Hey guys, Norcal Regionals is back with 2015 edition! Surprised there isn't already a thread about this, but here we go. Tons of international competition to give the US a run for its money in this Capcom Pro Tour Premier Event.
Hey, new VGM metal remix, "Returned to the Sea". This one is a mash-up of two Chrono Cross songs: "Dreams of the Shore Bordering Another World" and "The Brink of Death". I know I could never live up to the original OST as it is legendary, so I took a lot of liberties with how the main melody was presented. Song has an organic quality to it, with a lot of slight tempo variance and drums programmed to not quite hit when they're supposed to. Made it with Reason 7, check it out.
My approach is all over the place as I am into all types of music, but you can find more remixes of VGM and some original pieces at my soundcloud.
Well, did my first metal song/remix in what feels like a century! This song is barely a remix, more like "inspired by" the Police Station song from Resident Evil 2. All the riffs are original, they were the type of riffs that had been floating around in my head the last couple years but never recorded on a track. The vocals are a first for me, I just yelled into my Blue Yeti microphone and that black metal-ish result is what came out. The song itself is pretty raw, have a couple feedback and general noise tracks playing throughout most of the song. A lot of dissonance in the chords too.
The vocals were done in one take, which is bizarre as I've never put my voice on a track before. The guitars took a bazillion takes for some reason, as they always do. My bass bridge pickup is dead, so I could only use the neck pickup on my poopy Yamaha RBX765A. So I EQ'd the heck out of it and made it as bass-y as possible.
The program shown in the video is Propellerhead's Reason 7. I finally bit the bullet and bought it because they had a nice deal where it included some rack extensions for free that I would have otherwise not got if I waited. The big change from the last version of Reason I had used (5.0) is the ability to record live instruments. This allowed me to have guitar, bass, and vocal tracks and have them all fit under the same mastering suite the rest of the instruments are in. Before, there was a really complicated process that involved recording the guitar tracks in another program to a metronome, then importing the guitars as wav/aif files as if they were samples, or at least fool Reason into believing so. The other awesome change which I couldn't capture on video, is visual EQ. It lets you see the wavform as it's playing and you can make your EQ curves around that to boost or cut parts of the track.
Yo this is my favorite ISH from 2013. Check it son.
Shin Megami Tensei IV
I really don't know where most of these games reside in the list, but SMT4 is the definite #1. This game is a great challenge, but adds many things to the formula to make it more approachable for new-comers. The fusing is still addicting as all get out, and my all luck/agility build was actually legit. I toughed out 100 hours of this game and got the Neutral ending on my first go, so I'm happy. Also the best soundtrack of the year, no contest.
Fire Emblem Awakening
I love tactics RPGs, and I love perma-death. Fire Emblem is a beautiful marriage of both of these things. The story isn't quite as engaging as some past games in the series, but who cares about story anyway? The gameplay rewards a slow tactical thought process, as character death has much more meaning when they're gone forever.
Volgarr the Viking
This game is brutal. I love difficulty in games and had a fun time learning the subtly deep mechanics Volgarr has to offer. It's crazy how much you can do with two buttons. The spear/wall-climbing mechanic is something to be remembered for sure, but it's perhaps TOO difficult for me to want to play it over and over. Vikings are dope, though.
A charming spin on the rogue-like-lite-esq-ish genre, mashed up with some metroidvania for good measure. The music is cool, and the ancestry thing with good/bad traits that are carried over is genius.
I remember dat azz.
Rune Factory 4
It's rune factory, which is basically harvest moon with dungeon-crawling RPG stuff. I am trying to get it in with this knight lady but it's hard to buy gifts for her when she is literally following me around everywhere. Can a guy get a moment alone?
Grand Theft Auto V
The part where you're having a bad trip as you're psychedelically skydiving as Michael is the best moment in this game. Other than that, it's standard fare GTA. It's not as gripping as GTA4's story, the car handling is worse (way more loose than it should be), and my favorite characters are Lamar, Michael's son, and Juggalo guy. I enjoyed the inclusion of a high-camera option in the menu while in the 3rd person car view, more games should do this.
