VIDEO GAMES! I've been playing them. And by them, I mostly mean Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. I did manage to get some time with Dust 514 in (enough at least to say everything I want to say about it), and I started playing Alan Wake today (it's on sale, go buy it if you haven't). But I haven't beaten it yet, so I shan't speak of that yet.
But I have spent a lot of time with Ni No Kuni. About 52 hours. And in those 52 hours I beat the game, though I didn't finish all of the side quests. I might go back and do that, but I'm not sure.
If you know nothing about Ni No Kuni, then here's my silly attempt to describe it in one sentence. It's basically Pokemon, except with more magic, occasional voice acting, rude Welsh-talking fairies, and an art style done up to look like Studio Ghibli (those guys who make anime movies that aren't ANIME anime like something like DBZ (which means I've never actually seen any of their movies, because I only like anime for the crazy)).
Remind me to never do that again. Or to always do that. Either way, it was refreshing to play a game that is, is many ways, really old fashioned. I mean, most games these days are short and mad-linear. And even RPGs these days are way more streamlined and modern than Ni No Kuni is. Like Skyrim. You can fast travel right off the bat in that game.
Not so in Ni No Kuni. I had to EARN the right to fast travel I had to play that game for hours and hours to get something that would be a basic thing in most games today. And it's totally understandable WHY fast travel is a basic thing in most games these days. It's because people these days are impatient. They don't want to have to work toward things, or wait for stuff. Why walk across this virtual world when you can just teleport across? Why spend time working toward something when the game can just give it to you? Why wait until you get home to check the internet when you can just walk around like an idiot with your face in a phone the entire time?
Okay, I got a little off topic there. But the point I was trying to make is that Ni No Kuni is a rewarding game in a lot of ways. It makes you work toward your rewards, and when you finally get them, it feels great. When I got the ability to fast travel, it felt like a fantastic reward that I had earned. When I acquired my own wyvern (or dragon, as the game incorrectly calls it) and was able to fly freely around the world, it was amazing. The thrill of soaring through the air was way more thrilling than it really should have been given the rather lackluster way that the game presents said flying around the world (it's the same overworld thing as when you're walking around on the ground).
This is a much better vision of wyvern flying than what you normally see in the game.
Conversely, I really like the look of that wyvern. And really most of the game. Or at least all the characters/monsters. For whatever reason, all of those things are cell-shaded and done up to look like the aforementioned Studio Ghibli stuff (there are even a handful of fully animated 2D cut-scenes), but the environments aren't. Someone in a forum somewhere said that's what the Studio Ghibli thing is, to have characters that "pop out" from the world around them. My counter argument is that instead it makes the world around the characters look bland and boring, and I think it'd be a way better looking game if it was all cell-shaded.
But whatever, the stuff that is cell-shaded looks fantastic, and I wish that more games would be cell-shaded these days. Cell-shaded stuff used to look real blocky and kinda cruddy back in the day (well, everything did, I guess). But I think now we've gotten to the point where it can really look incredible if the time and attention to detail is put into it, like this game.
And there was definitely a lot of craft put into it, given the hundreds of different monsters in this game. Like I said earlier, this game is basically Pokemon, only less consistent about when you can try to catch them (which was rather irksome a few times). Instead of always being able to throw Poke Balls at the enemies once you've hurt 'em up good, here you have to defeat one and hope that the game decides that you can catch it. At least from that point you WILL catch it if you want it, so that's nice.
After you catch a new monster (well, I guess I should be calling them familiars like the game does, but I never really liked that term in that use) the game forces you to name it, unlike Pokemon where I never named a single one of my Pokemon. But Ni No Kuni gives you suggestions for the names, and they're almost always brilliant. Out of all the ones that I saw though, I think Dinomight and Tyke Myson were my favorites. I'm not joking, Tyke Myson is a suggested name for the Tyke type monsters in the game. It cracked me up every time.
As always, it doesn't take long for the pictures I embed to get way off topic.
But having all sorts of monsters at your disposal wouldn't be anything great if the combat was lousy. But I'm happy to say it's pretty fun. Not perfect. I do wish that I could still retain control over character movement after issuing the "attack" command, rather than watching the character's often not great pathing get it stuck behind a different enemy, or a team mate. But aside from that, I enjoyed the combat, and thought it provided enough of a challenge, but not too much.
