Happy Valentine's Day! And what can be more romantic than reading a thousand or so words about video games? That's a rhetorical question, so you don't have to answer it. In fact, I insist you don't.
For my money, nothing's more romantic than battling the sanguineous Victorian-era horrors of Bloodborne's Yharnam, which is why I spent the whole week playing it. Even so, I still didn't really get as far as I'd like. Too many distractions this week, I suppose. More on Bloodborne in a little bit.
Those distractions included the recently translated GameCenter CX episode where Arino tackles Kickle Cubicle. As much as I like to see the Kacho suffering due to his occasionally poor reaction speeds, there's also something heartwarming about watching him in his element while playing his preferred genre - puzzle games - and excelling. Kickle Cubicle happens to be one of the best NES puzzle games out there, in spite of its dumb name: it feels like the best parts of Sokoban/Boxxle and The Adventures of Lolo combined, and not nearly as teeth-gnashingly difficult as either.
Even if you've been living under a rock, I'm guessing you could name what the biggest game release of this week is. In fact, I'm sure you can: it's Street Fighter V, heading to PS4 and PC tomorrow (as of writing). Fighter Game Community folk will be downloading (or buying the physical copy, if their pipes are broken) the new iteration in Capcom's venerable series and dedicating themselves to it for the next several months to figure out all its new gauges, supers, cancels, footsies, power tiers and character-specific abilities. I just hope the site isn't deluged with fighter game content this week as a result. Well, unless they play more games like Power Moves on another episode of Ranking of Fighters: the SNES/SFC alone has many moreweird experiments out there to examine for the sake of science.
We also see the release, or releases, of Fire Emblem Fates - just in time to sweep up all those burned out on XCOM 2 and its disconcerting amount of bugs. They seem to be going for some kind of Pokemon thing with these separate Birthright and Conquest editions. Fans of anime strategy RPGs will note that Project X Zone 2 is also out very soon as well. I was in two minds about the last one, since it had far too much unnecessary bloat, but after seeing some screengrabs of PXZ2's wonderfully dorky localization I'm almost tempted to give this new one a shot anyway. Finally: we'll also see the Steam release of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc: the Battle Royale-meets-Ace Attorney adventure/visual novel that had been trapped in Vita country (for NA/Europe) until now. I've been quietly building a list of Vita games to try out if I ever take the plunge and buy the system (or a PlayStation TV, since they're going cheap these days), but if those games are just going to get released on Steam - or remastered for PS4, like Gravity Rush - then maybe I can hold off a bit longer.
Not much to report here, especially after the enormous PC Engine 1990 round-up I posted earlier in the week. Since then, I've just been tweaking old SNES pages in preparation for the new 1995 project.
It's been a curious process: there's a few inside-baseball techniques and/or good habits I've picked up in my years working on our wiki, and it sticks out like a sore thumb (at least to me) when I find a page I'd worked on before adding those practices to my standard approach. Like, say, ensuring all images have the right tags, or that companies are added to releases. Minor stuff like that. I want these pages to be the best they can be, partly to help folk but admittedly also for my own inflated sense of professionalism, so I can get a little perfectionist about even the smallest flaws. As I've moved through the pages of 1992, however, I can see when I acquired these exacting standards: I'm looking through the pages for games released towards the end of that year, and I'm finding that nothing needs to be fixed.
I've got one more little maintenance task to accomplish before starting the next big project very soon. When I get there, hopefully I'll have some fun obscurities to talk about in this space.
It's taken a while for me to warm up to Bloodborne. Some of that is series fatigue: the Souls games, while uniformly excellent, are all structurally and mechanically very similar games. That's generally not an issue when that familiar blueprint is of such a high quality but they're all very long games as well, especially if you're the type of prod and push every nook and cranny for secrets and lore like I am. Each Souls game brings with it a huge world to explore, a new set of weapons and tools to familiarize oneself with, and a whole new set of bosses to cautiously study and defeat. Each one is a big investment in time and energy, and too many of those put together can be more than a little draining.
The other roadblock has been Bloodborne's comparatively dull environments. I like Yharnam in concept: a city that's so old that its lanes and pathways have had to compensate for architecture both old and new, creating a lot of winding paths and confusing maze-like streets. Everything seems to have this eerie gray/brown color to it, enemies and environments both, and the world is (currently) locked in a permanent twilight which further saps the game of strong colors beyond the occasional bright-red arterial spray. It's all a little muted and soporific, as if the game's quietly settling the player in before unleashing onto them the horrors of night. As a result, I've been having a time of it just trying to stay focused and keep moving.
Other than that, though, Bloodborne's been the superlative Souls experience so far. I wouldn't rate it ahead of Dark Souls, or perhaps even Demon's Souls for all its inchoate flaws, but I appreciate the level of additional depth the game brings. The transforming weapons, the distraction-based utility of firearms, the scarcity of defensive equipment - even the player's "armor" simply amounts to several sets of light hunter gear that are often more of an aesthetic consideration than a practical one - and additions like the Disgaea-esque Chalice Dungeons and the blood gem enhancements. There's clearly more to come as well: I haven't figured out how to use these stat-boosting "Caryll Runes" yet, but that's another facet of my hunter's loadout that I'll be spending time pondering over in the future.
What really helped the game click was finding a weapon I liked. The starting Hunter's Axe is a devastating weapon, especially that double swing with the charged R2 attack, but it's Ludwig's Holy Blade that has really been the balance of offense and speed that I've been looking for. It helps that its charge attacks are all direct thrusts: not only does that make them easy to aim, but it seems like there's a number of enemies don't agree with that specific damage type. I've leveled it up to the point that it may be too powerful for where I'm at in the game, so I've once again leaned to the opposite side of that precarious seesaw where I'm stronger than my opponents rather than the standard vice versa. To underestimate even minor foes is to flirt with death, of course, but I definitely feel a lot more confident as I continue to stride through new areas. I'm sure the game can't wait to strip that cockiness from me.
I intend to get into more detail with my Bloodborne coverage in the same manner that I coveredDark Souls II: Every ten bosses, I'll write up my thoughts on how they were designed and presented, as well as discuss the areas that they inhabit. I'm still of the mind that bosses are where the Souls franchise shines brightest, though given I've only defeated five so far that would suggest that there's less of a focus on them in this game. Either that or I really haven't gotten too far in yet: for the record, I'm just setting off along the Hemwick Charnal Path, after defeating Vicar Amelia in the Grand Cathedral and exploring the Hypogean Gaol (spoiler blocked for those who haven't gotten that far. Not that they'd know how far they'd need to get if it's been spoiler-blocked...).
Right now I really want to find out what the deal is with these giant invisible creatures that lift me up and almost kill me every time I accidentally wander too close to one of them. (Or maybe I don't...?)