Bloodborne: The Halfway-Done Review

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Bloodborne, Games with tags on February 4, 2018 by slateman


I’m somewhere in the middle of Bloodborne. Some gamers could beat it much more quickly, but a) I’m an old, filthy casual and b) this game is difficult! So, while I’m in the midst of the madness, I thought I’d share some thoughts on one of the best games of 2015. In fact, while it won’t likely usurp that year’s GotY, it will assuredly take over the New IP GotY from Rocket League.

First off, as I mentioned earlier, this game is gorgeous. The eerie gloominess plagues every facet of this game. It instills a genuine sense of fear and dread about what is lurking in that corner. When you approach that hazy fog and…OMFG GET AWAY! I don’t particularly like jump scares, but this simply has me spinning the camera around constantly, worried at every turn about whatever hideous, nightmare-inducing creation could be waiting for my approach.

However, when I’m spinnning that camera incessantly, I’ve noticed issues with the game’s frame rate. As a non-videophile, it’s something I’ve never noticed in any other game before. That stuttering can be jarring though, especially when there are several enemies on-screen. In addition, the lock-on system falters: in some cases, rolling away from an enemy or group, a click of the lock-on button merely refocuses your camera. Then, peering into nothingness, they feast on your flesh. Frustrating indeed.

But for those few gripes, I’m greeted with a half-dozen awe-inspiring moments. The changing-world demands exploration. The lack of true direction is a fresh take on the hand-holding games of the past decade plus. I don’t really know what that new item does but I can’t inspect it now; grotesque baddies are surrounding me. And there are secrets virtually everywhere. It’s similar to Mario’s adventures which reward you with exploration all while being virtually nothing like Mario whatsoever.

The combat has taken me quite some time to really grasp. The beginning was just so brutally difficult, partly as learning the systems and layout was so unique. Well, unique to a non-Souls player at least. That difficulty is sometimes compounded on a cheap feel. When an enemy or three surround you, your character can get trapped or hit consistently with no reprieve or manner of escape. It’s frustrating when your 80% health is depleted without the ability to counter or retreat. Boss battles can do this, particularly with the small environments they can be in.

But victory against those odds is wonderfully-rewarding. With my heart utterly racing, those last strikes give much-needed relief to the high-anxiety stressfests that some battles are. But you never feel safe (refer to the 80% health comment above) and it’s only when PREY SLAUGHTERED appears that you can exhale.

With its non-linear paths, it goes against so many video-game tropes which leave an “anything can happen” feeling. It’s fresh, curious and beautiful, in a dreadful way. I’m hoping no future boss battle turns me off as much as Rom did (and, earlier on, the Blood-Starved Beast). I don’t know if a platinum trophy is possible, but my eyes are on the prize. Loving this game right now.

[Compare this last screenshot from the one in my previous post. It’s amazing how the world changes.]

Bloodborne: Dripping In Richness

Posted in Best / Worst, Games, Resident Evil with tags on January 25, 2018 by slateman

I played Bloodborne a few years ago and, like many others, didn’t get all too far into its campaign. Its brutal difficulty required time. Time to learn how the game works, how it functions, how not to get destroyed. And so, I shipped it back to GameFly and didn’t look back. However, in late-2017, I kept coming across comments and reviews claiming its brilliance was not to be missed. Hmmmm…

And the wait began for a sale. It was $8 a while back but I missed that. However, a $14 GotY-edition sale hit and I decided to jump back in. And immediately I got pummeled. Its difficulty has not been overrated.

