PlayStation Plus Catch Up - November 2014.

At this point I've run out of preambles for this feature, so I'm just getting into it. Actually, I should say that I already played (and wrote about) SteamWorld Dig on PS4, and I didn't play The Hungry Horde because it was Vita only. SteamWorldDig is a good game that I recommend, if you missed my previous blog about it.

Binding of Isaac: Rebirth.

This is one of those games where I ended up having a much different reaction to it than I expected I would. At least to the game play. Between watching all (yes, all) of the streams Patrick did for the original game, and the Wrath of Lang (er, Lamb) expansion, I felt like I had a pretty solid grasp of what this game was, and that I probably wouldn't care for it. And at first I didn't. Only being able to shoot in four directions didn't feel great at first. And to be fair, it still doesn't feel "great," I've just gotten used to it.

That's the thing with this game. It feels kinda bad at first. But if you stick with it, get to know the systems, the "feel" of the game, it can get really fun. And kinda addicting. Not for me, but I have an internet friend who has played A LOT of this game. Like, borderline worrying amounts of it. But not quite. But I can see how that would happen. I hate to use the term, but this is one of those rogue-like-like-like-like-like games. You know, the whole every level is procedurally generated, and it's meant to be played in one sitting (though, unlike say, Spelunky, this game will save your progress and let you continue from pretty much anywhere) thing.

But unlike a lot of those games (like Spelunky), not everything is available at first in Binding of Isaac Rebirth. The first time you play it, the farthest you can get is the first battle with Mom (if you don't know what the game's story is, it involves a naked little boy trying to escape his homicidal mother who believes that God told her to sacrifice him). But, once you beat her, it unlocks new levels, and you can go deeper in and defeat Mom's Heart. And it just gets crazier and weirder from there, involving fights with Satan, and other characters I shan't spoil. And there's plenty of other items, both passive and active, and tons of other things to be unlocked. Different characters as well, which create really different ways to start off the game. A character that can fly and uses charged energy beams plays a lot differently than the ground based ones that shoot tears, for example.

And that brings me to the thing I don't like about Binding of Isaac Rebirth. The art. Granted, the kinda pixelated-y style is definitely better than the original Flash game art, but I still don't really like it. Not even so much because of how the art is made, but more because of what it is. This game is pretty disgusting, when you get down to it. The blood and guts are mostly fine, but it's all the poop. It's just disgusting. Poop enemies, poop just lying in the world, poop bosses. I don't like it. It's gross. A lot of the items and things are gross too, like toenails, and cancer. Cancer is literally an item in this game. Actually, there's TWO cancer items. One is the health related thing that is really bad in real life, and the other as an astrology related this.

It's a weird game. But it's also a really fun game, and a surprisingly fun game. Of the PS+ games for this month, I'd say it's definitely the standout one, and definitely worth your time. Though, I have heard that the Vita version's framerate might be terrible. Oh, and Trophies are kinda broken on PS4. There's a bunch that I didn't get that I should have, like one for a bunch of the characters that I unlocked. But I've gotten other Trophies, so it's not completely broken. But I'm still irked about not getting Trophies that I should have gotten. That said, if you haven't played this game, it's worth your time if you have PS+.

Judgment: Really good, totally worth your time. I know I'm going to play a lot more of it.

Luftrausers.

Now that I think about it, Luftrausers is kinda similar to Binding of Isaac. At least in that it follows that start over after dying and occasionally unlock new things model. But that's about it, because Luftrausers is a lot more like the arcade games of olde, except you unlock new plane parts that change how you fly around and shoot stuff. Honestly, this game is pretty thin, in terms of what's there. You fly around (in sidescrolling 2D fashion) trying to destroy enemy planes, ships, and eventually even a giant zeppelin (that I was never able to destroy). There's challenges, a score multiplier-combo thingy, and high scores to beat. The longer you go, the more intense the action becomes. But that's about it.

The different plane parts do make some pretty drastic changes in how the game plays, though. Turning speed, regular speed, type of projectiles, and other things all change. Want a ship that can stay underwater forever, and doesn't take impact damage from hitting enemies? Sure! Want to explode in a giant SKULL SHAPED explosion after dying? YUP. Want your plane to be propelled by BULLETS? Anti-gravity that basically lets you float? All in there.

It's fun too, which is the most important part. And addicting in the way that good old arcade games are. It's also really hard in that way that old arcade games are. Like I said, I never beat that zeppelin, so for all I know there could be something bigger and worse after that, but that would be kinda absurd.

But as fun as it is (I played it for three hours straight one night), like I said, it's pretty slim. I haven't played it since that initial three hour burst. But part of that is because it's a PS3 game (and maybe Vita too?), and that's kind of a hassle at this point. A small hassle, but still a bit of one. Granted, that's mostly because I try to only play with a DS4 on my PS3, which takes a little bit to properly sync up. But it's worth it when the controller is so much better.

So, if you have PS+, I'd say give this a shot. I don't know how much it normally goes for, but I wouldn't pay a whole lot for it, given how little there is in the game. I mean, unless I missed some other mode or something.

Also the game has fake Nazis in it.

Judgment: Pretty fun, but not a lot to keep me going.

Escape Plan.

Escape Plan was originally a Vita launch game, if I remember correctly. Which means it feels like it's just a bunch of Vita gimmicks thrown together with a kinda interesting-ish art style. Which is why the PS4 version is not a good game at all. All you do is try to guide a couple of characters (that are either auto-walking or stopped) through small rooms, and afterward it scores you. You do this by moving the right stick around and interacting with things like you would by touching a Vita touch screen. I think the DS4's touchpad was also used for something, but frankly, at this point I've kinda forgotten most of this game.

But hey, maybe it's better on Vita? It did at least look like it was upscaled nicely for PS4.

Judgment: Not good, and not recommended.

Frozen Synapse Prime.

Remember how Rainbow Moon had set a record for fastest "I'm done" with these PS+ games? Well, it's been beaten. I couldn't even start Frozen Synapse Prime. Seriously. I try to load it up, get to a screen where it tells me to set the screen boundaries, but when I hit start to move on, it just hard locks the PS3. Granted, I only tried it twice, so maybe I should have a third time, but I wasn't that interested in it.

So instead I'll just link you to the Quick Look of the original Frozen Synapse, which was a kinda interesting looking game.

Judgment: Apparently completely broken.

And that's it for this month's PS+ games. Binding of Isaac Rebirth, SteamWorld Dig, and Luftrausers are all pretty good! Go play them if you haven't!

Mario Kart 8 DLC.

That's not all I've been playing though! I also downloaded and played around with the first pack of Mario Kart 8 DLC. And guess what? It's really good! But what do your hard earned dollars get you in the DLC?

First off, you get three "new" characters! Two of them are furry variants of Mario and Peach, which I wouldn't really be upset about if it weren't for the fact that Birdo still isn't in the game, but Link is. And that's cool. It's Skyward Sword Link too, which I love because Skyward Sword is probably my favorite Link design. I know lots of people always point to Wind Waker's art style and everything, but I never cared for the character proportions in that game. Heads are too big (though I really need to finish Wind Waker HD one of these days). Also, Link whips out the Master Sword and Triforce when he does tricks, which is cool and silly. I also think Link is a good character to play as, which is nice, because I can make use of the DLC instead of playing as Waluigi from now on.

There's also four new vehicles, one new set of wheels, and one new glider. The vehicles include Link's horse shaped motorcycle (including matching wheels and the glider), The Blue Falcon from F-Zero, and a couple others that don't matter as much. Though, sadly, the Blue Falcon is not the fastest vehicle in the DLC, that goes to one of the others, the name of which I don't remember. That's a little upsetting, but whatever. BLUE FALCON.

And then there's the tracks. There's 8 of them, 3 of which are remakes of older tracks (one from Double Dash!!, one from the SNES game, and one from the Wii one). And all of them are good, but the standouts are the Excite Bike one, the Zelda one, and Mute City from F-Zero. Those are all really fun, and have fantastic music. But Mute City is my favorite, by far. Super fun. And instead of having coins strewn about the track (to make you go faster), the energy recharging sections from the F-Zero games give coins, which is a neat touch. The Zelda track has similar things, like making the coins into ruppees, and even having a section of the track where activating little crystal things (by driving into them) opening a ramp for a shortcut. That's really neat.

And there is a playlist for playing online that includes the DLC tracks, which was smart on Nintendo's part. Makes it easier to play with people that have the DLC (though I believe you could play on the non-DLC playlist with DLC characters and vehicles, because the game makes you download a patch that I assume has that stuff in it to get online).

And it's reasonably priced too. $8 for that one pack, or $12 for that and the next one (coming in May of next year), plus you get bonus Yoshi and Shy Guy colors for getting the bundle. Or, at least I think you do, that may have been a pre-order only thing. Which is a shame, because no one should be without Pink Shy Guy.

I'm also still playing Advanced Warfare. I even prestige'd for the first time last night! It's still a lot of fun, especially with friends. I hope to keep playing it for the time being.

In other news...

I am no longer a moderator on Giant Bomb. I wasn't going to mention it in this blog, but I figured I might as well so people don't notice sometime later and pester me about it on the forums or in private messages. I mean, I know this probably wouldn't stop all of them, but whatever.

But that's all I'm going to say about it, so that's it. I really enjoyed my time moderating the site, and I'm going to miss working with the others.

I was on a podcast!

So, some of my goofy internet friends do a podcast every other week, and for some reason they invited me to do it. It's pretty long (3 hours and 44 minutes). So long that we actually recorded it in multiple sittings last weekend. We were also going to do a segment on the Metal Gear Solid series, but it got kinda long, so we're recording the MGS one later this week.

Anyway, here's the link, go give it a listen!

Pax East!

Against all odds, I am going to Pax East next year! Not much else to say about that, other than that I am very excited, and am looking forward to it immensely! It's going to be a ton of very, VERY stupid fun.

And that's it! Tune in next time, where I'll write about Far Cry 4! And maybe Dragon Age Inquisition and Super Smash Bros for Wii U! I own FC4 (really liking what I've played so far), and am planning to get the others too. I'd also like to get GTA V on PS4, but it's hard to justify spending another $60 for that game right now, with so many other new games to get.

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Answering the Call of...Bayonetta?

If you recall from last time, I had actually finished Bayonetta 2, but didn't want to write about it too much without going and replaying the first game. I've now done that, so I'm writing about it.

Bayonetta 2

Bayonetta 2 is a tricky game to write about. Well, it's a tricky game for ME to write about. Because, as I've mentioned before in my blogs, I think I'm a better writer (about games) when I focus on the negative side of games. You know, I just don't think writing, "well the punching is good," and, "I like shooting dudes in this game," makes for interesting blogs. The issue here is that the core of Bayonetta 2 is so fantastic that it pretty much overrides the negative aspects of the game, even if I end up spending more time nitpicking the bad parts of the game.

But that's the thing with Bayonetta 2, well, both of the games, really (though the first has addition issues). The core is great, but everything surrounding it is kinda lackluster. The combat is as smooth and fun as ever. The thrill of narrowly dodging an attack, and having slow motion witch time to pound the enemies to literal bloody pulps is even better this time because I can actually pull it off fairly consistently, unlike in the first game (which is substantially harder, even after playing all of the second game, and going into it feeling like I was good at Bayonetta style fighting). There's a lot of weapon variety, and I think the different weapons are more satisfying, and more useful overall than they were in the first game.

But the fights rarely last very long in Bayonetta 2. In an effort to cater to the people that want scores and ranks for everything, for every little fight, most of the encounters in the game are super short. Not all, and as the game goes on, they tend to get longer, but it's still an issue. The game is so compartmentalized that it forces you out of combat a more than I think it should. I just want to be fighting enemies, I don't want to get into a fight that lasts 40 seconds, then have to wait for the stats screen, then wait for Bayonetta to destroy the barrier preventing her from advancing (either by blowing a kiss or shooting a bunch of bullets in a heart shape), and then move forward until I get to the next encounter.

There's nothing new or different about this type of encounter design, Platinum has been doing it for years, and even then, they more or less took it from the Devil May Cry games (or the later ones, at least (I think, it's been a while since I played DMC 3 or 4)). I was talking with a friend who is playing REVENGEANCE for the first time, and he was complaining about how much of the game was cut-scenes, and how much of it was spent between fights, waiting for more fights. And waiting really is the right word to describe the issues I have with this style of action game that Platinum makes. Too much of it is spent waiting for it to get back to the game play.

That's not to say that I think these games should be nothing but endless fights, far from it. I definitely appreciate down time between fights, and there are hidden things to be found in the levels, which is always a welcome touch. And there's sequences with things like Bayonetta riding a demon horse, or on top of a jet that change what's going on in a refreshing way, but never overstay their welcome (unlike in the first game, where those sequences do go on longer than I thought they should).

It's more the cut-scenes. When the cut-scenes in Bayonetta 2 are good, they're really well made cut-scenes with crazy stuff going on, and well choreographed fights. But any time Bayonetta was fighting enemies in a cut-scene, all I could think was that I would have rather been doing the fight myself, instead of watching it. Conversely, when the cut-scenes in Bayonetta 2 (and especially the first game) are bad, they are REALLY BAD. A lot of them don't even have movement. Seriously, the game will go from a regular cut-scene to these weird things where everything is freeze frame, aside from some odd things like a scarf that might be blowing in the wind. The characters keep talking, but the scene is frozen, but moves forward from one freeze frame to another. It was terrible in the first game, and it's terrible that they brought it back into the second. And then there's the part where there's an overly large amount of unnecessary back story and stuff presented in the form of characters talking for far too long about things that I didn't really care about in the story.

And both games have an annoying kid character that is really important to the story, but also annoying because they're kids. But as much as I don't like the kid as a character in 2, at least he doesn't get in the way of game play like the kid did in the first game, because you have to actively protect her several times there. At least the one in 2 knows how to look after himself.

But let's forget about all that stuff, because in the heat of the moment, whilst fighting those enemies in increasingly ludicrous scenarios, Bayonetta 2 is just an absolute delight to play. I know I already went over how the core of this games makes up for all of its shortcomings, but I have to say it again. This game is a joy to play. I love love love love LOVE playing it. If you have a Wii U, you really should buy this game. If you like Platinum style action games, and would even consider playing the other Wii U exclusives, you should get a Wii U to play this game. I mean, unless you're struggling for money, don't do anything stupid that would prioritize a game over food, or rent. But if you really like these sorts of games, you'll adore this one. It's the best game of this sub-genre of action games that I've ever played.

And it comes with the original Bayonetta! Which, to be honest, I didn't enjoy as much as I did when I first played the game a couple years ago on 360. I'm glad I did though, because it did do a good job of showing how much better Bayonetta 2 is than the first game. Everything from the technical side of things (Bayonetta 1 seemed to have some frame rate troubles I didn't remember from the 360 version, but I don't know if that's my memory, or the quality of the Wii U port that is at fault) to the pacing, to the use of QTEs is better in Bayonetta 2. In regards to that last one, the first game has several instances of QTEs that if you fail, you die, and it counts as a death toward your overall ranking. The game checkpoints right before the death, but it's still poor design. Bayonetta 2 sticks with keeping the QTEs just for climax and torture attacks, and those just involve mashing a button or rotating a stick to get some bonus points.

One advantage the original does have is that the alternate Nintendo themed outfits are unlocked from the get-go, rather than being unlockables that require hundreds of thousands of in game money to get. I ended up playing most of Bayonetta 1 with the Link outfit, because I enjoyed using the sword as a weapon, and it made the sword look like the Master Sword. Another reason is that Link's hat does a better job of hiding Bayonetta's goofy tall hair in the first game (I prefer her new, shorter hair in Bayonetta 2 a lot), which looks especially dumb in the Samus costume. I might have used the Peach one more, because while I really liked that it turns the giant hair arms and legs (which Bayonetta summons as the final hits in some combos) into Bowser arms and legs (complete with Bowser roars)...she also wears a really short skirt in that outfit. And the way she runs means that it's almost constant upskirts and...well, I don't need to continue on that. Suffice to say I preferred the Link outfit (though in retrospect, I find it a bit odd they didn't go for an old school Link where Link didn't wear pants under his tunic, but let's not get on that subject).

But the biggest issue I had replaying Bayonetta 1, which I already mentioned, is that the game is a lot harder than Bayonetta 2. I enjoy it when games are challenging, but I prefer it to be a reasonable challenge. I think the ideal difficulty is when it feels difficult to succeed, but it's not so difficult that it takes multiple tries. Bayonetta 2 is a lot better at being at that level of difficulty than the first game was. I'm not really sure what it is specifically, though. Part of it is that it's a lot easier to time the witch time dodges than in the first, but even beyond that, Bayonetta 1 is harder. Still fun, but also frustrating at times.

All right, I'm moving on now. I feel like I've gotten rambly and am repeating myself. So I'll repeat myself once more and say Bayonetta 2 is great, and you should play it if you can.

Oh, and the co-op mode! I haven't had a chance to try it yet (mainly because @rmanthorp and I are bad at coordinating things), but there's online co-op. I'd like to try it eventually.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

I've also been playing the latest Call of Duty game. I really like it. Overall, I'd say it's my favorite Call of Duty campaign. I say "overall" because the Blops games still have the best story, because Treyarch is still the only developer that at least tried to do something with the story, rather than just being predictable at every turn. Which isn't to say the story is overly bad in AW, or anything like that. It's just pretty straightforward. It's presented well, and the performances by the actors involved are good all around. Kevin Spacey is good, but he's not as good as the trio of Ed Harris, Ice Cube, and Gary Oldman that were in Black Ops I (also Sam Worthington).

Conversely, the thing I really hate about AW is that while the character you play as (Mitchell) can talk during cut-scenes, he stays silent in game. It makes no sense whatsoever! It makes me really upset that developers still think things like this are acceptable in this day and age, especially when other CoD games (Blops) had no issues whatsoever with having the playable characters talk whilst being played. It's just a stupid holdover from the older games, and I wish it wasn't the case in this game. Or really, any game, at this point.

I mean, I understand if a game is low budget, and there isn't enough money to hire a voice cast. But this is Call of Duty. This is the biggest franchise in video games, for better or for worse. It's not a budget issue, it's a design issue. Bad design. I'm being serious, it only drives home the fact that this is a video game, and breaks the immersion when Mitchell should be responding, but doesn't because some people still think the character you play as shouldn't be talking.

