An Evening of Monster Hunter World

I'm in deep, having played 40+ hours of Monster Hunter World in just three weeks. That's a lot for me, so back the fuck off.

It's great that the series has finally been freed from the limitations of the 3DS. All the familiar hooks, and frustrations, are still there, but this time it's prettier and easier to control. I'm very happy indeed.

I've tackled some quests solo, but I've mostly been playing with friends. We are expert hunters, as you'll see.

A typical evening session:

Me: Hey everyone. What level are we now? I'm HR 14.
Friend A: 12
Friend B: 16, but <white noise>
Friend C: 86
Me: Fucking hell <name redacted>. How'd you manage that?
B: Are you wearing a golden skull? Where'd you get that from?
C: I killed seventeen Black Diablos on Saturday. Only took eight hours.
Everyone: Nice.
A: Do you guys mind if we do the Rathian hunt? I need to get the Plate for some armour. I've already fought him six times, but no luck so far.
Me: Stin…

A Thing - Boxed Super Famicom

There's something about boxed, retro hardware. Something about aged cardboard that gets me excited.

A box shows that the previous owner cared. They didn't throw it out, have a bonfire or fashion it into a piano. No, they looked after it. They might have even preserved the insides - manuals, bags, warranty cards, plastic ties, unused stickers, shrink wrapped batteries etc. A mummified box of gaming joy. Christ, I need a cold shower.

Just last week, I found myself tempted by a boxed Game Gear. The packaging was in lovely nick, with sharp edges, bright colours, and manuals included. The previous owner clearly loved their Game Gear. Either that, or it was an unwanted gift, thrown into a cupboard and forgotten, its undesirability ensuring its preservation. Anyway, I already have a functioning Game Gear and have no need for another, but that didn't stop me from seriously considering it. I was halfway to the counter before I decided to pass.

Sharp edges, bright colours; manuals …

The Best & Worst Games of 2017

The Best & Worst of 2016 / 2015 / 2014 / 2013 / 2012 / 2011 / 2010

I thought 2017 was a pretty good year for video games, despite the fact that I didn't play the majority of the GOTY frontrunners.

I didn't play Persona 5, because one hundred hours is too much to ask. I never got to Nier Automata, for similar reasons. I didn’t play PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, because I don’t have a gaming PC, and it appears to be broken on Xbox One. I’m not quite sure why, but Horizon Zero Dawn never appealed, so I gave that a miss. It's only in the last week or so that I started playing Zelda and Mario on my brand new Switch, though they've certainly made an impression in that short time.

What I did play was a mix of old and new. I out-squatted a man for a wig, assassinated a herd of hippos, took a road trip with a crew of hair models, gunned down space fish, saved the humans, remembered how to parry, romanced a skeleton, descended into Viking hell, possessed a Moai, got i…

Video Game Twit-chatting

We've just moved into a new house. It's lovely and has lots of space, which makes it somewhat of a rarity this close to Tokyo, at least on our budget. I can finally unpack my games from the shipping boxes they've been hiding in the last eighteen months, and stop living out of suitcases. The only catch is that we are going to be internet-less for the next month or two. Apparently the people who lived here before us were Luddites, or were just stealing someone else's wifi, so there is no existing infrastructure for high speed internet.

So we're limited to mobile data until at least the New Year, with which I can do very little. No streaming services, no downloading games and no playing online.

Twitter still works though, so I'm going to work with what I've got.

I've searched "video games" on Twitter, and used the results as inspiration for some ramblings. What could go wrong?

"Do violent video games make people more violent in real life?&…

A Thing - The Sega Saturn Infrared Control Pad

Sometimes I'll write about a single object. Something big, or something small. Something significant, or something insignificant. Something I own, something video games. A video game thing.

You can never have enough Saturn pads. For all of its faults, real and imagined, Sega's 32-bit machine had some great controllers. The much-aped Saturn pad was sleek yet substantial. The Nights 3D pad was ahead of its time, just like many of the Saturn's features. You could wield the Saturn light gun without looking like a knob, the steering wheel looked cool, the bog standard joystick was excellent and there were countless OTT, game-specific peripherals, such at the Virtual On sticks and the thingamabob that came bundled with Space Harrier.

I own lots of Saturn controllers. More than I have hands (2), or friends (2). This week I added another to my collection, the Infrared Control Pad, or the Cordless Pad as it's known here in Japan. A cordless pad from an era of too many wires.


