Okay, so I want to give an update on what I’ve been playing, the progress I’ve made, and any purchases I’ve made this week. I guess I’ll start with purchases. No purchases made this week although I had a couple of tempting games that went on sale I considered buying. The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Second Chapter was on sale on Steam this week and I considered picking it up. It was marked down to $19.49 from it’s regular price of $29.99. I keep wanting to wait and see if it ever drops to $14.99 on sale before I pick it up, but it hasn’t gotten to that point yet. Either way, I haven’t even played The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky First Chapter yet so I have a hard time justifying buying its sequel just yet.
I also considered picking up the Megaman Legacy Collection which was on sale for $6.00 on Xbox Live. But I skipped that one as well. That is more of a nostalgia buy just because I am interested in owning those classic games that I played as a kid on SNES. Either way, I decided to pass on it.
So, what did I get into this week? Quite a bit, actually. Far more than I expected to. Spoilers below for any of these games that have a strong story focus.
Final Fantasy IX (Android)
I’ve been playing this on Android and slowly working through it. It was a slow week for FFIX, as I am about 10 hours in and currently in Treno with Dagger, Steiner, and Marcs. I ran into Dotor Tot and we are about to embark on our trip to obtain the SuperSoft from him so we can go save Blank from his petrification in the Evil Forest. Outside of fighting some battles outside of Treno to build up Dagger and Steiner’s level I didn’t really accomplish much as I got tied up in other games.
Persona 3: FES (PS3)
I have been grinding through this game for almost two years and at this point have pretty much committed to making this the only big console release I play until I finish it. I ended up getting through more than I thought I would this weekend. I am at the full moon that takes place at the end of October/early November. The full moon that the team believes will be the last one because all 12 shadows have been killed. Well a couple things happened at this point. First, it appears we have defeated the two members of Strega who remain – Takaya and Jin. Shuji Ikutsuki also revealed his intentions to essentially destroy the world in an effort to cleanse it of its ugliness and take over. You know, typical JRPG stuff. So basically, it has come out that Tartarus didn’t disappear after defeating the 12th shadow, and there is still work to be done.
Call of Duty Black Ops 3 (Xbox One)
I put in a couple games of Zombies mode, specifically the Revelations map. Nothing too big here. I just managed to barely get to round 20 in a couple games. I haven’t played in a while and am rusty. But quite frankly to get any further I am going to need to eventually figure out where all the Dragon Shield parts are and get them.
The Swapper (PS4)
I picked this up on the recommendation of some folks over at neogaf a couple months back. I think I paid $1.99 for it or something like that. Either way, I fired this up on Friday night and spent a couple hours playing it on Saturday as well. I really like this game a lot. I often forget that other genres besides WRPG and JRPGs like to tell stories and often do it better than those genres.
So far The Swapper is telling a story about a derelict space station. You play as a lone astronaut who has a device that allows him to create lifeless clones of himself (up to 4 at a time) and transfer your consciousness to them to solve puzzles and unlock different parts of the space station. It has a very “Super Metroidy” vibe to it so far. It’s also a short game that helps break up the longer Persona 3. I am really interested to see where this one goes.
Kingdom Rush (Android)
I’ve probably spent most of my time on this game. It’s your classic tower defense game on mobile that I’ve sunk a ton of time into. I’ve probably played through the primary 12 or so levels of the campaign 3 or 4 times, but I recently went back to this one to try and dig into the game more as there are are a number extra modes within each level to play out. A number of levels also unlock after completing the campaign. It’s quick, easy to play, and a ton of fun. It’s a surprisingly deep game for a mobile tower defense game. Really looking forward to seeing where this one goes. I’d really like to get to a point where I can play a map with endless waves just to see how long I can hold out. I’ll probably give a more in depth review/assessment once I get through some more game modes.
That’s it for this week. I expect this coming week to be pretty much the same game list. If I am lucky I may be able to get through The Swapper and spend some more time with Final Fantasy IX. We’ll see how the week unfolds!
We are one week into the Nintendo Switch era and popular feedback so far appears to be positive. There were issues with the joycons connecting (I’m not sure of the details admittedly because I had just read the headline, but it’s an issue nonetheless) and 1-2 Switch is widely considered an overpriced tech demo but that doesn’t seem to be fueling a ton of negative backlash so far. Things weren’t perfect, but Nintendo is saying sales are strong and there is a buzz and sense of excitement around the Switch that I haven’t seen in a while. I think that’s important.
