By megalowho 0 Comments
6. Enduro Racer
5. Black Belt
4. After Burner
1. Fantasy Zone
6. Enduro Racer
5. Black Belt
4. After Burner
1. Fantasy Zone
Random screenshots from a most excellent game.
Looking back, there's been some stone cold jams in the video games this year. I mean there usually is, but this one feels like a real standout. From the chippy to the dramatic and everything in between, here's a 100% comprehensive list of 2012's hottest tracks, both original and licensed:
It has begun!
Let's go to the videotape!
Not bad, not bad. Played a few hours of Alan Wake, really liking it so far. Grimrock is engrossing, Trine 2 is pretty, and Gal Civ seems like it's going to be my biggest time sink from the haul. Perfect timing for SR3 DLC being 3/4 of the way through (finished it since then) and DA:O Awakening is reminding me what I enjoyed about that series.
Other than that, I'm all set until winter! No more videogame buyin' for this guy, that's for dang sure.
(no ME3 spoilers).
I'm trying to think back to the first time I was genuinely disappointed as to how a video game wrapped up. Sitting there as the credits rolled in, questions left unanswered, festering in silent resentment. Or maybe just aching to get it over with, stumbling again and again with a sequence that's been going on far too long to do anybody any good. It happens all the time in other narrative focused mediums, so it was bound to become a recurring issue for games as well. Sometimes despite best efforts, things just go to shit.
Growing up with score based arcade games, an ending always meant the literal "GAME OVER" screen. How satisfied you felt at that moment and where it was going was not the point. Doing a little bit better the next time was enough of a reward. Even on 8-bit consoles as storytelling evolved the emphasis was always on the journey. The ending to The Legend of Zelda was never controversial in my circles, it just ended. Every once in a while you'd get something memorable, like Metroid (Samus is a LADY) or a burger with Ronald Reagan. But on the whole the technology just wasn't there to create engaging story beats and thematic hooks, so the games rightfully focused on what they were good at.
On computers things were a bit more interesting, perhaps because the demographic skewed towards the older crowd. Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? on the Apple IIGS was probably the first time I was completely enthralled during the end of a game. All those hours spent chasing Carmen's henchmen around the globe, looking up clues in a goddamn Almanac, and never even coming close to catching the big fish. Then when you finally find out you're on her tail for real, the stakes are immediately raised. You get to see the big, one-off chase, the master crook behind bars and a long congratulatory fax from Interpol. I felt like the smartest person alive at the time. Feeling smart, feeling rewarded, feeling like you've accomplished something - those are still the hallmarks of a pretty decent ending today.
Of course if every game we played wrapped up in a bow with a high five, great job, you're the best kind of message, gaming would never really evolve as a narrative platform. Main characters dying, surprise twists, multiple endings, post credits sequences - it's all old hat at this point and people are always going to have opposing opinions about what works and what doesn't.
To truly be a bad, miserable, fuck-all-that-shit ending, to become something that was or easily could have become zeitgeist pre-internet, it's got to stand out from the pack. Introduce contradictions, plot holes, betray established characterizations and themes. Make it clear for all to see that you just plain ran out of time and/or money and yeah that sucks, here's what we squeezed out. Or perhaps drop the ball in the closing moments when things were going so well earlier - by stringing along the player with sequel fodder or refusing to wrap things up altogether. The more enjoyable the meat of a game is, the greater the potential for letdown.
Not all the bad ones leave a lasting impression on me. I can barely tell you what happened in BioShock after you jump into a Big Daddy suit and head out guns blazing, but I remember it being awful. That game is still brilliant as a whole and a highlight of the generation. I loved the last bit of gameplay in Fable II, even if many felt cheated out of a final boss. Other notable cases do stand out, however - Knights of the Old Republic II was painfully unfinished after a pretty intriguing and lengthy main game experience. Arkham Asylum's ending would have been a whole lot better if they'd gone the Fable II route instead of the big boss fight. And Resident Evil 5's denouement, oh man. From mindless fan service and button mashing to bad camera angles to QTE's to a cheap and prolonged Wesker fight that I kept replaying over and over again, when it was finally over I was left pretty much numb to any story implications or any positive takeaways from earlier in the game.
