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.