Balatro: Surprise Game Of The Year

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games on March 26, 2024 by slateman

It’s another case of, “I never knew I wanted a game like this,” yet here we are and I’m enthralled, utterly, with Balatro and its mechanics.

It’s simple but deep and full of game-breaking strategies – all of which are designed to be so broken. After a bit of time just messing around, I started trying to win and…to my complete surprise, today was the day! Armed with the powerful Triboulet joker and four kings of hearts, I beat the eighth ante, earning a whopping $260k on one hand! It was quite silly, really, but that is the point. I’m having such a blast with this stupid game.


Elden Ring Playthrough #2: Still So Good

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Bloodborne, Games with tags on February 18, 2024 by slateman

40 hours. (1 March update: 60 hours / 26 March update: 90 hours) After completing the title at a hefty 120 hours, I’ve now clocked another 40 and have no intention on stopping any time soon.

Despite arriving late to the FromSoftware parade, I’ve since beaten (and written heavily about) Bloodborne and later Dark Souls III. I got far into Sekiro (final boss) and both Dark Souls Remastered and Demon’s Souls. I feel confident in saying I understand the formula. And while I’ve written about this as well already, returning two Elden Ring two years hence has bought me right back to where I was in early 2022. I’ve got a few games I’m interested in playing: Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, Rollerdrome, maybe more Lies Of P. But, there’s no reason to. Elden Ring is just that damn good.

In fact, as I return to ranking my top-20 favorite games again, I find this game moving up…and up…and up. I can’t be certain, but I think it’s a top-10-ever game at this moment. From its sensational allure of discovery to the phenomenal art design. From the honed gameplay loop to the enticing sense of wonder. Its sound, the visuals, the adventure: it’s second to none. I just can’t say enough about this game and even without DLC, it remains one of my favorite games of all time.

Now, with Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth coming out, perhaps my passion will fade. But just like the first time I played this masterpiece, I’m really in no rush. Simply incredible.

Ys X: Nordics – NA Release!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Ys on February 15, 2024 by slateman

Ys Books I & II came out on the TurboGrafx-CD in the spring of 1990 when I was 14 years old. In the near-35 years since, I’ve played almost every iteration of the franchise: on consoles, on portables, both numbered entries and side stories. I didn’t beat them all; some I abandoned, others I completed, but I simply loved returning to the world every few years.

Since then, communities have exploded, translations and special editions have expanded, but my adoration of the series never wavered. I loved Ys IX: Monstrum Nox, despite it being ranked lower than Ys VIII almost universally. But all that will matter in the the autumn of 2024 is that Ys X: Nordics will have an English translation on the PS5 and I couldn’t be more thrilled. My expectations are always tempered for Falcom’s storied franchise, but I endeavor to have fun, see Adol in yet-another new light and to enjoy three-and-a-half decades of one of my favorite series ever.

2024 In Music

Posted in Blog, Lists, Music on January 17, 2024 by slateman

I still haven’t written up my best of 2023 yet, despite my listing being done, but for now, just a look ahead to the music in 2024. As always, for my purposes alone. Thanks, also as always, goes to Metalstorm’s upcoming list.

09 Feb: Chapel Of Disease – Echoes Of Light
23 Feb: Borknagar – Fall
01 Mar: Bruce Dickinson – The Mandrake Project
08 Mar: Judas Priest – Invincible Shield
22 Mar: Alestorm – Voyage Of The Dread Marauder
05 Apr: Korpiklaani – Rankarumpu
19 Apr: My Dying Bride – A Mortal Binding
15 May: Kerry King – From Hell I Rise
21 Jun: Alcest – Les Chants de l’Aurore
30 Aug: Wintersun – Time II
TBA: Vintersorg

Wish List

What am I hoping to see this year? Just some ideas, though other than Moonsorrow, don’t know how much I care.

