Archive for the Lists Category

Games I’ve Beaten – 2017 Edition

Posted in Blog, Games, Lists on August 31, 2017 by slateman

It’s been five years since I’ve done a list like this, I think. Now with access to taking out games from the library, I’ve been able to play some titles I would have missed otherwise. Including everyone’s 2016 GotY which, unsurprisingly, wasn’t my cup of tea. And with four months remaining in 2017, I figured I’d look back at which games I’ve completed this year. Only three actually came out in 2017 now that I look at this. With (+) signifying PS+ games and all being PS4 unless indicated, let’s look!

  • Abzû (+)
  • Beyond: Two Souls (PS3)
  • Datura (PS3)(+)
  • Diablo III: Reaper Of Souls
  • Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture (+)
  • God Of War: Chains Of Olympus (PSV)
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Lego Movie: The Videogame
  • Level 22 (PSV)(+)
  • Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime (+)
  • My Name Is Mayo (PS4 & PSV)
  • Nex Machina
  • Overcooked
  • Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
  • Rise Of The Tomb Raider
  • Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 (PS3 & PS4)
  • Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3
  • The Witness
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order
  • Ys: The Oath In Felghana (PSV (PSP game))
  • Ys: Book II (PSV (PSP game))

I’m still working through FFXII and I look forward to playing Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite is coming and Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana are also on the horizon.

Edit: Included the Ys games I just beat!

The Golden Age Of Television

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Lists, TV on August 3, 2017 by slateman

I can think back to when I was a kid and TV consisted of Family Ties, The Wonder Years and Cheers. The ’90s brought Seinfeld and Friends, the ’00s shows like 24 and The Sopranos. But since cutting the cord, it should be difficult to keep up on the new shows, but clearly it isn’t.

I’ve spent more time since Erin and I moved to Sweden than I did in the decade before it. As we start a new show, Ozark, I recalled the countless shows before it that we’ve binge-watched over the last half-decade. The quality varies, of course, but a number of them can live up to the Seinfelds of the past. I thought I’d try to reflect on this fact, partly for my own posterity, really. Asterisks denote completed shows.

  • Americans, The (5)
  • Big Little Lies (1)*
  • Boardwalk Empire (5)*
  • Bloodlines (3)*
  • Breaking Bad (6)*
  • Catastrophe (3)
  • Fargo (3)
  • Game Of Thrones (7)
  • Homeland (6)
  • House Of Cards (5)
  • How To Get Away With Murder (3)
  • Leftovers, The (3)*
  • Mr. Robot (2)
  • Narcos (2)
  • OA, The (1)
  • Ozark (1)
  • Sherlock (4)
  • Stranger Things (1)
  • Taboo (1)
  • This Is Us (1)
  • True Detective (2)
  • Vikings (4)
  • Walking Dead, The (7)
  • Westworld (1)

Several are in a strange “is it over”? stage. But that’s a good listing of shows, some can stand up with the best shows ever IMO, like Breaking Bad, the first season of True Detective and early Vikings.

Breath Of The Wild: Let Us Begin

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists with tags on March 3, 2017 by slateman

Despite the entire world thinking Zelda is the best thing ever, I only ranked it #7 of the best gaming series ever. That’s still impressive, no doubt, but that leaves a lot of room to grow. And the reasoning behind it being so low on the list? Let’s look at the history, shall we? Moving backwards, the main entries:

2013: A Link Between Worlds: Brilliant and wonderful
2011: Skyward Sword: OK – Never beat it.
2009: Spirit Tracks: Trains?
2007: Phantom Hourglass: Never touched it
2006: Twilight Princess: Got stuck in the middle. Lost interest.
2004: The Minish Cap: Spectacularrrrrr
2002: The Wind Waker: Got to the end, didn’t love it.
2001: Oracles Games: Always wanted to play
2000: Majora’s Mask: Never had interest, I know, I’m missing out.
1998: Ocarina Of Time: Remember the day I got that game. Classic.
1991: A Link To The Past: Legen…dary.
1987: The Adventure Of Link: It was bad then, it’s worse now.
1985: The Legend Of Zelda: My favorite back then. I knew it all.

That’s an awful lot of games and an awful lot of…”so-so”. I don’t care if it’s blasphemy to say so, but I only truly loved a handful of Zelda games. But the good were outrageously good. And that’s why I’m giving Breath Of The Wild a chance. It looks enormous, but nowadays, that’s not always a great thing. I’m just hoping that’s a perk and not a detriment.

So, wish me luck as I embark upon yet another Hyrule adventure. I can only hope it’s one I complete and maybe moves Zelda up on the list. That’s a tough one though.

Release Dates: 2017 Edition

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Books, Games, Lists, Movies, Music, Street Fighter, Tolkien, Uncharted on March 3, 2017 by slateman

The usual ‘post so I can check back and remember’ release-date listing! This is for my interests only, really. I should mention it’s been a good start, with a great Kreator record and a solid outing for Overkill. RE7 was a spectacular game as well. However, I’ll be honest, I don’t see 2017 as being a tremendous year. There’s no major music on the horizon and movies??? That’s kind of frustrating. Surely something will be announced at E3, right?

