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Showing posts from 2019

A Decade in Games: A Summer of Basketball & Witching

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It's the end of a decade! To mark the occasion, I'm sharing memories that I associate with the games of the last ten years. You can find them all here.

It'd been an age since I'd last played basketball. A group of friends and I were playing weekly pickup games in Tokyo in the mid-to-late-2000s, but interest eventually waned, ankles got sprained, lives got busier and our meet-ups ended.

Fast forward to 2015, the Year of Luigi + 2.  We'd been back in England for a few years, and I really wanted to play basketball. I was a little overweight and in need of a new type of workout. I also wanted to get out of the house for a couple of hours a week and see if I could remember how to socialise.

On top of that, I wanted to see if I had magically gained the ability to dunk after almost a decade of inactivity. Seemed like a reasonable expectation. Maybe my hops had matured?

Someone pointed me toward a meet-up app that listed local sport groups, and I found a game nearby. I sig…

A Decade in Games: Memories of Mead

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As you know, it's nearly 2020. Which means it's time to start agonising over which games were the best of the last ten years.

Initially, I was going to re-pick my favourite games of the decade. However, I've been writing "Best and Worst" of the year posts since 2010, and will be writing another before the end of this month. So let's not do that again. Let's do something a little different.

I'm going to write around some of the games of the last ten years, instead of writing about them directly. I'll use them as inspiration and share memories to which they are intrinsically linked.

So without further ado, let me tell you about the time I got rat-arsed on mead.

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It's December 2011 and my wife and I are on our way to Manchester. We've got a lovely weekend planned. We'll meet some friends and hit the Christmas Market in the city centre. The next day, we'll do some exploring and Christmas shopping, before getting the train b…

The Twenty Year Wait: The Bouncer

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I remember gawping at the preview images in the Official PlayStation Magazine. The Bouncer was the poster boy for the next-gen jump. This is what games would look like on the PS2, and things would never be the same again.

The Bouncer, Squaresoft's first PS2 game, arrived at the very tail end of the console's launch-window, and it did so with a whimper. It received mixed reviews and was soon forgotten, replaced by equally beautiful but far more substantial games. The graphics-likers found new things to lust after, and the Square faithful put all their energy into pining for Final Fantasy X. When I finally bought a PS2 in the summer of 2001, I'd forgotten all about the game that had once made my favourite PS1 titles seem like pixel puke in comparison.

Fast forward almost twenty years, and I'm finally playing The Bouncer. In a last-gasp attempt to recapture my youth, and spurred on by a ¥55 ($0.50 / 38p) price point, I bought a copy. I hadn't thought about The Bounce…

Death Stranding: Questions at the Half-way Point

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Death Stranding is a game about delivering packages. The glorious monotony is interrupted be the occasional flourish of extreme weirdness, but mostly it's about getting a box from A to B, under duress.

Death Stranding has no business being as entertaining as it is. I'm consumed by post-apocalyptic logistics. Weighing speed against volume, planning out optimal routes, deciding whether to travel on foot or by vehicle; considering where the dead might lurk and fuck with my schedule.

I'm twenty hours in and I love it. But like any good Kojima game, Death Stranding is full of plot points and features that make zero sense. We've long wondered why the massive eagles didn't fly the hobbits to Mordor, and why the survivors continued to follow TV's Rick Grimes for several years. Likewise, we must now contemplate why Death Stranding's inhabitants didn't just dissolve corpses in acid instead of cremating them and attracting floaty, oil corpses.

I have many questio…

My Exquisite Taste in Video Games

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I have exquisite taste in video games.

When Hideo Kojima bemoaned the unrefined habits of American gamers earlier this week, I couldn't help but agree. Much like my French and Italian fellow intellectuals, I can appreciate even the most mentally challenging and innovative experiences and have nothing but disdain for the basic gamer.

As far as I'm concerned, Madden can fucking do one.

I have played all the good games and have insightful takes on each of them. I transcend the critic-hobbyist divide with my exceptional think-skills. I can smell a bad game from a mile off, and won't waste my time with anything but the best.

That being said, I spent most of the last month playing Anthem and Left Alive. Because I am a complicated boy.

In my defence, they were both heavily discounted. Rewind to earlier this year, and I was fascinated with the speed at which the price of Left Alive tanked. It was under ¥1000 within a month of release - a decrease the likes of which I had never se…

NBA Dead 2020

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NBA Live 2020 just got deaded.