However, at the end of the day, CoD is about shooting people, not talking, and it does get that part of it right. And with all the fancy future stuff in this game, it's really fun. Double jumping and air dashing is fun, using slow motion is fun, threat grenades are cool, fun stuff is fun. That was a poorly written sentence, I'm sorry. Anyway, there's also a lot of different types of things to add more variety, like vehicles, different gadgets for different missions, and even a stealth mission where the game literally turns into Splinter Cell, but with Scorpion's spear attack.

I'm not even joking, there's a part in a mission where you have to hide in a bush, push a button to whistle, which attracts a guard. At which point you use a grappling spearing to pull the guard in, and kill him. It's great.

Though, I do have a few issues with some of the future stuff in the game. Specifically, the gun that "prints ammo." I'm sure someone came up with that because 3D printing is cool and hip write now, but really, let's be real. That makes absolutely zero sense. First off, I don't think you could simply 3D print a bullet. Bullets have gunpowder in them. And are metal. I'm not sure off hand, but I'm going to say that the metaling point for most metals is higher than that for the plastic you see used in 3D printers, so that gun would have to have a really hot smelter thing in it.

But the real problem is that you can't just 3D print something out of thin air. You can't just spontaneously create matter out of nothing, so the gun couldn't just create ammo forever like it does in the game (or at least in the campaign it seemed to be doing that). You'd have to be carrying the same weight in raw materials as you would for the end bullets, so it makes absolutely no sense at all to do that when you could just carry bullets in there, even assuming that it would be possible for a gun to create its own bullets.

I know this isn't something I should get worked up about, but it's just so absurd in a game that at least tries to make itself seem plausible that I couldn't not mention it. I also think the sonic shotgun is absurd in that it doesn't seem any better or like it does anything that a regular shotgun wouldn't do, but it at least seems like something that could be feasible. Also, I really like the sounds it makes.

Speaking of, this game has really good sound design. Lots of future-y sounding future stuff. I'd never played a CoD game with headphones on before, but good use of headphone-y surround-y type stuff. As you can see, I'm well versed in discussing audio things, so I'm just going to move on.

The multiplayer is really good too. You might even say the real draw of the game, but I don't want to make any controversial statements about Call of Duty. Or, at least, it's good if you like playing Call of Duty online. I can see how the quick deaths could turn a lot of people away. And even if my case, it almost does some of the time.

But, this time I actually have friends to play with! Well, internet friends, at least (I kid). But seriously, having friends to talk with whilst playing CoD goes a long way to making it more fun. Even if what we're talking about has little or nothing to do with the actual game. Scratch that, ESPECIALLY if it has nothing to do with the game. At that point, it basically just becomes talk about nonsense whilst shooting is going on in the background.

This is nothing new, but I haven't played games whilst talking with people online in a very long time. I mean, not counting Destiny slightly earlier this year, obviously. I did during the one year I paid for Xbox Live Gold, but that was it until I got my new headset. Really glad I got it.

I don't really have much to say about the multiplayer itself. I mean, it's mostly just running around shooting people. I try to play the modes where my dying doesn't directly give points to the other team, and I've grown quite fond of Uplink. It's basically basketball, but with more shooting and dunking gives more points (two versus one for throwing the ball in). I find that a bit odd, given that I've missed every time I try to throw it in. That's probably just because I have lousy aim, though.

There is also a Horde Mode equivalent in the game, because I guess no CoD game can release now without a third mode. It's not very good, and it has the distinct feeling of having been thrown in just to satisfy a checklist. I mean, nothing about it seems broken, or terrible, it's just boring. And heartless.

I never liked the Zombies mode in the Treyarch games, but at least that mode had heart, and personality. And stuff that wasn't in the main game. Levels, assets, voice acting, mechanics, weapons, enemies, and probably other stuff that was made specifically for that mode. This co-op mode just uses the same maps from the competitive mode, and enemies from the campaign. No voice acting, no story, nothing. Everything about it feels cheap, and lazy. And like I said, it's not very good.

So that's Call of Duty Advanced Warfare. I really like it, and I'm going to keep playing it. I think I'm level 41 or 42 right now. And I think I'll go through with Prestiging after I hit the cap, which I've not done before. I hit the cap in Blops 1, but I didn't want to lose all my unlocks, so I didn't. I didn't play enough Blops II to get near the cap.

Also, as a one last thing, I wish I could have pink camo and gun paints in this game. I've grown quite fond of making my customizable video game characters pink to some extent. Also, I feel like the lower resolution of these shared images is really started to be a drag. This looks blurry and terrible. Well, maybe not terrible, but not great either.

Sports Friends

Hey, remember when I didn't have anything to write about this in my PS+ catch up for that month because I hadn't played it? Well, I've played it now! My sister came over for a few hours yesterday, and we spent some time playing Sports Friends (among other things). Well, we played a bunch of Super Pole Riders and Johan Sebastian Joust. We didn't play Hokra because that requires four players, and I was pretty sure my sister wasn't going to like Bara Bari Ball, so we didn't even try.

Both of those are really fun. And really stupid. Especially Joust with only two people. My living room is large enough that we were able to move around a bit, but also small enough that I had to remind her several times to be careful so we wouldn't crash into everything (and nothing was crashed into). With only two people, it turns into kind of a duel, or even a dance between the two. Circling each other, trying to make a grab for the other controller. Then again, given the size difference (I'm quite a bit older and fairly larger than her), I kinda had to go easy on her, but not too much. That said, I'd still like to try this in a larger space, and with more people at some point.

I also really like the variety of announcers and music for Joust, especially if you put in the code(s) for the Bastion and Stanley's Parable announcers. My sister (who has never heard of Bastion) thought that music and the western-y sounding music were hilarious in how out of place they were with the game (and I'm inclined to agree). And one of the announcers speaks in Brazilian Portuguese, which was funny to listen to exactly once, like many things in a language you don't know any words of.

Super Pole Riders, on the other hand, is a much less physical experience, but still really fun. The physics are goofy and dumb, and we had a lot of fun playing that. I don't really have anything nuanced to say about it.

And that's about it for what I've been playing lately. Not counting some of this month's PS+ games, but I'll save discussion of those for after I've played as many of them as I can. Well, I've been playing a bit of Mario Kart 8 again, and I'll likely keep playing it as the first DLC pack (not counting the Mercedes stuff) is out this week. I'm hopeful that Link is better than Waluigi so I can play as him instead of going back to Waluigi. Not that I don't like Waluigi, I'm not a monster. More that I play to win.

Assassin's Creed Unity is out this week. I'll most likely be buying and playing that. I love me some Assassin's Creed, and the French in me means that I have to play a big budget game set in the French Revolution. Not that I've ever been to France or anything, I just kinda feel a weird connection to it. I dunno.

I had been thinking about getting the AC Xbox One bundle, since apparently all the Sunset Overdrive ones are sold out, and might not get restocked. But I have a couple friends that want to play the co-op with me, so I'll be playing on PS4. Hopefully the co-op is decent, because I don't want to miss out on getting a free Xbox One game ("free") just to play a couple lousy co-op missions. Also I hope they're good because I hope the game is good, but you know.

But the point I had been trying to make is that I've come around (again) and want an Xbox One (again). Last time (I blogged), I think I had decided that the economic side of things didn't make sense for me to be getting an Xbox One. Well, of course logic didn't last long, and now I really want one again. But like I said, the good bundle is sold out, and I'm not getting the AC one if I'm not going to be playing it on Xbox. So right now...I guess logic did win, because I'm not getting one unless there's a really good deal, or the Sunset bundle comes back in stock. Logic wins?

And that's it! Come back next time where I'll write about Assassin's Creed Unity Probably! Or maybe Far Cry 4 as well, depending on how long it takes me to write the blog, I dunno. Could even include Dragon Age Inquisition then. Well, probably not, because I'm still not 100% sold on that game, and even if I get it, I'll probably wait until after I'm done with AC and Far Cry.

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October PS+ Catch Up, Share Play, and the End of (me playing) Destiny?

It's that time of the month again! This (last month, I tried to write this yesterday but helping my mom with her car troubles got in the way) was a weird month for PS+. For one thing, #DRIVECLUB wasn't free, just like how it wasn't free at the launch of the PS4 last year. At least then they replaced it with something else (even if Contrast ended up being a bad game). And then there's the line up of games that actually were free. On the one hand, it has some pretty incredible games. Assuming you hadn't already played them. Batman Arkham Asylum, Dust: An Elysian Tail, and Spelunky are all fantastic games...that I've played before. At least in the case of Dust and Spelunky they were PS4 versions of games I already owned, so it made a fair amount of sense to download those. Especially with Spelunky, which I had not "beaten" until I got the PS4 version (and even then, I've only beaten Olmec, as I detailed in a previous blog).

The port of Dust seems good (gonna replay all of it at some point), and Spelunky brought in my save from the PS3 version...somehow. I checked, and I had cloud saves turned off on the PS3 version, so I don't really know HOW it did it. Maybe that stuff is saved in the servers? I would say that maybe it checks Trophies, but it had my stats and journal. It had, on record, the number of times I had died (over 400 at the time of this writing), and my settings for controls and stuff. Which was great, because it just took that stuff and worked. But I don't know how it did it, and it befuddles me. Oh well. Either way, those are two fantastic games that you absolutely should play if you haven't.

And now back to The Regularly Scheduled PS+ Catch Up Feature, where I discuss games I had not previously played!

The Regularly Scheduled PS+ Catch Up Feature.

Pix the Cat.

Pix the Cat is that weird sort of game that you never heard of before playing it, but then turns out to actually be pretty good. It's also really weird, in a "we couldn't really think of logical reasons for anything in this game, so we just arbitrarily chose things and made the game," kind of way. Why else would a cat be playing a video game about a cat that collects duck eggs (which instantly hatch and start following the cat) but also has to avoid floating skulls and spiky things? That's not a bad thing, but it does seem so random that it's a tad off putting.

But, the game itself is fun, which is what's important. The goal is to navigate around rooms, collect all the eggs, and drop them off in little egg drop off points (with there being one per egg). And, if you want to get your combo up (which you do), you want to try to collect all of the eggs before dropping any of them off, which is often quite challenging. There's a time limit to see far deep you can get, new levels, modes, and voice overs to unlock, stuff like that. It's fun, but kind of a "I'm just gonna play this a bit and then not play it for a long time" kind of game. But it's good.

However, this is not the last time I'll mention it in this blog, SO STAY TUNED!

Judgment: Good and fun. Will dabble with in the future.

Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara.

So, this is a bit of an odd one. I vaguely remembered watching footage of this once on Giant Bomb, but I didn't really remember what kind of game it was. Which is why I got really surprised when I saw an Iron Galaxy logo when I started up the game. Turns out it's a port of an old arcade game. Actually, ports of two old arcade games, both D&D related. Both also olde style beat'em'ups, which, okay, I need to have a quick little aside. I really like D&D. Over the last year, I played a bunch of it (ie, two quests that took forever because we didn't play super regularly, but I was the dungeon master for the second one), and I love it. I don't think these two games are a good use of the D&D license.

See, the appeal of D&D is that there's far, FAR fewer restraints on what you can do compared to what you can do in a video game. Want to try to reason with the kobolds? Sure! Want to steal their kobold blood, use it to poison the town well, and then "accidentally" burn down the local tavern? Why not?! The appeal is that it's so open ended that you're pretty much just limited by your imagination. Granted, there's still rules, you still have to roll to see if you succeed, and you need the DM's approval, but it's still vastly open ended.

So a game where all you do is run to the right and smack things with a sword seems like a poor use of the license. I mean, yes, there are different characters, that probably play differently, but when I played it (all in one sitting whilst listening to a Bombcast), I just stuck to one character and mashed my way through. Granted, I died dozens of times, but I didn't really care about playing well. I just wanted to be able to have things to say about it.

That's a lie, I did enjoy it, for what it was. So far as old beat'em'ups go, it was pretty good, really. I only played through one of the two games in there (though I did play the first level of the other one), but it was enjoyable for what it was. There are little special moves that can be done by doing things like quarter circle forward and attack, and there are items and things. But for the most part, it's just running to the right and mashing. Which is fine. It's fine!

Judgment: It's fine, but still a poor use of the D&D license overall.

Rainbow Moon.

This game is impressive. Why? Because it's the fastest yet I've gone from, "let me check this out," to "nope," and I deleted it. About five minutes. Now, I know, not really a fair shake, so I went and re-watched the Quick Look for the game, which confirmed what I vaguely remembered, and what I felt from playing the first few minutes. It's a strategy RPG rife with microtransactions and a poor art style. So I didn't feel bad about stopping playing. And I'm not gonna write anything else about it.

Judgment: Not going to play it ever again.

Sharing with Share Play.

So, if you don't keep up with PS4 firmware news, then you might not be aware of what Share Play is. It's one of several new things added to the PS4 firmware (the other notable ones being new themes (including PINK, which, in the course of this year I have gone from disliking (mainly due to avoiding "girly things" when I was in the closet), to liking ironically, to legitimately liking), direct upload to YouTube, changes to the interface that don't really help, and a bunch of bugs) in a recent update. But what is Share Play? It's a thing that lets you Share footage of a game with someone else, LIVE, and over the internet. Sound boring? What if I said you could also let the person you're Sharing it with PLAY the game that's running on your PS4? What if I then said it allows you BOTH to play, and thus play local multiplayer only games ONLINE? HM?!

On paper, it's super cool. In practice? Well, I spent some time messing around with Share Play with my internet friend Jay (@smashecontrollers here on Giant Bomb). And we had mixed results. As you might expect, this is a feature that your enjoyment of will depend largely on the speed of your internet connection. My internet is pretty decent, and does what I need it to do most of the time, Jay has much faster internet. I could get faster internet, but when my dad is the one paying the bills, it's hard to justify, you know?

Anyway, we tested it with both me Sharing and Jay being the Share-y, and with Jay Sharing and me being the Share-y. When I was Sharing, Jay said he noticed very little lag, and most games were completely playable (Injustice being the one he thought suffered the most, which makes sense). We played a variety of stuff, like Sportsfriends, Towerfall, Spelunky, and some other stuff. All playable to him.

But when I was on the receiving end? VERY laggy. And blurry (which is probably the same regardless, given that it's not streaming at full resolution). Kinda unfortunate that it was as laggy as it was given that my internet is fine for doing things like playing games online with people. Or maybe I just have a lower tolerance for lag than Jay does, I dunno. I really doubt that's the case, given that I'm a Console Scrub Lord that has put up with bad frame rates in a lot of games over the years (like Skyrim and Far Cry 3 on PS3). I don't really have any way to actually get hands on with trying this with better internet, because I'm not going all the way to Jay's house (especially when I don't know where he lives beyond what state), and I don't know anyone locally with a PS4 and better internet than me. I'm also not THAT interested in finding out, to be honest.

The weirdest thing about Share Play is that not all games work with it. Apparently Sony said that they should, but that's not the case. Take Pix the Cat. When we tried to play that, I got a message that said there was a region something or other that meant I couldn't see it. Which is absurd, given that Jay and I live in the same region. Hell, we're only one state apart! I can understand if this was a US to Europe thing, but this was just absurd! And I don't see any reason at all as to why Pix the Cat would be the one that wouldn't work with it. Just strange.

So that's that. It's a cool feature. I might use it in the future, if I want to do something like play a local game with a friend online. Like Sportsfriends. I'd like to play more of Super Pole Riders. I love riding those poles.

You know, I wasn't going to comment how I had to upload my own screenshot of Pix the Cat because there weren't any on GB, but now I can't get any decent SportsFriends ones from GB either! What's up with that?! And I don't think I can get into Sportsfriends without it being two player, and I don't feel like turning on a second controller for that (especially when I forgot Rest Mode still bugs out half the time and have to manually shut down my PS4 now by holding the power button).

Instead here's a doggie. It's timely for Halloween.

The Final(?) Destiny Check In!!!

I finally did it. I finally managed to get through the Vault of Glass. We cheesed the first boss (which my other group beat proper like on my first attempt), but beat the second boss properly (given that it was patched to remove cheesing). And what were my rewards?

The shader. A stupid shader that I would never use because I don't like the look of it compared to my pink one (because pink is rad). No gear, no guns. The only gear-ish thing I got was a stupid glowing arm band that I already had from my previous attempt at the Vault of Glass. Well, not counting a few greens and a blue I got as drops along the way. And more Ascendant shards/energy that could be used for upgrading stuff (assuming I had things I needed to upgrade and also the dozens of Relic Iron/Helium/Spinmetal). But that was too much for me. I couldn't take it.

Look at this thing. I mean, if white with a little bit of blue is your thing, that's fine. But it's not my thing.

So I'm done. I'm not playing this game any more.

Probably.

See, the part where you shoot stuff is still pretty fun, especially with friends. But I'm done with seeking out things in this game. I'm done with trying to get to level 30, I'm done with obsessing over Strange Coins so I can buy another stupid thing from Xur when he shows up on Fridays. I'm not going to say that I've never going to play the game again. If a friend wants to goof around for a while whilst shooting stuff in the game, I'm gonna do it. But beyond that? Nah. I'm done.

Okay, it is a pretty cool armband, even if it's not the one I wanted to buy from the Speaker that he hasn't had in stock for two weeks.

The news of the Expansion could have swayed me in the opposite direction, but instead it only cemented my feelings on it. What does your $20 get you? Three new story missions, two new strikes (one of which is PlayStation exclusive, which means it's probably bad like the other PlayStation exclusive strike), one new raid, and some new weapons and gear that can get you to the new level cap...of 32.

That's not $20 worth of content. $10? Sure. $15? Stretching it, but I might still think about it. But $20? No way, Bungie. It's become apparent at this point that Bungie doesn't understand how much content a game like this needs, and they're more interested in making money. Which, I mean, yes, I know that's how the system works. They are in it to make money, but this is too far.

It was fun for a while, but it's time to move on.

Goodbye, Destiny.

In Other News.

So, I have also played Bayonetta 2 to completion. But, I don't feel like writing about that right now. I'm already putting this blog up a day later than I really wanted to (not that it matters much), and I'd like to replay Bayonetta 1 again to better compare the two first. So, all I'll say is that Bayonetta 2 is fantastic, and that it's a game that everyone with a Wii U should buy, and everything that likes Platinum style action games should buy. Even if you don't have a Wii U, I strongly suggest you take a long, hard look at the Wii U's library and consider getting one. It really is a super great game, and deserves as much support as it can get. If Bayonetta 3 doesn't happen because of the poor performance of this game, I'll be very sad.

