Archive for the Games Category

Valfaris: Running & Gunning – METAL Style!

Posted in Blog, Games on April 17, 2021 by slateman

I’ve been keeping Valfaris on the backburner despite it checking a lot of the boxes of games I like. This old-school-style, side-scrolling 2D run-and-gun action game presents a stiff challenge to go with its retro-inspired look. While you genuinely know what you’re getting into here – an ultra-violent Contra clone at heart, the game’s soundtrack simply makes you want to tear into more foes after each disappointing death. I’m only a few hours in, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the consistent influx of power-ups, the satisfaction of improving and the pulsing rhythms of metal blaring in mine ears. This is definitely not one to sleep on and despite its high difficulty, it’s entertained me a great deal so far!

Final Fantasy VII Remake – Revisited

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games with tags on March 6, 2021 by slateman

One JRPG down – another to go? And to think…I bought this game on launch day way back in 1997. Remember it vividly too. Bought in the morning alongside the strategy guide. Then had school and work all day before I could even play. It was my first Final Fantasy game and, really, my introduction to JRPGs. Dunno if I’ll have the fortitude (=patience) to complete this game but hey… 1) it’s free and 2) the music will be nostalgic-lane for me. Let’s go!!!!

Ys IX Completed! Thoughts Within

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Ys on March 6, 2021 by slateman

I’ve now completed the campaign in Ys IX: Monstrum Nox and also cleaned up some trophies in the process. The game was wonderful and certainly resides among my favorite entries in the storied franchise. Now is the time to look back and reflect on the good, the bad and the in between.

The story itself was just OK, with a main villain only really showing up in the last act. Convoluted as expected, I didn’t care much for the twists they introduced later on and things felt a bit drawn out in the late game. Alternately, the cast of characters were as fun as they were cliché and my son remembered everyone’s names: both normal and Monstrum variants.

Exploration was, for the most part, quite fun and I do like how they mixed things up with the city of Balduq. However, with the game being front-loaded with city adventure, it left a number of areas to the back half which felt a bit uninspired, almost as if they were just add-ons. A more equal distribution would have given the game a more cohesive feel. The gameplay itself is the real winner, with gifts allowing for easy traversal and fun exploration. It’s going to be hard to go back to prior entries given how good adventuring felt. Combat itself was a mix – it was fun and rewarding, but it was also a chaotic mash-fest on normal difficulty. The game was a bit easier than traditional entries on the standard setting but that was no downside for me as I prefer the experience over the challenge.

On the sound front, Falcom rarely disappoints. While sound effects themselves feel ages old now (Ys Seven is over a decade old and sounds are the same in some cases), the entire game had a good, punchy sound, particularly with headphones on. The big question is the soundtrack. As a collector of Falcom Sound Team JDK’s work, this is another phenomenal entry. Some songs were stuck in my head for days with upbeat, metal riffs offset by melodic piano and symphonic entries. You can’t go wrong with an Ys soundtrack and I quite enjoyed my time with this one.

Ultimately, it was a fantastic and entertaining romp. The PS5’s load times were almost nothing – often two seconds but maxing out at around five – which made the entire experience so much better. I may revisit this brief post to expand upon my thoughts, but for now it’s just a brief overview with a hefty dose of spoiler-filled images below.

Ys IX – Returning To Adol!

Posted in Best / Worst, Games, Ys on February 15, 2021 by slateman

I recently updated Game Completion Lists with one of my favorite series ever: Ys. As I purchased the ninth numbered installment (but hardly #10 overall), the Italian store clerk had to go into the back to retrieve a copy as it was not present on store shelves. He commented on how I was the first person to come in to purchase the game – and it had been out over a week at that stage.

But I don’t particularly care that the series remains a niche franchise. It’s still simply fantastic. Unfortunately, the game’s early hours left me longing – as it felt like a double-A Playstation 2 game. I didn’t care for the characters as quickly as I had in prior installments. But as my fifth hour passed, I realized this game surpassed the gameplay of all past entries. New skills opened up higher areas and the game became less flat than ever. Additionally, I’ve been playing most Ys games in the last 10-15 years on handhelds. Sure, I played Ys Origins on the PS4 – but that was a port of an older title. On the big screen, this game isn’t the prettiest, but the PS5 gives me super-fast load times and the series’ soundtrack is traditional in its excellence.

