Friday, June 27, 2008

Reducing the Pile

At long last, I completed Etrian Odyssey. This is my first DS game actually finished. Completed, in this case, is only a technicality, since the main game and it's narrative end with the boss at the end of the 25th floor. As I've mentioned before, there are still 5 more floors left to map with the difficulty level ratcheted up a few notches. I want to see through the mapping at least; we'll just have to see about the bonus bosses. This game has been quite long and satisfying enough without having to grind, grind, grind, to reset and refine your characters' skill point allocations. That said, my party is very well-rounded, and took down the 'last boss' at level 61 all around with no trouble at all. I could probably handle whatever the 6th stratum has in store.

In another effort to down the Pile, I've picked up Shadow of the Colossus, concurrent with the same effort by the guys on the new 1UP FM podcast I picked up. This game is incredible. I've taken down 7 of the colossi so far, and each battle has been absolutely epic. In all my years of gaming, I've never seen anything like this. The colossi are enormous, and their efforts to shake you off as you scale their giant bodies looking for their Achilles' heel have you with a death-grip on your controller, thanks to the clever decision to have the 'hold on' button set to R1. I kind of wish I had a Dual Shock 3 to see how much rumble would add to the experience. The flying and swimming colossi battles I've seen so far were just awesome.

An interesting contrast to the battles is the world itself, which is the definition of tranquil natural beauty. You have all manner of terrain with expansive vistas and soft ambient lighting that makes it seem like there's a light mist over the land. There's hardly anything at all happening here outside the passage of time; water flows, birds fly, lizards crawl, and cyclopean golems slumber.

I tracked down a near-mint copy of MGS3: Subsistence, and spent a couple of hours last night playing the original 1987 Metal Gear for MSX2. It's cool. It's pretty hard, though; it really takes patience, because Snake hasn't learned to move in more than 4 directions yet, and his bullets only travel about 20 feet before disappearing into thin air. Thankfully, there is a save game feature in the emulated ROM for PS2. I want to get through both this and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Metal Gear Solid Saga Completed

I just cleared MGS4 on Naked Normal, and got ranked as EAGLE.

I won't go into any plot spoilers, so don't worry. From start to finish, I loved the game. Yes, the cut-scenes are long and can be kind of campy at times, but hey, it's Metal Gear. You know what you're getting into with this fifth entry (in the Solid series alone). The gameplay has been well refined, and its more fun by virtue of it's game mechanics than any previous MGS. Pretty much every aspect of the massive and complicated series narrative is explained and neatly tied up here, and there are some pretty big surprises, as well.

It was just awesome, and I'm looking forward to another playthrough sometime on a higher difficulty setting, and some Metal Gear Online action. Hopefully I can sort through all the crap Konami wants you to register for just to play the online mode (which sounds cool, though it remains to be seen firsthand).

It will be interesting to see if Konami wants to continue the Metal Gear franchise somehow, but hopefully if they do it will be with Kojima's blessing and guidance at the very least.

I could think of some cool scenarios both within the MGS3 through MGS4 time period and beyond, possibly featuring as the lead role The Boss, Big Boss (another MGS: PO seems like a certainty at some point), Ocelot, Raiden, or even Solid Snake himself, in the years between Solid 1 & 2, in setting up Philanthropy... it's a rich mythos, with a lot of possibilities.

Addendum: To round out my week plus of Metal Gear mania, I put some time into MG Online, downloaded the awesome (and free) MG Database on PSN, and watched what must have been around 2 hours of 'making of' features on the limited edition's bonus blu-ray, as well as listening to the game's soundtrack at work.

MGO seems pretty cool. It definitely has a more measured pace than an FPS. I wish the characters were a little less generic-looking, but the game is fun, and the Drebin Point system carries over from the main game, meaning you can select your load-out at the beginning of each round, plus tweak your character's skill bonuses in various areas. I'm not one to pay a whole lot of multi-player stuff, but I want to spend some more time with MGO. I guess I'm not ready for a second play-through of the game, but not ready to let go entirely, either.

