What’cha Been Playin’? August 2016

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I spent the past six days unsure of what half-written schlock to focus on, but I had “What’cha Been Playin’?” just waiting to be written. Wish I realized that sooner, but I’ve only been writing about the games I’ve played once every five(?) months. Why wouldn’t I forget? (That was sarcasm. Damn text being unable to express tone.)

Okay, I’m looking at the progress I’ve made on completing games this year… Oh, that’s not great. Three… each completed this past month. Not awesome. I mean, it’s progress, but anything is progress from zero. Well, I’m officially onto Uncharted 4, and those aren’t long games so I should be able to add a fourth game before September ends.

Hopefully.

At this rate, my Game of the Year list is bound to be pathetic. And short. I’ll be lucky just to have ten games on my list.


Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright // Nintendo 3DS

*Character dies.* “Dammit.” *Reset game.*

As with the rest of the series, Fire Emblem Fates straddles the line between fun and frustrating. One unaccounted enemy launching a single attack is the difference between continuing and resetting 15, 20, or even 30 minutes of progress and starting over. I’m one of those crazy fans who can’t continue if one of my characters dies, robbing me of support conversations and possibly additional units, so I replay missions over and over, learning a little something with each attempt.

I went through a recruitment mission only to watch the recruitable character die, but continued on with the hopes that the game wouldn’t hold that against me. The conversation at the end sounded optimistic, but I didn’t save until I knew if that character was available for use. He wasn’t. I reset and did the mission — the same mission I just completed — all over again.

It’s hard to fault anyone for not wanting to jump into that snake-filled pit. Every Fire Emblem game causes aggravation, but there’s a huge satisfaction with each completed mission, and I’m quick to forget that anger. For all the criticism that Fire Emblem gets these days as a “waifu simulator,” the series should get more respect for demanding so much from the player. Few Nintendo-published games are so willing to expect more and punish easily.


Guitar Hero: Aerosmith // Xbox 360

Damn, Steven Tyler is ugly.

He looks worse in Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. The plastic-like character models created for early Guitar Hero games doesn’t do anyone in Aerosmith a favor, but Tyler’s face is especially tortured. I mean, Guitar Hero had an intentionally ugly (or, as the developers might argue, “punk”) art style, so forcing a real-life somewhat human-looking guy into that style makes for something nightmarish. Okay, that’s an exaggerated, but it’s obvious why Harmonix went the more stylized route with The Beatles.

Also, hey, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith plays a lot like Guitar Hero 3, which played almost exactly like every Guitar Hero game. Big surprise.


Guitar Hero Live // Xbox One

Guitar Hero Live feels off.

The window of time for hitting a note is odd, and part of that might simply be how it differs, however slightly, from Rock Band 4’s hit window. Then again, I don’t have this issue with past Guitar Hero games, but maybe the hit window in those games is similar to Rock Band’s. Or maybe it’s moving from thicker gems to thin pick-like symbols that’s throwing me off.

Whatever the case, missing notes that I’m sure I should’ve hit is frustrating, made worse by the six-button controller that I still haven’t completely adjusted to. (Sometimes I think hitting chords on an actual guitar would be easier than GH Live’s controller.)

On one hand, people documented ways to improve the timing, so maybe I should use their advice. Or I can listen to the internet plaguing the internet and “get better” on my own. Man, and I’m not even playing on the hardest difficulty. That’s when things get crazy, GH Live happily tossing out chords, including the dreaded barre chord.


Headlander // PlayStation 4 (PSN)

Check here for my previous post about Headlander.

In truth, I only checked out Headlander because the producer from Adult Swim Games, Chris “CJ” Johnston, is the host of Player One Podcast, my favorite podcast. Had that connection not existed, I probably would’ve passed on Headlander, or maybe waited and purchased the game during a PSN or Steam sale. It certainly wasn’t on my radar before CJ began pimping Headlander on Player One.

Thankfully, I found a game that I quite enjoyed, so I’m happy that I took the dive.


Minecraft // PlayStation 4 (PSN)

It took hours to build my home, so maybe I should eat.

