By JJWeatherman 12 Comments
Yes, this stupidly named blog has returned for yet another week. I'm not sure why, as I've had a hard time writing anything for it. Despite that, I've managed to cobble some thoughts together on a few things, so I figured I'd throw them together and hope for an easier go at it next time. Let's do it.
Converting my experience with Amy into a string of words that are able to accurately convey my feelings on the game has proven much more difficult than I’d anticipated. Here’s a couple things to chew on, and we’ll try to go from there:
- I don’t hate Amy.
- I might like Amy.
For the uninitiated, Amy is a game of the survival horror genre which focuses on a mute little girl named, you guessed it, Amy. As Lana, Amy's caretaker, you quickly discover just how special Amy is when she begins to employ psychokinetic powers following a horrific train crash. Lana and Amy must work together to survive a virus outbreak that changes people into monsters—not dissimilar to the zombies-but-not storylines you’d find in a contemporary Resident Evil game.
As flawed as the game is as a whole, I came away from Amy with one dominating thought: it was impressive. Other thoughts ran through my mind as well: I thought the frame rate was inexcusably bad on a consistent basis. I thought several puzzles were nonsensical to the point of frustration. I thought the story arc lacked any sense of investment or satisfying resolution. Perhaps most damning, I thought the game’s core interaction often felt clumsy. But again, I came away impressed despite all of this, and I feel like I can attribute that largely to one thing: hand holding.
In my limited knowledge I can only think of one other game in which holding another character’s hand is designated a button, and that’s of course ICO. I’ve never played ICO, but now I feel like maybe I should. Admittedly it’s a fairly strange thing, but the act of grabbing Amy’s hand and refusing to let go as you break into a sprint and frantically navigate dark corridors in hopes of escaping a trailing threat is immensely satisfying. It’s the button-hold that makes this significant, I think. It’s one of those rare moments in games where the press of a button actually feels significantly appropriate. There are times when things will go bad pretty quickly and that protection instinct kicks in. I couldn’t help but want to protect Amy, and so grabbing her hand and pulling her out of danger was rewarding and built a satisfying relationship between these two characters. Lana and Amy, and their relationship, single-handedly makes this game interesting.
It’s a good thing, then, that the game places heavy focus on this relationship. The majority of puzzles rely on cooperation between Lana and Amy. Furthermore, Lana directly depends on a close proximity to Amy, as a kind of mystical healing aura radiating from Amy is what keeps the virus from overtaking Lana. Despite the plot points of the story being disinteresting, this mutually beneficial relationship gives you just enough to care about. It’s a relationship that feels similar to another one presented in a video game recently, that being the one between Lee and Clementine in The Walking Dead. That may seem like a stretch, but what Amy lacks in meaningful dialog and character building, it makes up for in copious amounts of satisfyingly tangible hand holding. And I’m only half joking. Maybe I have a soft spot for protecting children in video games, but Amy really nailed that feeling of being a protector, and that went a long way for me.
All that said, I don’t want to give the wrong impression. This game fails on so many levels, and it’s quite disappointing. It very much feels unfinished. Something I noticed: there’s a power wheel for Amy’s powers, and yet you only ever get two powers in the game. Why do you need a power wheel with so many slots for only two powers? Also, after finishing the game, you’re inside a hospital being raided by soldiers and outside is a priest with machine guns. This character was introduced about five seconds before the credit roll. He calls the hospital and offers ”divine intervention,” and then the game ends. Baffling. I would normally consider something like that a spoiler, but if you inconsequentially introduce a random character seconds before rolling the credits and expect anyone to care, well, I can’t help you.
At the end of the day, Amy has a charm that I can only describe as Deadly Premonition-esque. I think anyone who can overlook the flaws and appreciate that game can do so with Amy as well. It certainly has a place in my heart, horrific frame rate and all.
When I last checked in, I’d just started the game after impulse buying it from PSN. I was surprised at how well it all held up, but I had only played about two hours of it. Now I’ve surpassed the twenty hour mark, and I’m still feeling it.
As the game has progressed, the dialog and character interaction have become laughably bad. This is really my only gripe with the game, and yet it’s hardly a gripe when I’m laughing out loud at the supremely corny ham-fisted romance, cliche and juvenile character development, and questionably translated vocabulary. The relationship between the main character, Dart, and a young girl named Shana often forms the apex of the laughably awful bits. Shana is hopelessly in love with Dart, and yet Dart can only see her as more of a little sister. This of course frustrates Shana, but we all know that, deep down, Dart’s actually in love with her. It’s all very ridiculous, but entertaining in its own way.
Then there’s the really good parts. The parts that have kept me playing for over twenty hours as of this writing, which easily surpasses my time with Ni no Kuni so far. Last time I talked about the combat and how it seemed deep and satisfying despite having only experienced the basics of it. Now that I’ve gotten deep into it, it’s only gotten more complicated. Addition attacks, as previously described, are attacks on top of your standard attack that require a varying amount of button presses to pull off depending on the move. At this point in the game I have a character named Albert who’s currently equipped Addition attack requires six button presses, all timed slightly differently. Most additions will be anywhere from one to three button presses, so this long move has taken me quite some time to master, and even now, it requires my complete focus to pull off. I wanted to record a video to better show off this battle system in action, but unfortunately my capture device isn’t compatible with 64-bit Windows 7. Suffice it to say there can be a lot going on in battles. At random moments during Addition attacks, the button prompt can switch to circle instead of X, indicating that the enemy is attempting a counter attack. If you miss that prompt, you take damage, and of course the remainder of the Addition is cancelled. The Addition system makes up the majority of the action in battles up to this point, but that’s a good thing because I’m enjoying the active element of it a lot. Leveling up Additions and swapping them out for different ones, with different timings, that provide different benefits, provides a satisfying strategic element.
