Breaking the Backlog: Update

As I said in my last article which you can read here, I have been playing some other games that I feel either do not really warrant a full write up or I simply do not want to give them one. Some of the games on here will get a full write up, and I am going to make a quip about that in the paragraph. So what other games have I been playing you ask? Well if you read on you will find out and find out a little of what I think about them. Then at the end I am going to talk about actual blog stuff, such as a small direction change that I will be making to better accommodate the reader and keep things a lot more interesting.

Game 1: Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

I am going to be truthful, before purchasing this game I had never played a Monster Hunter game. Not only had I not played any of the games I did not even know they existed until the Monster Hunter Tri came out on the Wii. Even then while I always said that I would get it alas it never happened. Now I have the game, on the 3DS (I got this game on WiiU after the writing of this article and it fixes almost every problem!) and I must say that I really missed the boat. This is a game that whatever you put in is what you will get out and I have had a really good time with it. Being on the 3DS it does come with a loss of graphical fidelity (it still looks really nice) and control problems. The camera is good most of the time but during undersea battles the game can get really hectic. The game is good overall, with some minor annoyances in terms of random difficulty spikes, but all in all it is a good game that would probably be better enjoyed with two thumbsticks. I would still recommend it to anyone out there that has not touched the series and wants to see what all the hype is about.

Game 2: The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages

I love the Zelda series, and the handheld Zelda games have always been some of my favorites (Links Awakening in particular). When this game and its brother (Oracle of Seasons) came out on the eShop I knew it was time to give them a shot. I decided to start with Ages and then play Seasons afterwards and while it is a good Zelda game I must say it is far from the best. The game has some puzzles that are really hard and come out of nowhere. The game also has some really cryptic things in it as well that while it is not all that strange for this series feel a bit out of place for how the rest of the game kind of holds your hand. Even with all of that it is a fun Zelda game and the time switching mechanics make for a pretty unique handheld Zelda installment. If you have a 3DS and have nothing else to play at the moment. I would recommend picking this title up.

Game 3: Hotline Miami (expect full write up)

… Holy shit. I got this from a friend on Steam for free, knew what it was, did not know how it really was. That is all I have to say about this one, expect a PROPER write up on this one.

Game 4: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (full write up planned)

This is a game that I seriously have no idea why I ever beat. I beat Twilight Princess about four times, when this game I have yet to get through once. While the front portion of the game is awful, especially after playing through it a few times do to machine difficulty, the rest of the game I have really enjoyed. I am currently going through the Water Temple on the way to the first of the three flames, I have gotten past this point before but honestly do not remember how far I got in the past. Even for all the stumbles that it had at the front the game is one of my favorites, and with my new TV it looks damn amazing, with the entire world looking like a watercolor painting. With this being my wind down game every night and playing at least two hours of it a day, this one should be done in the not so distant future.

BLOG NOTICE: While there is more games that I have played in the past while, and some that I have beaten, the games are not the true reason I wrote this blog update. I wrote this update to outline some of the changes that I am going to be making to how these blogs are written. If you have read either of the first two blogs in the series you will see that it was essentially a review of the game. While I think/thought this was a good idea it has came to my attention that these games are old and a lot of people already have them. Really there is no reason for me to do this kind of behavior. I decided to really make this blog a bit more personal and really share what each game means to me. Quality will no longer be the main point of the write-ups instead it will now be how this game has moved or affected me or anything/one else. You can think of these as less of reviews and more like articles/editorials on the games. When we get down to it no one REALLY likes reviews. I hope you like the changes and the first game that is for certain getting this treatment will be Hotline Miami.

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Breaking the Backlog 2: Arkham City

After a very long hiatius from this blog and GiantBomb.com I am here again to tell you what game I played through and my experience with it. This time I will be covering the best Batman game I have ever played: Batman: Arkham City.

"How can this be good for the people of Gotham?"

Batman: Arkham City is a game that comes directly after Batman: Arkham Asylum. The story this go around is that part of Gotham is blocked off to become a super prison of sorts, and Bruce Wayne does not like it. He goes to a press conference to speak his mind, and is dutifully kidnapped by Hugo Strange who runs the prison. This starts the tutorial section of the game, and really I do not want to tell you more of the story from there. I think that the story of this game, while not exceptional by any means, is much better experienced than told in any way. The one thing I will say is that Arkham City is full of many fan favorite villains, and you will see many familiar faces. Other than that you should experience who all is in Arkham City for yourself.

