Sparky's Update 2.02 - Operation Babe Hunt, LEGO Branagh

Pssst.... you. Yeah, you. Come over here a sec. You wanna read a blog, man? It's real good, too. Oh, just ignore that "Written in Japan" label. That's nothin', baby! This is 100% authentic genuine Sparky_Buzzsaw gold! You read this blog, I guarantee you, you won't be sorry. Only $20, man. Well, okay, it's free today only, because I like you. And, well, because I can't technically charge you. Just keep it on the DL, kid. You come back next week, and I'll hook you up again, how's that for a deal? Huh? Huh?

Thanks to radical user c0l0nelp0c0rn1, I now have mastery over headers. Booyah, I say! BOOYAH!

I BEAT HOW MANY GAMES LAST WEEK, PART DEUX!

In my haste to bring you only the finest in Internet banality, I'm afraid I made an egregious error last week. You see, I forgot one of the better games I played and beat that week, and it's a damn shame, too, because it certainly didn't deserve it. That game is LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4.

What? Oh shut up.

Let's get some things straight. I'm a grown-ass man. I'm nearly thirty. I have a degree in English, having specialized in creative writing and Shakespeare. You could say I'm kind of a bookworm, but that doesn't really do it justice. I crave reading. I love it beyond every other physical and mental activity, and that includes 2-for-1 days at the Bunny Ranch. I read books the way a man dying of thirst would drink a glass of water. I say all that because you should know one thing - I very rarely ever read anything meant for young adults. I have a couple of childhood favorites I revisit from time to time, like C.S. Lewis or The Hobbit. But the vast majority of my reading definitely encompasses the adult side of things. Harry Potter was one large exception to this rule. I started reading them thanks to (what else?) the recommendation of a beautiful, sharply intelligent woman. Although I never quite grew passionate about the novels, I did enjoy several of them and read the series in rapid succession.

I don't find Hogwarts particularly endearing, nor do I have any great love for the characters or events of the Harry Potter novels. But the novels have an undeniable charm. I enjoyed the novels from a distance, you might say. They were a Sunday afternoon's bag of popcorn - nothing I could survive on, but certainly a nice snack for my mind. I think much the same about the prior LEGO games. They won't be in my top 10 favorites of all time by a longshot, but the games are great fun for a short while and make for a nice break now and again.

And really, that's all I wanted out of LEGO Harry Potter. Lo and behold, it delivered. Yes, at it's core, this is still very similar to the prior LEGO games. The characters play along similar lines, the controls feel very much alike, and the assets are essentially just re-skins. But for what it is, LEGO Harry Potter is a very enjoyable game. It has the trademark Traveller's Tales wit in its cutscenes, but what was most surprising was the clever nature of the game itself. Instead of focusing in on combat, LEGO Harry Potter instead centers itself around puzzle-solving. There's nothing too terribly complex in regards to the main game itself, but finding all the little collectibles and secret hidey-holes can be surprisingly challenging and enjoyable. It never borders on frustrating, save for a few odd glitches here and there, like potion items not cropping up when they should.

I beat the game at about 40% completion early last week, and completely forgot I did so within the span of that week described in my prior blog. Don't take that to mean that the game is somehow inferior to the others. It's not, and it's totally a blast. I'm not sure how much you could take away from it without having either read the novels or seen the movies, but if you even remotely enjoyed either, it's well worth a look.

OLD WORLD BLUES? MORE LIKE "OLD WORLD.... GOODS!"

I did end up buying Old World Blues, the latest DLC for Fallout: New Vegas. I'm not going to spoil anything here, but I wanted to give some brief thoughts. It's pretty hilarious, with some great dialogue and fantastic voicework all around. The level cap increase is great, and the new traits are interesting. No really interesting selectable perks this time around, though there is a ton of experience to be gained in Old World Blues as well as a few not-so-hidden perks to be gained from combat. Some of those new combat perks are fantastic and really useful, while others are sort of... well, bizarre, much like the rest of the DLC. The weapons are about as strange as they come, with a few great additions and a fantastic bit of armor if you're willing to do a little extra work. All in all, I think it's about equal to the last bit of DLC.

IT ENDED. IT FINALLY ENDED.

Here's my biggest complaint about Persona 3 Portable right off the bat - it's about twice as long as it needs to be to remain fun and interesting. Does that make it a bad game? No. But by the end of it, I was sick to death of fighting in the similar feeling dungeon levels time after time. After a while, the game just became a ridiculous grind to the end.

