Sunday, September 7, 2008

Retrograde Motion

Gaming as a contemporary experience--being perpetually "in the now"--moves along at quite a fast clip, and it's just about impossible to keep current if your tastes extend to more than one genre. Every now and then you just have to ignore the new for a while and take a closer look at things already past their retail "sell by" date.

Which is what I'm attempting to do now. One look over at the sidebars of this blog will tell you just how many games I have laying around unfinished, and in many cases, unopened. It's entertainment in the bank, and what I find I'd like more of at the present is more money in the bank, which provides a nice secondary motivation for this endeavor.

To this end, I wrapped up New Super Mario Bros. this evening. That only took two and a half years! What is there to say about this game? It's the latest in a legendary series of 2D platformers, the core platforming series in all of game-dom. It's about what you'd expect if you'e ever played SMB 3 or Super Mario World, which is to say it's a rock-solid fun experience.

I don't really know what came over me yesterday, but I wanted to jump into something new. I thought to finally start the borrowed copy of Assassin's Creed sitting on my TV stand, but instead I jumped into a couple of things.

The first was Fable. The original Xbox didn't have much of anything remarkable that couldn't be had on the PS2 eventually, but Fable was one of that handful of Xbox exclusive highlights. Back around the time of it's original release, the hype levels had risen so high that even I--in Japan, and way over my head into FFXI--took notice of the coming 'RPG revolution.'

Well, I think it's fair to say that Fable was hardly a revolution, and the game has apparently taken it's knocks in backlash since, but being an Xbox owner by virtue of backward compatibility (remember that shit, Sony?), I wanted to see what all of the fuss had been about. Also, this game can be had for like $7.99 these days if you know where to look. I've played it for about 5 hours or so this weekend, and I like it. The character models are kind of unsightly, and the menu system is not-so-pretty (though not terrible), and it kind of has that "last-gen-in-a-bad-kind-of-way" look to it overall, but the game is fun.

I like the battle and experience systems. So far I have kind of a jedi-like warrior-mage hybrid character who relies on his weapon primarily for damage but has a few 'force' tricks like shooting lightning, an area-of-effect force push with knock-back and damage, and a teleport to just behind the target so you can cut them down without being countered. So far my good/evil alignment is still around the middle, edging a bit more toward good. I find it hard to be an out and out asshole to people, but at the same time I'm not going to bend over backwards for everyone, like that guy who had been bitten by zombie werewolves and wanted to join my escort party through the swamps. Yeah, that's going to end well. Also, that mother who wants the remedy for her son who ate the magic mushroom can suck it. It would take way too much energy to track down the other mushrooms for that witch to make the remedy.

The other thing I threw in this weekend is Zelda: Twilight Princess for Wii. I basically just decided to sit down with it one good time before blindly trading it in for credit at Game Trader. I thought if anything I'd get the Gamecube version since it'd have a traditional control scheme. I've changed my mind. After about three hours with the game, it seems pretty damned good, Wii-mote and all, plus I read that the GC version isn't widescreen and only allows you to map two of your items to buttons rather than the 3 the Wii version allows. Other differences include the spin attack having to be charged on GC, whereas it's instant on Wii (which is handy), and interestingly, the games environments are all mirrored from one version to the other.

See, Link has always been a lefty, but Nintendo found that playtesters liked to use the nunchuck in their left hands and the Wii-mote (sword swings) in the right hand, and so they mirrored the entire game to retcon Link into a righty for the sake of soccer-moms and shogakusei everywhere. Whatever, I don't care, I just think it'd be cool to have the option to play the GC mirror image, since at places it apparently evokes environs from Ocarina of Time (although that game gets way too much worship anyway).

I'd like to plow through Fable kind of quickly and then pick up and continue Twilight Princess. Zelda's title demo really, really reminds me of Shadow of the Colossus, by the way. It's uncanny. Elsewise this week, I finished up Diablo II act III, killing the first of the Prime Evils, Mephisto. Bastard dropped a set piece that I already had. I had to create a Diablo mule, too, so I spent a few hours this week idling in the first act's rogue encampment to get the dude enough playtime so he wouldn't get deleted after 10 days. Good music there, but not as good as Diablo I's Tristram music. I also played some Castle Crashers online with my college buddy Jonathan, jzpeeps. Great game. Definitely better in co-op, though.


Necovia said...

Hey dude,

I beat Fable a couple weeks back (the main quest anyway) and I neglected to write up a report!

I thought the game held up quite well, as I really, really liked the art style. It was kind of faux Blizzard/WoW and that has always appealed to me. I like the fact that the game was a little more grown-up in it's story and good/evil system. The fact that you can kill almost anyone and get married and have nookie, etc. Like Zelda, but for adults.

The combat is pretty cool, but I found ranged combat to be too hard as foes just charged you the first time you hit them. If you had some sort of "rooting" spell, that would help out a lot.


The stained glass story murals
The fact that people would call our your title and name. As your reputation grows they will react to that. Very cool.
The character customization-Tattoos? Haircuts? Facial Hair? Awesome.
Length-about 14 hours for main quest and I did a few extras. not too long, not too short.


menu system- clunky and fucked.
weapons- the way your attacks animated pretty much depended on your size of weapon, but that's it. A little more variation in style between weapons would be cool.
also more armor sets would have been nice
camera- never found a distance I liked.

All in all I think it was about a solid B+ and a great endorsement for Fable 2.


Count Elmdor said...

