Archive for the ‘Video Games’ Category

Further Thoughts on “Ring Fit Adventure”

March 24, 2021

I had kinda been planning on waiting until I finished the game since I had thought that I was pretty close to the end, but it turns out that there is a lot more story to it than I expected and so it has gone on a fair bit longer.  So let me take the time to stop here and consider how “Ring Fit Adventure” has been working for me since my first comments on it a couple of months ago.

What I originally wanted this thing for was to give me some more up-tempo exercise that would keep me entertained for about a half an hour to go along with my normal daily long walks.  In the past I had tried using an exercise bike but even watching TV while doing it was too boring for me and so it was difficult to maintain.  Ring Fit Adventure works really well for that.  It has set areas to work through, which makes it easy to decide to two about two of them or so to fill out my half an hour.  The story is just interesting enough to keep me entertained while doing through it.  For the most part, both of them keep me flowing and moving so that I don’t really notice how much time I’ve spent doing them and so am not watching the clock.  And because of where it’s set up I can also have the TV on while exercising to distract me when the game itself is being a bit boring (making smoothies, for example).  So it really is ideal for that half hour exercise run that I’ve been looking for for a while.

For the longest time I had a ton of issues with the leg strap.  I was tightening it as much as I could and it would still pop off at the worst times as I was going through the areas.  Eventually I noted that the fabric that the velcro attached itself to was fraying a bit and so wouldn’t attached properly.  So I’ve started leaving it a bit looser and a bit higher, and that works pretty well.  When the strap is tight, then if you move it pulls on it more and if it isn’t quite attached right it pops off, but if it’s looser movement doesn’t pull on it as much and so it stays attached.  It will, of course, slide down the leg more if you do that, but it’s easier to adjust it back up as you go along than completely reattach it, especially if it pops off at the exact wrong time.  So that’s one frustration that was lessened.

I find that I would have liked it a little bit better if it was a bit more customizable.  It’s good that it allows you to set the exercises that you want to use while encouraging you to use a good variety of them — each exercise has a colour mapping to a general exercise group and if you use one of those on monsters that have the same colour you get a bonus — but inside the areas it will make you overcome challenges that you might not want to overcome.  For me, I loathe the conveyor ones since I’m only after a light job and you usually need to do more than that with them, and plus sometimes you can’t tell if you’re moving at all which makes it very frustrating.  And there are a number of them.  To compare it to Wii Fit Plus, Ring Fit Adventure is more structured but less customizable.  Still, I prefer it because it isn’t dependent on light as much as Wii Fit Plus, so I can do it pretty much anytime (although I tend to do it during the day anyway).

Because of its lack of customization, the game portion, at least, isn’t something that you can use to tone specific muscles or achieve very specific fitness goals.  But at least for me it works well to get in a quick bit of exercise to get me moving without boring me to death.  The story is interesting enough to keep me interested in it while not so interesting that it pushes me to go beyond myself and work out longer than I’d like.  So it’s easy to fit into a schedule and I don’t find that I’m approaching it with trepidation like I often did with the exercise bike, but at a minimum am just thinking of it as “It’s time to do Ring Fit Adventure and then do my other things”.  That’s better than I’ve had with anything except walks, so that’s pretty good.

First Thoughts on “Huniepop 2: Double Date”

February 24, 2021

So, like Shamus Young, I found the original Huniepop game strangely compelling.  It’s less of a surprise for me than for Shamus because I am a long-time fan of dating sims and Shamus isn’t.  Still, he was turned off by the seeming doubling-down on the anime sex elements while I was turned off by the change in girls and that none of them seemed interesting to me.  Still, when I looked it up to see what the mechanics were I was interested, as you indeed have to “double date” and try to get into a threesome with girls, but this means that you need to balance your “attention” between the two girls, which means that you have to switch between them before the one gets too tired where they are unusable for a number of turns before they recover.  They have different traits which means that they like different matches, and will get baggage later that impacts what you can or should do.

So how does this Match-3 gameplay actually work?  The two girls at a time and the stamina is itself kinda interesting, forcing you to balance your time between them and look for the matches each girl likes best and for stamina matches when you need to.  However, that the broken heart matches now exhaust them is terrible if these ever come up by accident, so removing broken hearts from the board is more critical than ever.  Except that while in the first game you got a number — 4 or 6, I think — of slots for date gifts which can do that and you could slot in your favourite gifts for your playstyle, here it seems like the gifts are per girl and you have to open up more than one slot as you go along, which is quite pedantic.  And you still have to build up sentiment to use them, and of course that has to be built up per girl, which just adds more playing around to the game when all I wanted to do was match some threes or more.  All in all the gameplay is a bit more fiddly and so I don’t feel it’s really taking advantage of the concept all that well.

Moreover, the dating sim elements seem to be added to a bit as well … except that I have very little interest in them because I have very little interest in any of the pairs I’ve discovered so far.  In the first game, you could focus on the girls you like, but here it has to be on the combination and that means that you have essentially two girls-worth of a combination of looks and personality to balance to try to gain some interest.  And for me almost all of the girls have pretty uninteresting or annoying personalities.  So I have no interest in talking to them, and little interest in dating them or doing anything for them, which is turning the dating sim into a puzzle game, and I’m not that interested in a straight puzzle game.

So far, it’s not that interesting to me, and looks like it won’t be a game that I can use to fill in a couple of hours when I have some time, which means that I’ll probably put it off for a while.  I like the concept, but the gameplay doesn’t take full advantage of it and the girls just aren’t interesting enough for me to bother.