As the arduous path leads you towards accomplishment, I reveled in the game’s incredible art design. Lurking around every corner is wondrous attention to detail and grim, macabre backdrops. Every enemy demands respect, as even the earlier ones can end your hunt prematurely. While the Souls games have been widely heralded as classics, I only ever tried the first, and briefly, in an age long past. Learning the game’s nuances is as important as leveling up your character. Arriving at Hemwick Charnel Lane, I marveled at its ghastly beauty before being defeated by a gang of hideous and genuinely-frightening witches. The game’s world is utterly gorgeous in its decay. No title has ever captured my interest quite like this one, nor has any painted such grim environs. Much like Resident Evil before it, I actually fear going down that path or entering that house in shambles. As much as I want to gaze upon this world around me, the lurking doom keeps a sense of anxiety present at all times.

On the downside, the tough-as-nails difficulty is severely limiting my success and the elation of besting a boss isn’t always worth the frustration of getting killed a dozen times. As much as I want to finish this game, I do fear the likelihood of it happening. I write this at yet another impasse: two bosses stand in my way. We shall see how my progress goes, but in the meantime I wanted to share just a solitary image of the game’s terrible beauty.

Edit: Don’t ask me how, but those two bosses have been downed with another on my first attempt. Booyah! Now I don’t quite know where to go, but I can’t wait to see what more the game has in store for me.

Game Of The Year 2017

Posted in Best / Worst, Games, Lists, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Uncharted on January 1, 2018 by slateman

A few months ago I listed the games I’d beaten in 2017 but of course, not all of them were actually from last year. In fact, a majority of them weren’t. While my trophy list shows a varied year with a fair share of games, very few were 2017 titles. Here is the brief list of games I played last year:

  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
  • Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite
  • Nex Machina
  • Nier Automata
  • Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
  • Tekken 7
  • Uncharted: Lost Legacy

Now, it’s easy to whittle down some items. Neither fighting game will win, Nier Automata didn’t convince me in the few hours I played it so far and FFXII is a decade-old remake. That doesn’t leave much else. Oh, Nex Machina was fun, but by no means was it the year’s best.

So we’re down to Horizon Zero Dawn, RE7 and UC. The latter was fun that trimmed a lot of excess out, but UC4 won GotY in 2016.

Horizon Zero Dawn already not once, but twice. The open-world, third-person genre may be overdone, but I’m rather selective in the games I end up playing. Therefore, I’ve skipped out on a lot. In any event, the entire game was a remarkable experience. Its deep gameplay, gorgeous world and genuinely-interesting story kept me intrigued and curious up until the very end. Aloy was well-written and likable and the support cast was fun. I loved getting this game’s platinum trophy.

However, Resident Evil VII: Biohazard was an insane experience. Its claustrophobic first-person view created a tension unrivaled in most games. The entire Mia introduction was insane, gloriously unsettling and most-importantly, memorable. It joins my other favorite moments in gaming and my review began simply with my repeated sentiment, “This is terrifying.” None of the game’s follow-up DLC really compelled me to return and beating Mia is the only thing between me and the game’s platinum trophy, but that’s OK. RE7’s experience was a worthy follow-up to the series’ legacy while not suffering from that loyalty to its history. The game was a phenomenal addition to the convoluted canon and represents my 2017 Game Of The Year.

It’s worth noting in my full listing that Horizon Zero Dawn still received the New IP GotY recognition.

It’s also worthy of mention the games I missed in 2017. Chief among them is Super Mario Odyssey which, according to reviews, looks like it’s right up my alley. I may have to come back to remedy this list at some date in the future. It may be a few years though.

Finally…2018. Here’s a list of potential GotY winners based on hype alone. I’ll put them in order too of potential best-to-worst, with no basis whatsoever. Wow…there are some good games coming up!!!!!

  • God Of War?
  • Red Dead Redemption 2?
  • Ghost Of Tsushima?
  • The Last Of Us: Part 2?
  • Days Gone?
  • Far Cry 5?
  • Metal Gear Survive?
  • Crackdown 3? (Haha, we all know that’ll never come out)
  • Darksiders III?