  • Moonsorrow (my ultimate wish)
  • Exodus
  • Skeletonwitch
  • Temple

2023: A Year In Games

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, DoDon Pachi, Games, Lists, Personal, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Ys on December 27, 2023 by slateman

2023 is wrapping up with many critics claiming it resides shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the best years in gaming history. My experience isn’t quite so stellar, but

Let’s go through some lists starting with titles that were released before 2023, all while realizing that the true best game I played this past year was Bloodborne!

Older Games Played:

  • Dark Souls III
  • A Plague Tale: Innocence
  • SteamWorld Dig
  • SteamWorld Dig 2
  • Rogue Legacy 2
  • Neon White
  • Lunistice

Of those titles, I completed the 2D ones only. While I had played Rogue Legacy 2 on Steam the prior year, it was only when I got it for free on PS+, and could play from my couch, that I beat it. Admittedly, I lowered the difficulty to blaze through chunks that I had beaten before. In some ways this game is perfect: allowing for those changes to difficulty, a fantastic gameplay loop and incredibly-tight and responsive controls. Several of the theme songs stuck in my head for quite some time and it was a fun experience. However, my Old Game Of The Year, if that were a category, would go to SteamWorld Dig 2. It’s so funny, I got a trophy in the first game way back in 2013 and I remember playing it and abandoning it. No clue what drove me to return, but once I started, I was hooked. After blazing through the first title, I anxiously awaited a sale price for the second, eventually pulling the trigger without one, that’s how much I liked it. And the sequel did not disappoint, living up to and exceeding my praise of the first. I simply loved that game and, much like the emptiness felt after completing Elden Ring, I continually yearn for a similar experience, with no satisfaction. In fact, if I were ranking the best games of the year regardless of their release date, SteamWorld Dig 2 would be in contention.

The other titles all had qualities of their own, but not enough to keep me returning to them.

Moving along, now we look at titles released this year that I have yet to play in 2023:

  • Alan Wake 2 (Some day I’ll try)
  • Baldur’s Gate 3 (Trial was cool, dunno if it’s for me)
  • Blasphemous 2 (Curious, not much more)
  • Cocoon (Hmmm)
  • Dead Space (Maybe an ‘on-sale’ game)
  • Diablo 4 (Trial run, felt like D3, really)
  • Hi-Fi Rush (Maybe when I get an Xbox!)
  • Octopath Traveler 2 (Never played the first)
  • Star Wars Jedi: Survivor (Lost interest in the first)
  • The Talos Principle 2 (Never beat the first)
  • Viewfinder (Demo was fun!)

There are a few games I’d like to try, but none here give me the burning desire to jump in. Games like Pikmin and Fire Emblem may be great, but do I care? Nothing above are a have to play game, despite how good BG3 appears to be.

Our final category is the games I have indeed played this year, and ranking them isn’t very easy.

2023 Games:

  • Final Fantasy XVI
  • The Legend Of Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom
  • Lies Of P
  • Resident Evil 4
  • Sea Of Stars
  • Street Fighter 6
  • Super Mario Bros. Wonder
  • Xenotilt

As I work through Lies Of P and Sea Of Stars, I quite like the former due to its obvious inspirations and feel indifferent towards the latter. I beat neither Zelda, much as I didn’t its predecessor, nor FFXVI, losing interest after numerous hours.

Thus, we’ve whittled down the list to four games, all sequels. As much as I love Mario games – and I do like the franchise – nothing about Wonder stood out to me, despite what everyone else thinks.

And then there were three. Xenotilt probably improves on everything in Demon’s Tilt. As DT is in my top-20 ever, I struggle to wonder which should be on that list. In either event: it’s not 2023’s GOTY.

Capcom ends up holding the trophy, as the remaining games are both theirs. And this decision is a difficult one. By all accounts, Resident Evil 4 should do what no game has ever done: won the trophy as both an original release and a remake! But while it effectively replaces the original, I think I have to give it to Street Fighter 6. The gameplay is honed. The systems are polished. The game is just fun and it’s the best launch-SF game since SFII. I absolutely love this title and have no reservations awarding it GOTY, even if RE4 is as good as it is – DLC included!

