By thisisalan 1 Comments
Another week, another blog. Yes indeed, I really do have intentions to keep this thing on a consistent schedule. Let's get right into it, shall we?
I mentioned last week that I had recently purchased a Nintendo 3DS but hadn't had much of a chance to actually play around with it. In the past week, I've experimented with the built-in apps, taken on some Ocarina of Time, and failed miserably in my quest to make a single StreetPass connection. I've also played some other games, finished (yes, finished!) The Witcher, and continued to stress test (read: abuse) my new 4G modem.
Nintendo 3DS: One More Dee
I generally do not enjoy 3D technology. While the effect can occasionally add a nice touch, it's still too often used as a gimmick to sell more expensive televisions and get more people to actually go out to the movie theater. Coming at the 3DS from this point of view, I never considered buying the device for its 3D capabilities. While the 3D tech here isn't without merit, the meat of the experience for me is the ability to play a new generation of first-party Nintendo handheld titles.
In keeping with this background, I didn't give the 3DS much more than a passing glance until it had a major first-party release in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. After that, all it took was one GB quick look and one ensuing wave of nostalgic glee for the game to magically appear in my Amazon shopping cart. How'd that get there? Well, might as well buy a 3DS to play it on…
As it turns out, the 3DS is a pretty competent console. The circle pad affords a borderline luxurious level of comfortable control, the friends list/web browser/home screen overlay during games is well-realized, there are plenty of gadgets and parlor tricks to play around with, and the 3D is... fine... I guess. Not wearing glasses is a definite plus, but it means that your head needs to be in a fairly constrained position relative to the screen. This is probably fine if you live in a television commercial or furniture catalog, but in practice I'm typically not sitting perfectly still and holding my hands out 25-35 cm from my eyes.
Another slight disappointment has been StreetPass. I rather expected that my largely suburban and non-Japanese environment would not be conducive to the feature, but I have yet to see that blue indicator light up even once. In what I had hoped would be a good test of StreetPass, I took the 3DS with me to a crowded indoor mall on a rainy Sunday afternoon. While I did some shopping and got my phone replaced at the Apple Store, I assumed my 3DS was busily comparing notes with its nearby peers. After finishing up at the mall, I eagerly pulled out the console to be greeted only with an unlit LED and an empty notification inbox. I guess I'll have to wait until PAX Prime next month before I can really take a shot at StreetPassing.
All that said, I've really been enjoying my n playthrough of Ocarina of Time. This is a game which I, not owning a Nintendo 64 when I was young, considered to be the holy grail of gaming for many years. I did everything in my power to play OoT, from spending inordinate amounts of time at Nintendo 64-possessing neighbors' houses to using emulation software that only half-captured the game's majesty. Ocarina of Time is the video game that I've most consistently appreciated over the longest period of time, and as such it stands as the prime candidate for my favorite game of all time. With that in mind, you can probably imagine that I'm thrilled as hell to play a gorgeous remastering of it on a portable console.
The Witcher: My Work Here is Done
I finished The Witcher. Damn, did I finish the hell out of that game. Driven by a mad compulsion to complete the first iteration before tackling The Witcher 2, I decided at some point last week that I was going to make a break for it over the weekend. After surrendering nearly all of my Saturday to help Geralt of Rivia face the sinister Salamandra, I was rewarded with an ending cutscene that only intensified my desire to jump straight into the second game as soon as possible.
Along the way, The Witcher provided some truly memorable moments, occasionally taking the time to riff playfully on typical fantasy tropes while injecting its own brand of dark realism. You may find yourself stumbling into classic Arthurian legend when you meet the Lady of the Lake, but her knights have long since left her deserted, leaving her domain to be threatened by warring factions and racial tension.
As much as I love Mass Effect and Dragon Age, the shades of gray presented in this game make both BioWare series look like black and white morality plays. You'll almost certainly try to straddle the neutral ground here, hedging your bets, not sure which side to take — all because there is no clear right or wrong. The Witcher expects this though, and eventually yanks you sharply away from any hope of staying neutral in its intensely polarized world.
Despite the more-than-occasional system crash and broken combat sequence I experienced during my time with this game, I've remained wholeheartedly on board with the way it has unfolded.
The Witcher 2: Just Kidding! More Work!
Playing The Witcher 2 makes me glad that I finished the first game. Not only are there some satisfying narrative connections and character reappearances, but the entire game feels like a vindication of the struggles encountered in the first go-round. Did you labor through repetitive combat sequences and sometimes-broken controls out of devotion to a game that you knew really was great under its flaws? If so, The Witcher 2 is for you. They fixed everything that drove you nuts, but kept in tact the spirited grittiness, satisfying mechanics, and narrative ingenuity of the original.
While all of these improvements had me jumping at the chance to get into some of The Witcher 2, my computer took a slightly different approach: it turned and ran. As it happens, The Witcher 2 is rather graphically intense. The game looks gorgeous and presents a surreal, high-fantasy ambience that is achieved largely through some very clever lighting effects. Unfortunately this means that even on the lowest of the low settings, your GPU is still going to be dynamically illuminating Geralt's armor as he emerges from the splotchy shade of a forest to gaze upon fully animated waves breaking along a distant shoreline.
After some tweaking, I was able to get the game to run relatively smoothly on my machine, but it has become clear to me that CD Projekt did not exactly have the GT 330M in mind when they set the graphics baseline here. I'm perfectly happy to see PC graphics moving forward, but it's unfortunate that a storyline I care so deeply about was nearly denied to me as a result.
If your PC can run it, you should definitely play this game. Oh, but you should probably play The Witcher first. So, um, get on that.
Odds and Ends
I've acquired a copy of Dragon Quest IX, which I see can be a very long game. Realistically, I doubt I'll make it very far, but the last Dragon Quest-related game I played was Dragon Warrior Monsters, and that was a very long time ago. Lately I've had a craving for a good, lengthy, and portable JRPG, so hopefully this will scratch that itch.
Trenched is enjoyable, but I've had at least two instances where I get to the end of a long, grueling mission only to have my structure destroyed on the last wave. I've been meaning to jump into some multiplayer, but I wanted to make sure I was at least semi-competent with the basic mechanics and load-outs first.
Bastion is enjoyable as well, managing to be visually and aesthetically alluring at a level that is seriously impressive for an indie title. Every detail of this game is beautifully crafted and cared for, resulting in an experience that leaves you eager to explore more of the enigmatic world that Supergiant Games has created. From a gameplay perspective, I've found the Proving Ground challenge levels to be especially entertaining. Trapper Shingle had me standing up in front of my television, leaning in close to make sure I timed every roll and reload exactly right, eventually netting me a thoroughly satisfying first prize.
This next week is going to be fairly busy, but I'm hoping to dive a bit into From Dust, a game I've heard about here and there but still am not sure I fully understand. Hopefully that will change in time for next week's not-a-blog.