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So many games....

There are so manny games coming out soon, and I have such a big backlog of games! I feel buried under it all right now. So, I have cancelled GameFly (well, they did give me one free month first). I am only getting my pre-ordered "important" games otherwise sticking to games I get as gifts. Hopefully that will help me burn through the backlog.

Recently I have been playing:
1) Monster Hunter Tri - I have been playing A LOT of this game. My save file says 122 hours. I now have a group of friends for multiplayer so hopefully I'll be able to get through some of the tougher monsters soon.

2) Atelier Rorona - I am trying to finish this game before Atelier Totori comes out this month. My wife is getting my Totori for Giftmas so I know it will be hidden away somewhere in the house so I want to finish Rorona soon so I can get in a New Game + of it before Totori.

3) Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess - I restarted this game and I know it will be a huge time sink. I am only 3 hours into my current save.

4) Super Mario Galaxy - I have the stars needed to unlock the last boss but I am finishing off other worlds instead. I own the sequel but I want to finish more of the original game first.

5) Lego Harry Potter - My wife and I have been playing this co-op and it is a complete blast!

6) Two Worlds 2 - I started this game, got out of the tutorial stage, and then got distracted by Wii games.

The lure of a challenge

There are so many exciting large coming out in the next few months: Disgaea 4, Dark Souls, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. All of those many hour titles sound fun to me. But, if I have to pick only one game that I most anticipate I have to choose for Dark Souls.

Last year's Demon's Souls was a surprise hit in my house. It is a very challenging action game but  it always felts fair and I knew that if I persisted I can beat that next stage. I could try different strategies, weapons, items, and armor against enemies. I could progress through the game with the style of play that worked for me and it was flexible enough that I was not boxed into one specific item/weapon combination working for specific battles. It was a very challenging game but that mad the thrill of beating a difficult section indescribably wonderful. I am usually not a fan of really hard games but something about the slowly, more strategic pace of Demon's Souls really appealed to me. I beat the campaign in Demon's Souls and slowly, but surely, I hope to do the same in the upcoming successor Dark Souls.

The sequel/successor to Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, will be coming out this October in the United States.
You can check out a trailer here: (direct link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuG4FZNnuBA )

The trailer shows a female avatar ~0:38 and as someone that plays as a female character whenever possible it just adds to my love of this game. In both titles men and women are equally suited to taking on the biggest monsters in the game. The lure of a challenge seduced them both.

This post was part of Gamer Banter, a monthly video game discussion coordinated by Terry at Game Couch. If you’re interested in being part of this, please email him for details.

Other takes: Silvercublogger



Game Couch
When do you consider a game finished? Is it after beating the last boss? Backloggery.com* allows people to list their games and mark various levels of completion. You can mark a game as unfinished, beaten, completed, or mastered. Joining that site made me rethink my definition for finishing a game. Sure, I have Beaten many games. I beat the last obstacle and watched the end credits. But for many games that is not the full scope of the experience. For a large variety of reasons I believe I have not fully Completed or Mastered any newer games nor will I do so any time soon.

I play mostly RPGs. Looking at a game like Dragon Age: Origins there is a big difference between beating the final boss and thus seeing the end credits once versus experiencing everything offered in the game. So many games now contain a huge number of choices. There are morality systems that make quests play out in different ways. There are companions you can bring with you through the gameplay and interactions between those companions vary and may impact how you experience a questline. In games like Dragon Age: Origins there are different starting quests based on character creation choices. Romances are possible with companions in the game and there are a variety of options within that system. In these games simply seeing the end credits does not mean you have experienced the entire game. I may have beaten Dragon Age: Origins but I have certainly not completed all that is in that game. There are many wonderful things that the writers put into that game that I have never seen.

Alan Wake is another game that came out this year. Seeing the end credits of this game does not mean the player has experienced everything in the world. There are pages of a manuscript that can be picked up as the game is played. The manuscript is part of the narrative of Alan Wake. These pages can be missed (not picked up) as the player goes through the levels. Finding all the pages of the manuscript is only possible by going through the game on its highest difficulty setting. This means that players that are not good at this genre will never see the full story. This element I dislike. In a game such as like Dragon Age: Origins a player can go through on the lowest difficulty setting and by replaying the game several times they can see the entire experience. Alan Wake locks the full game story from people that cannot pass a specific difficulty setting. This is a game I will never "finish" even if I beat the last boss. Because I cannot beat it on the highest difficulty setting I will never be able to see the full story. This is not simply about allowing players with experience to go through with more difficult obstacles, this actually locks out part of a story element for many players.