As is usual, there's not much going on in my life outside of video games that is worth writing about here. After getting all gung ho about getting back to work on my (third) novel, I fell back off it again. I'll finish it eventually, because Dave Lang once told me (and a Twitter friend who was also in the tweet) to never quit until it's done, so I'm not going to quit until it's done. It's just taking me a lot longer than it should. But one of these days I'll get back in the novel writing groove and I'll get some serious progress done.

And video games! The heavy fall season of game releases is finally upon us! Next week I'm likely being peer pressured into buying Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare by my internet friends, then I think Assassin's Creed Unity is out the week after, and Far Cry 4 might be out the week after that. Along with GTA V on PS4, which I might also be peer pressured into buying. And LittleBigPlanet 3. And Dragon Age Inquisition, which I had been thinking about buying, but might not if I'm getting other stuff like GTA V (which I'm not committing to yet, as much as I loved that game on PS3). Then Super Smash Bros. For Wii U is out on the 21st. And that Mario Kart 8 DLC! I'll have to get that too, so I can play as Link.

November is going to be a busy month. There's also a part of me that is feeling the, "I should get an Xbox One while they're on sale," pressure reeeeeaaaaaaaalllllllyyyyyy hard. It's hard to justify for two, maybe three games though. The "two" being D4 and Sunset Overdrive, the maybe third being Forza Horizon 2. $350 for the Sunset Bundle (which comes with a white console that I would regret for years to come as it clashes with my other stuff), plus $15 for D4, plus $60 for Forza comes out to $425 without tax. I could get all of the non-Xbox One games I mentioned above (and the MK8 DLC) for $432 (also without tax). I can't justify doing all of that (over $850) this holiday season without getting a job and paying for it myself, and if I could, I'd be smarter to putting that toward finally getting a decent gaming PC.

But enough about my financial woes, and trying to use logic to stop myself from buying a console I don't need. I think this blog is a tad shorter than what I've been doing lately, but it's long enough. I'll be back some time in the near future with more blogs about more games!

This game had better be good. I don't want to buy it and have all my friends abandon it a week later.

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Coming Home (to Nintendo); Like I Never Left.

If you follow my even halfway closely, whether that be here, Twitter, etc, then you know that even in the best of times, I deal with depression pretty often. Not nearly as bad as some people, but still fairly bad. And as you probably noticed, these haven't exactly been the best of times on the internet as of late. I'm not even the hardest working moderator on Giant Bomb (not by a long shot), but we've been putting in a lot of hours lately, and I know I'm very happy for Sunshine and Smiles Week. I think we could all strive to try to be a bit cheerier, and happier when interacting with other people online these days. Even me. Especially me, but that's not what the meat of this blog is about.

Back in July I got a Wii U, and I've been spending a lot of time playing Nintendo games since then. I hadn't really thought about it until just recently, but it was really the first time I had spent a serious amount of time playing a lot of Nintendo related stuff since...Probably the launch of the Wii. Granted, there were Wii games that I had been playing for years after that, but the last one I played was Xenoblade Chronicles in 2012. And even then, as much as I loved Xenoblade (probably my favorite Wii exclusive), it's not really a Nintendo game. I mean, literally it is, given that Nintedo published it, and it was made by a developer owned (I think) by Nintendo. But it doesn't really have that spirit of whimsy and mirth that I associate with Nintendo games (not counting more serious ones like Metroid or Legend of Zelda, and I really need to stop getting off topic before I completely tear what I'm trying to say to shreds).

When I think of Nintendo games, I think of the games I played as a kid, with Mario happily crushing walking mushrooms and turtles to death. Games that are just about having fun, and not about serious stuff like stopping terrorists, saving the world from annihilation, or what have you. And that's mostly what bigger games have become. As these games get bigger, and grander in scope, so have the stories. Not necessarily better (as things like what GB coined "The All Story"), just bigger, and more dire. It's also not necessarily a bad thing, some topics deserve a serious amount of drama and reflection on real world topics, like how Metal Gear handles nuclear war, the ethics of genetic tampering, using the media to control the masses, and...Okay, I can't keep that one going with a straight face.

But these last couple of weeks I've been spending a lot of time playing Super Mario 3D World and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. And I've learned a couple of things from these games. The first is that Nintendo is very rapidly running out of names for its existing series, and the second is that they've still got it. They're still the best at making fun, whimsical games about jumping on and over stuff. And I couldn't be happier, because sometimes, when it feels like the entire rest of the world is slowly imploding around you, you just need to jump around as Mario doing fun stuff to brighten your day.

Controlling like a Pro.

I think part of the reason why I really enjoyed playing these games more than the other Nintendo throwback-ish stuff I had been playing is that I got a Pro Controller for my birthday, which was a big improvement (also New Super Mario Bros isn't great, but that's neither here nor there). I know when I first wrote about the Wii U Gamepad (the controller that comes with the system that features the big screen in the middle), I was hovering somewhere around optimistic/kinda favorable. Or, at least I think that's where I was at, I didn't really take the time to go back and check to make sure. Anyway, in the months since then, I really soured on the controller. Aside from using it for the over-world map in Wind Waker HD (which I never finished, and will try to before the end of the year), and using the screen to waste close to 200 hours of my life in Miiverse (not an exaggeration), I kinda grew to really dislike the Gamepad. It's "fine" in that way that you tell your parents school was "fine" when in reality you just want to die because the girl you asked to prom declined (not that I know from experience, or anything). It's "fine" in the way that watching cable TV in 2014 is "fine." Sure, it works, and it gets the job done, but there's much better ways to accomplish the same thing. It's not "fine" in the coin collecting sense where "fine" is a higher grade than something like "good" (I think, I was never into collecting coins like my dad was back before I was born).

The Gamepad is big, and not comfortable to hold. It's just wide and heavy enough that you can't really hold it in the air comfortably for super long (not great if a game requires motion controls with it), and the "grips" on the back are too small to really be of use. And as I do remember detailing in my first write up, some of the buttons (specifically start and select) are hard to get at with your thumb, without taking your hand off the controller, at least. Again, the controller is "fine," but I knew for a while that I was going to have to get a Pro Controller.

And I did! And I LOVE it! I feel like this thing exists because someone in Nintendo said, "Hey, you realize people are gonna hate this goofy screen controller, we should make something normal," and then the rest of Nintendo said, "hey, you might be onto something." I never owned a "Classic Controller" for Wii, but from my brief time using one that my friend had (I think the redesign with the better handles), I have to say that the Pro Controller is also a considerable step up from that. I'd even go so far as to say that the Pro Controller is the best Controller Nintendo has ever designed, and is one of my top three controllers of all time. Right up there with DualShock 4 and the 360's controller. I definitely like it more than the Xbox One controller, though as I've said before, I've only used those for a couple of hours.

Like with the Gamepad, Nintendo opted for a symmetrical design (which I prefer to the asymmetrical one on the Xbox systems), but with the sticks "on top," rather than on bottom like on Sony platforms. It took a little getting used to, but not much. The controller is comfortable to hold, and the buttons and sticks all feel good to use. It's a really well built controller over all, but it does have a handful of issues.

The first one is that the "triggers" (ZL and ZR) aren't analog. For whatever reason, Nintendo decided to put digital triggers with no pressure sensitivity on this controller. I shouldn't have been surprised by this, given that it's the same on the Gamepad, but it was still a little surprising. I find it especially odd when the GameCube had pressure sensitive shoulder buttons (though they weren't really trigger shaped like these are). I'm sure Nintendo has its reasons for this decision, but it would have been nice if they were analog like on the competitors' controllers. Not that I expect to play a ton of games on the system where that pressure sensitivity would be key, but it's one less thing that Nintendo exclusives can use. Like, what if someone makes a a game for Wii U with driving in it? Take Watch_Dogs for example, that's coming to Wii U. I doubt anyone will play it, but there's not going to be any nuance to the accelerating in the driving in that game like I had on PS4. Sure, that wouldn't break the game, but it doesn't improve it. But then again, there probably won't be many games worth playing on Wii U that would be worsened by this, so it's not a huge deal, in the end run.

Another issue I have, which isn't that big, is that there's no headphone jack on the controller. I wasn't really expecting it to have one, but the Gamepad did, and I've gotten really used to playing PS4 games with my headphones on, so I would have liked if it did. Then again, the Gamepad doesn't even have audio for all games unless you're playing on the screen (or, at least Wind Waker HD didn't), so even if there was one on the Pro Controller, it might have been expecting too much to assume I could get audio from it anyway. I should add that, when playing Super Mario 3D World, I noticed that even when using the Pro Controller, the Gamepad stayed on and kept outputting audio, so I actually plugged into the Gamepad to get that game's music into my headphones. It was real silly, but it worked. It does not work with Tropical Freeze, which was a bummer, given that game also has fantastic music.

My last issue is with the power button on the controller. On the other systems, you hold down the PS Button, or the Big Shiny X Button, navigate a menu, and turn the system off, to sleep mode, whatever, from there. But on Wii U there's just a power button (on both Gamepad and Pro Controller) that when held, just turns the console off. Granted, the button is lower profile than the other buttons (as is the Home Button), so it's not really easy to accidentally hit, but I can't help but envision accidentally turning the console off and losing progress because I did. It doesn't bring up a menu or anything, it just turns the console off.

Okay, one last thing that I want to complain about, but this has more to do with how the Wii U handles multiple controllers, or even just one controller. Rather than just attaching a profile to a controller, like Xbox has done for years, and like how Sony does with PS4 now, instead the Wii U just kinda turns the controllers on and off at will. Seriously. If I use the Gamepad to turn on the Wii U, the Gamepad stays on and I can use it to navigate menus. But If I use the power button on the Pro Controller, the Wii U turns the Pro Controller off before I get to the main menu, so I have to hit a button (any face button) to turn it on, then I have to press another button to make sure it knows I want to navigate menus with it. That part is because Nintendo wants the menus to be navigated by touch screen, but I don't want to do that every time. (But I should add that it doesn't turn the Pro Controller off if I go to the main menu from in game.)

Then, once I get into a game, it has to ask which controller I'm using. You'd think that they would be able to realize that since I was navigating menus with the Pro Controller that I intend to use it in game, and could skip that part, but nope. I mean, it's a hassle more than anything else, but it's a hassle that the other consoles have gotten around. It doesn't help that Nintendo has full compatibility with Wii Controllers, and is going to be adding GameCube controller support for Smash Bros (but apparently nothing else, even though that'd be a great time to start selling GameCube games on Virtual Console).

But, at the end of the day, the Pro Controller is fantastic. Really love it. Battery life is good too, or at least, better than on PS4. It makes me hope that Nintendo doesn't put out many more games that require the Gamepad, because I don't want to use that thing. To the point where I'm considering skipping games like Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker that I feel like will require the Gamepad. Seriously.

Oh, and another good thing about it: Unlike PS4 controllers, it came with its own charging cable. A five foot (ish, I didn't measure it) one, no less! And apparently it uses mini-USB (not micro like PS4), like the PS3. And also like the PS3, the Wii U can't charge things through USB when it's turned off. Which is weird, since I'm pretty sure the Wii could. So that's left me using my PS4 to charge my Pro Controller, which I think is a little funny.

Super Mario 3D World.

Okay, now on to the actual games. This is the first non-side-scrolling Mario game that I've played since Super Mario Galaxy. The first one. Yes, I know, I should have played the second, but...Some day. Anyway, I skipped Galaxy 2, and 3D Land (that was because I don't have a 3DS), and the New Super Mario/Luigi U games weren't especially great. This one, however, I adored from beginning to end. Which isn't to say that the game is uniform in terms of quality, quite from it. It starts out pretty good, but gets absolutely fantastic by the end. I didn't play it last year (obviously), but if I had, it would have been a serious contender for my game of the year.

There really isn't any one particular thing that this game does that other Mario games haven't done, or any one gimmick that really sets it apart, like the FLUDD in Sunshine (the best Mario game). It just does everything that it does really, REALLY well. It controls well (on Pro controller), looks beautiful, sounds great (music and effects wise), and has fantastic level design. It's a joy to play. Delightful is the best word to describe this game.

It does have some new stuff, like a Cat Suit that makes me think that there are a lot of furries at Nintendo, but let's not get into that. There's different characters to play as, but I only ever played as Mario unless I needed another one to get a collectible (there's a handful of stages that have a thing that requires a specific character to ground pound to get it). They do play differently, but I feel like the game was tuned for Mario. You know, stuff like Luigi's high jump and Peach's glide make it too easy. That's scrub-tier Mario play. Also, there's Toad.

That reminds me of the Captain Toad levels, which I really liked until I started playing with the Pro Controller. See, you can't play the Captain Toad levels with that, you have to use the Gamepad. There's a few regular levels like that too. Why? Hell if I know. In the Captain Toad levels you can tilt the controller for camera control (which is poor and you can use the right stick). And there's a few levels where you have to tap stuff on the screen to move them, or blow into the microphone to do stuff. But it all kinda feels tacked on, and I don't understand why they couldn't have ginned up some way to let those levels be playable with the Pro Controller. It's a shame, really, because the Captain Toad levels are really good otherwise, and like I said, I didn't really notice it until I was being forced to swap controllers mid game and use a worse one. But, at least you can swap controllers without going back to the game's main menu, so that was nice.

Speaking of collectibles, most of the levels have three green stars and a stamp. Occasionally you'll need more stars to get to the next level, but I literally collected all of the stars in each level as I went. Not always on my first try, some I really had to get in there and do multiple times, but I enjoyed that. Those stars are fun to get. Sometimes a bit of a pain, but fun. I didn't get all of the stamps, but I think I had three left in the entire game. Well, of the worlds that I have been able to get to. See, after "beating" the game, and seeing the credits, the game opens up a bonus world. Finish that, and there's another. Eventually, I got to the point where the fourth bonus world requires that I have EVERYTHING to get in. All th green stars, all the stamps, and get to the tops of all the flagpoles. Now, those first two are fine. Getting those last few stamps wouldn't be too hard. But getting all those flagpoles? I dunno, man. I got, maybe half of them, total. And that requires not only finishing all the levels I didn't get them in, but also getting to the tops of those flagpoles, which isn't easy. If you have the Cat Suit, you just climb to the top (assuming that counts, and if it doesn't, then screw them), but not all levels have Cat Suits in them. I mean, I'll probably try to get it at some point. Maybe? I dunno.

I do really love the game, which is telling because I'm even considering something like this. I don't really have much else to say about the game, actually. Something I've noticed is that I tend to have a lot more things to write about the things I don't like in games, than the things I do like. At a certain point just saying, "This thing is good" gets kinda boring, because I'm not great at explaining why game mechanic type things are good. I mean, saying, "I dunno, it feels good" is poor writing. But if I don't like something, there's usually a reason as to why (usually), and that gives me something to write about. Just an observation I had about what I write about video games.

Oh yeah, Rosalina is in the game too, but you don't unlock her until you get into the post credits bonus worlds.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

I really liked this game too, but not nearly as much as 3D World. Which is kinda good, because I have more to say about it than just, "hey I liked this." Anyway, I haven't played as many Donkey Kong games over the years as I have Mario games. I played a ton of DK 64, and I played a fair amount of the GBA version of the original Donkey Kong Country, but that's about it. Granted, there aren't nearly as many DK games as there are Mario, but I thought I'd point it out anyway. I also didn't played DKC Returns, for what it's worth.

Anyway, this is a really solid sidescroller. It's fun, and it's hard. Really hard. For the most part, I enjoyed the challenge, but in some cases, it got to be too much for me. Specifically the boss fights. It's not even that the boss fights are super hard, it's more that they go on a lot longer than they should, and if you die, you have to start over because there's no checkpoints mid boss fight.

That's actually another complaint I have about this game, and 3D World. Not enough checkpoints, and why are there lives? In 3D World I actually game over-ed a few times, but in Tropical Freeze I had so many lives that even though I died at least 40 times on the final boss, I still had like 30 left. I mean, DK 64 had infinite lives because at some point, someone at Rare said, "Hey, this concept of a finite number of lives and punishing the player for dying too many times is terrible game design." Granted, Rare made neither of these games, so I dunno.

And yeah, checkpoints are bad in both of these games. And you don't even start back at them with the same power ups or Kongs as you had in either game, which means that not only do you have to replay stuff, but it's now harder unless there happens to be a pickup after the checkpoint. That wasn't that bad in Mario, because that game does a better job of giving you what you need around where you need it (at least until the late game bonus worlds). But there were plenty of times in Tropical Freeze where I felt like dying screwed me over, especially when trying to get collectibles. I didn't obsess over finding everything in every level. There were only a couple where I did, actually.

I think that DK's fur in this game looks fantastic.

I also feel like I missed a lot of content in Tropical Freeze. 3D World doesn't have secret exits, like some of the older Mario games, but Tropical Freeze does. It has a lot of them. But unlike in something like Super Mario World, where a secret exit will unlock a shortcut to skip levels, and get through the game faster, Tropical Freeze's secret exits exist solely to get to secret levels. And there's a lot of them. I didn't count, but some of the worlds must have, like, four or five secret levels. And these aren't short little bonus levels. These are full length, challenging, and fun levels. I did get to a fair number of them, and they are all marked on the map, with the paths to them and everything. So you know what levels have the secret exits (there was at least one with TWO secret exits, that led to different levels), but getting to them is tough. Really tough in some cases.

While I admire that there is a lot of content in there for the people willing to put in the time to get to it, I also kinda feel like I'm missing out on a large portion of the game because I wasn't able to find that stuff. I wouldn't mind if it was only a couple of levels that I missed, but I missed (I should note that I actually turned on my Wii U to get this info) at least 12 levels. And given the post credits thing in the game, I bet there's a hidden secret world with even more levels, if I can find all of a thing that the game introduced after the final boss. And unlike Super Mario 3D World, I don't really feel compelled to go back and find everything.

But again, I did enjoy the game a lot. Like I said before, I tend to focus on the negative aspects of games when I write about them, but I liked this game a lot. It is a whole lot of fun. And the music is FANTASTIC. Right up there with Destiny in terms of best music of the year, I'd say. Which is no surprise, given that it's done by the same guy that did the music for Diddy Kong Racing, which has some of the best music ever made in the history of the world. I'm not even joking, this guy has made some of my favorite video game music of all time, and he's still got it. I'm just going to link to a few of my favorites from Tropical Freeze for you to listen to. Or, actually, I'm just going to leave this one, that about halfway into, it kinda sounds like the serious part of an 80s buddy cop movie version of DKC music.

Okay, and maybe this one too.

I think that's all I have to say about this game. Or rather, I stopped to walk a dog and eat lunch before this, so I forgot anything else I was going to write, so I'll just move on instead.

