In the mail this week - which should I play through first?

The Wii is nearing its replacement, but there are so many great games to play, some still coming out and many in the back catalogue. These are the 4 that landed from Hong Kong and London this week:

Being a Wii owner is a good thing today, so many great and cheap games available to indulge in. I saw 3 older games cheap and I snapped them up. The other is new and a must play for any JRPG fan. Only trouble is, what should occupy my time first? So tell me, who has played these and what did you think of them?

I have already given Fragile Dreams a bit of a run and I am sold. It is a beautiful game and so far, a lot of fun. The Last Story calls out to me most, but Silent Hill also tempts me. I figure I will like Sin & Punishement less than the others. I should try to complete one before Pandora's Tower arrives as I will distracted yet again.

3 Comments

Welcome to a world of digital.

I am going to indulge in living in the past here, so get ready for your Luddite barbs.

A world without physical objects is a world devoid of soul.

Unlike some eastern religions and philosophies, I don't believe we are better when we rid ourselves of all worldly possessions. I believe some of those possessions define us and make us what we want to be. The photo above is an art piece I spent some time pondering over last year. I don't remember what it is called. What struck me was what it meant, without asking the artist. I like art to mean something to the individual. In this case we are confronted with a library of blank books.

What does this mean? My friend had a differing view to me. She felt it represented the modern age of digital and the death of the book and library. For purposes of this blog, books and games mean the same thing (to me). I, on the other hand, took a view that it was meant to be us, our minds. We start with nothing and now we spend a lifetime filling it.

Either way, this brings me to why I believe in the physical object. When we go digtal, this is what we have - an empty room. We have nothing to show for what we find important in our lives. I have a large library of games, over 1100. I also have a large library of books. I also have a large collection of vinyl records. I don't play all of them, I don't read all of them and I don't listen to all of them. Hell, I have Tolstoy in Russian and I can't read Russian. I like to feel, I like to smell. I like to immerse myself in what I do. I am a collector.

When we go digital, we lose a part of ourselves, a part of who we are. Sure, digital is convenient. Sometimes it is cheaper. It is better for the environment. But it is cold and sterile. It also puts people out of work. It is a completely unhuman way to live. It keeps you in your home and it avoids human contact and interaction. It is not the future I want to see.

I may be living in a quaint world and be out of touch, but it is what I want and I fear for the future many of you are racing enthusiastically towards. Support retail games. Support paper books. Support vinyl records. You will be a better you for it.

Go easy on me, clearly I live in the past. Come and join me. I am the Contrarian.

60 Comments

Demodulate: From demo to purchase - Mass Effect 3.

Demodulate: From demo to purchase - Mass Effect 3.

I, like many, have a fairly narrow range of games I really enjoy and purchasing them is generally a no-brainer - no review or demo necessary for a sale. I tend to, like many geeks, keep a list of games worth buying, so when I am out and about, I can refer to what price I am willing to pay. The list is ranked by: A- 80% of full price, B - 60%, C - 40% and D 20%. There is an E of 5-10% just to try something really off my radar.

Where demos come into this is that they allow me to look at games and give me more insight into how much I am willing to pay. So this is my series of looking at demos and essentially, reviewing them. The title Demodulate will be the name of the series because it works for me, meaning separating a signal from the carrier (in electronics).

I post this so I can fully evolve my thinking about a game, writing will do that, and hoping to get some feedback on games you have played, to further clarify my thoughts on whether I should play the full game or not. It is not an in-depth review, just a short analysis. Thanks for any input.

Mass Effect 3.

I downloaded the demo last night on the 360 and played it today. I do own Mass Effect 1 & 2 and my attempts at playing them failed to continue. I do want to like the games, but I just lost interest early. I love science fiction and that explains why I want to enjoy it. What I remember not liking was the questions/interaction. Even though RPG is my favourite genre, it is JRPG I like, not WRPG. For what was a pretty short demo, the 1.7Gb seemed excessive to download it.

Starting out:

I chose to play it as Action as opposed to Role Playing or Story. What attracted me was that all of the annoying questions mentioned before, were assigned to cutscenes. I chose the female Shepherd as I traditionally do. I played it in HD on a plasma television.