SF 30th Anniversary Collection: Thoughts & Speculation

Posted in Blog, Games, Street Fighter on December 26, 2017 by slateman

My excitement level for the SF30AC release is enormous but I must temper those expectations with a reality check. I’ve already written about these concerns, but I wanted to take the time to give an in-depth look at what these “arcade perfect” releases might contain. I truly believe this is one of Capcom’s greatest chances here. This could be a collection to remember forever, but a few missteps could leave us with a very empty feeling.

To start, we should look at the late ’90s. After a long wait of high expectations, Playstation and Saturn owners were treated to the first Street Fighter Collection, a disappointing two-disc compilation which was lacking the initial three releases of SFII. Of course, they would be issued later, with a few perks, as Street Fighter Collection 2. These were mostly bare-bones releases that left a bad taste in the mouth of fans even though the latter set the stage for Hyper Street Fighter II and HSF Zero.

We can fast-forward to 2006 when Capcom put out Street Fighter Zero: Fighters’ Generation. Unlike the former collection, this was utterly packed with modes, features and perks. Its sound test featured virtually every SF song ever. There were training modes in all games and dynamic battle was also present. It also featured Pocket Fighter! But the most impressive and most important part of this collection was the ability to play alternate versions with dip-switch access. The base roster of games (Zero, Z2, Z2A and Z3) exceeded the American and European versions by including a few items. It came with the American version of Alpha 2 (which had Evil Ryu) and the arcade version of Zero 2 Alpha (in addition to Z2’/A2G). It may be minor, but that attention to completion and to detail is just wonderful. Dip switches helped change every portion of each game. It changed the number of Vega’s Psycho Shots, it changed voices, dizzy effects, animations…Very infrequently are more options worse than fewer.

And that’s not even getting to Hyper Street Fighter Zero, a holy shit package that is fun, over-the-top and utterly broken. But that’s not a bad thing. I’m not even going to speculate about a MUGEN-inspired SF mishmash that simply will never happen in this collection.

And this leads us to SF30AC. The game promises arcade versions of twelve games, online support for four of them.
It also features:

  • Interactive Timeline – Could be cool for a visit or two.
  • Concept Art – I love art galleries.
  • Music Archive – How complete will this be? Can we change the soundtracks in each game?
  • Sprite Viewers – This could be really cool.
  • Background Wallpapers – There appears to be a ton of these.
  • Save States – Good for short sessions.

But the announcement doesn’t say anything about:

  • Training Mode – This is a must, this collection needs this!!!
  • Dramatic Battle – This was in all the Zero games.
  • Achievements & Trophies – Will these be like SFIII:3SOE and MVC:O?
  • Alternate Versions – Read more below.

I don’t particularly need dramatic mode, but the idea is that merely having arcade and online modes will feel a bit empty. I’m not expecting SFZ3UU Mode Mania or anything, just hoping for more than two basic modes.

More importantly, training is a necessity and easily implemented. All of these games have had a training option in a home conversion in the past.

Most importantly is finding that one tr00 arcade version to play as. Some of these are going to be very simple choices. However, for others, like Zero 3, it’s not an easy choice. For this title, we know we won’t be getting the bonus characters found in the GBA or PSP port. That’s fine. But will we see the original arcade release with 25 base fighters? Or are we looking at the Naomi version of SFZ3 Upper which, with its 33 fighters, many feel is less “pure”. There’s no real right answer here, but I would be disappointed if it were the former. Certainly Capcom has to choose one to represent the online mode, but one must hope that both would be available for offline play, much like they were in SFZFG.

And to me, this is the biggest question about the upcoming compendium of fighters. Which versions will we get? So, for completion purposes, I wanted to look at which is which, assuming we don’t get a true compendium like Fighters’ Generation was.

Street Fighter

Only one version really exists for this game, outside of its prototype. This has been included in other collections over the past few years, on a bevy of platforms. I expect very little out of this one but its inclusion is nice.

