By MajorMitch 7 Comments
Not to sound like a broken record, but November was another busy month for school. I’ll spare the rhetoric though, and just leave it as a reiteration that my gaming time was very limited once again. I did find a few precious hours for games though, and am sharing those thoughts below. Like last month I also didn’t have as much time to edit this entry as I would like, so apologies if the quality of my writing is not up to par again. On another note, in my haste last month I may have stumbled across a decent way to quickly run down games I spent little time with during the month and/or don’t have substantial thoughts on. I have typically just mentioned those up top before diving into the bulkier stuff, but starting this month I’ll round up "the little guys" in their own section via bullet points. I’ll try it out for a bit and tweak as I see fit, and if I don’t like it I may revert back. It’s worth a shot at least, so let’s get to it!
The Little Guys
- I really liked To the Moon a few years ago, so I quickly checked out A Bird Story this month. It may be incredibly short (an hour and a half tops), but it’s a really sweet game that’s absolutely worth playing for those who appreciate a simple, touching, and well told video game story. Kan Gao has a talent for such stories, and while A Bird Story doesn’t hit as hard as To the Moon, I still found it impactful.
- I first heard about Hero Academy via Greg Kasavin’s top 10 list for 2012, and seeing as he’s a man with great tastes in games, I always kept that one in the back of my mind. So I grabbed it on the Steam sale and spent an hour or two with it. I won’t say it hooked me, but there’s something to the simple tactical combat here, and I might mess with it some more someday. It’s not a priority at this point, but I’m not writing it off either.
- For the third month in a row, the game I likely spent the most time on was Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call. It remains a great game to pick up and play for 15-20 minute breaks as I’m working, which adds up during the month. I think I may be near the end of my Curtain Call journey though, at least for now. I only have one character left to unlock, and a handful of songs on the highest difficulty left to pass. That will satisfy the remaining main goals I set for myself, and while I’m sure I’ll still play when I’m in the mood, I expect my Curtain Call playtime will see a drastic reduction after those goals are met. Then I’ll have to find a new short burst game...
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
I continued playing Super Smash Bros. for 3DS this month (I gave initial thoughts last month), and while I continued to enjoy it on the whole, I wasn’t enjoying it nearly as much as previous Super Smash Bros. games. While a good portion of my indifference was surely due to my lack of free time this fall, I also feel that just as much of it was due to feeling uncomfortable playing Smash Bros. on a handheld for any substantial period of time. The circle pad never felt quite right for the game, the Nintendo 3DS’ design made my hands hurt after a few rounds, and online play usually resulted in a good amount of choppiness. I like the 3DS design on the whole, and it works just fine for a lot of games, but Smash Bros. is a certain breed of rambunctiousness that demands a sturdier kit. So while the game was fun in spurts, I had to accept that it was never going to hook me in that format.
After playing the 3DS version here and there for about a month and a half, the Wii U version finally arrived, and boy howdy what a difference playing Smash Bros. on a proper console makes. The two versions are essentially the same game, with the exact same characters and mechanics (the Wii U version has noticeably better stages though), but the sheer act of playing it on a big screen with a more capable controller makes all the difference. On top of that, having the option for local play is where Smash Bros. is at its best, and the Wii U version looks really nice at well (not to mentioned the enhanced audio for this game’s wonderful soundtrack). Ultimately, however, I already felt like the core fighting was pretty strong on the 3DS, and playing it on the Wii U illuminates this notion even further. In fact, this version of Smash Bros. may be the most thoroughly polished entry in the franchise yet. As I mentioned last week, the balance of the physics feels right, and the diversity of the characters and their moves is well considered. I feel that there are plenty of equally viable ways for players to play, and the fighting in Smash Bros. Wii U is as robust as it’s ever been in the series.