Destiny Check In.

So, I didn't realize how far my raiding group had made it into the Vault of Glass until I watched Brad and company do it. See, I thought we were on the second of three bosses (as did they others, if I recall correctly), so we didn't feel too bad about stopping on that night, the night before the server reset for the week (I think, it might have been a Sunday, but I think it was that Monday). If I had known it was the last boss of the raid, I would have insisted that we kept at it until we finished it.

Now though, I'm in a situation where I'm as leveled up as I can be without getting raid gear (level 29 with about a third of the light needed for the next level). And my prospects for doing the Vault of Glass to completion? Not great! All my internet friends have either moved on, or are too low level to do it, and probably will stop before they get high enough level. Maybe not Sweep, but that still only makes two of us, unless he can trick some other people into doing it with us. He has more sway than I do (somehow), I'll have pester him about this.

I am so dedicated to my blogs that I tweeted this screenshot just for this blog. I'm also saving up my Motes of Light to buy a cool holographic class item from the Speaker so I don't have a lame blue one any more.

I need to get to level 30. NEED TO. It's going to drive me nuts if I can't ever do that because I couldn't get enough people to do it, and those lazy Canadians I was playing with got tired and had to sleep (I'm only mostly joking about that one).

But at this point, I have over 120 hours into the game. Not counting time spent in the Tower, or loading screens. Or my 50 hours in the Beta. At this point, I'd like to get this obsessive part of the game out of my system, and move on. Not that I don't want to ever play it again, I'd just like to be at a point where I could just play it casually a couple times a week for fun. That's kinda what I do now, but now I have the added feeling of, "god damn it, I'm never going to do this stupid raid to completion." I HAD been hoping I could do it with internet friends, but I'm almost at the point where I want to just trade finding people to raid with for Secret Back Channel Mod Favors. That was a joke, I can't actually do that.

I bought this rare speeder because I like wasting Vanguard Marks.

In Other News.

I finally beat Spelunky! Or, rather, I beat Olmec. Which, hey, is good enough to me! It only took me 367 attempts, too. Joking aside, I consider that to be one of my greatest video game related achievements. That game is hard. I died a lot. And I've played it since then, and have yet to even get back to Olmec (though, that was only the second time I had ever gotten to Olmec). I got close the other day, but I died in the City of Gold. But that was the first time I had made it to the City of Gold, so I wasn't too upset.

Nothing else really going on. Tried to get back into novel writing, but I dunno. Gonna keep at it, however long it takes. Already got two under my belt, so I can do this.

What about the upcoming weeks? Well, I'll try to do a PlayStation Plus Catch-Up next week, just gotta poke around in the couple of PS3 games for this month first. I guess my thoughts on #DriveClub will have to wait, since there still isn't a free version.

Bayonetta 2 is out this week, so I'm going to try to get that. I say try because I anticipate this being one that I might have trouble finding. Probably have to go to GameStop. I know I could download it, but I only have 10 gigs free on my Wii U, and I don't really feel like deleting Tropical Freeze yet.

We're close to November, which means November games are coming. I don't really know the actual release dates of anything, but I assume CoD and stuff are Nov, right? I'll probably get that, my internet friends are, and I might as well play with them before they all abandon it like they did with Destiny.

And that's it! Nothing else to say. I would have gotten this up about an hour sooner if I hadn't started listening to all of the Diddy Kong Racing music and gotten sidetracked. Oops.

It's sooooooo gooooooood.

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Mordor, Slightly Less Destiny, and a Strange New Headset.

First up, I want to say that it took me a while to settle on a title for this. I couldn't really come up with anything good, and a part of me kept wanting to go with a "no man should have this much power" joke (partly because of what I want to discuss about this game). But I decided not to, because as a person that does not listen to "young people music," I associate that line with Giant Bomb, and not the song it comes from (I really hate that song, by the way). It's something I've had to remind myself of several times over the years. That's not just a stupid Giant Bomb joke, it's also a song that I hate (seriously, I turned the music off during that mission in Saints Row the Third where it played). (Also, I added this sentence after the fact, but I added more to the title to reflect that it's not just about Shadow of Mordor.)

He was a War Chief, by the way. Yes, that's his brain.

But enough about the inner workings of my mind, this is about Shadow of Mordor. Okay, but just a little more preamble first. Over the years, there's been a handful of games based on things that I've really wanted. Like, I really wanted a great Star Trek game, a great Man with No Name Trilogy game, a great Mad Max game, etc. And while I've gotten games that aren't actually based on some of these things that pretty much did what I wanted anyway (Mass Effect, Red Dead Redemption, etc), one that I had all but given up hope for was Lord of the Rings. (Also let's hope that Mad Max game ends up being good.)

Shadow of Mordor is that game. Pretty much. Though, not because I think the game is bad (overall I REALLY like the game a whole lot), more because I think it doesn't do a whole lot with the fiction it's based on, and in some cases, feels like it's being hamstrung a bit by having to work within a labyrinthine set of rules regarding what can and cannot be done within the Tolkien universe. Also it has some game play issues.

The Story.

I'm not going to get super deep into the story stuff here, because the story in this game is pretty standard stuff, and feels kinda half baked in a few spots. There's only twenty story mission in the game, and I'd say that close to half of them cover sub-plots that don't really add much to the main story (aside from adding a bit to the back story of the Wraith character, well, it's not a bit so much as it is a whole, but aside from a reveal in there that serious LOTR nuts would already have known, it's also pretty standard stuff). And some of the stuff in the story missions feels like it was thrown in solely to try to lure people into buying the game because of a thing from the movies. Specifically I mean Gollum, who adds nothing to the story, and at this point I've gotten kinda tired of. Though, while Andy Serkis was too busy being in movie of the year Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to be in this, the stand in (Liam O'Brien, aka one of those guys who is in EVERY video game (probably best known for being War in Darksiders)) sounds almost exactly like the Gollum from the movies, so at least the character was performed well, for what it is.

And the story itself in the game kinda reminds me of The Force Unleashed, now that I think about it. It's this thing set between two properties (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in this case, the two existing Star Wars trilogies in the other) that is trying to have it's own important story, but also retcon its way into the greater fiction...but without actually changing anything important from the existing movies (or books, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and say this game takes more from the movies, at least aesthetically). But the end result is that at a certain point, I know that the things these characters are going to do will ultimately be meaningless. I mean, there's no way Talion and the Wraith are going to kill Sauron and save Middle Earth, that would negate the existence of The Lord of the Rings.

The ending of this game left me in this weird place where I'm really excited for the next game (and unless this game is a colossal failure sales wise (not likely), there will be another), but also feel like whatever story it tells will ultimately be meaningless. I'm not going to spoil the ending of this game, but it's a, "Come back next time for when the real fight starts" ending. And I suppose it's possible that they could find a way to end this as some sort of tragic tale where Talion fails at the hands of Sauron, and they make it a big dramatic and sad thing. I kinda doubt that. The story here is told well enough, and the voice acting is good across the board, but I dunno.

But all of that is kinda secondary to what makes this game really great which is the part where it's a game where the enemies remember you.

I went to go and include a picture of Ratbag (the best character in the game), only to discover that he didn't have a page on the site, so I had to make one. It's not super detailed, but it exists now. I really liked him, he's sort of like the Lamar of this year. Great character that wasn't used as much as he should have been (though he's MUCH more underutilized than Lamar was).

The enemy of my enemy is probably also my enemy.

The Nemesis System. From the initial announcement of this game, this was the thing that the marketing was built around. A game where there was a hierarchy of orcs and uruks, all procedurally generated, and with the capacity to remember previous encounters with you. The kind of thing that sounds too good to be true, which resulted in most people (myself included) being really skeptical of the game. The rest of it looked interesting too, it was being sold as an open world stealth-ish game set in Mordor. Again, sounds too good to be true to someone that loves open world games, and stealth games.

But to my surprise, the system works, and works really well. It's not perfect, I definitely had a fair amount of repeats, both in the looks of the uruks (both in terms of physical appearance, and their armor) and in lines of dialog (I was told several times by different uruks that I looked like a stiff breeze would kill me), but overall, it works. I'm not the first to say it (and I doubt I'll be the last), but nothing makes you want to kill an enemy in a game more than having him mock you for killing you in your previous fight, ESPECIALLY in a cockney accent. And the presentation, with the dramatic zooms, and the sword clashes between Talion and the enemies, gives a lot more weight to it than it would otherwise.

I should have mentioned that it's not literally every enemy in the game that remembers you. While random enemies in the game will make comments about things that have happened in the course of the game (both in the main story and the exploits around the free roaming), they're still just nameless enemies. At least until one of them kills you, at which point the game assigns him a name and a personality. Then he gets promoted to Captain, and usually gets some radder looking armor to boot.

And this is where the system gets really interesting. This isn't just a list of named uruks that want to kill you, this is a military structure with ranks and a line of command. It's pretty loosely built, and rickety in spots, but it's a military nonetheless. And the Captains in this military are not content to just sit on their butts drinking grog all day. They roam the world, and usually want to pick a fight with you if you run into them (unless they have a Fear of the Gravewalker, in which case they run screaming from you). They don't just wander around aimlessly, they also do things like go on hunts, recruit uruks to join them, challenge other Captains to duels, and occasionally have a feast in which plenty of grog is drunk (grog in this universe, by the way, is apparently so explosive that an arrow (to be fair, ghost arrow) to a barrel of grog causes it to EXPLODE).

But, to make it more game play friendly, none of that stuff (aside from roaming the world) happens in real time. Instead, mission icons appear on the map. You go there, start the mission, and the game loads in the appropriate Captain(s), his/their crew(s), and whatever else is needed. I totally get why, and I see how this makes the game much more manageable than having all this stuff be real time, but it also make it feel like a video game. It doesn't feel like a living world so much as a video game where enemies roam around until you decide that now is the time in which a specific Captain is going to do a thing, and you want to intervene. And there could be a variety of technical reasons as to why it's done this way too, I don't know.

And none of those things happen until either you die, or decide to pass time in one of the towers in the world. There is a day/night cycle, like in all good open world games these days, but you could leave the game running for hours and hours, and none of those events will transpire if you're just standing still and doing nothing. Again, makes total sense from the point of view of keeping the game manageable for the player, but not so much from the point of view of making this feel like a living world.

Really, it's a testament to how good the Nemesis System really is that I'm complaining about something like this. The idea that I want the game to be more realistic, but also much more challenging in this aspect is something that most people probably wouldn't agree with me on. But I'm getting ahead of myself, I still have a couple more things about the Nemesis System to mention.

He's rhyming. Not the only Poet I ran into, actually.

One is that, very near the end of the game, there is an objective to "Defeat your Nemesis." And while I've heard that some people didn't really have a great experience with that (as it was some Captain they didn't really have much association with), for me, the game couldn't have picked a better uruk. There was this one Captain in the first area of the game, Zulgor the Oath-Breaker, that I must have had about ten run-ins with. He killed me, I killed him, he ran away, I took his eye and forced him to have a big metal eyepatch/fin looking thing on his head. And when I saw that it was him, I had a huge smile on my face, because more than any other enemy in the game, I wanted his head. And I got it. I should have saved a picture of him, but I never thought to do it.

That said, the fact that I wanted to kill an enemy that the game generated more than the named story character that killed the wife and son of the protagonist (at the very beginning, it's not a spoiler) says a lot about the quality of the overall story in this game. Anyway, back to what I was discussing.

Later in the game (once you get to the second (of two) area(s)), Talion attains the ability to brand uruks, and bend them to his will. This counts for both nameless enemies, and named uruks in the military. Both Captains and the War Chiefs. Not only will they fight by your side in combat, but they can be commanded to do things, like fight other Captains, attempt to become the bodyguard of a War Chief, or even challenge a War Chief to a duel to take over as War Chief.

That last one is important, because War Chiefs can be tough to take out. They don't roam the world, they stay tucked in safe inside their strongholds. I mean that in the sense that it's impossible to find them unless you are doing a mission, not in the sense that you can actually sneak in and find them otherwise. Missions to lure out War Chiefs range from relatively simple (let his pet Caragors (the animal thing in the game you can ride) escape) to really difficult (defeat a whole bunch of enemies without being hit). And when one does emerge, he'll be accompanied by his bodyguards, which are the Captains from the military. Or some of them, at least. I did see a video on YouTube of a guy that had literally every Captain in one of the areas (each of the areas in the game has its own army) be bodyguards to a single War Chief, and then have them all betray the War Chief at once. In fact, here is that video, because why not?

In the first half-ish of the game, the tactic is to take out his bodyguards first, and then go for the War Chief. But in the second half, the better strategy is to take over their minds, and use them against the War Chief, thus meaning that one will rise to take the War Chief's place, and you have a branded War Chief. But it also can make something that would have been really challenging into something really easy.

The War Chiefs I killed in the first area were all pretty tough. But in the second area, I realized that when you tell a branded Captain to challenge his War Chief to a duel for the War Chiefdom, it creates a little mission outside the strongholds. They meet at a little tent, with few other uruks around, making the War Chief an easy target for you. Making it easier isn't the problem, the problem is that it makes it too easy.

Which brings me to my ultimate complaint about this game: It makes you too powerful.

Too much power.

One of my favorite things about the early part of this game is that it's not very easy. If you're good at timing counters in the combat, and keep on top of things, you'll be fine, but if you don't (and I didn't in the first couple of hours), the game is tough. And it doesn't go easy on you. This game is unafraid to completely overwhelm you with enemies. And I love that. Very few games these days make retreating a viable option, or an option at all, but this game does. Sure, that Captain might taunt you the next time he sees you if you ran away, but he'll taunt you even more if he kills you. And if you get killed by a random enemy in the process, you'll just have ANOTHER Captain to worry about. So, I learned fairly early that running away is often the smartest move in this game, and I loved that. It made the forces of Mordor feel intimidating and powerful. It made almost every encounter feel like a struggle, feel like I was genuinely fighting for my life to defeat the uruks. Made me feel like I had to try to be sneaky to avoid fights when possible.

But, like most games these days, I eventually became so powerful that I could breeze through most fights. With things like the ability to drain life from an enemy in combat, which would restore my health and make the enemy fight for me, the game lost most of its challenge. I mean, I still had to be paying attention, it's not like the game suddenly turned into Dynasty Warriors and became a boring snooze-fest.

What it did was turn a game where I felt like every victory was a triumph into a game where winning was so easy that it just felt like any other game. And so far as I could tell, there's no hard mode in the game that I could have switched to, and there's no way to turn upgrades off to make the game harder for myself. Normally I don't complain when I get overpowered in games, hell, sometimes being overpowered makes it more fun (Fallout 3 comes to mind). But in this case, like I said, that feeling of being overwhelmed was part of the appeal.

So it got me thinking about this in relation to other games, how I feel like there should be more games where retreating is a viable option, and there isn't a way to get overpowered. But then I remembered that games like that do exist, and they're things like Alien: Isolation. I think that's going way too far in the opposite direction, where retreat and hiding is the only viable option. That's also a horror-stealth game (a new genre name I just made up right now), which is completely different from an open-world-action-stealth game like Shadow of Mordor, and I feel like I lost the point I was trying to make.

Balancing games must be hard. I would probably be bad at balancing games, so I dunno.

That said, I did really love this game, and it's definitely one of the best games of the year so far. Hell, it's probably objectively the best game overall thus far, but let's not get into that. I gotta save some stuff for The Fifth Annual Moosies Video Game Awards Extravaganza. Hopefully this year I won't be recovering from being in the hospital, and I can go all out, rather than hobbling together a poorly thought out Luigi Choose Your Own Adventure. This year it'll be a WELL THOUGHT OUT Luigi Choose Your Own Adventure. Or something, I don't know yet. I have been messing around with Twine though...

Destiny Check In.

I've been trying to play less Destiny lately. And succeeding, somehow. I haven't completely stopped, but there have been a couple days this week where I didn't play any Destiny at all. And when I have played, it's either been just messing around in the Crucible, or playing with internet friends. I didn't want to fully stop, partly because I am still enjoying the game, but also partly because I got a new headset mic thingy for my birthday. Here's a picture of it:

It's a Turtle Beach P11, designed for PS3, but works fine with my PS4. And my computer, for that matter. It was about $40 on Amazon. It was recommended to me by my internet friend @krummey, who also uses it for his PS4. The audio quality of the speakers is better than that of my $20 headphones (with no mic) that I bought on a whim one day in Best Buy a couple years ago when I bought Dark Souls (also on a whim and also for $20), so that's nice. More comfortable to wear too, and I've been told by the people I've chatted with that the audio quality on the mic is pretty good.

It's not perfect though. It is wired (wireless ones were out of my price range), and has this weird set up for how it's supposed to plug into things. If you notice in the picture, it has both USB and a headset jack (I don't know what the official terminology for those is) for plugging into things. It also has that little rectangle bit that is for adjusting "game" and "chat audio, and for muting the mic (which is handy). But, the way in which it separates the two audios is strange, to say the least. What you're supposed to do (on PS3) is plug the USB in for the chat audio, and plug the jack into that other cable, which you're supposed to plug into the red and white cables from the PS3, which you use just for audio while using HDMI for video to the TV.

I know, weird, right? Especially after @krummey told me he just plugs his into his PS4, but whatever. If I plug it into the PS4, I get game and chat audio, I just can't adjust them with the thingy. Which would be less of an issue with Destiny if Destiny had ANY options for adjusting in game audio, and wasn't also really loud. Still not a huge issue, because chatting in a PSN Party with audio set to prioritize chat set all the way to chat helps, but still leaves the game a tad louder than I would have liked. But hopefully future games I play and chat with will have in game audio settings like they should.

But as weird as it is, it has led to me being able to do things that probably weren't intended for the device. Since it takes in audio from both the USB and the jack, I can plug the USB into my PC (it needs to be plugged in for power) and plug the jack into my PS4 controller. That way I can get audio from both my PC and the PS4 at the same time. It's not perfect, because I need to stay really close to the PC to make that work. Unless, of course, I plug the jack into ANOTHER PS4 controller.

Sadly, though, my plan to plug the USB into the PS4 and the jack into another controller and have one output only chat and the other only game play didn't work. My plan had been to have two profiles on at once (one just being a guest account), and have one output just chat audio, and the other "all audio," thus letting me crank up the chat compared to the other. But when I tried doing this, setting one in one profile changed it on the other, so it wasn't working. I mean, unless I did something wrong and someone else can show me otherwise. But I doubt that many other people have tried this.