I’m kinda obsessed with Star Wars right now …

February 17, 2021

No, not the new stuff.  I still strongly dislike it (although when watching the OT over the weekend I became tempted to compare the three trilogies to talk about why I think the OT really works, the PT is disappointing and the ST really, really sucks, but then I’d have to rewatch the first two movies and get and watch The Rise of Skywalker, and I’m not sure how much I’m willing to sacrifice for this blog).  No, I’m talking about the things that existed before Disney took over.  I’ve set aside some time on the weekend to play The Old Republic (but haven’t been able to do that as much as I’d like because of things like snow and work and the like).  I just finished re-reading the X-Wing books (including “I, Jedi”) after having read the Timothy Zahn works (including “Survivor’s Quest”).  I’ve just started re-reading the megaseries, starting with “New Jedi Order”.  I’m tempted to include “Fate of the Jedi”, but if I don’t I still have a few more books that I can get through.  And as noted above, I just watched the OT again.

And yet, I still want to do more.  I’m looking for some video games to play and with Huniepop 2 being disappointing (more on that next week) I’m tempted to drop my current run of Dragon Age Origins and play some of my Star Wars games.  Take another run at Rebellion like I did a month or two ago, except try to win as the Rebels this time.  Poke around with Galactic Battlegrounds.  Play Empire at War.  And there’s a real temptation to go through the KotOR games again (I replayed the first one a while ago and started but never finished the second one).  So adding more to my Star Wars obsession, and those re the games and things that I am most interested in playing.

And then there are the things that fit less into my normal schedule but that I’m getting reminded of and tempted to play anyway.  Like the graphic novel I have collecting some of the Marvel comics.  Like the board game of Rebellion.  Like the card game that I haven’t really played and probably should.  Like the comics I collected of the new run.  And all the games that I own from GOG but have never really played, like Battlefront II, and Jedi Knight, and Dark Forces, and Republic Commando, and Shadows of the Empire (I also have the book that I can read), and Starfighter, and Rebel Assault.  And then I remembered Rogue Squadron and was going to joke in this post that if it was on GOG then I’d be really, really tempted to play it … and then looked and saw that, yes, it is there and so picked it up, along with the X-Wing series (including Tie Fighter) because I remember that the reason I didn’t buy them was because they were on disk but since my new laptop doesn’t play well with CDs and I have multiple systems to play things on figured that getting the digital copies was the right way to go.  So they’re in the mix as well (and X-Wing Alliance is cool because the simulator gives me the ability to play for a short period of time with scenarios I invent in my head).

Is it sad that I’d probably watch the Holiday Special if I had it, and still don’t want to watch the new movies?  Well, I had a little temptation watching the OT to watch Rogue One, but I will probably be able to resist that temptation because finding it will probably take long enough for it to pass.

So, yeah, just a little bit obsessed with Star Wars right now.  The only reason I can give is that reading the books has really engaged my interest with the universe again, an interest that was smothered a bit by the new movies.  Not sure what that says about the new movies, especially since the newer novels aren’t really on my list right now.

Some Thoughts on “Ring Fit Adventure”

January 27, 2021

Quite a while ago, I was watching a game show network that I had and was seeing lots and lots of commercials for “Ring Fit Adventure” for the Nintendo Switch.  At about the same time, I had seen that the Switch had versions of classic PC games — Icewind Dale, Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2, and Torment, for starters — and was tempted to pick one up.  With the two things combined and my usual long pondering time, I decided to go and get a Switch and get “Ring Fit Adventure” … and they were sold out.  So I waited.  And then we went into lockdown and I couldn’t get it anymore.  And then things opened up and I was reminded of it, and I checked and a video game store near me had one, so I picked up a Switch and the game — and a few others that I haven’t played yet — and started playing it.

As an exercise style game, it’s the best I’ve seen, and is a marked improvement on Wii Fit Plus.

“Ring Fit Adventure” is clearly a game, which was not really the case for Wii Fit Plus.  It’s basically a simple JRPG, except that everything you have to do in the game you have to do through some sort of exercising.  You have to jog to get from place to place inside the areas.  You also have to cross water and other areas with other types of exercises.  When you fight monsters, you choose from a variety of exercise “attacks”.  You open chests by doing squats.  There is also a Game Gym that can give you bonuses if you complete the activity with a certain ranking, and the activities involve varied exercises.  So for the most part, you are following the JRPG story but in order to progress at all you have to do that by moving around and doing exercises, so it clearly subordinates the exercising to the game itself.

The nice thing about this is — and which is especially important for me — is that it gives you a reason to do the exercising that isn’t just to exercise.  Thus, you will keep exercising as long as you want to get to the next area or through it.  While for me the biggest consideration has been time — I usually have about a half hour or so after work to exercise and feel pressure if I play too long — there have been times when I wanted to keep going to finish a Game Gym activity or get to a new area or finish a request or get a treasure chest.  Now, you can’t get as absorbed in this sort of game as you could in a regular JRPG because of the physical factor:  even if you wanted to see the next part or get to the next world if you’re physically tired you simply won’t be able to.  However, it does give you a reason to keep going to keep coming back beyond “I guess I should exercise today”.

I play on a relatively low difficulty, because all I really want is to get a bit of exercise and not be stuck on, well, anything, which is also how I approach all JRPGs.  Still, depending on the area, I can work up a sweat doing it, and people in better shape could bump the difficulty up a few notches and it would work for them as well.  As an example, the speed through which you move through the areas is pretty much determined by you.  I tend to use a light jog, but you could sprint through it (and I had to once for fulfill a request) so it can be as hard or as easy, in general, as you’d like.

