I Beat A GTA!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games with tags on August 9, 2018 by slateman

Despite having played every major GTA installment dating back to the late 1990s, I have never actually completed any of them. Not a one! From the London updates to the original, through the PS2’s trilogy, even GTA4, I’ve played almost everything (Except 4’s DLC). In fact, I’ve already written about GTA3’s impact on gaming. But at no point did I ever follow-through and see the credits on any of them. That’s not a bad thing! They were all marvelous releases and Rockstar’s brand revolutionized gaming and became the biggest-selling form of media in history.

And I actually started GTA5 when it came out. However, I had to return it to GameFly for one reason or another. As the years progressed, I watched the sales figures creep up. 60, 70, 80, 90 million units. Holy shit.

With sales never floundering, the price tag rarely dipped. However, I finally nabbed the game at the low, low price of $20. And it is quite low, considering just how much game is crammed into this behemoth. With no other games capturing my attention at the time and a busy autumn ahead, I gave it a go. Reminiscing of the missions I’d done and branching into new territory, the entire lot was a hell of a lot of fun. It’s such a polished product with scores of random events, WTF moments, incredible writing and amazing production value. I cannot recommend it enough and even completing it leaves a great majority of the game still unseen, both online and off.

As has been my wont, here are some spoilericious snapshots from the journey. For the first time, I can claim accomplishment in clearing a GTA game. It’s about damn time!

4×4 Windmill Last-Layer Parity

Posted in Blog, Cubing with tags on August 8, 2018 by slateman

Another quick algorithm update. I saw I had left my awesome MoYu AoSu 4×4 Windmill Cube on the shelf unsolved. That last-layer edge parity (either opposite or adjacent) can’t be fixed by the normal algorithm, as it messes up your centers. “Oh, what was the solution again?” I pondered…To the YouTube!

Ah, that’s simple! OK, so first, rotate the U layer either way and then drop down the white center. Move back the top layer so your parity is properly located for your algorithm and the white/yellow centers are front and back. Do the awesome LL parity algorithm and then just reset the white and yellow faces. Since those two don’t have any orientation, it’s OK if you flip them around.

Quite simple really…until I forget next time, of course!

Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night – 200.6% Finally!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, High Scores/Accomplishments with tags on July 28, 2018 by slateman

20 Years Later – Finally 200.6%!

At 42 years old, my personal Castlevania history dates back three decades to the original on the NES. Like so many others, I’ve played just about everything. The classic trilogy, Bloodlines, IV, SOTN and its subsequent GBA/NDS titles, the PS2 3D ones, LoS, side stories, etc, etc, etc.

And at the top of that heap, to me, remains Symphony Of The Night. It’s just so [insert 20 superlatives we’ve all heard]. Anyhow, while I was a day-one adopter in early 1997, I never made it past 197% or so. This continued when I replayed it in the early ’00s, and again when I got the PS1 Classics version on the PS3. Oh, and when I replayed it **again** on the PSP with Dracula X Chronicles.

My itch for more Castlevania meant another replay of Rondo Of Blood, now on my Vita, and…why the hell not, let’s do it again! And now my goal was to *finally* get the elusive 200.6%. Methodically going through the game room-by-room, I made it to the end of the second castle, started doing my clean-up and realized…I missed Mudman. No! No!!! So bummed, I took a day or two off before heading back in and finishing it all off.

Little did I know that getting 200.6% was still achievable despite my oversight!!! And so finally, for a game I started playing just after my 21st birthday, is now (sorta) 100% complete at my tender age of 42!

New 3×3 Record! 29.03!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Cubing, Cubing Records, High Scores/Accomplishments on July 28, 2018 by slateman

This one is a few months old, but that’s OK. This isn’t unusual, but every so often I’ll grab my best 3×3 and see if I still have it. A sub-40 average is usually my goal, but my ninth solve on this day was just remarkable. I slammed together that first layer in like 8 seconds. The second layer was average, but I think I had two last-layer skips. It was one of those moments where you just know this is something special. As only my third sub-30, I was utterly thrilled. Anyhow, new record! Oh, and a quick check of my cubing records reveals that this new time came precisely one year after I got my last sub-30 record! I suppose I’ll have to make another go on the 18th of May, 2019!

More Tolkien? I Cannot Resist!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Books, Tolkien on July 10, 2018 by slateman

I can’t blame them. The man has been dead for 45 years and my collection somehow continues to grow. Giving me anything Silmarillion related will equate to a certain purchase. This time, we return to Gondolin to round out the trio of epic Tolkien tales, following Narn i Chîn Húrin and Beren and Lúthien’s tale. I know these stories by heart despite not touching the book in a decade. I can open up to any section and be right back into the world, the lore and Tolkien’s grand vision. I can’t wait to return to Turgon and to Maeglin’s betrayal. The author of my favorite book remarkably continues to publish, almost a half-century after his passing. Even his son, the editor of a majority of these books, creeps up on his 94th year. One day, perhaps, they’ll run out of content. But until then, I may be in search of a larger bookshelf. :D

What To Play: 2018-2019 Edition

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists, Resident Evil with tags , on June 15, 2018 by slateman

As E3 rolled out the new and exciting, it’s hard not to truly get pumped up by something. There are some enormous titles a’coming – and many of them are not so far off. Sony’s Resident Evil 2 reveal gave us our first glimpse of the game in action as well as a release date merely seven months later.