Nintendo Switch - Arguing With Myself

I almost bought a Switch last week. Amazon had both the grey version and the Mario Odyssey bundle in-stock, and only ¥1000 above SRP. I decided to mull it over and waited for the following morning, by which time my interest had subsided and both versions had increased in price by 25%. Fuck that, then.

History suggests that I'll eventually end up with a Switch. Back in 2012, I was agonising over pre-ordering a PS Vita. I eventually went for it, and I'm happy that I did. Two years later, I was unsure about picking up a discounted Wii U. Predictably, I ended up with one. I didn't particularly enjoy my Wii U, but without it I wouldn't have played two hundred hours of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate with my wife, so it wasn't all bad. This time last year, I was umming and ahhing about the Xbox One. I eventually bought one, which is a decision that I deeply regret.

Anyone want to swap an Xbox One for a Switch?

If Switches were easier to find here in Japan, I'd probably al…

Game Fright

Japan has gone Halloween mad over the last few years. Shelves are stacked with gruesome tat and cute pumpkins, and thousands of fancy-dressed youths pack into Shibuya on Halloween weekend. We’re not yet at trick-or-treat levels of stupidity, but we may only be a few years away. It’s a fucking nightmare.

To celebrate my favourite seasonal event, I thought I’d share some video game related scares. Because I like video games and have played lots of them.

The First Dead Space

Video games aren’t scary. If someone tells you otherwise, then they are either a big baby or a liar. Interactive media should excel at making you jump, yet the best horror games don’t come close to matching movies for shocks and scares.

I can only think of one exception, and that’s Dead Space. I felt genuine dread each time I rounded a blind corner, opened a door to an unexplored room or found myself stranded in an unlit space. I felt uncomfortable throughout, thanks to the eerie sound design, the derelict setting, I…

Jumping Back into the Animus

I was fascinated by history long before I was into video games. As a child, I’d daydream about knights and castles, and spend hours flicking through my Weetabix Illustrated Book of British History. For years, I thought Henry VIII was a crispy, breakfast biscuit.

As a teenager, I read wacky theories about precursor races and dense tomes on the ancient world. I pored over epics like Gilgamesh and the Iliad, and read widely on the campaigns of Alexander the Great. I studied Modern History at university, in part because it was the cover-all-your-bases subject for students undecided on their future profession, but also because I was still fascinated by the past.

History and games don’t mix as well or as often as I’d like. Historical periods are well covered in the RTS genre, but outside of that it’s slim pickings. Alternate histories are popular, though the actual setting is rarely of any great consequence, and the FPS has an on/off relationship with WW2 and other semi-modern periods wit…

Color me Interested

One hundred and eight yen.

One hundred and eight yen for Final Fantasy IV. A cart and a plastic sleeve, but no box, found in a junk crate at my local Book Off. One hundred and eight yen for Final Fantasy IV on the WonderSwan Color. 
Bandai’s WonderSwan was a Japan-only, handheld console. Released in 1999, it was designed by Gunpei Yokoi, the man behind Nintendo’s Game Boy. Tragically, it would be his final, major contribution to the industry, as he was killed in a traffic accident in 1997.

The original, monochromatic model was replaced by the WonderSwan Color within two years of release, and finally the SwanCrystal in 2002. 
Bandai’s 16-bit handheld hung with the competition at first, thanks to its low price point, long battery life – up to 40 hours on a single AA battery – and initial support from some of the biggest third-party publishers, including Squaresoft. Ultimately, however, the competition was too strong. The Game Boy Advance claimed an overwhelming share of the market and …

TGS 2017: Code Vein Hands-on

This is the last of my Tokyo Game Show 2017 posts. You can find the rest here:
Roundup TGS in Pictures Metal Gear Survive Hands-on Dragon Ball Fighterz Hands-on Monster Hunter World Hands-on Yakuza Kiwami 2 Hands-on
I originally posted this preview at Critical Gamer
It has been dubbed “Anime Dark Souls”. A lazy categorisation, but it’s easy to see how the comparison might arise. Code Vein is an unforgiving action role-playing game, where you will die over and over again, fight infinitely respawning enemies and be expected to learn the intricacies of combat if you want to succeed. You’ll also swear a lot and perhaps throw a controller or two. Sound familiar?

According to the press blurb, Code Vein is set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia, where the consumption of blood grants power. Exploration is key, and the full game will be open-world, though just how open remains to be seen. The Tokyo Game Show demo was set in a dark cavern - dark, but lit well enough to avoid excessive fumbling. I…