Street Fighter II: The World Warrior – 22nd May, 1991

Initial boards were issues in February with its final release in May. The 910522 ROM is certain to be used. I believe this fixed some of the early glitches (particularly with Guile). Either way, it’s classic and performing some of Guile’s heavy combos are incredibly impressive!

Street Fighter II’: Champion Edition – 3rd August, 1992

Nine months on, the first CE board was issued and later saw two revisions. The first cabinets were shipped in March, an updated ROM was seen in May and a final version came out in August. These fixed various bugs.

Street Fighter II’ Turbo: Hyper Fighting – 9th December, 1992

Due to the sheer number of bootleg ROMs, SFIIT came out merely months after CE’s final update. There were no revisions to this release. I don’t know how authentic the Xbox 360 version was, but this won’t be the first time Hyper Fighting will be online.

Super Street Fighter II – 5th October, 1993

The first SF CPSII board was issued in several regions. Though dated separately, there appears to be only two main versions, one in September and another in October of 1993. We’ll be seeing this version of SSFII.

Super Street Fighter II X – 23rd March, 1994 / 29th May, 1994

The final major SFII entry arrived merely five months after SSFII. The U.S. only received one update to the February 1994 ROM. However, the Dreamcast version in 2000 listed a different date (the second above) and also got an updated revision (00/12/22) which is likely the source of Tien Gouki. That title also shows a ??/??/?? revision which, well, we don’t know much about.

In addition, it’s all but certain we won’t see any changes found in the multitude of other versions of the game, in particular HD Remix and this year’s USFII. Considering its long-revered status, staying true to the final arcade revision is hardly a bad thing and it’ll be the first time the original version will be playable online.

Street Fighter Zero – 27th July, 1995

There were up to four different versions of SFZ though certain territories, like the U.S., only received one. On SFZFG three were selectable, the last being just seven weeks older than the first. Oh, I remember the summer of ’95 well. I thought being able to play as Adon was so cool. It’s going to be nice having this game playable. Outside of the PS1 version being made available on the PSN, SFZFG is the only release in the last 20 years.

Street Fighter Zero 2 – 30th April, 1996

Several revisions exist to this game. The last, which arrived in Brazil, is likely just the 30th April version. Recall that Evil Ryu was playable in the U.S. version and not in the final Japanese revision. Considering the game’s popularity, this may be the game we receive.

Street Fighter Zero 2 Alpha – 5th August, 1996

Z2 may be popular, but this title is the best of all the SF games IMO. It was issued in four different territories on three different dates but all are likely the same version. The date above is the Japanese date.

This game was later modified for the home version of the aforementioned Street Fighter Collection. There it was given the title SF Zero 2′ (JPN), SF Alpha 2′ (EU) and SF Alpha 2 Gold (US). These home versions are not the same as the arcade version, however. The differences are minor, but each is better than the base Z3.

The real question is whether any of these games will be featured at all in the SF30AC. I genuinely feel no collection is complete without them, as they have some functional and substantial tweaks to the game system. This really is the main reason why I am hoping Capcom gives this collection the love that SFZFG received.

Street Fighter Zero 3 – 4th September, 1998? 2001?

A full two years after Zero 2, we got the finale, an over-the-top kitchen-sink version of the Zero series. Several iterations of this title were issued as well, of course, but that’s not truly the concern.

In SFZFG, Z2A was an entirely separate game. However, for this collection, it could be considered an alternate to Z2. If that were the case, it would be awfully nice for the Naomi version of Z3 Upper to be considered an alternate of Z3.

Long story short? Will we see the CPSII version or the Naomi board replicated in this collection? Whatever your preference, I think we can agree having both would be ideal! Unfortunately, the real question is which will be online?

Street Fighter III: New Generation – 4th February, 1997

Heading back in time a little bit, SFIII:NG came out just six months after Z2A. It was a particularly prolific era in Capcom fighting history, with Pocket Fighter, Street Figther EX, the Marvel VS. series, Zero entries and SFIII all being issued within a few years.