So there it is: Game Of The Year 2023 is Street Fighter 6!

DoDonPachi: Dai-Ou-Jou Rinne Tensei: Perfection

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, DoDon Pachi, Games on December 24, 2023 by slateman

DoDonPachi: Dai-Ou-Jou is the best shmup ever. I’ve thought this since I imported the PS2 game 20 years ago. And while there have certainly been great games since, to me, nothing has surpassed it. M2’s other ports have been spectacular, but though Ketsui and Garegga are phenomenal games, they just don’t draw me in like DOJ does. Now that I have reason to sink my teeth into one of their ports, I must say, this version is simply the best version of the best shmup ever. It’s just astonishing.

We all have our favorite games ever. But every so often when we return to them 5, 10, 20 years later, their luster has faded somewhat. It doesn’t look as good as it did, or there are certain frustrations that didn’t irk us in the past. With DOJ, none of this exists. 10 minutes into my first run, I was just smiling. This game remains the greatest and M2’s treatment only improves on it, giving us black label finally, giving us DDPIII, with wonderful casual modes, perfect gadgets and a sleek presentation.

I cannot speak highly enough about this translation and it’ll be the one I play for the next two decades.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder: Complete

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games with tags on December 4, 2023 by slateman

I wrote recently about completing both Dark Souls III and Super Mario Bros. Wonder on the same day and have published my thoughts on the former already. Today I want to talk about the latter.

I purchased the game after work on its release day, a Friday, and within a few levels…I just put it down. The title’s bright palette, familiarity and usual bevy of secrets typically piques my interest like few games can. After a short period getting accustomed to the new physics and controls, I was off, nabbing devilishly-placed pink coins, scouring corners for hidden wonder seeds and bouncing my way to the top of flagpoles, much as I have in the 80s, 90s, 00s and 10s. This is my favorite gaming series ever, why was I so indifferent towards this entry? There is, in fact, nothing tangibly wrong with Wonder. It ticks all the boxes with aplomb, missing a step neither in its nostalgic tendencies nor its forward-thinking accessibility options. New enemies are well thought out, worlds are appropriately diverse and those secrets, my favorite part of both Mario and FromSoftware games, is evident throughout.

However, several days passed without as much as a hint of Mariolust, unlike in decades past. It was only during my incapacitated state, waiting for surgical repair, that I revisited in earnest. Relegated to a bed (and an armchair, for brief stints) aided me in re-discovering my lost inspiration. And so, over the course of three days, I ploughed through the final worlds and today, I share my thoughts on the game.

I have a long history with the franchise, my memories dating all the way back to the original NES and over the years I’ve catalogued my completion of recent games and ranked the entries (as of ~2010). I’ve been quite excited about Super Mario Bros. Wonder but does it live up to its universal praise? In short, it’s fine.

Now, do not get me wrong: Wonder is a great game.

[more to come – interrupted]

Dark Souls III: Complete

Posted in Best / Worst, Bloodborne, Games on November 12, 2023 by slateman

Barring a short stint with Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne a long time ago, I missed the entire Souls phenomenon. It wasn’t until 2018 when I fell in love with Bloodborne and since then, it’s risen to become my favorite game ever. I plunked a few hours into the remaster of Dark Souls, at some point tested out DS3 and even started Demon’s Souls on the PS5, none really drew me in. Sekir just kicked my ass and despite making it to the final boss, I never beat that one either.

Now, Elden Ring was a different story. I wrote about this game not once, not twice but three times and I think it’s in my top-20 games ever, though that list keeps changing. In fact, that title alone ruined me for games for most of 2022, with only a few titles even holding my interest as the year went on.

