Friday, January 28, 2011

Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando - Double the Murder, Double the Fun

The original Ratchet & Clank was a pretty powerful example of how a simple game concept - 3D platforming - can become deeply engrossing and a whole lot of fun when you combine it with great game mechanics.  Using the gadgets, weapons, and various Clank-related accessories to maneuver through obstacles and blow things up kept me coming back for more.  It's not a formula you really want to mess with, since any significant tinkering might screw up what made people like it in the first place.  Going Commando, though, manages to not only recapture the original magic but add additional layers to make it more enjoyable and rewarding than ever.

I sought this out after buying the original, since as I detailed earlier my thought process was that if I was going to buy one game I wouldn't play, I might as well buy them all.  With the original finally out of the way, that cleared a path for me to go all-out on this one.  Ratchet & Clank was enough fun that it didn't take much for me to get started on this - I put it in the next day and beat it inside a week.

So what was it like?  Well, they threw in some elements that made this a whole lot of fun, but unfortunately the story suffered a few setbacks.  A big part of the appeal of the first game was the sense that you were watching a Pixar film play out with you in control of the protagonist.  Going Commando starts out strong, but ends up lacking the kind of depth and imagination of the first.  So it ends up winning out over the first entry in terms of gameplay, but runs way behind as a narrative.

Like if this were a video game.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

For Immediate Removal: Chrono Trigger

We all have games that have been defining to our console careers. Games that set benchmarks. Moved us. Change our lives. These are games that should never even get a whiff of the musty air in the back closet, but should instead be set upon a pedestal and fed like Caesar.

"Would you like some more grapes, Tetris? Perhaps some suckling pig?"

To ensure that these games are granted their appropriate divinity, we are starting up a new series of posts here at the Backlog: "For Immediate Removal." In these entries, Ayn, David, and I will be paying kudos where it is due, talking up these gaming immortals and ensuring that you know their name if you didn't already. In this line of thinking, there is no better game to be observed in this first entry than what is debatably the greatest RPG ever made: Chrono Trigger.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Backlogged Till The End of Time

I have an interesting relationship with Star Ocean: Till The End of Time.

Years ago, when I was still doing my B.A., I was convinced that the game would never see a domestic release. After all, this was a point in time where the chances of getting a JRPG localized were slim: The fact that we got the second entry in the series seemed like more of a fluke than anything else. With this in mind, I decided to import the game. However, a few months later, Enix (before the merger that created Square-Enix) announced that they would be releasing a director's cut of the game.

This was before they got into the habit of doing it with every damn game they released.

However, unlike the infamous "Final Mix" series of Kingdom Hearts, the director's cut of Star Ocean 3 wasn't just something that existed seemingly to piss off North American gamers. It was actually necessary. The original Star Ocean 3 was quite a mess: It was poorly received in Japan, due to being notoriously buggy and lacked comparability with older model PS2 units, As an added plus, some bonus content was added in the form of two new playable character (Adray and Mirage, the latter of whom was only an NPC previously). Certainly, this was a much needed improvement.

Meanwhile, the people playing this game hope and pray for a "Final Mix"

Of course, this was discouraging for me to hear. Sure, I essentially had a complete game (and thankfully, one that worked on my PS2), but like any rightful American, I felt totally cheated by not having the additional content in a game that I would have never received domestically in the first place.

Or so I thought.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ratchet & Clank: Hijinks and Homicide

Ah, Insomniac games.

Since the original Spyro the Dragon Insomniac has shown they know the formula for making a successful action platformer. Make a 3D world with lots of areas to explore and absolutely inundate it with things to collect which will be measured at the end of each level.  Going through one level of a Spyro title is all you need to know why Insomniac is so aptly named.  Did I say one level?  I meant eight, because you'll be about that far before you realize it's 4 in the morning.

"Okay . . . ONE more level."

This one ended up on my backlog after I was wandering through GameStop and saw it without the Greatest Hits label.  You know you've got a problem when you convince yourself it's worth owning a game you didn't want previously simply because the label of black instead of red.  It didn't matter that I was in the middle of playing other stuff (Persona 4 at the time, I think) that was going to take me awhile, or that I already had dozens of other games sitting around waiting to be played.  I had here Ratchet & Clank in the original case, and dammit, I was going to get it.  Not only that, I was going to get the whole trilogy just to prove how committed I was to this idea.  If you're gonna do it, do it all the way.

