Most of May was spent playing the second and third Uncharted games to the point where I don’t really want to play the fourth Uncharted and kind of hate this series now. I mean, why can’t Naughty Dog get shooting right? And why do these bad guys have about a billion disposable soldiers?
Of course, I found time to play a few other games, like a game from 2010. And a game from 2000. And a game from 1991. Man, am I playing anything from 2016? *Looks* Yes, technically… A 2016 re-release of a game from 2008.
Fallout 4 // PlayStation 4
In the ruins of a military complex, my constant companion Piper admitted her romantic feelings for me — I mean Felix, my character — while a ghoul locked in the next room frantically darted between the four walls. After Piper’s confession, I unlocked the door to the ghoul and was slaughtered so quickly and with such energetic force that Felix was launched against the wall behind him. Turns out this trapped ghoul is a tad stronger than the run-of-the-mill ghouls I typically encounter.
I reloaded my save (thankfully, saving before any possibly dangerous encounter is second nature) and ran through Piper’s confession again before tossing a few proximity mines into the ghoul’s room. Business as usual, I suppose, for a game that lacks any weight to how it deals with companions.
BioWare, developer of Dragon Age and Mass Effect, is occasionally criticized for its handling of romance. Getting told that a certain guy or gal loves your character is the reward of just another quest, reached by tossing out gifts that increase a character’s affection towards your avatar, yet that ignores the number of generally well-written conversations that are usually necessary to reach the required approval rating to get the loving. (That’s not to say overloading characters with gifts to reach the same affection isn’t something you can’t do, but you’re getting those great conversations regardless.)
Bethesda attempted to bring similar conversations to Fallout 4, but it’s hindered by a more limiting conversation interface (despite being aesthetically similar to BioWare’s dialogue wheel) and, well, worse conversations. At no point during my conversations with Piper did I feel that any sort of relationship was being established, making her confession feel like a non-event, further truncated by how Felix is searching for the man who recently (at least for Felix) murdered my character’s wife.
Speaking of which, I can’t recall the topic of his dead spouse ever springing up. Did it? If so, Felix and Piper didn’t linger on it long, which is disappointing. I have little doubt that BioWare would use this as dramatic fodder, and even Fire Emblem would at least throw in a few references to Felix’s former love, but Fallout 4? It’s clear that Bethesda still has a long road in the story department. At least most people don’t look like store mannequins suddenly brought to life anymore.
Game Boy Wars // Game Boy
If you think the graphics in Famicom Wars are crude and simplistic (as we all tend to think at one point or another in our lives), you might want to avoid Game Boy Wars. The second game in what North American and European gamers know as the Advance Wars series, and the last before Hudson (of all companies) took control of the series until the GBA game Advance Wars, has all the visual splendor of a ’95 Microsoft Paint image created by a bored 10-year-old. It’s a lot of solid black lines forming squares and stick figure-like soldiers.
The standard Advance Wars gameplay is retained, although the position of tiles is changed so that six units can surround a tile instead of just four. GB Wars also feels slow, but considering how the rest of the game looks, it’s easy to imagine that Intelligent Systems didn’t quite have a handle on how to make Game Boy games (despite helping port a handful of NES games like Baseball and Golf to the handheld).
Halo Reach // Xbox 360
I can’t remember the last time I paid for Xbox Live Gold. I allowed my subscription to run out because I just don’t play games online like I did way back with Return to Castle Wolfentein and Halo 2 on the original Xbox. Still, when my dad encountered trouble in Halo Reach and needed assistance, I tossed in my own copy and drove a Warthog to that specific spot giving him grief. Offline and in our own games.
We eventually sorted out the complication, but why stop there? We communicated over the phone, but ran through the rest of the mission independently. When I jumped ahead, I waited until he passed a troubling encounter with two Hunters or got through a closed gate. With my volume lowered, I listened to the game noise coming from his telephone connection for stuff I recognized. (And as I waited, I forced a Ghost vehicle into a small elevator. Unfortunately, it vanished halfway through the elevator ride.)
Then we went through the entirety of the next mission. The whole thing took two hours, and it’s an unconventional, awkward way to play with another person, but it’s the closest I’ve come to an enjoyable multiplayer experience since Battlefield 1943 released on Xbox Live Arcade. It also helps that I bloody love Halo Reach.