I do know that Turtle Beach sells a P12 that is designed for the PS4, but I didn't get that for a couple reasons. The first was that it was about $20 more expensive, and the other was that the cable is 2 feet shorter. The P11 has a 12 foot cable, but the P12 has a 10 foot one, and in the room I use my PS4 in (the living room in my house (still living with my dad)), 10 feet wouldn't cut it. Even with the 12 foot one, it's not really long enough to reach every spot on the couch I sit on. It's fine on the left and in the middle, but on the right (the farthest from the TV) it technically reaches, but I have to lean forward in a way that's not really comfortable, so I imagine that would have been the experience on the left side with the P12. Also, the P12 doesn't have the USB and jack thing on the end, so I wouldn't do PC and PS4 audio.

Or PC and Wii U audio, because for some reason the Game Pad still outputs audio even when I'm playing with a Pro Controller (in Super Mario 3D World, at least). But I'll get to that next time, I think I've written enough here.

Next time: On Dragon Ball Z, er, Moosey's Blog.

So, I'm almost at the end of Super Mario 3D World. Or I think I am, I'm near the end of the third Bonus World, and I have no idea how many Bonus Worlds there are. I also have Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze, which I haven't started, but I will soon. I'll also write up some thoughts on the Wii U Pro Controller (but the short story is that I really like it).

I also have a bunch of PS+ games to write about (including that free version of #DRIVECLUB, if they ever actually put that up), so that'll be a blog later in the month. And Bayonetta 2 is this month (I think), which I will play, but I suspect that finding it in a store may be troublesome. Wouldn't be an issue, given that all Wii U games are on eShop, but that game is 17.5 GB in size. I have 10 GB left. I have four games downloaded on my Wii U. Wind Waker HD (which I really should finish) at 1746 MB, Shovel Knight at 173 MB, Super Mario 3D World at 1663 MB, and Tropical Freeze at 10 GB. No, I don't know what Tropical Freeze is so big in relation to those others, but I don't have the room for Bayonetta 2 as it is, and I'm not paying a bunch of money for an external hard drive for my Wii U. I wonder why Bayonetta 2 is so large, though. I get why games on the new consoles/PC are so big (textures!), but not this. Unless that includes Bayonetta 1? Who knows.

Nothing else going on. Still haven't gotten back to writing my (third) book, but I swear I'm going to soon. I NEED to get back to it.

But yeah, that's it. See ya next time.

The Legend Returns...

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PlayStation Plus Catch Up: September Edition.

Despite what you may think, Destiny was NOT the only game I played in September! I actually managed to play most (but not all) of this month's PlayStation Plus titles as well! Why not all of them? Well, anything that's Vita only is unplayable to me, which is a bummer, because I totally would have played Joe Danger if the PS3 version was free. Well, it probably was at some point before I had PS+, but there's nothing to be done about that.

Oh, somewhat related, but I recently re-upped my PS+ for another year, which means I'm going to commit to monthly blogs covering all the PS+ games for the foreseeable future. Really though I paid for another year so I can keep playing Destiny online. Anyway, on to the games!

Well, one minor note first. I didn't really play Sports Friends either. I had wanted to, but have yet to have an opportunity to play it with someone. I did turn it on, and mess around in the menus, and put in some codes I found online to unlock different announcer voices and a Pong game type thing, but like I said, I didn't actually play it.

This month's pretty light compared to some of the other ones, actually, so don't be surprised if this blog is shorter than the ones I usually write. Of course, I could go back and edit these couple of sentences to make sense after finishing the blog, but why would I do something sensible like that?

Velocity 2X

This is one of those games that very quickly went from "I know nothing about this game" to "hey, this game is pretty rad" when I started playing it. Well, that's not completely true, because I did watch the Quick Look where Dan played the game without paying attention to the tutorials (or just skipping them completely) before playing the game.

The premise of the game is that some future lady testing an experimental gets lost in space, like the classic TV show Farscape, and then she has to fly around and do stuff. Really, the story is flimsy, and presented in the "classic video game style" of still images with text. Though, it is a more fleshed out and explained story than in Destiny, not that that's saying much. There's no voice acting either, which I don't mind given that I was mostly just skimming past what little dialog and story there is in the game. Though, I was a bit upset that the (somewhat short) game ends on a cliffhanger, but it was free, so I won't complain.

Really, if I was to complain, it would be that the game only took me a few hours to complete, because I was having an absolutely blast with it. The levels in the game switch between two different styles of play, one which is a traditional looking top down scrolling space ship shooter, and the other which is an on foot side scroller where she gets out of the ship. That's something that I'm kinda surprised more games don't do, have part of it be in vehicle, and part on foot. I mean, for these 2D smaller scale games, obviously there's plenty of AAA stuff that does that.

Though, that's probably a budget and/or design issue, where you kinda have to design two very different games and make both of them good, rather than just focusing on one. But, in the case of Velocity 2X, both ARE very good, and that extra variety was really nice. Which isn't to say that there's no similarities between the two, because there are. Some of it is superficial stuff like both having collectibles, but the game's core principle of "velocity" is there in both.

Generally speaking, this isn't a game that you "have" to play quickly, but it's a game that feels best when you are moving through it at top speed. Especially in the on foot sections, if you can get into a groove and move through them quickly, the game is fantastic. And the levels were very clearly built with maintaining a "flow" through them in mind, because the developers knew they were making that type of game.

Mostly, at least. Later in the game there's a heavier and heavier focus on placing teleportation pods in spots (both on foot and in ship) and then teleport back to go down alternate routes. In the on foot parts, you can pretty much go wherever (though, like I said, the game is at its best if you are constantly moving and getting into the flow of it), but the ship parts are constantly scrolling up. Slowly, normally, but there is a boost to make it go a lot faster. Anyway, the later levels involve a lot of going back and going through alternate routes, and then going back down the original routes after some other routes have been opened up, etc. Luckily the game done a little blue flashy thing on the screen when you get to a spot where you should drop a pod, so it's not just complete guesswork.

Overall I did like that teleporting stuff, but in a few cases it did leave me staring at a map for a fair amount trying to figure out where to go next. Not that that's a bad thing, it just felt a little out of place in a game that is primarily about moving, and moving quickly.

It's a fun game. If you have a PS4 or a Vita, and have PS+ (and really, why wouldn't you?), and you haven't played it yet, then I suggest you download it now before Sony swaps out the free PS+ games for next month's. It won't last you very long, but it'll be fun while it lasts.

Though, I will say that while most of the game's fun little gimmicks and abilities are fun to use, there were two that I didn't care for. The first one is in the Quick Look, and it's the throwing the teleportation pods thing. Not that I don't like the concept, but the process of stopping and aiming them wasn't fun. And there's a couple spots later in the game where you need to throw one of those, teleport to it while it is still midair, and then do a jump-y dash-y thing and avoid hitting a thingy that'll kill you. The other doesn't show up until the last couple of levels, and I don't really want to spoil it, so all I'll say is that it reminded me of Brothers (which I did not like) in the worst possible way. Not that it ruins the last couple of levels, but it doesn't really help them.

Judgment: Very fun, highly recommended. Too short though.

I did tweet a few screenshots of this at some point, but at this point it'd be buried beneath a sea of Destiny ones in my Twitter thingy, so I didn't even bother, this is just a GB one from the wiki.

Hoard.

If I described Hoard as a dragon simulator where you roam the countryside burning villages and stealing princesses to ransom them off for gold (no joke, the game uses the word ransom), you would think Hoard sounds amazing. But then I'd tell you that it's a small indie game with modest production values that's focused on multiplayer. But, unlike Sports Friends, I was at least about to play enough of this game to be able to write a little bit about it.

It's okay.

Playing against the AI was kinda boring, so I didn't really play much beyond the tutorial. And like with Sports Friends, I didn't have anyone to play with locally. I don't know off hand if it has online multiplayer or not, but even if it does, I doubt many people are playing. Even with it being PS+. And yes, I know I probably should have gone back and checked before writing this, but I already covered the most important part, which is that dragons kidnap princesses with the sole intention of ransoming them off for money.

And that's pretty cool. There is a fair amount of depth to stuff, like having to protect the princess, looking for power ups, attacking the other dragons, etc, but like I said, I didn't really play much of it.

Judgment: It's all right, probably pretty fun if you have people to play with. I doubt I'll ever play it again.

PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale.

I love Super Smash Bros. From the original on the N64 to Melee on the GameCube, and then Brawl on the Wii, I've played countless hours of these games. The Wii U version (coming "Holiday 2014" (January 2015)) is one of the reasons why I got a Wii U. I absolutely love these games, and playing them is an absolutely blast.

PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale is a bad game, a shameless rip off, and I feel sorry for people that paid full price for it.

Okay, I'm being a little harsh. Like with the previous game here, I didn't have a chance to play it with other people, I'm sure it's a lot more enjoyable in that context. Actually, I'm not sure, because the basic act of playing the game didn't really feel good. Maybe that's just because it doesn't play exactly like Smash Bros, and I kept trying to do things like smash attacks that aren't in this game, or maybe it's because it is just a bad game, I'm not really sure. I didn't play a ton of this game before I decided that I never wanted to play it again.

To be precise, I played through the tutorial, and then played through the arcade mode (or whatever it was called, I don't remember the specific name off hand) as Raiden (from Metal Gear Risigng: REVENGEANCE), and then I stopped. Didn't even want to try other characters to see if I enjoyed them more. The game just wasn't fun to play.

Part of that is how the scoring system works. You don't win in this game by reducing your opponent's health bar to zero like in a traditional fighting game, instead you're scored on kills (not KOs like in Smash Bros). And you get kills by filling a super meter and then using a super on your enemies. There's three different supers for each character, depending on how much meter you have, and if you hit someone with a super, it's a kill. That's it.

Contrast that with Smash Bros and its damage system. In Smash Bros, when you attack someone, you raise that character's damage percentage. The higher the percentage, the further that character flies when attacked, with it eventually being so far that it's nigh impossible to recover (like the 300% sudden deaths). The goal is to knock opponents off the level, in any direction. For as simple a mechanic as that is in Smash Bros, it feels incredibly deep and nuanced compared to PlayStation All Stars where getting hit with a super means you die, no matter what.

And apart from not being fun to play, the game just feels kinda lifeless, and like it was stitched together haphazardly. Part of that is in the levels. In the Smash Bros games, most of the levels are based on the games from the series. This is true in PlayStation All Stars too, but in this game, most (if not all) of the levels seem to be combinations of ideas or areas from multiple games, but with no rhyme or reason as to how these were combinations were decided upon. Why does the Parappa the Rapper stage turn into Killzone at the end? Why does the Buzz Quiz guy show up in the LittleBigPlanet level? Some make some semblance of sense, like when the flying bird guy (I forget its name) from BioShock Infinite and some zeppelins attack the plane from Uncharted 3 whilst its in air. Songbird! That's the name. I think.

That's also kind of a bummer, the cast in this game. Granted, I'm no expert on the cast of characters that Sony has, but there's a lot of third party characters in this game, and not necessarily the ones that I would associate with PlayStation. Like, where's Crash Bandicoot? Where's Lara Croft? Where's that guy with the pointy hair and big sword from that Final Fantasy game? I get that there's a load of legal reasons why these characters aren't in there, but it's not really a great selection in the game. Like, there's two Coles, one good and one evil. Not that Smash Bros hasn't done the same thing (and worse, cough, Dr. Mario, cough) before (and again), but that doesn't mean it's good, or that I wish it wasn't the case. Though, for all I know, maybe the two Coles play completely differently from each other, it's not like I tried either of them.

This game's a bummer. Part of that is on me, I'll admit, for wanting the game to play exactly like Smash Bros. Really, that's this game's biggest problem. It's not similar enough to Smash Bros to work as a Smash Bros clone, and it's not different enough for it to work as its own thing. If this had played more like a traditional fighting game, I would have been able to separate the two in my mind, and maybe get some more enjoyment out of it. But as it is, I didn't enjoy the game at all, and never want to play it again.

Judgment: Disappointing in every way. Will likely never play again.

Destiny Check in!

So, a lot has happened in Destiny since last I blogged about it. The Queen's Wrath event is still going, but in a horrible move, Bungie decided to patch the game so that Queen's gear doesn't dismantle to useful mats like Ascendant Shards any more, which made that stuff useless to me. And they patched out the loot cave, which kinda made me not want to play the game.

BUT, then they announced that they were fixing the random engrams! After tomorrow's patch, engrams will no longer decrypt into engrams of lower tiers! And that made me happy! But you know what made me even happier? An attempt on the Vault of Glass!

If you don't know, the Vault of Glass is the raid in Destiny. Currently the only one, but I'm sure more will come in the expansions. Anyway, an internet friend of mine (who may or may not be reading this, but hi Nickie just in case) got together myself and a few others, and we spent a few hours on Saturday night fighting our way into the Vault. And, assuming what little we know about the Vault is correct, we got about a third of the way through. We're basing that off the "knowledge" of there being three bosses, and our defeating the first one. We did poke a little bit forward after the boss, and got to what seemed to be a stealth sequence, of all things, and decided to call it a night.

The best thing about the Vault is that it requires so much more teamwork, and "puzzle solving" (for lack of a better term) to figure out how to progress. Everything else in the game is simple. Run up to a spot and hold Square, then fight off waves of enemies. But that's not the case in the Vault. It requires teamwork, it requires that you know what to do, and be communicating with your teammates about what's going on. Playing it made me realize why Bungie made the decision to not have matchmaking for that mode. I'm still not sure that not allowing people to have a terrible time with random people was the "right" decision, but I understand why they did it, and I don't really blame them for it. And I'm going to go into a few details about some of the stuff in the Vault of Glass, so if you haven't played it and want to keep yourself pure, don't read the next couple of paragraphs. SPOILERS

Of what we've played thus far (like I said, up to the first of three bosses), it's the boss fight itself that has stuck out to me the most. See, the boss has a shield around it that is completely impenetrable to normal attacks. But, there's a relic that when wielded by one of the players can disable the shields and allow the others to attack. The relic itself is a shield, like an olde timey knight shield, and when wielded it goes into third person, like that one mission with the sword. In order to take down the shields, the player with the relic has to charge a super meter by bashing into enemies with the relic (it turns the standard attack and melee attack into a tackle that homes in a bit), and when filled, it can shoot out a burst of energy that takes down the boss's shield.

But that's not all, because once the shield is down, the boss tries to teleport, which will also restore the shield. But when it does, a circle appears somewhere in the area, and if a player stands in it, it prevents the boss from teleporting. But the longer the boss's shield is down, it summons more and more enemies, and progressively harder ones. That creates an incentive to allow the boss's shield to restore after a while, to keep the place from flooding with minotaurs (really tough enemies with their own shields (but normal ones)). But if the player with the relic can charge it again while the boss's shield is still down, the anti-shield shot can be used to do massive damage (about 4900 when I was doing it).

And I haven't even covered the concept of being marked for negation. During the fight, the boss summons "oracles" (which are basically just glowing orbs) around the area that make a musical chime when they appear (each plays a different note for each spot they can show up). If they aren't destroyed in time, they mark all the players. This is introduced before the actual boss fight, and during that part, there's a big glowing spot in the center where you can run to in order to get "cleansed." Because if you don't, then the boss does the Rite of Negation, and any marked players die (also, during a Raid there's a 30 second timer BEFORE your teammates can revive you if you're killed, which makes it tougher). But during the boss fight, the glowing spot disappears, and instead the player with the relic has to use it to cleanse all the others (and himself/herself) with a dome of cleansing around the relic that has to charge up (using the grenade cooldown thingy).

Also, if the relic is dropped for more than ten seconds or so, everyone dies.

Even if you skipped over all that, you can tell from my having to write several paragraphs about the process of fighting one boss that it's pretty complicated (and I probably forgot to mention something too). On the one hand, it's a really fantastically designed encounter that brings out the best of this game's design. But, on the other hand, it really highlights just how generic the design of most of the rest of the game is. All the other bosses in the game just involve dealing with smaller enemies while fighting the boss. There's very little, if any, strategy to them. But this boss feels like something from a Zelda game, just done in a way that requires multiple people to be doing different things at the same time. Or, as one of my friends put it when I described it to him, like a raid boss in an MMO, which is appropriate.

I get that making an entire game like this would have been difficult, but putting the only thing like this as end game content that most people won't see is kind of a bummer. I'm happy that there is something hardcore in here for people like me that have spent WAY too much time playing this game, but I just wish more of the game had been like this.

Anyway, we should be going back in for more tonight (as of when I wrote this), and I'll make another progress update in the next blog I write, which will probably be next week.

This gun has a sick spine on top of it. I don't really like using it that much, though.

Other Things?

Let's see, anything else I should mention? Well, I have a new headset mic (Turtle Beach P11, I think, I know my internet friend Krummey uses the one I bought on his PS4) and a Wii U Pro Controller coming in the mail from Amazon, as a "birthday present" from my dad. Which means I asked him if I could get that stuff with his money (since I don't have a job), he said sure, and my birthday is this week. I'm turning 24. I already feel old.

So, I'm holding off on playing more Super Mario 3D World until I get that new controller, which I'm also doing with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. It was on sale for $30 on eShop, and I had $10 in Digital Deluxe Promotion Bucks, which meant I got the game for $20, which was a deal I couldn't refuse. That game is 11 gigs in size though, which is a lot bigger than I expected, especially after 3D World was like a gig and a half or something. Also, Shadow of Mordor is out tomorrow, which I will be purchasing and playing. In other words, I'll have plenty to write about for the near future.

Not really anything else in my life worth writing about. Did I mention last time that I finally got my driver's license? Well, if I didn't mention it, then I am now. That's about the only noteworthy thing happening. Uh...Oh, with the new mic coming, which will work on my PC, I'll probably try to get in on some stupid podcast or something that some of my internet friends/acquaintances do, so you'll all finally be able to hear what my terrible voice sounds like. Assuming that happens.

Well, that's that, so I'm...uh...going to end this without thinking of a good way to end it.

It really is The End!

Speaking of Metal Gear, don't forget that tomorrow Drew and Dan are playing the finale of Metal Gear Scanlon LIVE on the internet! I'm excited! And hopefully we'll have Metal Gear Scanlon 2: Dans of Drewberty to look forward to after this.

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Grinding to a Fault in Destiny.