Other games, such as Final Fantasy XIII, include a lot of post credits game content. You can beat the final boss but not complete all the hunts. They are not integral to the story line, but they do exist within the game world. This post game or optional game content varies in narrative importance. The hunts in Final Fantasy XIII are not crucial to the story. They do add a large challenge to the game but are not important to the plot. It allows players to beat monsters and enemies that they would others not see in the bulk of the main game progression but this does not advance the storyline. Other games, however, contain post game or side quest content that do change the narrative flow of the experience. The side character loyalty missions in Mass Effect 2 are purely optional side quests. These optional events greatly impact the narrative of the game.

Yet another obstacle to experiencing included in current generation games is the use of multiple ending options. In games such as Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 the choices made at the end can unlock further gameplay, giving some players a longer end game segment than others. Which ending counts? If someone only sees the "bad" ending did they beat the game? They fought a boss battle and saw the credits. But other players will continue the story beyond that battle and experience a "good" ended which adds even more narrative and greatly changes the plot implications of the game. In some games the choices made throughout the main plot drastically affect the ending narrative. In Fallout: New Vegas the choices made by the character throughout the storyline alter the storyboard at the end credits in extreme ways. The outcomes for different factions in that world are different based on how the main storyline is completed by the player. Seeing one end credit sequence is not the only narrative possible. Without seeing all possible story endings, a player does not see the whole game.

In older games it was possible to see everything made by the creators of a game in one or two playthroughs. I have always loved the little details that are put into games and I attempt to to find these small details that writers and designers placed into the game experience. One of my favorite things when played World of Warcarft for the first time was when I saw books next to the outhouses and Westfall. the little details, the side quests, the minor plot points all come together to make a game world engrossing. Many people work hard to program and write this full world and story, and I want to see it all. But as games have gotten bigger and as choice has become more important in many game narratives, it has become increasingly difficult to see all that a game has to offer. Playing through a game such as Dragon Age: Origins with every starting origin story, with every possible romance option, seeing every single quest with various companions, and hearing each possible line of banter between the companions is a daunting task that would take several hundred hours. It is not a task that I will likely ever undertake. As such, while I see many end credits and feel that I have Beaten many games, I have likely not Completed any newer game. I have missed many of the remarkable details that are included in new games despite my best efforts to be engrossed in those worlds and my desire to see it all.

*My backloggery page for those interested is http://backloggery.com/gunthera1

This post was part of Gamer Banter, a monthly video game discussion
coordinated by Terry at Game Couch. If you’re interested in being part of this, please email him for details.

Other takes:
Yuki-Pedia: The Curious Case of the Never-Ending Backlog

Zath: When Do You Know That You've Completed A Game?

Gunthera1-gamer: I have never completed a current generation game

Silvercublogger: What Do You Mean By Gamer Banter

The Game Fanatics: Gamer Banter: To Beat a Game

SnipingMizzy: Is it over yet?

Game Couch: The End?

Dragon Age 2

I recently got Dragon Age 2 for the PS3. I am really enjoying this game so far. I think it is gorgeous and I really like the visual changes from Origins and Awakening. As usual, I am getting completely sidetracked by optional quests. A few of them have been quite interesting so it has been fun rather than tedious.

I am also looking forward to Okamiden coming soon. I pre-ordered it from Capcom so I would get the plushie keychain and it recently shipped.

On the PC I still attempting to finish Bully: Scholarship Edition but am stuck on the Nerd Challenge quest. It is a scored mini-game and while I am slowly getting better at the game, I have not quite reached the score I need to finish the mission.