The story started out seeming quite childish, where you have a ring who was sealing up a creature called Drageaux that you’re tricked into freeing.  As it goes along, though, it becomes more of a General rated story, and there’s a history between Drageaux and the ring that’s making me wonder who the bad guy really is (I don’t think that they will go all-in on that but there is an undercurrent of that throughout the story).  The story is just interesting enough that the cutscenes aren’t boring but it isn’t really a classic either.

There also seems to be a rhythm game associated with the game that I will try at some point, but I really want to finish the JRPG at least once first.

I’ve been playing this for a couple of months, getting it in about four days a week (the only time it fits in my schedule) and for the most part it’s been working.  It’s replacing some time on an exercise bike but I’ve been far more likely to boot this game up and have been far more likely to get the half hour in, which makes it a resounding success by my standards.

What I Finished, What I Played in 2020

January 13, 2021

For most of this year, my schedule was odd and in flux, and so when or if I played video games changed an awful lot over the year, which had an impact on this.  The biggest change, though, seemed to be that for the most part if I played a game this year I finished it, or at least played it until the point where I decided to give up on it.

The most notable exception to that was a brief run at Wizardry 8, which I played with characters inspired by “Pretty Little Liars” until I decided that I didn’t want to switch my laptops around on weekdays and so wanted to focus more on other games.

I started off  the year finishing off Elsinore, which was disappointing, although not has bad as I had originally feared it would be.  I also played Everybody’s Golf, which I enjoyed but didn’t manage to finish the main story portion of before getting distracted by other games and not playing on my consoles anymore.  The last game from early in the year that I played and finished was Steins;Gate, finishing off one of the stories and then coming back later to finish all except the true ending.

The biggest games that I finished were the two Saint’s Row games I had picked up and never played, The Third and Saint’s Row IVThe Third was surprisingly fun but not quite my sort of game, while IV, based on a virtual reality simulator concept, was much more my style of game because it was really a superhero game.  I had wanted to get the games for the customization, and yet didn’t really take advantage of those features.  It was the other aspects that I most enjoyed.

I also finished some games that I had bought from Good Old Games.  The first was Knights of Pen and Paper, which I technically didn’t finish because of the huge leap in difficulty between normal encounters and dungeons.  But I did finish Tender Loving Care and Late Shift, two lackluster interactive-movie-style adventure games that were mildly entertaining but nothing special.

I did play some Star Wars games this year, playing The Old Republic off and on for most of the year and taking a run at Star Wars:  Rebellion to end my vacation, where I did manage to beat the Rebels and finish another run of that game.

I tried playing Persona 5 Royal, but after a delay in getting it I didn’t actually have the time in my schedule to play it.  And it’s not looking promising for this year either, at least in part because right at the buzzer of the year I started playing Dragon Age:  Origins again, on the PC with all of the DLC (picked up from GOG) with a character based on Spencer Hastings from “Pretty Little Liars”.

So I did much better with video games than I did last year, and hope that with video games still in my schedule I can do as well in 2021.

Thoughts on “Late Shift”

December 30, 2020

So, another game that I had bought from Good Old Games but had never played was “Late Shift”, a game that advertised itself as having over 180 decision points and what should have flagged itself as a warning to me that it had a whopping seven endings.  While seven endings for an interactive movie is impressive, I should have realized that that meant that a lot of those decisions would lead to the same scenes and outcome, which then meant that, in general, I could make decisions all right and things might go slightly differently, but deviating at least too much from the story seemed, at least to me through two walkthroughs, to get the DM to put you back on the rails to the next part of the story, which was pretty annoying on the second run and even did appear that way during the first run (as you end up with the criminals, for example, even if you leave).  While interactive movies, of course, can’t react to every choice, I do think many of them would be advised to take some obvious endings and let them play out as endings, especially if they wouldn’t require too many extra scenes.

That being said, perusing some of the endings in this guide suggests that some of that might happen.  I don’t think I ever came across them, though.

Anyway, one issue with interactive movies is that to do that sort of branching and then returning to the main threads you might come to those threads from widely diverging points.  Chuck Sonnenberg referenced John Rhys-Davies comments on how you have to act in Wing Commander III which had a similar structure (at around 2:40 into the introduction):  you could come to the same scene after the character was struck by another character, or just talked to, and you had to put on a performance that worked if you came from either of those two scenes.  The same thing has to happen here, as depending on what you did before you could have been co-operating with the criminals or opposing them, could have been shady or aggressive or passive, could have liked the girl or found her annoying, could have found some things out first or not discovered them yet, and so on and so forth.  I don’t feel that the game really managed to pull that off, as the seams do too often show, with some scenes seeming odd as they seem to presume that you had certain scenes first, leaving me confused and wondering why my character was talking like they were and/or acting like they were, and some scenes seeming to clearly ignore what I just did to stuff it back into the more standard narrative.

On top of that, one of the nice things about an interactive movie would be that if you can’t really impact the plot — which would always be the best things — that you can at least determine how the character you’re controlling acts or sees the world.  This is a bit hit and miss.  The first time through, I played mostly how I might want to play it … or, at least, how I thought the game was hinting at for me to play it.  The second time, I was pretty aggressive and shady.  While this did work for a lot of scenes, again at times the seams showed where it ignored what you had been trying to do in order to promote the narrative.  The main reason for this, I think, is that the main character does have a somewhat defined personality.  Unfortunately, he’s a bit of an aggressive idiot, firing off idiotic statements and swearing at people when he really should be calmer, especially in the situations he’s in.  I won’t say that his personality is necessarily unrealistic, but sometimes he’s calm and sometimes he’s a jerk and it can be jarring at times.  It also means that I don’t like him much as a character, and since the entire game is me trying to guide him towards a decent ending I probably should like him more than I do.