It was unceremoniously un-lived yesterday, at the outset of a run-of-the-mill earnings call. It's off the table for this financial year, but EA are teasing a new direction come next spring.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that EA's once-mighty basketball franchise expired many years ago. As dead as NBA basketball in Seattle, Markelle Fultz' jumper, or Delonte West's friendship with LeBron. It has been on and off again over the last decade more times than I care to remember, and I like remembering things.

NBA Live relinquished pole position to the 2K series a generation ago. I'm assured the latest two installments were decent, but that wasn't enough to save Live '20. The series has suffered countless embarrassments, including failed soft-relaunches and a disastrous demo for what would have been Live 2011. Riddled with glitches, the trial sunk what was supposed to be a triumphant return. The cancellation was so last-minute t…

Musings

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I haven't done one of these Musings posts for three years. In the last edition, I was opining the end of my Witcher 3 DLC journey, saying farewell to the Wii U and discussing the newly revealed Switch and the possibility of it running Skyrim.

As we now know, Skyrim runs on everything. A future far greater than I could have ever imagined.

Video games, then.

1. Sayonara Wild Hearts

Yes it has a very silly name, but Sayonara Wild Hearts is a wonderful little game about pop music and moving very fast through purples and pinks. It's Rez-like in places, which I love, though the marriage between music and gameplay is not as tight. It's short, which I also love, stylish - love - and it always makes you feel like you are doing something awesome, even if you are essentially just guiding your character down a tube.

The pop-electronica score is decadent and perfectly fits the visuals - or perhaps it's the other way round? My interest never wavered, in part thanks to an ever shifti…

TGS 2019 - Project Resistance Hands-on

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I originally posted this at Critical Gamer
Project Resistance was a surprise. Announced just a few days in advance of Tokyo Game Show, it was a welcome addition to what was shaping up to be a very limited selection of demos at Capcom.

The initial announcement offered only the basic details. I understood the premise, but everything else was a mystery to me. It made for a nice change, going into a demo unsure of what to expect.

As we waited for our turn at the kiosk, we were given tablets that ran instructional videos. Only then did I start to understand what exactly Project Resistance is.

Project Resistance is a 1 vs. 4 asymmetric online survival horror. The group of four are the survivors, trying desperately to escape a trap-laden and zombie infested series of rooms. The team consists of one each of the following: a healer, a hacker, a tank, and a guy who's tasty with his fists. His name is Samuel. At the start of each stage, players race to pick their favourite; during my demo, I…

TGS 2019 - Hands-on Round up

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I've already posted impressions from Day One and Day Two, as well as previews for Final Fantasy VII Remake, PC Engine Mini and Yakuza 7, with Project Resistance to follow in the next day or two. I've used up nearly all my words, but there's still a handful of games left to discuss.

Nioh 2 was the main draw at Koei Tecmo. I haven't played the first game, so I was at somewhat of a disadvantage here. However, by the end of the demo I had definitely gotten the hang of it. Death came early and often, but each failure revealed a little more about how to approach each enemy and progress further.

Death is not overly punitive, thankfully, and the restarts are quick and painless. Our protagonist's repertoire of moves includes heavy and light sword attacks, which you can alter by switching stance, and a comparatively weak bow. You can also unleash the beast, transforming momentarily into a Yokai to deal heavy damage. This came in handy during the end of stage boss, an over-si…

TGS 2019 - Yakuza 7 Hands-on

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I originally posted this at Critical Gamer
Yakuza 7 is a departure from what came before.

Series lead Kazuma Kiryu is out, to be replaced by another hard-man with a big heart, Ichiban Kasuga, and the main location has switched from the familiar Tokyo setting to Yokohama. However, the biggest change is to be found in the combat. The series has long been known for it's free-wheeling action, but Yakuza 7 will feature turn-based encounters.

While Yakuza has never hidden its RPG elements, it has been known first and foremost as an action series. Well, that is about to change. Yakuza 7 looks to be an RPG through and through and, from what I played, it's looking very promising indeed.

The TGS demo focused on Kasuga and two of his associates, an ex-cop by the name of Adachi and a drifter called Nanba. Following some lively discussion the trio decide to head out for the day and make their way to Hello-Work, an employment agency. As you'd expect, their journey is quickly derailed an…

TGS 2019 - PC Engine Mini Hands-on

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"Push run button"

Run button? Does it mean press forward? That must be what it means. Hang on, no there is a Run button - how weird. I'd best press that then.

I had never played a PC Engine until three days ago, when I spent some time messing about with the Japanese Mini at Konami's booth at Tokyo Game Show.