The graphics:

Aesthetically, the game looks sensational, with terrific modern structures. However, the characters are really bordering on ugly. They just didn’t feel organic and the mouth movements were bland. Also, the eyes seem odd to me and the clothes had no give, they were just there. Perhaps my time with Final Fantasy XIII made that seem that way. The running looked odd as well. They certainly aren’t game killers though.

The characters:

This is a real strength area of the game. With a clearly strong voice cast and genuinely interesting characters I am certainly impressed. I think I would enjoy seeing how they are fleshed out.

Sounds:

The soundtrack is a major plus in this demo. It sounded terrific and for whatever reasons, reminded me off a John Carpenter film from the 80s. I could listen to it for very extended periods. The sound effects were excellent and a true aural experience.

Story:

I am coming in from nowhere on this as I haven’t played the first two. The story of the Reapers and the 50,000-year extinction is a good theme and for some reason, reminds me of The Shadow in Babylon 5. I could see how I could get engaged with the story.

Controls:

I don’t do shooting games as such, but I found the shooting here easy enough to manage. I did have real troubles with the whole roll and cover movement aspects though. I notch that up to my incompetence. Whilst it took quite a while to beat the mech at the end, I did make it through pretty easily. I did this without understanding any of the options I may have had playing it.

Score:

Enjoyed it.

Buying intention - Rank C (40% of RRP) at best and I can wait for the inevitable price drop to it in 6-12 months time.

Conclusion:

I can certainly see the attraction of Mass Effect and the quality shines through. In fact, I would like to finish the first two games, but I am pretty crap at the shooting parts of it. Perhaps I will have to use a walkthrough to help me continue with the parts that just make me quit and play something else.

So what can you knowledgeable gamers tell me that I should know? What am I missing out on?

2 Comments

Looking back at my 5 years with the PSP.

The PSP is dead, long live the PSV.

Let's face, the PSP is over. In fact, for most of us in the west, it has over for a long time. Going into a game store locally for the past 2 years has been very reminiscent of the last couple of years of the Gamecube - pathetic. Yet the party was much stronger and still goes on in Japan. For some reason, the Japaneses "got" the PSP and in return, they got a lot of games to choose from. Sadly, so many of those games never saw an English translation, so we missed out. Looking back, how have those years been with my PSPs?

I got 2 free PSPs.

That is how it started for me, I got 2 PSPs and they cost me nothing. They were a bonus work incentive. I certainly wouldn't have purchased them myself back then as they were far too expensive and didn't have the games I wanted to play. All I had to do was find some games to play on them. That was the first problem. I just couldn't find a single game I would pay $30 for, let alone the $70 they were asking. That is where the overall failure to sell aspect of the PSP became an advantage - clearance games. I was finding games for $10 to $25 everywhere, so I picked a few up. Over the years, despite the $70 new game price tag, the most I have paid for a game is $35.

I couldn't love the PSP no matter how hard I tried.

I wanted to love the PSP, but it just wasn't happening. It felt really uncomfortable in my hands and that was just the start. I hated the analogue nub, it was just horrible. The load times nearly drove me insane. The constant updates every time I got a new game. The battery? The time it would last wasn't the problem, the problem was how quickly it drained when I didn't use it. I have a Gameboy that was sitting for 5 years and still had charge. I leave the PSP for a week and it was completely drained. All this just left me cold and playing the DS more.

It was a good MP3 player and displaying photos.

I found most of the time, on trips interstate (I do frequently) that I used it as am MP3 player and to show friends photos. What struck me was how so many people had no idea what I was using. They had never heard of a PSP. Eventually an iPod Touch and then an iPhone made the PSP completely redundant for the functions I was mainly using it for. If I had purchased them for that purpose, it would have been a very poor purchase indeed.

Finally, the games.

I have been pretty harsh on the poor old PSP up until this point, so let's talk about the games. The PSP is oft criticised for not having a decent games catalogue. I think this is unfounded and a touch ignorant. I did a proper count of my PSP games and despite all my criticisms, I have managed to gather 54 games and I am not finished, as I am finding good RPGs cheap to import, so I expect to add at least another 10-15 before it is all over. So what games am I prepared to share my enjoyment of with you?