Papers, Please // Steam
Welcome to my personal hell: tedious checking of paperwork while being timed. I haven’t heard many people saying that Papers, Please is traditional fun, but it does scratch an itch that we all have. That itch being, I think, the judgement of others. We’re told what to do so often in life that it’s almost therapeutic to have complete control over the fate of fictional strangers who can’t actually be hurt (or helped) by our cruelty.
Uh… maybe that’s just me.
Regardless, I’ve been enjoying watching others play Papers, Please more than playing the game myself. Like I said, personal hell.
Sakura Taisen GB ~Geki • Hanagumi Nyuutai!~ // Game Boy Color
The Good: My import copy of the Japan-only Sakura Taisen GB arrived sooner than expected. For $10, I got the entire package in excellent shape. Practically new.
The Bad: After some searching, I’ve determined that an English language patch doesn’t exist. There’s an English script that I’m able to use, but it’s not the same as reading the text in the game.
New Rule: Before importing a Japanese-only game dependent on a bunch of text to enjoy, determine whether someone made a decent English patch.
Super Mario 3D World // Wii U
Gosh, what a pretty game! I only played a few levels of Mario 3D World after receiving the game as a birthday present since I didn’t want to distract myself from pushing through Uncharted 2 and 3, but it’s hard to deny how striking this game looks. Everything from the grass to the puff of smoke made by the characters while running has this a wonderful, colorful lush appearance. It’s not a technologically advanced as, say, the next Call of Duty, but I’d take 3D World over more black, gray, and brown hyper-realistic generic cities.
I look forward to digging deep into 3D World, especially since I loved Mario 3D Land.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves // PlayStation 3
When I previously called Uncharted 2 one of my favorite games ever, I must’ve subconsciously blocked how many damn enemies are thrown at Nathan Drake in a single encounter, especially towards the end. The heavily-armored, shotgun-toting enemies who slowly walk towards Nathan as he pumps at least two clips of ammunition into their gut are the worse. Well, second worst against the (thankfully) rarely encountered enemies carrying miniguns, somehow able to take four(!) rockets to the face. No, shotgun guys are third worse after minigun guys and the blue-skinned beasts who absorb tons of bullets while pummeling Nathan.
They’re all frustrating, including the regular goons somehow able to take a bullet to their unarmored face and survive. So, do I still place Uncharted 2 alongside Yoshi’s Island and Super Metroid as one of my favorite games? Honestly, I’m not sure. It’s still a stunning game with a fun cast and impressive set pieces, but more than ever I realized tedious the combat is.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception // PlayStation 3
Motivation is a key tool when telling the story, but so far I’m not feeling Nathan Drake’s motivations in Uncharted 3. He wants to beat an older woman to a mythical treasure…? Why can’t he work with the woman instead? Because he encountered her as a preteen once? Because the ring around his neck — a key item — supposedly belongs to his ancestor?
Uncharted 2 gave a hell of a motivator when an ally betrayed Nathan and left him to rot in a foreign jail for three months, but so far the worse thing to happen to our hero (getting shot) was part of a ruse to trick the woman and her cronies. Maybe I missed or forgot a piece of the story or maybe there’s something coming up that pushes me forward, but so far I’m not feeling Uncharted 3 like I did the second. But I’m still only a few chapters in, so I have plenty of game to go.
Valkyria Chronicles Remastered // PlayStation 3
Ah, one of my favorite games re-released on PlayStation 4. On the technical side, Valkyria Chronicles Remastered is basically just a port of the PC version released two years ago, which bumped things up to 1080 at 60 frames-per-second. That’s nice, but it’s hardly noticeable unless you put the newer versions alongside the PS3 original. Not that Valkyria Chronicles needs a visual bump (although I wouldn’t mind a bit more anti-aliasing) since the anime and watercolor effect is still stunning, and most characters look great.
Look, I don’t need an excuse to replay Valkyria Chronicles. I do appreciate Sega taking a stab at making the series relevant outside Japan, and while I love this game enough to feel okay with purchasing it for the third time, I’m praying that sales persuade Sega of America/Europe to bring over the upcoming Valkyria: Azure Revolution. You just never know with this company, especially after Valkyria Chronicles 3 and Phantasy Star Online 2.
October 7, 2017: How did I miss the mistake in “hell of a Fallout 4 (game)motivator”?