Today I’d like to go through some upcoming release dates alongside my excitement level. Three stars = must buy, pretty much. As always, this is more of a personal checklist, but now that it’s written up, there’s some good shit on here!!! Let’s go!

07 Aug – Dead Cells ***
07 Aug – Overcooked 2 ***
21 Aug – Guacamelee 2! ***
31 Aug – Divinity: Original Sin 2 *
14 Sep – Shadow Of The Tomb Raider *
21 Sep – Spyro: Reignited Trilogy **
26 Oct – Red Dead Redemption 2 ***
04 Dec – Just Cause 4 ***
31 Dec – Mega Man 11 **
?? ??? – Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night***

2019
25 Jan – Resident Evil 2 ***
29 Jan – Kingdom Hearts III **
?? ??? – Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice ***
?? ??? – The Last Of Us – Part 2*

Resident Evil 4 – Again!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Resident Evil on June 15, 2018 by slateman

By my count, this is the fifth time I’ve beaten Resident Evil 4. I’ll simply never forget my first time on the GameCube – and that chainsaw death. I followed this with the PS2 game, and later the Wii game which, by all acounts, was the easiest of them all. The remaster on the PS3 and now on the PS4.

But on this last playthrough, I wondered to myself, why precisely I was doing it again. I found it curious that on both of these Playstation versions, I paused. There was a significant delay between certain trophies. After saving Ashley and before defeating Bitores Mendez on this playthrough, I stepped away for seven months. As surprising as that might be, the lapse was 3-and-a-half years back on the PS3. Evidently that middle section is my least favorite.

So back to the question: Is this really one of the best games ever? Five playthroughs suggest yes, but that middle bit gave me pause. However, the flurry of trophies as the game ends on both the PS3 and the PS4 show that I just blasted through the finale. The level design is smart, the bosses are challenging but not overly dumb (as is the case with certain games) and it balanced the tiptoe beginning with an action-packed ending. Resident Evil 4 is not a top-10 game ever IMO. But it is a top-20 game and that’s not half-bad. I’ve definitely spent too much money on this game, but it’s OK when the final product is that fun, with satisfying head-shots, intense anxiety due to those effin’ Regenerators and tremendous sound design.

Perhaps after two Nintendo systems and three from Sony, I may have completed it for the last time. At least, until the remaster on the PS5!

Oh, and just checking out those trophies made me think, “I must’ve taken a picture from the last time I beat the game! I did – and the stats are significantly different! I’m certain pause time contributed to the lengthy duration of this latest run, but, I couldn’t have paused it for that long!

God Of War: Mini-Review

Posted in Best / Worst, Games, Screenshots with tags , on May 13, 2018 by slateman

Having taken a few weeks to complete the campaign, I sit thinking of how to describe the experience. The game may have received rave reviews across the board, but was it truly as memorable, inspiring and wonderful as everyone says? To begin, let’s address some facts after the obligatory here be spoilers warning.

The middle sections were iffy and revisiting places felt a bit drawn out. The music wasn’t as heroic as I’d hoped and I never found myself humming any tunes as I itched to return to Midgard. There were some lighting issues, particularly with shadows, where everything would go dark and it gave the game an unnatural and jarring feeling from time to time. Initially, there were too many menus, upgrade choices and options to go through. One of the later gameplay mechanics felt too video-gamey, especially for a title that aimed to bridge the gap between cinematic experience and games and I also hit a checkpoint bug that was frustrating and made for too much work.

Phew…that’s a long list of woes. However, as a true testament to the game’s magnificence, I would still give it a 10/10 as the laundry list of good/great/fan-fucking-tastic things is easily 20 times the length of the previous paragraph. From a gameplay perspective, the puzzles were almost all interesting and fun and they were tied in with the story or side quests perfectly. Fighting as Kratos has never been as satisfying, challenging or glorious to behold. A series staple, this game somehow made me forget about the blades of chaos, at least until they returned. On the one hand, the leviathan axe was a brilliant change of pace, both brutal in its weight and also marvelous to watch, and its integration into puzzles made it the ideal weapon of choice. But as Kratos’s past returned, the blades were not merely a prop or throwaway weapon: they served a purpose, both with their fire element and also the gravity of accepting his prior life.

