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.

Ys: Origin Completed: Thoughts & Images

Posted in Artwork, Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Ys on November 1, 2017 by slateman

After finishing up Ys II and Ys: The Oath In Felghana, I picked up Ys Origin, a game I’ve been meaning to play. Its arrival on the PS4 this year gave me the perfect chance! In addition, I just grabbed Ys Seven so that may make another title beaten in 2017, we’ll see.

In any event, the game was pretty fun though I rued the lack of voice acting like the other two titles I played. The story was fun enough and the gameplay solid. Therefore, with yet another Ys title under my belt, I thought I’d share some more images, replete with spoilers, of course! There are two more campaigns but I can’t say I have much interest in doing them, although I’d like to see how the third one pans out; I think that one is canon.

And so, here are some images from my runthrough of Ys Origin which really offered some fan-service about the…ahem…origins of Ys and the games I’ve been playing for over 25 years! Enjoy!

Cuphead: A Work Of Art

Posted in Artwork, Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Screenshots on October 14, 2017 by slateman

This game is insane. It’s weird though. In no way is it new. The visuals hearken back to nearly a century ago and the tough-as-nails platforming isn’t far removed from my own youth. However, it is gorgeous and one of the more refreshing titles I’ve played in years. In an age when everything feels like it’s been done before, Cuphead comes along and tells you that old can be new again. I’ve opted to share some screenshots, but they simply cannot do this game any justice. The silky-smooth animations and impressive boss battles can only be appreciated by watching it in action…something I highly recommend anyone doing.

This last image is one you’ll see a lot of. It taunts you with showing your level progress, thus inciting another retry. And another. And another.

Clicker Heroes: The Stupidest Game…

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games with tags on October 2, 2017 by slateman

…that I can’t stop playing. After picking this free title up months ago, I was enthralled by its mathematical crack, constantly beckoning me to return. Long sessions weren’t required but a consistent minute here or nine there fed the need. Then I hit a wall.

For some reason, I returned recently and figured out a way past the barrier. It could’ve been a few months of idle coin harvesting. And then I ascended again. Now, with dozens more hero souls, things were going by so quickly. I managed to reach level 100, a feat that took days, easily, in about six minutes. Madness!

And as I reached the lofty level 360-whatever, I ascended yet another time, relishing in the hundreds of hero souls. And on the next playthrough, making it to level 150 or so in mere minutes, I accidentally scrolled to the right, revealing Transcendence as an option. Hmmm…should I? Shouldn’t I? Typically I’d read up a bit: what to do before, should you transcend, etc. This time, however, I just said, “Screw it,” and clicked it. “You will lose this and that,” “yeah, yeah, yeah.” Clicked. Done.

Then, back at level 1, now with absolutely nothing, I instantly regretted my decision. I have to actually click again? No idle bonuses? Umm, what is the benefit to this again? Well, things aren’t quite back to square one, but they’re close. I understand that there will be incredible perk to my idle build…once I have unlocked my Ancients. But, with too few rubies, waiting for level 100 is the only option.

So, after this useless game took away everything, why do I still play? No clue. It’s a strange active-passive experience based on saving money, spending it, calculating and…waiting. Very strange indeed.

Postseason 2017: 2am start.

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Reflection, Yankees on October 1, 2017 by slateman

The first season I’ve been detached from in decades winds down today and the postseason for my beloved Yankees is a bit shaky. While it’s been a fun and rather surprising year, I don’t know if we have what it takes. The one-game playoff versus Minnesota is one of those ‘anything can happen’ situations and I’ll admit the best of two concept I heard about recently sounds like a better solution. But even if we beat the Twinkies, we go up against the team coming off the hottest streak in over 100 years. That shortened five-game series is no less stressful! And the winner faces either the Astros (*ahem*, 2015) or the Sox (hatred). OMG, the latter would be insanity.

But that’s getting way ahead of ourselves. Gotta fend off Minnesota, whom we recently swept, first. And that game starts at 2am here. How can I not watch? Alternately, how can I? Well, I did get up at like 3am to watch when the Yanks and Matsui opened their season in Japan a lifetime ago. Oh how I love the postseason. Oh how I hate thee.

Ys II: Completed! Thoughts

Posted in Artwork, Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Screenshots, Ys on September 20, 2017 by slateman

Ys Books I & II remains among my favorite games ever. That’s partly tied to the time of my life, about 13. However it is also tied to its innovation, its technological prowess (CD quality!) and its music, which is still remarkable. But now having finished the remake of Ys III and my save game but a few hours into Ys II, it was time to complete this retelling. And now that I’m done, I realize…It’s dated.

The game was still great, with the familiar faces of Feena and Reah bringing a smile to mine. However, its source material is almost 30 years old and it shows. The labyrinthine level layout was needed with limitations of the ’80s. Now it just feels empty and repetitive. A guide helped me through this journey and I’ve no shame in that. In addition, Felghana’s remade soundtrack may very well be superior to the PSP iteration of Ys I & II. In fact, the former may be the best the series has ever seen.

As Ys VIII hits shelves this week, my return to Eresia will have to wait. Until then, here are some snapshots from the last hour or so of Ys II – spoilers, quite obviously!!!