Today: The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild
07 Mar: The Americans (Season 5)
29 Mar: Proof Set 2017
14 Apr: Dimmu Borgir – Forces Of The Northern Night
16 Apr: The Leftovers (Season 3 – Final Season)
26 May: Bloodline (Season 3)
30 May: House Of Cards (Season 5)
01 Jun: J.R.R. Tolkien – The Tale Of Beren And Lúthien
23 Jun: Emperor/Slayer in Norway
30 Jun: Vintersorg – Till Fjälls Del II
xx Jul: Wintersun – The Forest Seasons
22 Aug: Uncharted 4: The Lost Legacy
19 Sep: Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite
31 Oct: Stranger Things
15 Dec: Star Wars: Episode 8 – The Last Jedi

Other Records
–A Perfect Circle
–Arch Enemy
–The Black Dahlia Murder
–Dimmu Borgir
–The Haunted
–Satyricon
–Skeletonwitch?

Other Shows?
–Taboo (Season 2?)
–Westworld (Season 2 – 2018)
–The OA (Season 2 ordered)

What To Play: 2017 Edition

Posted in Blog, Games, Lists, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Uncharted, Ys on January 30, 2017 by slateman

It’s time again. Today I want to look at what’s coming up in 2017 much as I did in 2016 and also in 2015. Unsurprisingly, there are a few 2017 titles that were slated to come out last year. In Zelda’s case, we were waiting for that one way back in 2015! Regardless, a quick glance at what this year has to offer is enough to warrant genuine excitement. And let’s not forget the already-released and highly-praised Resident Evil VII! Unlike prior years, sadly, I haven’t access to GameFly and so my gaming will be greatly reduced from yesteryear. Things are also crazy expensive here in Sweden. RE7 cost 600kr which is almost $70. However, even with that number size, several of these truly feel like must-own titles. Few actual release dates so far, but that’ll change. Let’s get to it!!!

Ys Origin 2/21 Not A Priority
Horizon: Zero Dawn 2/28 Interest Piqued
Zelda: BotW 3/3 MAX
Tekken 7 6/2 Hmmm…
Battle Chasers: Nightwar TBA If the price is right…
Crackdown 3 Q4 Need an XB1 first!
God Of War TBA Could this be good?
Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite TBA Genuinely Psyched
Metal Gear Survive TBA Zero expectations
Red Dead Redemption 2 TBA OMFG
Super Mario Odyssey Q4 Need a Switch first!
Uncharted: TLL TBA A Must Buy
Ys III: Lacrimosa Of Dana 2017? Out in ’16 in JPN, Localize, please!
Final Fantasy XV n/a Do I have the time?
Sherlock Holmes: TDD n/a My wife and I loved the last
Overwatch n/a I should play this, right?
The Witness n/a I’d like to try this

Game Of The Year 2016: Disappointed Edition

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists, Metal Gear Solid, Street Fighter, Uncharted on January 15, 2017 by slateman

gotyIn the past, I subscribed to GameFly. I’d get the latest games and while so few were truly excellent, at least I got to try them. 2016 was a tough year because I really missed out on a lot. I know. First-world problems. However, in culling through the year’s best, I realized I didn’t play most of them. Overwatch, Gears 4, The Witness…there are a few which very well could’ve been GotY, but I guess we’ll never know. Unless I come back to emend this post.

…and I may need to do that. Because the list below is an revision of last year’s list and it details the best game of the year as well as the best new IP of the year. And sadly, I have nothing for the best new IP. Looking through my trophies list (as I don’t have an XB1 and the Wii U is a joke), shows I didn’t really play that many good titles in 2016.

So, the list came down to:

  • Street Fighter V (Lack of single-player content kills it)
  • Rise Of The Tomb Raider (Not nearly as good as the reboot)
  • Zero Time Dilemma (Another fun, quirky game)
  • Far Cry Primal (Solid, alternate entry into the FC series)
  • Uncharted 4 (Writing, action, visuals, story, gameplay….)

Yup…it’s really no contest. Actually, playing through Rise Of The Tomb Raider started to bore me. The story was nonsense, the collectibles were just strewn everywhere for no reason, the gunfights were too sparse to even challenge and the locales were just so similar. I found that Uncharted 4 trumped it in every way. I cared about Drake, his brother, their relationship, Elena…the story was compelling, and the little items like Sullys one-liners, the attic portion, the games on the couch with Elena, the end…and you know, the entire middle of the game – just were top-notch. The gameplay was perfection, Naughty Dog never faltered with that portion of UC. And the locales and visuals were out of this world. I platinumed the game in just a few weeks, much like I did for the other three main entries into the series but yet the game beckons me to return. There is little as satisfying as clearing an area of baddies like that whole beach portion of the finale. Damn that was difficult!

So, while no new IP is listed here (yet? Maybe The Witness? Overwatch?), the coveted trophy goes to Drake’s epic send-off Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. And yes, that makes 3 out of 4 titles GotY winners. Not too shabby if you ask me!!!

Year GotY New IP GotY
2016 Uncharted 4 [None…Yet!]
2015 Metal Gear Solid V Rocket League
2014 Shadow Of Mordor [Same]
2013 Tomb Raider Guacamelee!
2012 Borderlands 2 The Walking Dead
2011 Portal 2 Torchlight
2010 Red Dead Redemption Darksiders
2009 Uncharted 2 Borderlands
2008 Metal Gear Solid 4 LittleBigPlanet
2007 Uncharted [Same]

It’s worth noting that 2010’s Red Dead Redemption was a toss-up with Super Mario Galaxy 2. Both are pretty much perfect 10s in my book. Two MGS games and two Uncharted games topping this list! And Borderlands is on there twice too. Pretty cool!