When the Wii U launched I didn’t get a sense that people cared about it and I don’t remember seeing any advertising for it. In fairness I may have missed the advertising, but I don’t think it is unfair to say there was no excitement around it. With the Switch there are advertisements everywhere and some mainstream traction. I listen to a local sports radio show here and the hosts were even talking some about the Switch and how they aren’t traditional gamers but want to pick one up. That’s the type of reaction Nintendo needs from the general public for the Switch to be successful.
And I haven’t even mentioned Zelda: Breath of the Wild yet. This seems to be the consensus system seller, and quite frankly it needed to be. The rest of the launch lineup was fairly weak and Nintendo needed something to point to and say “if you like video games, you owe it to yourself to play this game.” Sure it’s on the Wii U, but seeing as the Wii U only sold 13 million (ish) units it’s a safe bet the Switch will end up selling more copies of Zelda when all is said and done. I haven’t been interested in Zelda in over a decade, but with what Nintendo has done, or perhaps I should say with what they appear to have done, with Breath of the Wild, I absolutely will need to play this game at some point. Probably sooner than later too.
Ultimately I probably won’t pick up a Switch until the price drops, but I am definitely keeping an eye on all things Switch as in my mind it has the potential to be the ultimate Nintendo console. If the Switch ends up getting the types of games that made their way to Nintendo’s previous handhelds, along with console releases like Breath of the Wild, indie support (which reports and are saying they are), and access to Nintendo’s back catalogue through Virtual Console support we could be talking about an all time great system here. It’s still early but I’m excited about the initial response to the Switch and what it could mean long term for the hybrid console. The gaming market is a better place when Nintendo is a meaningful player, so here’s hoping this strong first week is a sign of things to come for the Nintendo Switch.
The PS4 gets a new firmware update today, and it’s a big one. With today’s 4.50 firmware update, the PS4 gets some nice new features like custom themes, the ability to watch 3D Blu Ray movies with Playstation VR, and Boost Mode for PS4 Pro which improves the graphics on some older PS4 games. But the crown jewel of this update, in my opinion, is the addition of external hard drives to store games on.
Most PS4’s come with 500GB of memory, although some of the newer models do have 1TB of hard drive space. Either way, for me this has not been enough. The accessibility and pricing of digital games has improved so much over the last five years that a 500GB or 1TB hard drive fills up quickly if you buy when games are on sale, which they are frequently. Many games these days are pushing 100GB when you factor in patches and DLC. This update allows you to add up to 8Tb of external storage with a 3.0 USB hard drive. That’s plenty of space, right?
Some people may scoff at the need for that much hard drive space, and that’s certainly fair. Not everyone is like me and collecting games, buying things as they go on sale to play down the road one day when I have a lot more free time. But for those of us who want the option to fill up terabytes of hard drive space with games this is great. And I’d even take it a step further and say this is another assertion of PS4’s dominance in this console generation. The PS4 already has a massive sales lead over Microsoft’s Xbox One. But the Xbox One has allowed external hard drives for quite sometime. While this additional feature probably won’t sway many buyers towards the PS4, it is something Sony can point to and say “hey, we do that too” when comparing the PS4 to the Xbox One.
For me personally, this will impact which console I use for multiplatform titles, although I recognize I am probably in the minority. I have been using a 4TB external hard drive for my Xbox One which has about 100 games installed on it (many are Games with Gold or backwards compatible 360 games). Having that extra space has led me to pick the Xbox One over PS4 on a few multiplatform games out of fear that I would run out of space on my PS4. But now I will likely pick up a 4TB drive for my PS4 which makes that a non- issue. I know, I know. #FirstWorldProblems. Again, I realize I am the outlier here who buys tons of games on sale and most people don’t do that. Either way, this is a great update because if nothing else it gives the consumer more options, and having more options is always a good thing.
I just can’t pass up a good gaming deal. So here’s what I picked up this week.
Mass Effect Trilogy: I don’t know if I will ever play this on PS3, as I don’t have the DLC, but it was $4.49. I at least have the option now to play Mass Effect on PS 3.
Defense Grid 2: I own this as an Xbox One games with gold download. However, that is only temporary and I may be cancelling my Xbox Live subscription in the next year so I figured for $1.49 it’s pretty hard to pass up.
