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Showing posts from 2015

If Only I Had Time

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Between work, studying for next month's JLPT N3 exam, for which I'm hopelessly underprepared, and chasing after an increasingly mobile toddler, I just haven't been able to find the time to blog.

However, that hasn't stopped me from coming up with topics for posts that I'll never have the time to write. My email drafts are full of working titles and 100-word synopsises, most of which will never see the light of day.

Instead of letting all these topics go to waste, I thought I'd take advantage of a rare, quiet evening and cram a handful of them into a solitary post. These are some of the things that I wanted to blog about this autumn, pared down to just a hundred or so words a piece.
This is a glimpse of what could've been.
This is a list with some pictures.

1. Catching Up

You can't go wrong with a "Games that I have been playing" post, assuming that you have been playing games and have opinions about those games. I have been playing games over…

Don't You Forget About Me

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Even for a series veteran like myself, it can be hard to keep track of what's going on in the world of Metal Gear Solid. I struggle to recall who's dead, what the Patriots are up to, who Ocelot's working for and whose arm has been grafted onto whom. Also, which button is grab?

One way of simplifying MGS, thus making it easier to follow, is to ignore certain games in the series. The timeline at the top of this post, courtesy of PlayStation Japan, is an example of this selective approach. It strikes the once-considered-canon Portable Ops from the record, just like the MGSV The Phantom Pain launch trailer did earlier this week.
Released in 2006 for the PSP, Portable Ops follows Big Boss to South America, where he must bring his former FOX unit to heel, because they've gone a bit wrong. It was a precursor to Peace Walker in theme and gameplay, establishing many features that would carry through to its PSP successor and beyond: short burst missions, soldier recruitment, …

That's Not Your Gun, Ripley

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E3 2015 - And the Rest

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Also: Microsoft / Sony / Nintendo
This year, it felt like everyone and their mother had an E3 press conference. EA and Ubisoft had their usual spots, and Bethesda, Square Enix and even PC Gamer, who held a PC-focussed event, had their time in the spotlight.
Bethesda kicked things off on Sunday evening with a well-received look at some of their biggest forthcoming titles, most notably Doom, Dishonored 2 and Fallout 4. I'd elaborate on their presser, but I haven't watched it yet - you can't beat my E3 coverage! I did however see the Doom trailer, and I thought it looked really unappealing. Perhaps I’ve gone soft, but exploding demons and severed arms don't really do it for me anymore.
The E3 conference, aka An Evening with Pele, opened with a trailer for Mass Effect Andromeda. The teaser revealed little about the next chapter in the Mass Effect saga, though it did confirm the return of the Mako buggy (fuck sake) and a “holiday 2016” release date. Need for Speed looked l…

E3 2015 - Nintendo in 500 Words

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Also: Microsoft/ Sony
I can't say that I enjoyed sitting through Nintendo’s Digital Event. Their presentation was charming and well put together, just like their games, but it was in desperate need of a Splatoon-like shot in the arm.
The show kicked off in style with Iwata, Reggie and Miyamoto appearing as muppets. They gradually transformed into the main characters from Star Fox, an inventive way of announcing the latest entry in the well-loved series. Star Fox Zero appeared to make convincing use of the Gamepad and has since been confirmed as being developed by Platinum Games, who have had a very busy E3. I thought it looked dated, sparse and visually unappealing, especially having just watched space combat in No Man's Sky. Still, it never hurts to start things off with a big name.
Real Reggie was up next, talking about new Amiibos and a partnership with Activision via a new Skylanders game. I couldn't care less about Amiibos, but Nintendo are onto a winner here and I …

E3 2015 - Sony in 500 Words

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Also: Microsoft in 500 Words

It was 2am and I was fading fast. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it past the opening montage, let alone stay awake long enough to see Shawn Layden’s strange beard. However, by 3.30am I was wide awake, unable to stop thinking about impossible games come true. Sony owes me a good night’s sleep.
The Last Guardian, straight out the gate. It’s not vapourware, it’s a game and it looks magnificent. I was mesmerised by the way the creature moved and I cannot wait to learn more about how it interacts with the boy. 2016 is a very vague release date, and I do worry about further delays, but TLG is alive and well and Sony has turned a potential disaster, and a long running source of embarrassment, into the toast of E3.
Guerrilla’s new IP, Horizon Zero Dawn, looks great and is a huge departure from their previous work. We can all now stop making jokes about Killzone RPG and look forward to hunting robot dinosaurs in 2016. New Hitman fell flat and I can’t must…

