Wednesday, September 10, 2008
We've got much more in store, provided we can stop playing Castle Crashers and make it, so stay tuned!
Okami is a sweet game.
I'm slowly crossing names off of a huge list of backlog games that I never played but really should have. Great (or so I've heard) games that somehow slipped past me, like Shadow of the Colossus and Psychonauts, populate this list. Two games, Okami and Resident Evil 4, managed to make it all the way to the Wii before I got my hands on them. I experienced both of these games for the first time on Nintendo's little three-lettered wonderbox.
Now RE4 was a total dream. The Wii controls worked beautifully. I was so impressed with the controls alone that I was somewhat dissapointed to hear RE5 would not make it to the Wii (though all that disappointment went straight out the window once I saw some goddamn gorgeous gameplay footage). I can live with analog control, but it just felt so right on the Wii.
Okami, on the other hand, is a bit of a mess. The game itself is spectacular, from the graphics to the gameplay mechanics. The execution of said mechanics, though, is where it all falls apart. The Wii Remote works great when you need to aim fast but not necessarily accurately, which is why it works so well in RE4 (and also why the sniper rifle in that game is aimed with the stick). I've spent way too much time in Okami learning, the hard way, that it's damn near fucking impossible to draw a perfect circle or even a straight line with the remote. And there are a lot of perfect circles to be drawn.
Regardless, I'm having a great time with the game. I'm not sure if they added anything to the Wii version besides waggle, but I'm thinking I ought to pick up the PS2 version. The game should work well with motion controls, but in this case they were too strictly implemented.
It was awesome.
I was only there on Saturday, so I didn't spend much time playing games, as I didn't want waiting in line to be the mainstay of my time there. I spent the majority of my day basically walking in circles, taking in new sights with every pass. There were plenty of excellent looking games; Gears of War 2, Legendary, and Rock Band 2 all look like quality business. The drum set for Guitar Hero World Tour looked impressive, but not impressive enough to make me care. Rock Band 2 has Journey, jerks!
I noticed a good deal of cosplayers at the expo. I think it's pretty cool, some people obviously put a good deal of effort into their costumes, but it's definitely something I'll always be only an audience to, outside of Halloween. I did get my picture taken with a guy dressed up as Waldo (of Where's Waldo? fame,) and true to form, I actually had to find him about three times during the day before I could get up and get the picture. He was a good Waldo. If you were there and standing outside, you probably saw a couple dressed up as The Boss and Snake from MGS3, and again true to form, the guy dressed up as Snake spent most his time out front because he was almost constantly smoking a big 'ol cigar.
I got to the convention around 1PM, kind of late. I didn't end up with too much time for exploration before it was time to head over to the Mega 64 "Panel at the Expo!" A live Q & A session with these guys is always a good deal, because essentially improv is what they do for a living. Even the troubles they had with audio sync and lighting during the screening didn't detract from their quality.
In fact, my only complaint with the entire day was that the expo hall closed before I had a chance to fully experience its grandeur. If I'd had the time I would have taken a trip to the Brothers in Arms booth, where they would give you a voucher for a free copy of the upcoming Hell's Highway if you let them shave your head. I figured, a free haircut and a free game?! But it looks like I'll be paying for both haircuts and games, at least until next year's PAX. We'll see what happens.
At the end of the night Boox and I met up to attend the concert, which was an absolute blast. It all began with Tycho, Gabe, his wife Kara, and (I think?) Robert Khoo playing a round of Rock Band 2 with in game avatars that were excellent recreations of their Penny Arcade counterparts, and to top it all off, they played Journey's Any Way You Want It complete with Steve Perry fun fact during the loading screen. After them was the Rock Band round of the Omegathon, the main competition that spanned all three days of the event. I didn't end up paying it much attention, since I was only there for the day and wouldn't see the culmination of the event at the end of Sunday.
The opening band was a group of kids called Anamanaguchi. They played really solid instrumental math rock of a NES modified to play custom chiptunes. They also have a song in some iteration of Guitar Hero, which was played in sync with them during their set, as well as a couple others which were played with Audiosurf, the one game I wish I would have waited in line to try.
Following them was a total nerdgasm in the form of The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets. The Thickets are a group of high-class gents from British Columbia who play rock music based on the tales of H.P. Lovecraft. They're a band I've been listening to and dying to see for nigh-on ten years now, so their set was a god damned dream come true.
Before their set I was waiting up front, stage left, when up walks none other than motherfucking Jerry "Tycho" Holkins, co-creator of the whole event and ambassador to nerds worldwide. I was starstruck at first, but I pulled my balls out of my purse and manned up to talking to the man. I asked him about the Thickets, how he found out about them and got them into the bill. I was surprised not only by how down to Earth he was, but also by how he was even more enthusiastic than I about being moments from seeing the Thickets. Tycho was extremely cool, he even ran backstage so he could take a picture of their setlist and show me just how awesome things were about to get in the Washington State Convention Center. He even stayed and rocked out with us during half their set, shooting delighted glances of approval back to me at the beginning of every song.
The Thickets stole the show for me, hands down. They emerged upon the stage, all in wild costume, feeding upon the energy of the crowd like sweet, sweet nectar. I was impressed by the number of people I saw in the crowd who, just like me, were singing along to all the words of even the Great and Oldest of the Ones the Thickets had to offer.