My original plan was to have a blog written last Tuesday, so it would have been about my first week with the game. I had been thinking that I might make it a weekly thing, check in every week, but clearly it's too late for that now. Now the plan is to write what I want to write now, and just check in with Destiny in other blogs that I write, at least so long as I'm still playing the game regularly. But I do feel like, even though I'm not done with the game, and haven't technically done everything in the game, that I can say everything I need to say about this game, and nothing short of drastic amounts of changes to the amount of content, and to some of the "systems" in the game (for lack of a better term) will cause my thoughts on the overall experience of Destiny change radically. Did that sentence make sense? That was a run-on sentence, and I apologize for it, but this is about the third or fourth time I've tried to write this blog, so I'm not stopping for anything.

So, where am I in Destiny? Well, I've done all of the story missions, and all of the Strikes. Actually, I've done all of the content currently available in the game, aside from the (sole) Raid, The Vault of Glass. I'm not sure if that's literally the only Raid in the game, or if Bungie is just hiding the other(s) from us, which seems very possible. I've also spent a lot of time in the Crucible, which is the competitive multiplayer portion of Destiny.

In fact, I've spent a lot of time with the game as a whole. According to the stats screen on Bungie's website (because these stats are not visible in game), I've spent 2 days, 22 hours, 56 minutes, and 23 seconds playing Destiny. About 11 hours of that in the story missions, about 22 hours in the Strikes, about 23 hours in the Crucible, and about 13 hours on Patrol. Keep in mind, these stats don't take several parts of Destiny into account. They don't count the loading screens (which are plentiful and lengthy), and they don't count time spent in the Tower. I get not counting the loading screens, but I wish I could see my time spent in the Tower. Between it being the only location with vendors in the game, it's also the "social" area where the game goes into third person, and your character's helmet is removed so you can see the face you spent time making in the character creation screen. Speaking of which, here's the one I made.

As you may remember, this is pretty much what I went with in the Beta (which I put about 50 hours into, well, 50 if you include the Alpha). I made an Awoken male with blue skin, pink hair, and the most feminine face available. Under other circumstances, I might have gone with an Exo, which are the robots, but I really didn't like the dance animation they had in the Beta. It wasn't The Robot, it was some dumb Michael Jackson type dance, and I hate that stuff. Well, it's mostly because I hate Michael Jackson, but I don't want to completely derail this blog yet. I didn't go with a human guy because there's no beards in this game. None. I'm not saying the game needs to have anything crazy beard wise, but no beards at all is upsetting to me, as a bearded man.

And so far as playing as a lady goes, I dunno, but playing as ladies in these sorts of games has always felt...weird to me. It's hard to put my finger on to why, exactly. I think part of it might be subconsciously rejecting the old "Dave Snider Logic" for playing as a lady in a MMO type game, which if I remember correctly, was something along the lines of wanting to look at a lady's butt. Which, given that this is primarily a first person game where you don't see your character's butt, and I'm bi so I'd kinda get that with either gender, but I dunno. I play as dudes in games, usually. I got off topic again, oh well, but before I move on, here's another screen shot, this one of my current character screen in game, with all my gear and stuff.

So, I'm level 27, and most of my gear are Legendaries. The only ones that aren't are my Exotic (the highest tier in the game, so far) gauntlets, and my cosmetic class item, which...I'll get to in a few minutes. I want to at least mention the good parts of this game before I get into the meat of this blog.

Anyway, in addition to the normal things like higher defense, the armor in the game provides buffs to various skills that affect the cool downs of the three powers (grenade, melee, and super), and also some other bonuses, like faster reloads with certain weapons, carrying more ammo, etc. The weapons do too (well, not so much the cooldown reductions), and both can be upgraded over time. XP earned whilst wearing armor or using weapons also goes into the items in question, and at certain points they can be upgraded, and some, like the main skill trees, require choices to be made between different options. But you can swap between them at any time (both for the weapons and the main skill trees), so nothing is ever set in stone. Some upgrades only require Glimmer ("the" currency in the game), whereas others require materials that are found in the game, either in the environments, or as rewards for completing. But...I'll get back to that in a minute.

Or, no, I think I'll get to it now. I was going to do a big roundabout thing where I talked about the mission design, the shooting, the music, the graphics, pretty much everything else, but I'll just get to it now. This game is designed in a way that forces you to grind and grind and grind, and then wait until next week, at which point you grind some more. How so? Well, I'll get to explaining that.

The first thing about Destiny that you need to know to understand this is that there isn't a lot of content for the type of game that Bungie made. Not a first person shooter. If Bungie had taken the amount of level geometry in this game, and built more interesting missions around that stuff, they could have had a fantastic 8 hour shooter. The shooting and core game play here is absolutely rock solid, so I don't think people would complain if it was that sort of game, especially when this game has substantially more variety in enemy design and tactics than most first person shooters do these days.

No, Destiny is trying to be Diablo. Now, I haven't actually played any of the Diablo games, but the impression I get from people is that they're lengthy, right? Like, there's a lot of stuff in them, correct? It doesn't feel like there's a lot of stuff in Destiny. There's four main areas of the game: Earth, The Moon, Venus, and Mars. There's also a Crucible map on Mercury, and I feel like they went through a lot of effort for that Mercury sky box and the shots of Mercury from orbit for it to just be that one map (there might be another, I dunno, apparently that map was only in the free for all mode, so maybe there's another?), but who knows.

That's from the Mercury map.

Anyway, there's 19 story missions in the game, and only 6 Strikes. But one of those Strikes is a PlayStation exclusive, so that's only 5 if you're playing on an Xbox of any sort. And there's the Raid, but I haven't tried that yet. I don't know how many Crucible maps there are, because the Crucible is hella obtuse in letting me know about things, but I'll get to that in a bit.

So, to make up for this relative lack of content in the game, Bungie's implemented a bunch of systems meant only to be roadblocks to force you to replay missions over and over again, eventually at higher levels. The first of these is the level cap, which is only 20. But, once you get to 20, you start finding gear that has "Light." If your Light gets high enough, you level up. As I said earlier, I'm 27, which requires quite a bit of Light. What this means is that post level 20, leveling is completely dependent upon gear. That's fine, assuming you get gear at a reasonable rate.

See, in Destiny, leveling up to 20 is really fast. I didn't time it, so I don't know off hand, but the road to 20 feels fast. The road to any level over 20 is incredibly slow by comparison. Or, more accurately, it slows quite a bit until you get to 24, at which point it just stops for what feels like forever.

The blue gear (Rares) will only give you so much Light, and at a certain point, you need Legendaries to keep leveling. But the game drops Legendaries so rarely that it's become a joke. I've seen two separate (popular) Twitter accounts made just to joke about this. One is of The Cryptarch (the character in game that decrypts loot, as a lot of the loot doesn't tell you what it is when you get it), and the other is literally of the Legendary Engram itself. Engrams being the encrypted loot, if you don't know. The joke is that Legendary Engrams are incredibly rare, and then on top of that, most of the time they don't decrypt to Legendary gear, and even when they do, it's probably for the wrong class.

Seriously, the first three Legendaries that I got were all for the Titan class, and I'm playing a Warlock. And the one time I had a Legendary Engram decrypt to an Exotic item, it was for the Hunter class. I should also point out that by the time I had enough Motes of Light (one of the several other currencies in the game) to buy an Exotic Engram from Xur (a merchant that appears on Friday mornings and then leaves on Sunday morning), it decrypted to a piece of Titan gear.

(I found this gun on The Moon.)

Now, these things wouldn't be so bothersome if I could trade these things with other players. Hell, I'd GIVE them to some of my internet friends that can use the stuff, just so it'd be used. But instead, my options are to put them in storage in case I ever play characters that can use them, or dismantle them for materials. There's no way to sell them to vendors in game for currency either, because you can't sell things in this game. It's either keep it, or dismantle it. At least decrypting things is free, though now that I think about it, I'm a little surprised that it is.

But, fear not, there is a way to get Legendary and Exotic items in game without having to depend upon random drops! You can buy Legendaries from the various vendors in the Tower. But NOT with Glimmer. No, you need to buy them with vendor specific currencies, and only after leveling up with them individually. Well, mostly individually, because the Vanguards and Crucible technically have multiple vendors, with some for gear, and another for weapons.

So, let me explain how this system works. When you hit level 18, you start earning reputation for the Vanguards and the Crucible, the former for completely missions, Strikes, Patrol missions, the Raid (I assume), etc. And you get Crucible rep by playing the Crucible, and you get more for winning, which makes sense. And on top of getting rep, you also get Vanguard Marks and Crucible Marks, which are two more forms of currency in the game. You use Vanguard Marks to buy Vanguard things, and Crucible Marks to buy Crucible things. But it's yet more complicated than that. See, if you want to buy things from Dead Orbit, Future War Cult, or New Monarchy, you need to rank up with them as well. And you do that by buying a class item from them, and equipping it, at which point you get rep for them instead of the Vanguards, and then when you level up enough, you can buy things from them...with Crucible Marks, not Vanguard Marks.

Also, you can only get 100 Vanguard Marks a week, and only get 100 Crucible Marks a week. And the "start of the new week" is Tuesday, because of course it is. I hit the caps for last week on Thursday, I think. I could probably go back and check, but it was then or Friday, I forget. So far as I know, there is no cap on how many Marks of either sort that you can get, but more likely it's just so high that people can't have gotten to it yet. There's a cap for how much Glimmer you can have (25,000), and I've bought some stupid stuff like another new ship (which is purely cosmetic) just so I wouldn't be endlessly getting Glimmer without actually having more money. Kinda like buying stuff to keep from paying income taxes, in a way.

And it takes a while to rank up with these groups. I'm ALMOST rank three with the Vanguards, and still a fair bit away from rank 3 with the Crucible. I would be rank 3 with the Vanguards by now if I hadn't stupidly started trying to rank up in Future War Cult after getting some of the information about this from my internet friend Jay (I dunno his GB user name, but he's Chatman_Jay on Twitter, hopefully he'll see this blog). He plays a lot more of these sorts of games (not first person shooters, I mean Diablo types), and just generally knows more about the game than I do, so I usually go to him with my questions. We're neck and neck in terms of level right now, unless he secretly found a way past 27 while I was writing this blog.

There's my first, and so far only (for my class) Exotic item.

Anyway, we both quickly realized that it was better to just stick with the Vanguards and level them up instead. So far as I can tell, the only benefit to leveling one of the other vendors is to get branded gear for them, which seems dumb when I can't imagine why you wouldn't want to use one of the shaders you get access to after getting to level 20. I've been using this nice pink one for a while, because real men wear pink. And part of that is that after years of being in the closet and actively avoiding anything that would be perceived as "girly" or "gay," it's nice to not give a F any more and just make my character pink and dumb looking, but that's a topic for another day (though tomorrow is "Celebrate Bisexuality Day," so yay for that!).

I got off topic again. So, that's how you buy Legendary gear, and if you want Exotics, you have to pay Xur Strange Coins for definite items, or Mote of Light for an Engram that will probably not be for your class, because Bungie decided it was a good idea to give people items for not their class. You get Strange Coins and Motes of Light as rewards (some of the time) for doing things like Strikes, and you get a Mote of Light every time you would have leveled up, if this was a normal game where you leveled by getting XP for every level in the game.

Oh, and speaking of Exotics, you can only have one Exotic piece of armor and one Exotic weapon equipped at a time. Why? Hell if I know. I don't have any Exotic weapons yet, but I do have a Bounty for one. Oh, I haven't mentioned Bounties. So, Bounties are daily things where you are tasked with doing something, and they come in Vanguard and Crucible varieties. Vanguard ones are for things like killing 30 enemies with melee attacks without dying, or doing a specific story mission on a harder difficulty than the default. The Crucible ones are things like defeat 25 Warlocks, or getting 10 medals for going on a spree with a shotgun, that sort of thing. They're mostly manageable, and they're a good way to get rep, XP, and Marks for both the Vanguards and the Crucible.

Well, most of the time it is, at least. See, (and I know I've changed the topic, but I was going to discuss this anyway) some of the Crucible ones have been impossible to accomplish. How so? Well, having ones related to the Salvage game type when it's impossible to play Salvage matches makes it impossible. See, not every Crucible mode is open all the time. Last week (as in right after launch, not a couple days ago) Salvage was open, but then it was closed, and has been since. But that didn't stop playing Salvage from popping up SEVERAL TIMES as daily Bounties.

Which brings me to a bigger problem, which is the lack of options in the Crucible. As of this writing, there are four options in the Crucible. Control (capture points mode with 6v6 teams), Clash (team deathmatch with 6v6), Rumble (free for all with six players), and Skirmish (team deathmatch with 3v3). Now, this most recent weekend Combined Arms was open, which was team death match only on the maps with vehicles. But that and Salvage (which was a 3v3 mode where you need to control points until a meter runs down thing) are inaccessible. There's no way to play them right now. None. Zero. It's all dependent on when Bungie decides to let us play that mode.

And that is incredibly stupid. Not letting people play certain parts of the game because of some stupid whim on Bungie's part is horrible game design. Sure, it MIGHT get more people to play during the times when it is playable, but the correct answer is to just let people play it whenever they want. And the same thing applies to all the parts of the story/Strike/Raid stuff that don't have matchmaking. Yeah, it might be smarter to play with friends, but if someone wants to play with random people, then that should be an option. I would do the Raid if I had people to play with, but I don't have enough friends that are level 26 or higher. (Speaking of which, if you want me to join in on a raid attempt, just tell me and we'll try to figure out an okay time.)

This is even more baffling when you consider that Bungie's previous games are known for having TONS of options for the multiplayer stuff. I get not having that same level of customization if the game had to be rushed to get it out in time (and I bet it was), but not letting us play all the modes whenever we want is inexcusable. They should change that. Like the grind. I have a bunch of gear that I could upgrade so they have higher defense and Light, but can't because I don't have enough Ascendant Shards. How do you get those? By grinding the same missions and Strikes and the Crucible, except it's even rarer unless you're doing level 28 content. Jay and I were able to do a story mission at level 28, but it wasn't easy, and there's no matchmaking for any level 28 stuff in the game.

Which brings me back to the grinding. It's all grinding. Grinding, grinding, grinding. I was thinking about it, and Destiny feels like a free to play game, except you pay $60 and there's no microtransactions to buy in game stuff. Seriously, I checked. You can buy the game, and the expansions (either separately for $20 each or as a bundle for $35), but nothing else. On the one hand, I think it's good that there isn't, especially since this is an Activision published game, but on the other, this is still really bad design. It's grinding to make a short game feel long because of the lack of content.

It's a shame too, because there is a lot of great stuff in the game. When it's fun, it's super fun. Getting in and playing with friends is easy if they're on your friends list (don't get me started on how useless clans are for anything other than making a clan tag appear), the game looks great, and has some of the best music I've ever heard. Seriously, it's absolutely phenomenal stuff. To the point where I'm bummed that Marty O'Donnell left, because I just assume the great music is all from him and no one else. Well, I've been told the end credits music is terrible, but I didn't see the credits and it was done by Paul McCartney, and really, what were you expecting from one of The Beatles? Their music was bad then, it's bad now, and I bet anything he or Ringo tries to do musically now will also be bad. But I've gotten off topic again.

At its best, Destiny is one of the best first person shooters I've ever played. But at its worst, it's all the worst parts of free to play games, just without the part where you pay to get past the grind. Hopefully Bungie responds to the feedback and changes it for the better, but by the time they do, I might be done with this game....

Ah, who am I kidding? I know I'll buy the expansions and keep playing this stupid game. As much as I complain, I am still having a ton of fun playing it, and I don't plan to stop any time soon. Oh, right! I forgot about the Exotic Bounty! Let me get back to that quickly.

See, the first step of the Bounty was to do a Weekly Heroic or Nightfall Strike, which I did, then I had to do 25 strikes of any sort, which I did, and now my next step is to give a Strange Coin to Xur for something, but I have to wait until Friday to do that. According to the internet, the next step is to "kill Guardians in the Crucible." How many? I don't know! But I bet it's something absurd, like, a hundred or two hundred. But once I do that, I should have an exotic pulse rifle, which should be cool, I guess. I dunno.

This game is weird. It's kind of terrible but also kind of fantastic. I'm going to keep playing it. Oh, and I made a YouTube video with some footage from the game. I'll make a longer, better one at some point. Hopefully Sony adds direct upload to YouTube sometime soon.

I won't keep you for too much longer, but I do have a couple non-Destiny things I want to mention. The first is that I finally took my road test for my driver's license...AND PASSED! Which, would be less impressive if I wasn't turning 24 in a couple weeks and have been feeling bad for years for not having one.

In relation to "Celebrate Bisexuality Day" tomorrow, a couple days ago was the five month mark after the day I came out, so that's cool! Still one of the, if not the, best decisions I've ever made! Nothing else to say for the time being, but it's good to not be in the closet any more. :D

I played enough of most of this month's PlayStation Plus games to write about that, so I will probably next week. It'd be nice to have someone to play Sports Friends with, but if I don't, I don't.

I bought Super Mario 3D World off the eShop when it was on sale for $40 instead of the usual $60, but I haven't touched it yet. Been too busy with Destiny, but now that I've got some time before I can get going on my Exotic Bounty again, I'm going to start going on that.

And that's everything. I hope this wasn't too much of a rambling mess. And as I said before, if you are looking for someone to Raid with in Destiny, just get in touch with me. I'd prefer to do it with someone I kind of know (like Jay), but whatever. Actually, I'd say have two open slots, one for me and one for Jay. I feel like he deserves that after teaching me some of the more absurd systems in this game.

And now THAT'S everything.

Also, there's a dedicated dance button in Destiny, which is just great.

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Shovels and Martians!

You know, I had really good intentions to keep blogging every week, like I had been. But then I sat down, tried to write something about the Miiverse, because I hadn't done anything else that week (aside from Mario Kart 8, which I've written more than enough about), and I just couldn't do it. I'm not gonna try to say that I have some super high quality level that I must reach for my blogs, because I'm the first to admit that a lot of them are total nonsense, or just me rambling about stupid stuff. I'd say that in my time on Giant Bomb, I've only written a handful of blogs that I genuinely put a lot of time and effort into, and one of those was a choose your own adventure starring Luigi that was also my game of the year stuff. Yes, I mentioned that one instead of the coming out blog, because of course I did.

Anyway, now I do actually have some stuff worth writing about, so that's what I'm gonna do. Maybe in the future I'll be able to do a weekly blog like I want to, but for the time being, I'm sticking with this haphazard non-schedule of just writing whenever.

Jamestown

As you probably already know, I don't really play PC games. I'm quite vocal about how my PC is terrible, and can't really run modern games. Which is why when an internet friend offered me a code to Jamestown (which he got from a Humble Bundle, but apparently he already owned the game), I initially turned him down. But no one else wanted it, so I took the code, and decided to play the game. And, as luck would have it, being the first PC game I've tried to play in a while, I had my fair share of technical troubles.