E3 2015 - Microsoft in 500 Words

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“The Greatest games line up in Xbox history”. That’s what Microsoft claimed, but did their press conference live up to its lofty billing? I didn’t think so, but then I did abandon the stream for twenty minutes to do the washing up.
MS opened the show with a new entry in a little known series called Halo. I’m not a fan, but going by the Twitter reaction, it seemed to hit the spot. Recore was the first of a dozen or so games that looked nice, but I know I’ll never play.
Don Mattrick must’ve been spinning in his grave when he heard the next announcement. Backward compatibility is a huge move by Microsoft and a shot aimed directly at Sony. MS has slowly but surely corrected past mistakes; the Xbox One is a very different console to the one revealed at E3 2013, and all for the better. “We won’t charge you to play the games you already own” – it feels like that should be a given, but times have changed and it’s good to see MS continuing to move in the right direction. Here’s hoping that S…

E3 2015 - Preview & Predictions

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"PS4 architect Mark Cerny is working on finishing The Last Guardian". That's right, it's E3 time!

I love E3. A week of press conferences, new trailers, surprise announcements, gown men whooping at map pack announcements, and unparalleled levels of internet snark - what's not to like? It is the best and worst of video games and I look forward to it every year.
So, what can we expect from this year's extravaganza? I reckon at least one of the following:
1. An all-new trailer for The Last Guardian, the first since 2009 2. Half Life 3 for 3DS 3. Reggie Fils-Aime squirting off a squid into a crowd of journalists, whilst screaming "NOW you are fresh"
I'm also convinced that this is the year that new Timesplitters and Shatter 2 will be announced. I'm even more certain than I was in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011........ It's not happening is it?
Microsoft is up first on Monday, so let’s start there. Halo 5 and Forza 6 will get plenty of stage time…

Monthly Round-up: May 2015

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In Case You Missed It: Bloodborne - Good & Bad Nights / Blue Skies & False Nostalgia / Squid & Demos
May Playlist
1. Yakuza 0: I'm about twenty hours into the latest Yakuza, a prequel set in the 1980s, but I'm not sure if I'm going to finish it. It pains me to say this, but I haven't entirely enjoyed my time with bubble-era Kazuma and Majima. Don't get me wrong, Zero definitely has its moments, but overall it is falling a little short.
The narrative and supporting characters just aren't as interesting as I had expected. The cut scenes feel longer, though they probably aren't, and I'm skipping through dialogue that I'd usually at least make an attempt to understand. I've also found the combat to be frustratingly unbalanced - I struggle my way through Kazuma's encounters but hardly break a sweat as Majima.
Every now and again, something wonderfully Yakuza happens and I'm reminded why I love this series. It’s good, but it's n…

Squid and Demos

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The weekend before last, I took part in the final round of the Splatoon, Global Testfire demo. It was a last minute decision, and it turned out to be a wise one. Within the space of half an hour, I went from being hardly interested to completely sold on Nintendo's newest IP. I loved the simple premise, the colourful art style and cheerful presentation; the silly shooty-fun-fun made me think of Timesplitters, and you know how I feel about that series.Within half an hour of finishing the demo, I had pre-ordered a copy of Splatoon and then spent the rest of the evening googling Timesplitters 4.

I can’t remember the last time a demo sold me on a game. I thought Splatoon looked like fun, but it struck me as being a little too childish and it also had the misfortune of being on the Wii U, the first console to be unplugged when I need to free up sockets behind the TV. Regardless, the demo convinced me that it is worth my time and that the Wii U should remain plugged in for the foresee…

Blue Skies and False Nostalgia

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When I think of classic SEGA, Out Run is the first game that comes to mind. It was one of the biggest arcade hits of the 80s and it was ported to every home console under the sun. Sega had other arcade smashes in that decade, most notably Space Harrier, Hang On and After Burner, but Out Run is the one that I'm most fond of.
I didn't spend my childhood hanging out in arcades. I was a toddler when Out Run cabinets first appeared, and the initial wave of home console ports were also before my time. I received my first console, a Master System, in 1991 and I don't think I played Out Run before picking it up on the Saturn in the mid-2000s. Yet I revere and own multiple copies of it, on retro and current hardware. So why am I drawn to Sega's iconic racer?
I'll start by stating the obvious: Out Run is excellent. It has stood the test of time, and the 3DS update is wonderful. It was created by an industry icon, Yu Suzuki, the man behind some of Sega's most iconic g…

Bloodborne - Good and Bad Nights

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Most nights, I couldn't wait to fire up my PS4 and get lost in Bloodborne's world of rot and misery. I'd play well past my intended bedtime, stifling yawns while I carved up ghouls in my pyjamas. However, there were also evenings where I was far less eager, nights where I made little to no progress and questioned whether Bloodborne was worth losing an hour of sleep.
On the good nights, I struggled to put Bloodborne down. There was always one more area to explore or another boss that I wanted to have a stab at. Across fifty hours, my blood splattered hunter and I covered every last inch of Yharnam, successfully taking down every boss, some more successfully than others, and mingling with the locals.
I enjoyed the shift in combat from Dark and Demon Souls’ more deliberate and defensive style, to a speedier and more aggressive approach. The ability to regain health by quickly attacking after taking damage rewards aggression and (calculated) risk taking, though spamming butto…