Which leads, inevitably, into that conflict Kratos suffered. I can all but guarantee nobody saw our protagonist as the “most developed character of 2018”. (I realize, Red Dead Redemption 2 will likely win story of the year for many). Honestly, who believed Kratos could undergo such a transformation from a one-dimensional anger machine to a wonderfully-blended father figure, tormented god and, rarely, funny character. The BOY memes are not unfair, but I genuinely cared about him, his journey and above all, his relationship with Atreus.

The dynamics the duo faced throughout this journey were simply remarkable. When Atreus was in trouble, I felt my own inner Spartan Rage building. I don’t know if non-parents could truly experience the emotional side of this story, but I like to think they can, even if a portion might not resonate as much as a father of a son, like I am, can. At points, I hated Atreus and wanted to slap his face. On others, I felt for him, the way I do when my own child hurts. Finally, on others, I relied upon him to stun my enemies, distract them, reach those I couldn’t and for tossing me some energy when I was getting an all-too-frequent beat-down. He is the single best non-player sidekick I’ve ever had the joy of semi-controlling and his journey, as Kratos mentions at the end, is the true center stage of this tale.

Finding that out, however, was a vast undertaking, through realms, fighting behemoths and ultimately landing at one of the more emotional finales I’ve ever experienced. The implications of Faye’s predictions: whatever that final panel meant, makes me yearn for more in a way no God Of War ever has. The significance of the final name reveal: Loki, has me questioning everything! I’ve been entrenched in Norse mythology and, knowing my stuff, the ending means OMG – bad shit’s a’comin’! Balder’s death signifies the beginning of Ragnarök – orchestrated by Loki himself. Plus, Loki is the father of Jormungand AND Fenrir which turns the entire timeline on its head.

And all these superlatives just gloss over the incredible attention to detail, the way the developers integrated lore without overwhelming you, the utterly gorgeous graphics and pristine sound design. It doesn’t capture how after my finale and the post-finale, “I want the sequel NOW” reveal, that I just want to dive back in to collect more, defeat valkyries, upgrade equipment and, as of yesterday, tinker with the new photo mode.

The only true downside is that a sequel will never be able to capture the magic this reboot has offered us. This game is very similar to the Tomb Raider reboot from several years ago: the new take on Lara was compelling and its gameplay superb. I actually cared about the lore, though that was overshadowed by GOW’s, but the two have many parallels. Much like the Tomb Raider sequel, more is always great, but I don’t think it can ever live up to the experience I just had which is, without a doubt, among the best in my gaming life. And to think, I only just beat Bloodborne three months ago! Two games which likely reside on my top-20, mayhaps even my top-15!

I’ll cut this off now, as I surely could gush for countless other paragraphs about Brok and Sindri, about the single-shot presentation, about those damn valkyries, about…..yeah….let’s call it a day now. I’m pegging it as Game of the Year now. It’s not a question of it being deserving, it’s only a question of something else being able to topple it. OMG, so good.

Dimmu Borgir: Eonian – Quite Good!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music with tags , on May 5, 2018 by slateman

I vividly remember 1997 and hearing Dimmu Borgir for the first time. That record remains among my favorite albums ever and the band never matched it in my opinion. I lost a little interest by the time Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropa came out but my interest was renewed with 2003’s Death Cult Armageddon. With only a pair of new-material, studio records since that, Eonian’s arrival didn’t really have me expecting altogether too much. The singles weren’t bad, I thought, but it turns out that in context, they are part of a rather grand presentation.

I’m not going to proclaim this the album of the year. However, my spins leave me wanting more. For whatever genre they’re in, symphonic black metal possibly, they do it well. As the weeks led up to release, the press has spoken of their ventures outside of their comfort zone. Words that leave a long-time fan hesitant. But the album is a rather solid outing and I’m thoroughly enjoying the adventure it takes me on. There are some killer albums on the horizon: At The Gates, and my most-wanted: Skeletonwitch. Though this won’t likely dethrone Kalmah or the potential of some of those aforementioned bands, it could possibly rank in the top-5 come December.

God Of War: This Is The Real Deal

Posted in Best / Worst, Games with tags on April 22, 2018 by slateman

I’ve only just begun, but I’ve already uttered the famous words, “This represents everything I love about videogames.” Just a few hours in and I’m mystified by the world, intrigued by Kratos’s relationship with his son and left in awe at how spectacular the game looks. It’s simply amazing and is the best-looking videogame I’ve ever feasted my eyes upon.

And so to commemorate a mere portion of the game, I’m sharing some of that visual splendor. These are spoilers, of course, but holy shit, do they look good! I will be back with more, that is a certainty. Oh, and Ghost Of Sparta was a surprising title. It was a lot of fun, had an excellent story and it’s a game I’m glad to have gone back to consume. Unfortunately, GOW: Ascension simply couldn’t hold my interest. It’s OK. I’ll dare say the current God Of War may very well be the series’ best. Bold words after a few scant hours. That’s a testament to just how good things are going so far! OK, enough ado! Spoilers ahead!