Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster review — Kill Screen

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“The Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster enshrines the series’ awkward teenage years”

Going back and playing FFX and FFX-2, it’s obvious that they’re products of their era– distinctly PS2 titles.

But man. They’re great. For very different reasons, but great nonetheless. FFX is one of the best young adult fantasy stories I can think of, in any medium. I’d recommend it to young people over Harry Potter or The Hunger Games or what have you any day of the week. It was a pleasure to go back to Spira again.

Pac-Man Museum review — Kill Screen

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Pac-Man Museum has a dearth of worthwhile exhibits”

What a missed opportunity! I had a great time with my friends playing Pac-Man Battle Royale in the arcades; that’s an experience I’d recommend to anyone. This compilation, on the other hand… Bleh. They don’t even include the best version of Pac-Man Championship Edition!

2/5 Pacs, would not Pac again.

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy review — Kill Screen

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Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy is a fitting finale for gaming’s greatest puzzle solver”

I reviewed the (supposedly) final Layton outing for Kill Screen. It’s been a busy couple of weeks!

I’m not sure what’s going to step up to fill the hole that Layton’s leaving in gaming’s landscape. I will miss these charming animated adventures tremendously. On the plus side, it’s been six years since Curious Village–maybe I’ll have forgotten the solutions to all of those puzzles by now!

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 review — Kill Screen

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Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is as grotesque as it aims to be

I reviewed Lords of Shadow 2 for Kill Screen. I had a fair bit of fun with it, but there’s no question that it’s a significant step down from its predecessor. You should go read my review, and then instead of playing the game, you should go and watch Ravenous. It has Robert Carlyle; it’s about eating people; it’s just generally an excellent time.

Ravenous. Seriously.

Castlevania and obsessive series completion syndrome

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I continue to have a problem.

I’ve written about the Castlevania games in the context of compulsive completionism before, but in the intervening months I’ve found that my desire for achievements has all but vanished–a fact that can be explained mostly by the construction of a new PC (the first I’ve ever built myself, and the only one I’ve ever had remotely capable of playing new games!). When one’s “permanent record” is distributed over more than one system of merit badges (in my case now, XBox achievements AND Steam achievements), the weight that either one carries is dramatically reduced.

Whereas before, I could feasibly delude myself into thinking my XBox history to be a complete record of my interaction with modern games (I was somehow able to rationalize away all of the handheld games I’ve consumed), now this conceit is too far-fetched for even me to consider.

So! Cured, right? No more compulsive need to play everything!

I played this last week:

castlevaniagbbox…and this:

belmontsrevengeboxThese are… objectively terrible games. Really, plainly unfit for consideration on anyone’s “to-play” list. Aside from their wickedly awesome early-90′s box art, they’re not good for much at all.

And yet I didn’t just sample them– I played them to completion. It took me approximately ninety tries to beat Dracula in Castlevania: The Adventure.

What excuse do I have for myself? I guess I don’t. Like I said, I think I have a problem.

My real mistake, from the outset, was creating a Google Doc titled “Castlevania games I have played” and compiling a list of the entire series (including the Game Boy spin-off Kid Dracula, because, let’s remember, I have a problem). I bolded the games I’d beaten and italicized the games I’d sampled but never played to completion.

And then I looked at all the titles left and said, “yeah, I could probably manage those.”

Why?! Why would I do such a thing? The truth of the matter is that all the list told me, at the outset, is that I’d beaten pretty much all of the good Castlevania games. I’ve beaten Symphony of the Night and Aria of Sorrow and Dracula’s Curse. I’ve beaten Portrait of Ruin and Circle of the Moon and the original Castlevania. I’ve even beaten my fair share of the mediocre games, like Lament of Innocence and Harmony of Dissonance and Stampede of Elephants. (Okay, I made that last one up. But if it existed, I probably would have beaten it.)

When I looked at that list, the first thing that I should have seen was the good Castlevanias that I haven’t yet played. I should have said to myself, “Self, you haven’t yet sampled Order of Ecclesia, which is supposed to be pretty great. Nor have you played Curse of Darkness, which is supposed to be the best of the 3D lot before MercurySteam came along and really got it right with Lords of Shadow. Why don’t you track down one of those?”

But instead, what I did was look at the list and think: “Hey, those Game Boy Castlevanias are probably pretty short. I bet I could knock a couple of those out real quick and be that much closer to having played them all.” Then, I invested multiple hours in doing so. Those are hours I’m not going to get back.

Castlevania games are not Pokemon. There is no reward for catching them all.

Actually, is there a reward for catching all of the Pokemon, besides bragging rights? Maybe it’s better to say that Castlevania games aren’t Stars of Destiny.

And the worst part of all of this is that I know I have wasted my time, I know I should have done something else. And yet I still feel a twinge of pride at having bolded those two bullet points on my list. Congratulations, Nate. You’ve invested the time to beat two terrible games. Achievement unlocked!

Possibly the only thing I can say in my defense is that the remorse at having wasted my time compelled me to drop a couple bucks on Rondo of Blood for the Wii Virtual Console, which is an objectively awesome game and well worth my time (and yours).

I tell myself that my desire to play as many games as possible comes from a place of wanting to be “well played,” of wanting to foster an intimate understanding of the medium by attempting to expose myself to as much of it as possible, but I’m not entirely sure that I’ve furthered that ambition by playing these two mediocre platformers from the early 90′s. Maybe it’s possible that we can talk intelligently about games we haven’t played.

Maybe I shouldn’t have spent that dollar on Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night for iOS.

 

 

 

Colossatron: Massive World Threat review

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Colossatron just wants to watch the world burn”

I reviewed Halfbrick’s newest trinket, Colossatron: Massive World Threat for Kill Screen. It’s a whole lot of fun for not very much money! You should probably steer clear of the microtransactions, though. Yikes.

The Backlog — 2013

I played a lot of games this year– a fair number of new ones, and a fair number of games from the backlog. Briefly, here are some thoughts on the most important games I played this year that weren’t actually released this year:

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Yes, I held out against my friends’ constant barrage of recommendations for nearly a year, but I did finally get around to starting XCOM, and yes, it is amazing and compelling and heartbreaking. I hope to be through the game within the month, and then again on Classic Ironman, and then I will probably buy Enemy Within when it goes on sale on Steam and oh dear do we see now why I held out for so long?

Spec Ops: The Line

After reading Brendan Keogh’s Killing is Harmless, I knew I had to play Spec Ops. And boy, was that a good decision. What a dark, unsettling, and yet deeply enjoyable game. It doesn’t quite succeed at being the “Apocalypse Now of videogames,” but it certainly asks some great questions about a player’s participation in violence. I don’t even know if it purports to have answers–but oof, those endings. Yikes.

Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracles

It’s a shame that the Professor Layton games will never get traction with those who don’t dig their primary mechanic, because it’s a continual delight to me how much they invest in their characters (and their melodrama). Each new entry manages to offer some real, personal stakes to the Professor and his apprentices, and to help them grapple with each new puzzle is a charm unlike most everything else gaming has to offer.

The Walking Dead, Season One

Oh man. Oh man. *sigh* Wow. How about that finale, huh?

The World Ends With You

Why in Heaven’s name isn’t Square Enix giving us more new IP? Bravely Default excepted. (On that note, I’m very excited for Bravely Default.)

 

There have been others, I think, but those five are the ones that really left their mark on me this year. I missed enough of the best games of 2013 that I imagine my backlog will be quite full for the year to come!

 

 

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