Saturday, August 30, 2008

Game Log #7

Most of my gaming attention has been dividing between two games over the past couple weeks:

- Still chugging through Persona 3 FES with constantly shifting feelings on the game. The high points are high, and the low points are very, very low. I think what's really kept me in the game has been the combat and dungeon exploration side of the game which, ironically, is the part of the game I hear a lot of people disliking. In particular, there's a pretty vocal contingent of the internet that can't stand how exploitable the battle system is. I, however, find that the main draw. It's not the most strategic JRPG I've ever played, but exploiting the enemies various weakness and managing your 2 Persona-per-turn limit is a welcome change of pace in a genre where grinding is a central component. There's something truly beautiful in being able to drop a boss in more ways then simply leveling up for hours on end. I want to find time to tweak with the Persona fusion and weapon creation systems at some point as well.

I do feel that the game does have a bizarre difficulty balance throughout, but I'm not sure it really bothers me all that much. You could do battle with a boss weak to Zio and finish him off in a couple minutes, and a couple floors later get brutally raped by a tower boss with no weakness to anything. I do have to begrudge the game for how it handles death. I've really reached the point where it's hard for me to handle games where I can lose hours of progress by dying once (something I'll get to in my second game.) The nature of Persona 3 makes it difficult to simply leave Tarturus to save, as you would have to restart again from the last warp floor. I've found myself longing for Dragon Quest's idea of halving your gold and sending you back to the next town. Couldn't just take some of my Yen, but leave me my new persona's and gained XP?

But what really gets under my skin with this game is the story. I've come to reconcile how awful the majority of the social link conversations are. I'll just skip through them and get my next rank. But then there's the dialog that's more difficult to skip, as it pertains to the main story. And I WANT to like the main story, I really do. There's a sort of feeling of wrongness under the surface; it's the same type of feeling I got from watching series like Evangelion or Revolutionary Girl Utena. The story seems like it's going to morph into something entirely different, and I anxiously await it's transformation. But I do this at the cost of a boring quasi mini-game where I have to go hit on girls at some stupid beach.

-My handheld experience as of late has been a used copy of Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer. After hearing some good things on the game from an episode of Retronauts, I found a used copy at my local Vintage Stock and gave it a go. I'd have to say that other than a few experiences with Nethack, Shiren is probably the first hardcore roguelike I've really played. I got used to the global turn concept pretty quickly, but I'm still trying to figure out all of the exploits therein.

It's a game where dieing once means it's game over. No matter how much you have leveled up your character, it's all gone. It's not as scary as it sounds, however. The leveling up is far faster than your average RPG; I've gotten Shiren to level 15 several times, and none of my single play throughs have been much longer than an hour. There is also an element of item persistence as well. Blacksmiths in the game can level up weapons for a price, so you could find a weapon to level up, even if you loose your can find warehouses in the game at which to store items. This means that you can play it safe and store your Katana +6 for a future playthrough.

Another interesting concept is that the game really encourages you to, well, die. Various characters and events, such as the aforementioned blacksmiths, can only do their job once per play through. The sidequests you accomplish stay accomplished even after your death. If helping someone allowed him to join you as a party member, he can join you again on subsequent playthroughs. So far, it's been an interesting experience. Now if only I could figure out how to keep my food reliably stocked.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Electric Bibleland: Wisdom Tree Funpack #2 (Part the Uno)

Sometimes, people make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes involve making Christian-themed video games. Whenever that happens, we're there. This... is Electric Bibleland.
King of Kings: The Early Years
The first thing you'll notice about King of Kings is that it is a fucking cheater. This isn't ONE game, Wisdom Tree. This is MANY games. Some might even say THREE. If we're counting the title screen, it's FOUR. I didn't sign up for this shit, and neither did you, reader/listener/viewer/watcher/erotic PI (God I hope so.)

The three+ game pack is pretty common within the NES Wisdom Tree pantheon. I'll give King of Kings a 1Up over the rest, however. Why, you might ask?
That's right. Someone at Wisdom Tree realized that even the most uncultured Christian children might not be entirely cool with Wisdom Tree's majestically repetitive music and gave you the option to turn it off. Somehow, We Three Kings doesn't translate so well to the NES sound chip, believe it or not. I like to think that the man who volunteered this brilliant leap forward in game design was the sound programmer himself.

In my version of the Wisdom Tree story, his wife and children left him after he unwisely brought home the Exodus soundtrack (limited edition vinyl pressing. I own it. Do you? Loser.) And who could blame them? Could she (I guess her name is Bianca Bianca) ever truly except the MONSTER she had married? With the combination of his children getting a new daddy, and his failure to be nominated for any awards for Exodus drove him over the deep end. It's enough to make anyone loose faith in their work, especially when that work is the subversion of Nintendo children. Subversion involving 3 separate, but equally awful, video games in one truly powerful cartridge. The bad kind of powerful.