I believe there was only one arcade ROM for SFIII:NG and we’ve only ever seen one home port of it, 1999’s SFIII: W Impact. It’s OK that this won’t be online, it’s just gonna be good to have this available.

Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact – Giant Attack – 30th September, 1997

Just half a year after NG, its successor arrived in arcades, again with no ROM upgrades. As Hugo was not complete for the February release, he arrived here in what, nowadays, would simply be a patched update. Taking a note from the Vampire series, EX moves were now available as well as Gouki’s arrival. Again, this only ever saw one home port but I look forward to playing this.

Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike – Fight For The Future – 8th June, 1999

More than a year-and-a-half later, we got 3S, what is now considered one of the most highly-regarded SF games ever. At the time, though, SFIII wasn’t particularly loved outside of the hardcore fighting community and 3S added some rather unmemorable characters.

While we saw a release on the DC, PS2, Xbox and later the PS3 and Xbox360 in the form of Online Edition, they all were essentially the arcade version. A Japanese ROM was issued a month before it was in the west and a final revision came in June. This fixed Urien’s unblockable attacks and was the basis for virtually every port moving forward (I believe).

As this will be online, it’s pretty straightforward. I’m hoping this is the ultimate version of 3S.

So, that’s that. There are a lot of questions about what exactly SF30AC will look like and what it’ll contain. Capcom can really make this a collection to remember, much like SFZFG before it. I just hope they give it the care it deserves and don’t cut corners. The $40 price tag makes me a little worried, but I’m trying to remain optimistic. We’ll find out in May!

Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog with tags on December 18, 2017 by slateman

I remember it, 34 years ago. Watching Episode VI in the theaters as a seven-year-old boy. I recall the anticipation, getting in the car, smiling throughout the film. In many ways Episode VII two years ago, was almost as exciting. But with such online vitriol for the surprisingly-different Episode VIII, I didn’t know what to expect.

[SPOILERS BTW] And now having seen it, the verdict is simple. The bad was average and a bit cheesy and out-of-place. The casino segment, the iffy middle storyline, the corny humor…There were some parts that gave me the feeling of Episode II, my least favorite of the eight (+one) SW movies. That’s not a good thing.

But on the other hand, the good of this film was GOOD. The entire intro sequence was impressive. The Kylo/Rey connection was a new take on the force and it hearkened back to Episode V and VI in all the right ways. I enjoyed his struggle, his tortured soul, the flashbacks to what led him to this point. Snoke’s death, while an impressive sequence (particularly in the aftermath), felt a bit empty as we don’t know anything about his backstory, his purpose. The final scenes both looked incredible and had such weight. The battle, Luke’s goodbye to Leia, the Luke vs. Kylo fight. OMFG. The latter had me on the edge of my seat. Then Kylo strikes him down. NOOOOooooo! Oh…he’s OK. Wait. Wait!

It was crushing. My childhood hero has succumbed. I just wanted Luke Skywalker adventures forever and he didn’t even leave his planet. It was disparaging, but as he faded away with the dual suns in the distance, the beauty and sadness were far more profound. It was so incredibly powerful and redeemed any shortcomings the remainder of the film had. Despite the discouraging reviews citing disappointment, I ultimately quite enjoyed it. And the best parts of the film could stand up alongside the highlights of the series.

How amazing it has been: from seeing Episode VI in theaters as a seven-year-old to taking my six-year-old to see Episode VIII three-and-a-half decades later. A perfect film it was not, but it was poignant and visually appealing and I got to say, “goodbye,” to my idol and every kid’s crush from the same era. And with that…the wait for Episode IX begins!

Games I’ve Missed In 2017

Posted in Blog, Games, Lists on December 17, 2017 by slateman

With the imminent arrival of Best of 2017 lists, it’s a good time to look at what I didn’t get a chance to play. Since my end-of-year chronicles are inevitably incomplete, I wanted to see which have eluded me that are the year’s best (or potential best). Some of these I’m not too worried about missing. Others very well could be this year’s GotY.