Yeah I know this came out in 1996 but whatever. I KINDA DIDN'T PLAY A LOT OF GAMES GIMME A BREAK. I like Wild ARMs, and I can beat it in less than 3 hours. BOOM
I really think that the music of Final Fantasy VIII is overlooked because it was such a divisive game. That's a darn shame because it has some of the most unique and catchy tunes of the series. There's a couple odd-balls in the soundtrack of course, maybe the strangest being Compression of Time. This is my second FFVIII remix, the first being a metal take on Lunatic Pandora.
Not really sure what grabs me about the original song, maybe it's the subtle poly-rhythm harp thing, or the outlandish horn noise. Either way, it was a fitting song for the endgame, with all time being compressed and you falling from the sky fighting mutated sorceress ladies. I tried to encapsulate that feeling the best I could...with some dope dance beats and crazy drum patterns, along with plenty of filtering all over everything. Is it really trance? I have no idea, but it's entrancing. So that counts in my book!
You can check out my soundcloud for more video game remixes and random original pieces. My tastes are kind of all over the place so I don't cater to one particular genre.
Though these are more short-hand notes with self-explanatory thumbnail images for myself, I figure someone out there can get use out of them as well. If you need reference, check out Funkdoc's Trevor-only speedrun, practice a bit on emulator, and then you will better grasp the mechanics and levels to where these notes will then become useful.
Castlevania III is a really tough game. But like many NES games, it can be conquered with relative ease just through trial-and-error memorization. I watched a speedrun of the game just to figure out cheap boss strategies for my casual playthrough, but eventually I wanted to give the real thing a go.
But then of course, it becomes hard again, because you're resetting every time you lose your sub-weapon of choice, or miss a jump and fall into a pit. Hopefully my notes are of some help to you (or maybe inspire you to speedrun this or another game from your childhood).
Practicing should be done on an emulator, and FCEUX is the most accurate NES emulator out there, so I recommend that. If you want to take it a step further you can get a USB NES controller adapter, which is what I use, to emulate as much of the console feeling as possible.
First, watch the speedrun to get a lay of each level, and the tricks involved. CV3 is a solid game, and doesn't have any sequence breaks or glitches...so it's all solid play all the time (and a tiny bit of randomness).
Next, create savestates at the beginning of each level. Grind away at the tough sections of each stage, reloading until you feel comfortable with each level. It sounds tedious because it is. Thus is any form of practice. Remember that these are save states and things that are random (such as item drops from enemies) will never behave the same way in any legit run of the game. For instance, you can't bank on the owl ALWAYS dropping a stopwatch that you have to jump over, because that probably won't happen in the same place again.
What you can do is practice good habit...jump over EVERY enemy corpse when possible, because every enemy has a chance to drop random crappy sub-weapons, and since the run is built on maintaining your sub-weapon and multiplier, if you pick up a knife drop from a merman, the run is over. Practice ways to control the randomness. The Mermen in stage 5 spawn semi-randomly from the water, but you may be able to develop a strategy that takes care of multiple formations without having to do anything different. Anything you can put into muscle memory is invaluable.
Always maintain forward momentum unless a strategy specifically involves pausing for a moment, or you have to stop for projectiles/platforms/etc.
Attacking with whip or sub-weapons is always faster while in a forward-moving jump. Always jump attack when possible.
Max your sub-weapon multiplier ASAP. You must hit 10 things with the sub-weapon to get X2, and then 10 more for X3. This allows 2 or 3 instances of the same weapon on screen at once. Hitting things includes candles, enemies, and projectiles.
Max your whip upgrades ASAP. The first can be gotten from a candle or enemy when you have 5+ hearts. The second requires 10+ hearts. You can only get the second after getting the first. These increase the damage and then length of the whip.
Jumping over enemies is quicker than killing them, so all infinite spawning enemies like zombies should be jumped. This will also 100% avoid drops since them living means they can't drop anything.
Avoid enemy drops by jumping over the spots enemies die on. If you kill them on an edge you have to jump off of, you have no choice but to wait. Flying enemies or ones that come from the ceiling (spiders) are often killed while you're directly under them, so sometimes you will get a drop that is unavoidable, and thus the run is over.
