Friday, December 21, 2012

No Flying Cars, But. . .

Recently, while I was at Best Buy acquiring yet more games that will take me forever to get around to (hey, they were price matching, don't judge), I glanced over to where they had an XBox 360 set up, as well as the Kinect.  Now, my disdain of motion controls has been noted in the past (and the prime reason why The Twilight Princess remains unfinished, despite it being a great game), but curiosity gripped me and I asked the associate:

"Hey, how well does the Kinect actually sell?" I ventured.
"Eh."  He shrugged.  "Pretty well with families, actually, but hardcore gamers won't really touch it."  

The associate then went on to describe similar sentiments as mine to the Kinect, and by extension, Playstation Move.

We could open up a whole debate and discussion about whether the Kinect was a smart move (ok, bad pun) for Microsoft or not, but instead, I think my best friend, Nick, sums it up best by saying this:

"Here's my problem with the Kinect:  It took us 20 years to get something that's just as crappy as the Nick Arcade game"

Kinect Star Wars Early Build
Happy Holidays from us at The Backlog.

Here's hoping you don't get a Kinect.

Unless for some odd reason, you wanted one instead of the ugly sweater.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Persona 4: The Social Link Network

Here at the Backlog, you know it's mostly coke parties and Gangnam-style dancing. That's why we missed a pair of updates in the last month or so. But, with a vacation on the horizon for both myself and my erstwhile writing partner, I suppose our update schedule will be a little more reliable. You know, now that I think about it, I might be confusing us with IGN. But either way, the point is, more posts, and more Korean dancing.

Oppa Backlog Style.

Case in point, before the latest time crunch began for me, I wrapped up Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4. The game was recently remade/upgraded for the PSVita, no doubt following the success of their last remake for the PSP, Persona 3 Portable. I've mentioned in the past that the P3 is one of my all-time favorite games, and I was assured by several people upon embarking upon this fourth entry in the series that it eclipses its predecessor. I'm pleased to report that they were not lying. However, after writing about how Xenogears narrative-heavy style and extremely linear storytelling made it less enjoyable in today's interaction-heavy era of gaming, it feels hypocritical to talk about Persona 4 as being great. So I should point out some of the similarities as well as the differences before I get into the meat of my post.

This game is about 80% cutscene, 15% dungeon crawling, and the rest of the time is split up into running to and from cutscenes or dungeons. Like Xenogears, this game has a lot of talking. A lot of talking. The script for Persona 4 has to be e-freaking-normous. You begin as a transfer student in April of 2011, and every few actions causes the day to move forward until the finale on Christmas Day. Each "day" is essentially a new cutscene, or sometimes several cutscenes, where a lot of the time you'll find you have very little control over what happens. My girlfriend observed me playing this a few different times over a 3-day period, culminating in her asking "So, do you ever DO anything in this game?"

"What do you mean? Can't you see I'm fighting giant strippers? Honey? H-honey?"

But that's the thing - going through those scenes IS playing the game. It's what you play the game FOR. In Xenogears, I played the game expecting a standard RPG that included some giant robots, and instead I got a sci-fi novella with amazing potential, ultimately letting me down because of its glaring flaws. With Persona, I went in knowing that I was going to be spending a lot of time talking to people, and that was what I wanted. Someone once described this set of games to me as "a visual novel, not a game," and for the most part I agree. The difference is that he meant it to deride Persona 4, whereas I find it fascinating.

Xenogears featured a lot of talking and lack of character control because that's what happens when you tell your programming team to build a Sphinx and then take all their slaves over to work on Pyramid #36.

The nose was supposed to be on Disc 2.

Persona 4 is a game where the fighting and dungeon crawling is just a consequence of all the awesome talking you get to do. I'm going to take some time now to describe how this works so well for the game, so grab a snack and prepare to hit the X button a lot as we delve into the world of Social Links.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Faulty Reasons

I've hit an impasse with Nocturne.

No, I'm not bored of playing the game, but it has been on hiatus as work's gotten busy.  I've had a fun time playing it.  Heck, I've grinded to the point where my characters were ridiculously overpowered for a good portion of the game:  For those of you who have a frame of reference, let's just say being level 60 before having access to the 3rd Kalpa of the Amala Labyrinth makes things much, much easier.