I looked up how to get the best ending and it’s way too convoluted for me to bother with, especially since it results in him getting the girl who herself is shady and unscrupulous and so isn’t necessarily someone it’s worth ending up with.  So I think I’ll stick with my two endings for this one and leave it alone.

Thoughts on “Tender Loving Care”

December 9, 2020

I’m going to be getting some vacation in over Christmas as usual, and in working out my schedule for that I decided that I was going to try to fit in some of the little games that I’ve been wanting to play for ages while doing so.  And then I actually had a bit of free time on the weekends — my time does free up a bit when winter comes — and didn’t feel like diving into Scholasticism, so I decided to pull one of them up and play “Tender Loving Care”, a game that I picked up from GOG during one of my game-buying spurts — which have been curtailed in favour of buying books and graphic novels and other things from Amazon — but as is usual for me never got around to playing.  So I decided to give it a try.

And … it was disappointing.

The general idea is that the game is wrapped around a framing device of a psychiatrist exploring a house and talking about events that happened there, as he is trying to figure out what actually happened there, and he addresses the player directly in an attempt to get the player to help him figure things out.  There are basically three parts to the game.  First, there’s a story part, where we see in movie form what happened in the house during that sequence.  Then, there’s a part where you explore the house (and sometimes the doctor’s office) to read things like journal entries and sometimes encounter people involved in the story.  You end that by taking a test designed to test your personal psychology — there’s an article talking about doing this through video games in the explore part — and from what I understand what you do there can impact the story parts and ultimately the ending.  The doctor is actually directly involved as the three main characters are two of his patients and a therapist he sends out to live with them in the hopes of curing one of them of her delusions.

The format reminds me a lot of that of “Catherine”, which had the same structure and the same idea that your actions in the game and in the confessional impact what happens and what ending you get.  The framing device reminds me a lot of “Silent Hill:  Shattered Memories”, with action scenes interspersed with psychological examination that can have an impact on what happens in the story/action scenes.  Unfortunately, the game suffers from the fact that it doesn’t really develop any of that properly, leaving me cold.

The first big problem is that the main characters are not very sympathetic or interesting.  I was looking to see how many chapters there were and came across someone asking the same question because they were in chapter eight and were getting sick of it.  I was pretty much in the same boat.  The three main characters are a husband, his wife (the one with the delusions) and the therapist.  But the wife is too flaky to really like and the game doesn’t set her up as being really tragic (probably because some of the endings require us to somewhat agree with her perspective).  The therapist seems overly ambitious and, at least in my play, a bit inconsistent over whether it’s professional pride, ambition or feelings for the wife that makes her want to cure her (which could be a side effect of the changes that happen because of your answers, more on that later).  The most sympathetic character is the husband and he’s kinda an idiot at times.  By the halfway point, then, I found that I didn’t actually care about any of the characters, and so didn’t care about the story.  This, then, meant that I was bored in following the story along and, ultimately, just wanted it to end.

Another issue is that the exploration parts aren’t all that interesting either.  There were a few journals and the like that were generally updated, so I spent all my time heading straight to those places and ignoring everything else.  The main reason for this was that while there weren’t a lot of places to explore — which was also one of the issues, actually — the game actually moved you through the house each time you changed rooms, which didn’t take a lot of time but was, in fact, having you stop the game to watch a progression that you would have already seen multiple times before that didn’t add anything.  That discouraged me to from looking in every room which meant that I likely missed some of the conversations from the game, but I couldn’t be bothered to seek them out.  Also, some rooms added new things in-between story sections but sometimes they didn’t.  So I didn’t want to go through all the rooms just in the hopes of finding something new, but knew that I was likely missing things by not doing that.  It would have been a good idea to flag the new things in each room so that at least the player would know if there was something new to look at, while still making it so that if they didn’t care about them they could just jump to the test and skip it all anyway.

Now, another issue here is with the idea of the game itself and how it gets developed.  There are generally two things that that sort of test mechanism is used for.  The first is to change things in the game as you go along.  The issue with this, of course, is that players won’t notice the differences the first time through, so either you need to make the game very replayable or you need to make the differences less story-oriented and more player-oriented, meaning that you use the tests and reactions to make the game work the way the player wants it to or thinks it should work out.  This is how Akiba’s Trip tends to use its responses, to guide you towards a relationship with the character that you most like.  In this game, though, that doesn’t seem to be the case.  Perhaps the therapist was more hostile because I thought she was more shady, but I only thought that because of the things the game had her do, so it isn’t clear how much variance there is, nor did it seem to make any large difference in how things work out other than perhaps in the ending, and I got the standard ending and so have no idea how to change things.  So it doesn’t seem to or be able to personalize the story enough to make that work out.

The other thing that the test could do is set-up for a twist.  This is what “Shattered Memories” does, setting the test up as being one thing and then at the end pulling the rug out from under the player to have it really mean something else.  The set-up with the doctor is a perfect set-up for this, and I thought for the entire game that at the end the player was going to be revealed as a patient — given the notes throughout the game after the tests, that pretty much would have to be the case — and in thinking about it it would make perfect sense to use the test results to align the player with a specific character based on who they react most favourably to and what personality traits most align with which of the characters.  They could even have included the doctor and have one ending with a twist where the doctor was going through an internal therapy session to resolve his own issues with what happened and his role in it.  So throughout the entire game, I was expected there to be some kind of twist and some resolution to the tests and the framing device of talking to the doctor after every story session.