Know the heart counts you need by the bosses, having too much isn't bad, except that the counter has to count down all remaining hearts at the end of a level. Expend excess hearts before the orb materializes when possible.
Have a back-up plan. Maybe dying isn't the end of a run if you know a holy water is a room away in a candle somewhere. Sometimes it's better to reset, but not always.
Trevor jumps a set distance and height every time, he walks a set distance every time you input a forward direction. Knowing this, using visual cues for jumps, boss triggers, and other strategy is a must. Since the ground is broken up into blocks, I use them as a marker on where I need to stand to perform things. In the large tower climb rooms, a lack of visual cues likely will mean your death.
Unfortunately Giant Bomb doesn't have a guide feature anymore, which is kind of a shame as I would have been happy to create it here. Instead, I had to do it in a google spreadsheet, which is available publicly here. There's too much content and images to put it in a blog/forum post, but it's one click away and is easily navigable.
The "guide" contains a short description followed by a thumbnail image that illustrates parts of the level that are worth noting. This is not a normal guide for the game, so if you look at it not having played through CV3, you're likely to be confused as it leaves a lot of stuff out. The stuff left out is usually common sense, like "kill these enemies in a normal way that doesn't take a bunch of time" or something. Anything that you don't inherently grasp from the thumbnail will be gained through experiencing the game itself, and watching a speedrun of it.
Several images have multiple instances of Trevor, and are sometimes color-coated to denote meaning, though the colors them self don't mean anything, instead just serving to differentiate one character model from another.
This thumbnail to the left for instance, says in no words, "climb this half of the stairs, from the point Trevor is standing (he's green), do an immediate jump to the right (Right+A), and then whip in midair to hit the candle and skeleton simultaneously...which will give you your second whip upgrade.". This is why that saying "pictures speak 1,000 words" exists. It's kind of true, and I could think of no better way to actually take notes for position-based things like this.
I"ll embed an image of the entire guide below, I suppose it looks more like a flowchart or something. Remember to just go to the spreadsheet, it's more comprehensible as you can read the notes and scroll around.
NorCal Regionals 2013, a Road To Evo event, begins today! It lasts all weekend, April 26th-28th, and is the long running fighting game tournament for the Northern California scene. Expect to see some bangers including international competition such as Daigo, Infiltration, and Momochi. It's the first official Divekick Tournament, and one of the first FGC majors to take Smash seriously and give it a spot in the line-up (it actually got the most entrants well beyond any other game). Check out the trailer below, I made it! Here's my youtube channel if you're interested. Remix is available here.
Since I got back into classic/retro gaming late this year, I've had a ton of fun playing games that weren't from 2012, in the year 2012. Rather than make a confusing GOTY list that encompasses both old and new games, I figured I'd separate them. So the only criteria necessary for a game to go into this list, is for it not to be released in 2012. Here we go!
10. Kirby's Adventure (NES)
Kirby's Adventure has lot of things going for it. Multiple saves, multiple worlds, multiple exits within stages, 25 abilities that can be absorbed from enemies with the copy ability...you could even absorb multiple enemies and get an ability lottery that could net you broken late-game powers early on. You'd think that Kirby's Adventure is ahead of its time, but in reality, it came out two years after Super Mario World. It explains a lot of things, as some of the late era NES games brought in renovations found in newer consoles. Sure it had a fair amount of slowdown, but it was such a beautiful game with tons of animation and a nice color palette, that you can forgive those things. Even if it's crippling slowdown at times. And besides, it has some of the best world names of all time. Orange Ocean? Vegetable Valley? Grape Gardens? Yogurt Yard? ICE CREAM ISLAND?! I'm not sure about "Butter Building" though, they could have called it "Margarine Mansion" after all. The game also had a ton of mini-games that were actually fun, like the quick draw, egg eating, and crane game (a crane game, fun? imagine that). The bosses all had an easy strategy if you had the right power when entering the fight, but you rarely did since you always lost it or absorbed something that looked cool and turned out to be crap.
09. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES)
I was tormented by this game as a child. I only ever beat two palaces, I could never reliably beat those knights or any palace bosses, and every time you died you just went back to the very beginning of the game! Even more tormented than myself was my Mother, she had beat the first Zelda and was determined to beat Zelda II. I have fond memories of her cursing those axe-throwing dudes in death mountain, and complaining that it's impossible to get the cross to travel through those areas with invisible eyeball enemies. I did a Rocky-montage playthrough of this game a while back, in the GameSpot days. It was on emulator, and I used a bunch of save states, so it wasn't much of a run. It wasn't until I watched some speed-runners play this game, that it finally clicked with me. The game's controls are incredibly intuitive, the side-scrolling combat is difficult but rewarding once you nail some of the more difficult strategies. The fairy glitch helps out a lot, letting you travel through locked doors when you run into one without having a key. There are some definite cryptic moments akin to Castlevania II, and all the townsfolk are either giving Link happy endings in their black market massage parlor, or feeding him useless dialog boxes like the famous "I am Error", or the fat lady that turns into a bat after she says "HI!". This game is brutal, but it's fucking fair, and the music is godlike. I love Zelda II.
08. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (Wii)
I played this in 2011 a fair bit, but got distracted by other things and never beat it. I finally got around to it again in the beginning of 2012, this time the actual Wii version. This game is a re-imagining of Silent Hill for the PS1, but it sort of combines themes from multiple Silent Hills, kind of like the first movie did. The most interesting part about Shattered Memories, is that it's mostly a choose-your-own-adventure novel, and a personal psyche evaluation, and not so much a game with gameplay challenges. You don't shoot or even fight any of the enemies in the game, when it goes all icy and Silent Hill world on you, you just run the fuck for your GODDAMN LIFE and hope you're going in the right direction. To aid you with your path-finding, Harry has a cellphone that shows you a map of the area, as well as takes photos and receives text messages and phone calls. The game tailors the events to your decisions you make in these scenes when talking to a psychiatrist. Depending on how exciting or dull your answers are in these tests and riddles, you will get an appropriate representation of people and events in the game, from the eyes of the persona you portrayed. I really can't say anything else about this game, other than that there is a twist, and BOY is it a good one. There are multiple endings and ways to manipulate the scenes you get, but I would recommend avoiding any guides or word of mouth, as it's best to go in fresh and not worry about that crap at all. This is an experience you should have, and I'm not going to be one to ruin that for you should you decide to pick it up.
07. Light Crusader (Genesis)
This is one of the few on this list that I hadn't actually heard of until this year. I purchased a grip of 50 Genesis games over Amazon's digital service, and Light Crusader was included in that package. It's made by treasure and is a Genesis game made in 1995, and man both of those things show. The game itself is a floor-by-floor dungeon crawling action RPG, with a hub town and the basic setup that everyone has been getting abducted or has otherwise gone missing, and it's up to Frederick the hero to get to the bottom of this, literally to the bottom...of a dungeon that lies under the town cemetery The music is excellent, and there's some tight isometric platforming and combat to keep you interested. You find and can purchase different elements of magic, and can combine two together for interesting spell results, which will play a key role in surviving some of the challenges you'll face down below. My favorite parts in the game are the silly parts. The off-brand humor in the game is great, and beyond the intentional humor there is plenty of unintentional humor (which is even better). The physics of people and objects in the world, allow your character model to push them around the area at will, including the king, his cat, his throne, some cows in a field...anything can be nudged around with no reaction from these people. There are voice samples whenever you enter a room with a group of enemies or a puzzle, and it sounds terribly muffled...but it makes me crack up every time I hear "ANSWER THE RIDDLE" or the simple "BEAT. THEM."