The story is pretty good too. I know it starts off cliched (BOY WHO WILL SAVE THE WORLD), and there's a certain level of cliche that sticks through to the end, but as a "published" author who is working on his second book, let me tell you that writing lengthy stories without falling back on a cliche or two is hard.
But really the thing that helps keep the story afloat for me are the characters. By which I really mean Lord High Lord of the Fairies, Drippy. If you've seen GB's Quick Look of the game, then you know how great he is, both in voice and writing. And while the game isn't fully voiced (by biggest criticism with the game), the writing shines through the lack of voice so that Drippy's lines are always filled with the same Welsh (at least I think it's Welsh) flavour. I only put the U there because I thought it was a funny joke. Or a joke, at least.
Hm... What else should I say about Ni No Kuni? If you're at all interested in RPGs, things that look cute in a goofy way, wyverns, or feeling rewarded for accomplishing things, you should play this game. It's well worth your time, and your money. I know it took me 52 hours, but I know others have beaten it in less (like 40-ish) if you don't have as much time. Still, if you have a PS3 and like RPGs, PLAY THIS GAME!
Drippy is now one of my favorite video game characters of all time. He's truly great.
Oh, and I played Dust 514 too. Not a ton. Couple hours worth, probably. But I had played some of the beta, so I had a bunch of ISK and skill points that had built up (somehow) from that. But of course I had to waste a bunch of skill points by not reading clearly. Oh well.
Okay, now here's my one sentence description of Dust 514. It's like Battlefield, only in space, heavily privatized, and kinda mediocre. There's definitely fun to be had in the game. Blowing up enemy tanks is fun, and the vehicle physics are just crazy enough to allow for some stupidity. But while I love how huge some of the maps are, I also feels like there aren't enough people on the maps because the player limit is too low (32, I think (that's total, it's 16 vs. 16)).
I also really like that aside from the standard gear, you have to buy everything, and keep stocked in everything. Sure, it's a money sink, but I think it fits in with the EVE vibe perfectly, and I think it's funny that you could spend all sorts of money on something and then lose it all because you died too much. I think it's less funny that you could spend all sorts of REAL money on that, but whatever. That's the price you pay for having the game be free.
I did join the GB community Corp, Kite Co. Couriers. I recommend joining if you think about playing the game. Why? I dunno, why not?
I'll probably play some more at some point, but probably not in the next couple of days. I still have Alan Wake to beat, and my copy of BioShock Infinite arrived today (it has a fully color manual!). My copy of REVENGEANCE should arrive soon, largely because I canceled that previous order, and then reordered it from Amazon proper. I just couldn't wait anymore when I was able to order a different game and have it arrive before I even heard if the first game was in stock from that seller.
Or in other words, my advice is that if you're buying something on Amazon, you're probably better off paying a slightly higher price and buying it from Amazon itself, rather than some other company on the Amazon website. I'm sure that works fine most of the time, but in this case, not so much.
This is a much better game with Dust in the title. I think it's supposed to go on Steam soon. If you didn't play it on 360 because you don't have one (cough, @cjduke, cough), you should play it there.
That's about it for interesting stuff going on in my life. I saw Star Trek Into Darkness, and liked it a lot. While I agree that the movie isn't very Star Trek-y, I disagree with the notion that it isn't Star Trek at all (which I know Ryan Davis said on this week's Bombcast, I think in reference to both JJ Abrams Star Trek films).
When I think of Star Trek, specifically for The Original Series, the first thing that comes to mind are the characters. And this is because everything else about the show has aged horribly. The special effects are laughable, the "science" is suspect at best, and a lot of the plots are really corny (and probably were back then too). But the characters stand the test of time. Watching Kirk, Spock, and Bones go back and forth after a mission is still immensely enjoyable to this day.
I think the new Star Trek films nail that perfectly. Especially Karl Urban as Bones. He channels Deforest Kelley so perfectly that I swear he must have eaten Deforest Kelley's ghost to gain his power, or something along those lines. He just nails it EVERY SINGLE TIME!
Also, rest in peace, Deforest Kelley.
Oh, and I decided to start linking to my book in all my blogs. Feel free to stop me, mods, if this is considered advertising. It's only a dollar, or the equivalent for your region of choice.
Speaking of which, here's Luigi.
It had been a while since I used a picture of Luigi from something resembling a video game, rather than an actor portraying him. Speaking of which, I watched the Super Mario Bros. movie the other day. On VHS. I can't call that movie good, but it makes me laugh every time I see it. I think it's hilarious.