That said, the game isn’t perfect either. While I really enjoy the core fighting of Smash Bros. Wii U, none of the auxiliary modes do much for me at all, especially the pair of version specific ones. Smash Run (3DS) and Smash Tour (Wii U) are a miserable time at best; Smash Run is just dull, while Smash Tour is a jumbled mess that takes noticeable effort to figure out, and continues to be frustrating once you’re over the hump. Even stuff like Classic and Events are things I don’t care for a ton, though they’re serviceable enough. Most disappointingly, the online still doesn’t work as well as I’d want. It does seem a little more stable on the Wii U (yes, I have the LAN adapter), and I’ll admit that I haven’t tested it a ton yet, but it’s been a little bit of a bummer so far. Finally, to really nit-pick, I’m tired of having to unlock characters and stages in these games, there are too many clone characters, the menu designs continue to be atrocious, and with Sakurai at the helm we get an annoyingly unproportional amount of Kirby and Kid Icarus material in these games (his babies). Maybe that only bothers me because I don’t like either franchise though. Anyway, that’s Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Minor grievances aside, the core fighting is a blast, and I’m very happy with it overall. I might even venture so far as to say it’s the best constructed Smash Bros. game yet, but I need more time with it to cement that thought. All I know right now is that I’m eagerly looking forward to that time when I can find it.
Wolfenstein: The New Order
I’m a sometimes fan of first person shooters, harboring a weirdly up and down relationship with the genre for a long time. Generally speaking, I frequently feel like it’s a very simple and unambitious genre with little difference between entries, and I can get easily bored with the rote gameplay loop I’ve performed countless times already. That said, I still like a good FPS here and there, diving back in for landmark titles, or just to keep my finger on the pulse. Or, in the case of Wolfenstein: The New Order, I dive in when something seems just offbeat enough to be worth a look. This game’s reception was positive in a way that made me think there might be something worth seeing here, so I made the plunge and blitzed through it over Thanksgiving. Long story short, I wasn’t disappointed. The New Order is definitely not going to set the world ablaze with innovation by any means; gameplay-wise it’s extremely straightforward. In place of anything new, however, it has polish, attention to detail, and a little bit of craziness for good measure.
While The New Order doesn’t tweak the formula, it still manages to be a very well playing shooter, with some nice design touches. I always lamented the “Master Chief pockets” that have plagued shooters ever since Halo’s debut; why limit ourselves to only two guns? The New Order brings back the big pockets, letting you carry a large arsenal all at once. Better yet, you can dual wield almost any gun, including shotguns and sniper rifles. It’s ridiculous, but also great. Most of the guns have a nice pop to them, and have a secondary fire mode as well to give them a little more variety and functionality. I still wish the selection of guns would have been a little larger and/or crazier, but overall I appreciate The New Order’s take on guns. Otherwise the game controls nicely, the level layouts are fun to poke around in, and the stealth works surprisingly well. In fact, I usually hate stealth (especially in first person games), but often found myself gravitating towards stealth in The New Order. There’s nothing complicated about it either, and while it’s probably fun mostly because it’s easy, I still enjoyed it more than a lot of actual stealth games (here’s looking at you Dishonored). The game then compliments that stealth with the bombastic shooting you’d expect from the series, and it’s the well paced combination of those extremes that I really appreciated.
Finally, I enjoyed The New Order for its completely bizarre tone. I think it may have rubbed some people the wrong way, but by not taking any of it seriously at all I got a laugh out of the way B.J. Blazkowicz remained a Nazi murdering machine after 14 years in a coma, not to mention all the corny dialogue or the fact that you fight Nazis on the moon. The way the game flirts with being serious just often enough, only to fall back on its unusual brand of campiness worked in its own charming way for me. Again, The New Order doesn’t break from genre convention, but the way its pieces are assembled was a specifically entertaining concoction that kept me engaged where a lot of other shooters have failed to do so. I don’t know how to explain it any better than that, but either way, The New Order was a good time.
Looking Ahead to December
Things will keep on rolling, as busy as ever through the first half of December. I’m ever hopeful that I will be able to spend a few days during the second half of the month’s holiday break to catch up on some games, despite work never going away entirely. My top candidates are Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, Bayonetta 2, and Far Cry 4. I highly doubt I can get through all three during the month, but why stop setting my sights high now? In fact, while we’re at it I’ll mention The Fall, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and This War of Mine as a trio of indie games I’d like to get to soon as well. Now that I’ve definitely piled on more than I can manage (and there are still plenty of games left unmentioned I’m interested in), I’ll take my leave to see just how much I gaming I actually can fit into December. Or maybe just catch up on sleep instead… that may be more important.