game were available at E3, and at Best Buy locations across America. The release date is once again of particular importance, because it's October 3rd, almost two weeks past what even the most pedantic people (hi!) will consider the last day of summer, the alleged season of Smash Bros' release. So Nintendo lied to us. At least it's all uphill from here.

If you've ever speculated on what new fighters might be included in the new Smash Bros, you've probably considered the possibility of letting players fight as their Mii. Shortly afterwards, you probably considered that possibility to be stupid. Yet the very first move of Nintendo's Digital Event was to announce that very thing. And like every previous fighter that I initially doubted, the video changed my mind. The inclusion of Miis allows just about any character, real or fictional, to join the fray. The possibilities are endless.

This is an actual screencap from Nintendo's Digital Event.

The second fighter to be announced was Palutena, the goddess of the Kid Icarus games. I never played them. People are saying it's cool that Smash Bros. has so many female characters for a fighting game. As a Skullgirls player, I think that's kind of cute.

The final fighter that they revealed was Pacman. Like the Wii Fit trainer, Greninja, and Mii Fighter before him, I didn't like the idea of Pacman being in the game at first. Unlike those other guys, I still don't. Maybe it's because "eating" is his entire skillset, which doesn't really lend itself to a diverse moveset. Maybe it's because it's been more than a decade since anyone's ever actually had fun playing Pacman. Maybe it's because his trailer seems to imply that yellow is a primary color, a falsehood that I am willing to pick fights with little children over. Let's move on before you have time to realize that last bit wasn't even a joke.

Speaking of Smash Bros. news that I don't much care about, Nintendo is making Skylanders figures of Nintendo characters and calling them "Amiibo". No, I have no idea what "Amiibo" is supposed to mean, either. Did someone miss the g key on their keyboard and just think "eh, good enough"? Anyway, in Super Smash Brothers, Amiibo will contain AI fighters than can train and learn and fight. They'll be compatible with other games, like Mario Kart 8, but details are unknown at this point. It seems like a pretty cool idea, and one that could make Nintendo a lot of money, but am I personally interested in it? The answer to this question is the same as the answer to the question "Is there a Rosalina Amiibo?"

And continuing with Smash Bros: since the announcement of Pac-man, this image has been circulating around the internet

[had been circulating - Future Thomas]

usually with some caption like "If you told me as a kid in the 90's that all these characters would be in one game, I would have told you to eat your entire scrotum in world record time and not even call Guinness to verify it."

Now, disregarding the fact that Mega-man and Pac-man are made by the same company, and how much of a sassy-ass you apparently were as a kid, that's not what I'd say about E3 to my past self. I'd say "Hey, you know Mario, right? He's that man in video games who jumps. So often that one might even call him a 'Jump Man'" "Yeah?" my past self responds, visibly distressed over the fact that I go insane in the not too distant future. "Well imagine if they made a Mario game, but without Mario, and also without jumping." "What!?" my past self cries in disbelief, "That would be like if they made a Legend of Zelda game without Link, and also without sexually confusing green clothing!" "Yeah", I respond, visibly distressed over the fact that I had already gone insane in the distant past. Then, I climb back in my time machine and head to the present to describe this scenario that is completely hypothetical, because I absolutely do not have a functioning time machine. [Definitely - Future Thomas] Because guess what? That happened. The bit about making a Mario game without Mario, not the time travel bit. It's called "Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker", and it is born of Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw's rage and the twisted humor of Karmic Destiny. It is bad and I do not like it.

Nintendo had other things at the show, like Yoshi's Wooly World, a sequel to Kirby's Canvas Curse for Wii U, a bit about a new Zelda, and Reggie saying he'd kick someone's ass, but that's all old hat. Now it's time to talk about the Steam Sale, and I'll describe all the cool games you should buy now that they're a (improper) fraction of the price they were a few days ago.

Guacamelee! is an incredible game that I didn't actually get during the sale. I got it in a Humble Bundle awhile back, and only played it recently so I could get trading cards to sell for chump change. Scientists believe that this is a symptom of a rare condition called "being pretty much the worst ever." But I'm glad I did play it, because Guacamelee! is incredible. It's fun, there's a bunch of dumb references, it has great music, and it's just all around great. It's also pretty short, maybe 6 or 7 hours to beat the game, but this might be a blessing in disguise, as I'd probably play this game for the rest of my life if it let me.