This is some of the good stuff. In fact, these 10 games (2 Monster Hunter) are reason enough on their own to justify having a PSP. The real standout in this group for me is Jeanne D'Arc. The reason for that is perhaps the surprise element - it was just so damn good. Tales of Eternia was pretty close to the first game I got (it is hard to remember) and it impressed me a lot as a hamdheld game, but it is a port and I will get to that issue soon. I got Monster Hunter Freedom and Freedom Unite after I got Tri for the Wii. Tri sold me on the series and no regrets - can't wait for the the 3DS 3G and 4. I played the hell out of Final Fantasy Tactics on the GBA, so I jumped for some more with War of the Lions. After getting Valkyria Chronicles on the PS3 and loving it, the PSP sequel was a no brainer. Disgaea Afternoon of Darkness is a port of the PS2 game, but along with the DS game, I enjoy the series enough to play any version out there. Valkyrie Profile Lenneth was another easy choice after palying the PS2 game (a different one). Tactics Ogre just screamed at me to play it and now I have downloaded the N64 VC game. Lastly, I have every Kingdom Hearts game so far (PS2, GBA & DS), so it was natural to want Birth By Sleep as well.

Too many average ports and cutdown PS2 games with bad controls.

This plagued the PSP for me. What the DS had going for it was a unique offering, due to the nature of the controls and the lesser graphical power. With the PSP closely matching the PS2, the games on offer were much the same. In fact, they seem cutdown, missing parts. Then there was the controls. Now I am not a fan of the PS controller - I don't like it - but it eats the PSP as a controller. Given a choice of PSP or PS2 of much the same game, I certainly wasn't buying both and rarely choosing the PSP. It was just too tempting for the developers to be lazy. It needed them to dedicate themselves to creating from scratch, a game for the PSP. It happened, but not enough. Then PSP games started getting ported to the PS2. The likes of GTA are examples and I certainly didn't buy them again.

Other games I liked.

The 10 earlier games were the best of the bunch, but amongst the other 44 games, there were some I still liked:

Astonishia Story, Crisi Core: Final Fantasy VII, Everybody's Golf, Everybody's Tennis, Field Commander, Final Fantasy I, Final Fantasy II, Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon. LittleBigPlanet, Locoroco, ModNation Racers, Phantasy Star Portable, Popolocrois, Sid Meier's Pirates.

Then there the games I wanted to like, but didn't:

God of War: Chains of Olympus, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, Key of Heaven, Lord of the Rings: Tactics, Sims 2, Tekken: Dark reurrection, Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade.

Then there are those that had moments, but not enough:

Burnout Legends, Echocrome, Exit, Gran Turismo, MNaruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes, Mytran Wars, Need For Speed Underground Rivals, Pursuit Fore: Extreme Justice, Ridge Racer, Samurai Warriors: State of War, SSX On Tour, Streetfighter: Alpha 3 Max, Test Drive Unlimited, Virtua Tennis World Tour, Wipeout Pure.

If you are counting, there are still more games I have, but not everything needs talking about.

Games still to be added to the library.

I still have my eye on some games that are clearly awesome and now I am seeing under $20 as opposed to $70, so I need to snap them up:

Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley, Breath of Fire 3, Final Fantasy IV Complete, both Final Fantasy Dissidia games. If I finally see the persona games at a good price, I will add thos as well. I am sure there are others I haven't covered, but my search for importing games will uncover them eventually.

Conclusion.

The PSP has been a bumpy ride to say the least. I really don't like the console and it gave me little reason to. However, gaming is all about the games and it delivered more than enough for me to reflect on how much is has been worthwhile. If you bothered reading, thank you.

17 Comments

Fixing review scores & making them useful.

Review scores are a blight on the gaming industry.

Bold statement, straight up, so you know where I stand. Numbers are just an arbitrary way of trying to summarise the fun you had and frankly, they don't work. What is worse is that they are fodder for nerds and fanboys, resulting in mostly internet rage. It is certainly true that some sites give a bad score just to get some attention and improve their traffic, for obvious reasons. On the flipside, there are sites that will give a good score just to avoid contoversy, but that in itself is less of a problem.

Fanboy rage and euphoria.

You see it here as much as anywhere. A Nintendo game gets an average or poor score and off they go, both sides. The game fanboys cry foul and the haters revel in the outrage and fuel it. It happened with Zelda and Mario Kart. It would be simple if people just ignored it, but that is never going to happen. I myself just don't read reviews any more as I find them unreliable. I just read the summary.