I think the game could've benefitted greatly from spreading its dialogue around a bit. I know, that would have fucked up our beloved Persona gameplay. But the game could have done with a lot less word vomit each month of gameplay and given each week more chunks of the story in order to keep the gamer's interest. The story is bizarro-Japanese, of course, as is the music, the settings, and the dialogue. There's a ton of meat to the game, with all sorts of crafting, Persona management (essentially monsters that fight for you and can be bred or changed slightly), and many friendships to be gained or lost. It's a complex RPG in the best ways possible, but after a while, it does get pretty old. I'm going to be glad to be moving on, but I highly recommend it for anyone who is looking for a lengthy RPG and has a clue as to what kind of weird shit they'll be getting into.

One thing that still bugs me is the visuals of the children (and they ARE children, teens or no) putting guns to their heads and firing. I know, they're not really guns, but "Evokers." Well, fuck that. They look like guns. It made me queasy to see this emulation of suicide from the heroes, mostly because of their youth. Now, again, I've beat the game and I know what's happening. But it's still a completely unnecessary and violently sickening visual to use, and frankly, it's completely tasteless and useful only for shock value which adds nothing to the game.

BRINGING AN UMBRELLA TO A MACHINEGUN FIGHT

I purchased Yakuza 4 recently in an Amazon sale. I was a bit worried that the game wouldn't be something I'd enjoy, that it would be cheaply made, a third-person brawler with an open world feel, or that it would be the equivalent of a Dynasty Warriors game - fun in concept, but incredibly poorly produced. Thankfully, Yakuza 4 is none of those things. In fact, as early as I am in the game (only about five hours in), I'd say it's one of the more enjoyable games I've played this year. There's one really glaring problem with the game in its insanely shitty mini-map and lack of quest directions, but once you get used to the streets and can start running a mental map of where everything is, it turns into a fantastic experience.

It's really got a lot in common with Shenmue, but it feels rightly like its own game. Combat is much faster, the mini-games are more varied and even more addictive, and the story feels a lot more interesting than Shenmue's. But spiritually, they feel like siblings. Shenmue is slower, more methodical, perhaps a bit more philosophical. Yakuza 4 is the harder hitting, quicker paced, fun-loving brother. Both have their advantages, but given that Yakuza 4 has eliminated almost all the problems Shenmue had, namely QTE's, I've really gotta give the nod to Yakuza 4.

One particular thing I enjoy about Yakuza 4 is that it feels distinctly Japanese without being embarassing to play. Unlike the Disgaeas, the Personas, or the Phantom Braves of the world, this is actually a Japanese game I feel comfortable about my family and friends seeing me play. Sure, it's got some Japanese strangeness in it, and I'm probably NEVER going back into a karoake club in the game, but I feel like the little Japanese quirks and silliness are endearing and captivating instead of feeling stupid.

WHAT I'LL BE PLAYING

Well, my "Shyeah, Right" award from last week was a winner. I did not, in fact, play a bit of WKC this entire last week. I hope to remedy that, and so, despite my inauguration of the award just last week, we're going for a double winner. I highly doubt I'll be getting around to WKC again this week, as Yakuza 4 looks to be one heck of a long game (especially since I'm hooked on the substories).

Other than Yakuza 4 and possibly White Knight Chronicles, I'm going to be trying out Trails in the Sky for the PSP. I look forward to playing it, as I've heard nothing but positive things, and yet know very little about the game or story itself. In the case of JRPG's, that's a good thing for me. Love a good surprise, and even a middling one will make me satisfied.

And that's about it for this week, folks. I'm afraid I haven't had much time to scour Giant Bomb for new and exciting blogs, but dankempster has put up a lengthy, introspective, and great read, so go check that out. Your question of the week, should anyone choose to answer it, is this. What's a game you keep promising yourself you'll return to, but can't for some reason or another?

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3 Comments
Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

Pssst.... you. Yeah, you. Come over here a sec. You wanna read a blog, man? It's real good, too. Oh, just ignore that "Written in Japan" label. That's nothin', baby! This is 100% authentic genuine Sparky_Buzzsaw gold! You read this blog, I guarantee you, you won't be sorry. Only $20, man. Well, okay, it's free today only, because I like you. And, well, because I can't technically charge you. Just keep it on the DL, kid. You come back next week, and I'll hook you up again, how's that for a deal? Huh? Huh?

Thanks to radical user c0l0nelp0c0rn1, I now have mastery over headers. Booyah, I say! BOOYAH!