So, what great games did I actually buy from the sale? Well. Um. About that. You see, I managed to play a rather clever trick on myself during the sale: by playing good games while I was buying games, I managed to convince myself that I was buying good games. But, in reality, while I was playing Guacamelee!, Gunpoint, and Transistor, I was buying Don't Starve, Bioshock, and Brothers. I don't really mean to imply that any of those games aren't good, but they just aren't really my cup of genre. Don't Starve is basically like Animal Crossing, but far more forgiving, as the sweet release of death eventually comes to set you free. I'm sure Bioshock is a great game, but I'm not really a fan of shooters, and playing against non-human opponents only makes me feel less justified in getting wrecked. Brothers was a neat little experience, but it was perhaps more "little" than "neat". The idea of a single player co-op game is certainly innovative, and it did lead to some cool moments, both mechanically and emotionally, but it certainly isn't enough to justify a $15 price tag. The gameplay was so basic that I could have done titrations with it, and the story wasn't really anything groundbreaking, but I don't think I regret spending $3 on the experience. (a word which fits it much better than "game") If you're a fan of games that are "oh ho ho so artsy", this one does it better than some out there, so you might want to check it out if it's deep on sale.

So, does that mean that I hate all the games I bought? Not quite. My favorite game that I bought during the sale (That I've played so far, at least) would have to be Battleblock Theater. It's pretty much a PC version of LittleBigPlanet, made by the same people who made Castle Crashers. Except only two people can play cooperatively at once, instead of sackboys, you play as blocky prisoner-friends, and instead of the refined yet whimsical voice of Stephen Fry, the game is narrated by the kid in your class who always shouted things that weren't really funny, but got you to laugh anyway. It also has a much bigger focus on cooperation. 2-player levels are altered to require players to work together to win, which is fun if you have a competent enough partner.(fortunately, my partner for this game was much better than for the last co-op game I played) Throw in a soundtrack that's way better than it has any right being, and you have a quirky, enjoyable platformer that's worth a few bucks, at least.

Lastly, Child of Light is a fairy tale RPG painted in water colors and written entirely in verse. That last bit intrigued me, but now that I'm playing it, I'd say that "verse" is a bit generous to describe this game's writing. Most of it rhymes, sure, but there's often little sense of rhythm. Lines will change syllable number and emphasis all over the place. And don't even get me started on all the half-rhymes. To be fair, this is entirely understandable, because writing a game entirely in consistent meter and rhyme is insane, but it's still a little disappointing. I came for the rhymes, but I stayed for the combat system. The combat combines real time and turn based combat in a way that requires finesse and strategic thinking to master. Unless the enemies are spaced out just perfectly to interrupt all your attacks, allowing them to donk your whole team while you can do nothing but watch in horror. It's fun when it works, but I don't think I've ever played another game so capable of taking me from "serene" to "frothing, seething rage" in such a short amount of time. I was kind of on the fence about this one for a bit, but I'm currently leaning more towards liking it. If nothing else, the soundtrack is beautiful, so at least there's that.

Well, that's it. Those are the things I had to say. And now I've said them. So, if you'll please excuse me, I have some games to go play.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Pregame: E3 Predictions

So. My predictions for E3? I predict that E3 will cause me to feel bitter and out of touch with the modern games industry, as well as make me feel as though I've betrayed the promise I made to myself that this wouldn't devolve into a “gamer blog”. Of course, you don't really care about that, nor do you much care about what I think will be announced at E3, so I won't discuss that, either. I also can't imagine that you much care about what I hope to be announced at E3. Unfortunately for you, that is exactly what I intend to discuss.

I'm a mostly reformed Nintendo fanboy, but I'd say that Super Smash Bros. is what stops that “mostly” from slipping into an “entirely”. I may love Skullgirls more than I've ever loved a person, but Super Smash Bros. Brawl is still my favorite fighting game of all time. I even temporarily lift the middle school memory-lock (don't lie; you have one, too) to fondly reminisce about how I checked the Smash Bros Dojo website every morning for months leading up to the game's release. It remains one of my top three games of all time, and its soundtrack is similarly ranked. Listening to the Brawl soundtrack was something of a musical puberty for me, and I'm now going to move on before I wise up and decide that that is something too gross to go on record.

So, what kind of Smash news do I hope for? Well, if I can manage to get myself to a Best Buy, I might be able to learn how it actually plays, which would certainly be neat. A concrete release date would also be appreciated; I'd like to know as soon as possible how long my brother will be stranded on the moon without being able to play Smash bros. New characters are always big announcements, but there are a few other things I'd like to know about, like if there will be a story mode similar to Subspace Emissary, whether or not they've bothered to make a proper level editor on this one, and if there's any reason for me to dare hope that the soundtrack will available for purchase. Confirmations or denials of returning characters, like Jigglypuff, Captain Falcon, Ness, and Lucas would also be reassuring. There's not really much else to say. It's Smash Bros. You know what's up.

