By dankempster 6 Comments
It's been a little while, hasn't it?
I haven't had much of a presence on Giant Bomb over the last couple of months. I've been incredibly busy with real-life stuff, most of it work-related. Those of you who've been following me for a while will be aware that I work at a doctors' practice, dispensing prescription drugs to patients, and to that end I've been devoting a significant proportion of my free time since December studying a course specific to the field. I finally reached the end of that course over the Easter weekend, meaning that assuming I've managed to pass all the assignments, I'm about to become a fully-qualified dispenser. It also means that a whole ton of free time has opened back up to me, freeing me up to return to the Giant Bomb blogosphere on what will hopefully be a more frequent basis.
That's not to say I haven't been playing video games in the down-time. I've just had to adjust my usual gaming habits somewhat to fit it in around all the reading and assignments I've had to do these past five months or so. My go-to game for breaking up my pretty intense study sessions through the 'crunch period' over the last month or so has been Monster Hunter Freedom Unite on my PSP. I've owned the game for about five years and tentatively dipped my toes in its deep waters once or twice, but never properly taken the plunge for fear of never resurfacing. The release of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and the coverage it got on the site prompted me to finally take a serious stab at playing the game, and once I got past the steep initial learning curve, I found a lot to like in the game. The fact each hunt typically took me between fifteen and thirty minutes, including preparation, made it a perfect game to fit into my study breaks. I decided to finish with the game after beating the Tigrex, since achieving that feels like a logical end-point for the single-player "story" (insofar as the game has one). I've since invested in a copy of MH4U and a New 3DS to play it on, and I'm hoping to get cracking on that some time soon (more on that shortly).
When I've managed to sit down in front of a larger screen, usually late in the evenings, I've been working my way through a couple of other games. I beat Alpha Protocol back in late February/early March, and found it to be a pretty polarising experience. I really liked the concept's fusion of spy thriller fiction with some traditional RPG elements, which made for a 'James Bond-meets-Mass Effect' feel that kept me gripped right the way through its surprisingly short campaign. I appreciated the implementation of the moral choice stuff as well, although I wasn't quite as blown away by it as others seem to have been - maybe you need to invest in multiple playthroughs to get a proper feel for just how much that stuff can branch? I went from enjoying the combat in the game's opening stages to really hating it by the end - the shooting was serviceable and the combat skills I went with were both helpful and fun to use, but the late-game stages feature some really bullet-spongy bosses that are no fun to fight. I specced my Agent Thorton heavily into assault rifles and combat durability, but I still had a lot of trouble with combat situations in the game's back end, and found myself longing for some potential diplomatic alternatives to getting shot up over and over again. I'm glad I played it, although I'm not sure I'd want to do so a second time. If nothing else, it's got me interested in revisiting the Mass Effect series in the near future.
More recently I played through Telltale's The Wolf Among Us, a Steam gift from Giant Bomb moderator and all round awesome duder @Sparky_Buzzsaw. Man, what a fantastic experience that was. I played through the game over five nights at a rate of an episode a night, and each night I had to force myself not to jump straight into the next episode. It ticks a lot of the same boxes that its spiritual predecessor, The Walking Dead, did for me, throwing a cast of incredibly well-written characters into an interesting scenario and putting the player in the shoes of someone whose moral choices influence future events, but never explicitly dictate them. Although I'd never read any of the Fables comics on which the game is based, I found the characters instantly likeable and relatable, particularly the protagonist Bigby Wolf. It's certainly not heavy on action (I think it features even less actual gameplay than what I can remember of The Walking Dead), but as an interactive narrative it easily ranks on a par with Telltale's previous project. It's got me hoping for a second season, and itching to finally get stuck into The Walking Dead: Season Two.
The fourth and final game that's been keeping me occupied of late is Kingdom Hearts, specifically the Final Mix version of the game included in the HD 1.5 ReMIX collection on PS3. I've long been a fan of the original Kingdom Hearts, but have never really became invested in the franchise as a whole due to its myriad spin-offs, impenetrable overarching plot and constant platform-hopping. The recent release of the two HD ReMIX collections has served to finally make the bulk of the series' labyrinthine storyline available on a single machine, and that prospect has been enough to draw me back in to give the wider Kingdom Hearts universe another chance. This HD remaster of the original game is still as charming as it was back in 2002, and the mechanical improvements such as right stick camera control and implementation of the Reaction Command system make it a much more comfortable game to play by modern standards. I put just over fifty hours into a pretty comprehensive playthrough back in January and February, and thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with it. The next stop on my Kingdom Hearts journey is Re:Chain of Memories, the 3D remake of 2004's Game Boy Advance release Chain of Memories. It's a pretty weird stylistic shift due to its card-based combat system, but I'm having fun with it so far.
So now that I'm back and able to commit to a more regular blogging schedule once again, I've been thinking about ways to breathe new life into this dusty, neglected blog archive. In years gone by I used to have a bit of a reputation for serial blogging, off the back of projects such as last year's Pokémon FireRed Nuzlocke Challenge (a let's play of the Pokémon Red remake using nicknames, capture limitations and permadeath to create an emergent narrative based on the playthrough), 2013's Metal Gear
May Madness (a Metal Gear series retrospective, initially conceived as a ridiculous attempt to play through the entire franchise in a month), 2012's A Month in Skyrim (a thirty-day creative writing project inspired by my time playing the most recent Elder Scrolls game), and my 'blognum opus' Enduring Final Fantasy VII (a four-year project which forced me to look back on my favourite Final Fantasy game through more critical eyes to determine if it's still worth playing all these years later). With all of that in my back catalogue, a brand new series seems like the most logical way to come back to this blog. I've been toying with possible ideas and have narrowed it down to the following ideas. I should probably stress that none of these working titles are set in stone. Here goes:
- - I'm keen to get into Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and the series' world and gameplay systems seem pretty well geared towards creating an emergent narrative. I guess this series would be somewhere between A Month in Skyrim and Enduring FFVII in terms of style, combining a creative interpretation of my progress through the game with a more analytical look at the myriad gameplay systems holding it together.
- - I own a lot of JRPGs that I've never finished, or even played in some cases. A quick look at my Pile of Shame reveals titles including Wild Arms, Grandia, Suikoden, Dragon Quest VIII, Unlimited SaGa, Blue Dragon, Ni no Kuni, Tactics Ogre - the list is seemingly endless. A new Enduring... series would be a pretty neat incentive to get stuck into one of these games and see what makes it tick, with the added benefit of none of my opinions being clouded by nostalgia.
- - As I said above, I've recently set out on a quest to play through every main series Kingdom Hearts game. It's a journey that's set to take place over seven different titles across two distinct platforms, and will almost certainly take a long-ass time. Documenting that quest in a similar fashion to the Metal Gear Madness challenge could be pretty interesting, although by its nature it would mean pretty infrequent updates.
If any of the above options sounds like something you'd be interested in reading (or conversely, if one of those proposals sounds like the worst thing ever to you), please shout about it in the comments below. I write these things as much for you guys as I do for myself, and I'm keen to know what you most want to see coming out of this space now that I have time to devote to it again.
So there you have it - a pretty comprehensive update on what I've been doing, what I've been playing, and what I'm thinking of bringing to this blog in the near future. Boy, it's good to be back without the weight of a millstone around my neck. Anyways, I think I've rambled on for long enough at this point. Thanks very much for reading guys, and I'll see you around.
Currently playing - Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories (PS3)