But now I'm at the point of the game where I'm faced with a choice:  Nocturne, like many other MegaTen games, has multiple endings based on the choices that you make and which individual(s) you align yourself with.  Each of these characters has something called a "Reason" (or "Kotowari" in the Japanese version), which is the underlying philosophy used as a basis for creating a new world from the Vortex World (basically, the ruins of the former world before its rebirth) the game takes place in.  Allying with any of these characters will shape the new world with the vision of the selected character.

And that's where the problem lies:  I wouldn't trust any of these people to watch after my pet rock, much less with the responsibility of shaping the foundation of the new world.

Let's see my dubious choices, shall we?  Though be warned:  Spoilers abound:

Friday, November 23, 2012

To Fong Wong, Thanks for Everything: Xenogears

So it's over. I've taken Xenogears off the Backlog, and come to grips with the fact that this titan of gaming mythology is less striding colossus and more puny mortal than I remembered. It's still one of the best games of its time, but it served to clearly illustrate just how much times have changed. Xenogears is still better than some of the terrible games released today, but if each new good and great game stands on the shoulders of giants, then the games of 1998 are just too far down the totem pole to attempt making eye contact with those of today.

And some remain firmly at crotch level.

Naturally. there are exceptions. There are games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Chrono Trigger - games that will hold the same place in history as the Pac-Mans and Tetrises of the world in that they'll never really get old, even when measured up against today. Xenogears was, unfortunately, attempting something that had never really been done before, and since it came along a whole slew of games have done it better. Combat is smoother, the story is presented better, the characters are better developed, and they allow more open exploration of the world.

Still, if you can turn off the part of your brain that knows they didn't stop making games in the late 90s, Xenogears still presents a hell of a good time. Let's take a look at how this Squaresoft gem manages to hold on to the last bit of its luster.

Friday, November 9, 2012


My last post on Shin Megami Tensei:  Nocturne detailed me regaining my bearings and figuring out just where I was supposed to head next in the game.  You'll be happy (or indifferent) to know that since then, I've figured out where to go.  I've made some headway in the story.  I cleared the first Kalpa in the lengthy Labyrinth of Amala.  I've come to see just why people rant, rave, and generally sing the praises about Nocturne.  However, if I want to sum up my latest stretch of  play with the game, I can sum it up in 2 words:

Fuck, Hamaon.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Because we're too lazy to draw these as webcomics.

Having recently conquered Xenogears, David now moves onto Persona 4 at my thre--I mean insistence.  In the midst of that, this conversation via AIM takes place:

I think you'd be the Heirophant link for me.

Are you saying black people can't be main characters, you racist asshole?

Yes, but besides that, you just seem to fit the role of the grizzled, jaded guy with a heart of gold beneath the rough exterior.

Oh ok just checking. And I'm not grizzled, but jaded sure.
Who the heck is the Hierophant in 4?


Oh no
He's the worst cop ever.
And worst father.

Well the only teacher link I can think of is Hermit from P3.


That's not such a great fit.

Only if I can be the Dojima from the himsidaisy comic that throws coffee in the MC's face and regularly punches Adachi.

That does sound like you.

Friday, November 2, 2012

I'm Alive, I'm on Fire, and My Spirit Burns With Desire: Xenogears


Thirteen years later, I've beaten Xenogears.

And the peasants rejoice.

I'm going to write two entries about the latest game to come off the Almost Got 'Em list. One will be a more traditional Backlog post about the gameplay, the characters, the experience of playing it again after all these years, and so forth. This one though, this one is about the story. The story, the thing that sets Xenogears apart from every other title of its kind to come out and still has fans clamoring for a remake or sequel. The story, the epic narrative that made Xenogears an enduring classic, remembered even to this day as one of the greatest games ever made. The story - which doesn't hold up at all to the passage of time.

Somewhere along the line, video games changed, for the better, in the way they present narratives. The consequence is that the sheer epic scope of a game attempting to tell a story the way Xenogears does suddenly becomes the friend from High School you remembered as captain of the football team, then you bump into to discover he's gained 50 pounds, lost all his hair, and never moved out of his parent's house. I want to get out of the way from the get-go that I'm not saying the story is bad, just that its delivery is so antiquated now that I don't know if anybody who grew up on today's games would have the attention span to deal with it.