As I struggle with actually completing Ys games, it remains to be seen if Ys IX will retain my gaming gaze. For now, however, I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

Playstation: Top Games 2020

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Personal on February 7, 2021 by slateman

Two items with which to preface this post. First, on my stats page, it says I (*ahem* my kids) played 64 hours of Bugsnax but yet that doesn’t sit in my top-three as shown here. Second – yes – that’s Skyrim as my #1 game of the year. Wow.

I love stats and despite their complete inaccuracy, I don’t care. Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla shows about 55 hours on my PS4 and then another 55 on my PS5. Don’t know how Sony tabulates their math, but it’s simply wrong. Ultimately, however, my return to Skyrim was a wondrous affair, as I mentioned several months back. The merger of pandemic lockdown and a somewhat-family-friendly game meant I totally enjoyed diving back in and getting much farther than I did nearly a decade ago. I will admit that the 60fps mod on the PS5 gives me a bit of a tickle to re-return…but for now, my backlog is far too large to do such a thing.

The Elder Scrolls was supplanted by Far Cry 5, a not-so-family-friendly game which was as much fun as its predecessors. I’ll say, I’m fairly certain my leader for 2021 is Immortals: Fenyx Rising. I suppose I could check my PS5 to find out.

Some more final stats: I earned almost 800 trophies, topping 2019’s 536 – though I had 16 platinums that year thanks to the Vita and its shovelware library. Additionally, it claims I played 974 hours compared to 2019’s 351. I have a feeling that last year’s number is a bit shy of the real one – though I did move from Sweden to Italy in 2019.

2020 vs 2019

PSVR: This Truly Is A Step Forward

Posted in Blog, Games on January 14, 2021 by slateman

Virtual Reality is something everyone would like, but it would be nice if their neighbor got it first – you know – just to check it out. I’ve been curious but, like countless others, the high price tag kept me far away. That is, until my daughter convinced my wife to get me one for Christmas. Long story short? I’m totally and utterly convinced.

Let’s get the bad out of the way first as there are absolutely downsides. The mess of wires is something my wife is not fond of and setting up is a routine of many specifics working both in harmony and in tandem. The visuals certainly take a hit in VR and the glasses fog up rather easily, though this is just an inconvenience that clears up quickly. Motion sickness is not something unique to Sony’s VR unit, but it can be jarring and difficult to work through.

Okay, with my gripes aired for all to see, what remains is simply extraordinary. Without hands-on experience, the true extent of VR’s punch can never be appreciated. It just can’t. The fact that your brain believes what it’s seeing is something that cannot be conveyed. When enormous setpieces pop up in Astro Bot or when a bullet flies at your head in Superhot VR or your car flies through the air in Trackmania Turbo, you are utterly convinced it’s reality – and all the joy and elation come alongside of it. Genuine fear, thrilling elation, nervous dodging – it doesn’t matter if the visuals are realistic or cartoony, the experience is an unbridled delight.

I’ve pondered these things more and more as my decades have passed and I find myself always returning to the concept of novelty. With so much really just being iterations of the same thing, so rarely are things truly new. I keep trying to think back to when something I’ve played was this impressive. A quick peek of Game Of The Year lists show that Shadow Of Mordor had the nemesis system back in 2014. Portal 2 was rather brilliant in 2011. How many others were sequels? Or sequels of sequels???

Is it possible that VR is the biggest step forward since sprites moved into the 3D realm? I hardly think that’s an overexaggeration. On the downside, I wonder if there’s enough of a flow of games to keep it a viable platform moving forward, but with a few new games in my library, I have a wide variety of experiences:

  • Astro Bot Rescue Mission
  • Superhot VR
  • Blood & Truth
  • Everybody’s Golf VR
  • Wipeout Omega Collection
  • Trackmania Turbo
  • Star Wars: Squadrons
  • Iron Man

What a great roster of titles. Moss, Rez Infinite and Tetris Effect are on the ‘to-buy’ list alongside a few others, With a few more out there, I look forward to a promising future of the platform with support continuing until at least a successor is announced.

