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Nostalgia and Video Games April 19, 2010

Filed under: gaming — lexd @ 6:52 pm
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There’s a lot of conversation in the video game industry about the value and quality of more vintage (read: older) games.  Many of today’s gamers — particularly the RPG type, including myself — tend to put older games on a pedestal of sorts … and many of us are pretty disappointed with what’s coming out lately. Personally, I started to get disillusioned with Final Fantasy around the time that FFX came out. They just didn’t have that magic that I was accustomed to.

Gamasutra‘s Leigh Alexander, is another example of this trend. At the beginning of this month, she wrote an article about how she — a hardcore RPG player who cried when Aeris died in FFVII — was completely unattached to the characters in the early stages of playing the much-lauded FFXIII. The article explores Leigh’s musings on this — have we as gamers changed as we aged, or are the games themselves just not as engaging as those we played when we were younger? Are young people (read: kids) more inclined to be attached to games than we are as adults? Do we love these older games because they were the hook into a hobby that has doubtless cost us thousands of dollars and hours of our lives?

I read this article shortly after I’d ordered Final Fantasy VI Advance, so I figured I’d use my reaction to it as a very unscientific example to answer these questions. Even though Final Fantasy VI is my favorite video game of all time, I think it’s a fair example because I never actually played all the way through the remastered release for Playstation. (Not even my love for that game could make me play through it … IT RAN SO SLOW.)

So, here I am, an aged gamer, experienced in a variety of games I’ve bought in the 15 or so years since I first experienced Final Fantasy VI (which was one of my first RPGs, BTW). I haven’t played it on a console since high school, and haven’t played it at all for at least four years. The game arrived Friday, and I plugged it into my DS on Saturday.

Would it compel me the way it did the first time I played it in fourth grade?

I’d say so. I PLAYED IT FOR MORE THAN FIVE HOURS STRAIGHT.

While this doesn’t necessarily prove anything (there’s so many variables here), I think it’s pretty telling that I can enjoy a game released in 1994 more than a lot of games released today. I can’t honestly remember the last time I spent that long playing a video game. This is a game I’ve played at least 10 times before, and I couldn’t put it down. (Parts of the game have been re-translated, so I admit that’s part of the appeal. No more awkwardly-translated dialogues.)

To be honest, I was kind of worried that I’d ruin FFVI by trying to play it today (I’ve heard this a lot about FFVII, actually). It’s the same way that movies we 80s kids watched were incredible to us then … but when we watch them now, it’s kind of a letdown. That’s what I was expecting.

Instead? Why yes, I did bring my DS to work with me today to play at lunch. Thank you for asking 🙂

Currently loving: Final Fantasy VI Advance, how today is flying by, getting back to the gym (free trial sessions FTW!)

images from Wikipedia

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Belated review: Sims 3 July 27, 2009

Filed under: gaming — lexd @ 4:19 pm
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I know this is sadly overdue, but I don’t care. Here are my thoughts:

It should be noted that I am a pretty big Sims fangirl. I started playing the original (like, playing it 24 hours straight on weekends) back in the day. Even when I discovered the cheat codes, I still made my Sims labor the hard way for their ridiculously expensive art and expansive backyard pools.

For the second game, I stopped drinking beer (well, at least I stopped paying for it) in order to buy it during college. The difference between Sims 1 and the majesty that was Sims 2 was enormous. The basic idea was the same, but the customization and graphics went through the roof. Check out this link to see the evolution between games.

As I started playing Sims 3, I was initially pretty shocked. Yeah, the customization is a little better (especially with furniture, you can create colors now), and the graphics are improved, but I was sort of underwhelmed. After the gap between Sims 1 and 2, I was expecting a bigger jump in Sims 3.

From IGN

From IGN

Admittedly, there are things about 3 that I really enjoy. I like that going somewhere besides your home no longer takes time to load (in fact, they encourage your character to leave … they’ll start to go “stir-crazy”). My play patterns are changing, I’ve noticed … I used to always create the same kind of characters, leading the same kind of lives: Get a job, go to work, and on days off, hold parties and hang out with friends. Now, my characters are all over the place, going to town after work, going to sports events, etc etc. There’s a wider range of lifestyle choices, which makes the game appealing for me.

