The latest issue of Disposable Media is out now, and if you want more of your favourite ‘zine you can start to prepare yourselves for a move webwards: this lowly Blogger thing is just the beginning…
qazimod: is looking forward to HL2 Ep.2: Orange Box, Fatal Inertia and possibly Bioshock. Hopefully I’ll badger the other staffers to add to this; stay tuned…
EDIT: and this.
Badger: I’ll admit I’ve been rushing around this week, and barely able to filter through the noise of E3. But PGR4 with bikes? Yowsah! Me want, now….
It’s a testament to the maturity and sophistication of games that there are so many new ways of delivering a genre, and each attempt might strive for it’s own “personality” so that it doesn’t get dismissed as a rip-off. Personality? Project Gotham might be the street-smart show-off who you beg to be admired by just because he’s so damned flashy, and Ridge 6 might be the shallow but entertaining breakdancer who doesn’t care about how sophisticated he looks but simply wants to impress you with his moves. However, just as you finish high-fiving the kids and make your way home, you get smacked down by a gentleman wearing a sharp suit and a disapproving glare. Forza 2‘s approach isn’t radically new, but to someone who hasn’t played a racer with such heavy simulation pretensions for a while, it’s quite a shock to the system.
I know Badger’s already written about the game here, but as a newcomer to both the game and the series, I thought people might like a second opinion. Forza 2 isn’t an example of a deliberately difficult game, despite the opening paragraph’s inclination. The difficulty is the same sort of difficulty that came from being force-fed Ridge Racer sequels on OPM demo discs and then being introduced to Turismo: it’s difficult through unfamiliarity. Once you accept that sim games require a different way of thinking, Forza 2 can become quite satisfying. Again with the GT comparisons, this is a game that isn’t really concerned with the thrill of skilled racing, but is more interested in demonstrating the way in which skilled driving can yield it’s own rewards. The racing line is one of the major contributing factors to the feeling that this game is disciplining you in the ways of its ruleset: how the physics, handling, geometry et al interact and how they must be used to your advantage.
Despite many penalties and a few frustrating races, I’m enjoying the racing, even moreso than the design. I’ve barely scratched the surface, having just got the “All Gold (Proving Grounds)” achievement, but I don’t doubt I’ll be back for more…glutton for punishment that I am.
Having just completed it this evening, I thought it’d be a good idea to post some immediate impressions about the game. I admit that I was a bit cautious when I bought the game as I can’t stand J-RPGs. Correction; I honestly try really hard to like J-RPGs, but I am embarrassingly crap at them when I commence play, and this is nearly always down to the fact that I’m not tactically-minded enough to be any good at the battles. Christ, the first time I completed Final Fantasy VII it was largely down to frequent saving and the whoring of Cait Sith’s “Game Over” limit, and as much as I try to love Chrono Trigger I nearly always reach a sticking point at a boss because I haven’t levelled enough.
And that, right there, is where most RPGs fail me, and where Chocobo Tales has succeeded. You see, the thing about an RPG such as Final Fantasy VII is that behind each boss encounter (or just a new, harder enemy) is an assumption, made by the game, that you are at a high-enough level to defeat it. The thing is, if you’re impatient like me and don’t have time for grinding, or poking in holes for secrets, you won’t be half as developed as you need to be…and so it stops being fun. So how is Chocobo Tales different?
The answer is within the cards. As you progress, exploring hidden areas, completing minigames and talking to people, you earn cards that represent attacks and spells that can be used in battle. The properties of each card determine it’s effect in battle; some cards freeze an opponent, some heal you, some do straightforward attacks, etc. Your opponent has cards of it’s own, however, and so each battle is an unashamed rock-paper-scissors battle, albeit one with many elements and variables. Succeed and the story develops, fail and you get kicked out and have the chance to try again (a welcome feature for a handheld game; no-one wants to die and then have to go through tedious plot exposition they’ve already seen before getting back to the battle.)
The set-in-stone properties of the cards, combined with the quick restarts, means that you can endlessly retry a battle, experimenting with different hands and decks so as to see how much success you have, and how your opponent’s attacks are affecting your revised hand. For once, it’s a game where accumulation of power and experience means nothing, and resourcefulness with the tools you have is the key to victory. Sure, you still have to accumulate these cards somehow, but this just means participating in minigames and doing a little bit of exploration: no bad thing. Let me stress again though; this is the first time in an RPG where I’ve actually looked forward to the battles, where I’ve been eager to go and get obliterated by an enemy and then, fresh with the knowledge of their hand and attacks, set up an effective counter-offensive, and a plan that actually works. Despite the dodgy dialogue and occasional ill-devised minigame, I think that if more RPGs took an approach to combat that revolved around resourcefulness and experimentation rather than grinding away, or second-guessing an opponent’s strengths, I might learn to love the genre a little more.
