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Showing posts from 2020

The Best & Worst Games of 2020

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The Best & Worst of 2019 /   2018  /  2017  /  2016  /  2015  /  2014  /  2013  /  2012  /  2011  /  2010 The fucking state of 2020. This year, I was more grateful than ever for the comforting presence of video games. A place to escape; a place to be entertained. A place to be a Viking, do some eco-terrorism, swing a katana and partake in a cartoonish Sasuke. To match blocks, match colors and seek all-consuming revenge, in Seattle. A place to die and be reborn over and over again, get haptic-feedbacked to fuck, and help Jill get the hell out of Racoon City. A place to play, escape and relax. Thank Odin for video games. And we got new consoles too. After much frustration, I was able to get hold of both an Xbox Series X and a PS5. I've already gotten a lot of use out of the former, though I have hardly touched the latter. However, that's more down to the game(s) I've been playing the last two months rather than a reflection on the consoles themselves. It's been a hal

A New Generation is Upon us

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I wanted a PlayStation 5. I don't care for console tribalism. It is an obscenely stupid concept for obscenely stupid people. I won't send you death threats if you choose one expensive piece of hardware over another, though I may say something unflattering about your mother. I like video games, regardless of which platform they're on. That being said, PlayStation has been my platform of choice since the late-90s. That's when I finally gave up on Sega and shifted to the PS1. I bought a PS2 in 2001, a PSP in 2005, a PS3 in 2008, and a Vita and PS4 at launch. Sony has the exclusives I like, and I've become accustomed to PlayStation's way of doing things, from the controllers to the trophies. I play everything, but I mostly play PlayStation. I wanted a PlayStation 5, but I could not find one. Preorders in Japan were a shitshow. Minimal supply and high demand lead to crashed stores and lotteries that were oversubscribed one hundred times over. It has gotten worse sinc

Next-Gen Paradise

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I was fortunate enough to snag an Xbox Series X preorder a couple of weeks ago. It was destined for an early-December delivery, but that suddenly got moved up at launch and it arrived a day later. A launch-day miracle. I'll share some thoughts on the Series X another day, as well as update you on my continued failure to buy a PS5. I was run ragged last week, so it wasn't until the weekend that I was able to spend some real time with my new console. Armed with a Game Pass subscription, I was thoroughly spoilt for choice. So many options to make use of my 4K-ing, ray tracing, teraflopping wonder box. Assassin's Creed Valhalla was the top candidate - I bought a copy - closely followed by a prettier-than-ever Forza Horizon 4. So what did you play, I hear you ask? Well, I spent most of Saturday evening playing a remaster of a twelve year old game, one that I have played through several times before. I chose to play Burnout Paradise, and I have no regrets. Is there a more joyful

Final Fantasy XII Again for the First Time

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I first played Final Fantasy XII in the spring of 2007. My fat PS2 was hanging on for dear life, drawing out load screens for all they were worth and chugging through cinematics. I played it, I enjoyed it, and then I forgot all about it. I first arrived in Japan a few months before FFXII's much anticipated launch. I was working in a shitty language school in a town I didn't particularly want to be in, as it wasn't Shibuya. FFXII was a topic of shared interest between some of my students and I. I challenged them to discuss the game under the pretense that it would help expand their vocabulary, when really I just wanted to hear about Final Fantasy and avoid teaching grammar. I was excited to experience the Japanese launch. There were commercials on TV, huge billboards at the train station, and vile energy drink potions that came in elixir-like glass bottles, available at the convenience store. I didn't consider purchasing the game, as my grasp of Japanese was very basic a

The Joy of Six

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I finished the Resident Evil 3 remake in six hours. A full and fully entertaining game cleared in just five evenings. Six hours for a beginning, middle and an end. Beautiful. I love short, narrative-driven games, especially if they feature guns, knives, guns with knives on them, or treasure hunting. When done properly, they are just as satisfying as any sprawling epic, and can do an even better job of making me invest in characters and story. I never feel short-changed by a great, short game. Resident Evil 3 blew by. It pushed forward at pace and finished up long before it had overstayed it's welcome. I love the simplicity of the premise: escape the city and avoid death by Nemesis. It's builds up great momentum, never stays in one place too long, and keeps backtracking to an acceptable minimum. Everything is balanced nicely to support a brisk play-time. I've really enjoyed Capcom's RE-treatment of the series, and I'll be interested to see what they'll do with 4.