I suppose in the end, like most things for me, it all comes back to early PC point and click adventures. That's where I first started giving a shit about where a game was going and where it ended up, so naturally that's where I first felt the nasty sting of the memorable and lasting bad end. It's also where I started to become a fan of not just games but entire series - Leisure Suit Larry, Monkey Island, Space Quest.. and Quest for Glory. Quest for Glory I: So You Want To Be A Hero, aka Hero's Quest was a game way ahead of it's time, establishing a lot of the hallmarks that branching action/adventure RPG's still use today. The ending was satisfying, and the sequel was even better on all fronts. You could even import your character.
Then came Quest for Glory III: Wages of War, a game that technically was never planned for by the developers. The gameplay was overly reliant on combat which completely negated my Thief from the previous two games. It was a glitchy mess that crashed constantly. It was also maddeningly easy. The story was tacked on, convoluted and not up to the standards the series was known for. And then, it ended.
A bunch of nonsensical revelations, you can fall in love out of nowhere, a wizard happens, and you're hit with the twist that all those events that transpired in games I and II? Those people you saved, the bad guys you stopped? Never happened. Sorry bout that, everything is actually pretty terrible. And then while gathering with your travel buddies pre-credits, dark magic happens. Your character flips out, and you're rewarded with a nice big TO BE CONTINUED... IN QUEST FOR GLORY IV: SHADOWS OF DARKNESS. While two wizards look over you in an orb. You lose no matter what. And all this despite the fact that one of the hallmarks of the series was how open ended it was, how you could jump in again as a different class and make different decisions to change your experience.
Quest for Glory was never the same for me after that point. I had been disappointed in multiple ways by not only a game, but a groundbreaking series I'd been heavily invested in for years. It left a mark.
I must say I get what the kids are going through these days. But at this point, I wouldn't want it any other way. The spectacular collapses, over time, have proven to be at least as interesting as the satisfying conclusions. Sometimes even more so. We'd all be a lot happier if we just embraced the cold, unfulfilled reality of bad endings, and instead of the usual cacophony of outrage we'd join hands in unison to appreciate the finer nuances of the truly remarkable ones together. After all, they only come around once every so often.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PC)
Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)
Saints Row: The Third (PC)
Assassin's Creed: Revelations (360)
Dota 2 (PC)
Infinity Blade II (iOS)
*falls off cliff*
"OH so that's how it's gonna be Dark Souls? You're just going to fuck me like that, aren't you? Make some easy enemies rage up on me, fall off a cliff, lose all my bloodstain souls? There was at least a few levels worth in that thing. Well guess what, I'm shutting you off. HA. Who wins now Dark Souls? Me. I win now."
[30 Minutes Later]
"Well I could probably grind on some guys for a bit, gain a level or two.. yeah.. my bloodstain wasn't even in a bad spot before, I could have gone farther. Might as well try. I paid 60 bucks for the game, I can't just give up on it."
[One Hour Later]
"WHAT IS THAT. Oh shit oh shit, there's fog and I can't run back, I guess I'll try to stab it aaaand I'm dead. Okay. That room has a ridiculous boss in it but I did get a couple of hits in. Bonfire isn't too far away, I can do this."
[One Hour Later]
*dies to boss in seconds*
"FUUCK THIS I'M OUT"
[Later That Night]
"Alright, I'm ready. Get my humanity on, wait for a summon symbol to appear, I need some help from another player but fuck if today isn't going to go by without me killing this demon thing. Here we go."
[15 Minutes Later]
"I AM THE BEST DARK SOULS PLAYER ALIVE AND THE CO-OP IN THIS GAME IS AMAZING"
*makes avatar do cheering motion*
"Oh shit.. where am I? No health potions left. I can't die now, not with all these souls. Got to make it to the bonfire. Heart pumping out of my chest... please.."
