Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wonder Boy Pathfinder

I made some progress in Mass Effect Andromeda over the last week, actually getting out into the open world on one of the planets for only about the second time in probably 35 hours of play. I'm at a point in the game where I can go to one of two potentially habitable planets, or go hunt down the Kett leader's flagship for a confrontation. Instead, I've opted to dig into some side quests that, in a roleplaying sense, sounded urgent.

I've also dabbled in Super Mario World and Heroes of the Storm. The latter now has a fresh 2.0 update that I'm interested in exploring a bit. I still think I am fundamentally not that into multi-player games, though. I've been playing beginner level bot matches just on a lark here and there. Playing a game to relax, imagine that.

I picked up another retro-style 2D action game on the Switch, the beautiful remake of Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap. It's a cool game from the Sega Master System, a platform I have very little familiarity with, though I can credit my interest in video games to it. Wonder Boy lets you flash back and forth from the modern, very lavish 2D art to the super old school 8-bit reality of the original. I find the new art really nice and have been almost entirely playing that way.

The underlying game is very well done, and while it definitely feels simplistic, it's an interesting design considering when the game first came out. It's an open-world action platformer more or less contemporaneous with Metroid, but not done in quite the same way. Here, doors open into the background, where in Metroid they always open on one of the four sides of the screen, which means the way the world fits together is pretty different. It's also clear some or all of the doors are magical, so it may not be possible for all of the levels to exist in one contiguous chunk.

You begin as a boy with a sword, but begin to gain the ability to transform into other types of animals and fight and explore in different ways. So far I have been a lizard boy and mouse boy. I'll continue to explore what this nifty game has to offer.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Perfect Compliments, Shovel Knight

For the last few weeks I've been bouncing back and forth between Mass Effect Andromeda and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I'm finding that the two compliment each other very well, Mass Effect being mostly a game about talking to people, and Zelda a game mostly about wandering around doing things. Each has a bit of the other, of course, but my experiences in each have fit together like yin and yang.

In Andromeda, I'm mostly following the main path so far, having now been to Aya, the home planet of the Angara, and having rescued one of their leaders from the Kett and their "Exaltation" practice of converting other species into themselves. I have to say, this is trending a little close to what the Collectors were doing on behalf of the Reapers back in Mass Effect 2. Now I'm on to investigating the ties a colony of exiles, both of Milky Way and Andromeda species, have to... I forget. Either the Remnant vaults or the Kett, I guess. But also some potential sabotage of the Nexus' efforts? Tonight is tentatively Mass Effect night, so I should probably make sure I understand the mission before commencing with it.

In Zelda, and much more simply, I'm on my way from Kakariko village to Hateno village to learn a little more about my mission and Sheikah slate, finding towers and shrines along the way. This is a game that's much simpler to talk about. In fact, there's really little to say, other than that I really like it, so far. It's fun and interesting just in its world and mechanics. If anything, I feel like this game fits more in a series with the first two Zelda games than anything that came after.

Starting with A Link to the Past, and later with Ocarina of Time, there have been two paradigms for Zelda games, top-down and third-person, each cast in the mold of its first, some might say classic, example. Breath of the Wild certainly owes much to earlier games in the series, especially Ocarina (as do most games that use lock-on, or "Z-targeting"), but feels on the whole so far more evolved past it as to be itself a mold for future games. And I think it goes one better than either aLttP or OoT in creating something a little further afield of the original Legend of Zelda. Either of those can be seen as 'the original but look how we can do it now'. Breath of the Wild leaves behind so many conventions of the series that it seems to me one of only three mostly unique archetypes of the series: the original, the side-scroller, and the free-form adventure.

Since I only had one game on the Switch, and Shovel Knight was released on it, and I had been wanting to try that, I bought the collection, and began playing the core game. It's pretty cool, so far. I've been through 3-4 stages, having beat Black Knight, King Knight, and Spectre Knight, if I recall. It plays like a kind of amalgamation of NES side-scrolling action classics like Super Mario Bros. 3, Zelda II, Mega Man, and Castlevania. The art and music are vintage NES, as well, and very well done. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Switch and Zelda

The combination of immense hype, a separate enthusiasm on my own part, and a large tax return led me to pick up a Switch last week along with a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

The Switch is still hard to come by, just a month after launch, but I happened on a small stack of about 7 in my local Best Buy, and eventually temptation won out. As the console itself goes, its nifty. I like the pretty seamless transitioning between handheld and TV modes, and I like the system interface and styling. I am a little reserved about the build quality and robustness of the console, though. For now I have applied a screen protector to the system and am not letting my kids know about the system. This is still feasible while they go to bed earlier than I, and I can keep the system put up somewhere. They have found the dock and joy-con grip, but don't know what they are or what they are for. Yet.

As far as Zelda goes, I like it. It has really been quite some time since I was into a new Zelda. The last was Ocarina of Time, actually, of which my impression has suffered over the years just due to the unwarranted amount of ludicrous worship the game has had in the years since it came out. I have played, briefly, subsequent games in the series, but not much cared for them on the whole, to the point where I had basically dismissed the series as uninteresting. To this day I would say my favorite Zelda game is the original, followed maybe by The Adventure of Link just because it is such a different thing, and I could take or leave the balance of the series. That might sound harsh, but I honestly never see myself playing A Link to the Past or Ocarina or any of the others through again in my lifetime.

All that in mind, Breath of the Wild seems like a real departure for the series in how it dispenses with all of the hand-holding some of the other games have opened with, and gets right to the adventure. Not a lot is explained to Link until several hours in, when the player has had the chance to get out and get some experience and have some fun in the world, and is ready for some plot and guidance. This is the point I'm to now, having just left the Great Plateau with the semblance of a mission to carry me through the rest of the adventure.

This Zelda is also really interesting in that it is a very open game with a lot of systems that intersect freely and in interesting ways, a lot like a Stalker or Far Cry or any number of other more modern games, even things like FROM Software's Souls series or the wave of survival games on the PC that are so big these days. It's interesting because Nintendo seems to be taking the game in a new direction, perhaps due to there being a new generation of folks working on the game, with newer influences and goals.

I'm not very far in, really, and from what I've heard this is an absolutely huge game, so I'm sure my overall impression will evolve as I continue to play, but I feel like it's pretty promising.