Why? Answer me that. It was a question that popped into my head about five minutes before I sat down to start writing this waste of your time and mine. Over sixteen of my years have been spent chasing the dream, and now that I’m living it, what’s left?
Let me explain. In late 1990 I was introduced to the world of gaming journalism thanks to Commodore Format. Even today it remains a wonderful example of informative, entertaining and unique writing, but back then I adored the deconstruction of every great game, every rubbish one. Little wonder that one of my ill-fated dreams would be to follow in the footsteps of my idols and write something that the world is able to see.
Twelve years later, I wrote my first review for a web site, and I enjoyed every moment of doing so. I was critiquing what was at the time one of my favouritest games ever and so I poured my heart into detailing what was so brilliant about it, because I wanted the world to know about how good this title was. In hindsight, my views were somewhat shallow and short-sighted, but that’s not the point; the point is that I was taking full advantage of the web’s ability to get one man’s voice out to the world.
But what next? Well, eventually I would write for my first webzine, and again I delighted in telling everybody about how good game x or game y was. But there was something more: as the reserve of favourite games got shallower, I was forced to look at games I had missed out on in the past (it was an 8-bit retro ‘zine and so I had plenty of downloadable games and emulators at my disposal.) I saw this as a new opportunity for myself: an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of a history, and experience the best and worst games; the famous names and the overlooked gems. It was a fascinating time…eventually I had documented my thoughts on a little slice of gaming’s past – or rather, the slice I was most interested in.
I’ve offered to help out many other sites between then and now. I know how easy it is to get your opinion online. I know that the web has enabled me to live the dream. And yet, whilst it’s all been good fun, this evening one thought made me question my motives thus far: “I’m here, now what?” You see, the dream has now been lived. What’s left? Am I just going through the motions; is the hobby becoming a job? I think a bit of self-discovery’s in order; to find out why I love writing about gaming, surely I must consider why gaming is worth writing about. Sure, that opens the whole “why play?” can of worms, but thinking about it, that’s a can I’ve always been tempted by…
Inspired by Qaz’s Dreamcast post…
It’s definitely a possibility. After all, there are new Neo Geo games released to this day, alongside the occasional Dreamcast shooter, and even Vectrex multi-game compilations. If the machine and code etc are released to homebrew developers, and there’s a big enough market, games will always be made.
The only flaw is the increasing number of retro games available on next-gen machines. Certainly my own retro collection gets less attention now I can have a blast of Jet Pac or Defender on the Xbox 360, rather than having to dig out the Spectrum.
But I agree that the name and image of a console has a lot to do with the level of fandom. Sega was the cooler, more edgy and more adult brand, when just up against Nintendo. Until Sony joined. But Sony became too mainstream, and Microsoft became seen as the hardcore console for those with broadband.
And like all the greatest icons (James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain), Sega’s hardware arm died young, and left a beautiful corpse (If a little mangled by the 32X, Mega CD debacles). It would be interesting to know how many people would actively seek out a Sega branded console if one appeared now, let alone one produced by a third party…
Having persevered through the crashing and dropping out, I’m a little underwhelmed by Halo 3 in multiplayer.
The weapons are OK, although the Spartan Laser is useless in my hands. As is the Missile Pod. But I’m a bit fan of the Battle Rifle, and the new Mongoose quad.
But until I see single player, the jury is out. Things feel OK in multiplayer, but they always did. And already the same old faces are grouping together in lobbies, both to hang out, and avoid any spawn killers, high-pitched kids, or trash-talkers (Mainly, but not exclusively American still).
I realise they couldn’t redesign the golden calf with hands and opposable thumbs, but the biggest change appears to be the fact you can’t chat to your friends in game, because every time you try and press the D-Pad to communicate, you get shot. So if you like sniping out from the distance, or you’re the VIP in ‘Protect the VIP’, then you spend 5-10 minutes at on your own.
On the bright side, I’ve managed to get another 50 Orbs in Crackdown, and killed some mroe bosses.
Halo 3 nonchalance: part two
There’s nothing better than getting to play Halo 3 a day late.
At least I’d imagine that’s the case. Unfortunately, having other commitments, I’d arranged for last night to be clear to indulge myself in gaming.
Now that I can finally download the thing, I’ve got so much stuff to do, it’ll be June before I get a spare night.
*insert swear word of your choice here*