Konami did something completely awesome, redeeming themselves in my eyes for the major hassle that getting into MGO was. They gave us the kick-ass Metal Gear Database, which is kind of like a giant Wiki covering all of the canon entries in the series from the MSX2 games through MGS4. It's a great help in understanding the series extremely complicated lore. I got it and spent the next couple of hours reading every entry I could to answer my own questions, and for the most part was satisfied. I'd still like to know how and when Solidus was created/given birth to. I made sure to click on every single entry, though there were a lot I didn't read, to get 100% in the database, but as far as I can tell, I didn't unlock anything special.

For once, I am completely happy with the bonuses in a game's limited edition. The soundtrack is a nice bonus, but the documentary blu-ray is absolutely killer. My favorite part was the half-hour or so look into Kojima Productions during the making of the game. I don't know why, but I kind of envisioned Kojima having his own big cushy office. What he really has is more of just a corner cube a little nicer than all the rest. It's also cool seeing all the people who do the art and all the other stuff, and them hashing out problems and differences of opinion when making the game. The other features on the disc were great, too. Getting to see all the voice actors blew my mind. I'm pretty sure Vamp's VA was in Pulp Fiction, and Raiden's VA is totally not what I'd expected. The stuff about Ryan Payton was interesting, too.

How can MGS be so awesome? I'm going to try to track down a copy of MGS3 Subsistence so I have MG and MG2. I have the NES Metal Gear, but a) I suck at it, b) it's apparently drastically different from the MSX2 original. Plus, I played MGS3's normal version. I want to re-play it with the MGS4-style camera sometime. The Boss remains one of my favorite characters in the series, and the ending one of my favorite scenes, too.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Guns of the Patriots

Today being the release date of Metal Gear Solid 4, I got my stuff done at work and took off an hour early to give myself some quality time with the game this evening. I purchased the limited edition at (sigh) EB/GameStop. First impressions: wow!

I've spent about four and a half hours with the game so far, between the attract mode (the PMC advertisments), virtual weapons range and mission briefing, and the main game. First off, the controls have been improved tremendously, though taking cover on walls and shifting between standing, crouching, and prone remain kind of clunky. Camo is much improved over MGS3. I got a kick out of Snake's Ipod, and the new Drebin weapon upgrade system looks like it's going to be pretty deep. I chose to play through my first time on the 2nd of the 4 difficulty levels offered.

Prior to today, I'd been concentrating my efforts on Etrian Odyssey, and will continue to do so on days I take public transport to and from work. I've made it down to B22F as of this writing, and it was awesome to get down into the fifth stratum and uncover more of the truth about the labyrinth. It was a pleasant surprise to make it down there without having the secret spoiled to me beforehand (though I had my suspicions). Though B25F is where the main game ends, there is actually a sixth stratum that goes down to a 30th floor with extra hard bosses and such. I wonder what its motif might be...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

18 Floors Down the Yggdrasil Labyrinth

Since my last update, I've been playing Etrian Odyssey almost exclusively. I thought that after hopping back in I would just make my way through the third stratum (B11-B15), but once I got on a roll I couldn't stop, and as of this writing I'm busy mapping out B18 in the fourth stratum, the Sandy Barrens. The plot (the garnish that it is) has started to kick in, and I'm eager to see where it goes, and what the final strata are like.

I finally unlocked the Ronin and Hexer classes, not that I plan to use them much. My core unit of Protecter, Landsknecht, Combat Medic (Caduceus FTW!), Survivalist, and Troubador, has yet to encounter any F.O.E. they couldn't take down. This game is crazy addictive. It takes just the very core gameplay of your typical turn-based JRPG, adds a nice character customization system, and then puts you in a long dungeon-crawl and leaves you to do the mapping yourself with the stylus. It may not sound like a lot of fun, but in practice it's great. And the story is told in first-person, as if by a DM, so there's no melodramatic latter-day FF protagonist angsty crap.

In other news, I played just long enough of GTA IV to get past that one mission I was on, and I failed once again to get past Green Grass and High Tides on hard guitar in Rock Band.