Completionist best dream

Arkham City plays almost the exact same as Arkham Asylum, for those of you who have never experienced either I will try and explain the style of play. Where Arkham Asylum was a confined area, Arkham City is precisely what it says it is, a city. When you are not inside of a building or underground you can “glide” around the city to your hearts content. The game is an open world experience, except that Arkham City is not as massive as some other open world games. Though what it does like in pure size it makes up for in the urge of exploration. Nearly every nook and cranny of Arkham has some sort of collectible to be found. I think it would be safe to say that when you start the game there is a collectable within a 30 foot radius at all time. Most of these collectibles unlock art, or “Riddler Challenges” which are essentially challenge rooms to try and do your best in, in other words they are optional objectives. The game as a whole is very much a Metroid-Vania game, with a dash of Zelda for good measure. You go from “dungeon” to “dungeon” collecting different gadgets so you can go to a different place that was unavailable before obtaining a certain item. I got the Zelda vibe from different objectives that I would call side quests. There are villains, Bane being one of them, that you may never even meet if you do not do a little exploring and side questing. These people usually do not give you much in the way of gadgets (I can’t recall if any of them even give anything other than experience points) but the experience is worth it.

Happy to see this guy

The combat and bosses in the game are where I had the most fun. The combat is brutal hand to hand most of the time, and is some of the most satisfying combat I have played in a game. I played the game on the normal difficulty and some of the battles on the streets can be a real challenge, especially against gunned foes who can take Batman out with even greater speed. This is where the depth of the game comes in, you don’t need to take these guys head on, you can do as you please. Most of the battles in the open environment I chose to be stealthy. I would dive bomb from the skies and take out three guys on a roof and then jump to the next group feeling like Batman the entire time. Some battles I would barely make it out of and with those I felt more accomplished. The bosses are a high point of the game as well. This is where the real creativity shines through. From the visual design, level design, to how they are defeated these are without a doubt the most interesting parts of the game. While some of them were a bit too easy it was nice to get your Bat-Ass handed to you sometime and watch them come out from a black screen to mock you. This feature alone made me really start to dislike the villains, every time you reach a game over screen the villain who is your primary objective mocks you, for something so simple it does a lot.

I played this on the WiiU and the game does look really good. Everything and everyone looks like they should. I could feel the snow in Gotham as well, everywhere looked cold and uncomfortable and created a great sense of atmosphere. I never experienced slow-down of any type even when there was some absolutely giant brawls going on screen. The game did have some muddy textures and slight pop-in but it was never anything that really detracted from the experience. Especially when you could look at the breathtaking sight of the city, and how crumbled and destroyed it is. The game while being dark is never afraid of color. Signs are lit up all different colors, none of the enemies just wear gray, black or brown, and the inside of every building has a full palette of color, good to see in a “dark” game. There is but one “major” problem with the game that is really just a personal problem.

Why don't I like you?

Catwoman. There is nothing wrong with how she looks, or is as a character, just I did not like the segments where she was required, aside from one that if I told you would be spoilers. I am not sure why she is really even in the game, aside from a few alright segments she does not add anything new. Not to mention I forgot about her so much mid-game that I did not level her up at all giving all the level ups to Batman leaving her with a late game boss to beat and zero upgrades to boot. She is just a strikingly different character to play as, and this random change leaded to a jarring change in pace. While post-game I think she is significantly better outside of her missions, it does not change the fact that during the actual game she feels more tacked on and less of an actual part of the Arkham City experience.

Batman: Arkham City is a game that every Batman fan should play. Not only is it a fantastic Batman game, but it stands on its own two feet as a fantastic game in it’s own right. A mix of the challenge, and being able to tackle most objectives however you please as well as the insane amount of fanservice take this game above what I thought it would be. Not to mention the amount of playability and replayability is high with a new game plus and tons of extras to collect, this is a game that is one of my new favorites and highly worth your time.

Rating: Buy It

BLOG NOTE: I will have another write up coming pretty soon that will be a quick little summary of games that I have played and either don’t think they deserve a full write up, or do not want to write a full post just for them. After that I will have another full post as the one seen above. Hope you like it! And feel free to comment (good or bad).

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Breaking the Backlog 1: Paper Mario Sticker Star

Paper Mario Sticker Star Thoughts/Review

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a Paper Mario veteran at all. I never really saw a need to play Paper Mario, to me it always looked like Super Mario RPG but with paper. I loved the Mario Brothers RPG line of games but even after playing a bit of Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door I still was not convinced that the game was worthy of my time. Years go by I bought Super Paper Mario for the Wii and ended up really liking it. The RPG systems were not the best, but the humor the game brought forward, mixed with the strange story instantly got me hooked. I rushed through the game and waited patiently for a new Paper Mario experience. Finally after five years I picked up the new entry, for my starving 3DS and promptly never played it. Now, I went through and played it all, but you are probably wondering: what do I think about it? (FYI: I will be referencing back to Super Paper Mario some purely because it is the only other Paper Mario game I have played)

*FULL SPOILERS FROM HERE DOWN*

Story

Please be quiet Kersti...