Pictured: Modern game audiences.

So let's take a little time to discuss a tale grand in scope and ambition, and grievously lacking in execution.

Friday, October 26, 2012

It really is about the journey.

There are times where you sit down to play a game and you're seeking an epic experience.  You're drawn in by a plot that deals with saving the world, overthrowing an evil government, righting the wrongs of an oppressive tyrant, or even shattering a few religious beliefs.  We easily see that with David's posts about Xenogears and Suikoden III.

Well, Atelier Totori is certainly not one of those gamesIt's a tale about a small-town girl who, wishing to discover her mother's whereabouts, ends up learning alchemy, becoming an adventurer, and meeting a few interesting people along the way.  The world isn't saved (perhaps a small village at most), no government is overthrown, and no one's belief system is shattered.  In contrast to many RPGs out there, it's a small-scale affair.

And yet despite this, it's one of the most engrossing games I've played in a long time.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Backlog 100

                                                                                                   Photograph: David Levene
It's the 100th Backlog post!

As Ayn and I continue to make our way through the games you voted for (namely Xenogears for me and Nocturne for him), I wanted to take this time to do a quick retrospective on the last two years of the blog. With dozens of games now played and successfully removed, let's look back on our biggest hits and the most fun we've had as we give our games a second chance.

We got started with my initial mission statement, followed immediately by our first game post; Spectral Force 3. Ayn posted about that in August of 2010, and I'm happy to report that as of this summer he finally got around to beating it. My first post was on Arc the Lad: Twilight of Spirits, which I hadn't beaten at the time, but finished shortly afterwards. Thus our Backlog journey began.

[Insert witty caption from past picture, play laugh track]

When we first started out, we had another Backlogger, Mike, who was going to post about the really old stuff. He did get a good post about Chrono Trigger in before backlogging himself. We also had a similar experience with Jared, who wrote a post on Morrowind that held on to one of our top 10 post spots for months. With them gone, Ayn and I have been holding down the fort ever since. I wonder if either of them ever got a wacky spin-off that was just like our blog, but taking place in the big city or set in outer space.


On our own, Ayn and I have plowed through a plethora of games we may have never touched if not for the blog. Games like Etrien Odyssey, Unlimited SaGa, Bujingai, and the Ratchet & Clank series. We've both had our own series of posts, like Ayn's March Mecha Madness, and my on-going Almost Got 'Em. Our topics have ranged from the games we're playing to concepts like bridge games, comic strips, and zazz. We've both discussed E3, and Ayn has thrown up a ton of work on concepts ranging from the music in games to the witty banter.There was even briefly a comic.

The Backlog has posts about games as old as Sim Tower and as recent as Tales of Graces f. Because remember, it's never too early or too late to completely forget about something after you buy it.

Or sometimes as you're buying it.

So what's the current tally on games? For me, I've posted about, and beaten; Arc the Lad: Twilight of Spirits, Final Fantasy XII, 2 Ratchet & Clank games, 3 Devil May Crys, Stella Deus: The Gate of Eternity, Tales of the Abyss, Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, Etrien Odyssey, Breath of Fire III, InFAMOUS, and most recently, Suikoden III. I've attempted Riviera: The Promised Land, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, and Demon's Souls only to have them get backlogged again (though I WILL beat Demon's Souls).

I really have no idea which games Ayn has and hasn't beaten from his list of posts, but hopefully he'll follow up on this to keep us up to date.

                                                      Kevin Hagen for the Wall Street Journal
We wait with bated breath.

Our most popular post remains, by a wide margin, my entry on Devil May Cry 3. Close behind it is my DMC2 post, and Ayn's explanation of the Kingdom Hearts universe. I have no idea what sets these apart besides the popularity of the series themselves, so stay tuned for the next two years where we review exclusively Halo and Call of Duty titles, with the occasional Madden.

Each year we'll write the same post and slightly adjust the picture captions.

We've had a great run so far, and I hope that you're looking forward to the future as much as we are. There are still a lot of games to be played and a lot of fun to be had. We're excited to share it with all of you and hope you feel the same way about reading what we've got. And remember, unlike certain other video game reviewers, we at the Backlog would never get paid for this crap.