The Best Moments In (My) Gaming History

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, DoDon Pachi, Games, Lists, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, The Walking Dead, Ys on January 9, 2017 by slateman

Lists never get old, but old I am. And as I turn 41 in but a month, I’ve been playing videogames for about 35 years. Through that time, I’ve played the good, the bad, the incredible and the horrendous. I figured I’d catalog some of the best moments as seen through my eyes. This is by no means comprehensive. I’ve likely missed some and assuredly your list would differ from mine. For instance, everyone’s Game of 2016 seems to be Overwatch and I never even touched it. Oh well. So here we have a list of my favorite gaming moments ever, in no particular order. Oh…and obviously there might be spoilers. That happens when you recap decades of gaming. You’ve been warned. Let’s start!

Final Fantasy VII: Aerith (1997)
I am one of the thousands whose first entry into FF was VII. Purists hated us as we missed out on the classic lore of 1 or 2 (IV), etc. But as the seventh entry into the game arrived, it also ushered in a new era of gaming. The PS1 was really in its infancy; rendered videos coupling with voice acting showed gamers what the future could contain. (Granted, the TurboCD predated this by more than half a decade, but that’s a totally different story!) Those of us who grew up on Mario and Sonic were treated to a futuristic, mature and gritty game. Characters came to life as they had never fully done before. And Aerith/Aeris appeared, the pretty florist who joins AVALANCHE to counter the absolutely-and-completely-bad-ass Sephiroth. When Cloud arrives to find her at an altar and then OMFG Sephiroth impales her! What Just Happened?

Twenty years later, main characters are almost expected to die (thanks George R.R. Martin!) A story without a twist is boring. A tale wherein the protagonist is the antagonist or there are double and triple crossings are now standard fare. But in ’97 I knew of no game that dealt with such loss. And it’s a tale that, twenty years on, still affects me.

Tomb Raider: T Rex (1996)
Although Tomb Raider has received its fair share of glory, much of 3D gaming’s success and roots are attributed to Super Mario 64. And while that’s not unfair, the years have not treated Lara Croft’s first adventure well. TR didn’t age nearly as well as SM64, but a number of average-at-best sequels also diminished the series’ name.

However, back in 1996, this game was an amazing accomplishment. Nowadays, the barren landscapes would make the young cry in boredom, at the time, “less is more” truly was the mantra. Because when things did happen upon you, be them bears or wolves, it was a big deal. The game’s minimal soundtrack and the mythical world you scoured painted a wonderful picture of exploration and excitement. And then it arrived.

Running through the lush green of some cavern in I don’t recall where, I came upon a dinosaur. Now, I can’t recall if I saw the smaller ones first, but when the T. Rex appeared it was immediately categorized in the OMFG classification. I could only hear the Monty Python voices instructing me to, “Run Away, Run Away!”

Subsequent playthroughs were obviously less terrifying. But that moment was just so grand in a game of such minimalism. After some dismal entries into the series, the reboot landed itself at my favorite game of 2013. But the impact of that first game was every bit as important as the Italian plumber’s.

Resident Evil: Dogs (1996)
I’ve uttered OMFG more than once while recounting these moments. Shock. Pain. Fright. But let us face one fact: Resident Evil itself has two entries on this list.

We shall begin back in the mid-90s wherein so many of these moments reside. I missed out on playing RE upon release but did so about a year later. This was back when PS1 games were still being sold in longboxes. A friend, I can’t recall whom, lent me this disc. And anyone who has played RE knows *exactly* what I’m going to say.

Heading down that hallway with the black-and-white checkerboard floor, I was usually cautious. It was a must in that title. But when those dogs burst out the goddamn window, I nearly shat myself. It’s one of those moments in life that brings you right back to where you were. I can recall even where I was sitting. I remember it all. My heart raced and every time I went through the hallway again (including how they mixed it up in the RE-make) brought such anxiety.

Before we head to the next entry, I should share that Silent Hill had a similar effect, however slightly less potent. The creepy town streets, the static of the radio, it truly instilled terror into me. At the time I was living in an apartment, a former nurse’s station, which happened to have black-and-white tiled floors. After a session of SH I was to go to a friend’s and meet everybody when, as I walked towards the door leading outside, the awning creaked. I paused and then an enormous amount of snow fell from the awning. Scared the crap out of me. It was no more than a few feet before me. The empty halls and darkness looming made the fright all the more powerful.

Resident Evil 4: Chainsaw (2002)

Back to RE! The series was considered on the downward slope. Everyone loved the first two entries, but even I didn’t get around to 3 or Code Veronica. And then let’s remember that between RE2 in 1998 and RE4 seven years later, we were treated to three Gun Survivor titles, two Outbreak games, RE: Zero, the REmake and a GBC title. That is a lot and it watered down the Resident Evil name.

So when RE4 came out, as a GameCube exclusive, it was easy to have expectations low. The GC had mainly catered to a younger audience. What should we expect? Well, a buddy of mine and I booted the title up and walked through the intro (that I’ve played on the GC, PS2, Wii and PS3) expectations were shaken. And when you’re in that village and the chainsaw-wielding lunatic comes after you, that sense of dread returns. And when that guy literally chopped off Leon’s head, my mouth was agape. It was grotesque. It gave me the sense that anything could happen in this title. It returned RE to the high standard the first titles represented. And it shocked the hell out of me. Now, more than a decade later, the fourth game represents a change in gaming culture much like the first one did.