Headlining the show was MC Frontalot, but honestly, I was completely drained by that point from the other bands and lugging my laptop around all day. I took a seat in an open area in front of one of the big screens and relaxed while I watched Front do what he does best. The man has stage presence, there's no denying that. I wish I'd had the energy left to get up front and dance, but it just wasn't happening. Boox and I ended up laid out just watching the set on the screen and actually left before The Minibosses came on.
You are awesome, this is true, but it was already 1 AM at that point and we had to get home to recharge.
In all, my day at the expo was literally the best day I've had this year. I got to meet a number of people whose work I respect and admire, I got to see a great concert, and most of all, I had a shitload of fun. If you couldn't go this year, I'm sorry for you. Go next year. Don't question, just do it. I'll definitely be pre-registering for three days next year. And if you just didn't go?
You are dumb.
I downloaded a free game for it called Aurora Feint: The Beginning, and it's addictive. It's basically Tetris Attack meets RPG meets awesomeness. Kind of Puzzle Quest-ish. And apparently an update in the future will implement MMORPG elements. Though I've managed to avoid MMO's for the most part, I certainly understand the allure. MMORPG's, as I see it, are like tobacco products; you can quit them for a while, but you always keep coming back, even if they're not as great as you remember them being. You just need that fix, even if it's nothing more than mindless grinding or loot collecting.
And Tetris Attack, as I've mentioned before, is the crack cocaine of puzzle games.
So essentially Aurora Feint is some ungodly mixture of crack cocaine and tobacco, and sometimes you just want it straight into your veins.
Let me first preface this list by saying that it is impossible, absolutely impossible I tell you, to put these in any sort of order, to place one game any higher than any other. So they're presented in the order in which I thought them up. Perhaps that means something?
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence - I'm a huge Metal Gear fanboy, ever since the first one made it to the NES (even though I sucked at it and never got very far in). Hell, the only reason I have a PS3 in my living room right now is because of this series. Metal Gear Solid blew my mind when it was released in 1998. It took everything that was great about Escape from New York, quite possibly the greatest movie ever, threw in great stealth gameplay, unforgettable characters, and just the right amount of Japanese (read: bizarre, absurd, wacky) quirks. It was tough to choose just one game out of the series, but MGS3 won in pretty much every important category (story, gameplay, presentation). MGS2 was a little less fun to play, as a game (and Rose was a whiny bitch), but it gets huge points in my book for the postmodern masterpiece that it is.
Super Mario World - If I HAD to choose a number one, this would probably be it. Throughout the ages, no character has ever controlled as smoothly and intuitively as Mario, and SMW was the pinnacle of this. The level design was perfect, the controls were perfectly tuned, the difficulty was never too much but the game was never boring (it was perfect), sound and music were perfect for the setting, perfect, perfect, perfect. Perfect pretty much sums it up.
Castlevania: SOTN - This should be on everyone's top ten list, and I don't even need to say why. Okay, maybe I do - just when you reach 100% completion, the freaking castle flips upside down and you realize you have another 100% to complete. Realizing way, way after the fact that ALUCARD is DRACULA spelled backwards made me feel both stupid and even more infatuated with the game.
Contra - Here's what I have gathered about Contra's story based solely on the game itself: You are two American mercenaries, codenames Mad Dog and Scorpion. Commies are bad. The Vile Red Falcon are a bunch of commies, and they need to die. They've managed to recruit an alien race, consisting mostly of giant scorpions, mouths stuck to walls, and an enormous human heart, to fight for their cause. You must save the universe. The greatest thing about this game is that despite the fact that I can beat in under twenty minutes, I've spent scores of hours playing it.
Final Fantasy Tactics - I love tactics style games, and this one defined the genre. Nothing has come close, and nothing ever will. The story, though it took me a couple playthroughs and a Wikipedia (I love you, Wiki) summary to fully pick up, is one of my favorites.
Final Fantasy VI - ion ray says it all. A FREAKING YETI. Not to mention the Magic Half-Beast lady, the "treasure hunter", the old man, the wild plains boy, or the mime...thing. Best characters ever.
Chrono Trigger - If any game came even close to giving FF6's characters a run for their money, it would be this game. Seriously, a medieval frog knight (named Frog, natch), a robot from the distant future, a brainy genius, and a prehistoric cavewoman all in the same party? With the ability to trip through time? Yes, please. The gameplay was very innovative for its' time and it's still a blast to play.
The Legend of Zelda - This was a tough choice between the original and Link to the Past. There was more to do in LttP, but the first LoZ just felt so much more epic, even after LttP. Maybe I just never got into the lore, but I feel like the introduction of text and other NPC's into the series just ruined the experience. Not that I didn't enjoy the other games in the series, but I never gave a crap about anyone but Link, Ganon, and Zelda. Even then I didn't want to hear them talk to each other. All I ever needed to know about the Legend was "The princess is in trouble, save her" and whatever helpful tidbits the characters felt like writing on their floor when I walked in.
Tetris Attack - I've put more hours into this game than I've put into a lot of RPG's. Addictiveness is a quality you can't quite measure but you can always tell is there, mostly by looking at the clock and seeing that six real hours have passed in the span of twenty in-your-head-minutes. The crack cocaine of puzzle games.Secret of Monkey Island - I must admit here that I have never played Day of the Tentacle, or Full Throttle, or a lot of classic adventure games that I should have played (and will, whenever "one of these days" hits). But I did play Secret of Monkey Island, and let me tell you, I found love on that day. Between the blind watchman, the insult swordfighting, the rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle, and the ghost pirate whose only vulnerablility is being sprayed with root beer, I can't say enough good things about this game.