06. Shadowgate (NES)
The trio of ICOM Simulations adventure games were released for multiple platforms, but they are best on the NES. Featuring some of the best music I've ever heard on the NES, and some strange puzzle solutions that can only be figured out from trial and error, these games were silly and humorous, while also offering great challenge as a kid. I used to be quite scared of Shadowgate. The torch mechanic is terrifying, as you only have so many torches in the game, and you constantly have to keep one burning. I always feared that I would run out of torches while trying to solve some of the more cryptic puzzles, and sure enough...I died many times that way. The game was pretty dark and featured some creepy stuff for a child, and you could even kill your own character with basically every item in the game. Use > Sword > Self. HE PLUNGES THE SWORD INTO HIS CHEST. Holy shit. Then the grim reaper appears and welcomes you to an eternity of hell. But you could also plunge a hammer into your chest. That sounds either impossible or really, really, painful and time-consuming. I think what I loved most about these games, is all the movies and novels they basically ripped off everything from, all the horror tropes were accounted for between Shadowgate and Uninvited. Deja Vu wasn't about horror at all, that was more noire and old detective movies, but retained most of the same charm and puzzle-solving. Just replace death with BEING ARRESTED. I choose Shadowgate because it haunted my mind as a child, but all three of these ICOM games are bangers.
05. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (MSX2)
It's a darn shame that this never came out in America until 2006, when it came with MGS3: Subsistence on PS2. MG2 is pretty revolutionary, and it's easy to see where the original Metal Gear Solid got its groove from, as many of those MGS elements appear in less evolved form in MG2. In the original Metal Gear, guards could only see spaces directly in front of them, where in MG2, they get an actual peripheral vision. The guards also patrolled between multiple screens, making the handy 9-screen radar important to planning routes through areas. Alert phases persisted across multiple screens, punishing Snake more for his mistakes and making stealth more of a necessity. In addition to all this, you could crawl under fences and through air ducts, and the codec conversations were more integral to the experience, featuring plenty of contacts, and story exposition. The game fills a giant hole that would otherwise not be filled in the Metal Gear story arch, if you had only played MGS1 and onward. What's funny is how Kojima essentially steals his own gameplay and plot points over and over through the entire series of Metal Gear, as many of the boss fights and sequences from MGS, appear to have been homage to MG2 parts. Which in turn makes it weirder that MGS2 is basically a retelling/simulation of the events of MGS1 with Raiden instead of snake. Talk about a mindfuck, that's what Metal Gear is all about, and it's in tip top shape back on the MSX2 computer system. The best moment is when you kill Big Boss with an aerosol can and a lighter. Like seriously. THE END OF BIG BOSS as we know it, was due to some child prank you can do with a can of hairspray? What?
04. Arcus Odyssey (Genesis)
The other Genesis Game on this list that I knew nothing about until this year, Arcus Odyssey. This is a Renovation Products publication, so in that typical fashion, it's awesome, hard to find, full of anime cutscenes, and...awesome? This is a co-op isometric action RPG, that features four characters to choose from. Each character has different vitality and strength, and has a different base weapon to combat enemies with. The typical sword hero is the easiest to use as he shoots rapid fire (as fast as you can mash) wave beam things out of his sword, directly in front of him. The lady with the Chain is also pretty unique, she can lunge it out at a great distance, or whirl it around 360 degrees to hit enemies surrounding her. In addition to the base attack, you can find several power-ups or magics to use, such as orbs that whirl around the character, shielding you from attacks, and health pick-ups that are instant, upon death, or consumable at your leisure. In the second level you will pick up a computer controlled partner if you don't have a second player, and they will generally shoot in the direction you're facing/moving. Plenty of huge bosses to fight, and treasures to find, and it's at an arcade game style pace, with continues that bring you back to the beginning of the current stage...so it's not too discouraging should you die. The weirdest choice the developers made with this game, is that by holding down the attack button, you throw up a shield that deflects projectiles. But why the attack button? It makes it annoying to get through narrow corridors, as you have to release the shield then mash on the very same button, then hold it and wait for the shield to pop up again, before getting hit. Typically the best strategy is to move as quickly as you can to advance the screen while mashing the attack, as their attacks won't have time to animate and come out to hit you. It's a really cool game, that I expect to play a lot of in the coming year.