I am assured that the emulation is excellent, being that it comes from developer M2. I can confirm that the games run smoothly, but I have no frame of reference for comparing them to the originals. The system looks tidy, the controller is solid, and the audio, experienced through headphones, is crisp. Despite there being 57 games available, the interface is uncluttered and the option menus are easy to navigate.

Now we've got all that out the way, let's get back to my never having played a PC Engine, TurboGrafx-16 or whatever you prefer to call it. The original console has long been a mystery to me. I have no history with it, and don't recall being aw…

TGS 2019 - Final Fantasy VII Remake Hands-on

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I went into the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo with a certain amount of apprehension. The original is one of my all-time favourite games, but I was quite content with it remaining in the past. I certainly wasn't clamouring for a remake.

Re-imagining such an iconic game sounded like a thankless task. If you keep it faithful to the original, then what's the point of remaking it? However, if you make wholesale changes you risk infuriating the fan base. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Updates were scant following the initial announcement and we all assumed, perhaps correctly, that Square Enix were struggling with their golden goose. However, SE broke its silence earlier this year, and we've since been treated to new footage and demos which have, for the most part, been warmly received. Still, I was reserving judgement until I'd tried it for myself.

So I headed straight for Square Enix at the start of TGS Day One, and I was very happy with what I found. It manage…

TGS 2019 - Day Two Round-up

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You can find my Day One Round-up here.

That was a surprisingly productive second day of Tokyo Game Show. I got there early, I played plenty of games, I wrote, I met good people, and I stuck around until the end. Day Two usually consists of me wandering around the halls aimlessly, despairing at the length of the lines, wanting to play more games but secretly not really wanting to play more games. This year was a huge improvement.

That being said, I'm tired. I'm nodding off as I write this, barely able to keep my eyesopkdnbichecnercr3oooe3hunf4iejiasjdioweid99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999opppppppppppppppppppppppppp-----pp

Did I say that I played a lot of video games today? 'Cause I did.

The Games

I started the day off by pegging it straight to SEGA and the Yakuza 7 demo. This was my second go, but this time I focused on the mini games. I think I may be in love with Y7. Go-karting, cycling, getting men with spiked maces for hands to punch other men very har…

TGS 2019 - Day One Round-up

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Crayfish! Buster swords! Mr X! Kojima! Socks! Perverts! Exclamation marks! Day One of Tokyo Game Show 2019 is over, which means it’s time for me to write a brief round-up blog before I collapse from exhaustion and beers.

Games

I went straight for Square Enix and the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo as soon as the doors opened, and I was rewarded for my forward planning. I didn’t have to wait at all and was treated to an outstanding demo. It’s early days, but it’s great to see all the positive vibes surrounding this game – a game that could so easily disappoint its fans. I’ll post a full preview in the next day or so.

I came out of the Yakuza 7 demo bouncing. It was daft, the turn-based combat was a breath of fresh air, and I’m considering playing it again tomorrow. I also played Nioh 2 (not ideal as a demo-game), the PC Engine Mini (I am bad at video games) and Project Resistance (didn’t enjoy it, but not sure if that’s a fair reflection of the game or not). Previews for most of, if not…

TGS 2019 - What's in my Bag?

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Tokyo Game Show starts tomorrow and I am very ready for video game Christmas. I'll be covering both press days here and also over at Critical Gamer.

I'll be making a beeline for the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo as soon as the doors open on Thursday. I expect to be bitterly disappointed, upon finding that the line has already been closed. Newly announced Resi game Project Resistance sounds promising and I will definitely be trying out Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Iron Man VR has piqued my interest, and I'm keen to spend some time in the indie area. With this gen wrapping up and the next not yet revealed, it's likely to be a subdued show for new, high-profile games. Therefore, I'll need to spend some time with experiences outside of my comfort zone. A rhythm game, for example, or some abysmal hentai shit.

Those are the games. What follows is something else.

You need to plan ahead for TGS. It's a long day spent on your feet, suffering through Japanese humidity and bat…

Ranking the Golden Deer Hairstyles

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Next week, I'll be attending and covering Tokyo Game Show. To reacquaint myself with regular blogging, I'm going to write something every day this week. About video games. Every day. Probably.

Be warned: This post contains light spoilers for Fire Emblem: Three Houses
I chose the yellows, and it was the right decision. The Golden Deer are my children and I love them very much. Even Ignatz.
I've not yet finished Three Houses, but I think I'm around 80% there. Over the last forty hours, I have grown very attached to my students. They are a bunch of unique characters, brought together by age, location, their love of Teach (me), and their willingness to kill ex-classmates when I tell them to.