However, at least in my play, the game made the brave choice to … completely drop the framing device at the end of the game.  You get to see the ending to the story section and then it fades to the credits.  I watched the rest of the endings and none of them reference the framing device and story sections at all.  And there is no way to even get a summary profile of all of the results of all of the tests you take, as far as I could tell.  So ultimately other than perhaps impacting the ending you get those sections are meaningless, but they are both too prominent to just drop out at the end and are, in fact, more interesting than the story sections and so it left a bad taste in my mouth that they were simply dropped at the end.  They were a significant part of the game but are not even referenced at the end of the game.  The big lesson here is that if you include a framing device, you need to resolve the frame at the end of the work.

The game is also a more “adult” game, which means that it includes nudity and sex scenes.  The problem is that for the most part the sex scenes and nudity seem to be more there to be there rather than to really further the story.  Yes, the story provides reasons to show or have the sex scenes, but there were probably more interesting interactions that could have been explored.  So it really strikes me as a game and story that is far too excited to be able to put sex scenes in rather than taking the time to make sure it uses them to make the story better and take advantage of them.

I didn’t really care for the game.  The player does way too little to justify the long story sections and it isn’t clear what impact their choices in the tests has on the overall game.  That two-thirds of the elements of the game get dropped at the ending doesn’t make things any better, especially since it left in the element that I liked the least.  I doubt I’ll replay this game.

Most Personally Memorable/Favourite Games (Honourable Mentions)

November 25, 2020

I could just add all the games that I dropped from the list to make room for other games … but I won’t, because most of them wouldn’t really fit here, as the games here tend to be games that could have made the list but had some kind of flaw that kept them off.

Star Trek:  Birth of the Federation:

This is the Star Trek semi-reply to Star Wars:  Rebellion, but while it provides more details on the planets it loses the characters which are what made Rebellion so good.  It’s an obvious thing to do but it — and the franchise, as far as I can tell — never really took advantage of that.  Still, it’s pretty fun to play and its space combat is more interesting — and faster — than Rebellion’s.  It’s just not quite as good as it could be.

Afterlife:

I love the concept and the advisors.  But outside of that it’s a fairly standard strategy game, and one that I’m not particularly good at.

Archon:

I really like the concept of the game — playing chess and fighting over every square — but I can’t play it anymore and even then I could outplay the computer most of the time.

Space 1889:

I really liked the concept of building characters with traits that gave then virtues and vices, but I never managed to get very far in the game.  I’d play it again or the Pen and Paper version if I could find it, but it’s mostly memorable for that element and the Victorian setting than for how much I loved to play it.

Akiba’s Trip:

It actually gives you the ability to determine your own attitude to a degree that most games don’t allow.  However, beyond that it’s still a fairly shallow RPG.

Conception II:

Probably one of the best attempts at a Persona-style game, but it is a bit shallow and the combat is both too shallow and boring and, because of that, a bit too hard and too grindy.

Most Personally Memorable/Favourite Games(1 – 10)

November 18, 2020

10:  City of Heroes

This is the best MMORPG that I’ve ever played, or at least the MMORPG that I liked the best.  As I noted when I talked about Saint’s Row IV, superhero games are my kind of game, and City of Heroes was pretty much the best superhero game period that I’ve played.  While games like X-Men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance were fun, they didn’t have the personalization that I like in my games in general.  City of Heroes had it in spades.  A wide range of costume options let you create pretty much any character you wanted, and the classes and powersets were distinct enough that unlike most MMORPGs you could pick up a different class and powerset and feel like you were playing with a different character (this is why I never got into World of Warcraft past a free demo, as when I switched from my Undead Warlock to my Dwarf Paladin it really seemed like I was doing the same things in terms of gameplay and quests, which City of Heroes never felt like).  I tried out DC Universe Online, and while one of the travel powers was fun — the one where you basically climbed over things in the city — it was a bit too chaotic for me in general.  And I never tried Champions Online but from Shamus Young’s description of it  I wouldn’t care much for it either.

I keep hearing about official and unofficial attempts to reboot it, but unfortunately I don’t really have the time to keep up with them and track down the ones that are working and are reasonable legit.  Of all the MMOs I’ve liked, this is the one that died the earliest, and while I was still playing it.

9:  Star Wars:  Rebellion

This is a video game that I liked so much, I bought the board game.  As well as the remake, “Empire At War”.  But neither of them are the same as the original video game.  The game managed to capture the addictive nature of real-time and turn-based strategy games — you were always waiting for something to finish or happen so that you could implement the next step in your plan — while managing to capture the Star Wars universe better than any other game I’ve played — and I’ve played a lot of them — by making individual characters instead of units important resources.  It takes a slate of characters from the movies and expanded universe and gives you the ability to use them to command your fleets, sway planets to your side, research new ships and new ship classes, spy on your enemy, prevent enemy actions against you, and even perform specific missions to capture or kill enemy characters and destroy enemy facilities and ships.  You can even — although I’ve never tried it — sabotage and blow up the Death Star that way.  It had a number of events from the movies, and characters could even be trained in the Force which made them even more useful.  About its only weakness is that it didn’t go all in on the events and make special events a fairly constant part of the game.  Still, the characters matter and are familiar enough that you can feel for them and be happy for their successes.  Missions, then, are not “My spy gave me information about that planet” but are instead “Lando gave me information about that planet”, which makes it at least feel like more than a typical game with Star Wars skins (like, say, Galactic Battlegrounds).  That’s what makes it (almost) my favourite Star Wars game.

