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: