Saturday Summaries 2018-09-01: "Shame Old, Shame Old" Edition

I've been browsing through some of my old "Lists of Shame" - an annual reminder to stop buying new games and play the untouched ones I already have - for a sense of what I've abandoned from the previous console generation and how slow it's been to come around on some others that, despite my best intentions, remained or still remain sitting unloved on a shelf for years. Now that we've entered September, it's unlikely I'll get to all the 2017 games I had my eye on at the start of the year, and September itself looks to add several more - Valkyria Chronicles 4, The Bard's Tale IV, Pathfinder: Kingmaker, Dragon Quest XI, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Labyrinth of Refrain, Metal Max Xeno, Valthirian Arc - to an already congested wishlist.

Rather than stress too much about the FOMO - I wait months on every game purchase anyway, so it's not like I'm ever hitting the zeitgeist - I've been reviewing past lapses in these shame lists with a philosophical mindset instead. While it may not be the case that I'll get around to any of these games in a timely fashion, I might still get around to them all eventually? With that in mind, I'm going to have another one of my little data exercises to see just how often I've managed to "tortoise" (in the "hare and the tortoise", "slow and steady wins the race" sense) my previous shame targets.

(A key for the following table: a bold entry means I completed the game in the same year I made the list, i.e. a successful result. An italicized entry means I completed it after the year in question, followed by the actual completion year in parentheses. Let's see if some trends emerge, or if there's any forgotten games that I should think about getting back to.)

2014 List2015 List2016 List2017 List2018 List
AntichamberAssassin's Creed IV: Black FlagAmnesia: A Machine for PigsAbzûFinal Fantasy XV
BioShock InfiniteThe Banner SagaAmong The SleepBoundThe Last Guardian
Brothers: A Tale of Two SonsBotaniculaAssassin's Creed SyndicateCaptain Toad: Treasure TrackerThe Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Deadly PremonitionBroken AgeAxiom VergeDanganronpa 1•2 ReloadPersona 5
Dear EstherBurnout ParadiseBatman: Arkham KnightDeus Ex: Mankind DividedRise of the Tomb Raider
Edna & Harvey: Harvey's New EyesDreamfall: The Longest JourneyThe Book of Unwritten Tales: The Critter ChroniclesDishonored 2Snake Pass
Guacamelee!Far Cry 4BloodborneFirewatchSteamWorld Dig 2
GunpointI Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamCitizens of EarthHyper Light DrifterSuper Mario Odyssey
Ittle DewLightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIIIDivinity: Original SinJust Cause 3Yakuza 5
Last Window: The Secret of Cape WestMetal Gear Solid 3: Snake EaterDonkey Kong Country: Tropical FreezeOri and the Blind ForestYs VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
Legend of GrimrockMetal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the PatriotsDreamfall ChaptersOwlboyZero Time Dilemma
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the SkyMight & Magic X LegacyEvoland 2Picross 3D: Round 2Cuphead
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between WorldsRatchet & Clank: Into the NexusFallout 4Professor Layton and the Last SpecterA Hat in Time
McPixelStick It to the Man!Final Fantasy Type-0Salt and SanctuaryHollow Knight
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White WitchThe RoominFamous: Second SonTales from the BorderlandsDivinity: Original Sin II
Persona 4 ArenaThe SwapperMetal Gear Solid V: The Phantom PainTales of ZestiriaDanganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
PrimordiaTheatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain CallMiddle-earth: Shadow of MordorTrine 2Ever Oasis
Remember MeWeapon Shop de OmasseThe Next Big ThingUncharted 4: A Thief's EndGolf Story
Rogue LegacyYakuza 3SOMAXenoblade Chronicles XHellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
Sly Cooper: Thieves in TimeAmnesia: A Machine for Pigs (2016)Tales of XilliaYakuza 4Hyrule Warriors
Super Mario 3D WorldHammerwatch (2016)The Talos PrincipleYesterdayThe Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
Tales of the AbyssThe Next Big Thing (2016)Tearaway UnfoldedFinal Fantasy XV (2018)Life Is Strange: Before the Storm
Thomas Was AloneTales of Xillia (2016)TeslagradThe Last Guardian (2018)Kentucky Route Zero
Toki Tori 2Yakuza 4 (2017)TransistorYakuza 5 (2018)Mario & Luigi: Dream Team
Warlock: Master of the ArcaneAnother Code: RThe Witcher 3: Wild HuntYoshi's Woolly World (2018)Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
Wizardry 8Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of ArlandYs: The Oath in FelghanaZero Time Dilemma (2018)Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance#
Botanicula (2015)ChulipJust Cause 3 (2017)Bravely DefaultMetroid: Samus Returns
Dreamfall: The Longest Journey (2015)Drakensang: The Dark EyeOri and the Blind Forest (2017)Event[0]Mirror's Edge Catalyst
Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus (2015)Golden Sun: Dark DawnRebel Galaxy (2017)I Am SetsunaNight in the Woods
The Swapper (2015)The Legend of DragoonXenoblade Chronicles X (2017)The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SCNioh
Yakuza 3 (2015)Neverwinter Nights 2Yakuza 4 (2017)The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold SteelPhoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies
Tales of Xillia (2016)No More Heroes 2: Desperate StruggleSuper Smash Bros. for Wii U (2018)Mario & Luigi: Dream TeamSouth Park: The Fractured But Whole
Driftmoon (2017)Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling TogetherYoshi's Woolly World (2018)Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance#Steins;Gate
Another Code: R Tales of Graces FApotheonMirror's Edge CatalystTacoma
Back to the Future: The GameThreads of FateBravely DefaultNo More Heroes 2: Desperate StruggleTales of Berseria
Disney Epic Mickey 2Wild ArmsCradlePhoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual DestiniesTales of Graces F
Dragon Quest IXFantasy Life*Kentucky Route ZeroPhoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of JusticeThimbleweed Park
FlingSmashForbidden Siren 2*Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual DestiniesStarbound#Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE
Fortune SummonersJagged Alliance 2*The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold SteelSteins;GateTyranny
Gemini RueKirby's Epic Yarn*The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SCSuperhotVaporum
Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer The Magic CircleTactics Ogre: Let Us Cling TogetherWasteland 2
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle No More Heroes 2: Desperate StruggleTales of Graces FWatch Dogs
Rage Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling TogetherTokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FEWest of Loathing
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together Tales of Graces FTyrannyWhat Remains of Edith Finch
Disciples II: Dark Prophecy* Threads of FateVandal Hearts: Flames of JudgmentWolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Eador: Masters of the Broken World* Wasteland 2Wasteland 2Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap
Fallen Enchantress* Watch DogsWatch DogsWorld of Final Fantasy
Kirby's Epic Yarn* Jagged Alliance 2*Watch Dogs 2XCOM 2
Mark of the Ninja* Kirby's Epic Yarn*World of Final FantasyXenoblade Chronicles 2
Zeno Clash II* S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky*XCOM 2Yakuza 0