Above: Precedent
I'll tell you, though, I'm glad I did.  This turned out to be a lot of fun, and gave me a lot to talk about.

Now, Ratchet & Clank is a kid's game.  There's nothing overly complicated about the puzzles, none of the jumps or levels are that challenging (though you will die, many, many times, if you just jaunt along without looking), and really only the final boss is difficult to fight.  The story, dialogue, and even some of the animation seem like they were lifted right from a Disney movie.  That's why it really struck me that this game focuses so much around mass genocide.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bujingai: There's a reason this game has "Forsaken" in the title.

I've dubbed my first week of gaming in this new year "Disappointment Week 2011". I've surprisingly managed to finish 3 games (admittedly, they were either at or past the halfway mark), and all of them were let downs in one or more departments. Bujingai, while not the first of the titles that marked DW2011, is nevertheless the most timely post, considering David's post on Devil May Cry 3 (a game also on my backlog).

David's post covered one of the greatest action titles on the PS2. While my colleague was still reveling in the glow of Dante's excellent adventures, I was playing a game much like Devil May Cry, which similarly involved trekking through 3D environments slaying a variety of demons and other monstrosities.

You see, Bujingai is a lot like Devil May Cry: Except for the fact that it's much more shinier and fancier with the sword play. Oh, there's also the part where there's less variety in enemies, stages, and weaponry. There's also the part where it's a lot shorter, considerably less challenging, contains considerably less depth, possesses a plot that makes DMC2 look like a work of classic literature and. . .

Ok, aside from the fact that it's a 3D action game with sword fighting, it's really nothing like Devil May Cry.

On top of that, it also has Gackt.

This man has no place near the design of a game. EVER.

And no, the above is not the game's saving grace. It's far from it.

Read on for some background on the game, the (laughable) story, my experiences and observation on the gameplay, and my overall consensus of the game.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Another Year, Another Backlog, and 2011 goals

I realize that I have been remiss in my posts for our blogs, leaving much of the work on David. Mind you, I haven't completely forgotten about the backlog: Not at all. Believe it or not, I've actually been -gasp- finishing games, many of which you will be hearing about in the coming few days, just as soon as I write up the posts.


"Many"? Not all? Before you think I'm holding out on you, I'm not. Here's the reason why you won't be getting all of them:

These fucking guys.

My dear friend, the Enabler, was kind enough to lend me Ace Attorney Investigations some time ago. Originally, I'd avoided these games. I mean the very premise of it sounded completely absurd: A courtroom simulation deal? Please. Pass. However, once again I was assured that not only was my initial sentiment shared, but that it was wrong, and that these games were "cracktastically addictive":

Screenshot of actual Ace Attorney game. Shut up, I can quit any time I want to.

Much like The World Ends With You, I was proven wrong in my initial assessment. I sat down and started Ace Attorney Investigations. Then, believe it or not, I actually -finished- Ace Attorney Investigations. Of course, like any good junkie, I could not just stop with one fix. I promptly went to Amazon and ordered Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright: Justice For All and Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations. With the exceptions of Trials and Tribulations (which is my go-to handheld for the moment), I've finished them all.

Shocking, I know.

There are many things to be said about these games, but aside from the over the top humor and hilarious characters, I enjoyed the fact that it made you think, and it was like putting together a logic puzzle and also involved deductive reasoning (something that my actual job involves doing and teaching). So you see, these games never actually -made- it into the backlog. They were purchased, started within a short time of said purchase, and with the exception of one, promptly finished.

Since this is a blog dedicated to backlogged games -- those deemed interesting, yet end up somehow forgotten -- writing about the Ace Attorney series would be contrary to this blog's purpose. Don't be too surprised, however, if a number of obscure and not so obscure references to the series somehow make it into my post.

Furthermore, it goes without saying that if these games are good enough to not even make it to the backlog, then you're doing yourself a disservice by not trying them out.

Now, as for the second part of this post, I'd like to talk about New Year's gaming goals. I hesitate to use the term 'resolution' because let's face it, those things are made to be broken:

Every New Year, Jason Vorhees swears that he'll cut back on violent crime.

So instead, I'm setting my gaming goal for 2011: That being to rid myself of all my non-import titles on PS2. I'll leave you in suspense as to which titles those will consist of, but there's a dozen titles on there in varying stages of completion. If I go at a rate at one per month, this goal may very well be realized.

Anyway, enough of my self indulgent postings. We're curious to know your game goals for 2011: So go ahead and post them in our comments section.

Until then, keep playing.