Saying Goodbye from 6000 Miles Away

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I said goodbye to my dad over the phone. I told him that I loved him.  He passed away a few minutes later. I listened in, helpless in my grief. I'd always told my family that I could be back in the UK within a day, in the case of an emergency. I often repeated that in conversation, to reassure myself just as much as it was to put my family at ease. Until very recently, it was accurate. The greatest fear when living abroad is not being able to be there for your loved ones back home, when they need you the most. You know that there will come a time when your world will be turned upside down, and you'll be pulled in two directions at once. My dad had been battling cancer on and off for the last decade. It seemed like he'd beaten it, until he fell ill again last Christmas. Surgery followed in the New Year, and I was able to be there for him, alongside my mum and brother. I didn't realise it then of course, but that would be the last time I'd see him. The last time I cou

The Impossibility of a Next-Gen Preorder

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It has been a week of abject disappointment. No one will take my money. I've refreshed Amazon into oblivion. I've signed up for special club-card memberships to access limited preorder opportunities. I've registered for notifications, emails, faxes. I've entered countless lotteries but I'm no closer to securing a next-gen preorder than I was a week ago. It has been a right mess here in Japan. If Twitter is to be believed, it hasn't been much better in other major markets either. Last Thursday, Sony announced that retailers would be accepting orders on Friday. Apparently, many retailers weren't ready. The PS5 went live on Amazon Japan at 10:00 and most of us couldn't even find the page, let alone get an order in. The vast majority of major electronic retailers opted to stick to their own timetable, and start things the following week. Things = lotteries, where you enter to win the chance to spend ¥55,000 - a horrid system that makes you feel like a loser

Pre-Binning Backlog Burning Blog

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We're a little over a month away from THE NEXT GEN, which means it's almost time to swear off the current-gen bullshit. There'll be no time to play or even think about anything released before November 2020. PS4, Xbox One, Switch all in the bin. Actually, let me get that Switch back. As we prepare to stagger over the generational finish line, I've had the overwhelming desire to clear out my current gen backlog. To play the games that have been weighing on my conscience since I bought them several months, or even years, ago. Those that have been sat on my shelf for ages or loitering on my hard drive longer than they ought. Finishing them provides more than just a false sense of achievement, as some of them are properly good. Not new-game good, obviously, being that they are slightly older and therefore badder. Decent, though.You know, for something that is old. I kicked off the year with Yakuza Kiwami 2, the first of three Yakuza Studio games I'll play in 2020. I don

$7.5 Billion is a Lot of Money

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  $7.5 billion is a lot of money. Yesterday, it was announced that Microsoft is buying ZeniMax Media, parent company of Bethesda Softworks, in a move that is set to shake up the games industry. Shake it up proper good. This deal brings a number of studios and franchises under the Xbox umbrella, including The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, and it came just 24 hours before Series X/S preorders are set to go live. Truly, exquisite timing. The news hit twitter last night, just as I was settling down to play some Judgment on my PlayStation 4 entertainment system. I'm enjoying Judgment, but it has fallen victim to several distractions that have prevented me from becoming fully invested. These have ranged from trying to close a deal on a house - it fell through - to an uncharacteristic NBA 2K bender that I might write about later this week. Microsoft throwing its money around was the latest setback for Judgment, ensuring that I went to bed having barely played it. The Mole is getting away wit

A Shell of a September

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September is supposed to be the best month. An early Christmas, full of games, games speak and me proudly wearing a press pass. September is supposed to be the month of Tokyo Game Show, but not this year, for obvious reasons. For 2020 at least, TGS will switch to an online format, with countless streams running from this Thursday. Streams that even normals, like you, can watch. I didn't even need to present my flimsy press credentials or hastily print off some official looking business cards. I won't be sending out dozens of to-be-ignored pitches to online editors, or spending a week carefully composing preview posts for my audience of twenty - I love you all, btw. They'll be no hands-on demos, no Yakuza tissues, no profanity-laced tirades on twitter about filthy nerds, and no smug pictures of me standing next to someone/thing important. I won't be getting pissed-up at industry parties, and I won't be catching up with friends. I'll miss not being in my element f

