Archive | June 2013

Handheld Summer, continued

twewycastI’ve been chipping away at my to-play list over the last week, though (surprisingly) spending time with family doesn’t leave a lot of time to sit down and game, even when you’re out in the country and the entertainment options are considerably limited.

I managed to finally make myself finish The World Ends With You, a game which I’ve been playing, on-and-off, for about five years. It’s thoroughly engrossing, and I’m embarrassed that I’ve kept putting it off for so long. The best explanation for why it’s taken me so long to finally finish the dang thing is that playing it is so unbelievably frantic, scrabbling at the screen with the stylus and slamming on the directional pad, that the thought of picking it up and making progress in it is intimidating.

The game also lets you dial your level down manually, with a slider in the menu, and playing at lower levels increases the prizes and experience you receive from battles, which means that I felt compelled to play the whole thing on hard, about twenty levels below where I actually was, which made it considerably more difficult than it probably needed to be.

Oh well. I breezed through the endgame, at least, when I finally resigned myself to tuning the difficulty down and my level up.

The World Ends With You is also a collector’s dream/nightmare, with about seventy hojillion pins, items, food, and clothing to obtain, not to mention a bestiary to fill up and secret reports to obtain by meeting specific objectives. My to-play list is considerable in length and I’m anxious to get to it, so I don’t think I’ll be diving back in again immediately, but it’s calling me nevertheless.

The hints of a possible sequel are likewise tantalizing.

Next on my list, I think, is the Kingdom Hearts prequel that I never made it through, Birth By Sleep, and having loaded it back up again I’m finding myself wildly vacillating between my deep enthusiasm for the franchise and my considerable frustrations with its storytelling quirks.

I keep being distracted, however, by something else:

I’m not what you’d call an Adventure Time “devotee.” I’ve only seen about a season and a half’s worth of episodes, and while I can definitely admit to being wholly enraptured with the show’s goofy charm, I wouldn’t put it near the top of my (admittedly lengthy) list of nerd obsessions. I downloaded and played the game’s demo from the Nintendo eShop and liked their take on the Zelda II formula enough to jot this one down on my “play if I have time” list, but I didn’t throw down the thirty bucks to buy the whole thing.

But this one song! I must have listened to this thing on YouTube about eighty times over the last four or five days. I’ve long been a fan of Jake “virt” Kaufman‘s work on OCRemix, and his skill at producing rockin’ chiptunes is up there with the best people working in the form. This song from the Adventure Time game might be my favorite piece of chip-rock since Anamanaguchi‘s soundtrack to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game.

Is it weird that I’m seriously considering moving this game up on my to-play list just because of the soundtrack? Why don’t you head over to SoundCloud and have a listen to this and some of the other tracks on offer.

Oh! It’s worth mentioning that the game’s developer, WayForward, is also the house that’s working on the upcoming DuckTales Remastered, and that virt is going to be doing the arranged score for that, too. It almost seems worth it to check out the Adventure Time game just to get a sense for how WayForward is going to handle Uncle Scrooge’s classic outing. What do you guys think?



Handheld Summer

ohioamishI’m on vacation from my day job.

Usually, being on vacation means a considerable uptick in the time that I spend playing video games. Rather than having just a few hours each week into which I can try to cram the biggest and most impressive AAA titles, I have whole days (indeed, even weeks) at my disposal, which means I can really sink my teeth into all of the big releases that I’ve missed over the last calendar year (and, of course, the years previous).

Or at least, that’s what it would usually mean. This summer, I’m spending most of June at my parents’ farm out in Amish Country, Ohio, and almost all of July on The Road, meaning that by the time I make my way back to all of my consoles at home, I’ll have probably a single weekend before it’s back to the daily grind.

On the one hand, this might be an opportunity for me to dial down the time that I spend gaming–ramp up my pleasure reading, perhaps, or get back to some pieces of fiction I’ve put on the back burner during the craziest months of the teaching year–and to a certain extent, that’s my intent for the summer months I’ll be away.

On the other hand, however, it’s also an excuse to turn my attention to my handheld systems, which usually take a backseat to my console gaming. There have been a number of superb handheld titles released over the last several months, most of which I haven’t gotten around to, because, well–I’m a fan of Fire Emblem and all, but it’s a little difficult for me to give my 3DS any attention when I have an Assassin’s Creed, a Tomb Raider, or a Bioshock at my disposal.

The DS and the PSP are past the end of their life cycle, which means I now have the opportunity to go back and mop up all the best games that I missed while they were in their prime (without having to worry about new titles being released!). The 3DS, on the other hand, just seems to be ramping up–Nintendo sure gave it a lot of love at E3. I have the feeling there are going to be plenty of games for me to mess around with over the next couple of months.

Here’s my Summer Play-List:

Games I Own and Need to Finish:

The World Ends With You

Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth

Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask

Essential Handheld Games I’ve Somehow Missed:

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

Radiant Historia

Games I Would Really Like to Pick Up if I Have Time:

Fire Emblem: Awakening

Super Mario 3D Land

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate

Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance

Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!!

Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky

Valkyria Chronicles II

Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

Games I Have Downloaded on my PSP and Always Want To Replay, Always, Seriously All the Time:

Final Fantasy IX


Wow! There sure are a lot of them, aren’t there? Of course, I won’t be able to get to all of these over the course of the summer–in fact, I’d be surprised if I get through more than two or three over the next month and a half. But I’m going to think of this as sort of a checklist that I can work on through the rest of this year and next–maybe, if I can find time to get to most of these games, I can retire the DS and PSP to my retro game shelves, content that I’ve sucked the marrow out of their delicious libraries.

What all do you have on the docket for the summer? Are there essential handheld titles that ought to be on my list, but aren’t? Is there anything you can say that will prevent me from starting up FFIX again this weekend?



Lessons from gaming history: Sony at E3

Sorry for the long hiatus from the blog, friends. The end of the school year is always monstrous, schedule-wise, for us teachers. I have been getting in some gaming here and there, which I will perhaps write a little about later, but after those press conferences at E3, I felt I had to write up a couple of observations.

Immediately after the reveal of the Xbox One, I was reminded of an anecdote I’d read earlier this year in Steven Kent’s “The Ultimate History of Video Games,” a text I’ve referenced before and cannot recommend highly enough. If you’ve any interest in the history of the industry, it’s both enlightening and wonderfully entertaining.

The anecdote that occurred to me after Microsoft’s reveal is this:

When Sony presented the PS2 at E3 2000, they weren’t just advertising it as a gaming system. They boasted about its DVD-playing capabilities, its ethernet support, and its space for a hard drive. According to Kaz Hirai, the PS2 wasn’t “the future of video game entertainment, it [was] the future of entertainment period.”

Doesn’t that sound a little like Microsoft’s angle at the Xbox One reveal? And in contrast, Sony’s major competitor at the time was Sega–which had just launched the Dreamcast–had an adamant focus on games. As Kent records in his book, Peter Moore, then the president of Sega of America, responded directly to Hirai’s boast: “They also said they are not the future of video games, they are the future of entertainment; and God bless them. We’re the future of video games.”

ZING! Right?!

And yet! Who won that round of the so-called “console wars?” The Dreamcast was dead in the water within two years, and the PS2 ended up being the best selling console of all time.

Thinking about the parallels here between the respective outlooks of Sony/Sega and then Microsoft/Sony, I was very hesitant to dismiss the much-mocked “Xbone” because of its attempts at tackling the broader market, its restrictive DRM, or its “often-on” internet requirements. There is a chance, I thought, that Microsoft really is selling the future of entertainment. We should observe the lessons of E3s past.

…and then Sony had their press conference yesterday. Ben Kuchera, over at the PA Report, says that Sony effectively “won by standing still.” For my part, I realized that E3 2000 wasn’t the expo I should have been looking to for answers.

Instead, I should have been looking at the very first Electronic Entertainment Expo, in 1995, and the announcement of the PSX.

Sega, which was scheduled to launch the Saturn in September of that year, had a morning press conference in which they outlined the price of the system–$399.

Later that day, it was Sony’s turn, and… well, and then this happened:

Ha ha ha ha! That Steve Race! What a card!

Did the rest of the conference even matter? Sony shows a system of equal or greater power to its rival, then undercuts them by a hundred bucks, drops the mic, and gets off the stage.

This is very nearly what they did last night–and when you add in the bit about preserving the architecture of used games to which the gaming community is accustomed, well… Sony killed it. Which, it’s worth it to note, they’ve done before–more than once.