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So About Them “Videogames”, June 2014

June 20, 2014

暑いですね・・・ While the calendar may say Summer has only just arrived, after this past month I am inclined to disagree.
The arrival of hot, summer weather means it’s time for E3 though, which is almost always an exciting time.
This year’s E3 wasn’t quite what I had hoped, but there were still a few games shown which illustrated how much better games can look on these new consoles (Batman: Arkham Knight and The Order: 1886 were the two which stood out in my opinion).
There were no big surprises this year for me, which is somewhat of a bummer, and most of the games which I thought looked interesting won’t be out until next year, so overall, E3 2014, while a decent display of games taking advantage of new consoles, didn’t have me pumped to play anything on show.
It wasn’t a waste of time or anything, but it wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be this year.

 

Here’s (some of) what I’ve been playing:

psvita_image-block_01_us_30apr14Playstation Vita- 
I finally got a Vita over this past month, so a lot of my time has been spent familiarizing myself with it, and working long shifts to save up and buy a memory card for the thing (I exaggerate of course, but seriously, why are they so damned expensive).
It’s still early, but I’m very happy with it so far. The inclusion of a second thumbstick makes games where you’d be tasked with controlling a camera far less of a chore to play than previously possible on handheld systems, though the throw of the thumbsticks leaves a little to be desired when it comes to precision.
One of the biggest perks of having a Vita are the extra benefits you can get out of having other Sony systems. Between cross-play/cross-save, second screen functionality, PS4 Link (which is surprisingly functional, though not ideal for some genres), and the absurd number of games they throw at you for free (when you subscribe) with Playstation Plus, I feel like there’s a lot of incentive to choosing to spend your time playing things on Sony systems.
If I have some complaints about the system (other than the very high prices for memory cards), I’d say that much like with the 3ds (I’ve only used an XL, so I suppose I should mention that), some types of games make my hands cramp up and hurt after a short amount of play. Most genres aren’t so bad, but racing games in particular (Mario Kart on 3ds did it, much like Wipeout does on Vita) are a literal pain to play for extended periods of time.
My other complaint is being unable to log into the system using a different PSN ID. A lot of the reason I wanted the system was to play import games, and it would have been terrific to be able to browse the online store on my JPN account, but there’s no way to do that without juggling data between the system and a PC. Because of this, DLC (and possibly online play. I haven’t played a game which supported it yet) is locked away when playing JPN games on my US account. It’s not an issue I suppose a lot of people encounter, but it was still a bummer.

 

Hatsune-Miku-Project-Diva-F-coverHatsune Miku: Project Diva F-
It’s sort of amazing that this game came to the West, though I suppose when Hatsune Miku is the opening act for Lady Gaga, my perspective on how popular virtual idols are in Western culture is outdated.
There isn’t a ton to say about this game from a gameplay standpoint. It’s your typical “tap the right button at the right time” rhythm game, with some button holds and some touch screen flicks tossed in for good measure.
The mechanics are simple, so they’re pretty easy to pick up and have a good time with, though they can be quite tricky on the tougher difficulties.
Outside of the rhythm game, you can spend a currency accrued from doing well on the songs in a store which sells alternate costumes and accessories for each of the game’s Divas. You can also purchase gifts for them, as well as furniture and themes for their rooms.
This is the stuff that I didn’t spend a ton of time with, as there isn’t a whole lot to it. You can hang out with any of the Divas in their room, and do things such as rub their head or play rock, paper, scissors with them to increase their affinity with you (which ultimately grants you a Trophy), but that’s really all there is to do. If there were more activities or just more to it as a whole, maybe it’d be more worth the time, but I don’t… I don’t want to keep rubbing Miku’s head to get her to like me, regardless of how much I may or may not like her.
So that’s weird, but in a fun way I suppose.
It’s a nicely put together game, with a number of great videos for the game’s 20ish song list (my personal favorite being Black Rock Shooter), and there’s something to be said for mixing and matching outfits and accessories to make these videos look as proper or improper as possible, so there’s your incentive for replaying them on harder difficulties or with difficulty enhancements to earn more bank.
If there’s a complaint I have with the game, it’s that there’s an AR mode where you “attend” a virtual concert, but since this game (on Vita) is, from what I can gather, only available digitally in the West, it naturally doesn’t come with the physical cards to make this mode work. They’re available online to print out, but I mean… who has a printer?
It’s a good time though, all silliness aside, and this is one of the games I’ve spent the most time with on the system so far. I’m looking forward to the second one.

