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Six years February 27, 2013

Posted by sinewysimian in Bethesda, Elder Scrolls series, PC, PlayStation 3, RPGs, Xbox 360.
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Oblivion

Six years is a long time in the games industry, and time can sometimes not be kind to our most celebrated games. I have spent a good deal of time trying to enjoy Elder Scrolls IV after sinking hundreds of hours into its sequel, and it hasn’t been going very well. I’ve been reluctant to give up completely, but to be honest it’s become a pretty tedious chore trying to play it. (more…)

Paying my respects, only slightly begrudgingly August 30, 2012

Posted by sinewysimian in Final Fantasy, PlayStation, Retrospective, RPGs.
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I’m not a huge fan of Final Fantasy VII; it’s true. In my recent breakdown of the series, I didn’t have many positive things to say about the game, and ended my short blurb with “it isn’t very good.” I stand by those words, but I also recognize that they don’t really capture the true significance of this entry. Though I might be slightly loathe to admit it, FFVII has secured its lofty place in the hallowed halls of the video game hall of fame, regardless of how well or how poorly it’s held up over the years. So as we approach the 15-year anniversary of its North American release (September 7, 1997), I shall now use the occasion as an excuse to foist more opinions onto my readership. Sure, vast tomes of content are already splayed about the Internet, painstakingly detailing FFVII’s significance, but seriously, where would humanity be if I were not here to add my own screeching voice to the cacophony? In a ditch, covered in petrol and on fire, that’s where. You’re welcome. (more…)

Clean is better than . . . August 10, 2012

Posted by sinewysimian in GameCube, Mario series.
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Poor Super Mario Sunshine. It never had any hope of living up to the hype, did it? After Mario 64 came along and rocked everyone’s world, instantly becoming one of the most beloved and celebrated video games of all time, how could a sequel even dream of capturing the same sense of wonder and innovation? A thankless task though it may have been, I have to give Mario Sunshine’s creators credit for trying. Rather than attempt to outdo Mario 64, it seems their goal was to completely subvert our expectations and produce a game that added offbeat elements to the Mario formula while staying true to its spirit. So rather than harp on Sunshine’s missteps like the blue coin hunt, the forgettable character design or that glitchy-as-hell pachinko machine, let’s take a quick look at what makes Sunshine memorable. (more…)

A case of narrative defeating frustration July 31, 2012

Posted by sinewysimian in Bethesda, PlayStation 3, RPGs, Xbox 360.
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Of the 48 hours that comprised this weekend, I think I spent 35 of them playing Fallout: New Vegas, feverishly working toward the completion of my second full play-through. Having now followed three of the four main quest lines through to the end, I feel safe in concluding that New Vegas is the absolute antithesis of everything I loved about Fallout 3.

That’s not to say New Vegas is a bad game—on the contrary, it’s a rather good one. But where Fallout 3 excelled in giving me a wide open world to explore as I saw fit, New Vegas’s triumph is in its complex branching narrative. It plops you down in the middle of a vast, multi-faceted power struggle, lets you gradually learn who everyone is and what’s going on, and ultimately gives you complete freedom to decide who wins and who loses. Fallout 3′s main story got the job done, but ultimately felt kind of pedestrian, a means to an end; it didn’t even have a truly satisfying payoff until the Broken Steel add-on. New Vegas, on the other hand, is all about the story; it captures almost none of the joy of exploration that Fallout 3 so effortlessly delivered, but it sinks its narrative hooks in and doesn’t let go. (more…)

The most pointless exercise ever! July 2, 2012

Posted by sinewysimian in Final Fantasy, Inanity.
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Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is releasing in a matter of hours, and as I get geared up for the game it’s gotten me reflecting on my favorite moments in the series. Because of this, I shall now engage in the utterly useless activity of ranking the 14 flagship Final Fantasy games in my order of preference, from least favorite to most favoritest evar.

This is a vapid undertaking for a number of reasons, but the primary one is simply this: many of the strengths and weaknesses of each individual Final Fantasy title are subjective judgments, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen two people rank the series in exactly the same order. Which is weird, because intuitively I’d have thought there would be a greater number of people on the planet than permutations of Final Fantasy games… but as it turns out, that’s not true! The factorial of 14 is like 87 billion! Crazy. Anyway, my point is that there’s no meaningful conversation that can come from this. Whenever anyone on the Internet decides to rate the series from best to worst, the responses boil down to things like “Here’s my order!” “No way, it should go like this!” “I’d rank them differently myself.” “You’re stupid and you should feel bad about yourself.” Each reply invariably contains a unique ordering of the games, so after a few minutes the whole affair has devolved into an unintelligible mess of numbers. It quickly becomes apparent that this is one of those subjects that no two people will ever agree on, and no one really cares that much about anyone else’s preferences but their own anyway. So there’s no point, but I don’t care. I’ve got Final Fantasy on the brain, so here’s my take on the series (again, just the numbered flagship titles), in order from the dimmest of lowlights to the brightest of highlights. (more…)

Carrying science forward June 28, 2012

Posted by sinewysimian in Favorite All-Time Games, PlayStation 3, Portal, Valve, Xbox 360.
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Portal 2

Be warned, the following discussion is kinda spoiler-y.