8:  Wing Commander IV:  The Price of Freedom

The flight simulator gameplay is good, but to be honest there are better flight sims out there (X-Wing Alliance, for example).  But this game wins out for me and even wins out over the other Wing Commander games because of its story.  Taking place after the Kilrathi war, it explores what attitude changes might come from a war that the humans almost lost and marries that to a story of an old hero who returns to the cockpit and steps into this huge mess.  It has betrayals, shifting loyalties, conspiracies, and all sorts of things like that.  And the best part about it is that it ends not in the cockpit, but in the Senate Hall.  You have to convince them that there is a conspiracy and that the man they trust is behind it.  If you select the wrong options, you can indeed lose the game at this point.  That’s a brave move and perhaps is the best example of marrying the flight sim component with the interactive movie elements that later Wing Commander games are known for.

7:  Romance of the Three Kingdoms VIII

This is a strategy RPG where you can create your own character and wander the land until you join a city, and then you get to manage the city, do things, and fight battles.  My best moment was definitely when I created a character that was the son of a character that I had played as, and joined a city that then asked me to essentially betray him — he was in command of a rival city — to gain control of the city.  I ended up refusing to do so and quit their city, but what was interesting about it was that this followed not from scripted events, but just from a series of semi-random events and the overall rules of the world.  In general, that’s what the game really had for me:  an open-world that nevertheless wasn’t too open, and so where I could easily have goals and yet where goals and attitudes and events could follow from what the world provided.  So I was neither imposing a story on the world nor having the world impose a story on me, and that didn’t leave the game goal or purposeless.  The world provided the opportunity for goals and purpose and I chose the goal and purpose I wanted to pursue.  I don’t play it much anymore, but it’s still a great game and has left me with a soft spot for the series (I recently bought XIV while browsing in a store just because I remembered this game).

6:  Hardball 5

This is the only sports game to make the list, and it’s a pretty old one besides.  I think it was missing a lot of features that would be necessary in a sports game for me today — for example, I don’t think it had a proper season format — but it had the one quality that really defined for me what I like in sports games:  when I created my own personalized team and played on the default difficulty, I won pretty much every game, but it was close.  I have never been able to recapture that with any other sports game I’ve played, as it’s either been too easy or far too hard depending on what difficulty I set the game at.  And for some, just moving up to the next highest difficulty moved it from a cakewalk to a game where I was losing pretty much every game.  I know this game wasn’t trying to hit my sweet spot for games, but it managed it nonetheless.

5:  Persona 5

This is the game that everyone knew had to make the list.  After all, this is the game that I compared to Dragon Age:  Inquisition and stated that after finishing it the first time I immediately wanted to replay it, while having no interest in replaying DAI.  But, no, it’s not my favourite Persona game.  I don’t like the characters as much as I like the ones in the other games (although I like Makoto and Futaba is a generally more interesting character than most in the other games).  It feels overstuffed with activities, so I never really felt that I could give them the focus that I wanted to give them.  The new emphasis on solving dungeon puzzles could be annoying when all I wanted to do was get through the dungeon and get back to the Social Links.  For the most part, I really feel like it added too much and became kinda cluttered, especially since it dragged the time to play it out to about 80 hours, which discourages replays.  The fact that I have played it three times and intend to play Royal a couple more times, though, is a testament to how good the game is.

4:  Knights of the Old Republic

This is the first Star Wars RPG, and the best.  It combines the interesting things of the Pen and Paper experiences with what computer RPGs were able to do to give a pretty good Star Wars experience.  Starting in the Old Republic era let them reference things we saw in the movies without worrying about whether they were contradicting anything in them, and gave them the ability to carve out their own story with whatever consequences they wanted it to have, knowing that it would all be swept away by the time we reached the era of A New Hope.  The characters are interesting.  The planets work.  The story works.  It’s really the ideal mix of fanservice and new story that makes it a great Star Wars game.  I replayed it myself not too long ago, and did enjoy my time with it.

3:  Suikoden III

This was the game that started my love of JRPGs.  I loved it from it’s incredibly evocative introduction:

I still listen to that intro every so often.

In addition to that, it had a unique Tri-View system where you could view the same story from the perspective of each of the three main characters for the first part of the game, as well as some other minor characters (and one joke character in the dog).  The first part meant that your view of the story could change depending on which order you watched the story in.  It also gave you time to get to know each of them, which was important because at about the half-way point you ended up having to choose one to become the main character.  On top of that, the game had over 100 other characters to recruit and get to know.  And it had a deep, JRPG-style story, and a bunch of other things to do.  This is the best Suikoden game I’ve played, and I’ve played a number of them.

2:  Persona 4

The Persona series is my favourite game series of all-time.  I like Persona 4’s ease of dungeons better than Persona 3, but like the characters and story a bit less than I like Persona 3.  However, this is the series that at least originally got most of the spinoffs, and so the characters are the ones that are most familiar to me.  I can’t really say more about the series except that I love the S-links, love the humour and find the tactical combat interesting even when it’s on easy mode.

1:  Persona 3

About all I can say here is the story about how I came to stop worrying and love this game and this series.  I remember buying it at one point in the summer, and as sometimes happened with me I didn’t have the time to play it and so it sat I think in a closet for a while.  Then I ended up having a much longer Christmas vacation than normal and came across it, and decided to give it a try.  I loved the game, and ended up one time staying up until 5 am in the morning because I thought that I was almost done with the game (I wasn’t, as it was the fake ending).  And then when I finished the game I did something that I never, ever do with games (or almost anything):  I started playing the game over again immediately.  This started my love affair with the series and pretty much settled the way I play these games.  I have easily put thousands of hours into the Persona series — definitely over 1000 hours — making it also the most cost-effective series I’ve ever played.

So, that’s the list.  Next week are the honourable mentions and then that will do it.