 

Gekijoban-Puella-Magi-Madoka-Magica-The-Battle-Pentagram-Cover-Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica: The Battle Pentagram-
I don’t know if you know this about me, but I dig me some Madoka Magica.
I was hesitant going into this game, because I do love the series and an especially terrible game could diminish that in a way, but I was quite taken aback at how perfectly decent The Battle Pentagram is. It’s by no means fantastic, and unless you’re a fan of the series I probably wouldn’t recommend you go out and find a copy of this game right this second, but for what it is, it hits the right buttons.
If you’ve played Persona, the gameplay loop of TBP  might make a little more sense to you. Basically, during the day you’re given options as to which girl(s) point of views you’d like to see the story progress from, and depending on who you chose, those characters will become more friendly with one another, and their ability to support one another when they go into battle will increase.
During the night, you choose a team of two (you can go in solo as well) out of any combination of characters you’d like (-cough-Kyouko/Sayaka-cough-), and undertake quick, typically five to ten minute long missions which task you with performing generally simple objectives, such as wipe out all of the enemies or find your way through the labyrinth within the time limit.
Succeeding in your missions rewards stat points and magic books. These are pooled together regardless of which team you choose, and are used to beef up the characters between missions. Each girl can take three special skills into battle, along with three support skills, and a neat system is in place where MP regenerates slowly, but you can choose to draw from your character’s Soul Gem to replenish their mana bar. This can of course only be done a small number of times.
There are a few different endings and a few pretty clever Trophies, and smart stuff is done with attaching this game to the Madoka Magica story proper.
The presentation is very nicely done, though there is some lackluster animation going on in the battle sections, and overall it comes off as a game which effort and thought went into developing, instead of a simple cash-in, and I think that’s why I’m impressed with it, even when the gameplay isn’t astounding.
Not bad. Not bad.

 

af66ec8911e5e53d8390b9b74a5c5de9Watch_Dogs-
I have the feeling Watch Dogs was at the receiving end of far too much hope and assumption after its (admittedly mind-blowing) first demo a few years ago.
I went into this game expecting a (hopefully) good open world game with a cool cyber-tinted theme, and I wasn’t really disappointed or blown away by what I got. Watch Dogs is an alright open world game.
The kinds of abilities you unlock as you progress through the story are fun and easy to use, and range from simple stuff such as hacking traffic lights to cause all sides of an intersection to slam on the gas, hopefully stopping any of your pursuers in their tracks, to large scale hacks, like the blackout, which is easily my favorite ability in the game.
What I hated in this game though, was the pvp invasion stuff. Conceptually, it’s amazing; where you could be running about minding your own business when suddenly a player which had seamlessly and stealthily slipped into your game starts messing with you. In reality, the invasion gameplay is just a game of hide-and-seek. There are thrills to be had with chasing down an intruder or sitting patiently as a player you had invaded passes right past you without noticing you’re the one hacking them, but almost all of the invasions I was involved in ended up just being a waste of time, and an irritating distraction from what you were trying to do in the first place.
The missions are fine for an open world game (though insta-fail stealth detection missions are always lame), and the shooting and driving both feel great. The game plays well as a whole, and is a decent amount of fun.
The story isn’t written well, and the graphics are no where near as mind-blowing as they were in that original E3 presentation, and if someone were to ask I would probably prefer GTA5 for my open world fix, but what’s here is a good solid first try at a series which I suspect could be truly amazing in the future.
Everyone seems to agree that Assassin’s Creed was a repetitive game, and that overall it wasn’t fantastic, but I think everyone also seems to agree that Assassin’s Creed 2 was possibly the best game in that series, and one of the best games of the past generation.
That’s what I’m hoping for from Watch Dogs 2.