Looking forward

I am looking forward to many games in 2011.  In no particular order -->

Yakuza 4
Yakuza 3 was a surprise hit for me in 2010. I rented the game in order to discuss it over at Border House. It is a bloody, fighting game which is far removed from my usual games. But it ended up surprising me with a strong storyline and a wonderful bond between Kazuma (the main character) and the children at an orphanage that he runs in the game.  http://borderhouseblog.com/?p=3896 I am looking forward to how this story progresses.

Dragon Age 2

This is another game I am looking forward to because of a game I played in 2010. Dragon Age: Origins had some amazing stories to tell, especially if you go through each of the origins to see the back story for each of the main character categories (Human noble, city elf, Dalish elf, etc)/ The sequel will not have different origin stories, which is disappointing, but I hope that the strong writing will continue in this sequel.

Mass Effect 3

Surprise, surprise, another sequel!! The Mass Effect series has some wonderful writing and after the number of hours I put into the first 2 games I am looking forward to seeing how the story will end for my Commander Shepard. http://borderhouseblog.com/?p=1101 As you can see from the 3 games listed, an interesting story and good writing are some of the main things I want in my games.

This game is on the list because of my adoration of Okami. It is one of the few games that always makes me smile. Reviving the world is a beautiful experience and even the flower petals and grass that revive as Amaterasu (the main character) walks/runs make me happy. I am hopeful that this successor will live up to the spirit of the first game.

The Last Story

Finally, something new on the list! This is not a sequel. This is a Wii game make by Mistwalker. I know very little about this title other than the artstyle and the developer. BUT, Mistwalker created both Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey. I adored both games and therefore am willing to try anything that comes out of Mistwalker. There is no official announcement of this coming to the United States, but I am hopeful that it will be localized.


Catherine is the other non-sequel game on my list. It is made by Atlus and has not been officially announced outside of Japan. This game intrigues me. The action sequences appear to be a fast paced action puzzle. The rest of the games appears to be more about making moral decision/choices to progress the plot. The story of Catherine is my one uncertainty. It revolves around men dying in their sleep. If I understand correctly these men have all cheated on their significant others, as does the protagonist in the game. My worries come from what this game will say about cheating, relationships, and women in general. There are images of these men as sheep lead to slaughter. Is that a commentary on how their significant others view them, how they are viewed by the people with whom they are conducting an affair, or how they see themselves? Will this game say that women "force" their partners to cheat by not being attentive enough to their needs? Will this game say that men as simply not in control of their actions when they desire sex? There are so many possibilities to how this topic will be treated. What will be the overall  tone of this difficult topic? Fortunately, Persona 4 was a game that dealt amazingly well when discussing sexuality, gender roles, gender and societal expectations and members of the team that worked on that game are now working on Catherine. It is because of Persona 4 that I am looking forward to Atlus's Catherine.

Are there games that I am missing from my list that I should care about next year? What else should I know about for 2011?

This post was part of Gamer Banter, a monthly video game discussion coordinated by Terry at Game Couch. If you’re interested in being part of this, please email him for details. Other takes: The Game Fanatics The Clockwork Manual Silvercublogger Zath Buttonmashing Game Couch

Female characters as an afterthought

I have played 2 games this week that have me thinking about female characters in games.

1) In Fable 3 there is an early quest line that has you dress up as a mercenary to sneak into their campground. I am playing the game as a female. The outfit on her shows quite a bit of cleavage but the men of the camp still seem to think she is the male camp member she is impersonating. It makes no sense! Why not have the outfit on her be baggy so she more resembles the man she is impersonating? Why is it that as a female I have to show that much cleavage? And why do none of the men in the camp notice that? It ended up feeling like having your character as a female in that section was an afterthought. "Dress up as this guy to get into the camp" was all they thought of the quest. Then an artist drew the clothing on the female and BOOOM cleavage! But there was no thought given to how this outfit choice would impact the quest.

2) Mod Nation Racers. I plan on writing about this game more in depth at Border House but there have been several sections in the career mode that I found disturbing. one instance involved the game calling the other racers "girls" as an insult. This was particularly disturbing as I had modded my racer to look characteristically like a female. there was a second scene between a male Italian racer and a female reporter that is also on my mind. I will watch the scenes again this weekend and better form my thoughts, but it again felt as though the idea of a female avatar or a female playing the game was not considered.