 

Most Personally Memorable/Favourite Games (11 – 20)

November 11, 2020

20:  Disciples 2

This is one of my favourite strategy games.  I’ve actually played some of the campaign but I actually really love to play, as usual for me, a four player hotseat game.  I’ve even managed to actually completely win a couple of times by capturing the capital cities, despite them being guarded by a hugely overwhelming final guardian that you can’t target with magic and that heals up really quickly each round.

My favourite faction to play is the undead, mostly because they have two types of really powerful units.  One type can lock down enemies with paralyzing abilities, and the other are werewolves that are immune to physical attacks.  Take the paralyzing leader with werewolf protection and you can win pretty much any fight as long as they don’t have too many characters that can fight with magic.  The other factions still have some good units, but nothing as good as this, so the undead seem pretty overpowered in that regard.

The biggest issue I have with this game is that the multiplayer maps, at least, are static, and so once you explore the dungeons and kill all the NPC parties, there’s no way to get more XP.  This means that in a multiplayer game once that happens if you lose your most powerful party anything you recruit will just get curbstomped by your enemies, unless you use a lot of magic to kill them off.  This makes the endgame pretty boring and very dependent on the outcome of one or two battles.  But other than that, the game is really, really fun.

19:  Defender of the Crown

I played this original on the Commodore 64, and it was one of if not my first strategy/RPG hybrid game.  And like Aliens and Pirates!, one of the best things about it is that it combines multiple gameplay elements into one game.  You had the strategy map where you had to determine what territories to attack, and then a combat element where you found out what happened when you attacked another army (to be fair, I don’t think there’s much if any actual gameplay there other than retreating).  If you attacked an area with castle, you had the siege gameplay where you were in control of a catapult and needed to make it so that you could attack it (and also to kill some defenders before doing so).  You also had the swordfights, used to raid opponents or rescue a princess for a bride (my version was broken so that doing so would crash the game).  You also had the jousting, which you  could use for game or to gain territory.  I was ultimately really good at all parts of the game and so could pretty much do all of it.

But what was also great about it is that while it didn’t let you build your own character, you got to choose from three characters, each of which were skilled in different ways.  Not only did this allow you to in some sense select your own difficulty level, it also allowed you to feel a personal connection to your character since they were unique.  So it was also a bit more personal than games like Aliens and even Pirates!

The combination of all of these is what made this one of my favourite games ever.  I do have the game from GOG and … have not had the time to play it yet.

18.  Dark Age of Camelot

For about as long as I can remember, I’ve been a huge fan of King Arthur.  The mythical realm that I probably like second best is Norse mythology.  And I have some interest in Celtic myth as well.  So the combination of all three in this game is pretty much tailor-made for me.  And at least when I was playing it, the realms were interestingly divided and had an interesting division of classes that fit well into the various myths.  So, essentially, when I was playing the game I was paying to spend time in some of my favourite mythologies, which is what really made the realms special.  This game was the game that first got me interested in MMORPGs, and for pretty much the only reason I play MMORPGs when, really, I don’t want to associate with people online very much and prefer soloing:  I want to play in that realm and can’t get that in a single player game.

The big problem with this MMORPG for me at the time, though, was that it was a little difficult to solo, mostly because you gained most of your XP through fighting and killing things, which is also always the least interesting part of any MMORPG for me.  So while it’s still running, I kinda drifted away from it to other MMORPGs that have more story to them and less strict combat.  It might be better now, but I don’t have the time to try it out again.

17:  Sentinel Worlds:  Future Magic I

This is far more of a pure RPG, and one of the first sci-fi RPGs I’ve ever played.  And it was really cool.  You started out having to fly your ship around and engage in combat, which is something that you had to do at multiple points in the game.  Then you had to explore ground-based planets and bases and even engage in conversation.  And you could completely customize your starting characters, so again I built it around my friends from high school.  So this game, essentially, hit all of my buttons.

I picked it up for an emulator, I think, and tried playing it, but had forgotten that you don’t actually get to select a class for each character, but instead create a character for each class, which I was ready to do.  I really should try to play this again sometime but — and this is becoming a pattern — I just don’t have the time.

16:  X-Men Legends:  Rise of Apocalypse

This is the sequel to X-Men:  Legends, and is where the gameplay really starts to come together.  It combines the X-Men and the Brotherhood allowing for more combinations of characters, improves the graphics, improves the gameplay, adds some other characters like Deadpool, and builds on a more interesting story in the “Age of Apocalypse” storyline.  All of this together makes it a more interesting game to play, which is why it comes in higher than the first game.  Especially because it has Deadpool in it.

15:  Persona 4 Arena

Persona 4 spawned a host of games, across a number of different genres.  While you can argue — and I probably would — that Persona 3 or Persona 5 are overall better games, this seems to be the one that either broke through gaming consciousness or else is the one that finally made Team Persona realize the franchise had legs.  At any rate, this is the Visual Novel/Fighting Game combo in the vein of — and done in association with — the guys who made the Blazblue games.  And that’s really why it works.

The game combines Persona’s incredible storytelling with Blazblue’s combat and room to have incredible stories.  As someone who doesn’t play fighting games for the fighting but mostly for the story, that made it actually work for me.  The fighting, especially on easy, was simple enough that I could get through it to enjoy the story and the story was fun enough to keep me interested in the game so that I could get past the fighting.  I did pretty much all of the paths — even the joke ones — and did enjoy it.  I think it took me a couple of days when I was on Christmas vacation to it.  And it has a really long VN section that nevertheless keeps you interested and builds to an amazing emotional climax.

I may never play the game in its entirety again, but I certainly don’t regret that I played the game.