The Wise Men
The Wise Men is a game about dicks. That's what it is. It's a video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System about dicks. There's camels and exciting desert animals and scripture quizzes, but it's mostly about dicks.
In this game, you collect dildos. I'm not sure what they do, but you collect them. Sometimes they change colors. I guess that's cool.
Here's another penis. It must be some kind of Sand Penis Demon, brought into the desert by Satan himself as a means to anally violate Jesus's old people friends on their way to his birthday party. I guess that's pretty bad.
I'm pretty sure this is also a penis. If I had to choose my favorite penis in the game, this would be it. Sand penises are fantastic, but phallus cactus takes the cake. Except instead of a cake, it's actually a penis.
The Wise Men is a game about riding Camel Birdo through the desert in search of Jesus I guess. I'm inferring this from the game's soundtrack (the aforementioned We Three Kings), a song about riding Camel Birdo through the desert in search of Jesus.

The Wise Men is a shining example of what Wisdom Tree excels the most at: making games with shitty control. Every platformer Wisdom Tree laid their greasy fingers on played greasy. The controls are slippery as all hell. You remember when you'd play those old generic NES sidescrollers that all had the generic Ice Level with slippery terrain, which forces you to adjust your timing and input accordingly? The Wise Men is like playing an entire game of that ice level. You always end up jumping just a little farther than you should, something which can easily throw you off in a game filled with some pretty difficult jumps. Perhaps it was just industry standard at the time, but considering the audience that Wisdom Tree was aiming for, the level of difficulty some of the jumps reach is pretty surprising to say the least.

On top of that, you're wrestling with a Friday the 13th-esque Camel Birdo attack (pictured above) that conveniently arcs over just about any enemy in the game. You have a decent chance of hitting birds when they're right in front of you, but for just about anything else, you'll have to institute a bizarre "jump backwards and shoot" approach to any confrontation.
Lucky for us, successfully landing a hit can cause some goofy wacky hijinks, such as the above picture. This isn't even a glitch. You just fight a fox miniboss that can also do crazy fucking backflips. I guess the fox can also lay eggs. I'm not sure if that's cool or not. Anyway, it's been a wacky time, and I was planning on beating the game to see what crazy shit happens in the end. But then this happened:
Next time: Flight to Egypt, a game about being able to jump but not being able to jump on anything.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


A recent dispute with my bank involving bogus ATM fees left me with a closed account and a recent paycheck of 300 dollars burning a hole in my pocket. Luckily, I was in walking distance of a Best Buy and, like any non sensible person would, I decided it was time to blow 138 of those hard earned (not really) dollars on finally connecting my long dormant (not really) Xbox 360 to the internet. So, wireless adapter and one month live card in hand, as well as the newly released second volume of Gurren Lagann, I walked out having spent enough cash to get a free gift card. This is money that could have, and probably should have, been spent on necessities like food, gas, saving for college. But who needs that?

The following bullshit is presented in convenient bullet point format because it's convenient and it's not inconvenient and I'm right.
  • Questionable n-router purchases at Goodwill Stores can, and in my bizare case, do turn out well.
  • My connection occasionally goes dead for reasons I haven't had time to analyze. It's either a problem with the router (more likely), a problem with the adapter (God, I hope not), or Murphy's Law in exciting action.
  • My friends are cheap assholes without 360s. As a result, my online gaming experiences include such exciting events as listening to a twelve year old white kid talk about black people and arguments over whether Halo 3 is indeed better than Grand Theft Auto IV. Worth $100 dollars? You be the judge.
  • Braid is awesome and I want Braid.
  • I downloaded the Alone in the Dark demo. I could never have expected the game would involve blinking as a gameplay mechanic.
  • I haven't even watched the first disc of Gurren Lagann. I haven't watched the first box set of GaoGaiGar, either, but I own it; I'll own the second box set in a few days. Perhaps I should stop buying anime untill I actually watch it? Of course not. The Otaku way is to die surrounded by more volumes of pornographic comics and 70's robot shows than any human being could ever have time to consume.
  • Persona 3 is stealing all my fucking time, so I'm not watching anime anytime soon. I'm still finding time to watch Kaiba, aparently.
  • Kaiba's opening theme could be a Bjork song, but it isn't.
  • Back to Xbox Live: Being a sniper in 360 Team Fortress 2 is impossible and completely unfun. Is it really that big of a deal to add mouse and keyboard support to your games, Microsoft? Really? If Sony can do it, so can you.
  • Much to my dismay, GTAIV's saves cannot be transferred between profiles on my Hard Drive. It's not a HUGE deal that I have to use two different profiles for playing GTAIV single or multiplayer, but it's inconvenient. Convenience is the flag I fly. Why else would you even have bullet points in this sham of an article? If I can have bullet points, Rockstar can have fucking save transfers.
  • Instead of getting names with homosexual connotations banned from Xbox Live, I feel Microsoft's effort would be better spent banning white children with names like Gangstah Chef.
  • My only USB keyboard is shitty and ergonomic and I hate it. I got it for free, but I hate it.