Posts

Showing posts from 2020

The PlayStation 5 Reveal

Image
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 sev…

Mafia 3 and a Messy BBQ

Image
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 BBQ …

Musings

Image
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 needed a S…

The Secrets of Sega Rally

Image
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 an extr…

Final Fantasy VII Remake - MidYah or MidNah

Image
I still can't believe that those mad bastards remade Final Fantasy VII. I always dismissed it as a fanboy fantasy, for which Square Enix would never have the appetite. I was wrong.

I finished Final Fantasy VII Remake last week, and I'm glad that it exists. It adds something worthwhile to the VII menagerie. It works both as a companion piece to the Seven canon and as an interesting deviation.

I enjoyed it, but much of that enjoyment was down to nostalgia. Remake is good, but Remake is also bad. It's complicated then, but so are most games that are worth remembering.

In an attempt to organize my thoughts, I have committed them to a "wot I liked" and "wot I didn't like" blog. Or a MidYah and MidNah blog, if you will.

Because Midgar is the setting of Remake, and Yah sounds like a exclamation in the affirmative and, well, you get it.

SPOILERS, obviously.
MidYah: Nostalgia
Square Enix invented nostalgia two decades ago, when they started repackaging and re…

Danish Assassins

Image
I'm in need of focus this week, as the work-from-home marathon enters its second month. So I'm going to use some of the time I'd usually spend commuting to write a short post every day, Monday-Friday.

The last two Assassin's Creeds, Origins and Odyssey, were outstanding. Long since freed of the Desmond nonsense, and paying minimal attention to the always boring modern-day rubbish, the are hugely entertaining adventures set during fascinating periods in history. They also gave us interesting characters for the first time since Ezio departed in 2011.

It's really nice to be excited for Assassin's Creed again.

Following some time off, the series is set to return with Valhalla. It was announced yesterday via a weird drip-feed stream, and we're expecting more concrete details later today. Based on the reveal, it's safe to assume that this will be the long rumoured Viking AC. The prospect of marauding across Northern Europe is a tantalizing one, and I wouldn&#…

Not Good at Being Good at Video Games

Image
I'm in need of focus this week, as the work-from-home marathon enters its second month. So I'm going to use some of the time I'd usually spend commuting to write a short post every day, Monday-Friday.

My five-year old daughter can, on occasion, beat me at Street Fighter. In my defence, she's almost six.

Street Fighter has become part of our work/play-from-home routine. A snifter of Ultra IV to finish up our lunch break before I get back to Zoom-life and excel nightmares, and she returns to colouring Disney princesses and making Lego towers. We usually go a few rounds. She likes Cammy, Chun-Li, Ryu and Zangief; I like to mix it up. From time to time, she beats me. Sometimes I let her win, but other times I'm desperately trying not to lose. I'm happy for her but I'm also despairing at the ongoing atrophy of my already lacklustre beat-em-up skills.

I'm good at knowing about video games, but I am not good at being good at playing video games.

I didn't g…

An Unlikely Cover Star

Image
I'm in need of focus this week, as the work-from-home marathon enters its second month. So I'm going to use some of the time I'd usually spend commuting to write a short post every day, Monday-Friday.

During the 1994-1995 season, Sam Cassell appeared in all 82 regular season games for the NBA Champion Houston Rockets. A key role player, he came off the bench in all but one of them. He was good, and would later become very good, but he was never a star nor a household name. He was certainly not someone you would expect to find on the front cover of an NBA video game.

Yet there he is, gracing the sleeve of the US and Japanese versions of Total NBA '96 (Japan and EU) / NBA ShootOut (America land). He is immortalized mid-layup, presumably about to notch up two more points. Exciting stuff for fans of layups and/or Sam Cassell.

The Total NBA series was generally well received, before fizzling out in the early-mid 2000s. It was developed in-house by Sony as an alternative to …

Burly Men and Me

Image
I'm in need of some extra focus this week, as the work-from-home marathon enters its second month. So I'm going to use some of the time I'd usually spend commuting to write a short post every day this week, Monday-Friday.