Ultimately the story is pretty forgettable. Bowser comes and takes Princess Peach and blah blah you chase him and whatever. I am not a person that cannot stand Mario Games because of this approach but compared to Super Paper Mario this story line does not compete. There is a redeeming quality to the story and that is the writing. Some of the lines in this game had me actually laughing out loud and that sort of thing rarely happens for me. The Sniffit guy who runs the game show had me laughing the hardest in particular especially after you finish the game show and he talks to you to get a special “thing” (more on that later.) The characters are each really well done and the entire game is pretty humorous. Even a Toad that you will only talk to once can really start to grow on you. The game also has a lot of that “Pixar Humor”, in essence there is a lot of borderline inappropriate jokes that children probably won’t catch but an older audience definitely will. These touches make the story progress forward, even though the story itself is nothing to write home about whatsoever. The story does introduce a character that I have to mention purely because she is the most detrimental while somehow remaining necessary character. Kersti. She is annoying, not Navi annoying but she does get progressively worse at butting in at the worst places. She is required for about half the games puzzles (more than that honestly) and this makes her necessary to have around and talking all the time. She is supposed to help you when you get stuck but she seems to be the most helpful whenever you do not need her at all. To make things worse her writing is not particularly special or humorous, and she seems to be there just for a companion character. The writing is excellent but overall the story is nothing at all.

Sound

This is where the games greatest strengths lie, the sound design in this game is absolutely superb. The game soundtrack has a jazzy feel that makes the entire game feel kinda groovy. Seriously this is one of the best parts of the game, and kept me playing through the levels just to see what the music was going to be next. It seems like almost every single level in the game has a different track to go along with it. The music is also dynamic, not in sound but in the way it acts. If you are running low on health in a battle the music will change to the “low health” version of whatever song is being played, this is a nice touch that make the battles seem a little bit more important than they really are. Overall the score is very good at making you immersed in where you are at, it sounds strange but it makes you feel like you are playing with a action figures as a child (well it did for me with the 3D slider slid all the way to max). The sound design for all the hammers, jumps, pipes and the like sound as good as they ever have and never get repetitive even though you hear them often. When you beat a level and grab a star that sound effect I enjoy every time, and it makes you feel accomplished. The Toads “talking” sounds good as well, and all the enemies make you smile as they sound not threatening at all.

Graphics

I love the graphics in this game. The entire game looks like a diorama that is being led by some puppeteer off to the side. This mixed with the 3D slider makes it really look like you are playing with an actual Paper Mario inside an actual box. This feeling of everything actually being paper makes the world feel more believable. Nice touches like the paper burning when using a fireball on them or being crumpled up after a devastating attack. The entire world breathes life from a graphic perspective, and I do recommend playing with the 3D slider all the way up, or until you can see that depth. The game also has some really good distance blur effects. This only happens when Mario tries to take a sticker off the side of something but it still looks amazing and I continually looked towards the distance to see the blur. Each stage also looks completely different from the last one. This makes each place feel unique and significant and drives the game forward.

Gameplay

Battle System

This is where the game is either made or broken for you. The battle system of every single Paper Mario game (to my knowledge) is thrown out the window. The game has a turn based style of play but the way attacks are handled is entirely different from anything I have ever seen. You fight with stickers that you pick up off the ground. You have a book that can only hold a certain amount of stickers inside of it, you continue to expand this book, and the type of stickers you find as you progress. Each time you use a sticker it is gone forever never to return unless you find one just like it. This leads to a strange way of tackling battles as you want to conserve your best stickers while also you do not want to take to much damage in the battles. This leads to you wanting to avoid almost all the battles that you encounter, and if you are like me by the end of the game you will avoid by all means necessary and run from many battles. There are also “things” (literally they are called that) you will pick up around the world that function as a way of solving puzzles as well as a strong attack in battles if you choose so. The things have to be made into stickers before using them, which means you have to head to a “Paperization” station. This idea of Paperization goes on through the entire game, and Kersti does helps Mario Paperize to solve almost all of the games puzzles. The game is a lot more puzzle heavy than Super Paper Mario but ultimately I did not mind. Most of the puzzles fall into the clever pile, while some fall into the broken logic pile. These “broken” puzzles can lead to being stumped for long enough for the game to stop being fun, and ultimately these brought the experience down. The battles are all fairly easy as well, until the end. This Bowser is one the hardest Bowser I have faced in a Mario game. The battle rages on for what seems like eternity and he uses plenty of unfair moves, he was not hard in a challenging way but a cheap way that almost felt like padding.