The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

While I did play a portion of this game, I didn’t get too far. I got stuck and wasn’t impressed like the rest of humanity was. Taking pictures of the world truly doesn’t interest me. The visuals were just obscured by fog and I grew tired of getting new swords all the time. It’s one of those things where I know I should play it. Perhaps when I get a Switch, though it doesn’t appear to look much better than the Wii U version.

Super Mario Odyssey

Speaking of the Switch, a new Mario! Since naming it my favorite game series ever and after cataloguing my recent Mario runs, this is simply a must-play game. I don’t know when or how…but I will play this. Could it be 2017’s GotY? I may not know for a few years!

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana

After doing some major Ys catch-up this year (beating II, Felghana, Oath and starting Seven), I didn’t play the one Ys game actually from 2017. This is another must-play but I only expect a fun romp, not a GotY contender. That’s OK. I love Ys!

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

I only just played through the first Wolfenstein reboot this year but I quite enjoyed it. The game was pretty standard but it was done rather well. There’s very little chance this could be the best of the year, but I sure as hell want to try this out!

Nier: Automata

What is this even about? *Shrug* I just know that it’s being praised. It sounds like a game worth playing.

Middle-Earth: Shadow Of War

After naming the original my favorite of 2014, it surprises me how little interest I have in this one. The game got good reviews and the third-person action genre is easily one of my favorites. Given the frequency of PSN’s sales, this one will eventually be pretty cheap and this one will be played, probably sooner than the new Mario.

Notable Mentions

I’m curious to try Star Wars Battlefront II and Call Of Duty: WWII, though neither is too compelling. Games I have played will come next!

Street Fighter: 30th Anniversary Collection Thoughts

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Street Fighter on December 11, 2017 by slateman

It’s finally been announced. The highly-anticipated 30th-Anniversary collection of SF games is now known. Containing (takes breath), Street Fighter, all five main iterations of SFII games, and a trio each from SF Zero/Alpha and SFIII, it’s a behemoth package with a dozen arcade titles. Four of those titles will be online with lobbies and both ranked and casual matches. In addition, we’re looking at art galleries, a sprite viewer which looks kick-ass, game-release details and a full timeline of the series. There will be a music player and even save states for its single-player modes. It sounds absolutely incredible and is one of those day-one purchases you knew you’d make before you knew it existed. The trailer, as well as the SFV:AE intro and the Sakura reveal, plus the full season 3 roster was one of the hypest (most hype?) deliveries in recent memory. And then you add that magnificent Capcom Cup finale – the losers bracket comeback by MenaRD over the legendary Tokida. It was simply marvelous.

But…

There are few things to consider here. The main thing is that these are arcade versions and not console ports. As exciting as “arcade perfect” may be, that means there may be no training, no special modes like World Tour, no Dramatic Mode. When compared to home translations of the past, these games may feel very bare-bones. I’ll say, I expect some sort of training mode out of it all, but that wasn’t mentioned in the trailer.

A second thing is that we don’t know precisely which version of each game will be made available. When you look back at SFZ: Fighter’s Generation (Alpha Anthology in the west), we had all three Zero titles alongside alternate versions, all with dip switches changing arcade board revisions. I really don’t know if this 30th Anniversary collection will entertain this attention to detail. Of course, since SFZ:FG/SFAA already had “arcade perfect” games, my fears of a very basic translation may be unfounded. But with that unclear, we simply don’t know just which version of each game to expect. Might we see the arcade SFZ2A upon which the home version of Alpha 2 Gold was based? Could Tien Gouki be playable like he was in the DC port of SSFIIX? Or is it just a basic final-revision title for each?