The Walking Dead (2012): That Ending…

The connection to the TV show and thus the graphic novels may be scant, but to me, the episodic first season of TWD was an enormous step in gaming and one whose ending resonates through me still.

Cutting to the chase here, the game was a solid portrayal of a post-zombie-apocalypse world. My character, Lee, was likeable yet real. His relationship with Clem was similar and at that time of my life (36, with four children), it was tangible and tactile. I was Lee and Lee was me. As absurd as it sounds, that sentiment is what every game developer wants his gamer to feel. Many games give you options to chat with characters and many times I skip out on several. Not here. I gobbled up every new chance to flesh out that relationship of the imperfect father figure and the lost young girl. When she was taken, a fire within me burned. “I will get her back,” as if I had any say in the game’s script. When Lee got bitten, I cut off that arm for the better good. And when we walked amidst the zombies and Clem got us into the storage shed (or whatever it was), my teeth clenched as I wished for a happy ending. And then…

Amidst all of these gaming memories, many truly are etched into my mind. I can go back and remember where I was, what the time of my life was, how that moment affected me. When the lights came on and I saw Lee, his eyes yellowed, my heart sank. “No. NO. NO! You can’t die on me! You can’t abandon Clem!” It was terrible. It was the absolute worst thing that could happen. And as the story continued on, Lee’s fate clearly determined, it was wrenching. And finally, as the tale ended, Lee (due to my choice) handcuffed to the heater (or whatever it was), I was crushed. The game ended, with hope for the future, but it didn’t matter. Lee was gone. I was done. Utterly crushed I was, so much so that as the credits rolled and my 6th platinum trophy popped, I didn’t even care. Tears streamed forth and I stared at the TV in absolute shock. No game had ever consumed me at such an emotional level. Sure, I’d played countless hours as Nathan Drake, Mario or Lara Croft. But nothing affected me as much as that relationship between Lee and Clem…and Lee and me.

Grand Theft Auto 3: Freedom (2001)
I have never beaten a GTA game. I tinkered with the first and the second (as well as one of the expansions) but we all know it wasn’t until GTA3 that the game truly came into its own. And I never beat it. Or VC, SA, 4, 5…nope. And that’s OK. Because in the autumn of 2001, I had just started Metal Gear Solid 2. It was slow and trodding. It required moments of sitting still. Hiding. Waiting. But at the same time, GTA3 had come out and it was all-around chaos. Why do missions? Just go around destroying everything in sight, beckoning police to the pandemonium and causing more chaos. Every time I would start a mission, I’d get side-tracked and mayhem would ensue. And while nowadays there are so many games that offer this experience, this, to me, was the first of its kind. Top-notch acting and a story that was an excellent production all equaled a groundbreaking and game-changing moment in history. I didn’t end up beating MGS2 until 5 years later and while that series is in my top-10 ever, GTA3 overshadowed what ended up being my least-favorite of the MGS games.

Symphony Of The Night: Inverted Castle (1997)
I played all three original NES Castlevania titles before taking a bit of a break. While I’d tinkered with the SNES and Genesis games, I still don’t think either truly lived up to the franchise’s name. Now, the big problem with Dracula X is that it never came to American shores. While SotN is a direct sequel, it means most of us didn’t play its utterly-excellent predecessor. I only bring this up because the arrival of SotN was, to me, the best Castlevania game in ages!

We begin with a good story, silky-smooth gameplay and let us not forget the music. Oh! that music! Alucard’s animations coupled with the gothic-inspired decor painted a wonderful picture of the time and setting Konami and Iga set out to create. It is yet another entry into the ‘I can remember when I was playing this game’ category. I recall my apartment, the time of year, even the music I was listening to during those weeks. (Conversely, when I listen to that music, I think of SotN!)

However nice that story is, it’s just a tale of a nice game! In the Internet’s pre-saturation phase, we didn’t have every secret accessible on our mobile devices (as they didn’t really exist). This game encouraged exploration and upon completing the game and searching for the elusive 100%, we were all greeted with an amazing discovery. Now, explore the entire castle…upside down!!! This was a simple solution to a simpler time when storage space was limited and system memory scant. Are you serious? Just play the entire castle inverted? YES! It was brilliant and exciting and riddled with secrets. Just how I love games to be! Coupling this revelation with a renaissance of the CV series, it’s understandable that the formula was recreated over no fewer than half a dozen times in the following decade. And understandably, I played each and every one of those as well! But none had the flair or excitement that SotN did.

Asteroids: Turning (1982-ish)
My introduction to gaming began at an early age and, like everyone else at the time, I owned an Atari 2600. With the caliber of games that appeared back in that era, I can truly appreciate games of today. (Yes, I owned E.T.) One title, Asteroids, wasn’t truly an amazing game. But one afternoon at a very young age, I started on what was my first experience with achievements. High scores were a big deal back then, but my goal for that afternoon was to turn the score. Rolling meant turning the score from 999,999 back to 0. At the time, that was the equivalent of a platinum trophy. It’s not sexy…but back then it was a huge deal.