For the first 100 posts and for 100 more, let's all keep playing.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Shin Megami Tensei: Where the Hell Am I?

The results of our last poll clearly made Xenogears was the choice for David.  For me, it was a tie between Tactics Ogre and Shin Megami Tensei III:  Nocturne.  I'm opting to go with the latter, but I have to say, I have a nasty habit with this game:  I'll pick it up, play it for a bit, acknowledge that it's awesome, then set it down and not touch it for months.

This crap really has to stop.  There are a host of reasons behind it, but the main issue with Nocturne is that when I pick the game up again, I really have no idea where the hell I am, or what happened the last time I played it. 

A lot like this, actually.

In a lot of ways, it does feel like The Hangover, with a few subtle differences.  Instead of waking up in a swank Vegas hotel, you're waking up here.

Eh, give Vegas a few years and it'll look just like this.

Instead of Mike Tyson's tiger, you have Byakko, who's really a lot similar.  And instead of Mike Tyson being angry at you and wanting to knock you out, you have this guy:

Fortunately, I don't think you have to worry about him biting your ear off.

Also, considering the fusion mishaps that happen in the SMT games, you can end up with a different version of an old friend, much like in The Hangover

If the game let me rename demons, I'd name him "Black Doug"

Now, I'm not terribly far into the game just yet, but I'm far enough that restarting would probably be more annoying than helpful in seeing me through to completion of the game.  So as I regain my bearings and try to figure out where to go from here, I ask you all to join me in this journey.  Rather than trying to cover the entirety of my foray into Nocturne in one post, you can expect a "Let's Play" inspired style of posting for the next few weeks it takes me to complete this game.  I've been under increased pressure (or perhaps inspiration) to finish as there's been a sort of revival of the game on the Blue Gartr forums.

..Well, hopefully weeks, and not months.  ..Or years.  Hopefully you readers will keep me accountable.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Almost Got 'Em: Suikoden III (Got It)

We interrupt Xenogears to bring you this tale.

Suikoden III. Off the Backlog.

I have to say, I'm happier with this than I thought I was going to be.

But not happy enough.

I was fortunate enough to have left off this game pretty close to the ending, so when some free time unexpectedly popped up for me, I decided to scratch this one off my backlog for good. This meant tackling the challenge that defeated me last time; the final large-scale battle of the game. Now, for all the great work the series does with the political intrigue and personal stories which mark the writing, the flow of each entry is more or less the same. Hero suffers traumatic experience, finds one of the 27 True Runes, is drawn into a war - a seemingly hopeless war - where his inspiring presence and the help of a brilliant strategist turn the tide, defeats the enemy forces in an enormous final battle, and finally confronts the main villain, who summons a giant monster from a different True Rune. Hero kills monster, villain is vanquished, peace returns to the land.

So the nuggets of storytelling and gameplay that excite Suikoden fans are all contained in this basic framework, but since I quit after losing the last major battle all those years ago, I never got to see how the whole giant monster fight worked out.

He looks nice enough, maybe in this one they just talk it out.

After I gleefully crushed Yuber, and I am not kidding it wasn't even close, I think I took him down on accident when he attacked one of my units so suck it Yuber-who-beat-me-that-one-time, I advanced to the final dungeon. Which, to my surprise, was filled with a lot more of that storytelling and character work that draws Suikoden fans in than either of its predecessors.

So let's take a look at how, with everything finally said and done, Suikoden III stacks up to the first two.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Xenogears: The First Five Villains

Villains. Can't live with 'em, can't have a good story without 'em. Seriously, without a villain, a game is either about solving puzzles or playing sports, and even those games sometimes have bad guys at the end.

Your evil mileage may vary.

Putting together a villain is complex. There are varying degrees of villainy and each one is right or wrong depending on the situation. You wouldn't pit Murky and Lurky up against The Punisher any more than you would let Hannibal Lecter loose on Sesame Street.

Five! Five fava beans! Ah-ha ha!

Having a villain suited to the hero is the foundation of a well-crafted tale. Superman, the god struggling to become a human, needs Lex Luthor, the human desperate to be a god. The pro and an versions of a story's tagonist naturally need to be at odds over some aspect of the story, but their reasons for being so are the stuff separating the boring stories from epic tales.