Stranger of Sword City: I was basically able to pick this up for $10 on Xbox One. I have become intrigued with old school dungeon crawling RPGs and this one caught my interest. My hope is to actually play this sooner than later.
Oxenfree: Similar to Stranger of Sword City I am hoping to play this sooner than later. I know a little bit about what this game is about and it strikes me as something cut from the same vein as Life is Strange which was one of my favorite games in 2015. For $10 it was worth a flyer.
Firewatch: Another $10 or less bargain. Well bargain may be relative, but the $10 price point on this seemed right. I don’t have a burning desire to play this, but knowing it’s a short game adds to the appeal to play it sooner than later. I figured it was worth picking up based on all the positive commentary on this one.
My hope is most of the newer stuff on this list won’t sit in my backlog too long compared to most things I pick up, but we will see. Oxenfree is one I’ve been eying, and Firewatch is short. Stranger of Sword City is something that may be hard to get into because of the gameplay, but I plan to try to at least give it a flyer and see if I can get into it now, or maybe it’s something I come back to down the road.
With the exception of playing NCAA Football annuall releases I had basically stopped gaming in 2005. I moved back home after college and finished playing Resilent Evil 4, tried playing God of War but couldn’t get into it and decided I was pretty much done gaming outside of sports games. That I had outgrown it. Looking back at that time I don’t think that it was that I so much had outgrown gaming but needed more variety of games in my life. I grew up loving Final Fantasy. That was always the pinnacle of gaming for me. So during the PS1/PS2 era I thought I had to play every JRPG out there. I was a regular at Final Fantasy message boards across the internet and kept reading about all these RPGs that were being released during that era and had to play them all. Grandia 2, Skies of Arcadia, Xenogears/saga, Suikoden I,II, and III. The list goes on.
But that’s what I focused on – JRPGs. I wanted that escapism. I wanted that experience of being in a another world and believed JRPGs were the only way I could do that. So I stopped playing games more or less. My parents bought me Final Fantasy XII the year it came out (2006) but I wouldn’t finish the game until 2009. I probably put in 15 to 20 hours to the game but it didn’t draw me in to the game the way I had hoped.
Some of this was my expectations. I had this believe that a good entertaining game had to be this big melodrama. It couldn’t just be about adventure. That was partly why games like Grandia and Skies of Arcadia didn’t click as well with me. At its core Grandia and Skies of Arcadia are games about a boy going on an adventure. It escalates but it doesn’t have the self serious tone that accompanied Final Fantasy and other JRPGs. I was also at a point in my life where I expected my games, especially my RPGs to tell me a great dramatic story. I couldn’t accept games for what they were. I couldn’t accept that a gaming experience isn’t strictly about dialogue, cut scenes, melodrama and fighting someone who turns into a god.
So I tapped out of gaming. I knew that the Xbox 360 and PS3 were coming out. I didn’t know when. I knew the Wii was a thing. Kind of. But I was happy playing my sports games.
Then summer 2009 rolled around. I was working an internship during my time at graduate school and I just had a slight curiosity on what was going on in the gaming world. So I started looking at what was new in gaming and realized there were games out there on new consoles I was interested in. I hadn’t played anything aside from NCAA Football in a couple years at this point. But I was interested in a new console and ultimately decided on asking for an Xbox 360 for Christmas. There were a few games that appeared to be 360 exclusive that helped make that decision for me. One of those games was Mass Effect.
So I waited for Christmas that year and played through some of my PS2 backlog. I finally played through Final Fantasy XII. I finally played Suikoden 4 (I had started this game 3 or 4 times and never gotten outside the first hour of it). Then I enjoyed a replay of Chrono Trigger and played Dragon Quest 8. All games I ended up enjoying a lot. But nothing prepared me for what was yet to come.
Christmas came and went and with it came an Xbox 360 as I suspected. I took some cash and bought NCAA Football 2010 as I knew I’d play that. Then I thought back to some of the research I had done over the summer before deciding to get a new console and bought a handle of the games that led me to pick Xbox over PlayStation. Mass Effect was one of those games. I didn’t plug it into my 360 until some time in January 2010 but when I did I had my first taste of where gaming had gone since I was last diving regularly into those PS2 JRPGs.