Quick Summary

While Paper Mario Sticker Star can be praised for trying new things it is not my particular cup of tea. The game does a lot of things new, but this does not particularly mean that these things are special or memorable. The gameplay is the biggest offender of making the game something that is less than stellar, with some levels being cheap with puzzles or combat, and others being far too easy. Still with some amazing graphics mixed with some really cool music, it might just be worth it for those who are really committed.

Sorry if this got a little too long, any feedback is highly appreciated! The next game I will be marking off of my backlog is Batman:Arkham City: Armored Edition, the “thoughts/review” will hopefully be out by next Saturday, until then thanks for reading!

PS: Paper Mario Sticker Star Soundtrack

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Breaking the Backlog: The Beginning

Breaking the Backlog: The Beginning

Not my actual game Collection

So recently I was looking for one of my “old games” (Paper Mario: Sticker Star) and I realized something, I have a LOT of games. I know that you guys probably have a lot of games too, but there are games I have never even played let alone seen in this pile of junk. There are even games that I loved that got thrown off to the side at some point and never picked up again, I decided to do something about it. This mixed with a forum post I saw about Backlog Issues, spurred me to try and get the amount of games that I have not beaten in my backlog to zero. Even if the game sucks entirely I will not stop till I see every end screen, of every single game that I own. Now if there is no win state, I will play the game until I have a decent understanding of what the game is and if I like it or not. Before any of that is going to get done, I decided to do something that will make the entire process easier. I decided to list of the things I would need to do before even thinking about playing a game on the list.

Step 1: Making A Catalog

After this idea struck me I thought how would one even go about tracking their progress. I mean I know about this place, and others like it. But I decided that is not good enough, I needed something that I could easily sort through and look through at a moments notice. I decided on an Excel graph, (well the Google equivalent: “spreadsheet”) and then started filling things in. I am not finished with the graph as of yet, but from the looks of it the numbers are going to reach at least a hundred, and if I really wanted to count EVERYTHING then it would be more. Getting the game name was not enough for me, I recorded the console it was on, if I had beaten it, if I had completed it (I am proud of games I complete OK?), if I have even played the game, and finally other random notes off to the side if needed. On this graph I sort it by games I have not beaten first, because many of the games I have not played I can not play due to technical requirements.

Step 2: Choosing a Game

This step might seem like almost an oversight to begin with. You just choose a game and play it right? Well I thought about taking it that way but I decided to choose a game that I should have finished a long time ago. I looked at all the games where I either started it, and it somehow got thrown over to the side. Or the games that I got as close as humanly possible to beating but then did not go all the way. I thought about Skyward Sword, but realized that it would be too long of an endeavor for the first game. I then thought about Metroid Other M, I decided that the amount of bad press that the game has got was probably warranted in some way. I then thought of letting the forums decide what game I should play, but with little known about me, and nothing to prove that I would write something cool about the game, I decided on a game that I could take anywhere, and play anytime and is long overdue for a good beating. Paper Mario: Sticker Star. I got this game around when it came out, and I still only have five hours in it. This week it is going to change.

Step 4: Playing the Game

Self explanatory, I have to sit down and actually get all the way through this game.

Step 5: Formatting

While I was playing the game I thought to myself, “How am I going to make this interesting, or present this?” Then I came up with the brilliant idea. I’ll make it a weekly blog series! That is nice and dandy, but how will each week go? I thought about finishing a game a week, I have more or less shied away from this idea because I have some LONG games on this list that I have to beat. Beating Xenoblade in a week? In the summer, maybe, but for now I will just get as far as possible each week until the game is completed. I also decided that I would do a write up and check in on how the game is going every Saturday or Sunday. Once a game is completed I will do a write up on it in place of the normal “check-up”. I also can not buy any more than one game a month until I get this backlog problem fixed. This should keep me on track and hopefully save me some money.

Step 6: Execution

Now, I just have to beat these games! If people actually read this, (hopefully they will) I will have votes on what game I should play next. I will continue to do this as long as necessary/ I have time to do it. If some weeks are slow I might write a more off topic blog simply to fill time because I was too busy playing the game. Hopefully I am interesting enough in what I say about the games to keep people reading. So the question is... are you ready to Break the Backlog?

PS - This is my first attempt at any kind of blog or series thing so please be nice.

PSS- This will count as my normal Saturday/Sunday post

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