At the midpoint, the story jumps ahead five years. This has allowed me to admire the development of my boys and girls from students to real life movers-and-shakers. Personalities have changed and relationships have shifted during my time spent in a bad-magic induced coma. But most impor…

Relearning Monster Hunter

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Next week, I'll be attending and covering Tokyo Game Show. To reacquaint myself with regular blogging, I'm going to write something every day this week. About video games. Every day. Probably.

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is out this week. This is very exciting but also mildly daunting.

My Monster Hunter World crew is getting back together. We've dusted off our Line Chat and begun searching for our came-in-the-box headsets. We all put in at least one hundred hours last year, slicing and bashing our way through turkey dinosaurs and angry pig elephants. All but one of us were veterans of previous Monster Hunters, and for the most part we knew our shit, or at least enough to be competent.

But that was a year and a half ago. As much as I'm dying to jump back in, I'm wary of the steep (re)learning curve that I know awaits me. There will be new things to learn, returning mechanics that made little sense the first time around, and an online lobby system that is as clear…

If it Ain't Broke Still Fix it

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Next week, I'll be attending and covering Tokyo Game Show. To reacquaint myself with regular blogging, I'm going to write something every day this week. About video games. Every day. Probably.

In a surprise to absolutely no one, Yakuza 7 is officially a thing. It'll be out next January here in Japan, and will follow at a later date elsewhere.

It will be the seventh mainline Yakuza, but that number is misleading. Parts one through five have all had remasters, and there have also been numerous spin offs. Yakuza 0 was an entertaining prelude to the series; Kenzan and Ishiin took our lovable thugs back to feudal Japan; Dead Souls pitted our heroes against the undead and the PSP games cast a new lead into familiar surroundings. At its worst, Yakuza has been decent. At its best, it has given us some of the finest games of the last two generations.

I've been playing since 2010, which is when I first picked up Yakuza 3. When Sega halted localisation, a mistake that has since b…

Viewing Final Fantasy VIII Through its Trophies

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Next week, I'll be attending and covering Tokyo Game Show. To reacquaint myself with regular blogging, I'm going to write something every day this week. About video games. Every day. Probably.

As you already know, Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is out now. The universally accepted "Best Final Fantasy" features modern additions like graphics, faces that don't look like arse, and trophies/achievements. So let's have a look at the Trophy list and use it as an excuse to reminisce about the second best game ever made.

Lionheart - Obtain All Trophies
Classic.

Quezacotl - Unlock the Guardian Force
As a teen, I frequented a number of Final Fantasy forums, under the handle Quezacotl22. I even made a little banner with a picture of the GF alongside my name. My parents were worried about me during my mid-teens, and with good cause.

Shiva, Ifrit, Siren etc. - Unlock the Guardian Force
WARNING: GFs may make you forget inconsequential things like the entirety of your childhood…

Resogun Calling

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Next week, I'll be attending and covering Tokyo Game Show. To reacquaint myself with regular blogging, I'm going to write something every day this week. About video games. Every day. Probably.

I'd almost forgotten about Resogun. Not totally of course, but it'd been a long time since I'd last given it a moment's thought.

I played Housemarque's masterpiece to death when it first arrived as an obnoxiously generous PS+ game at the PS4 launch. I learnt the patterns, the sounds and the enemy types, all in a effort to set the highest possible score.

On bad nights, I'd play for hours on end, restarting every few minutes, once I'd realised that I wasn't on course for a world-beating score. Come the early hours, I'd have nothing to show for my evening of stick twiddling except a headache and an ever-growing sleep deficit.

On the good nights, I'd slip into the zone. All instinctive movements, completely in-tune with the flow of action, and always i…

Ten Years of Tokyo Game Show

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Tokyo Game Show is almost here.

It'll be my tenth. My first was back in 2006, when I went on one of the abysmal public days. I did the same in 2007 and 2008 before deciding that I needed a press pass, as the public are unbearable. I made some arrangements, flogged some words, and got myself in on the industry days. I've retained my pass ever since, covering the show 2009-2011, and 2016~ present.

You might say I'm somewhat of a big deal. In fact, I would encourage you to do this.

I love Tokyo Game Show, even when it's bad. I also really like reminiscing. So this is me reminiscing about TGS.

The show has changed a lot in thirteen years. It takes up more space than it used to, but the main floor is more sparsely populated. Microsoft abandoned TGS several years ago; Level-5 disappeared and reappeared, and Square Enix doesn't party like it used to. Capcom, Sega, Koei Tecmo, Namco Bandai and Konami have all hung around, to varying degrees, and Sony is still the main dra…