Contra: UUDDLRLR (1988)
My youth, in some ways, was defined by the interactions with my friends and my best friend Dan in particular. We became friends in the 6th grade, just as Contra was released in the USA on the NES. It was at a time before digital distribution and videogame cartridges were expensive. Therefore most games were to be played in a sitting and then played again the next day, as you couldn’t just download a new game or demo. We would play this game repeatedly. “Bored? Play Contra!” And what better way to play than with the 30-lives Konami code? Everybody knows this code and it became synonymous with gaming and cheats in general. Nowadays, with trophies and achievements, cheats are not nearly as prevalent as they were back then. But back then, push power, up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, select, start and go! (We used the select button for the 2-player code) If it didn’t work? Press reset and do it again! The game and the code are legendary for me. A funny side-note, rumor always had it that the code wasn’t meant to be left in Gradius (where it initially appeared), but the designer forgot to remove it before shipping. Funny how things work…

Ys: Books I & II: (1990)
We all know the extent of the failure of NEC’s TurboGrafx-16 in the west. It eventually battled the SNES and Sega Genesis and lost on most commercial accounts. However, the CD-ROM add-on, while released too late to save the system, was an incredible step forward in games. From redbook audio to complete FMV scenes, it heralded a new era that truly wouldn’t be adopted for another half-decade (with the arrival of the PS1 and Saturn). The small library wouldn’t really impress but one title in particular stood above and beyond its counterparts. Falcom’s Ys compiled the first two games into one and changed how games could be represented. Book I is a short adventure, but Book II is a wonderfully-crafted tale. Full animations of Adol and the group were brighter and coupled with crystal-clear dialogues. Don’t know if anyone else can remember when they started putting voices onto cartridge games in the early ’90s. This put them to shame. Of course, it’s too bad the system was a failure.

But beyond visuals and voice acting, the music was impeccable. There was simply no other system at the time capable of outputting such high-quality audio. I still can hum the tunes of certain areas. IMO, despite its failure, NEC was way ahead of its time when it issued the TurboCD.

Street Fighter II: Animations (1992)
I’ll never forget this. After having played the original SF in arcades and then Fighting Street on the TG-16, seeing SFII is etched in my memory. It was almost 25 years ago that I walked into the arcade at the mall in Massapequa. A horde of people surrounded a cabinet and a pair of televisions were hung above for the crowd to see. Round 1 began and I stood, mouth agape, as Ryu bounced, prepared for the bout.

The title proved to be one of the most remarkable successes in videogames. Its depth and replayability are heralded as true provenance of competitive gaming. And the title’s history in the 25 years since is colorful and full. However, one of the most impressive moments for me was just seeing those animations and colorful, vibrant backgrounds popping to life. We also cannot forget the music, whose hummable themes can still be conjured up at a whim. And for anyone who lived through it, the magic of what came in the following years is also as memorable as the rest.

Advent of Achievements/Trophies (2005)
It’s so bad that now I don’t really want to play old games. I play games that I don’t necessarily want to just to obtain trophies.

That goes against everything gaming represents! But every so often I’ll get a Vita title or something and play while the kids are watching movies…all to grab a handful of trophies that truly have no significance in the world.

When the Xbox360 shipped and featured achievements, it was a cool concept. Sony, realizing they were behind, started a long string of catch-up games on the PS3, eventually patching in so many missing features. Trophies, for me, are superior to Microsoft’s achievement points. A quick look at a gamer’s stats show a number. Achievement points or Trophies, it’s all the same. I could get 5,000 bronze trophies or amass 10,000 Achievement points. However, Sony’s breakdown shows that I currently have 19 platinum trophies and I can list them all off one-by-one. In retrospect, the jump from PS2/Xbox to PS3/Xbox360 was a major step in connectivity and console ability. And there’s simply no looking back.

And looking back, I’ve played games for more than 30 years. While achievements and trophies didn’t entirely change gaming, in many ways they changed how I play them. 100%ing a game was a badge of honor, but only to show a friend who was physically present. Now you have tangible proof. Developers make trophies to lead you down certain paths, perhaps ones you’d miss otherwise. It changed how I approach games and the longevity of some titles. I cannot go back and find it sad that Nintendo franchises (other than Mario) don’t call me to complete them like Sony’s or Microsoft’s do.

Red Dead Redemption: Mexico (2010)
So much has been said about RDR and this transitional section of the title. However, like many other people, I wasn’t fully sold on the game when it came out in 2010. Grand Theft Auto in the west? As written above, I’d never beaten a GTA game and I am not particularly fond of westerns, be it the time period or the movies about it. But then you cross the threshold to Mexico and the voice of José González appears. That acoustic guitar, that empty feeling of enormity ahead. It was a spectacular moment in gaming and opened the world to be so much more than what I thought. The game continued its excellence in its writing, gameplay and the ending was phenomenal. It was beautiful and remains in many people’s memories as a high note of a game that I never knew I wanted.

DoDonPachi: Dai-Ou-Jou: Chaining Level 1 (2005)
After playing shoot-em-ups (shmups, known as shooters back then) throughout the ’80s and early ’90s, the genre died as arcades faded away and games became more elaborate. Cave continued the tradition by refining a sub-genre known as Danmaku (Bullet Hell). For those initiated, the change was profound as both depth and strategy evolved.

I was reintroduced to the genre with Cave’s DoDonPachi in the early ’00s. After following the developer for a few years, they ported the finest title in the history of shmups in 2003. I imported it day one and played the hell out of it. The game is incredibly difficult, both the gameplay and the scoring system. Its meticulousness requires such specific accuracy, many are turned off by the game. Only the best can beat it in one credit, chain entire stages and the lot. As I’ve never been very good at Street Fighter or shmups in general, I had no chance at greatness.