Of course, what's most important to creating some real drama is driving home the point of exactly how the hero and villain of a story match up. Some like to see evenly matched opposites, like Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty, or Captain Picard and that evil clone of Captain Picard from Star Trek: Nemesis.

The only way to beat Picard is with more Picard.

Others prefer it when the hero is hopelessly outmatched and has overwhelming odds to fight through. Then there are those stories where either side could be right, it's all a matter of perspective as to who the bad guy is. Villains run the gamut from hideously evil to morally ambiguous and every stop in-between. That's why what matters in establishing this is how the villain is portrayed in relation to others. Now, I'm only a few hours in to my new playthrough of Xenogears, having finally grabbed a moment to beat Suikoden III for good and all a few weeks ago,  and I can tell you already that this game has done its antagonists up better than most of the games of the last decade even tried to.

Let's spend a little time discussing some of the bad guys of the Xenogears world, and how with a few select scenes the writers made them come to life.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Poll Dancing

Check out the hot new addition to the Backlog on the right-hand side of the page!

Ayn and I both have a glut of titles to get through and we want to hear from you regarding which ones we should go through and write about next. So you, our loyal readers, get to pick which games get the Backlog treatment, meaning a lot of (hopefully) witty observations about the gameplay and story replete with humorously-captioned pictures.

For Ayn, choose between;

Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne, the only game so far I've attempted and given up on. Can Ayn muscle through where sanity demands you quit?

Star Ocean: The Last Hope, a game that will hopefully redeem the Star Ocean series after what happened in SO3. Or will it (it probably won't)?

Baten Kaitos Origins is . . . a game that was made, that's undeniable. Ayn is offering to play through it for you, and if nothing else that tells you how dedicated we are to what we do.

People have called Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together the best remake of the oft-revisited game. Would you like to see what Ayn has to say about it?

As for me, I'm making an offering of three of the titles still left on my Almost Got 'Em list. So would you rather read about my exploits playing through . . .

I've already got a game going on Xenogears, so any thoughts on the matter, not to mention eventual completion, would come a lot faster than the other games on this list. Just sayin!

Of course, then there's Lunar: Silver Star Story complete, a game I actually have beaten without realizing you can still die after the last boss.  Can I redeem myself and not march Alex to his death with a second playthrough?

 Finally, the always love-it-or-hate-it Final Fantasy VIII is up on the Backlog block. Will I collect every card? Will I make sense of the story? Will I give Angelo a hilarious name? It's up to you!

So there you have it; your list of choices for what you'd like to see from us next. Voting ends in a week, and we can't wait to see what you decide.

Until next time, you decide what we keep playing.

Friday, August 10, 2012

AGE: Suikoden III and the Lost Generation

                                                                                                                                          Gamer Limit

When I first began seriously building my video game collection, I was happy if I could keep $1,000 in the bank at any given time. Now I could re-buy my entire collection ten times over and don't have the time to play any of them. So while I had intended to get through my list of Almost Got 'Em titles this summer, I ended up not even making a dent in the last game I was playing, Suikoden III. However, with what I had played and what I remember from my first attempt at scaling its heights (and Ayn's subtle threats of physical violence if I didn't post something while he's on vacation), I've got enough material to tackle one more post about Suikoden III and how it represents a void in the overall Suikoden narrative that may never be filled.

One of the enthralling things about the Suikoden series has been the lore of the world it takes place in. The creator of the series, Yoshitaka Murayama, originally conceived of the second game first. When he was greenlighted by Konami to make a game for them, he decided to put his grand vision on the back burner to test out the waters with a prequel to his concept. So Suikoden, the game so good it was the whole reason I bought a Playstation in the first place, was the game Murayama made because he needed to prepare the world for what he really had in mind.

"4 stars? It's a start."

And what a story he told! In the span of two games Murayama gave us the Toran Republic and the City-State of Jowston. The epic retelling of the classic Chinese tale The Water Margin with its rebel alliance and domineering empire and impenetrable Death Star.

It's a trap!