The first was in simply getting the game to run. Installing it and everything was simple, I'm not an idiot, but the game simply wouldn't do anything after I clicked on it in Steam. So, I tried uninstalling it, and reinstalling it. Still nothing. My next step was to go to Google, which led me to a solution. It turns out there was some file inside the game's folders that I had to click on to install something else, I dunno. After that it started up no problem.

That wasn't the end of my technical problems, though. First, the game kept seeing my DualShock 4 (which I use a thingy I downloaded to use with my PC) as two separate controllers, but I fixed that by checking a box on the thingy I downloaded to make that not happen. That didn't stop me from playing the first level "co-op" with my controller controlling the movements of two ships, though. But I didn't really want to play the entire game that way.

But the problems I weren't able to fix were in the frame rate and sound. The frame rate was playable, and certainly no worse than some last generation games that I played, but it did seem to get progressively worse as I got deeper into the game, as there were more ships and shots on screen. On the one hand, that was kind of a bummer, because it reminded me of how terrible my computer is for playing games, but it also made some of that stuff easier. You know, gave me slightly more time to think before the enemy shots hit me.

Audio wise, there was this weird thing where lots of explosions at once would make the audio bug out. I don't really know a ton about audio though, so I'm not really sure what the proper terminology would be. But it definitely wasn't what it was supposed to be. And it's a shame, too, because I think the game has some really great music (I'd even say the music is the best part of the game), but some of it got lost in a sea of terrible sounding explosions.

But that's enough about my technical issues, let me get to the actual game. If you know absolutely nothing about this game, then I'm sorry that I spent this much time before getting to the actual game play. GB did do a Quick Look of the game, in which you can see that this is a scrolling ship shooter game (sometimes referred to as a "shoot'em'up") sent in an alternate history where instead of colonizing America, the powers of Europe decided to colonize Mars, but it features historical figures and location names anyway. But on Mars. There isn't really a lot of that Colonial style in the game, outside of the music and the post level "story" bits, which are just still images with some text. The first level features some little dudes that look like British soldiers running around, but after that, it could really be any game in this genre.

Game play wise, the thing that sets this game apart would be the vaunting system (at least I think it is, I dunno). After you defeat enemies, these big golden gear and nut looking things fall out, and those fill a meter. When the meter's full, you vaunt, which creates a shield around your ship, and lets you absorb bullets for a few seconds. After that, the meter continues to drain, your shots turn purple, and you get a points multiplier until you vaunt again (which creates a smaller shield), or the meter drains completely. But you lose those bonus points if you die. At least I think that's how it works, I didn't really pay super close attention to the tutorial.

There's a bunch of different ships to choose from, but most are locked away and have to be purchased with in game money. I ended up using Guy Fawkes' ship the most, because it has lock on missiles. But that's the only one I unlocked, so maybe the others are way better, I don't know.

I did enjoy the core combat of the game, but I have a pretty serious issue with the design of this game. Like many in this genre (I assume, the last one I really played was Ikaruga, which I demanded frothingly), the game has a bunch of difficulty modes. So, being someone that doesn't play a ton of these, I went for Normal at first. Which was fine, until I got a few levels in (there's five total), and the game told me that I had to go back and play all the levels again on Hard to progress. Now, if the game had told me from the start that I would have to do this, I wouldn't have been as upset. But it didn't, so I was upset. It just felt like it was padding to make the game last longer than it would otherwise. But the real problem was that the game did it AGAIN on the next level, and then a THIRD TIME for the final level, just with progressively higher difficulties. I'm no game designer, but there had to have been a better way to handle that.

I did finish the game. The final level gave me a lot more trouble than the other ones, because the developers decided to add a bunch of giant spikes and other environmental hazards that weren't in the previous levels, but I was still able to finish it. Then I unlocked the "Farce" mode, which replaces the text in the story scenes, but it wasn't funny like I was hoping, so I didn't bother going through all the levels in that mode to see it through.

Overall, I think it's an enjoyable game that has some weird progress blockers in it. I didn't pay for it, so I'm not really going to make any statements about worth in relation to cost, but I enjoyed it. If you like these sorts of games, then you've probably already played it. If not, then I dunno. Play it if you want.

It kinda made me want to replay Ikaruga. But I don't really want to get my GameCube out to play it. There was a 360 version, right? But then I'd have to turn my 360 on again...Ugh....

I'm also reminded that I never really knew how to pronounce Ikaruga. "I-car-ru-ga?" "Ik-ka-ru-ga?" Some other thing I never thought of?

Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight is a game that I wanted to play much sooner, but hadn't, because I didn't really have any way to play it. Yes, I know, I could have tried playing the PC version, but I'm glad I waited because I didn't have any technical issues playing the Wii U version.

Shovel Knight's a pretty easy game to describe. It's a side scrolling platformer where you play as a knight with a shovel. You jump over stuff, jump onto stuff (including a downward shovel strike to attack enemies), hit stuff with the shovel, use sub weapons that drain a magic meter, eat turkeys, jump over more stuff, dig piles of dirty to find treasure, and then jump over even more stuff. Also, it looks and sounds like an olde timey game.

But that's being really reductive about the entire thing. I don't play a ton of platformers these days, and when I do, they're usually not the ones that look like olde timey games. Not that I don't like the aesthetic, I just feel like it's kinda over done, and a lot of the time attempts at making games look old just feels cheap to me. It's hard to describe without having examples to show, but I'm much too lazy to do that, so I won't. That's not the case with Shovel Knight, here the art is really well done, and I would even go so far as to say excellent. It's a fantastic looking game, and the soundtrack is just as good, if not better. I've found myself humming some of the music from the game whilst not playing the game, which very, VERY rarely happens these days.

An odd cameo...Ahem, back on topic.

It made me realize something. Most games these days don't really have a theme to them. You know, everyone knows the Mario theme, the Zelda theme, etc. But does Gears of War have a theme? Does Assassin's Creed have a theme? I dunno, maybe, but even when most games these days have a recognizable theme, it's big and dramatic, like Uncharted. Not enough games these days have jaunty themes that make for good humming music, but Shovel Knight does, and it made me quite happy.

Game play wise, there really isn't anything that hasn't been done before. Maybe the ability to break checkpoints for more money, but I won't commit to saying that hasn't been done before. I remember Bit Trip Runner 2 had the ability to skip checkpoints for extra points, now that I think about it, which is pretty similar.

It does also have a Dark Souls style death system, where upon death you lose some money, but have a chance to retrieve it before you die again. It's not completely Dark Soulsian, in the sense that it's not ALL of your money, but it does increase based on how much money you have. But it has some issues. Namely, in that while Dark Souls always leaves your souls in a spot on solid ground, and usually a little bit before the spot where you actually died, Shovel Knight has floating bags of money near where you died. The problem being that if you died by falling down a bottomless pit, which I often did, then the money might wind up in a spot where it's almost impossible (if not actually impossible) to get without dying again. Sometimes the fishing rod item helps in retrieving that stuff, but not always, and it felt like it could have been improved.

Not that it was that big of a deal in the long run. Money is certainly important in the game, but by the end I had purchased everything except one suit of armor (which I've been told since is the OP armor). There's health upgrades, magic upgrades, shovel upgrades (but not straight up damage, oddly), new sets of armor with advantages/disadvantages, and sub-weapons/items, or relics, as the game calls them. These are similar to Castlevania ones, in that they drain a magic meter, but unlike Castlevania, you equip them from a menu, rather than find them in candles. Anyway, there's a couple that you buy in the game's first town, but after that you have to find a secret chest in stages, in which Chester has been trapped, and then buy them from him. They are moderately well hidden, but I found them all without too much trouble. Some of them are pretty helpful too, so I'd recommend being on the lookout for them.

Speaking of that, I want to mention the difficulty of this game. Now, at one point in time, one Patrick Klepek described this game as being, "especially easy," and that he "breezed" right through the game. Now, granted, I kinda took that first quote out of context, given that he meant in comparison to old games, and Patrick is probably just straight up better at games than I am, but "easy" isn't a word I would use to describe this game. I mean, I was about to beat it, and all the optional levels, so I'm not going to sit here and try to call the game super hard or anything, but I died almost 150 times. Actually, I probably died more than that, because there were a few times when I lost a bunch of money early in stages, and just restarted the Wii U so it wouldn't save that I had lost so much money. Yes, I know, shut up. I don't normally do things like that, but I also hate losing money in games.

That said, the vast majority of the time when I died, I felt like it was my fault, not the game's. Not every time, I do think there's a handful of cheap things in the game, but I don't really remember specifically, because I don't really remember off hand. But, like I said, I was able to get through it all (well, I didn't get 100% of the items), so it's not impossible. Chances are you're probably better than I am, and maybe playing with a regular controller, instead of a Wii U Gamepad (I really need to buy a Pro Controller) I would have done better too, I dunno.

Either way, I really enjoyed Shovel Knight. If you like platformers, and haven't played it, Shovel Knight is absolutely worth your time. Sadly it's not on PSN, or Xbox Live yet, but hopefully it will at some point. It'd be a shame for someone to miss it (like I almost did) just because it's not available on the platform someone prefers to play on.

That's my post game stats screen. I forgot to mention that there's a New Game Plus mode too, but I haven't touched that yet. Probably will at some point, though.

Other stuff?

That's about it in terms of the video games that I've been playing lately. Destiny is out tomorrow, so I'll be playing a lot of that. Not instantly Tuesday morning, sadly. While I had been thinking about going digital with it, Kmart's got some deal with a bunch of Kmart points, so I kinda have to buy it there. That's the trouble with being unemployed and living off your dad. When a game is $15 cheaper (even if it requires going back to Kmart to use the Kmart points, which we will because we go to Kmart a lot for just regular stuff like soap and junk), you kinda have to go with that one. I mean, it just means I'll be doing a lot of disc swapping as time goes on, what with my likely obsession with this game likely not ending the second a single player focused game comes out lately this year (I'm looking at you, Shadow of Mordor).

I keep meaning to start working on a dumb little Twine game for something called Ruin Jam, which is a Game Jam about games being ruined (in a comical sense, it's not being serious). The deadline for that is fast approaching, so I should probably get on that. If I do, I'll try to figure out some way to let people know about it, without it being spammy. It'd be kinda poor on my part to be a mod, and do something spammy, you know?

Similarly, I haven't been working on my book at all. I want to, and I know I should, but I just haven't. I also haven't started watching any of the myriad of animes that people have been telling me to watch, but I am DETERMINED to start watching Ouran High School Host Club soon. Yes, that is exactly what it sounds like, from what I've been told. I'm excited.

I'm getting close to taking the road test for my driver's license, because of course I've waited until I was almost 24 to do that. Hopefully I'll pass.

And uh...That's about it. I could talk about Miiverse, but instead of discussing that quagmire that I've become addicted to, I'll just say that I've met a few really nice people there, and leave a selection of some drawings I have created there. I'll leave out my pseudo-erotic Link drawings, one of which the admins deleted.

Actually, I kinda want to say something about that. The admins on Miiverse, I mean. You know I'm a moderator here, but I gotta say, for as much flak as we sometimes get on GB, and usually don't deserve it, the admins on Miiverse do kinda deserve what they get. Here on Giant Bomb, we at least take the time to respond to users, and act like human beings, unlike on Miiverse. But then again, our community isn't the insane asylum that Miiverse is, so maybe you have to be completely cold and robotic in someplace like that. Oh well. I've been behaving there, don't get the wrong idea. I keep the rule of "don't be a jerk" alive, no matter where I go.

Anyway, here's those Miiverse drawings. Most of them were done on the Smash Bros community, which is why so many of them say "Character X for Smash." So I could keep it "on topic."

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PlayStation Plus Catch Up: August Edition.

If you remember, I recently wrote a blog about the games that I had been playing to catch up on all the free PlayStation Plus games I hadn't gotten around to playing. And now that we're almost done with August (geez, where does the time go?), I have another month's worth of PS+ games to write about. Well, excluding any that are Vita only, given that I don't have a Vita.

Road Not Taken.

This is a grid and turned based game where you move a character around through somewhat randomly created (I think) levels while managing some sort of stamina type meter, and apparently there is some sort of permanence to death. Almost as if it was like the game Rogue, from back in the day. In all seriousness, I would not call this game a roguelike, but I do think it has more in common with actual roguelikes than most of the games out there today that people call roguelikes, but I'm going to stop saying roguelike now.

Anyway, the goal is to wander around in the woods trying to save children and not die. This is done by picking things up, and throwing them at other things. This is where my issues with the game begin, because I do like the cutesy art style. Anyway, when you push the pick things up button, you pick up everything that is in a square adjacent to you, except diagonals. Then you can carry these things with you, or throw them. The problem is that there's no "put down" button, and there's no way to be more specific with what you pick up. It's all or nothing with those squares around you. And it didn't take long for those two things to put me off from this game, especially since I wasn't super interested in it to begin with.

I'm going to be honest, this is both the game of this group that I played the least, and enjoyed the least. That's why I didn't write a ton about it.

Judgment: Not my thing, will likely never play again.

I do like that guy's beard, though.

Crysis 3.

I'm not really sure how to describe this game, aside from getting into the nitty gritty details (which I will). Part of me wants to call it interesting, but another part of me thinks it's super generic and not interesting at all. But I'll get to that.

First I'm going to get the technical side of things out of the way. Yes, I know I played the PS3 version. Yes, I played Crysis 1 on PS3 as well, and I have not played Crysis 2. Yes, I know the PC version looks and runs substantially better. I don't have a PC that can run games, and this was free. Also, this game is kind of a dark and blurry mess on the PS3. And it has frame rate troubles. It's still playable, and I would appreciate if you didn't make any PC master race comments, because I would have a high end gaming PC if I could afford one. Okay? Good, now I can get to the actual game.

I really liked the first Crysis, because I really like stealth games, and games that let me spend time scoping out areas and planning my way through them. That's why I'm so excited for The Phantom Pain, and Crysis had a lot of spots where I could do just that. Now, that doesn't mean I'm great at these games, or that I am able to execute on my plans when I try to go through with them, but I at least enjoy the scoping out and planning portion.

Crysis 3 is not a "scope out and plan" type of game. There's a few reasons for this.

  1. The level design.

  2. The way tagging works.

  3. This game is really easy.

Okay, the level design. Now, this isn't a completely linear game, it's not something where you just run in a straight line and shoot things. There are definitely times where there's multiple ways to tackle objectives, but there aren't many. Most of the encounters in this game involve entering a room/area with some enemies, and a clearly marked spot where you have to get to and either keep moving, or hold the Square Button on something and then keep moving. Anyway, most of the areas aren't really big or wide enough to feel like something where I need to just go prone on a hill (there is no prone in this one, by the way) and scope out dudes for ten minutes before moving in.

But this brings me to the second problem, how tagging works in this game. Now, to be clear, I played this game on the difficulty that looked like it was the equivalent of Normal (the game defaults to the easiest one), so maybe this is different on the higher ones. Anyway, in most games with tagging, you need to get line of sight to tag an enemy. It creates a risk reward thing, where you get the reward of being able to track the enemy through walls, but you have to risk being seen to do it. That's the kind of thing that I love about stealth games, risking being detected for some sort of advantage over the enemy. It creates a thrill as I just narrowly avoid being seen a split second after I tag an enemy.

Crysis 3 doesn't have any of that because you can just tag enemies through walls, and from insanely large distances. It's not like you have to be ten feet away, you can tag any enemy in the "encounter area," for lack of a better word. It completely removes anything resembling risk, because all I had to do was just turn on the visor, and hover it over the enemy markers for a few seconds and then all the enemies were marked.

And then there's the cloak, which feels a lot more overpowered than it did in Crysis 1, and goes a long way toward my feeling like this game is super easy. The other part of that is the bow, which has one hit kills on almost all enemies without draining the cloak's energy meter. Shooting guns while cloaked doesn't immediately disable the cloak, but it does drain the meter A LOT. See, that's a system balanced to make it challenging. The bow, however, doesn't drain the meter at all, of it is does, it's so small that I didn't notice. And like I said, the bow is a one hit kill against most enemies, so the game just turns into this thing where I'm crouching around cloaked and shooting guys with arrows. You can't hold a ton of arrows at once (9 regular ones, and 3 each of the specialty arrows (two different explosive types and electric)), but you can retrieve standard arrows after they're shot, and there's a lot of arrow refill crates in the game.

I didn't really find the other arrow types very useful. The electric ones can be shot into water to electrocute nearby enemies, but I often found that with my terrible aim (which probably has something to do with the fact that I turned the aiming reticle off in the options, because I usually do that in first person shooters when the option is there) meant that I wouldn't get the arrow close enough to the multiple enemies in the water, and only get a couple of them. So it was easier just to use regular arrows. As for the explosive ones, one of them has a timed detonation thingy that was useful sometimes, and the other exploded in mid air, which could be useful. But I was never really sure what would make it explode, like if it did when it got near an enemy or something. I'm not sure if the game didn't explain that, or if I just wasn't paying attention.

Even without the bow and cloak stuff (supplemented by a simple upgrade system that lets you choose between multiple load outs, but I just stuck with one the whole game that I unlocked early because it made my cloak better), this is still an easy game. I never tried to reload the game and try again if I failed to be stealthy, I just pulled out a gun and started shooting (oh, I will say, I really like the animation when the bow is pulled out). And with the Maximum Armor mode, most shootouts weren't tough. Which isn't to say that I never died, because I did a handful of times (more so if you count the not well designed final boss), but it's still an easy game.

At least on the difficulty that I thought was normal, I'm sure it gets harder on the higher settings.

Oh, and the game has a story too, but none of it is really worth talking about. I think the voice acting is all right, and the game has some good facial capture (though not a ton of it), but the writing kinda drove me a little nuts. See, this game HAD to have been written/localized/whatever in not-America, because of the grammar. Okay, there's this evil organization in the game called CELL, but it's always referred to with plural words like "are." You know, the way British people talk, not the way that Americans talk. It was one thing hear Psycho, a British character say that, but Prophet, the dude you play as who is American? I dunno, it just kinda drove me up the wall. This is America, damn it, and we refer to organizations as singular entities! IS! IS IS IS!

That's about all I have to say about Crysis 3. OH WAIT. The game has really good music. I know, I'm surprised too. It even has a SNES game style BGM player. I mean, it's not good in the sense where it has a really good main theme that I started humming, but good in the sense that it sounds like a well produced Hollywood blockbuster dramatic movie orchestrated soundtrack. Also, there's some great enemy dialog in the game like, "That means you, asshole" and usage of the word, "hella."