I BEAT HOW MANY GAMES LAST WEEK, PART DEUX!

In my haste to bring you only the finest in Internet banality, I'm afraid I made an egregious error last week. You see, I forgot one of the better games I played and beat that week, and it's a damn shame, too, because it certainly didn't deserve it. That game is LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4.

What? Oh shut up.

Let's get some things straight. I'm a grown-ass man. I'm nearly thirty. I have a degree in English, having specialized in creative writing and Shakespeare. You could say I'm kind of a bookworm, but that doesn't really do it justice. I crave reading. I love it beyond every other physical and mental activity, and that includes 2-for-1 days at the Bunny Ranch. I read books the way a man dying of thirst would drink a glass of water. I say all that because you should know one thing - I very rarely ever read anything meant for young adults. I have a couple of childhood favorites I revisit from time to time, like C.S. Lewis or The Hobbit. But the vast majority of my reading definitely encompasses the adult side of things. Harry Potter was one large exception to this rule. I started reading them thanks to (what else?) the recommendation of a beautiful, sharply intelligent woman. Although I never quite grew passionate about the novels, I did enjoy several of them and read the series in rapid succession.

I don't find Hogwarts particularly endearing, nor do I have any great love for the characters or events of the Harry Potter novels. But the novels have an undeniable charm. I enjoyed the novels from a distance, you might say. They were a Sunday afternoon's bag of popcorn - nothing I could survive on, but certainly a nice snack for my mind. I think much the same about the prior LEGO games. They won't be in my top 10 favorites of all time by a longshot, but the games are great fun for a short while and make for a nice break now and again.

And really, that's all I wanted out of LEGO Harry Potter. Lo and behold, it delivered. Yes, at it's core, this is still very similar to the prior LEGO games. The characters play along similar lines, the controls feel very much alike, and the assets are essentially just re-skins. But for what it is, LEGO Harry Potter is a very enjoyable game. It has the trademark Traveller's Tales wit in its cutscenes, but what was most surprising was the clever nature of the game itself. Instead of focusing in on combat, LEGO Harry Potter instead centers itself around puzzle-solving. There's nothing too terribly complex in regards to the main game itself, but finding all the little collectibles and secret hidey-holes can be surprisingly challenging and enjoyable. It never borders on frustrating, save for a few odd glitches here and there, like potion items not cropping up when they should.

I beat the game at about 40% completion early last week, and completely forgot I did so within the span of that week described in my prior blog. Don't take that to mean that the game is somehow inferior to the others. It's not, and it's totally a blast. I'm not sure how much you could take away from it without having either read the novels or seen the movies, but if you even remotely enjoyed either, it's well worth a look.

OLD WORLD BLUES? MORE LIKE "OLD WORLD.... GOODS!"

I did end up buying Old World Blues, the latest DLC for Fallout: New Vegas. I'm not going to spoil anything here, but I wanted to give some brief thoughts. It's pretty hilarious, with some great dialogue and fantastic voicework all around. The level cap increase is great, and the new traits are interesting. No really interesting selectable perks this time around, though there is a ton of experience to be gained in Old World Blues as well as a few not-so-hidden perks to be gained from combat. Some of those new combat perks are fantastic and really useful, while others are sort of... well, bizarre, much like the rest of the DLC. The weapons are about as strange as they come, with a few great additions and a fantastic bit of armor if you're willing to do a little extra work. All in all, I think it's about equal to the last bit of DLC.

IT ENDED. IT FINALLY ENDED.

Here's my biggest complaint about Persona 3 Portable right off the bat - it's about twice as long as it needs to be to remain fun and interesting. Does that make it a bad game? No. But by the end of it, I was sick to death of fighting in the similar feeling dungeon levels time after time. After a while, the game just became a ridiculous grind to the end.

I think the game could've benefitted greatly from spreading its dialogue around a bit. I know, that would have fucked up our beloved Persona gameplay. But the game could have done with a lot less word vomit each month of gameplay and given each week more chunks of the story in order to keep the gamer's interest. The story is bizarro-Japanese, of course, as is the music, the settings, and the dialogue. There's a ton of meat to the game, with all sorts of crafting, Persona management (essentially monsters that fight for you and can be bred or changed slightly), and many friendships to be gained or lost. It's a complex RPG in the best ways possible, but after a while, it does get pretty old. I'm going to be glad to be moving on, but I highly recommend it for anyone who is looking for a lengthy RPG and has a clue as to what kind of weird shit they'll be getting into.