Additional notes:

* = Games that I played a little bit and either quit, or was unable to play e.g. due to PC deficiencies or disk damage.

# = Playing this right now!

So, some patterns are evident here. There's a certain amount of abandoning older consoles - notably the Wii and PS3 - as I acquire their successors and focus on them instead. This isn't really tech snobbery than it is having a limited amount of space next to the TV, but I still find the occasional drive to go back to older systems. Wii games, for instance, run fine on a Wii U and just recently for PS3 I've played Metal Gear Rising (more on that in a moment) and Yakuza 5. Others, like the PS1 games or older CRPGs, are really there as fillers - though I still hope to find the time for them regardless. They wouldn't be on these lists if I didn't have some small interest in playing them.

I've also been completing fewer and fewer shame list games as we move forward, which is concerning. It could be that 2017 was a particularly busy year for new releases and 2018 isn't over yet, but it does seem to be trending downwards. I'm going to blame that on the Indie Game of the Week feature, which takes a considerable portion of my week and regularly has me looking into smaller games I've neglected to even consider for the shame list. I also started listing games that I didn't yet own but wanted to check out, so there's a number of those that I never got around to buying. It all paints a rich tapestry of apathy and indolence, which have been the guiding principles of my life of late.

I do feel bad for some of these frequently recurring items, like No More Heroes 2, Another Code: R, Tales of Graces F and Tactics Ogre. Maybe next year I'll put together a "Champions of Shame" feature and start moving through those.

Now onto something I'm less shameful about. It's this week's duo of blogs! Here you go:

  • The 85th Indie Game of the Week (and my 42nd Platinum trophy) was World to the West, a flawed but intriguing entry in the "Indies do Zelda" sub-genre also populated by the likes of Oceanhorn and Ittle Dew. Created by the Teslagrad devs, Rain Games, WttW has players control four separate characters - each with their own distinct traversal skills - as they explore the titular landmass and solve puzzles in the tried-and-tested Zelda formula. The game has this vignette format, where you spend time with single characters or teams of two as they acquire new skills and move along their subplots, before eventually letting you loose on the world with all four characters with all their requisite abilities. I found it fun, but I wish it had less repetition and way fewer bugs.
  • We're starting a new mini-series in the alternative Tuesday slot with Mento Gear Rising: Revenge Jests, an observations/reactions blog series I began with the first Metal Gear Solid and every MGS game since. Metal Gear Rising's a vaguely non-canonical spin-off, but it's probably the best regarded of the various Metal Gear off-shoots and is full of its own Kojima-inspired ridiculousness. I've also been wanting to catch up with Drew and Dan's "Metal Gear Scanlon Rising" videos, so I carved out a spot between RPGs for a quick playthrough and figured I'd journalize my real-time reactions to its story and gameplay. Part 1 covers the prologue and the first three stages, and Part 2 (due mid-September) will cover the final four.