Yeah, I agree pretty much all-around. Good call equating the style to WoW, I hadn't thought of it but it is totally true. I also noticed the ranged attack problem, but I figured if you bought that multi-shot spell it'd help some. I almost never played ranged classes in this sort of thing, though.

I'm currently "the lard-ass known as Pie Master," lol. I love how they say it with such reverence.

One thing that gets me is that a lot of times I'll end up zapping or whacking someone I didn't want to because of how the auto target works, and I really don't like how the zoom in and out is placed on the right stick with the normal x-axis camera rotation. I try to just zoom all the way out and then keep my thumb off the stick altogether, but it's second nature to want to fiddle with the camera--something that has fucked me up in KOTOR, SotC, Yakuza, the Too Human demo, etc. etc. etc.

Flawed, sure, but still fun.

Necovia said...

literally, the funniest shit I have read in a while.

Count Elmdor said...

that's something awful for ya.

Palin is kinda hot in that bikini, though.

Necovia said...

LOLZ. Isn't that a photoshop job? Palin is probably the worst lay ever. How's Fable going?

Count Elmdor said...

good point. gotta be a shop. I haven't gotten back to Fable just yet. Been trying to catch up on some reading the last couple of nights. I'm about to play some Diablo, though.

Necovia said...

Yeah? I started Red Mars on your recommendation. About a third of the way through. Pretty cool so far. Frank is a piece of shit. I'm playing Fallout 2 and Ninja Gaiden at the moment.


Cyanide- B
The Day that Never Comes- B-
My Apocalypse- A-

Looking forward to the new album, and I couldn't actually say that about St Anger.

Count Elmdor said...

Fuck yeah, Red Mars. The first couple hundred pages of that first book had me up all night. That series can kind of meander around and seem slow moving in terms of character interactions, but man it is fucking amazing in it's scope. And some of the best characters aren't even introduced until the second book.

I was thinking about hitting up Fallout 1 and 2 before 3, but I dunno what I'd play them on. Are there Mac versions? They may have to be put off indefinitely.

I pretty much agree with your thoughts on the new Metallica songs, although I think I like The Day best of those 3. I can't wait to see them and Down here on Nov. 1! Tix go on sale this Saturday, supposedly.

I've got my Assassin to lvl 27, maybe halfway through ACT IV (which seems shorter than the other acts).

Necovia said...

Down? live? Wicked. Opeth came through here a couple weeks back and I was all set to go and rock out (and chill out) but I hurt my back and a red flag went up. Can't rock when you're back is all fucked up.

Act IV was pretty short, but the expansion act is quite long.

I don't know if Fallout 1 and 2 are supported on a Mac, but they may be. I would advise the 2nd one as it's pretty much the first one remade but a lot better. Story is a bit better in the first one, though.

Greg said...

Ok, I have to weigh in on the Red Mars book. I read that shit a while ago and Red Mars was by far the best in the trilogy. Still nothing mind blowing but it was enjoyable.

Blue and Geen Mars? Don't waste your time. The last book was just horrible. Do you really want to read 4 pages of text describing some geological feature of Mars? I couldn't hang...

Necovia said...


Nas totally recommended the whole series, Sal. I have a bad feeling about it going very "Dune" towards the end (bad thing when it's not Dune) but I'm committed!

The first book, though has a very "Rendezvous with Rama" feel that I dig.

Any recommendations on that front?

Count Elmdor said...

There's some merit in what Greg is saying. The second two books don't have as much focus as the first (and it's loose in that one). But, the further you get into the series, the more you realize that it's not about just a handful of Mars colonists, but the whole human race expanding out from Earth and all the myriad of implications of doing so.

Some of the biggest themes of the series are political and philosophical, like the conflicts between the "reds" and "greens" and all the other spin-off movements they spawn.

And like I said, some of the best characters of the series don't come into their own or don't even appear until Green Mars: the Coyote, Nirgal, Sax Russel, Maya, Ann, Jackie, and the list goes on.

Blue Mars does kind of see the series' scope getting away from the author (not as bad as Robert Jordan, though). For that reason, the series "going Dune" is a fair statement, but remember Heretics of Dune was the fifth out of six, and definitely one of the most bad ass. Besides, the way the story itself hits an "accelerando" is an awesome mirror to the one described over the series as humanity spreads over the solar system and beyond.

If you finish Red Mars and are still interested, definitely give the next book a try at the very least, and if you don't like where it's going, no harm no foul.

Kamanie said...

I'm not a big reader so I don't have any recommendations Nec.

It has been a while since I read the books and it took me forever to finish them because I kept falling asleep. I felt that as the series went on, the interactions and relationships between the characters became less interesting. There were also long, boring stretches of text (literally pages) where you were reading about geological features of Mars.

What was impressive was that the series tried to maintain a reasonable, arguably even a realistic tone for a sci-fi novel about Mars colonization. Clearly the author did some homework.

Kamanie said...

whoops. I accidentally posted under my gf's google account. This is Greg btw

Count Elmdor said...

Yeah, science-wise the series is pretty spectacular. I read that the series had like 15+ years of research on the author's part behind it. Not that every single thing in it is possible or probable (apparently Mars lacks sufficient gravity to hold on to an atmosphere for long against the Sun's radiation), but it's pretty damned solid.

Actually, the reason I picked this series up was because I'm interested in space exploration, and I'd heard about how well grounded in scientific reality it was. There's also some really cool shit in there, the space elevators, what the do with Phobos and Diemos, etc.