Through two games, separated by three years of in-game time, a tale was woven of stalwart heroes and tragic villains, of powerful runes and ancient civilizations, of love, sacrifice, triumph, tragedy, all while making a moving statement about the human condition. Suikoden I and II introduced us to the concepts which were at the heart of Murayama's vision; a saga about a world with 27 True Runes as the focal point of not just magic, but the tragic wars and inspiring heroism that envelop their owners, and the power of the hearts of 108 heroes joined together to change the world.

When Suikoden II was released, it thrilled many players almost right off the bat by not only revealing the fates of two heroes from the previous game who had vanished at its conclusion, but then adding them to your party. This set the stage for discovering that the world would be full of previous "Stars of Destiny" still shining 3 years later. Not only that, but people and areas only referenced in the first Suikoden were now revealed in full, building a whole new layer to an already fantastic story. When Suikoden III was released, taking place a full 15 years after the first sequel, it not only followed suit, but introduced more children than either of the two previous games, hinting at another big time jump and a thrilling new adventure in store for all the fans of the series in Suikoden IV.

And then that never happened.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Every Mario game needs to begin with this.

You know, most, if not all, Mario games, really don't have any sort of prologue.  It's just Mario on his merry way to save Princess Peach/Toadstool.

However, the webcomic Ctrl+Alt+Del captures how every Mario game SHOULD begin:

...As I look on my shelf of games, I'm suddenly tempted to play Super Mario Galaxy.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tales of Trolldom

I've been doing a few short posts here and there about Tales of Graces F.  I recently finished the game about a month ago, which considering standard RPG length, as well as..well, the nature of this blog, is a pretty remarkable feat.  While I do want to talk some of the games merits later in this post, the bulk of what I'll be writing about -- which to forewarn you, will be potentially spoiler-heavy in some parts -- deals with the title of this post:

Tales of Graces F has some of the biggest trolls in an RPG I have seen in quite some time.

Even better?  They all travel with you at some point.

If you haven't finished the game, or plan to play it and are adverse to spoilers, then be warned before you continue.  If you've finished it, or simply don't care, then read on:  If you're in the first category, I'm sure you'll be nodding along.

The Motion of the Ocean

The other day, I booted up Star Ocean:  The Last Hope for PS3.  I'd long heard mixed things about the game, but among the many things that stood out, one was evident, which I credit an old linkshellmate from FFXI mentioning:

The main character's name, Edge Maverick, sounds like a porn star name.

Naturally, I decided to share this with my good friend:

Nick: That's cause it just may be the worst SO in the series.
...Well.. it's a fight with 3 but still...

Ayn: Plus the main character's name sounds like a porn star.
Edge Maverick.

Nick: ROFL
It does!
Edge Maverick is ready to plow you good baby.

Ayn: He's ready to venture into the depths of space.
Where no man has ever gone before.
His rocket's ready for launch.


Ayn: LOL.

Nick: That is a terrible name and now I can never forget this.

Ayn: My work here is done.

Edge Maverick: The name of a porn star, or a pro wrestler? You decide (and feel free to leave a comment!).

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Something Worth Adding to Your Backlog

Many gamers look forward to Steam's summer sales to score good deals on games that they'll likely never get around to playing in the same year.  While I'm admittedly more of a console gamer than a PC gamer, and really only acquired steam because my purchase of a box copy of The Last Remnant required me to do so, I nevertheless respect the service.

However, even without The Last Remnant, Steam is worth getting simply for this:  Ys Origin.

While there's always the possibility that we may land Origin as a Playstation Vita port years down the line, I think it's worth supporting XSEED's venture onto Steam by purchasing this title.  It's already cheaper than when it came out a few months, and quite frankly, it's a steal at 12 bucks.

No, Steam's not paying me to do this, although my enjoyment of the Ys series has already been documented.

While this sale allegedly ends on July 23rd, stuff on Steam is always going on sale.  Still, I wouldn't delay purchasing it too long, as what I've played of it (mainly to test how well my laptop outputs to an HDTV -- wonderfully I might add) shows a promising game.

As icing on the cake?  The soundtrack is just as good as, if not better (hey, it's hard to beat "A Searing Struggle") than Oath in Felghana.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Effective Marketing

Let's face it:  Marketing is a huge problem for many video games, especially with game development costs increasing (not helped by the fact that many have expectations of their games selling like the next Mass Effect or Call of Duty game if they dump enough money into it).