One thing that still bugs me is the visuals of the children (and they ARE children, teens or no) putting guns to their heads and firing. I know, they're not really guns, but "Evokers." Well, fuck that. They look like guns. It made me queasy to see this emulation of suicide from the heroes, mostly because of their youth. Now, again, I've beat the game and I know what's happening. But it's still a completely unnecessary and violently sickening visual to use, and frankly, it's completely tasteless and useful only for shock value which adds nothing to the game.

BRINGING AN UMBRELLA TO A MACHINEGUN FIGHT

I purchased Yakuza 4 recently in an Amazon sale. I was a bit worried that the game wouldn't be something I'd enjoy, that it would be cheaply made, a third-person brawler with an open world feel, or that it would be the equivalent of a Dynasty Warriors game - fun in concept, but incredibly poorly produced. Thankfully, Yakuza 4 is none of those things. In fact, as early as I am in the game (only about five hours in), I'd say it's one of the more enjoyable games I've played this year. There's one really glaring problem with the game in its insanely shitty mini-map and lack of quest directions, but once you get used to the streets and can start running a mental map of where everything is, it turns into a fantastic experience.

It's really got a lot in common with Shenmue, but it feels rightly like its own game. Combat is much faster, the mini-games are more varied and even more addictive, and the story feels a lot more interesting than Shenmue's. But spiritually, they feel like siblings. Shenmue is slower, more methodical, perhaps a bit more philosophical. Yakuza 4 is the harder hitting, quicker paced, fun-loving brother. Both have their advantages, but given that Yakuza 4 has eliminated almost all the problems Shenmue had, namely QTE's, I've really gotta give the nod to Yakuza 4.

One particular thing I enjoy about Yakuza 4 is that it feels distinctly Japanese without being embarassing to play. Unlike the Disgaeas, the Personas, or the Phantom Braves of the world, this is actually a Japanese game I feel comfortable about my family and friends seeing me play. Sure, it's got some Japanese strangeness in it, and I'm probably NEVER going back into a karoake club in the game, but I feel like the little Japanese quirks and silliness are endearing and captivating instead of feeling stupid.

WHAT I'LL BE PLAYING

Well, my "Shyeah, Right" award from last week was a winner. I did not, in fact, play a bit of WKC this entire last week. I hope to remedy that, and so, despite my inauguration of the award just last week, we're going for a double winner. I highly doubt I'll be getting around to WKC again this week, as Yakuza 4 looks to be one heck of a long game (especially since I'm hooked on the substories).

Other than Yakuza 4 and possibly White Knight Chronicles, I'm going to be trying out Trails in the Sky for the PSP. I look forward to playing it, as I've heard nothing but positive things, and yet know very little about the game or story itself. In the case of JRPG's, that's a good thing for me. Love a good surprise, and even a middling one will make me satisfied.

And that's about it for this week, folks. I'm afraid I haven't had much time to scour Giant Bomb for new and exciting blogs, but dankempster has put up a lengthy, introspective, and great read, so go check that out. Your question of the week, should anyone choose to answer it, is this. What's a game you keep promising yourself you'll return to, but can't for some reason or another?

Moderator
Posted by eroticfishcake

If I'm correct, the Yakuza series are in fact made by the same team who developed Shenmue so you're quite correct in that they're siblings in a way. I'm a big fan of series though even if I started on the third one (the first two had horrible localisation hence my lack of interest) but Yakuza 3 & 4 do fill you in on the entire story through cut scenes. It's a very series game but there's a strong sense of goofiness at some points but it's type that I can get behind. As for the karaoke, I recommend going there at least once with Hanako (you'll need to play as Akiyama) and sing the duet with her at least once, it's pretty dapper. My only complaint is that the combat, while fun, doesn't get very difficult unless it's a boss fight. The random encounters are just too easy. But for what it is, it's great fun. They don't make games like that any more.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@eroticfishcake:

I've already moved on from Akiyama, unfortunately. Really enjoyed his section of the game, too, which is a darned shame. I wasn't a fan of the hostess maker stuff (that's a topic for another blog, but let's just say I'm not a fan of the objectification and "sales" of women as a service, even if it's not sex), but I am absolutely loving the fighter maker stuff. Saejima, while a cool looking character, feels kind of bland in comparison to Akiyama, but I absolutely freakin' loved that CGI introduction to his character.

I do agree about the combat being too easy. More variations on bad guys would be nice too - and makes me really wish that zombie Yakuza game would make it here!

Moderator