Musings of a Gamer V
1. Infamous 2
I'm not too sure what I can say about InFamous 2 that I haven't already said about the first game. In the two years since Sucker Punch first released the excellent InFamous, surprisingly little has changed. There are some different moves, including the brand new ability to climb a chain-link fence; a handful of new faces who do a decent job of filling in for the previous supporting cast; user created levels, which are of debatable worth; and Cole Mcgrath's new voice. The New Orleans-like setting, New Marais, marks the biggest improvement on the original as it offers a lot more variety than Empire City and more reason to explore, outside of collecting blast shards. However, its mostly just a prettier re-run of the original. As a huge fan of the first game, this level of consistency suits me just fine. I thoroughly enjoyed InFamous 2, and am currently on my second run-through, this time as evil Cole. I am gradually getting over the pangs of guilt as I terrorize the public and execute street musicians, though I do prefer playing as friendly Cole.
If you enjoyed InFamous then you will love InFamous 2. If you disliked it, then the sequel will do absolutely nothing to change your mind.
2. Japan Shopping List
Our trip back to Japan is only 5 weeks away, and yes, I'm already counting down the days! I am starting to get a bit concerned about my chances of getting a press pass for TGS this year, as I get the feeling they are being a bit more frugal with the passes, and the process of making an application is as clear as mud. I have had no reply to an email enquiring about the application deadline, though I was relieved to see plenty of journalist types complaining on Twitter that they too are unsure about this years registration. Fingers crossed it'll all get sorted, so I won't have to attend on one of the overcrowded public days, where I'll spend 8 hours resisting the urge to punch people, avoiding men with body odour issues (around 50% of the otaku attendants), and playing the dangerous foreigner card to get away with pushing to the front of queues. On second thoughts, as an English gentleman, I am no more likely to cut a queue than leave a puzzle unsolved.
Press pass or no, I have got plenty of things lined up for the trip back, including numerous visits to my old old stomping ground: Akihabara. My shopping list is getting larger by the day, though it will be reduced once I've pissed away most of my money on beer, karaoke, tonkatsu and sushi. For my beloved Saturn I shall be hunting for Azel Panzer Dragoon (PD Saga), Silhouette Mirage and Cho Aniki, and I'm sure I'll be adding some junk pick-ups to my luggage. Dependant upon finding a reliable way to make my Dreamcast run JPN games, I will also have a look at Segagaga, Cosmic Smash, Seaman and Typing of the Dead. Moving to the current generation, I'm interested in Ryu ga Gotoku Kenzan! - a samurai spin-off of the Yakuza games - so that I may improve my Edo period vocabulary. I'll also be looking for some reasons to turn on my JPN Wii, such as Hironobu Sakaguchi's The Last Story and the Joy Sound Karaoke game, which should allow me to bring one of my favourite Japanese past-times back to old Blighty.
3. Spending Time With PSN
Having ploughed through InFamous 2 and still being (surprisingly) reluctant to shell out on Shadows of the Damned, I don't currently have any major games to sink my teeth into. I think now is the time to play catch up with some of the PSN titles I have acquired over the last three or four months. I picked up Limbo earlier in the week and I'm really enjoying its sense of style and simplistic, but entertaining gameplay. Unfortunately, I cant say the same about Braid, which I got for dead cheap before my PS + trial expired. At first, I was really digging the puzzles and its unique style but after reaching the halfway point I am thoroughly fed-up with it. Sometimes I feel like its trying a little bit too hard, when really it is just a very simple, and limited platformer. Perhaps this is a little bit unfair, but I doubt I will see it through to the ending which, unfortunately, I'm already clued-up on.
After enjoying the demo, I'm eyeing-up Housemarque's Outland, which looks like a blast in co-op. I also want to return to the games I received during Sony's Welcome Back program, which I started but never quite got around to finishing. Super Stardust HD is at the top of the list, closely followed by The Last Guy, Wipeout HD, Ratchet & Clank QFB, Echochrome and even Dead Nation, which I feel I should give one more chance before I condemn it.
4. Borderlands 2
Gearbox have announced that they are working on the sequel to 2009's critically acclaimed, role-playing shooter, Borderlands. I was a little late jumping on the Borderlands bandwagon, purchasing the stacked GOTY edition only earlier this year, but I really enjoyed looting my way across Pandora. Single player did become overly repetitious after a while, and I barely touched the DLC, though I understand it is a much better experience in co-op. Unfortunately, playing it so far removed from its initial release, nobody on my friends list was still playing it, so I had to resort to teaming up with strangers. This usually resulted in 20 minutes of standing around doing nothing and occasionally shooting each other in the face, which was as bollocks as it sounds. I'll be sure to get involved a lot earlier this time round so I can bother some skags with friends. For Gearbox, hopefully a new Borderlands will help everyone forget the unfortunate Duke Nukem debacle, so we can all be friends again.
5. 3DS at Panic Stations
I think we all knew that the 3DS was struggling to get off the ground, but it wasn't until the events of the last week or so that we discovered the magnitude of its early problems. Amidst significant pay-cuts for Nintendo's top brass, the Kyoto based giant announced almost unprecedented price cuts worldwide: down from ¥25,000 to ¥15,000 in Japan and the cost to retail has been slashed by a third in the US and Europe.
Many early adopters have been incensed by this sudden price reduction. Nintendo will hope that their Ambassador Program, which offers 20 classic downloadable games, will lessen some of the venom, but I think the damage has been done. Recent figures show sales in Japan dropping by 50%, which is obviously disastrous, though my first thought when seeing those figures was "who are the other 50% still buying the 3DS at its old price?". I'm guessing they must really like NES games.
Comparisons to the fate of the Virtual Boy are misplaced, though this will be the second Nintendo, 3D portable that has struggled to ignite the public's imagination. The problem is quite simple: a lack of quality software. Once we start to get 3DS exclusive Mario's, Zelda's, Layton's etc. we are likely to see the 3DS gather steam. Nintendo's latest portable will succeed, or continue to falter, on the strength of its software and not because people want to play in 3D.
The price drop may yet encourage me to buy a 3DS and Ocarina of Time, just in time for my trip to Japan in September, if I can get the pair for around £140.