By MajorMitch 4 Comments
It’s been a long, stressful February for me in a lot of ways, which also meant my gaming time suffered pretty heavily (making this a shorter entry as a result). School was busy, the weather was busy (way worse than normal for my area), and I was also busy job hunting, preparing for post-school life once more. Some of those stressors are winding down, some are still going strong, and gaming time remains at a premium. This month practically all of that time was spent on Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, which is going to be my primary focus here. I managed to work in a few hours across a handful of other titles as well; you can find all the details below!
Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire
In a strange way, I’ve found that playing on handhelds has produced my most fruitful gaming time during the busiest parts of this past year. It’s only strange because I don’t actually “game on the go”; I rarely take my handhelds with me outside my apartment, and I actually use them elsewhere even less. Virtually all of my handheld playing is done in the exact same room where my consoles and PC live, and yet I’ve found playing on handhelds much more conducive to getting through games while busy. Both the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita boot quickly, have easily activated sleep modes, and can be played at my computer desk without having to move to the TV or load anything on my PC (which generally has schoolwork on screen). All of that makes jumping in and out of a game quick and easy, and even more important is that many handheld games are designed with this style of play in mind. Therefore, when I need to be working and can’t afford lengthy breaks, but welcome short and somewhat frequent ones, handhelds are the way to go.
In February, that meant playing a lot of Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire (I specifically have Alpha Sapphire, but I’ll refer to the pair as ORAS for short). As I briefly mentioned last month, the original Generation III games are the only core Pokemon games I’ve never played. And while playing their Generation VI remakes is not really the same thing, it does fill in enough of the holes in my personal Pokemon history to satisfy my curiosity. Plus, I think Generation VI is a noticeable leap forward for the series, and going backwards might be tough at this point. In fact, in addition to all the above reasons, I’m also playing ORAS purely because, well, I liked Pokemon X/Y so much that I’m still in the mood for more Pokemon. To that end, ORAS has been a pleasant experience for me. I finished the campaign last week, including the additional “Delta Episode”, and in some ways I found it to be one of the better Pokemon campaigns. Its story is still pretty dumb and uninteresting overall, but I think the delivery is among the better in the series. This is particularly true in regards to Team Aqua’s motives and story arc, which is a noticeable step up from the usual nonsense of the “evil” teams in Pokemon (if still not that great on its own). As for the game itself, it plays just as you’d expect a Pokemon game to play, with all the Generation VI enhancements in tact. Those additions made breezing through the campaign relatively quick and painless, and I’m excited to continue further into the post-game, which is where the new additions shine brightest. ORAS is even more feature-filled in that regard, sporting more Pokemon (including almost all the legendaries), move tutors, and hidden abilities than probably any game to date. I’m not going to lie: another reason I got ORAS was to have access to that content for my competitive teams. At some point I’d like to give my trained Pokemon an upgrade, and ORAS will be instrumental to that effort. I’ll probably take a Pokemon break before diving into that too deeply, but my desire for competitive Pokemon battling is still high.
While I did enjoy the experience overall, there are a few gripes I have about ORAS in particular. First, the common complaint: too much water. I’ve never found water routes that fun in Pokemon, and Hoenn has more water than any other region. Second, I really hate the randomness of the “Mirage Spots”. Basically, every day you have one of 32 possible islands appear in your game, and they are only accessible for that day. The bad part is that certain Pokemon and items (including some ever useful TMs) are limited to certain islands. It’s super frustrating if you’re after something specific, and is another example of Pokemon putting stuff behind unreasonable barriers for no respectable reason. I also don’t care about secret bases, and more generally continue to not care about mega evolutions or contests. Fortunately those things are largely ignorable, and even with all my gripes I’ve enjoyed playing ORAS. It worked nicely during breaks, filled in a missing piece of my Pokemon history, and set the table for more competitive play in the future. Not too shabby in my book.
The Other Stuff
- I played a few hours of Apotheon, courtesy of PlayStation Plus, and really wanted to like it. But I could not get into the way it controls at all. I thought I would get more used to it over time, but I found myself liking it less and less as I played. Everything from the movement to the targeting in combat felt super loose and imprecise, and I found myself just bumbling my way through each encounter. It seemed like a pretty forgiving game (at least in the early going), so I was making progress, but it was not satisfying at all. I really like the look and style of the game, and it’s possible if I played it more it would eventually click for me. But right now it’s not worth my very limited free time.
- I tried out a few rounds of Lethal League with my brother (after introducing him to the wonders of Nidhogg). I won’t say that Lethal League is a favorite among the local multiplayer resurgence, but it was fun for a few rounds. It is pretty crazy/entertaining when the ball gets moving real fast, but it’s way too light of an experience to hook me, and also doesn’t feel that great to me. I’d still be up for playing a bit more though.
- I finally got around to giving OlliOlli a shot, after picking it up for dirt cheap in a sale. I think it’s neat, but difficult in a less than ideal way. The controls feel pretty unintuitive to me, primarily by not having a dedicated jump button; that took a lot of getting used to. I can see what they’re going for with the trick system, but I can’t shake the feeling that there is a better way to implement that system without losing any depth. My other gripe is that when you’re falling you can’t always see the ground with enough warning to ready the appropriate landing input (landing on the ground vs. rails require different inputs). That said, there is something here, and I’d like to play a little more of it when I can.
- So… they released some songs from The World Ends With You as DLC in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call. Of course I had to check those out. I picked up the Chrono Trigger songs while I was at it, and had a fun afternoon jamming through the songs from those two games (and replaying some other favorites too). It’s uncanny how much amazing music is in Square Enix’s history, and as long as they dole it out in a reasonable fashion, I’m ok coming back to the well from time to time.
- This last one is not a video game, but Dungeons & Dragons took over some of what would traditionally be “video game time” this month. Specifically, I got the 5th Edition Player’s Handbook, and have been reading through the rules. Ironically, this has nothing to do with Giant Bomb jumping on the D&D bandwagon; my brother has been messing with 5E for months now, and I’ve wanted to join a campaign since it came out. With only two months left in school, I’ve decided it’s time to start slowly getting up to speed. I’ve played 3E and 4E before, and from what I’ve seen thus far the changes to 5E seem like a smart compromise between the two. Things seem clean and balanced, but still allow a lot of room for freedom. I’m still just scratching the surface for now, but may include more D&D updates in future roundups if there are no objections.
Looking Ahead to March
I’m not quite sure what to expect in March. It continues to be the second biggest release period of the year, and 2015’s installment holds a lot of potential: Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, Ori and the Blind Forest, Sid Meier’s Starships, Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., Bloodborne, and Axiom Verge all come out in March. All of those look potentially fantastic to me, with the last two in that list being my top picks at the moment. Bloodborne speaks for itself, and there’s something about Axiom Verge that has me really eager to see it. Unfortunately, I’m of course still busy with school, and don’t know exactly how much gaming time I will have. I’ll do what I can though, and I have plenty of backlog items waiting in the wings as always. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter remains at the top of that list for like the fourth month in a row; I swear I’ll play that game someday. Flip a coin on whether March is the month.