A week ago, I turned on my Vita for the first time in two years. I was delighted to rediscover bubbles overflowing with games. Vita-exclusives, indies, retreads, PS1 and PSP standouts and a massive helping of PS+ offerings. For a console that had no games, the NGP was home to a shit tonne of worthwhile titles.

Unfortunately, I couldn't play any of them. My 64 GB bastard memory card, filled to the brim with games, was corrupted. So I had to reformat it, losing all of my game saves in the process. I foolishly assumed they'd been uploaded to the magical cloud, but apparently that's an option you have to enable in the menu and is not an automatic function. Cloud saves continue to be a mystery, a decade-long crapshoot as to what will be preserved a…

PS3Hundred Yen or Less

Image
It's been ten days since I last scoured a video game bargain section.

Almost two weeks since I rummaged through a junk bin, visited a Book Off, shook my head disapprovingly at an over-priced Saturn game, or fingered an off-white Famicom.

I've been working from home most of the last week and a half, and have kept myself stashed away at the weekend. Even if I were moving more freely, I'd think twice before visiting a used-game store. Nerds are filthy creatures.

I miss the excitement of finding an unwanted game from generations past, for only a couple hundred Yen. A game that passed me by initially, now at a price that's perfect for a test drive, with limited expectations and no promises of lengthy time investments. A chance to add yet another game to my "tried that" list and cement my position as the unassailable gamer. A guilt-free taster for the cost of a convenience store coffee.

Pre-working from home, I had bought a handful of very cheap PS3 games. I adore…

A Shootout in Virtua City

Image
Seventeen polygonal criminals are squatting behind a counter at the back of a jewelry store.

"There must be some kind of mistake".

Gary, a career criminal, is very unhappy with his current predicament.

"Steven. Steven, mate. There's no way seventeen of us are gonna find cover behind this counter. We're going to get shot to pieces. One of us should say something".

"Fuck up, Gary. I ain't saying shit. Team Leader'll kick my arse. Just stay quiet, stay low and please stop elbowing me"

"I can't stop elbowing you; there's no space here".

Gary is right. There is no space, and he has particularly pointy elbows.

"Oh god, don't look now. Gareth is coming over........ and he's seen us".

"Hey guys, budge up". Gareth is here.

"No, fuck off. This counter is full. There is no more room at the counter". Gary can not fathom having to make space for yet another gunman behind what is, at best, a mediu…

Catch Up 2020

Image
It's been a strange few weeks since my last post.

Feel free to skip the next paragraph if you want to avoid the germ chat.

We've been dealing with Coronavirus here in Japan for around a month. Or not dealing with it, as the case may be. Measures have been put in place to limit the spread - voluntary self-isolation for returnees from abroad, nationwide school closures, encouraging people to work from home - but honestly, the vast majority of us are going about our daily routine as per usual. This is because we don't have a say in the matter. The commuter trains are still packed, just marginally less so, and there are slightly more people wearing masks. Entertainment venues are suffering terribly as our weekends become more isolated, because that's when we have the freedom to stay at home. But on weekdays it's business as usual, as we're in the office and out and about.

A strange few weeks, indeed.

Anyway, let's take our mind off that for a bit and talk abou…

A Buffet and The Obra Dinn

Image
In 2007, or thereabouts, the wife and I had a very memorable dinner in Okinawa. It was a buffet with several counters, each serving different types of local food. Lots of fresh fish, fruit, pork and other good stuff. You'd walk up with your plate, hand it to the man, he'd fill it, you'd clear it. Rinse and repeat.

You are probably familiar with how a buffet works.

It was a two-hour course that also included beer, which ensured that I was shit-faced by the end, but pleasantly so. The dinner was a little pricey, but it was very much worth it, as every mouthful was a delightful mish-mash of new and familiar flavours. It was the perfect start to a wonderful weekend away.

This blog post is about video games, I promise.

We went back the next year and it was nowhere near as good. The selection had been reduced and what they had didn't taste the same. Or maybe it did, and we had just unreasonably inflated the original experience and set our expectations impossibly high. We we…