03. Harvest Moon 64 (N64)
I love Harvest Moon. And any farming simulation chill-out type game like it. It's just my kind of zen, a cathartic experience that I can return to infinitely. Harvest Moon 64 is definitely the best of them in my eyes, as it's not too complicated, but features all the charm of a Harvest Moon, and most of the features such as marriage, home renovations, affinity building for townsfolk and lady-friends, and festival participation. Harvest Moon: Back To Nature for the PS1 is very similar, but more complicated with a larger city, swapped-around personalities on the same characters, a deeper harvesting system with gnome helpers, and a time-consuming tool leveling progression. HM64 is essentially the same game, but with less of the crap you don't want to do, better controls (not weird hit down to go diagonally down-left), and no awful saving and loading sequences between days whenever you go to sleep. What's there to say? I like the pink-haired lady, she has pink hair and is easy to build affinity with, since she likes flowers. There is an affinity glitch with Karen, where you can get her to red heart in one day, but that's sort of unfulfilling and ruins most of the game. Rune Factory carries on the torch of Harvest Moon today, with a little bit more Action RPG stuff and dungeon crawling, but nothing will be as good as Harvest Moon 64 in my opinion.
02. Adventures of Lolo (NES)
The premise of Adventures of Lolo, is you're a blue gumball dude (Lolo), and your pink gumball ladyfriend (Lala) is captured by "The Great Devil", a.k.a. King Egger. You have to traverse 10 floors of puzzles (50 stages) to rescue your girl. The puzzles consist of pushing blocks around and grabbing hearts. When you grab all the hearts, a treasure chest opens and you grab a pearl which unlocks the next room. There are many things to stop you from doing this, including Medusas that will instantly kill you if you cross their path with no obstruction between you, armadillos which hunt you down and touch you to kill you, don Medusas which are essentially moving medusas, either horizontally or vertically, a walking stone face named Rocky who runs at you to back you into a wall or corner, impeding your progress, and various other POS enemies. There are also snakeys, who don't really do anything but sit there, and usually have something to do with a puzzle solution. You can obtain various things from picking up hearts, it varies from level to level. Usually grabbing certain hearts nets you some magic power, where you can shoot it at enemies and turn them into eggs, at which point you can push them around like blocks to manipulate puzzles. Shooting them while egged makes them de-spawn for a short period, before the appear in the same place they were initially. You can also float on egg'd enemies if you push them into a moving stream of water, which is essential to complete some puzzle rooms. This game is great. Lolo 2 and 3 became progressively harder, and introduced spawn manipulation to add to the difficulty. Nothing will be as good as the original Lolo, though.
01. Streets of Rage 2 (Genesis)
Streets of Rage is a classic. It's technically a rip off of Final Fight for the Genesis, but I think it became better than the sum of its parts. Part 1 was ok, but pretty rudimentary visually. When Streets of Rage 2 came out, it blew my face off. I was stunned at how it looked just like an arcade game, but no...this was a GENESIS EXCLUSIVE. Each of the 4 characters plays pretty distinctively from one another. You have Axel, the well rounded brawler with an invincible flaming uppercut, as well as the easiest jab infinite in the game (yes you can infinitely jab enemies and bosses in this game if your timing is right). Skate is the agile and weak character, with lots of running moves, and his main exploit is the flip over grab throws that hurl the opponent across the screen. Blaze is the female of the group, and she is well rounded in the same way Axel is, but she has a Chun Li-like fireball for a special, and she's generally a bit faster and weaker than Axel. Max is the slow, high-vitality, grappler of the bunch. But in reality, he can advance the screen as quick as anyone with his command slide, and since he has grab setups that do BANANAS damage, he turns out to be one of the best characters. Max has a couple grab loops in certain areas with walls, and can do a meaty slide on an enemies wake-up and go right into an atomic drop. These are all fairly difficult moves compared to the easy Axel infinite, but they have much higher damage potential. The fact that I can learn all these techniques about a beatemup for the first time recently, shows that this game is not just a Final Fight clone. It is a complex brawler, and it's the best classic game I've played all year. Oh, did I mention the music? It goes without saying but...this is the best the Sega Genesis has to offer. Streets of Rage 3 on the other hand...well. Let's not harp on the negative!
2012 was a strange year for me, kind of dull in terms of games actually released this year...compared to 2010 & 2011 anyways. I got way into retro games, and I will definitely have to give them some props on their own list. Despite all that, some of the very best games of the generation came out in my opinion, making 2012 worthwhile. On to the top 10 (here's the GB list version also).