[5 Minutes Later]
"Too easy, I'm in the zone now. Bring on the new area, I'm hungry for more souls."
[One Hour Later]
"HOHOHO that thing just fell on my head and ate me. Well ain't that a big pile of fuck! Fuck it. Fuck this game. Turning this off, I don't need this stress."
[The Next Morning]
*brews some coffee*
*boots up Dark Souls*
"It's... going to be a long day."
I found myself with some extra coins in my pocket so I went down to the Gamestop and purchased a 3DS. It's not something I particularly wanted right now but definitely felt like something I'd want to have sooner or later. The actual device is slicker than I expected, even if it carries some of the rustic charms of the phat DS. The screens are large and inviting though not especially spectacular, and all of the buttons and pads feel responsive and comfortable. The retractable stylus is an improved model that's also a pain in the ass to reach. Was a nice touch for them to throw in a stand and keep the same charger as the DSi, and it helps alleviate the battery life issue when hanging around the house. Even if revisions are inevitable, it's a nice piece of kit.
The 3D effect messes with my eyes when I'm not using the system. Particularly when looking at another monitor, for a significant amount of time after playing I sense the screen try to display 3D, but then my eyes fight it back to normal. It's a strange sensation and one I'm not entirely comfortable with, so I'm taking plenty of breaks and will probably start playing with the 3D off once I'm over the novelty a bit. The effect on the handheld looks very nice, and I'm surprised at how effective it is even in subtle instances. Unfortunately the illusion breaks if you start moving towards a slightly different angle or distance. What you're doing impacts how stable the 3D can be, and it was at it's worst during the AR games - had to turn it off for that. I keep messing with the slider to try and find the sweet spot for different experiences, actually that little slider turned out to be one of the most important features of the system. Not sure if I'd be able to deal without it.
The amount of built in software is impressive and substantial, even if there's a lack of actual games to buy the system itself is plenty fun on it's own. Lots of long tail projects like play coins, a Pokedex and Mii based puzzle and RPG games give you a reason to turn the thing on and justify your purchase. 3D photos are stupid fun tricks, and they give you plenty of tools to mess with them. I've already encountered one other StreetPass Mii and I can already see how it's an amazing idea. The eShop is a bit of a DSiWare wasteland right now, hopefully something good shows up there aside from the Nintendo ports. And Legend of Zelda 3DS, my accompanying title of choice, is the best version of the classic to date. It looks great and still feels fresh and exciting.
Happy with my purchase, but even as I type these words the computer monitor is glowing in a funny way. For most people, waiting until v2.0 arrives with better battery life, wider viewing angles, and sleeker hardware is the way to go, especially because there's bound to be at least 2-3 must own games by then. But if you are careless with money and like new toys, I'd say it's a worthwhile investment at anytime.
Man, Dragon Age 2. So many flaws, but with just enough of BioWare's satisfying Adventure/RPG mechanics to be worth playing. I guess I like it. Clearly it could have used another 6 months to a year's worth of development time, the problems bug me to the point that I feel the need to dissect them in list form.
There's plenty else to nitpick, moreso if you swore by the PC original, and when you factor in a pandering ad campaign and poor response to criticism I'm disappointed in BioWare on a few levels. It's not without positives - fast paced gameplay, very little downtime, some good side quests, a few memorable characters and a personal, politically charged storyline (that unfortunately falters before the end). The game has the spark that BioWare is known for, even if it isn't the brightest, along with plenty of rich fiction that builds on themes from the first game.
There seems to be a lot of faith in Dragon Age as a franchise and certainly there is potential - DA2 suggests the series will follow in Elder Scroll's footsteps, with each game taking place in specific kingdoms or provinces. I just hope they consider putting future emphasis on the quality of the experience instead of worrying so much about marketing, focus testing and setting aggressive production milestones.
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