Until the autumn of 2005 when I dedicated myself to scoring and chaining. My scores and progress are surely mere novice material when compared to the pros of the genre. But on the 14th of September 2005, I managed to chain the entire first stage! This meant specific planning and coordinating lasers, shots and hyper usage to combo every enemy from the beginning to the end. I would later get a higher combo total before moving to Maine when my time to dedicate dwindled to nothing. However, the unbridled excitement from achieving a goal after putting in such effort…it makes this one of the most memorable moments in all my gaming history. And while many of these memories here are of the game itself, this is a personal achievement that may stand above so many others. Below a capture of my highest chain and here is my old progress log, now utterly defunct and outdated.

Well, there you have it. In finishing this up, I’ve already thought of a few more that I might need to add to part two. But since this list has been brewing for several months already, it’ll be a while until I have that prepared.

2016’s Games I Didn’t Play

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists on January 1, 2017 by slateman

While deciding on a GotY for 2016 hasn’t proven easy, it seems like part of my problem is that I simply didn’t play as many games as I typically did in the past. It seems unfair, therefore, to actually choose a winner if many recipients of the much-coveted title weren’t even experienced by yours truly! Ultimately, nobody gives a shit about what I think, so this may just be a way of delaying my announcement. Without additional unnecessary ado, let’s look at some of what I missed. Mind you, I don’t expect all of these to truly be in contention; Uncharted 4 and Rise Of The Tomb Raider are in the sights for the title.

Overwatch
I don’t know about MMO games. They’re not usually my thing, but with such clamor over this game’s awesomeness, I would be remiss to not even consider it.

Titanfall 2
Despite my lack of interest in the first title, I’ve heard stellar things about the campaign of this game. There’s no chance a straightforward FPS could win this title, but I would like to give the story mode a go. They’re usually pretty brief, right?

The Witness
Now we’re talking. A curious puzzler that I somehow didn’t get around to? My PSN purchases have been far more infrequent than several years ago. I want to get this one to try out with the wife.

Final Fantasy XV
Without nearly as much spare time to play games as I used to have, do I really even want to start this one? That’s a tough question. But if the desire is there, I think I’d fully enjoy this title.

Gears Of War 4
Gears and Gears 3 were both phenomenal 3rd-person action titles and they may be the best co-op experience I’ve ever had in a campaign. While I missed Judgement and I don’t own an Xbox 1, I sure would love to try this one out. At least not owning the console is a good excuse not to have played it!

Inside
Everyone is claiming this game is wonderful but my time with the demo underwhelmed. I’ll get around to playing this one day. But a 3-4 hour campaign for GotY? No way.

Battlefield 1
Another game that everyone says is the bomb. Another game I’ll just have to get around to playing, even if it’s low on my priority hierarchy.

Doom
Don’t think I care enough about this one but it got good reviews. My experience with the demo showed it was a lightning-fast shooter that seems to hearken back to the roots of the series. *shrug*

The Last Guardian
I never actually beat Ico or Shadow Of The Colossus! So what would make me think I would get around to actually completing this one?

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana
Another game I can’t be faulted for missing out on. This came out on the Vita with a PS4 version coming in a few months…but only in Japan so far. I’ll have to wait another year for this game, I fear.

So…next up is actually figuring out which games are in contention. A bit late, I realize.

Best Albums Of 2016

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Lists, Music on December 20, 2016 by slateman

Jumalten AikaA pretty solid year with some stand-out records. This year I have a top-10 list, but first there are a few honorable mentions to list. You can read this and the past 20+ years of this list on my Best Records pages on my main site. Though, this year’s top record really is no surprise. I’ve known what it was for eight months now. Anyhow, let’s begin!

Noteworthy Mentions

Witchery – In His Infernal Majesty’s Service
Exactly what I expected here.

October Tide – Winged Waltz
So much better than the boring last album. But I never find myself putting it on. It’s heavy as hell at least!

Borknagar – Winter Thrice
So much weaker than the 2nd-best album of 2012. The disappointment is hard to swallow.

Dark Tranquillity – Atoma
In Flames – Battles

So, I moved to Gothenburg and within two months two of the most notable Gothenburg metal bands release albums? Both are good, DT has been solid the last few years and IF is catchy. Good albums.

Final – Live Reprocessed – Birmingham 2009
Justin Broadrick is prolific as ever and his diversity is his 2016 efforts. JK Flesh, Final and Council Estate Electronics all had strong albums, one making into my top-10.

Ghost – Popestar
A poppy new song and four covers? They may not be my favorite style of music but they are spectacular at what they do. I expect album #4 to be wonderful as well.

Now to my Top Ten!

Top-Ten Of 2016

10: JK Flesh – Rise Above (UK)

JKB conjured up a 2016 version of Techno Animal for a gritty entry into the top 10. It’s heavy and bleak and is what I’ve been missing from his discography as of late. It’s been 15 years since TA folded and even without K. Mart, Justin proves he still has what it takes to push the genre forward.

9: Abbath – Abbath (Norway)

After Abbath’s well-publicized split from the mighty Immortal, he issued an impressive and blistering-fast ‘debut’. The record feels a bit uneven, with some that I will often skip and others I’ll listen to far more frequently. This is a memorable record worthy of the top 10 and some songs are staples of my “I need speed” playlist. I’m curious to see what Demonaz and Horgh can pull together to counter this.

8: Metallica – Hardwired…To Self-Destruct (USA)

It was the summer of ’89 and I, a 13-year-old boy, had just gotten into Metallica. It was prime because that is the critical point where Metallica was the best band that had ever existed. I still stand behind this. The 1989 version of Metallica was the best any band has ever been. I think we can fast-forward 20 years with no real issue as we know that story.