10. Street Fighter X Tekken (Xbox 360)
SFxTK gets a bad rep because of the excessive timeouts, jab pressure, dysfunctional launch online, and the DLC/Gem apocalypse Cashcom situation. Unfortunate, as this game is actually really good. It brings you back to the CvS2 days when fundamentals were required, and it introduces a great combo system that feels like the perfect blend of Street Fighter and Tekken. The ground bounces are just a ton of fun, as are the unlikely character combinations previously unseen in the fighting world. Here's hoping the patch brings people back.
09. Mark of the Ninja (XBLA)
I love stealth games, but even I can admit that there are some mechanics that need some working. Luckily, Mark of the Ninja addresses all of these. The controls and contextual maneuvers in this game are so fluid, so streamlined--very few games actually play this good. The game is constantly reminding you how badass you are, being a ninja and all. My recent interest in speed-running made me respect this game more, as this is a game where your performance is limited by your own skill, and there aren't sloppy mechanics mucking it up like in most games.
08. Need for Speed: Most Wanted (Xbox 360/PC)
I love Burnout Paradise. It's one of my favorite games this generation of consoles...maybe ever. And Most Wanted is essentially more Paradise. Sure, the console versions don't run 60fps, the handling feels heavier and not as white-knuckle as Paradise, and the single player isn't tied as seamlessly into multi-player as Paradise...but the autolog stuff is great, the multiplayer progression is addicting, and most of all...it's just a blast playing with friends--as we perform 350 yard jumps over buildings. Remake this game every year, I'd buy it.
07. Journey (PSN)
I was sort of put off by all the talk about this game. I felt like every sentence spoken and written about Journey was done while holding a whine glass with their pinky up and sounding very draconian...but I have to say all those things said were pretty darn right. It's one of the most amazing co-op experiences I've had, being paired up with a random person over the internet, we completed the entire Journey together. With no normal means of communication, we had to think of more primitive means to convey things. I was legitimately worried when my friend seemed to disappear in a couple levels, worried that I had lost them. But we conquered it together. Thank you random person over PSN, it was a swell time.
06. Dust: An Elysian Tail (XBLA)
When somebody tells me that a game is "basically Symphony of the Night" I throw my money at it. And that's what I did with Dust. The game is filled with anthropomorphic creatures, but don't let it deter you. Discovering areas that are inaccessible until you get a certain power. Progress in game, get power. Look at giant map screen, go back to previously unexplored area. The combo system is fairly advanced for a game of this type, and there are even a couple abilities I found that I can break the game essentially with. I don't know about you, but I feel pretty awesome when I find a way to exploit a game all by myself.
05. Sleeping Dogs (PC)
I was excited about this game when it was True Crime: Hong Kong. But all the preview events, people came out saying it looked janky and were worried for its future. The game was dropped, buy then revived by Square, under the new moniker "Sleeping Dogs." I hadn't played a serious open world game since GTAIV, and this struck a similar chord with me, brought all those good times flooding back. This game is extremely polished, with fun environmental hand-to-hand combat. The voice-acting is superb and the story is great overall. It helps that it looks amazing on PC, and the 'Hong Kong-drive-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-road' thing is quite novel. More of this!
04. Max Payne 3 (PC)
Max Payne 3 could have been a disaster, leaving Remedy's hands and all. But it turned out to be an excellent chapter in the life of Max Payne. All the staples are here, self-loathing narration, slow-motion bullet-time diving-around-corners with reckless abandon, and a messed up story strung together by shots of whiskey, interrupted by popping painkillers, one-liners, and balls to the wall action. The soundtrack featured the usual Max Payne ambiance and main theme, but went above and beyond...venturing into Miami Vice territory, like that good of a soundtrack. The particular tracks that sets the mood other than the final theme of "Tears", are the one in the cemetery and the one on the boat after waking up. If you don't know these tracks, look them up. Or better yet, play the game, as the music will hit on a different level when you're plunged into a hellhole of a situation and have to gun down tons of guys in slow motion while listening to the music.