Other things I like about 3 are the character development tools (especially choosing key traits instead of dealing with attribute points), expanded interactions with people, more hobbies (gardening, fishing, etc), and the graphics appear to be a little sharper.

From IGN

From IGN

The biggest problem I have with 3 is something that I didn’t quite understand at first — each town’s ability to continue evolving as you play different characters. While this sounds like a neat idea, I think the characters need more guidelines and restriction while they are “living” without player supervision.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s my example: In older Sims games, you can create different characters that live in the same city together. When playing one character, you may see another one of your characters out and about, but they aren’t actually making decisions that impact gameplay — they are simply part of the neighborhood.

In Sims 3, player-created characters that are not the “default character” for a particular town will continue to live their lives without input from the players. I’m not sure if their decisions are randomized or formulaic (based on player patterns, etc), but this ruined my boyfriend’s first character. His character and mine were in the same “town” — so our default character changed. The first time he went back as his character, after I’d spent a few hours with mine, he had no money, had skipped work for three (Sim) days, and there was an unknown baby on his doorstep.

If you want total control, you can choose to create a new sim in an entirely new town … but where’s the fun in that? I dislike that each character has to exist in a vacuum (unless you’re up for surprises).

Anyway, the verdict? It’s pretty fun. I’d put it aside a while ago in favor of some other games, but I brought it back out this weekend — mostly to create a character that has my ideal life. She’s a novelist with an expansive garden, no “real” job, she lives on the beach, and she travels everywhere by bike. Escapism at its best.

 

More E3 June 12, 2009

Filed under: gaming — lexd @ 3:29 pm
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I’ll be honest. As E3 approached this year, part of me really just wanted to wait on everything and take in all the recaps. There’s far too much information, too many trailers, and too much news for me to be able to get to everything (especially being fully employed and at work while the expo took place). But, another part of me said “nut up, stay glued to your computer at lunch and after work, and take it in yourself.”

Second-hand information, while easier to obtain and digest, often comes tainted with someone else’s opinions and judgements — whether admitted or not. As you can imagine, the second part of me won over, and while in constant contact with a friend over email, I tried my best to keep up.

I wrote my conclusions and put together a “favorites” lists in my previous post, but now that the post-E3 lists, opinions, etc are coming out, I keep thinking that my initial post is woefully incomplete.

Example A: Wired’s “Top 10 Game Trailers from E3.” While some of my picks are on there, a few definitely slipped under my radar. Super Mario Galaxy 2, Uncharted 2 (especially Uncharted 2, that game looks SICKK), Project Natal (which blows me away but I think is so cool), and the Last Guardian had incredible trailers and I should have included them.

A note on Project Natal: like I said, this kind of creeps me out. But, AWESOME. It’s incredible that designers and programmers can create something like this — AI that reacts to a variety of situations, without seeming “programmed.” (At least, to me. Of course, I’ll admit to being totally in the dark about the mechanics of this kind of stuff.)

Anyway, if you’re still jonesing for game coverage and haven’t clicked over to Wired’s list, check it out.

 

Thoughts on E3 June 5, 2009

Filed under: gaming — lexd @ 8:34 pm
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In case you either a) don’t care about video games or electronics at all (in which case I assume you’re here for the snark) or b) live under a rock, E3 was this week. 

E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo … read: GAMER HEAVEN) is where game developers come together to announce upcoming games, hardware, etc. Big announcements are often part of the presentation, and after a lame-ass couple of years (I’m looking at you, 2008 and 2007), the gaming community was pretty stoked for this year. It was expected that the big three (MSFT, Nintendo and Sony) would come with guns blazing, because at heart, the conference is really a way for them to try and outdo each other. 

That being said, overall, I think MSFT killed it. I was sadly underwhelmed by Nintendo, and Sony ranked somewhere in the middle. After reviewing a BUNCH of the trailers on gametrailers.com and G4, here are my thoughts on some of the upcoming games. 