However, many video game commercials these days seem quite forgettable.  It wasn't like this years ago, when some companies took themselves less seriously and just, well, had fun with their commercials.

A prime example?  Ones like these:

While it's hard to pin down exact numbers, at least as of 1997, the Saturn had sold around 7.6 million units worldwide, with about 5 million coming from Japan.  Huh, I wonder why it did so poorly in America.

I'm sure we can attribute a lot of things to differences in gaming cultures across the globe, but I think one lasting Segata Sanshiro left with us is this:  Having a mascot that will threaten to beat you up if you go outside to play instead of playing video games can be very effective.

If nothing else, it'd sure be funny to air right after a commercial for The Biggest Loser.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Resonance of Awesome.

Lately, as I combed through my gaming library, I've been thinking about games that just don't receive a lot of love.  While I could list off countless titles (instead, I'll opt to write about them at a later date), let's focus on one for now:  Resonance of Fate, one of Sega's creations for both the XBox and PS3.  Truthfully, I finished this game quite some time ago (and even made a gift of it to my good friend Nick), but oddly never got around to writing it.

Well, it's about time to remedy that, don't you think?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wonderbook: Don't Backlog Your Childhood

Ayn has already touched briefly on the passing of E3, which gave a decidedly underwhelming performance this year. Gaming's biggest show seemed to elicit a resounding "that's it?" from the fans. While some of it was justified, one thing jumped out at me after Ayn linked me to the presentation for it. Sony's new peripheral, the Wonderbook.

Wonderbook is, in appearance, a physical book that will be used in conjunction with the Playstation Eye (remember the Playstation Eye?) and the Move controller. Utilizing the same Augmented Reality technology we've seen cropping up on other systems and even comic books these days, you'll be able to actually interact with stories as you flip each virtual page. Here's the official trailer;

And here's the tech demo from E3:

Go ahead and watch that until at least five minutes in to find out what Wonderbook has in store for us first.

Now, a brief sidebar. Here was my reaction when Ayn first told me about this new innovation.

Oh yeah.
This'll revolutionize the industry.
Aw man.
I just realized that if this were 20 years ago, I would think this was the coolest thing EVER.
Aw man.
I just realized that it can be 20 years ago and I'll still be a person.

And sadly, unlike Bruce Wayne in Batman Beyond, you can never be 20 years younger and still be the goddamn Batman.

Aw maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan

My first reaction was to write this off as a cheap gimmick for kids and another bid by Sony to make the Move relevant in an era where the Wii dominates console sales and the Kinect lets you do everything the Move can without a controller. Then I realized, quickly as you can see from the IMs above, that my younger self would be in vehement disagreement with the me of today about what would and wouldn't be fun to play with.

"Sure, I don't need the magic book, I'll just keep playing my favorite game; Shoe."

- Young Me

And that got me thinking.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The future's so dim I have to wear one of those mining hats.

E3 is in its concluding days, and while I wish that I could say me, David, and Kyle were important enough to go, sadly that's not the case (alright, well maybe not for Kyle:  He's been there a few times, if I recall correctly).  Anyway, as I perused the images and stories of E3, I came across this:

What is this I don't even.

Naturally, I decided to show the image to my best friend, Nick, who had this to say:

Nick 2:32 pm
Fuck this Gen.

If I'm grateful for anything this E3, it's that few things looked exciting enough to create more of a backlog for me in the future, which means you'll be seeing some more activity around here.

What are your thoughts?  Share your impressions, satisfactions, or dissatisfaction with us in the comments section.

Until next time (which I promise will be sooner), keep playing.

Just not with the contraption pictured above.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dig That Radio

Dig That Radio

Hi there, my name is Kyle, but I'm pretty much known as "dropslash" around the internets. I was invited a while to take part in writing for The Backlog, but I'm just now getting around to it. Hey, I was busy! Anyway, I've been involved in the video game industry for about 12 years now and some of what I'll be writing here won't be exactly about playing video games as much as it will be about games and the industry in general. Such is true for the post you'll find below. Enjoy!