Movie: Cobra (1986)

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For someone who likes action movies from the 1980s to a worrying degree, it's a little bizarre that I'd never seen the misadventures of "cure for crime disease" Lieutenant Marion "Cobra" Cobretti until now. This pick was entirely motivated by this week's new We Hate Movies podcast episode on the film: it's extremely rare that they cover something I've both never seen and actually want to see, though all the same it's inspired more than a couple of movie nights in the past.

Cobra is an incredible movie, and not necessarily in the most positive sense. A lot of what it does and the decisions its director George P. Cosmatos (who'd already filmed Rambo: First Blood II and would go on to make Tombstone, two better movies) and star/screenwriter Sly Stallone make confound me, which makes them all the more jarring when juxtaposed against the more rote aspects of the movie. For instance, a final fight in a steel mill where the bad guy gets impaled on a hook that is floating around the scene for up to ten minutes beforehand is the type of foreshadowing that can be seen from space, but Cobra's temporary fascination with a baseball kid bobblehead at some roadside kitsch stall - followed by his statement of "a real hot item!" - makes no sense on any level. Neither does cutting a pizza with scissors (after which Cobra spends the rest of the film chiding his partner for eating "junk food" while he only eats fruit), having a montage that combines Cobra's police work with a photoshoot of Brigitte Nielsen's model character that is filled with creepy 50s robots, or that Cobra drives an antique Ford Mercury with nitrous boosters and a license plate that reads "AWSOM 50".

It makes some sense, but not nearly enough, that Stallone came up with the idea to adapt the novel Fair Game (which later saw another adaptation starring Cindy Crawford) after his revised script for Beverly Hills Cop was scrapped and he left that project to be replaced with Eddie Murphy. In his script, there was way less comedy and the movie was played almost completely straight as a pure action flick. I can scarcely imagine. Maybe instead of a banana up the car's tailpipe, he'd kill someone with it and drily quip "I had to Dole out some punishment" to an aghast Judge Reinhold. All of Cobra's levity (and in fact all its dialogue full-stop) is weirdly flat and awkward and Sly has zero chemistry with anyone in the movie, including the woman he was married to at the time. The action's competent enough, with some suspenseful scenes early on with Brian Thompson's imposing "Night Slasher" villain and then a classic action movie denouement that is thirty uninterrupted minutes of Cobra taking down motorcyclist cultists with an SMG and what looks to be a drawstring toiletries sack full of grenades. However, I'd probably say it's the bizarre tone of the movie, its Reaganite "the wusses in the courts are no help against the criminal scum infecting our streets" message, and how you're never quite sure if it's supposed to be satirizing something or if Stallone's moral - because all his movies had one - is to let psychos catch other psychos (or cut up pizzas) in peace.

Either way, I found it a lot of fun and I can't wait to hear the WHM episode tear into it. That podcast mines its best material out of incredulous script decisions, and Cobra's full of them.

Game: Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

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Boy, I wish I had enough material for another Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire rundown. Truth is, between the surprisingly long Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and World to the West playthroughs this week, I've barely managed to get any further. Instead, I'm going to take this spot to elaborate on one of my "Laws of CRPGs", as I've just reached the relevant stage in my Deadfire playthrough and this might be helpful for anyone who doesn't partake in this genre often.

So let's say this is my 2nd Law of CRPGs, as the 1st is "whatever build you went with for your first character will inevitably be wrong". The 2nd Law is to find the biggest population center, somewhere you'll probably need to reach early on anyway for plot reasons, and spend the time completing the various non-combative side-quests there. Fetch quests, dialogue puzzles, even ransacking homes: everything you do will add to your reserve of XP, money, and equipment. The idea being that once you've left the city, you'll be better prepared for the uncivilized wilderness that awaits you. Side-quests aren't everyone's cup of tea of course, and the skill level of the player can mitigate a lot of the early challenge if you decide to jump into the action right away, but I always find it prudent to give myself any edge I can find early on.

Deadfire's largest city (as far as I know, anyway) is the capital of Neketaka, the location I stopped at last week and am still exploring one hovel at a time. I've picked up no shortage of quests - Deadfire does the same thing Dragon Age: Inquisition and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt does, letting you know the "danger level" (relative to your party's average experience level) of each quest and side-quest - and I'm planning to accrue a big pile of cash and several levels before I'm ever required to take to sea again. By that point I might even have enough money for a larger boat or at least better cannons and sails for the sloop I already have, and a lot more confidence to see what the game's uncharted waters have to offer. I couldn't help but spend most of my current funds on a spyglass (because what ship captain could do without one?) so it might take a while to rebuild my cash reserves. Ah well, that's the kind of problem that stealing everything that isn't nailed down is likely to solve.

September's not going to be a particularly quiet month, but I'm hoping to spend most of it playing Deadfire and my usual mix of SNES and Indie games for their respective features. Some of my favorite TV shows are coming back too - notably BoJack Horseman, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and The Good Place - so hopefully I don't get too distracted from all this larceny on the high seas. See you next week, where maybe I'll have finally figured out how the Empower system works.