Makaimura Returns / Ghosts ‘N Goblins Resurrection

Posted in Artwork, Best / Worst, Blog, Games on December 12, 2020 by slateman

I’ll admit I’m disappointed it’s currently at Switch exclusive, but I’m psyched Capcom has revisited this classic series. The stages are familiar but the visuals are outstanding and this new piece of art is simply remarkable. Here’s hoping for a Playstation port (along with Hades, please!)

Gaming In 2020

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Resident Evil, Skyrim, Tony Hawk Series with tags on December 9, 2020 by slateman

Another year down and another year in which I missed out on more of the biggest titles than I played. Before hitting upon what I have experienced, I figured I’d look at what I didn’t get a chance to dive into.

  • Final Fantasy VII Remake
  • Ghost Of Tsushima
  • Hades
  • Immortals: Fenyx Rising
  • Last Of Us – Part II, The
  • Ori And The Will Of The Wisps
  • Sackboy: A Big Adventure

I’ve skipped out on Cyberpunk 2077 and some others. Of those games, my interest is genuinely piqued by Tsushima and Hades. The former will eventually be in my collection, the latter will have to wait for a Sony port. I’ve no interest in playing that on the Switch.

OK, now to the older games I’ve experienced. Titles with an asterisk are ones I’d played before. Underlined are ones I beat.

  • Death Stranding
  • Dark Souls: Remastered
  • Days Gone
  • Detroit: Become Human
  • Doom
  • Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, The (*)
  • Far Cry 5
  • Fighting EX Layer
  • Ketsui
  • Minecraft Dungeons
  • Modern Warfare 2: Remastered (*)
  • Shadow Of The Colossus
  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Remastered (*)
  • Ys VIII

Not forgetting Skyrim is a remaster, that’s a lot of updated old games there. I spent most of quarantine lockdown replaying Skyrim and actually progressing farther than I had during my initial playthrough back in 2012. I beat Shadow Of The Colossus for the first time, after bailing on both the PS2 and PS3 versions in years past. Another Uncharted 2 run was a reminder of how that game is still top-10 ever. (I’ll eventually get around to posting my list). Others were things I dipped my toes into but came far from completing.

Far Cry 5 was the expected, entertaining romp and I do endeavor to get back to Days Gone and Detroit. Most of these games were good; few were great. Next up: 2020 games, finally!

  • Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla
  • Astro’s Playroom
  • Borderlands 3
  • Bugsnax
  • Demon’s Souls
  • Resident Evil 3
  • Spelunky 2
  • Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2

So, obviously, I beat THPS, writing an entire chapter on it in the revised edition of Tony Hawk’s Gaming Domination. Just as quickly, I dropped off of that one.

Spelunky 2 was a frustratingly-difficult but enjoyable journey. Each run was different and my kids and I laughed our asses off far too frequently. It’s about the same as the first, but pretty fantastic and there’s zero chance I’ll ever actually complete it. Speaking of kids, they played the crap out of Bugsnax, just finishing it today. I haven’t completed Demon’s Souls and suspect that’s a long journey ahead.

Resident Evil 3 was a short affair, but one I never traipsed through on the PS1 original. I enjoyed it, beating it a few times. That’s the good, but I don’t envision diving back in, despite my enjoyment.

And then we get to the year’s best. Astro’s Playroom won’t win any awards, but damn, that was fun. It was a spectacular history lesson, peeking at Sony’s legacy as well as being a showcase of the new console and its features.

So, as of the second week of December, I am so enamored with Valhalla and its beauty, that I must declare it my tentative 2020 Game Of The Year. It’s the most vibrant and diverse world I’ve ever played in. The gameplay loop is enjoyable enough and the sound design is top notch. It’s possibly the best-looking game I’ever witnessed and the 60fps/often-4k visual upgrade has just left me speechless on numerous occasions. The dynamic lighting is superb, dialogues and story are wonderful and the scope is simply remarkable.