But enough of all these worries! Let’s look at some basic facts. There are twelve games in this package. SFIII:NG and 2I have only been ported over once, to the Dreamcast nearly 20 years ago. While they were usurped by the far-superior and all-inclusive SFIII:3S, this gives everyone the chance to play these integral parts of SF history. This also makes Zero 2, my favorite Street Fighter game of all time, available for the first time in over a decade. We can surely expect the usual filters to make it look less shitty than usual on my 55″ 4K TV. There will be wallpapers for all games. There are surely trophies and achievements which may be like the arcade ports of the last few years (SFIII:3SOE, Vampire/Darkstalkers:Resurrection, MVC:O). Everyone gets to try the original SF that I played in arcades as a pimply-faced 12-year-old. SFZ3 will be playable online for the very first time! This is just insane: a fanboy’s dream. And this fanboy cannot wait for May to arrive.

Uncharted: Lost Legacy – Why Writing Matters

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Uncharted on December 4, 2017 by slateman

As I play through Uncharted: Lost Legacy, I find myself enjoying yet another UC romp with all the ingredients of a great game. The action is fun, the vistas are beautiful, the setpieces are impressive. It also shipped at a budget price, fair for its shortened campaign, and I got it on sale for even cheaper.

However, it is just yet another Uncharted. To be fair, it’s simply an expansion that ended up being a lot larger than anyone really thought, so it fits right in with what it intended to be. But as the gorgeous game goes on, there’s little we haven’t done before. The only difference is now we’re controlling Chloe. Ah yes, the dirty Chloe who we first saw doing the tango with our hero Nathan several games ago. She is coupled with Nadine who was a mostly-forgettable character in last year’s Game of the Year, UC4.

While the game never strove to be UC5, what we’re greeted with is an entirely-competent title which draws strength from its namesake’s heritage. But what is easily the game’s greatest accomplishment is the chemistry between our two heroines. Much like Sully’s relationship with Drake, it feels as if there’s a lot going on here and with each chapter unfolding, more is revealed about their backstories. The dynamics between the two bounces between sarcasm, humor, anger and the bantering feels right at home in an Uncharted tale. The story itself, well, that’s nothing particularly noteworthy, mainly because we have done all these things before. Retread or not, Naughty Dog has once again crafted a game that is solid in virtually every way, that looks and controls beautifully and has a duo I genuinely care to hear about. This can’t be heralded as a triumph but only because its legacy has already paved that trail.

Like UC4 and The Last Of Us before it, the developers have shown their ability to weave a narrative that is both serious and aloof. Though the gameplay has worn itself a little thin over this past decade, it’s certain the studio will have great tales ahead and I, for one, cannot wait to indulge!

Cubing Wishlist 2018

Posted in Blog, Cubing, Lists on November 18, 2017 by slateman

I’ve been cubing now for almost seven years, I think, and my collection might seem rather complete. However, as any cubing fan would know, the differences between many of these puzzles is vast. And while I already have a standard Megaminx, that doesn’t mean I need a two-layer one or a five-layer Gigaminx any less! Nay, my collection lacks the four, six and seven! Unfortunately, at this stage in my cubing career, purchasing puzzles is less of a priority and the prices of the ones I “need” continues to rise. Despite this, the collection is quite incomplete in the vast scheme of things and I thought I’d put together a short list of puzzles I would like to add to the display. File this under “Things no one else cares about” which truly is what this blog is all about anyway. I’d say, “Enjoy!” but I’m the only one reading this anyway! :D

Puzzle $$$ Notes
Z-Cube 2x2x1 $ My old one broke
QiYi Clover Cube $$ Half Ivy/Half Curvy Copter?
Z-Cube Penrose Cube $ Just seems curious!
3x3x1 Floppy Ghost Cube $ Just another one for the collection
Any Stickerless 5×5 $$ Something cheap
Replacement 6×6 & 7×7 $$ V-Cube sucks
Redi Cube $ Another curiosity
Heart Curvy Cube $ Same as the Redi/Dino Cube?
4×4 & 5×5 Mastermorphix $$ I have a hard time with these
SS 4×4 Megaminx $$ Then I’d have 2/3/4/5!
SS 6×6 Megaminx $$$ 2/3/4/5/6?
SS 7×7 Megaminx! $$$ Same price as the 6×6
2×2 Windmill Cube $ Just looks cool!
4×4 Octagonal Dipyramid $ Only have one 4×4 shape mod

For now, that’ll have to do though I’m certain I’ve missed some. I may return to this post!