This. This is up. In case you'd forgotten

If you were recommended to this blog by one of my blog buddies, who said something along the lines of “Yeah, he's really hilarious, and he talks about science and anime and stuff”, and that second one made you a bit uneasy, then you might want to tune out for a bit. While I'm not about to talk about anime, it is about to get a whole lot more Japanese in here. The forseeable remainder of this post will be dedicated to Atlus, crafters of what are arguably the most Japanese games in the world.

First of all, I would like from Atlus an entire conference apologizing for Conception II. As a show of good faith, representatives of Spike Chunsoft should also be there, as it was they who gave life to this atrocity. Atlus merely shattered the fetters that bound it to the cursed nation in which it was meant to forever remain. Now, I'm not saying that Conception II is the worst game I've ever played. I'm just saying that, if I've ever played a worse game, then I've successfully reppressed any memory of having ever played it. The less said about Conception II, the better, so I'll move on.

Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem. What can I say about this that hasn't already been said before? Anything, really, because nothing's been said about it. This trailer from over a year ago is really all we have to go on, and it's about as informative as Pokemon's. Heck, it doesn't even have a date, or a concrete title, or really anything other than a bunch of characters from the respective series and the words "Development in progress". But what SMT x FE has over Pokemon is that, while Hoenn remakes were an inevitability, this crossover was more unexpected than me not referencing a certain Monty Python joke here. And while we know exactly what to expect from a Pokemon remake, more or less, we have practically no idea how this game will work. How will they reconcile the deeply personal connection you feel with the characters of Fire Emblem, resulting in a reset every time one dies, with the disposable demons of SMT, who are sacrificed as fusion fodder as you see fit? How can they resolve the conflict of setting, with SMT taking place in modern to futuristic Tokyo, and Fire Emblem taking place in various medieval fantasy worlds? How will they fuse the tactical gameplay of Fire Emblem with the more old-school RPG mechanics of SMT in a way that isn't exactly like Devil Survivor? Well, I have a few ideas on how it could be done...

Welcome... to the Catheeeedral of Shadows!
I kind of expect that some news will be dropped about this game at E3, and I definitely hope that it will. Fire Emblem's been one of my favorite game series for a while now, and Awakening is one of my favorite games of all time. And while I didn't know about it when this trailer was first unveiled, I've taken quite a shine to Shin Megami Tensei, and am quite intrigued as to how two of my favorite series of games will be combined.

The other game I felt like mentioning was Persona 5, another game by Atlus that also has very little information available. Persona 5's minimalist trailer (The only kind they make these days, it would seem)  consists of a bunch of chairs, appearing and being shackled, one by one. Then it says "You are a slave. Want emancipation?", like a dark, gritty reboot of the "Got Milk?" PSA campaign.

Got Chairs?
Googling "Got Milk?" reminded me of something unpleasantly serious that I'd like to talk about, and since I don't really have much to say about Persona 5, I guess I'll just go with it. So if you'll please ignore any implications that may spring up from the fact that I am transitioning from Persona 5 to discussion of Autism, I'd like to talk about PETA for a second. If you're wondering what PETA has to do with autism, and what any of this has to do with milk, then congratulations on being smarter than PETA. Because PETA recently claimed that milk causes autism. If you're laughing right now, it's because what you just read is goddamn hilarious. One of the funniest things I've ever written on my blog. I guarantee it. The idea that PETA would make such an absurd claim that is so tenuously connected to the "Ethical Treatment of Animals", for seemingly no other reason than to appear insane, is pure gold. Their source? Two studies, both more than a decade old. There are many reasons for the invalidity of this claim, and they are best left to people who know what they're talking about, but I'd like to point out the quote "One study of 20 children". In a study of behavioral science, a sample size this small is about as reliable as saying "some guy on a bus once told me..." There are a lot of things you can do with 20 children, but statistically significant science is not one of them.

Remember when we were talking about this? Not that this has anything to do with what I just said. *ahem*
Do I find this offensive? As someone with diagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder, (The disorder formerly known as Aspergers. But I prefer the term "autism spectre") yeah a little bit. But as a student of science? I find this hugely offensive. Did PETA really think that they could pull the wool over people's eyes with such flimsy evidence? With any luck, this will completely sunder whatever remained of PETA's credibility, and maybe the animal rights movement can be associated with an organization that isn't the most insidious propaganda machine since ███████████

Anyway. Sorry about that. Back to E3, I suppose. I don't really have ████ to say, but I █████ that 'd like an announcement of a new █████, a proper successor to █████ █████ Galaxy, rather than a ████ sequel.

Eh? ██████ ████ all about? Oh ████, it seems that ███████████ is on to me. I always knew ██ █████ ████ ██ ████. I have ██ ███████.