I suspect this opinion could change…but as of today, this is it. This could be the first Assassin’s Creed game I actually complete, much like GTA V in 2018.

Two Days With The Playstation 5 – Thoughts

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games on December 1, 2020 by slateman

The day has finally come! It took about three weeks to arrive: going to Chicago, then Wisconsin, then across the Atlantic to Naples Capodichino, then to the American consulate, then finally home. After a lengthy setup process, I went into the process of downloading Demon’s Souls and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. While doing so, I dove into the utterly phenomenal Astro’s Playroom. It was then the console’s new features were put on display.

However, as the first day ended, it was easy to get the sense that this may be the smallest leap between generations. From the DVD drive in the PS2 to the Blu-Ray player in the PS3, to the visual leap to the PS4, this has fewer clear bells-and-whistles. But at the end of day #2, I felt clear – I love my PS5.

Load Times
Booting into AC: Valhalla took about 80 seconds and loading into the game itself, another 100. Quick traveling was a solid two minutes…each and every time. With the Activity Cards feature on the Playstation 5, I can skip that initial 80 seconds altogether. A direct comparison:

Doing? PS4 Time PS5 Time
Into Menu 80 0
Into Playable 180 50
Fast Travel 120 10

It’s that last one that’s startling – and altogether awesome. It’s between 9 and 10 seconds typically. The difference is simply amazing. Bouncing between two or three fast-travel locations saves serious time and it’s hardly enough to look at my phone before Eivor is back, ready and perched atop some chapel or archaeological site.

3D Audio
I’ve marveled at sound design in recent years, simply awed at how good gritty footsteps, rubbing clothing and rustling of leaves sound. However, running through medieval England and hearing birds and pigs, the wind and people’s voices all around me. Each came from a different quadrant, with rain realistically sounding like it was falling in so many different places at once. Just astounding.

The DualSense
I read all the reviews and heard all the praise. It was only when Astro’s Playroom resisted my shoulder triggers before releasing in a satisfying click that it felt real. When the sensation of sand and wind and ice and rocks all came through the controller, I felt that joy of next-gen. The game is fun in its own right, but the controller is the real hero here. It’s spectacular.

60 FPS
I have to admit, the 4K upgrade wasn’t as pronounced as I had hoped, but when I got Valhalla running at 60 FPS, I smiled with joy. Having the choice between the two is something I missed in the PS4 Pro era. I first appreciated the importance of the higher frame rate with Metal Gear Solid 5 but having a direct comparison has truly opened my eyes. It’s buttery smooth and the way life ought to be.

App Integration
Signing in was a breeze, installing apps is simple, notifications about app preparedness is welcome and on it goes. I’m hoping they keep up with the features and ease of use. Ideally, having snapshots available on mobile (like Microsoft) would be sensational.

The Dislikes
It looks, feels and sounds great. That’s what you want in your $500 purchase. While the system needs some work, I don’t see anything that can’t be fixed with some firmware tweaks. The UI is good, but it’s clunkier than the PS4. Fixes like separating games and media is great, but there are fewer titles in the list. The PS button menu is fast and the overlay is nice, but it feels cluttered and things like turning the console off are harder and more obtuse than before.

P.T. – The Most Frightening Gaming Experience Ever?

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games on November 1, 2020 by slateman

It was 2014 and the Playstation 4 was still quite new. Out of the blue, this strange demo drops which doesn’t really have much gameplay. It was mysterious and curious and I’ll never forget the first time I saw her. Nowadays, a quick search will reveal all its secrets, but then, no one knew anything: why this happened, why that didn’t happen, etc. But it was such a thrill going through its nonsensical hallways, marveling at its pristine sound design and lighting effects.

My nine-year-old son has been itching to play/watch something scary. He’s too naïve to realize he’s absolutely not ready. So, I decided tonight to boot up the good ol’ P.T. and walk down some hallways.

It wasn’t 30 seconds later when he asked me to turn it off. Nothing happened: just one right-hand turn and a dirty bathroom. But it reinforced my original idea that this Playable Teaser was just about as frightening as I remember it being the first time through.

Now to see if my 12-year-old daughter is up for the challenge!!!