  • Assassin’s Creed 2: If you’ve ever talked to me about this game, you know two things — 1) I had enormously high expectations for the first AC and 2) I was really let down. I loved the visuals, the plot, etc … but I found the gameplay so repetitive that I didn’t even finish. Although there wasn’t any in-game footage in the trailer I watched, the graphics were dazzling. If they can find a way to shake up the gameplay a little, it could be cool. Verdict: I’ll probably borrow my brother’s copy before buying. 

  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Please, sir, can I have some more? This game looks SICK. It reminded me of a better-looking Devil May Cry 4. If they can still retain some of the good ol’ Castlevania campiness (this guy better be an f-ing Belmont), this should be a righteous game. Verdict: Will pre-order, pick up the day of, and squeal with fangirlish glee the whole trip home. 
  • Final Fantasy VII (download): I know, I know, it’s not a new game, but Sony finally got with it and made it download-able. Bucking the trend of your usual FF fan, I’m not a huge fan of FFVII, but I thought this was a cool idea nonetheless. I was concerned about the way the graphics looked in the trailer, though. I lent my hard copy to a friend (check out his blog, Playing Hooky), and while he enjoyed the bit that he played, the graphics were so grossly distorted on the new, prettier TVs we have now that it was distracting. The graphics looked less-than-great in the trailer — I hope that was just a tech issue, and will be resolved. Admittedly, though, I did get some nostalgic pangs of excitement when I saw certain scenes. I’m such a softy for Shinra. Verdict: Talk to someone who downloaded it to figure out the graphics issue out of curiosity … but I own it already, so NBD.
  • Splinter Cell: Conviction:  Thoroughly impressed. Great graphics, and I like the idea of Sam Fisher going rogue. He is a definite badass in this one. Not too much to say on top of that. Verdict: My brother loves these games. Odds are, he’ll buy it, and then I’ll get his opinion — but it looks like a solid purchase. 

  • Super Mario Brothers Wii: I’ll be honest. When I heard that THIS was one of the announcements from Nintendo, I was definitely crestfallen. Seriously, SMB? That’s the best you can do, Nintendo? And then, I watched the trailer. It actually looks pretty fun. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I imagined myself playing with my boyfriend, and the ensuing fight as he failed some sort of co-op move. It looks like it could be a lot of fun, in a Legogame-esque sort of way. It’s not just multi-player on the same levels, but co-op, as well. Verdict: Will probably buy after the price goes down. 
  • Just Cause 2: I never played the first game, but I’m intrigued after watching some of the developer walkthrough. I like the idea of base jumping, and the flexibility of the use of the parachute. Also, the main character seems like a badass. Verdict: Will monitor coverage and reviews for. Odds are, I won’t be buying this one, though. 

  • InFAMOUS: At first, I was sorely unimpressed by the graphics, and the plot. But, as I watched more of the trailer, I got into it a little more. I love the idea of having comic book-esque graphics incorporated in the game, and the propoganda laced throughout it. Also, sidequests in an FPS … especially ones that allow you to choose a path (ie, good or bad) … are always good in my book. However, I was not too excited about plot development through your character’s cell phone/audio tapes you find. Even in BioShock, I didn’t like this … I want to be fully immersed in the plot, not have it played on the peripheral while I’m doing something else in-game. Why even have a plot if it’s optional to even learn about? Verdict: Knowing me, I’m just intrigued enough to buy it, as long as it doesn’t get horrendous reviews. 
  • Metroid: Other MHoly sickness. This game is going to be AWESOME. I love that Nintendo went back to the 3rd person POV, it’s more classic Metroid. No more needs to be said. Verdict: I will pre-order, call out sick from work, and beat it in 3 days. And then brag to everyone within hearing.

