Musings of a Gamer XXI
1. Farewell to the PlayStation 2
Sony has confirmed that production of the PlayStation 2 has come to an end after twelve hugely successful years. The PS2 was a global phenomenon, building upon the PlayStation brand and achieving a level of success that will never be seen again in a home console. With Nintendo slipping, SEGA all but finished and Microsoft just starting out, the market was Sony's to dominate in the early 2000s, and that's exactly what they did to the tune of 150 million units sold worldwide. The PS2 is far and away the most successful home console of all time, selling over 50 million more units than the second place PS1. It had a staggering number of games, over 10,000 individual titles, ranging from the sublime to the atrocious. More than 1.5 billion PS2 games have been sold since 2000, some of which weren’t FIFA. It almost made it to a third generation and is the success that all future Sony consoles will be measured against.
Looking at sales figures for the PS2 and other consoles, I was surprised to see that the PlayStation 3 has actually outsold the Xbox 360, despite launching a year later. Sales figures taken from Microsoft and Sony's financial reports have the Xbox 360 at 70 million and the PS3 at 70.2 million in worldwide sales, as of last September. While Microsoft's juggernaut has enjoyed superior sales in America, in Europe the PS3 has maintained a slight advantage and it's a no contest in Japan and Asia. This has undoubtedly been a troubled generation for Sony, but the PlayStation brand is still hugely valuable and Microsoft's perceived dominance somewhat inaccurate.
2. Clearing the Decks Pre Revengeancing
For all the talk of a busy first quarter, there is only one game between now and March that I'm guaranteed to pre-order: Metal Gear Rising. There are a handful of January and February games that I'm interested in - Aliens Colonial Marines, Ni No Kuni, DmC, Bioshock Infinite etc. - but nothing else that I feel I should buy at launch. In theory, this should give me some free time to catch up with a couple of 2012 leftovers, most of which emerged from under the Christmas tree, to enjoy alongside Persona 4 Golden. I have already started Lollipop Chainsaw, which is a typical Suda 51 game. It is stylish and fun, and the dialogue is much funnier than I’d expected. The usual frustrations are present however, including crude, unrefined gameplay and the type of cringe-worthy swearing that you’d expect from an eleven year old. When it comes to Suda 51 and Grasshopper, you learn to take the rough with the smooth, and I am really enjoying Lollipop Chainsaw.
Once Lollipop is out of the way, I'll finally start Dragon's Dogma. I have also picked up copies of Hitman Absolution and Sonic All Stars Racing Transformed, but between a time consuming RPG on my Vita, and another planned for my PS3, I'm not sure that I'll have time for them before MG Rising. I would have returned to Need for Speed Most Wanted to shut down the final three cars, but unfortunately my file was corrupted when the game froze, mid-save, during a multiplayer session. My race times and overall score are stored on Autolog, and still exist, but all the single player races and cars are gone and I'm not sure if I have the patience to unlock them all again. It's at times like these that I wish I had PS Plus and cloud saves.
3. Far Cry 3 Co-op
I finished Far Cry 3 last weekend. Despite its narrative issues, I loved it, and it is definitely one of my top three favourite games of last year. I noticed early on that the platinum looked quite attainable, and the vast majority of the trophies ended up pinging through natural play and exploration. I completed every requirement before undertaking the final mission, with only the co-op levels left to tackle. I’m now two bronzes short and unsure if I can stand seeing it through to the big shiny.
I like the idea of having a co-op mode separate to the single player campaign, with its own story and characters, but Far Cry 3's is a bloody mess. There are six levels in all, running at around 20 minutes each. They all outstay their welcome, and are as predictable as they are sweary; each map follows the same formula: storm an area, defend the area, something competitive, storm an area, defend the area, the end. The biggest issue, however, is the glitches that have forced me to quit at least twice as many rounds as I've been able to complete. I have lost count of the number of times I have had to resort to a restart when checkpoints have failed to load, and not even Assassin’s Creed 3 had this many floating weapons. Intermittently invisible enemies are hard to shoot, pirates that spawn on top of your group are a real pain, and jeeps that turn into dogs are special. I was midway through the final "defend the area" segment of one particular map when the ground suddenly gave way and I plunged into a magical underground reservoir, where I was forced to watch the rest of my team getting slaughtered as I slowly drowned 100 feet below. It is a shame that this unfortunate dip may well end up being my final memory of Far Cry 3.
4. Another 365 days of English Gaming
It's now been three years since we packed-up and left Japan for England. I won't mark the anniversary with 2000 words and a picture of tonkatsu like I did last year, as a brief update will probably suffice. While three years isn't really all that much, my time in Japan does feel like an age ago. Our long-term plans are still not fixed, and perhaps they never will be, but right now we like living here and don't have any immediate plans to move back to the land of vending machines. I still miss long nights out with friends, the excitement and convenience of Tokyo, making silly purchases in Akihabara, culinary delights that aren’t served with chips and, most importantly, the rush that comes from new experiences in a culture different to your own, but none of these things could justify the major upheaval of moving halfway across the globe.
The longer we are in England, the more settled we become and the less likely we are to relocate. I'm acutely aware that opportunities to return to Tokyo are slipping away, and I'm not really sure how I feel about it. Long-term decisions aside, we are considering taking a last minute trip to Tokyo next month, where I will stuff my face and suitcase with far eastern delicacies - food for face, games for bag. I think our once annual, September trips, to coincide with Tokyo Game Show, are a thing of the past, but looking on the bright side it’ll be nice to be able to wear a jacket in Tokyo without passing out.
5. Metal Gear Multiples
The picture above is not the result of duplicate Christmas gifts, but proof of my adoration of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. I think five copies seems about right for one of the finest games ever made! In the background, left to right, we have the HD Collection Ltd edition, my original PAL copy, Japanese Best Hits and the standard case from the Ltd edition. In the front, Snake eater 3D and another copy of the HD re-master, only this time for the Vita. I have no interest in the expensive MGS3 Subsistence, but I would like to add the Japanese Premium Box Set to my collection, with all its extra junk. I saw it a number of times when I was living in Japan, and always at a reasonable price, but never thought to buy it.
While I have multiple iterations of long running series like Puyo Puyo and NBA Live, I think the only other instances where I own more than two copies of the same game are the PS1 era Final Fantasies. For FF VII-IX, I have PAL, Japanese and digital versions of each. As for FF Tactics, I have US and Japanese copies of the original release and the superb War of the Lions remake for the PSP. I'm not usually one for buying duplicates, but when it comes to Metal Gear Solid and vintage Final Fantasy, I’m happy to make an exception. Are there any duplicates in your collection?