Compose Haiku to Earn New Headbands

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Compose haiku to earn new headbands. Words as wise as they are ancient. I love how unashamedly video game-y Ghost of Tsushima is. The video game tropes somehow compliment an otherwise serious and thoughtful tale of honor and sacrifice. As Jin Sakai, we are asked to consider our place in the world, to reflect upon the impermanence of life and the cruelty of man. We are encouraged to revel in the beauty of an idealized and exaggerated rural Japan, made all the more gorgeous by an uncluttered screen, to ponder the change of seasons and the ebb and flow of the tide. Ghost of Tsushima is a quiet and considered experience, albeit one that isn't afraid to give you headbands for poetry or throw you into a thirteenth century turret section. Usually, that kind of disconnect would be jarring, yet it didn't bother me here at all. In fact, I really enjoyed the contrast. A beautiful game, brimming with brilliant video game nonsense. In the moonlight, The color and scent of the wisteria Seems

The PlayStation 5 Reveal

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We're not getting E3 press conferences this year. However, thanks to the PlayStation 5 reveal, I still found an excuse to wake up at 4:45 in the morning to stare at video games. Sony packed a lot into its almost 90-minute, PS5 Reveal. There were plenty of games I want to play and, barring a prohibitive price point - I'm "good" up to ¥50,000, but would have to think long and hard for anything above that - I intend to buy a PS5 at launch. However, overall, I came away underwhelmed. Let's start with the box. We've all seen the router jokes, which are 100% accurate and 100% done to death. It is over-designed, has a weird collar, I don't like the colour scheme, and I'm a little concerned about the size. The disc drive looks like an afterthought, hanging on to the console for dear life, and while the unit does sit horizontally, it appears ill-suited to this position. Of course, appearances don't really matter, as it'll sit under my TV for the next se

Mafia 3 and a Messy BBQ

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I have to locate and gun-down some white supremacists. A guilt-free delight.  I'm playing as Lincoln Clay, a black veteran and an absolute unit. My pasty targets have congregated in an affluent suburb of 1968 New Bordeaux (New Orleans), so I'm going to stand out like a sore thumb. They are having a BBQ in some cunt's back yard. There'll be burgers, chicken, ribs and a side helping of old-timey, Southern racism. I forgot to bring a bottle, but I did bring a rifle and a fist full of grenades. I arrive outside the property and see the red markers appear on my radar. That means I've found my villains, but I'm confused by several blue symbols that seem to be mingling with the reds. Blues are cops. Blues aren't my friends, but for the most part they have been a separate enemy, better avoided than directly confronted. But they're here at the racism tea party. I approach cautiously. I hop the chainlink fence and hug the wall alongside the house. I can hear the B

Musings

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1. Vita-ing in 2020 As I mentioned a few weeks back, I recently un-retired my Vita. Unfortunately, my memory card was corrupted so I lost all of my saves and everything needed to be re-downloaded. So, over the last month, I have been reinstalling my library piece by piece. While I was at it, I decided to try some of the dozens of untouched titles that I'd accumulated over the years, most of which came from PS+. Severed was the best of the bunch. I bought it in 2018, but discarded it early on; I just wasn't in the mood. My experience was very different this time around, however. I love the art style, the manic swiping and the dark, vague story, and I played it right through to the very end. I also finished Burly Men at Sea , an adventure as short as it is charming (it is quite charming). I was starting to get into Titan Souls, but the 15-20 seconds delay between dying, respawning and re-confronting your foe is too long in a game where death is constant. It desperately nee

The Secrets of Sega Rally

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I am a fraud. I had a copy of Sega Rally Championship from 1996-1998, back when I owned a PAL Saturn. I rebought it in 2006, when I grabbed a Japanese system, and have held onto that version ever since. It is one of my favourite games on my favourite retro console, and is something that I've played on-and-off across four different decades. It is arcade racing perfection - fun, colourful, inviting, easy to pick up but difficult to master. Sega Rally Championship features three courses - Desert, Forest, Mountain - and two cars - the Toyota Celicia and the Lancia Delta. This was known. Or at least it was, until my world was turned upside down over the weekend by a picture retweeted into my timeline. It was a screenshot of a fourth course and an unfamiliar car, claiming to be from Sega Rally Championship. Must be some sort of PC mod, I thought to myself. Those PC gamers are out of control. But then I dared to dream. Could it be possible that I'd been completely unaware of