The scene - "You're not dancing with ladies anymore kid. You're gonna have to learn to use the course if you wanna dance with these skirt wearing racers. So lets tango"
The avatars for all the racers on the track were male... Aside from the one I was using of course.

Long weekend gaming update

Thanksgiving meant I had a lot of time to play games recently.

Kirby's Epic Yarn - I played more of this adorably cute game. I am in one of the last worlds and am thinking of going back to collect missing items from the previous levels that I missed my first time through. I am still incredibly charmed by this game. My one and only issue is the train transformation. If that was gone, then this game would be perfect in my eyes.

Fallout 3 - Rather than playing the new Fallout New Vegas game in our house, we have been going back through the Game of the Year edition of Fallout 3. My character is now level 28 and on the last of the DLC packs of the game. We had just picked up the Tesla Cannon and were using it in Adams Airforce Base. I am a bit disappointed with the story of the last DLC pack. it is more about fighting than about an engaging narrative.

Knights in the Nightmare - I have been playing the new PSP version of this game. The mystery aspect of the storyline is interesting. I like not knowing exactly what has happened or where things will go. The strategy element to the game is a lot of fun and the bullet dodging aspect adds quite a bit of challenge for me (the RPG lover that stays away from fast paced action games). I am at Scene 8 right now and am able to play a lot of this on my bus ride to and from work so I hope to finish it in a few weeks.

DeathSpank - This downloadable game was on sale from PSN during the holidays so we purchased it. The game is a Diablo like RPG with a quirky sense of humor. I am not sure how long of a game this will be but we have been enjoying it so far. I played for about 3 hours this weekend. One of my favorite things is the voice acting. DeathSpank is played by the same voice actor that played Captain Quark in the Ratchet and Clank games and the style voicing here is very similar. It is quite fun!

Nov. 16th, 2010

I haven't updated in awhile.

Nier - I am still playing this game. I got very distracted by side quests and spent ~10 hours just doing those. This is not a game I expected to enjoy but I am still having a great time with it. I will play the New game + once I finish because that is how you can get more of Kaine's backstory.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West- I tried this game and it did not go well for me. I sent it back to GameFly after finishing the first chapter. I found the main character, Monkey, entirely unappealing. He is a power fantasy on steroids. The giant body next to the side character of Trip made them both look ridiculous to me. I also was not a fan of the controls. I don't play many action games (I usually stick with RPGs or strategy games) and these did not feel very smooth to me. The only way I can explain it is that I love the controls in Uncharted or Ratchet and Clank because they feel smooth and natural to me, but in this game I felt as though Monkey was never doing on screen what I thought I was trying to get him to do. There was something just slightly off about the controls to me.

Kirby's Epic Yarn - This game is amazing! I love almost everything about this game. It is colorful. it is cute. The sounds are great. the effects are fun to watch. The co-op is controlled elegantly. You cannot die in levels so less experienced players can enjoy themselves but those looking for a challenge can try to find all the hidden items, get Gold ranking in stages, and obtain the Patches during boss battles. The only thing I dislike about this game is one of the transformations: the train. The controls when Kirby turns into a train are a bit frustrating. The are similar to the controls of Ivy the Kiwi where you draw a path on the screen for the character to follow. They end up being frustrating rather than fun.  But overall I recommend this game to everyone that wants a fun experience on the Wii!
It is NIS day at my house right now. Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland just arrived. I pre-ordered from NIS while they still had the premium edition so I also got he artbook and soundtrack. I also ordered Atelier Annie: Alchemists of Sera Island for the Nintendo DS so I will have lots of alchemy and colorful gaming ahead of me! The Atelier games are always a breathe of fresh air for me from the serious brown and grey games that dominate the market. Atelier Rorona will be a very different experience than Nier, which is the game currently in my PS3.

Nier first impression

I started playing Nier the other night and instantly fell in love with a brilliant design choice in the game. In the world/large spaces the game plays with a traditional 3D action game type of camera. When the character enters a small space, such as a house, the perspective changes to a 2D adventure game like view. It solves the problem of camera issues in confined places in 3D games! It is brilliant and I love that.

screenshot examplesCollapse )

I am at the first boss in the game so hopefully I will be able to give more impressions of the actual game soon.