 

Transistor-Large-BoxartTransistor-
I made a pretty firm goal for myself after seeing the trailer for this game a few years ago now that I would go into Transistor with an open mind and no real idea as to what the game was. This is a difficult thing to do nowadays with games, but I was happy to have achieved that goal come the game’s release this past month.
Which was a pretty large bummer, because I think if I had seen proper gameplay footage of this game before buying it, I maybe would have at least had more hesitation before shelling out the money.
I’ve only put maybe two hours into this game, and while of course that isn’t enough time spent with something to be able to slam your fist down and say “It’s terrible!”, to me, what Transistor is is a test of patience that I’m simply not interested in taking part in at the moment.
The movement speed is slow, the combat is, while incredibly open-ended, sort of oddly put together in my opinion. There’s also a ton of it, and you’re given a breakdown screen post each encounter listing out the enemies you destroyed and your XP tally, which I think gravely interrupts the pacing.
It’s a jaw-dropping game by terms of visuals, and I’ve enjoyed every stray decibel of what I’ve heard of the soundtrack, but I just find the gameplay to be a slog.
I loved Bastion. Since it’s release, I’ve played through it numerous times on both the 360 and PC, and even today I would have no problem with going back and playing through that game yet again, but Transistor’s gameplay loop is so devoid of fun for me that I can’t bring myself to play through it even once.
I wanted to love this game, and I still want to; and as I’ve said, it’s well made from an audio/visual perspective, but at the end of the day, I’m someone who works for a living and has less free time than I would like to do the things I enjoy, and if I’m not having fun with a video game, then I’m most certainly not going to waste my time trying to force my way through it anyway. Maybe one day I’ll see the enjoyment in it, but as it stands right now, Transistor isn’t the sort of game I want to spend my time on.
Transistor may not have been a game for me, but it is a quality-made video game, and I’m still looking forward to what Supergiant Games does next.

 

20140528022000!Battlefield_HardlineBattlefield 4/ Battlefield Hardline-
What if I were to tell you that you and I could live in a world where Battlefield 4’s servers weren’t constantly in a state of perpetual collapse, and its shoddy netcode didn’t make each match a test of patience and irritation?
Well stop dreaming about it for a second, because (-knocks on wood-), that is the world we finally live in, and man oh man is it glorious.
In its now playable state, Battlefield 4 has been my go-to game whenever I have a chunk of free time to toss around. Now that your bullets hit where you’re shooting and player movement isn’t a stuttery mess, everything just feels fantastic, and BF4 is one of the rare multiplayer games where that in most cases, even if I’m on the team that ultimately loses a match, I have enough fun while playing said match that I still want to stick around and play a few more. That is something I never see anymore, now that multiplayer videogames are all almost entirely up their own behinds with super serious competitive nonsense.

While seeing how fun Battlefield can be when it’s functional had me interested in seeing what BF: Hardline was all about, the promotional beta they put out during E3 had me sort of reeling in the other direction.
Of course one map and two gametypes can’t speak for what that game will be in its final form, but the map and gametypes they provided in the beta were terrible in comparison to the sorts of maps and gametypes you can find in BF4. The map is small and cluttered, and the gametypes I thought were rather unengaging.
People seem to be pretty outspoken about how similar Hardline’s multiplayer feels to Battlefield 4, and that the game could probably could have been sold as an expansion pack rather than a full priced product, but from what I gather from the videos which have been shown about the game, a big focus is on the single player Campaign this time, so I can sort of understand if the multiplayer is a sort of copy/paste job to save time and resources for the thing that the developers (Visceral Games for some reason?) feel is important.

 

Also during the week of E3, Bungie put out an Alpha (which didn’t feel like an Alpha at all) for Destiny, and since the Alpha was rather light by terms of content (lvls 3-8 which can be played through in an hour or two), there isn’t much to say about it other than “It seems very well made”. While the BF:Hardline beta had me less interested in the full game after having played it, the Destiny Alpha has me rather pumped to see how that game turns out. It doesn’t do anything that has never been done before, and the visuals (since the game is cross-gen) feel held back compared to some of the other stuff out there, but it does everything that it tries to do successfully, and that made me want to keep playing it, even if there was little left to do.
(Joseph Staten still doesn’t know when to end sentences of dialogue.)
It has been a busy, busy month for me. I had thought of skipping this month’s v.g. monthly, but I’d have felt crummy about it afterwards if I hadn’t put up at least something.
Hopefully it didn’t feel disjointed or forced out.
That’s all from me. See you guys and gals in the anime monthly!
じゃな。

 

From → Games

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  1. Spitz’s Year End Wrap Up 2014 | Spitz's Soapbox

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