Death Magnetic was probably the second-best album in 2008 and I knew there was no way this double-CD (why?) could live up. However, the twelve songs could be culled down to make a pretty kick-ass EP. The singles were about the best songs on the album, of course barring the epic finale. Spit Out The Bone is clearly the album’s best. Just writing this makes me want to listen.

However, some of the songs on that second disc are just cringe-worthy. I respect the band. Essentially they can do whatever the fuck they want. Of anyone, they’ve earned that! OK, I’ll say this album is ranked #6 in their 30+ year library. The classic four, DM and then this. We fast-forwarded past it, but oh how I loathe that black album. Just writing this makes me angry. Let’s move on.

7: Einherjer – Dragons Of The North XX (Norway)

This isn’t fair. Dragons Of The North was released 20 years ago and it remains a classic in the era of budding Scandinavian metal. Just after I got into Einherjer I got their ‘new’ album. Odin Owns Ye All was my first purchase and after hearing their awesome, trademark sound, I was left utterly disappointed. Sure, they came back later with maybe the second-best album of 2003, then broke up, then released the best album of 2014…but back then, I wrote them off.

And here we are, the twentieth anniversary complete re-recording issued as Dragons Of The North XX! It sounds better. Sections were tinkered with and overall it’s a spectacular record. Does it belong on 2016’s list? I don’t care. This album is just as good as it was then and the outro of Conquerer is actually improved. So good.

6: Amon Amarth – Jomsviking (Sweden)

I was in radio when Once Sent From The Golden Hall came out and I’ve followed this band ever since. My interest waxes and wanes but they’ve yet to really put out a bad album. I listen to each and like each and then they get shelved. Perhaps due to 2016 being a very weak year for the first half (or 2/3rds!) I listened to this a lot. Perhaps it’s due to it being a solid and fun album! The metal anthem Raise Your Horns is deliberately catchy but The Way Of Vikings is the album’s best. It’s altogether heavy and memorable and it ends on a high note. It’s the first Amon Amarth record in a while that I’ve put on again after listening to it…always a sign of a solid entry.

5: Alcest – Kodama (France)

Alcest was done. You know how it goes. You love a band and then they change and well, that was fun. You know they’ll never get back to the form that you loved. And after 2014’s Shelter, that was where I was at. Nothing will live up to 2010’s Écailles De Lune. While that’s true, Kodama destroys the last album and when, on the third track, Neige lets loose, I lost it. They’re back!!! I don’t need a full album of raspy vocals. But when that contrast hits, it stands out all the more. This is the first victim of genre bias. At one point this album was my #2. But since my numbers 4, 3 and 2 are more of the style I’m into…Alcest dropped. Not fair, but what will I go back to and listen to in 5 years? Despite that unfairness, Kodama still made the top 5. Pretty solid for a band that was done, right?

4: Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake (USA)

I know their last two records were good and people quite liked them, but I never loved them. But, the band has not really made a bad album since the entirely-forgettable The Ritual album 25 years ago. And here we are, almost 30 years after The Legacy with a consistent, solid and spectacular 11th studio LP. It is a heavy and crushing record from start to finish with impeccable production. Hoglan’s drumming is the relentless and mixed perfectly. Skolnick’s solos are the most metal he’s done in years (far less jazz influence IMO) and I welcome back DiGiorgio after a 15 year absence. I always felt he was better than Christian anyway. Peterson’s writing is top-notch, riffy and catchy, heavy and melodic. And Chuck is in top form, doing everything right. His voice has that natural deep end and this is among his best efforts.

Brotherhood is a great album front-to-finish, with more fun, anthem songs breaking up the thrashy groove. To me, this album is right up there with the best in their catalogue. Not as good as 1999’s The Gathering, but much better than anything since (well, only 2 LPs came out). This one will be a record I go back to and a reminder, it sounds fantastic. Just like they did in ’99, there’s no excuse for any album to sound less than this. Guitars, bass, vocals, drums…all sound perfect.

3: Skeletonwitch – The Apothic Gloom (USA)

The only problem with The Apothic Gloom is that it’s a mere four songs long. The twenty-minute listen is essentially perfect despite its brevity. While many people rue the loss of their original vocalist Chance, I was never really loyal. A new vocalist in tow, the band’s new EP tinkers with some new concepts including a 7-minute epic (by Skeletonwitch standards). The four songs offer a more mature feel without losing anything that made me love the band on prior releases. Like the record, this review has little more to say. It feels as if it’s over as soon as it begins. So, like the record, go back and re-read this review again. I promise it’ll be just as good, if not better, each time!

2: Insomnium – Winter’s Gate (Finland)

I never stopped liking Insomnium like I did with Alcest. I just figured they wouldn’t recapture the magic that made me love them so much. My experience with “our new album is going to be one long song!” concepts always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Green Carnation’s Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness comes to mind. Sometimes you just want to hear that one bit, but oh, damn, it’s 40 minutes into the song and I’m not fast forwarding that much! (that was mostly a pre-digital complaint).