It’s Official: Moonsorrow Is The Best Band Ever

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music with tags , on November 12, 2017 by slateman

In case you were wondering, the verdict is in: Moonsorrow is the greatest band to ever grace the earth.

If you weren’t wondering, then you either a) knew this to be true or b) are deluded into some nonsense.

After I proclaimed 2011’s Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maasa potentially the best album in a decade and Jumalten Aika the undisputed AotY of 2016, you’d think I’d have gone back through their catalog. You’d imagine I’d relish in their past successes as well! But no…I had yet to do that. The lengthy opuses were difficult to catch my interest. They were hardly passive listening experiences and so I never dedicated enough time to them.

Until now.

For some reason, with ample time on my hands (I guess I’m an author now), I decided to work in reverse. V: Hävitetty contains two half-hour songs. These are not easily digestible or easy to appreciate. However, once that appreciation arrives, it is enriching. The ebb and flow of an album like this spans both the obvious time as well as space. Its highs and lows are matched by shrieks and gentleness. Its grandeur – a word that can be attributed to every piece in this band’s catalog – can be reduced to the simple term: epic. This is massive and triumphant and remarkable. The only downside is that I’ve utilized all the superlative words in the English language before even moving on to the next record.

2005’s Verisäkeet contains four lengthy oeuvres and an outro. Each of those four songs has its own unique identity and since they three of them clock in at 14 minutes (the final at 19), they have enough breathing room to expand and explore. The third track, Pimea may be the album’s best and stands among the band’s greatest works and its outro is hum-worthy for weeks.

Kivenkantaja may be my least favorite LP so far, with very broad strokes, but less uniform vision. It is the only record that I might pick apart and listen to one song more than another. This album houses Raunioilla with the amazing choir voice of Janne Perttilä.

The band’s second LP, Voimasta Ja Kunniasta, was one I started later on. My initial spins were only appreciated at a low level, with the last few songs garnering the most attention. However, very shortly later did that appreciation grow to recognize this as yet another masterpiece by the band. From its folk-inspired intro to the tremendous Sankaritarina, there’s not a bad second on this album, despite being so early in the band’s catalogue. The finale is still a staple of the band’s live shows, and for good reason.

I have yet to really dive into Suden Uni. I’m taking my time with this stuff here. And I can’t forget Tulimyrsky, the behemoth EP that outclocks most band’s full-length efforts. The Metallica cover is unique, yet skippable, and the re-recorded songs are merely interesting takes on very early Moonsorrow songs. The remaining two tracks contain the 30-minute title track which has some of the rawest and fastest parts the band has written. Another epic ending stays with me for hours afterwards and the cover, Back To North lies next to Non Serviam as some of my favorite cover songs ever.

And let’s not forget, on top of this gush-fest of a post, that their last two albums are easily among the best albums of the 2000s, if not beyond. But, if you’re quick to mock my late arrival to the game, I’ll share with you this final point. At 41 years old, I’m living through a renaissance of incredible music. I’ve somehow managed to find the best band EVAR, after being an enormous metal fan for 30 years. And as my playlist is 99% Moonsorrow this past month, it’s the most exciting time I’ve experience in music since discovering bands like Opeth in 1996, or Slayer and Metallica almost a decade prior. And unlike those bands at the time, these Finnish geniuses have an entire catalog of awesomeness to appreciate!

TL;DR – Moonsorrow is the greatest band ever. Just go listen.