14:  Knights of the Old Republic 2:  Sith Lords

As you might expect when talking about a favourite game that I like less than other games in the series, most of what I have to say about this game is actually negative, outlining why I don’t like it as much.  And I can summarize that for this game with this:  the game tried to be too cute.  It was famously unfinished, but there are a number of things added to it that it didn’t really need and might have been able to be cut to finish some other things.  It tried really hard to deconstruct some Star Wars/RPG themes and while sometimes that was interesting, often it didn’t really work.  Being able to turn all of your companions to Jedi was interesting but again probably wasn’t necessary (and involved level-watching to pull off).  The lightsaber forms were interesting but again not necessary.  The Jedi Prestige classes were, again, interesting but again not really necessary.  There’s a lot of things they tried to do but all they did was make things more complicated, and not all that much more interesting.

Also, I hated Kreia as a character and the game kept trying to push her on me as some kind of mentor figure.  None of my characters were ones that would actually listen to her.  My good characters found her too ruthless and uncaring.  My Enlightened Egoist evil characters found her too simplistic in her push for “neutrality”.  My thug evil characters hated her trying to spoil their fun.  None of my characters would ever take her with them off the ship and would want to get rid of her at the first opportunity.  That probably isn’t what they wanted.

Still, for all its flaws, it’s still a KotOR game, and has all the things that made that game interesting.  I tried to replay it recently, though, from a GOG version and got bored at the first space station (after the intro) and so that’s a pretty good reason to think it not as good as the original.

13:  Dragon Age Origins

This game didn’t make the list last time.  And, truthfully, I hadn’t finished it at that point, which is a pretty big part of the reason why it didn’t make the list last time and this time it ended up pretty high on the list.

The biggest benefit this game has is one that doesn’t appear in pretty much any of the other Bioware games:  the detailed and separate origin stories.  You get to choose what your race is, and from that you generally can choose an origin — like Human or Dwarf Noble or City or Dalish Elf — that changes where you start and, essentially, how you come to join the Wardens.  That ability to change your origin gives the game some replay value (I’ve played a mage, City Elf, Dalish Elf, and Dwarf Noble and think I’ve finished the game with each.  I might be mistaken about mage).  But that’s not really what makes the origins so special.

What makes them so special is that the world reacts to them.  You end up having to go to pretty much all of the places that had an origin and choosing a specific origin changes how people react to you.  It’s more than the — admittedly often impactful — feeling that you’ve come home.  No, the characters there react to your origin, being more friendly or often less friendly to you because of it.  But that’s not all.  You often run into characters from the origins in different parts of the world.  Jowan, for example, appears in the mage origin story and plays an important role in the overall plot.  The Dwarven Noble can meet his retainer in the main city and buy things from him at a reduced price.  So not only do you get big things, but little things as well.

Truthfully, it’s the little things that make Dragon Age Origins so good.  Yes, you get to see what impact your choices had on everyone and on the army you make, but those little moments from the origins and the little impacts from even the small quests are what make it feel like a world and not just a game.  This even carries on with companion affection and even when they might leave you.  The events seem to follow naturally from what you’ve done, and aren’t presented as gotchas or as simple failures.  So with its replay value and with those little moments, it’s one of my favourite games.

But I still don’t care for the gameplay that much.  Dragon Age 2’s gameplay, as a rogue, is so much more fun.

12:  Shadow Hearts

The original game with Yuri Hyuga, and the one that really sets the tone for the series, continuing on with Shadow Hearts Covenant.  It also introduced the unique Ring system where instead of just selecting an action and letting statistics decide what happens you instead have the additional step of having to hit sections of a ring to decide if it even has a chance of hitting.  While this sounds like it would be really, really annoying, it actually works well to give you something to do other than to just select an attack, and it throws you a bone by making it so that if you can hit the critical sections you get a bonus to your action, which gives you a reason to try to master the system instead of just playing it safe.  This also allows for the game to add ring statuses which can make things harder or easier for you, adding a new set of problems that you might want to solve, and a new set of items that can deal with just those sorts of problems.

I also like the characters better in the Shadow Hearts than in Covenant.  Outside of Yuri and Karin, the characters in Covenant are much goofier than they were in Shadow Hearts, while still allowing plenty of room for humour.  I like the more serious but still funny characters better than the ones that are just plain goofy.  In fact, the worlds are pretty much that way:  Covenant is more goofy while Shadow Hearts is more serious but still funny.  Ultimately, I think From the New World failed to grab me because it went even further down the goofy route which left me no characters to relate to.

Overall, Shadow Hearts was one of the first RPGs I managed to finish and was well worth the effort.

11:  Fatal Frame

This is another early game that I miraculously managed to finish.  It’s also the game that first got me interested in survival horror but the only survival horror game that actually grabbed me.  The claustrophobic atmosphere of the mansion is lost in Fatal Frame 2, and so it loses some of the fear that the first game managed to inspire.  But the big thing that made the game scary was the sound.  At various times the game used music (subtle) and other noises to provide a background creepiness that it was difficult to describe.  As you walked around the mansion, the various noises kept up that undertone of fear, even when nothing was happening.

This game also used a unique mechanism that helped with the fear, by taking away the myriad weapons that most survival horror games give you and replacing them with … a camera.  While that was certainly novel, it was also interesting because it meant that you had to drop into first-person mode to try to attack.  This forced you to hold ghosts in your viewfinder longer for stronger attacks, but also caused a feeling of panic when they jigged out of your sights and you had to desperately figure out where they went, often having to put the camera down and return to third-person view to figure it out.  This made things more scary and also a bit more skilled.