It wasn’t a love at first sight situation but there was a lot early on in that game that kept me intrigued. The Codex for one. Here was this in game Wikipedia that had every piece of information about planets, aliens, wars, technology for this universe. Then there was the fact that my journal kept filling up with quests which enticed me to explore all over the universe. I loved that! Mass Effect is often criticized because it’s side quests are generic and reuse the same environments over and over. These are valid criticisms for sure. But that didn’t matter to me. I just felt like I was on an adventure and exploring the galaxy. I was immersed. Turians, krogan, salarians, the Rachni. This was a living breathing world with a deep and detailed history that I was experiencing first hand. My Commander Shepard was wondering if the mild flirtation that he kept having with Ashley Williams was for real or all in his head. My Shepard was starting to really appreciate what Kaidan Alenko brought to the crew and felt for the challenges he faced as a biotic with L2 implants. I talked to Tali every time I finished a mission because I wanted to know more about the quarians and the geth. I had several missions given to me by the council that i needed to complete and loved the freedom to tackle them at my own pace. I couldn’t believe this is what video games had become.
Then Virmire happened. My mind was blown. I knew after Virmire I was playing a special game. That was all I needed. I was a gamer again.
For those who aren’t terribly familiar with Mass Effect and Virmire let me set the stage for you. Mass Effect has an intro segment to the game that sets the stage and introduces you to some of its lore and the main plot of the game. It also serves as a conduit to introduce you to the primary villain of the games and two of your squadmates, Kaidan Alenko and Ashley Williams. You are then sent to the Citadel, which is the hub of all galactic life to explore some, get a feel for the world you are living in and set up the main plot. After this section early in the game you are free to go explore. You are given three story missions and the ability to explore any number of planets that are simply referred to in the game as “Uncharted Worlds”. After completing two of the three main story missions you are contacted by the Citadel (the hub of all galactic life) and informed of a distress call from the planet Virmire and sent to explore. At the time I did not realize that this was a central mission to the game. I thought it was maybe an extended side quest and opted to do it later. I went back to it after I had completed all of the primary missions. There are a number of things that take place on Virmire, but the parts that got me involve the characters Urdnot Wrex, Ashley Williams, and Kaidan Alenko. Wrex is a krogan squadmate that joins your team earlier in the game on the Citadel. he is essentially a mercenary. In the Mass Effect universe krogan are revered for their fighting skills as they are nearly impossible to kill and considered some of, if not the best, fighters in the galaxy. Their race is going extinct however do to the genophage, which is essentially a genetic alteration that the turians and salarians let loose on the entire krogan species after they had been uplifted from their planet to help fight off the rachni years ago. Long story short is this: The space faring races in the galaxy uplifted the krogan (non-space faring) because they needed to use their fighting skills to stop a bigger threat. After that threat was eliminated, the krogan were deemed to be the next big threat to the galaxy so the turians and salarians altered the genetic makeup of the krogan so they could not reproduce and the krogan are now dying a slow painful death as a race.
On Virmire it is revealed that Saren (the main villain in Mass Effect 1) is working on a cure for the genophage. Wrex is conflicted and wants to save the facility being used to create this cure. The rest of the team (including the salarian military you have run into) believe the base should be eliminated because of the impact it has on Saren’s operations. He is genetically creating krogan and building an army. A confrontation between Wrex and Shepard ensues and you can talk Wrex down. Or Wrex can get killed by either Shepard or Ashley Williams. Wrex gets shot if Shepard can’t talk him down. Being krogan, he’s essentially deemed to dangerous to be left alive. During my first playthrough of Mass Effect Wrex did not make it because I had not built up enough Paragon points or completed certain side missions that allowed me to talk Wrex down. I didn’t know what went into the decision making of Virmire at the time, but I was shocked to see a main character killed off like that. Considering the nature of the game I suspected this was an optional outcome. I couldn’t believe that a game would pull that trigger.
Then later in the mission it happened again. At the end of the Virmire mission you are setting up a nuclear weapon to destroy the facility. Kaidan and Ashley can be deployed to two tasks. One is setting the nuke, the other is holding off enemies on another side of the base. During my first playthrough I had Kaidan set the nuke and sent Ashley to hold off enemies. As Kaidan starts setting up the nuke you get a radio transmission from Ashley saying she is in danger and needs backup and is pinned down. You are given a choice to go save Ashley or go back and help out Kaidan as he has run into an issue with the nuke and has to essentially detonate it manually. You can save one or the other but not both. At the time, the dialogue makes it sound like getting Ashley would allow you to go back and get Kaidan. But you can’t. You can only choose one. I was torn up when I realized I could only save one. I have this habit of wanting and needing to do everything right in games all the time. This wasn’t going to be one of those situations. I hated that.