03. Lone Survivor (PC)
When I seen the quick look of this game, I stopped it about 8 minutes in and bought the game for myself. I love survival horror, and any unique take on it in this horror-deprived generation of games, is something I'm interested in. It features a very striking blown-out pixelated art style, and heavy reliance on survival and sanity mechanics. The story is intentionally very cryptic, with a couple branching points that lead to different endings. It's so vague at times that you don't understand what's going on at all, but I sort of like that about it. Completely open to interpretation. The game is full of atmosphere, so if that's your thing...play this.
02. Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)
An RPG as epic as this coming out in 2012 is a surprise, this type of game almost doesn't exist anymore. It takes plenty of things I love, and some that I hate, and mashes them all together, with amazing production values. The things I hate: Not being able to control the AI. It's annoying that there's combos that are completely reliant on your teammates finishing them, and they will do whatever is at their whim. MMO quests. Way too many of these, and they're all interchangeable fetch me this many items for set amount of experience and money. Grinding, holy shit. Get ready to grind in this game. You have to do those MMO quests, because otherwise it'll take even longer to get to the level you need to be at. With all that said, the story is excellent. The environments are MASSIVE and a pleasure to navigate through while admiring the scenery. The soundtrack, man. THE SOUNDTRACK IS THE BEST RPG SOUNDTRACK, in I don't know...forever? This game tears me down the middle with both love and hate, but I can't help but be blown away by Xenoblade.
01. The Last Story (Wii)
And then there's the Last Story. This game is the antithesis of Xenoblade. It's not massive and full of filler. It's completely focused on delivering a character driven story line and it's going to tell it from beginning to end. No threads will be open at the end of this adventure, it concludes everything in a gorgeously satisfying way. The combat is serviceable and almost automatic at times, there are no random battles and you can beat it without grinding AT ALL. You can beat it in 20 hours, short by JRPG standards. BUT FORGET ALL OF THAT. The soundtrack is sort of a retreading of territory by Nobuo Uematsu, but it takes on a whole new light when they are tied to the moments in the game them self. The characters are so likable in this game, I felt like they were genuine family by the end of it. I felt like I experienced all these trials and tribulations with them as they were experiencing them. I'm just going to say that it's the most touching game I've played in a decade or more...it brings me back to the fuzzy feelings I used to get playing things like Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and X. This is Hironobu Sakaguchi at his best, and if The Last Story is truly his last chapter in game development, what a way to go out.
My youtube channel has been really active lately, with a grip of Let's Plays and other miscellaneous game commentary, but I owe it all to my Final Fantasy VIII playthrough. Pretty late in blogging it, since I don't do the whole blog thing too often. Check it below and read on. (Vulgar Commentary)
The playthrough is done without leveling characters until pretty much the end of the game, at which point I power level everyone to 100. The reason I avoid leveling other than just for kicks, is because of the leveling system in FFVIII. All the enemies and bosses will level up with you in this game, which means you can actually have just as easy a time at default level. And with tricks to obtain higher level spells (card modding, etc) you can actually have a bigger advantage junctioning said spells to your characters when you're still low-level.
There are several bonus abilities that GF's learn through the course of the game, called bonuses. Once you obtain all the bonuses, you can equip them in your ability slots and receive more attribute points at each level up, which is why there's a specific time to power level to 100. As you could gather from the information I've laid out, power-leveling from the character's base level nets you the most bonus attribute points, so the no-level run is multi-purpose. You're more powerful throughout the game without leveling, and then you become unstoppable when you finally do level up at the end.
Of course your GF's have to obtain AP to make all this happen, and normally you can't do that without gaining some sort of experience from battles. The loop hole there is the command ability card mod. This is an early-game Quezacotl ability that you should learn at the offset, as you can weaken your enemies to a low percentage of health, and then mod them into cards. This nullifies any experience you'd receive from that opponent, but you get all the AP (and a bunch of cards for playing/modding).
I don't want to spill any more beans on this Let's Play, so just check out the playlist above if you so desire. I love challenging myself with this sort of thing on RPGs I'm familiar with.