Exploring an procedural generated, uncharted world rich with minerals. Fighting off strange menaces while encountering wildlife. Using gained minerals to improve my own stuff. I came quite close to purchasing No Man’s Sky on a number of occasions, if only to contribute to the conversation about expectations and whether Hello Games’ ambitious release lived up to them, but instead I played Minecraft.

They seem to share similar ideas (and I say “seem” because, as I mentioned, I haven’t played No Man’s Sky), but Minecraft has the benefit of being out for years and is therefore stuffed with content. No Man’s Sky doesn’t have that luxury, and although I’d like to say that I could judge that game independent of Minecraft, they scratch a similar, if not nearly identical, itch. So I don’t have a huge desire to purchase No Man’s Sky, especially with the supposed Minecraft-ish updates on the way.

Actually, I hope to purchase No Man’s Sky further down the road and judge the game when the post-release reaction is just a memory.


My Nintendo Picross: Zelda: Twilight Princess // Nintendo 3DS (eShop)

SHUT UP, MIDNA!

Picross is not a difficult game, but the way that Nintendo makes tedious, overly-long, and unskippable tutorials, you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. The recently released Picross 3D: Round 2 suffers from the same problem, which could’ve been avoided if Nintendo included a “I know how to play Picross. Leave me alone, dammit” button. Or, in the very least, allow me to quickly run through dialogue.

There’s also the problem with the same puzzles being shared between multiple modes, but considering I gained this game for free from My Nintendo, I won’t hold that against the game. I still hold the tutorial against the game, though.


Pokémon Omega Ruby // Nintendo 3DS

I beat the Elite Four!

Not that I had much trouble. Fighting the Elite Four — the ultimate challenge in each Pokémon game — is always a challenge in the original Red/Blue/Yellow, but that challenge seems to have gotten progressively easier with each sequel. I’m not sure if Game Freak is making it easier to level my Pokémon to a high enough level or if the games themselves are becoming easier for the younger audience, but previously felt like a massive hill — the steepest part of the mountain before reaching the peak — is just another battle.

So I’m onto the post-game content, a little story involving a meteor heading towards the Pokémon world.


Red Faction // PlayStation 3 (PS2 Classics)

Ugh, these controls!

My fond memories of Red Faction involve playing multiplayer with my childhood friends and a small army of idiotic bots. We’d create tunnels between bases and kill the AI when they ran into the holes. We had more fun with Red Faction than any other FPS, including GoldenEye 007 and Halo: Combat Evolved, partially because those games lacked bots in multiplayer.

What my rose-tinted glasses blocked out was the horrible controls, which maps moving and looking left/right to the left stick, and aiming up/down with the right stick. The years since saw use adapt to the improved controls established in Halo, so going back to that archaic controls is frustrating at best, and nearly unplayable at worst. It leads to instances of trying to shoot rockets while running backwards, but instead aim at my feet and fire a rocket at myself.

Hopefully the PS3 settings allow me to alter the controls.


Stardew Valley // Steam

Get those damn shrubs off my farm!

Ever since I realized that Animal Crossing bores me to tears, I’ve been hesitant to play similar games where the only goal is to, well, improve my homestead. I played Rune Factory 4 hoping that the partial focus on combat would keep me interested, but became overwhelmed with focusing on the farm, slavishly giving it more attention than it probably needed.

Stardew Valley reminds me a fair bit of Rune Factory 4, featuring much of the same farm-up-keeping and village-socializing with a bit of combat thrown in, yet I don’t feel as stressed. The stamina meter is the likely culprit, which is somewhat ironic. Where others might view this meter as being forced to do everything within the energy given to them, I see the meter as a reminder that I can’t do everything. I’m limited and should do what I can without trying to do everything.

That makes Stardew Valley a more relaxing game than Rune Factory 4, while keeping me entertained, unlike Animal Crossing.


Unravel // PlayStation 4 (PSN)

Expect a more comprehensive review at some point.

I played through Unravel during the course of a few days, and I’m left without any strong feelings. It’s a decent game, but doesn’t do anything new or exceptional, although it’s a beauty to look at. I got my $20 worth and had a good time, but it’s unlikely to make a long-term impression.

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