Many people are critical of Ashley and Kaidan as characters and say that the choice on Virmire isn’t that impactful. I disagree. Partly because I really like both characters, but also because for me the story arc on Virmire is about what video games can do as a story telling mechanism and the experience they offer. TV can’t do to me what Virmire did. What Mass Effect did. After Virmire I was a gamer again because I want to experience those moments again and again. Truly awesome moments like that in gaming are special and elevate the medium to something special. And I want to keep experiencing those moments. That’s why I keep playing. That’s why I’m a gamer again. Because of Virmire and because of Mass Effect.
Over the past 20 years I have amassed an astronomical collection of video games. At least by my standards. And over time I have thought I was completely done with gaming only to sell off my collection and then later repurchase the same games again. A couple examples of gems I have discarded at some point in time:
Dragon Warrior 4 (NES)
Final Fantasy III (VI) (SNES)
The Legend of Zelda (NES)
Wild Arms 3 (PS2)
Lunar: The Silver Star Story Complete (with original packaging)
The Arc the Lad Collection (with original packaging)
There are countless more games I have sold and repurchased, these are just a few that I look at and cringe a little. I didn’t even mention my Gameboy Advance with Fire Emblem, Metroid 2:Return of Samus and many others. At least I never got rid of my disc copy of Suikoden II!
No matter how many times I do this though, purging my collection thinking I am done with gaming or specific games, I end up getting pulled back in. I sold my initial copy of the original Disgaea and have since bought another version and own it digitally. I bought Front Mission 3 again after I sold it. I bought the Arc the Lad collection on PSN when it was on sale. So I finally decided to stop selling games. Some may disagree with this or find it foolish because it just leads to clutter. But if I keep buying these games multiple times then why should I sell them?
Anyways, the point of all this is to point out that over the years I have accumulated this rather large collection of games that keeps growing. Some say it’s a waste and to be honest I can’t say I completely disagree with them. There is a very good chance I will never play all the games in my collection. But I decided to start this blog as a way to chronicle my progress through my game collection. I very rarely buy and play games at launch these days. I played Uncharted 4 at launch last year because my wife got it for me for my birthday. I will play Mass Effect Andromeda at launch (or close to launch) because it is my favorite series in gaming. In 2015 I started playing Batman: Arkham Knight the same year it was re lease because I had played through Arkham Asylum, Arkham City and Arkham Origins that year and wanted to see how the series concluded. But normally I am working through my backlog.
These days I lover gaming as much as ever but don’t have the time for it like I used to. I have a 50 hour a week job, a wife, 3 month old daughter and there are only so many hours in a day. As I said above though I love gaming. There is something about the experience of playing a truly immersive game that other forms of media and entertainment cannot replicate. There is nothing that can replicate the experience of setting foot on the Citadel for the first time in Mass Effect or knowing that the Normandy was the safest place in the galaxy in Mass Effect 3. There’s something more personal about watching Nate and Sully bail each other out in Uncharted 4. Or watching the ending cutscene between Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us left me stunned. Or waking up as Celes in the World of Ruin left me with a feeling of hopelessness I’ve not experienced watching a movie or TV show. Or exploring Hyrule for the first time left me with a sense of awe; here was a fantasy world that I had created in my imagination and only dreamed of. Or the first time I watched a giant bullet bill fly past Mario’s head in Super Mario World I felt like I had entered another era of gaming after the NES. Or starting off as an 18 year old pitcher in AA ball and working my way to the majors and eventually win the World Series and end up in the Hall of Fame in MLB The Show. Or becoming the head coach at an afterthought program like Vanderbilt and turning thrm into a perreniel powerhouse in college football with multiple national championships. And I haven’t even brought up some of my all time favorites such as Final Fantasy 4, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Metroid Prime, and the infamous Final Fantasy 7.
Games tap into escapism and creativity in ways I can’t. My goal with this blog isn’t to dive deep and provide tons of commentary on game play systems and all that. Yes that’s part of what I plan to talk about, but I know when I read game reviews I get bored reading about all the nuances of game play systems. I want to talk about the experience of going through my backlog, what games are memorable for me, which ones aren’t and talk about what makes it memorable. And hopefully those games I look at today and say “I will never play that” end up getting played.