Because I’m a jaded and cynical person, my first reaction to hearing about a sequel to Portal was to develop stomach cramps. Visions of samey game mechanics accompanied by played-out cake jokes swam around in my head. I mean, what else could it amount to? Portal was a two-hour side-story to Half-Life 2, after all. My feeble brain couldn’t imagine anything good that could come of it. Of course, this is exactly why I am not earning big bucks at Valve; their endlessly creative designers possess far more wonderful imaginations than I, and their full-fledged sequel to Portal not only does complete justice to its world, but expands it and improves on it in every way. From ingenious new gameplay quirks to hilarious new personalities, Portal 2 is proof that the first game was no mere fluke. (more…)

Nintendo fatigue June 19, 2012

Posted by sinewysimian in Mario Party, Mario series, Wii.
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Mario Party 9

Sigh. I’m kind of getting sick of Nintendo.

Well, okay, that’s probably an overstatement. I just miss the days when it was leading the industry rather than lagging so far behind it. The days when it wasn’t afraid to challenge its players, or let them discover things on their own. Zelda, for instance, used to be the best video game series in the world, but those times are long gone—the recent Skyward Sword completely fails in every respect to replicate the successes of decades-old entries in its own series. With very few precious exceptions, booting up a Wii game lately makes me feel like I’m in a time machine traveling backwards. And not in a good way. (more…)

Beautiful desolation May 26, 2012

Posted by sinewysimian in Bethesda, Favorite All-Time Games, PlayStation 3, RPGs, Xbox 360.
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Fallout 3

My most significant takeaway from Fallout 3 is how massively worthless I would be in a real post-apocalyptic situation. If ever I were faced with some of the choices my Lone Wanderer had to deal with routinely, I’d be looking for the nearest cliff face from which to throw myself. How should I recover some of my strength? Should I drink some irradiated water out of this toilet, or sleep on that blood-stained mattress over there next to those corpses? Umm, neither, thanks. If you need me, I’ll be over here killing myself. (more…)

Well Square, that was fun. Please never do it again. April 17, 2012

Posted by sinewysimian in Final Fantasy, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360.
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Eight chapters into Final Fantasy XIII, main characters Sazh Katzroy and Oerba dia Vanille run through a futuristic “city of dreams” called Nautilus. It’s a bustling center of commerce and spectacle that looks basically what I’d imagine Las Vegas could look like several hundred years from now. Massive, gorgeous buildings. Neon lights everywhere. Vending machines, game tables, enormous video screens. A nature park with chocobos and sheep. And when night falls, the population is treated to the Pompa Sancta parade, a dazzling show of eidolons and elemental spirits that’s as beautiful and spectacular as anything I’ve ever seen in a video game.

There’s just one problem—not an iota of it is interactive in any way. As the player, I am but a passive participant in all of it. All those gambling tables, video monitors and cute furry animals, and I can do nothing but run past all of it. I can’t even buy a lousy soda from a vending machine. When I think back to Final Fantasy VII’s Golden Saucer, with its multiple mini-games, battle arena and chocobo racing, Nautilus comes off as shallow and pathetic by comparison, despite the immense graphical improvements that come with time and two console generations. (more…)

For the love of adventure, and cartography February 28, 2012

Posted by sinewysimian in Etrian Odyssey, Nintendo DS, RPGs.
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Etrian Odyssey III is the reason I stopped paying for a subscription to IGN. The online games journalism juggernaut reviewed the first two games in the series favorably because at the time they had a Nintendo editor who admired the retro feel the Atlus wizards were going for when they created this little gem of a franchise. By the time the third chapter rolled around, though, he was gone—and apparently the last of his kind. EO3 was panned in IGN’s review, not because it’s a bad sequel (it’s not), but because they couldn’t find anyone who appreciated the game to play it for review. The unfortunate soul who got stuck with the job spent her whole review complaining about the very things that make this series so dear to me, with no discussion of how it differed from or improved upon prior versions (she couldn’t possibly have known that when the map icons confused her). I don’t blame her for this, of course. It’s certainly not her fault that she wasn’t familiar with the series, or that she didn’t find the game to be her cup of tea. And her review, useless as it was, had no bearing on whether I would purchase the game; it had been preordered months before. But it was an indication that it was perhaps time to stop paying to read a site that had no love for the niche titles I enjoy. (more…)

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