  • Left 4 Dead 2: While I was surprised that this game came so soon (no more downloadable content for the first one, Valve?), it looks like it’s going to deliver. Seriously. From new kinds of ammo to melee weapons, there’s all sorts of mega-satisfying ways to slaughter zombies. And, even the developers got their asses kicked. Verdict: My LIVE friends and I are going to go to town on this one. I am going to startle myself into an anyuerism if I’m not careful. 
  • Quantum: This one was definitely just “eh” for me. The character design was very Gears of War-ish – big guys in big armor. Except, Marcus Fenix would have never accepted help from a girl, especially a mouthy one. Verdict: Will not buy, may not even play.
  • Final Fantasy XIII: If you’ve read my blog before, it’s pretty clear that I’m a pretty die-hard FF fan. YES, I can be obstinate and old-school, but I’m a fan. I think what I’m most excited about is that this is coming out for the 360 … which takes the wind out of my sails about buying a PS3. All I really saw was a battle, which was very busy and very visual. Odin was appropriately B.A. I hope it doesn’t follow the trail of the last few games and get too pretty/empty. Verdict: Who am I kidding? I’ll buy it, if only to experience the triumph of playing a Final Fantasy game on the 360. 
  • The Agency: I was unimpressed by the graphics of this one at first (it’s no Splinter Cell), I am intrigued by the plot. I love a good sneaking/spy/espionage/assassin game, and this one seems to fit the bill pretty solidly. The music in the trailer struck me first — always a good sign. Verdict: If it continues to sound and look cool, I’ll definitely give it a buy. 
  • Metal Gear Solid: Rising: There was almost no information about the game in this trailer, but it gave me goosebumps. ‘Nuff said. Verdict: I don’t even need to beat around the bush. This game is going to be incredible. 
  • Lego Harry Potter: While I’ve heard many cry about the lame-itude of Lego games, I’m still in love with them. They are deliciously childish, and I love that. Plus, you can’t die. I consider myself a gamer, but when it’s something not-serious like Harry Potter, who cares? Verdict: Buying it as soon as it comes out. 
 

Trauma Center: Second Opinion May 16, 2009

Filed under: gaming — lexd @ 4:51 pm
Tags: ,

I’ll be honest, usually I’m an FPS/RPG/adventure gamer. As shallow as that is, I do occasionally reach outside of my comfort zone. But, when I was younger (2nd grade and up), my best friend and I tackled all sorts of random games. One of those, Life & Death (GREAT game, if you haven’t played it and can put up with graphics from 1988), spurred my interest in simulation games. 

Life & Death – not Trauma Center. Impressive graphics for the 80s, though!

I was poking through the simulation games on GameFly and Trauma Center caught my eye. There are two games, and for some reason I decided to play the second one, Second Opinion, first. 

Anyone who knows me knows that I get fed up and frustrated with games fairly quickly, the allure dies, and I never play it again. (To be honest, that’s why I think that GameFly is perfect for me). A surgery game has a pretty high probability for this happening, but, to my surprise, I’m still hooked on it. 

There’s more plot than there was with Life & Death, for sure — between the music, the graphics, and the dialogue, it plays like a Japanese soap opera (AWESOME). After I figued out how to actually use the controls (use the control stick to navigate around the tool circle), they were pretty intuitive. 

Surgery screen shot. Tool circle on the left, hottie (but annoying) nurse on the right

The learning curve isn’t steep — not only are you debriefed prior to each surgery (they provide objectives for you), but a nurse or some other character stays with you during the operations to do one of the following: helpfully point out suggestions, lead you WAY astray, or yell at you when you do something wrong. 

There is a grading system for each surgery, based on a grade for each action you take. Depending on how clean/sloppy your work is, or how good your aim is with a syringe, the game will say “Bad,” “Cool,” etc. The more “Cool”s and “Ok”s you get, the higher your score will be at the end. Also, you can earn bonus points for being fast, keeping a patient’s vitals above a certain level, etc. You can always go back and re-do a surgery should you not be satisfied with your score, which I think is cool and adds some solid replay value. 

Prior to operations, your character helpfully declares, “I WILL save this patient!”

There were, however, a few things I didn’t like about the game. Your main character has something called the “Healing Touch,” which is apparenly some sort of time-shifting power (think Hiro from Heroes). You have to draw a start on your screen to activate it. I was really annoyed with this, and never used it (which actually netted me some bonuses, since it makes the game easier). It just seemed like an obnoxious extra. Additionally, whenever you re-start a surgery, there’s no option to skip the debriefing. Some of the debriefings are really long, so this gets annoying. 

Other than that, I’m hooked on Trauma Center. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re looking for something original, and you can stomach the soap-opera-y plotlines. I’m checking out the first game, as well as the ones they have for the DS as soon as I’m finished.