Beyond that stuff, there’s the Dragoon transformations, which are as awesome as ever. All but one of my companions thus far has a Dragoon Spirit and are able to transform to use various magical abilities in battle. It’s good stuff. Every dragoon has a different elemental affinity, and the elements all have relationships in battle. But it's less rock-paper-scissors and more of a pair system. By that I mean that fire and water are directly opposed to each other. Water will do more damage to fire (as you may expect), but then fire will do more damage back at water as well. When you think about it, it doesn't really make sense, but it keeps things simple. Managing these elemental properties is becoming more and more key, so it's another fun layer to keep in the back of your mind.
The story has gotten a bit dull as of late, but my crew has just embarked on a boat journey in pursuit of a newly met enemy, so it's picking back up. I look forward to playing more, and I'll certainly check back in next blog.
I wanted to quickly mention a couple of things.
PlayStation 4 was announced. Yay? I enjoyed watching the show that Sony put on; it was a ton of fun. That said, I'm not jumping out of my chair to go out and buy a new console right now. I just bought a PS3. I've owned a 360 forever. I own a fairly capable PC. I'm covered for a while.
This has been the hot topic of discussion lately, so I won't go on and on; just a few points:
- Knack looked bland. It looks like any other Sony first party character-focused platformer. I don't think it's a platformer, but you know what I mean. It has that classic Sony feel. The feel of something like Spyro, Ratchet, Jak, Sly, etc. What I've seen isn't doing it for me.
- The ambitious online features are exciting. I want to be able to watch what someone else is playing at any given moment. Sounds super cool.
- Sleep/Hibernation mode for consoles is an excellent idea.
- Driveclub is not going to be a good game. And really? One word? C'mon.
- Show me a box, Sony. Yes, it's important to me. I'm a fan of design, okay?
All in all, it was a fun show. I'm exited for the future of video games, but at the same time, I'm not that excited.
Rock Band DLC Going Away
I'm a huge fan of Harmonix and all they've done for video games over the years. I was first turned onto them with Guitar Hero 2, and my love blossomed from there. I became infatuated with Rock Band, and have lot of fond memories of playing the series with friends and family. I want to say I've completed the Steel Bladder achievement for RB2--the one requiring you to play for about eight hours straight, never pausing, never failing--like four times. I was obsessed. I still like to play from time to time.
I mentioned it on a comment on the news article that was posted by Alex, but my favorite DLC-downloading memory is of Rush's Moving Pictures album. I was on vacation staying at a huge rented house with a bunch of other family. I brought Rock Band so that the whole family could play--and play we did. Rock Band 2 was new at this time, so my family was super excited to try it. It was just a good time. Anyway, Moving Pictures--an absolute favorite album of mine--happened to be releasing while I was on that vacation. So of course I found a way to get the internet working and download the thing. I had to stay up until the very early hours of the morning, but dammit, nothing was going to stop me from getting my hands on that new DLC. I played every song through on guitar as to not wake everyone up with an attempted Neil Peart impression.
Moving Pictures was amazing, and it made up just a drop in my ocean of a song library. I've stopped buying DLC at such a high rate, but I still have hundreds and hundreds of songs. Honestly, my Rock Band library is all that kept me from selling my Xbox 360 at one point. Now I'll probably keep that system for as long as possible just to have access to that stuff.
So Rock Band DLC going away is a sad thing. The end of an era that I truly loved. I'm probably more emotional about this than others, as I feel that Harmonix's games have molded not only my gaming tastes, but my musical ones as well. But all good things must come to an end. Now I get to see where Harmonix goes from here, and that's pretty exciting.
I know what you're thinking: real life sucks. It doesn't matter. It's boring. Well, you're pretty much right, but there's at least one exciting thing going on for me, which is that I'm looking at buying a car.
Now, this will be my first car. I'm not looking for anything too expensive--mostly because I'm poor. That said, I refuse to buy something that I'm going to hate. So right now I'm looking at a couple different cars. My first option would be a Mini Cooper S. My second would be a Volkswagen GTI. They're both decently priced when bought used, and both seem like good cars.
|Mini Cooper S||I really like the personality of the Mini. The "S" flavor has more horsepower than the base. Used, they can be had for anywhere from $8,000-15,000. The lower end of that is more my budget.|
|Volkswagen GTI||The GTI also has some good personality. I like the sleekness in comparison to the Mini. I haven't found any for as cheap as I'd like yet, but I'm still looking.|
And that was my first foray into tables since the site redesign. Seems to have worked well enough. So yeah, if I can somehow score one of those cars, I'd be totally excited, but I'm open to other options as well. We'll see what happens.
That's all I have this time. I'm sorry this is such a mess of thoughts spewed about onto a virtual page, but that's the best I can do at the moment.
Have a grand weekend. Thanks for reading.