Several weeks ago, afer playing Bloodborne AGAIN, I had the itch to try out Dark Souls again and I booted up DS Remastered. I would have to restart, but I hated the visuals and chose to delete it immediately. Instead, why don’t I wait to see if DS3 ever goes on sale? While perusing a used bookstore with my daughter, I saw a bargain bin of games, mostly Wii and Xbox 360 cases. There was one blue one, however, and to my great surprise, it was Dark Souls III! The game cost $4 and contained a sticker disclaimer that it was badly scratched. I bought it, installed it and never once had an issue.

Now, I had played a few hours of this game while in Europe but with a new save in tow and years of guides to lead me, I set off into the land of whateverthehell in order to do…something. The story aside, I absolutely loved traipsing through another Miyazaki world replete with winding passages, hidden areas and beautiful landscapes. In fact, only recently did I realize that FromSoftware level design has a lot in common with Mario, fitting now that I completed two of those games in one day (see next post). There are so many locations where you simply know that a hidden section exists. In both games, you’re rewarded for that exploration with some perk, though in Mario they often are easier to decipher.

With a claymore in hand, I plowed through most bosses – much to my delight – all while reveling in the joy of discovery. I loathe bosses as they detract from my favorite element of videogames: exploration. It’s clear as the years progress that I never mind being OP as the true enjoyment is no different from 30+ years ago. “How do I get over there?!” It worked in Spyro, it worked in THPS, in God Of War, Tomb Raider and more. And Dark Souls has that in spades. Now, the tough-as-nails portion of the game is digestible alongside a super-powerful weapon and a little patience. Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Dark Souls III with the exception of a few moments and that annoying Twin Princes battle. I legitimately planned on deleting the game if I didn’t beat him/them today – which I did, fortunately!

While I won’t likely return to this game, or either of its predecessors, or even to Demon’s Souls or Sekiro, but I’m so happy I played this. The call of Elden Ring beckons me repeatedly, perhaps I’ll revisit it again some day. But for today, DSIII has been a fun, 37-hour romp and one whose exploration was simply top notch.

One Day: Two Games Beaten

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, High Scores/Accomplishments, Portal with tags on November 11, 2023 by slateman

In the spring of 2012, I beat Portal and Portal 2 on subsequent days (I had been working on them simultaneously, on PC and Playstation 3. When I moved to Sweden in late 2016, I earned a pair of platinum trophies in the same day: Zero Time Dilemma at midnight and Far Cry: Primal in the afternoon. None of these accomplishments are particularly noteworthy outside of fond memories, but today I’m adding another to that list: completing both Dark Souls III and Super Mario Bros. Wonder within about an hour of one another.

I endeavor to post my thoughts on these achievements separately, but hey, I figured it was noteworthy enough to make a post about. My hernia surgery is set for Monday and as I am all-but-incapacitated, why not play some games! Unfortunately, I’m still two days away from surgery and I’ve completed two titles already. I’ll have to see what’s on sale during my post-op downtime.

Dark Souls 3: Thoroughly Enjoying!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Bloodborne, Games on October 22, 2023 by slateman

I played Demon’s Souls when it appeared on PS+ ages ago and didn’t warm up to its difficulty and when Bloodborne came out, I felt the same. However, eventually, I returned to the latter title and it changed my gaming life forever. Afterwards, I dipped my toes in to Dark Souls Remastered and Dark Souls 3, never finishing either. A few weeks ago, I thought I should revisit the third entry into the renowned franchise, but I didn’t particularly wanted to pay the price tag right now. Also, Super Mario Wonder was coming out in a few days!

At the used bookstore two weekends ago, I found a budget bin full of games. Most were Xbox 360 and PS3 titles with a smattering of Wii games. Amidst the stack of DVD cases was one blue one: Dark Souls 3! For $4! Thus, I’ve sunk two dozen hours into the game in two weeks and am thoroughly enjoying it! I benefit from years of guides and videos and wikis.

Now, Super Mario Bros. Wonder just came out and so far…I like it. Today, however, I spent most of my gaming time playing Dark Souls 3. I think that says a lot. Anyhow, just some snapshots for now. See if I actually end up beating this game!