By dankempster 6 Comments
Crazy to think it's already been two weeks since I last penned one of these, but here I am sketching out a third edition of A Little, More Often - a series of brief blogs intended to get me back into the habit of writing at length. I'll keep this introductory segment short, so I can get on with talking about what really matters - them video games.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
This time last year I decided to revisit Grand Theft Auto III, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of its release. At the time I toyed with the idea of doing the same thing for Vice City and San Andreas in 2012 and 2014 respectively. Now, as the year draws to a close, I've been playing the second in Rockstar North's celebrated open-world triumvirate, and do you know what? It's still a damn awesome game, and one that's aged even better than its older brother.
I'm struggling to put my finger on exactly why that is. Vice City suffers from a lot of the same drawbacks as GTAIII - graphics that are functional rather than fancy, an infuriating lack of third person camera control, and pretty weak gunplay. There must be something else in the package, then, that makes those inconveniences seem trivial. Perhaps it's the inspired locale - a sun-drenched, pastel-shaded re-imagining of 1980s Florida with an astounding amount of attention to detail. Maybe it's the inclusion of a fleshed-out, interesting protagonist in Tommy Vercetti, bolstered by a memorable supporting cast of NPCs. It could be the variety and scope of the game's missions, no two of which ever feel too similar. Most likely it's a combination of all of these things, held together by the game's incredible sense of focus (something that was lacking in San Andreas, I feel). What I do know is that even now, ten years after its initial release, Vice City is still one of the greatest examples of how to do open-world games right. I've sunk sixteen hours into Vice City in just over a week, and I'm currently flitting around the city buying up real estate and completing missions. I anticipate I'll have finished it within the next few days, allowing me to free up some more time to devote to other games.
Seeing all the hubbub around the recent release of FIFA 13 left me itching to play a football game, but unwilling to part with the £45 a brand new instalment of the EA Sports franchise demands every year. My solution to this was to pop into a local second-hand game store and buy a copy of last year's FIFA 12 for a much lower £6. Given that I don't follow real-world kicky-bally, playing with last year's rosters isn't something that I'm going to lose sleep over, so it seemed like a sensible course of action. Overall, I'm having a pretty good time with it. The game options are a little limited if, like me, you're coming into it as an offline single-player, but the gameplay itself is a lot of fun. Everything feels fluid, dynamic and natural, and on the Professional difficulty at least, the pace of play has a nice ebb and flow to it, with games feeling closely matched and poised on a knife-edge. It took me a while to adjust to the new tackling controls, but they're definitely an improvement and make defending just as involving as building an attack. I'm spending most of my time in the Player Career mode, where my Virtual Pro has signed for Exeter City, and I'm sure I'll be playing matches in-and-out until the end of the year.
The JRPG Progress Report
Alongside the two games above, I now have three lengthy Japanese role-playing games on the go. Rather than give each its own header though, I figured it would be more economical to bring them all together under the premise of a progress report. My current main time-sink is Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, the mechanics of which continue to hold me captivated. I've clocked up around thirty hours since starting it about three weeks ago, and covered maybe a third of the game's dedicated story missions. I've started unlocking some of the more interesting jobs now, and while a lot of the coolest abilities are still out of my reach, it's enabling me to craft some pretty cool units already. Because of its handheld nature, the game is also proving to be a great time-filler when I'm on my lunch breaks at work. I anticipate being kept busy by FFTA right up until year's end, so I'll be sure to keep you posted with my progress.
My sister and I are continuing to push through Persona 4 as well, whenever we both have a spare evening to spend inside the TV. What with all my overtime at work and her returning to University this month, things have been a little quieter on that front than before, but we're still steadily pacing our way through the lengthy adventure. If memory serves me, we've just hit the month of July, and are trying to save Rise from inside the TV. The masterful blend of dungeon-crawling and Social-Linking continues to keep me captivated, and my sister seems to be enjoying it a lot too. Hopefully once both our schedules ease off a little, we can up the frequency of our visits to Inaba.
And of course, there's Final Fantasy VII. If you'd like to know how that's going, then why not check out the latest instalment of my Enduring Final Fantasy VII series of blogs? It's a good'un, promise.
That's Yer Lot
I guess that'll do for another edition of A Little, More Often. Before I wrap things up completely, I just want to give some praise to all of those who took part in the Extra Life fundraising yesterday. It's an incredibly worthy cause to support, and your dedication will make a big difference to kids in need. Well done to all of you. I was completely in the dark about the drive until this Wednesday, and by the time I'd learned anything about it, it was a little too late to get involved. The whole thing has inspired me, though, and I'm thinking of attempting something similar to raise money for charity in the near future. Should I decide on anything, I'll be sure to share the details here. In the meantime, thanks very much for reading, and I'll see you around.
Currently playing - Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PS2)