Judgment: Completed, will never play again.

I wish the PS3 version looked like this.

Proteus.

It's a walking simulator, I dunno, enough said.

Judgment: Walking simulator.

Fez.

I played Fez to completion on the Xbox 360 back in 2012 when it first came out, and I liked it a lot back then. I haven't played too much of the PS4 version, but I might play some more. Still seems like Fez, and I still think Fez is a game you should absolutely play. I'm not even going to mention Phil Fish beyond this sentence, so please don't bring it up in the comments, I don't want to have to lock my own stupid blog because of ne'er-do-wells.

Judgment: Still Fez.

I tweeted this picture from my PS4 specifically to have a screenshot from the PS4 version.

Proteus for real this time.

Sorry, I thought that this would make for a funny joke, but hell if I know if it actually was. Anyway, Proteus is weird. HELLA weird. I mean, this is both a game that has no objectives, and yet has a definite ending. And sure, I'll call it a game, because it does have an ending, and thus a way to "win." My definition of what makes a "game" a "game" is the ability to either win or lose, but not necessarily both.

So, the game play here consists of just wandering around during the day, with nothing to really do except look at weird stuff like pink trees and odd shapes that move around like they were animals while the game makes some weird music and other sounds play. Then, at night, there's these big spinny things of little white particles that start to make time accelerate when you get near them. I thought that was pretty cool, but when you get into a little circle in it, the screen fades and comes back in another season. The game starts in spring, and moves on to winter, at which point some weird stuff I won't spoil happens and then it ends.

Proteus is weird. But I didn't dislike it. I'm glad it exists, but I never would have paid any amount of money for it, at least not in my current situation where I don't have a job.

Judgment: It's okay, but not really my thing.

Dragon's Crown.

The last PS+ game I'm writing about here, and also the most surprising. I was expecting to play this game, and come out totally disgusted by the art, and bored by the game, given that I generally don't like this sort of sort-of-side-scrolling-but-not-restricted-to-a-2D-plane beat'em'up. Instead I was only somewhat displeased with the art, and think it's pretty fun.

But I'll cover the art first. Yeah, there's some stuff in here that's pretty gross. Just, super over-sexualized women that I almost want to say is parody, but hell, I don't know. But if you're not playing as a sorceress (giant bouncing breasts) or an amazon (thong butt pointed at the screen at all times), the stuff isn't too prevalent. It still comes up, with characters like the witch-merchant in town, or a nude mermaid who has a human butt during one of the mission, but it's not too prevalent. Not that I think games shouldn't have scantily clad characters or nudity in them, this just feels kinda gross (and also it's the kind of nudity where they don't actually show anything because it's a T rated game and everyone knows that breasts (but only the nipples), vaginas, and penises will damage the youth of today far more than violence and killing will, but that's a discussion for another day).

That said, the rest of the art in the game is fantastic, tons of detail, and some of it is really beautiful. And to the game's credit, some of the male classes are equally overly done in terms of body proportions. Conversely, there isn't a male character with a giant flopping penis bulging out of his pants like in something like Mount Your Friends, so I'm still going to say the over-sexualized art leans toward the women.

I played as a wizard, which seemed like an interesting class, and ended up being pretty fun. Like many video game wizards, this one only has a limited amount of a magic meter with which to cast spells, and managing that is a heavy component of playing that character. Circle Button attacks use magic, but holding the Square Button refills it, and there are skills that can be acquired (through spending skill points that you get from leveling up and completing quests) that will allow Square Button attacks to refill the meter, killing enemies to refill the meter, and maybe something else that I don't remember off hand. Anyway, it's a neat system that forces you in and out of combat occasionally to refill the meter. A lot more depth and strategy than I would have expected from a beat'em'up. I have not played any of the other classes, so I can't comment on how those play.

Well, I could make a few vague comments, because while I haven't played online with other people, this is a co-op game, and the game has a feature to allow for some AI companions. While in dungeons (though, calling them dungeons is a little weird when there's no over-world, just a small town with some shops and stuff), there are often piles of bones that can be collected. Once back in town, a preacher man can resurrect them (for a fee), and then that adventurer can accompany you on quests. And I've been using this feature, which may have unbalanced the game. I was having some difficulty early on (though the respawn system in there meant I didn't lose any progress, just in game money), but having a bunch of guys with me makes it kinda easy. And it can sometimes make the screen a mess when there's a bunch of enemies and I can't tell what's going on, but whatever!

I haven't finished Dragon's Crown, but I did get about five and a half or six hours in, and I'll probably go back for more. Just...not when my dad is around. See, despite being an adult who graduated from college last year, I'm still unemployed and living with my dad, and since we have a 60" HDTV, of course I play the games on that. But I'm not going to even risk playing Dragon's Crown when he's around and potentially have the, "Yeah, I know, Japan, and also this was free don't complain" discussion.

Judgment: Pretty good, will likely play more.

Then again, I haven't touched any of the games from the last PlayStation Plus Catch Up that I said I was going to, so who knows?!

Anyway, is there anything else I want to write about? Well, I keep playing more Mario Kart 8, but nothing really to say there, at least without this turning into a rant about how much trouble I've been having with beating the staff ghosts in the game. I did create a new racer/vehicle combo that I came up with a suitable name for, though. I call it...The Gerstmann!

Still haven't done any work on my book in months, which is continuing to bother me, but I can't bring myself to actually work on it. One of these days, I'll get back to it. Hopefully. It'll drive me mad if I don't.

Speaking of mad things, I've spent far too much time on the Miiverse lately. It's...a strange place. Lawless in a way I wouldn't expect something run by Nintendo to be. Lots of drawings of scantily clad women, characters kissing each other, etc. Way more homosexuality than I expected. I'll think I'll stop there, I've seen things I wish I could forget. Like this:

I did not draw that. My drawing ability is more along the lines of this:

I know I have a good thing going where I've done a blog every week for the last month-ish, but I'm not sure I can keep that going. Not really anything new or different on the horizon. I could try to write something about my insane time in the Miiverse, but I also feel like spending more time there will destroy me. Who knows?!

Update: My latest Miiverse drawing:

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Injustice and stuff!

In the not too distant past, Injustice: Gods Among Us was on sale for about $8 on PSN, so I bought it. Now I am writing about it. End preamble.

Despite liking the last Mortal Kombat game quite a lot, I missed out on this game during its initial release. I also skipped out on the PS4 re-release with all the DLC at first, though that ended up being the version that I played. Not really any reason why, it just never really captured my interest. Not enough to pay more than eight dollars, at least. As much as I love Batman (and I really do), I don't really care about any other parts of the DC universe. Which is not to say that I am inherently disinterested in DC universe stuff (except Superman, he's boring), it's just not a big draw for me. At least not in the same way that the Marvel part of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was.

Here's something I should get out of the way right now: I'm not great at fighting games. I like them, and I've spent many hours of my life playing them. But I'm not good at them. And a fair amount of this is just going to be me comparing this game to other fighting games. Okay? Good, now let me move on.

Injustice is a good game. I might even be inclined to call it great if I wanted to take the time to really learn a character and get good at it. But I don't. For whatever reason, despite being perfectly competent in every way, this game just hasn't grabbed me like games like MK or MvC3 did. Which is a little weird, because this game is pretty similar to MK in a lot of ways. But that might be the problem though. It's too similar in some ways, and not similar enough in other ways.

Like blocking. MK has a block button, which is what I prefer, rather than back to block. Now, I actually got into a lengthy discussion on Twitter with someone who knows much more about fighting games than I do on this, and he seemed to think that block buttons are terrible and completely ruin games, whereas back to block is perfect. Or something like that, clearly I'm exaggerating (not that it matters, he isn't going to read this, he's boycotting GB for some stupid reason). Anyway, the point is that while I will sometimes actually block in games where there is a block button, I don't in games where it's back to block. The only times I ever tried to block in Injustice were when I knew my opponent was using a super, and I was trying to prevent it from hitting me (which worked some of the time).

Conversely, there's a lot about Injustice that is really similar. Things like how special moves are done. Rather than quarter circle forwards (something that I never seem to be able to do with a d-pad because I'm a scrub), it's down forwards. Which I prefer a lot, because I can do those consistently with a d-pad. And no, I don't know why I don't seem to be able to do quarter circle forwards consistently with a d-pad. I can with control sticks.

There's other differences, too, like what the face buttons do. Rather than two punches and two kicks in MK, it's a light, medium, heavy, and character specific button. I almost never used the character specific button. It's usually dumb stuff like Batman summoning little bat-bots, or Superman getting a damage buff. I mean, if you want to get good at the game, I bet that stuff is important. But I didn't really care. The other buttons are fine, and there's some crossover from MK, with things like uppercuts and sweep kicks that are done the same way as in MK. No Toasties, though.

That may actually be the thing that is the reason why Injustice didn't get me like MK did. It's not goofy. I mean, there's some humor in there, and it's certainly ridiculous. But it's not the right kind of ridiculous. It's hard to find the right way to word it. I mean, both take themselves seriously in the fiction, which I appreciate, but MK acknowledges how absurd everything is in the fringes. That's it. Injustice doesn't. Or if it does, I haven't found it. It's things like Toasties, and Kombat Kodes, and all the little wink and nods around the periphery that Injustice lacks. It makes it feel like a game that was made with a very serious set of mandates from men in suits that would be attached to something base on licensed characters (well, that's not really accurate given that WB owns both NetherRealm Studios and DC comics, but you get what I mean).

Get over here!

And I'm also a little baffled by how that DC name is used. On the one hand, it's definitely one of the best uses of it, in terms of portrayal of the characters, and the story. The story has a lot of comic bookiness to it, which is appropriate, but by fight game standards, it's still pretty fantastic. It's the same as MK, in that it's a pretty lengthy thing with full on cut-scenes, and it flows really well. The voice acting is pretty good across the bar. Kevin Conroy is Batman, which I like. Troy Baker was in there somewhere (Nightwing, I think), but the game's Joker just felt like a pale imitation of Mark Hamil. Not terrible, but it felt like they got someone to try to copy that, rather than doing a different take on the Joker. Anyway, it doesn't really matter, because it was fine overall.

The story mode did feel a bit shorter, and was definitely easier than MK's. I'm not sure if it actually was shorter though, it's been three years since I played that game's story mode, I could be completely wrong. Maybe it's just faster paced, I dunno. It's definitely bigger in terms of scale, at least in the cut-scenes. On the other hand, the cut-scenes aren't running in real time, and they look noticeably worse than the in-engine stuff. Artifacting, I think is what it's called. And there's a lot of repeat locations in the story mode. I understand why, but it gets a little silly by the eighth time people are fighting in front of the same strip club in Gotham.

I also really have to question the choices in characters for this game. There's a lot of them (especially including the DLC), and I've heard of most of them, but not all. Like, who's Raven? And Killer Frost? And seriously, there's a DC comics character named CYBORG? They couldn't come up with anything better than CYBORG? And why was Martian Manhunter DLC? Not only that, but he doesn't have any STAR Missions (more on that later). And where's Darkseid? They put in Zatanna (whoever she is), but not Darkseid? Also, who is Shazam? And Black Adam? And why'd they go with Hal Jordan instead of the way cooler Green Lantern, John Stewart? You know, the black one from that one DC comics cartoon I watched as a kid that wasn't Batman. And also the comic books, I guess.

I dunno, I'm not one to criticize, I'm sure someone will respond to this about some dumb thing Cyborg was in and not understand how I don't know who he is. And probably Shazam too? I mean, the weirdest nerd moment I had in the game was when I realized Deathstroke was voiced by the guy who played General Martok in Deep Space 9. Apparently he was also Ares, which I didn't realize until I looked him up online. Also, given that I don't bat an eyelash at all the Norse characters in Marvel, I shouldn't find it weird that there's a character just named Ares in DC, but I find it weird that there's a character just named Areas in DC. And he's the god of war.

Ugh, comic books. This is why I tend to stick to stuff that's just Batman. Even when that stuff crosses over into the supernatural, it's still WAY more grounded than the literal god of war. Which, thinking about the subtitle of this game now (Gods Among Us), I should be expecting nonsense like that, but I didn't! Mainly because that subtitle is so bad I tried to forget it.

I've gotten off track, though. Back to the game. Like Mortal Kombat, Injustice has a challenges type mode called S.T.A.R. Missions. And while the S.T.A.R. name just makes me think of STARS from Resident Evil (especially because I don't think the game explains what STAR stands for), it's really more like the challenge tower from MK, just with all the challenges unlocked. Which is nice on the one hand, because I could just pick and choose what ones I wanted to do. On the other hand, I ended up just not doing most of them because I didn't care. I felt compelled to try to get through the MK Tower (which I ended up having to burn in game points or something to clear some, because they were so hard and I wanted to unlock that stupid Mileena costume where she's nude except for that weird white tape thing around her which was hilariously stupid). I didn't feel compelled to do anything of the sort here.

They're mostly fine challenges, from what I gathered. Some are stupid little minigames, and there's some that were DLC in the non-PS4 version, like ones for the DLC characters, and some Soviet Superman stuff that I remember seeing a "pre-order this game now" commercial for a long time ago (like last year). But there aren't missions for all of the DLC characters, which seems weird to me. Why don't Zatanna and Martian Manhunter get them? Why wasn't Martian Manhunter in the story? Was he too busy hunting men on Mars? Also, is that manhunter in the sense of literal hunting, or more like he goes to gay bars and tries to pick up men? Is that a bad joke? Probably. I thought about cutting that, but I didn't.

Some of the STAR Missions have little bits of story attached to them, but for what's there, there might as well not be. There's only like two lines of dialog per mission, and it's not voice acted. I dunno, I mean, I don't think any of the voice actors in this game were big enough to warrant not taking the time to record that stuff, but I don't know. Maybe that stuff was added in after all the voice sessions were done, or maybe they didn't think it was worth the extra time and money (it probably wouldn't have been). That said, it just seems cheap and bad when there's so much (good) voice acting in the main story.

There's a mode that is functionally similar to a traditional "arcade" mode, where you just fight a bunch of random enemies. But there's no end of arcade mode story like you get in something like MK, or even MvC3. That stuff was never super great, and it was clearly all non-canon since there was stuff for every character, but aside from maybe doing it with a couple of the characters I like best, I feel zero reason to do it here. What's my reward? More XP for a leveling thing I don't care about? Pfft. There are at least a bunch of variants in this mode (some of which have to be unlocked), but I didn't have any initial interest, so whatever.

So, I'm kinda torn on this game. It's a sound game, and if I had someone to play with (no way I'm touching the online at this point, I'll get destroyed), I could probably get many hours of fun out of it. And the story mode, by fighting game standards, is fantastic. And it's pretty great by comic book game standards too. There's a couple characters that I really liked playing as (Batman and Deathstroke come to mind). But I don't really feel any reason to keep playing it. Which isn't terrible, I only paid $8 for it, and I feel like I got my money's worth. I dunno, maybe I'll try it a little more, try to get a little better with Batman. But probably not. I've got other games to play.

Before I bring this blog to a close, I want to add a few things about some of the Wii U games I wrote about last time.

I finished New Super Luigi U, and my thoughts on that remain pretty much the same. Which is to say that I enjoyed it quite a bit, and think it's a lot better than New Super Mario Bros U. There were a couple of frustrating spots, but overall, it's good.

Mario Kart 8 is the other one I want to add to. The first is something I wanted to mention last time, but forgot. Which is the character selection. There's thirty in total, which is a lot, especially considering that the max player count for a race is twelve. But the problem is that most of them are terrible. There's five baby characters. FIVE BABIES when there should be ZERO babies. And there's SEVEN Koopa Kids when there should be ZERO Koopa Kids. And there's Metal Mario? WHY? Pink Gold Peach? What the hell is a Pink Gold Peach? And Toadette? Why not just make that a color swap for Toad? I mean, I'm not going to say there shouldn't be lady Toads. But really, the biggest crime commits is that Birdo isn't in it.

Where's Birdo, Nintendo? HM? Actually, I'm not really that big a fan of Birdo (though I do like the weird noises Birdo makes and the absurdity of Birdo's design), but I think Birdo is a way better choice than any of those characters that I just complained about. But none of that really matters because I always play Luigi with the same dumb purple car.

Which brings me to a legitimate and game play relevant complaint. All the vehicle customization is cool in theory, but it's also time consuming, at least a lot more than just picking a racer, or at most a racer and a car like in the older ones. As a result, when you're doing things like playing online, you're locked into a specific kart until you exit the lobby, whether you're playing public games with random people, or private games. And I get why, it's to keep it moving (something I appreciate in a racing game), but it also goes a long way to stop me from experimenting with different vehicles. And the last week of me playing online mostly resulted in me getting wrecked by other people, whether it was the random people online, or an internet friend of mine who will not be mentioned by name because he was banned on GB and I can't be seen associating with him.

I'm not bad at the game, I've done well before, I just think I may have gotten myself into a situation where the other people are using better vehicles. Or maybe I'm wrong and I'm just terrible! I don't know! But there's no easy way to really test this stuff. It'd be nice if the game had a test mode where I could just pause and switch to a different kart or something. Sure, it wouldn't be seamless, still have to load stuff, but it'd be better than having to load out of a race, go back and select another kart, and load back into a race. But Nintendo's not going to read this and implement these changes in Mario Kart 9, so I dunno why I'm even bothering.

Oh, and then there's PT. You know, the Playable Teaser for Silent Hills, the new Silent Hill game from Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro. It's a really interesting little teaser. On its own, it's definitely way more obtuse than it should be, but Kojima even admitted that's to make it harder for people to get to the reveal at the end. I think it looks great graphically, and I'm interested in it. More so than I have for any other Silent Hill game, at least. I'll be keeping my eyes on it.

I think that's enough for now. I have some other stuff I could write about, but I like this weekly blog thing I've had going for the last few weeks, so I'd like to keep that going for as long as I can. And now that I've said that it probably won't go much longer, but I have enough stuff for next week at least, so there's that! If I was smart, I would probably read over this for things like typos and stuff I forgot to add, so I wouldn't have to do addendums like I just did with Mario Kart 8, but where would the fun in that be? Of course, then as I go to copy and paste this into GB, I notice a glaring typo in the very first sentence! Which I corrected, but who knows what other mistakes lie within the text you just read?! Not I!

I'm declaring that starting now, it is the Year of Birdo.

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