Monthly Round-up: April 2015

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In Case You Missed It:Finding Fault with Bloodborne / Tuned Out / Guitars & Wiimotes / Buy My DLC
My new NBA blog:  Holding Court
April Playlist
1. Bloodborne: April was all about Bloodborne, fifty one hours of it to be exact. I exhausted every area and boss, with the exception of the Chalice Dungeons which I thought were dull in comparison to the rest of the game. I got the squid baby ending and even tried a bit of NG+, just enough to convince myself that I'm not up for a second playthrough just yet. A week removed from my final visit to Yharnam, and I’m still thinking about Bloodborne and all the things it did so well.
2. Valiant Hearts: Valiant Hearts makes great use of an otherwise underutilised setting - World War One. The art style is beautiful and it softens some of the more unpleasant scenes without lessening their impact. VH does a good job of highlighting the history within its fiction, and I enjoyed learning a little about the settings and events that are depicted. Ga…

Buy My DLC

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Mortal Kombat X was all over our internets last week due to some unpopular, day-one micro transactions which make it easier to perform end-of-bout fatalities. 79p buys you five of these consumable, gory finishers, which replace the more challenging input commands with a simple two button sequence; £3.99 gets you thirty. I kan't believe I'm writing about Mortal Kombat again!

This DLC pack attracted a lot of negative attention in a quiet week for video games. I can understand why some people would be interested in buying this, as it simplifies something complicated and makes it easier to get more out of the game. Obviously, it also makes perfect business sense. Still, what amounts to a decreased difficulty level, albeit for a tiny part of the game, seems like a very cynical use of DLC/micro transactions, especially when it is sold as a consumable.
But that's enough about Mortal Kombat. Here are some unusual DLC and micro transactions that I have just made up.
Bloodborne: Co…

Guitars and Wiimotes

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Guitar Hero is back! Rock Band is back! 2008 is back!
The guitar controller is an icon of the last generation. Living room rock stars spent a fortune on plastic instruments, and no house party of the mid-to-late 2000s was complete without a couple of rounds of Guitar Hero or Rock band. These two series were worth a fortune to their developers and publishers, who were understandably keen to cash-in on unprecedented demand for cheaply made peripherals. The market was soon flooded and the bubble eventually burst, all but killing off the rhythm game genre.
There are few things more seventh gen than the guitar controller. It was expensive and faddish, the height of publisher greed, yet it reached and appealed to an audience far wider than the average video game. The Rock Band/Guitar Hero guitar was a peripheral of its time, and I wonder whether consumers will be willing to re-embrace it when Guitar Hero and Rock Band are re-launched later this year.
Looking through my game collection l…

Tuned Out

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I couldn't give a toss about Mortal Kombat. Even as a bloodthirsty youth, I saw right through the spine-ripping and head popping fatalities - I knew it was krap and was far happier mashing my way through Street Fighter 2. Now, as a fully adult man, I still cannot think of anything less appealing than playing Mortal Kombat, and I have an excellent imagination. Whenever a new game in the series is announced, I do my best to ignore it.
Mortal Kombat is one of a handful of major series that I choose to tune out. I will skip pages, ignore tweets, fast forward through podcasts and end friendships in an effort to steer clear of them. It's not that I hate these games, at least not all of them, I'm just not interested in giving them the time of day. Unless of course I'm short on topics for a blog post, in which case I'll happily throw five hundred words their way.
Mortal Kombat might have improved since the mid-90s, but it still looks like it has been designed by a fourtee…

Finding Fault with Bloodborne

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Bloodborne is outstanding. You probably already knew this, either from first-hand experience or thanks to all the gushing reviews you’ve seen online. I could tell you how much I'm enjoying it, how after even the most brutal of sessions I'm desperate to jump back in, but you will have read that post elsewhere.
So let's try something different. Because I'm a bit of a contrarian, and there are only so many times I can write "great" before I get bored, I thought I'd share a couple of the issues I'm having with Bloodborne. No game is perfect, not even the second coming of Dark Souls, so let’s get to it.
1. Central Yharnam
That first stretch is a nightmare. Under powered, ill equipped and clueless, you must pass along narrow streets, trying to split a mob of disturbed locals into smaller groups, ready for slicing and dicing. Throw in a couple of dogs, some rifleman, nightmare crows, a large and aggressive oaf and two werewolves and you have a recipe for f…