The ideal scoring system as I see it.

This isn't new or original, but it is simple. There should only be 3 scoring possibilities:

Positive: I enjoyed the game.

Neutral: I had some fun playing the game.

Negative: I didn't enjoy the game.

That's it. As simple as that. That is all that matters. No comparing scores for bragging rights. The game is either good, okay or bad.

I remember when Gran Turismo 5 came out and people screamed because it was getting an average 84 and that left me thinking, "how is 84 a bad score?" The vast majority of reviews under a simple 3 tier system would have been positive and the internet would have been a calmer place. The same would be said fo many other "controversial" game scores.

This still wouldn't stop the likes of Metacritic averaging out the score, much like Rotten Tomatoes, but it would be a lot simpler and better representative. They already have the 3 systems in place - Positive (Positive), Mixed (Neutral) & Negative (Negative). Just for curiosity sake and using two examples, Dark Souls got an 89 average. Under a simpler system, it would have been a 97 score based on 64 of the 66 reviews being positive. Gran Turismo 5 got an average 84, and would have ended up with 80 an based on 66 of the 82 revies being positive. Keep in mind, if all reviewers in a pefect world just used a 3 scale rating system, a lot of the neutral scores would potentially end up in positive if used in the correct manner - did I enjoy it?

A plea to Giantbomb staff.

You say you are different (at least I think you do), then act different. Break from the pack and employ a simple 3 scale rating system. After all, we only want to know if you enjoyed the game. I am not saying your written reviews would be any different at all, just the score. Anyone agree? Anyone want to tear me apart on this?

48 Comments

Gaming in 2011 cost me $3292 Au, how much did it cost you?

2011 has now officially ended and I can complete my spending on games for the year. As the title states, it cost me $3292 Au. That equates to $274 every month, or $63 a week. Does that sound like a lot? For comparison, in 2010 I spent $2469, so it has gone up a bit, but 2010 contained no consoles, where as in 2011, I added a PS3 and a 3DS to that collection, which is about $600 worth of it.

The balance was made up of 123 games purchased for the year. Does that sound like a lot?

As for the breakdown, the winner for 2012 was the Xbox360, which increased the collection by 27 games. However, the winner when it comes to dollars was the DS, as the 27 Xbox360 came to a mere $417, where the 26 GS games came to $673. Hell, even the Wii with 24 games came to $644. The dollars is entirely reliant on the availability of cheap games and the Xbox360 just had more cheap games to collect.

Full list:

Xbox 360 - 27 games, 18 new, 9 used at $417 = $15 a game.

DS - 26 games, 23 new, 3 used at $673 = $26 a game.

Wii - 24 games, 18 new, 6 used at $644 = $27 a game.

PS3 - 18 games, 13 new, 5 used at $325 = $18 a game.

PC - 10 games, 3 new, 7 used at $109 = $11 a game.

PSP - 9 games, 6 new, 3 used at $104 = $12 a game.

3DS - 3 games, 3 new at $138 = $46 a game.

PS2 - 1 game, used at $1 = $1 a game.

The balance is 2 iPhone, 2 DSiWare and 6 Wii VC.

I tend to buy most of my games later, when the price drops, as I am not into donating money to game companies. A good game today is still a good game in 6 months, a year or 2 later. Some games didn't wait though, like Pokemon Black & White, Solatarobo, Zelda: Skyward Sword, Disgaea 4 & Xenoblade Chronicles. I can't say I have actually played all of the games I picked up, but I will get to it eventually - perhaps.

Predictions for 2012:

I will very likely add the Wii-U, but not the PSV. I will certainly add an extra 3DS, that being an NTSC version for importing games. I will probably add 100 plus games again, but the DS will drop off dramatically, as will the Wii and PSP. Thinking about that, I may struggle to reach 100 and 2012 could be a relatively lean year, as even with a Wii-U purchase, like the 3DS this year, I don't like payong $100 for a game, so I will have very few in the short term. I am not expecting Xbox Fusian to launch next year and there is even less chance of a PS4.

How did your 2011 year look from a gaming cost perspective?

Edit: It helps when you have a good paying job and don't drink alcohol, or any other bad habits ....... you have to spend your money on something right?

56 Comments
  • 16 results
  • 1
  • 2