So, with the band’s last really not impressing me and with the one-long-song concept, my expectations were low. But the long-song idea gives the band time and freedom to explore lengthy passages before returning to their best metal segments in a decade. The melodic parts are beautiful and the heavy parts crush. The album flows and feels like a journey through the frozen seas in search of a fabled island. The record has everything I love in music and it’s why I placed it above Testament and Skeletonwitch. The clean sections are beautiful, Niilo’s vocals are equally strong in singing and growling segments, and the production is spectacular. I’m fortunate enough to have the record split into seven tracks for easier digestion, but it wouldn’t matter. This record doesn’t suffer the issue that Green Carnation did. The whole thing is fucking awesome. Finland represents again as it has been in recent years, and if only it weren’t for that pesky Moonsorrow, this would be #1.

1: Moonsorrow – Jumalten Aika (Finland)

It took me about three days. My first listens resulted in, “This is good. Not as good as Varjoina, but good.” By day #3 or so, it was Album Of The Year. I’ll remind you that this LP came out on the 1st of April.

There was no question. The epic scope of a Moonsorrow song (the four main songs average 14 minutes in length) cannot be immediately appreciated. But if this was already deemed AotY on the 4th of April, imagine how much I loved it two weeks later. It was spun endlessly. Despite the so-so nature of Suden Tunti, the other four are just utter masterpieces. Let us not diminish the strength of that word. Masterpieces they are, embarking upon a musical trek of vast proportions. Additionally one of the two bonus tracks is among my favorite cover songs of all time.

I know of no band whose sound is like Moonsorrow’s and I know of no way to perfectly convey what a glorious gem Jumalten Aika is. In the eight months since its release, I’ve gone back to it thinking, “Is it still *really* that good?” And after I listen to the entire thing, I somehow marvel, not only at its brilliance, but at how I could ever have doubted it. Pagan, folk, black metal? I don’t care what genre it is. It is hands-down the Album Of The Year much as its predecessor was five years ago. As good as that one? I can’t say, but since that was probably favorite album of the last 15 years, it could be forgiven if it were #2. This is the best of the year without question. Finland #1 and 2 this year. Impressive.

Gaming In 2016: Snore…

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Skyrim, Street Fighter, Uncharted on August 20, 2016 by slateman

ZTDPackagingKeyArt_thumbI love gaming, there’s no question about that. But as August winds down and we enter the final third of 2016, it appears it’s been a rather lackluster year! A quick look back at what has come out and what I’ve played reveals a slow trickle of games truly worth playing.
Checking my PSN Profiles Page I see a short list of new games I’ve played since January. It’s not comprehensive, there have been a number I’ve played but didn’t care for (like many recent PS+ games. Ugh). Also note that I haven’t an XBox One, my 360 is about to die and both the Wii U and 3DS are utterly useless outside of Mario and Zelda games. Let’s see where we stand…

Games Of 2016

  • Ratchet & Clank
  • Resident Evil 0
  • Resident Evil 5
  • Shadow Complex Remastered
  • Street Fighter V
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • Zero Time Dilemma

Umm…Seriously? NOT ONE original title? Maybe I’m just a cautious buyer now, but c’mon, that’s pathetic. So, we have three ‘remasters’, one re-envisioning, and three sequels. Now, the sequels are good. ZTD is a solid finale into the fun series, SFV as a package is flawed but the gameplay is spectacular and the production value of UC4 is second to none. It just makes a ‘Game Of The Year’ competition unfun. There are other sequels coming…Gears 4, Rise Of The Tomb Raider, and Final Fantasy XV. There are also more re-re-releases like Rez Infinite and Resident Evil 4 as well as Modern Warfare and Skyrim. However, if that were my top seven of 2016, it’s sad to know I’d already beaten two of them, three if you count R&C.

I have friends curious about Mafia 3 or Battlefield 1 or whatever, but going by what interests me, there’s almost nothing on the horizon. And in my Game Of The Year competition, I list the best game and the best new IP title…I have NOTHING for the latter?

OK, enough of the bitchfest twenty sixteen. Let’s see what I’ve actually beaten this year. See if there’s a theme here. This list omits the aforementioned titles (of which I haven’t yet beaten RE0 and ZTD):

  • God Of War (*)
  • God Of War II (*)
  • God Of War III Remastered (*)
  • Gone Home
  • Lego The Hobbit
  • Lego Marvel Super Heroes
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: HD Edition (*)
  • Metal Gear Solid 4 (*)
  • Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker: HD Edition
  • Ratchet & Clank: Into The Nexus
  • Tales From The Borderlands
  • Tembo The Badass Elephant
  • Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition (*)
  • Ys: Memories Of Celceta

Asterisks denote games I’d already beaten already (barring HD upgrades, etc.) Of the 14 titles, I’d already completed 6? Two of those were my GotY for 2008 and 2013!!! The two Lego titles I got platinums in. They’re fun to play with the kids. But they’re the same as every other Lego game. There’s nary an interesting and unique game in the lot that has done something I hadn’t already done or seen before. Well, Gone Home but that almost doesn’t even count.

So…I’m disappointed by 2016 but hey, it’s how things go. I haven’t tried No Man’s Sky yet. Maybe that’ll be great. For giggles, here’s a full list of what’s left in the year as well as a few titles that trickle into 2017.

2016
August
30 – Resident Evil 4

September
13 – Pac-Man Championship Edition 2

October
11 – Rise Of The Tomb Raider
13 – Rez Infinite
28 – Skyrim

November
04 – CoD: Infinite Warfare
04 – CoD: Modern Warfare Remaster
29 – Final Fantasy XV


2017
January
24 – Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

February
28 – Horizon: Zero Dawn
28 – Vikings: Wolves Of Midgard

Who Knows
?? – Zelda: Breath Of The Wild