Ok, so this is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while now. It’s going to be long and it’s going to be about a topic that is both generally universal and intensely personal. Music. Specifically, video game music, both original and inspired by, some of which will be included along the way. So feel free to fire up some of your favorite tunes, or jam on some of the ones here, grab a snack, and let's jump in.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Tales of Victory Quotes.

I know I said that Tales of Graces f was too good to play, but after making a poor attempt to go back to Tales of Vesperia, as well as hearing about the Enabler's adventures in the game, I decided that I'd pick Graces back up.

You know what one of the best things about this game has been so far, aside from the combat system?

The win quotes.

I'll keep my post short this week and leave you with these these gems, while I go back to playing:

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Choose Your Own Adventure, the game: Radiant Historia

Sometimes, less is more.

In the context of this post, that has a dual meaning:  Radiant Historia, which recently saw a reprint, is a game that, in spite of utilizing time-travel as a central story mechanic, does not try to beat you over the head with overly complex combat systems, or a robust cast of characters with overly complicated storylines, daddy issues, or focus on vengeance.  In trying to do less than many of the RPGs out there do, it manages to be a thoroughly engrossing game from start to finish that feels like one of the old "Choose Your Own Adventure" books.

The other meaning?  Rather than spend an entire post telling you about how much I loved the game and my experience with it, I'll put it this way:

This blog is about decent, and even excellent games that are pushed into the abyss of unfinished games for a variety of reasons.

Radiant Historia is a game that never made it to my backlog.  I picked it up, and within a week, clocked about 40 hours and completed it.

Go order the reprint now.  Then play it.

And keep playing.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Dream Dropped Sleeping Memories

A few weeks back, I made a post about Kingdom Hearts II, where I brought up a few important plot points that most people would have a hard time understanding if they didn't play the spin offs.  In the same post, I also promised a follow up that would serve as an explanation about how said spin-offs explain Sora's mysterious absence at the start of KH2, the mysterious Organization XIII, and the whole Xemnas/Ansem/Xehanort link.

But you know, I've spent the last few weeks struggling.  Let's be realistic here:  If you're really curious to know all of the story links, you can simply consult a Kingdom Hearts wiki.  I also struggled because there was a larger point I was trying to illustrate with the ridiculous number of spin-offs needing to clarify the story.  It wasn't until a conversation with David that I began to hash things out, but my friend Joe gets the credit for really hitting the point that's bothered me this entire time:

Kingdom Hearts is a franchise victim, and has become more about "how can we get more games out of this" rather than providing side-stories or sequels that add closure.

I still owe it to you all to carry out part of this post's original goal:  Mapping out the spin-off mayhem that surrounds Kingdom Hearts II.  But I'm going to do it in a more abbreviated format, covering what each respective game answers, what new concepts to the KH mythos was added, and a miscellaneous category I'll simply title "Damn it Nomura" (DIN).  But I'll also elaborate more on the previous accusation towards the franchise.

Well, let's get this show on the road.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

AGE: Suikoden III and The Relentless Grind

As part of my Almost Got 'Em series which started with Breath of Fire III, I've moved on to the other third entry in a series on the list, Suikoden III. I haven't beaten it yet, in fact I've barely started playing, but I've already put over thirty hours in. I've been doing this because there's a handy little trick in Suikoden games which lends itself to a chance to completely cap out a number of characters right at the start in the third entry. That amount of time lends itself to giving one enough a good deal of writing material, so I thought I might share.

Suikoden III reached my backlog about six years ago. I'd played through this at-times-epic entry in one of my favorite series from beginning to end, and was ready to seal the deal in the last battle of the game. It was just me and the final boss, face-to-face on the very last battlefield, my Flame Champion's unit against him, it came down to the final blow and . . .

. . . and I missed, he counter attacked, game over. I never played again.

My rebuttal.

Maybe not the best response, but it's not the first time it's happened to me. I had similar final battle outcomes in Dragon Quest II and IV, Earthbound, and Breath of Fire III. The latter three I eventually went back to and finished off, but this game fell into the DQII pile - until now.

The whale! The white whaaaaaalle

I've started this off and taken steps already to ensure that I'm nigh-unbeatable when that final fight comes around again. But it's taken me a long time to get there.